Saturday, January 22, 2011

The party that may start appearing regularly on my calendar

Heirloom Recipe Potluck.

A fine and giggly assortment of ladies brought their food, love, and tradition into my home less than 12 hours ago. Instructed to bring a family dish to pass and 10 printed recipes for sharing, we had a full, fun time. Each woman arrived with an excited smile and left with a relaxed, satisfied one.

Here's what they brought:

One guest has held onto the tradition of bringing a hostess gift. Not necessary, but so, so sweet:

Marczpani Squares (I'm not sure what Marczpani means, but it must loosely mean Rich Heaven, because that's what these tasted like.)

Great Grandma's Banana Bread (fits with my use-what-you-have approach, plus it's simple and delicious)

Cheese Cake (Not any old cheese cake, I realized as I polished off a slice of it while 'cleaning' up after the party. It was so captivating, I had to put the cleaning on pause and allow the cheese cake to sweep me away.)

California Coleslaw (I love recipes like this that turn not-so-healthy ingredients into a fun and healthy dish. And, come on, who doesn't love crushing a block of Ramen noodles?)

Chocolate Chip Zucchini Cake (using 2 cups shredded zucchini, this may be my new summer favorite)

Three Sisters Salad (Not that I'm choosing favorites, but this is the only dish that I allowed myself a second helping of. Plus it comes with the sweet and smart American Indian tradition of growing corn, beans, and zucchini together. Each sister crop provides qualities that the other two do not. I may be planting some sisters this spring!)

Grandma Quigley's Ultimate Chocolate Cake and Frosting (gotta love the secret ingredient - Hellman's Mayonnaise!)

White Chocolate Popcorn and Carmel Corn (A known popcorn fan, I didn't think it could be improved upon. I was wrong. Very wrong. These were amazing!)

Great Grandma's Cinnamon Buns (I'm not sure how she made these every Saturday for her family of twelve. When they were finally in the oven, I had to konk out on the couch too.)

Judy's Baby Cheeseburgers (I love how traditional recipes tend to evolve with the times. These little burgers appeared with soy meat! Not bad.)

Chocolate Pudding Cake (the recipe calls for pouring boiling water over chocolate chips! That's reason enough right there to make this fast and scrumptious cake.)

Did I miss any? If so, that's probably because they were so yummy, all the copies of the recipes were snatched up, all crumbs were gobbled up, and no evidence was left - the sign of a great dish.

Note to self: Potlucks are definitely the way to go for parties - excellent and varied food, with little prep and clean-up. I love how people who can follow a recipe can also follow complicated instructions such as these:

However, next time, I'll try to provide containers and encourage swapping. I saw too many people leaving with leftovers of their own dish, when I wonder if trading and taking home a sampling of the full spread would be more fun.

Sounds like a good excuse to try this again soon!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Use What You Have, Part 2

I absolutely love the Use What You Have approach to life. Didn't someone famous say "Necessity is the mother of invention."? Oh, yeah, I think it was Plato. (I think I need to make more PlayDough.)

Here's the latest in making-life-wonderful-without-spending-money-or-making-trash:

Rose Pillowcases from an old duvet cover.

What I don't have: nice throw pillows
What I do have: old throw pillows, an unused duvet cover, and a sewing machine

Take a look at the result of last Saturday morning.

What we don't have: unlimited funds for heating
What we do have: Wood

How about this sweet scene?

What we don't have: a TV
What we do have: kids who love reading, writing, and fairytales

Way better than Saturday morning cartoons, don't ya think?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Use What You Have, Part 1

This is my new favorite mantra, adopted from Amanda Soule's books Handmade Home and The Creative Family. For each project, the author has a Use What You Have section, listing the materials that you probably already have tucked somewhere in your home.

Turns out there are a lot of materials tucked around my home too. And doesn't it just make sense? Why spend time, energy, and money to buy something when you could just get a little creative and use something that is begging for another chance at life?

My mind is so infused with repurposing projects that I'm sure I'll have to report back with more Use What You Have updates.

You already saw the produce mesh that became festive gift wrapping.

You saw the wine bottles that delivered liters of crunchy holiday cheer.

What about that little embroidered wool sweater, that is now a little too, well, little?

After a some work with scissors, needle, and thread, ...

It's my new favorite purse! (ok, alright, the handles are new from the fabric store, but I had a coupon)

What about all those plastic bags that I seem to accumulate, even though I try really hard to bring my canvas bags to the grocery store?

With a little time with the iron, scissors, fabric, and sewing machine, ...

They are the latest in bagged lunch cuteness! (and a much-needed ziploc replacement). Here are the instructions.

And this is just the beginning. I'm excited to make fabric gift wrap, a curtain from an old duvet cover, and with any luck, a memory quilt from the girls' baby clothes.

If only this January energy lasts the whole year!

What ideas do you have for repurposing items around your house?