1. Here we go again!
(This time with our own supplies… Thanks, Sarah Chang, for the use of your canner last year!)
P.S. Dissolvable labels- WHAT!?

    Here we go again!

    (This time with our own supplies… Thanks, Sarah Chang, for the use of your canner last year!)

    P.S. Dissolvable labels- WHAT!?

  2. Eddie’s Change in Routine

    My latest story in Ragbag Magazine. Mysterious!

    ragbagmag:

    by Meg O’Reilly Amandes

    Eddie Ferrari was sitting in a gold Honda Civic from the late 1980’s, hardly the vehicle his surname implied. The only Ferrari that Eddie owned took the form of a small enamel pin adorning his left lapel. Yellow background with the silhouette of a rearing stallion. A joke gift, originally, but all of the men in Eddie’s family wore these pins shaped like the emblem of a vehicle they would never afford.
     
    A notebook lay open in Eddie’s lap, a leaky black-inked pen had nestled into the crease between pages. His seat was reclined ever-so-slightly at a 108 degree angle, the driver’s side window was cracked open one and one quarter of an inch, and he was smoking the penultimate cigarette in the pack.
     
    The clock on the dash - not the digital dashboard clock, of course, as that time-teller had gone all-eights years before, but rather a cheap drug store sportwatch taped above the radio dials - read 3:47. Eddie glanced into the rear view mirror, which was adjusted so as to frame, perfectly, the front steps and front door of 1543 W. Woolenhamer Way.
     
    As always, at this time of day at this time of year, the late afternoon sunlight sloped across the door. The brass doorknob shone beacon-like from the sun’s reflection. That doorknob would not be touched for another hour and nineteen minutes, and by then the brass would be dulled as the sunset spread melon hues onto the horizon. The door would be in twilight shadow, but the porch light would flick on as the Resident of the building hit the third step. The porch light would spill its feeble glow onto the Resident’s hat, and the tiny white moths would be quick to flit into the porchlight’s allure.
     
    Blinking, Eddie glanced at the notebook resting on his trousered thighs. The timetable of the Resident’s activities was laid out neatly in meticulous print. Eddie had her schedule down pat, mapped out, by heart, like the back of his hand:
     
    6:45 ~ Upstairs front room [assumed bedroom] blinds opened.
    7:03 ~ Front door opened approx. 8-10 inches from inside [assumed by R.]. Small ginger dog [assumed dachshund] exits.
    7:04 ~ Downstairs front room [assumed living room or parlor] drapes opened and tied back. R. is visible if the light is on in front room, and the sun is not shining directly on front room windows.
    7:10 ~ Ginger Dog reenters house.
    7:15 ~ Sullen young girl [approx. nine years old; assumed Daughter of R.] exits front door, stomps down stairs, holding plastic bag. Girl cleans up after Dog, stomps back upstairs w/ now-filled plastic bag, reenters front door, closes it behind her.
     
    … And so on, exactingly, went Eddie’s record of the morning routine of a woman he did not know, and that of her daughter.

    Eddie had been watching this small family for the better part of eight months. It was, he admitted to himself, maddeningly boring. He had imagined great things for himself and his career when he became a private investigator. Great and adventurous things! And sometimes those things happened. He’d been a great help to the police in nabbing a wicked arsonist, for instance! But that was three years, five months, and twenty-three days ago. Work had slowed down. In order to keep on top of finances, Eddie had taken whatever scraps he could from whatever clients he could find. And that is how he ended up with this gig. Sitting in the Civic, chain-smoking, watching that damn dachshund bounce around an eight-foot-square patch of grass every morning.

    Read More

  3. Upcycling: Vertical Bowl GardenAlex has rejuvenated my green thumb, and I’ve gotten back into gardening. Recently I Ireally started liking the look of succulent gardens, and I have plans to build a wall-hanging type succulent garden to hang on the wall in our house some time this winter. So, to get some succulents going, we set up a vertical garden on the back porch. Our back porch is a lovely haven and we spend a lot of time out there. We have a very nice view of the yard’s trees, and birds flitting around, and bunnies chasing each other through the grass. We can also see, however, the barbed wire on the next door neighbors’ fence, and various dumpsters and air conditioners in other neighbors’ yards. We needed to make our porch cozy and nature-y feeling. Thus, the vertical garden was created to add a little green space to our porch.I started by screwing scrap boards (mostly 1x3) together into a sort of trellis shape. Next I drilled drainage holes in 6 up-cycled wooden bowls, and screwed them to the frame. We had originally bought these bowls for eating cereal and salad out of, but one trip through the dishwasher made them smell like a weird camp fire, rendering them useless for food. Then we screwed the whole contraption to the wall, and filled the bowls with potting soil. We planted succulents and other plants in various artsy combinations: hen-and-chickens, creeping jenny, and sedums. When it was all finished, I thought it looked beautiful.The plants have filled in a bit now, and the succulents are propagating nicely, amid an ongoing battle with the local squirrels who have decided to use the bowls as a secret burying place for their nuts. Seriously, a walnut the nice of a tennis ball is not going to be hidden well when it’s half-buried in a cereal bowl. The squirrels’ audacity has provoked in Alex a rage that I had never seen the likes of before now. He fights back by stockpiling their foolishly concealed walnuts, and chucks them at the naughty rodents when they get too close to the porch. He has also sprinkled hot chili pepper all over the plants.We’re planning on leaving the vertical bowl garden outside for the winter, as the guy at Gesthemane garden center said we could as long as they’re under an overhang (they are). Hopefully in a couple months we’ll have enough little plants to start an indoor vertical garden. We’re also planning to make little succulent terrariums in jars of a many different origins (pickles, grape leaves, jam), which will eventually be decorations at our wedding. Long live succulents!-MOA

    Upcycling: Vertical Bowl Garden

    Alex has rejuvenated my green thumb, and I’ve gotten back into gardening. Recently I Ireally started liking the look of succulent gardens, and I have plans to build a wall-hanging type succulent garden to hang on the wall in our house some time this winter. So, to get some succulents going, we set up a vertical garden on the back porch. Our back porch is a lovely haven and we spend a lot of time out there. We have a very nice view of the yard’s trees, and birds flitting around, and bunnies chasing each other through the grass. We can also see, however, the barbed wire on the next door neighbors’ fence, and various dumpsters and air conditioners in other neighbors’ yards. We needed to make our porch cozy and nature-y feeling. Thus, the vertical garden was created to add a little green space to our porch.

    I started by screwing scrap boards (mostly 1x3) together into a sort of trellis shape. Next I drilled drainage holes in 6 up-cycled wooden bowls, and screwed them to the frame. We had originally bought these bowls for eating cereal and salad out of, but one trip through the dishwasher made them smell like a weird camp fire, rendering them useless for food. Then we screwed the whole contraption to the wall, and filled the bowls with potting soil. We planted succulents and other plants in various artsy combinations: hen-and-chickens, creeping jenny, and sedums. When it was all finished, I thought it looked beautiful.

    The plants have filled in a bit now, and the succulents are propagating nicely, amid an ongoing battle with the local squirrels who have decided to use the bowls as a secret burying place for their nuts. Seriously, a walnut the nice of a tennis ball is not going to be hidden well when it’s half-buried in a cereal bowl. The squirrels’ audacity has provoked in Alex a rage that I had never seen the likes of before now. He fights back by stockpiling their foolishly concealed walnuts, and chucks them at the naughty rodents when they get too close to the porch. He has also sprinkled hot chili pepper all over the plants.

    We’re planning on leaving the vertical bowl garden outside for the winter, as the guy at Gesthemane garden center said we could as long as they’re under an overhang (they are). Hopefully in a couple months we’ll have enough little plants to start an indoor vertical garden. We’re also planning to make little succulent terrariums in jars of a many different origins (pickles, grape leaves, jam), which will eventually be decorations at our wedding. Long live succulents!

    -MOA

  4. Flame Cake

    My story for Ragbag Magazine’s “FIRE” issue…

    ragbagmag:

     by Meg O’Reilly Amandes
     


    Norah met Johnny at a party. It was a surprise party for Marie’s boyfriend, Tom. The evening’s air was so pleasant; a brief respite of cool in the midst of a sticky August. Norah wore red, and brought a bottle of almond-flavored sparkling wine that had been on sale at Trader Joe’s. The party was smooth and dreamy, wind chimes tinkled on the porch. She took a drag of someone’s cigarette and attempted a smoke ring, but felt sick after the one drag and stopped. Norah flirted with a guy or two, but knew better than to do more with a friend of Marie-and-Tom’s. Marie would not let up on the gossip, she knew from previous experience. It was better to leave the Marie-and-Tom boy pool unswum in.

    Hours into the night, there was soul music wrapping its warm arms around the dancers in the living room. Norah was sitting on the windowsill, half-heartedly running her fingers through a bowl of pistachios placed next to her, searching out the nuts among a majority of shells. Marie wove her way through the crowd, stood next to Norah and leaned in close.

    “I need you in the kitchen,” Marie hissed, taking Norah’s hand and pulling her off the sill.

    In the kitchen, Marie fumbled in a drawer for candles, and Norah in another for matches. They came up with an assortment of tea lights, three sparklers leftover from the previous month’s celebratory activities, a floating bath candle shaped like a seahorse, and an actual birthday candle in the shape of the number 40. Sticking this hodge-podge into a half-inch layer of chocolate frosting, Marie grinned at Norah over the cake.

    “Tom’s friend Johnny’s here. You’d like him.”

    Norah rolled her eyes and lit a match. “I’m not looking tonight, Marie. But thanks.”

    They took the cake, bedecked and blazing, back out to the other room where the floor was trembling and baby-baby echoed.

    Johnny was standing alone in a corner, adjusting a camera lens and snapping shots of the birthday cake. Norah watched for a moment, and saw how lovely the shot was. The candles lit Tom’s face, and the glow accentuated his joy. Marie leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek, and when they inhaled, about to blow out the mess of tiny lights together, her scarf fluttered over the candles.

    The flames caught the gossamer material, and Tom acted quickly, grabbing the scarf and patting out the fire between his bare hands. Everyone in the room gasped and a few people let out a choked, startled yell. The air of excitement was palpable, made greatly more so by the near-disaster. Tom took his frightened girl into his arms, whispered in her ear and kissed her on the lips. People started laughing with relief, and Tom leaned over carefully and blew out all the candles in one breath, at the exact moment that the sparklers shot their last spark and fizzled out. There was applause.   

    Read More

  5. In Ragbagmag’s garden issue: My collaboration with Alex. How cute is that beet??

ragbagmag:

ROOT CELLAR GAME DAYby Meg O’Reilly Amandes
(art by Alex Riepl)
 The root vegetables were getting together for the annual Root Cellar Game Day. Rutabaga  got there first, and started setting things up. She was super  organized, sometimes in a kind of overbearing way. Nonetheless, the rest  of the vegetables were happy to let her take care of all the details,  so they put up with Rutabaga’s attitude most of the time.Carrot  and Parsnip showed up next. They made an adorable match: they were both  pretty nerdy, and smart, and even looked alike, aside from coloring.  They’d started dating as soon at they were two inches long, and now they  were inseparable. Rutabaga handed the couple a set of cards, and asked  them to host the Bug Game. Carrot and Parsnip were more than pleased to  oblige, both being big entomology geeks.Ginger  made a grand entrance, and was disappointed at the small size of her  audience. She swayed provocatively across the room, and leaned on  Carrot, peering over his shoulder. “Hey, Carrot,” Ginger breathed, “What’s ‘Bega got you doing this year?”Parsnip glared, and answered for him, “Hello, Ginger. Rutabaga asked us to do the Bug Game. So we’re getting ready now. What are you doing for game day?”Carrot  looked really uncomfortable, standing in-between the ladies’ stare  down. Luckily, Turnip busted in right then, breaking the tension with  his joviality and hugs. Ginger transferred her flirty gaze to Turnip,  and he just laughed and pinched her cheek.The  party began filling up. Beet came in and chatted with Parsnip, catching  up on the last couple months. Radish arrived and turned all the ladies’  heads, except Ginger’s, who didn’t seem to bat an eye at Radish’s  appearance. Daikon and Yam, the other couple of the group, pranced in  and immediately started on the dirty jokes with Turnip, making Beet  blush.Rutabaga  handed out the rest of the game supplies to various groups. Radish  would be leading Root Predator, and Turnip was an expert at Pollination  Station. Beet was terrified she’d be paired with Ginger, who intimidated  her greatly, so Beet had preempted the possibility by joining up with  Parsnip and Carrot.Daikon  and Yam had created their own game, “Vegetables of the Stars.” Ginger  was still partner-less, and starting to look like she might throw a  temper tantrum any minute. So, Rutabaga asked quietly if Ginger could  help the guys with their game. Yam sighed theatrically, and looked over  at his mate. Daikon shrugged, “It’s up to you, honey.” “Alright, Ginger,” allowed Yam, “but NO DRAMA.”At last they were ready, and Rutabaga bustled up to the front of the cellar. “Hello,  roots and rootettes!” she chirped, “I’m so pleased that we were all  able to get together again this year for Game Day! I’m delighted to  announce that we have a new game, Vegetables of the Stars, invented by  none other than Daikon and Yam!”All the roots clapped, and Turnip yelled, “Attaboys!”‘Bega  continued, “There’s platters of dirt and minerals on the back table,  and plenty of fresh water to drink, of course. We’re going to start with  Root Predator, so, Radish, please take the stage!”Radish  smiled beguilingly at Rutabaga, and stepped up with a flourish. Parsnip  leaned over to Beet and whispered, “Look at Radish’s new mustache! It’s  so cute!” Beet nodded and giggled. Carrot frowned, and tugged on one of  Parsnip’s greens.“Good  afternoon, my fine, nutritious, and easily-preserved gentlemen!” Radish  began, “And, of course, to all of you crunchy and delicious ladies,  whether sweet…” he winked in the direction of Beet and Parsnip, “or spicy!”Radish blew a kiss toward Ginger at this last adjective, and she rolled her eyes.“Oh, please, Radish, everyone knows you’re the spiciest one here-” Ginger stopped herself abruptly as Radish stepped closer to her.“Ginger,  darling, please go on! I have been waiting for many growing seasons to  hear such words from your luscious lady lumps! Together, my dear, we  could create the spiciest, tangiest, most flavorful-”“A-HEM!”  Rutabaga interrupted Radish’s reverie before it got too inappropriate.  Radish was inches away from Ginger at this point, and Ginger’s face was  frozen in an expression of fascination mixed with feigned revulsion.  Everyone else was cracking up.Radish backed away, and stood again in front of the group. “Please  pardon me, my fine and pleasant vegetables. Let us now begin the great  game of Root Predator. To start, we must choose a predator to prey on  each team. Who would like to play the horrible, disgusting, fuzzy BUNNY  RABBIT?”Beet  gasped and hid her eyes at the very thought of the beast. Then, to  everyone’s surprise, jolly Turnip volunteered to play the hated  creature.“I’ll try, Radish!” he called out bravely, stepping up from the back. “Oh my! Way to go, Turnie!” encouraged Daikon.Amid  light applause, Turnip took the stage. Then, as Radish was about to  launch into his next announcement, a din sounded from outside the cellar  door.“Shh!” hushed Rutabaga, “What is that awful racket?”“Hello? Anybody in there? Where’s the PARTY AT?!” called a voice. This was followed by a number of whoops and shouts.“Oh no! It’s the Potato Brothers!” whispered Parsnip, grabbing onto Carrot with concern.“Oh, we are out of here! Come on, honey,” Yam determined, turning to Daikon.There was a general murmur of consent with Yam, when suddenly an unexpected voice rose up from the crowd. “Wait,  you guys!” said little Beet, “Maybe we should invite them in. I mean,  Root Cellar Game Day is all about fun and friendship. We could lead by  example, and teach those Potato boys a thing or two about good  community!”Beet’s  assertion was met by stares of disbelief. Then Radish spoke up, “I like  what the little root girl says. She has real heart.” Beet blushed a  deeper purple, and stared at the ground.Yam’s rage dissipated, and everyone started to look around and nod.“Let’s do it!” called out Carrot, “Let’s invite the Potatoes in!”“Yeah!” Ginger agreed, “Maybe some of them are cute this season!” Turnip and Daikon undid the latch of the cellar door, and Rutabaga stood between the two big guys to greet the Potato Brothers.“Hello, Spuds! You may enter, if you promise not to make any trouble!” she said in her bossiest tone.“ALRIGHT!”  yelled the eldest Potato, as he and his brothers stumbled down the  cellar stairs in a disarray of dirt and leaves, “Thanks, old lady! And  you’ve all got to try this drink we just invented!”The  rest of the roots welcomed the Potatoes into the party, and showed them  how to play their games. In return, the Potatoes plied all the guests  with plenty of their new drink, a clear liquid with a good burn going  down. And, well, you can imagine how the party went from there!

    In Ragbagmag’s garden issue: My collaboration with Alex. How cute is that beet??

    ragbagmag:

    ROOT CELLAR GAME DAY
    by Meg O’Reilly Amandes

    (art by Alex Riepl)


     
    The root vegetables were getting together for the annual Root Cellar Game Day.
     
    Rutabaga got there first, and started setting things up. She was super organized, sometimes in a kind of overbearing way. Nonetheless, the rest of the vegetables were happy to let her take care of all the details, so they put up with Rutabaga’s attitude most of the time.

    Carrot and Parsnip showed up next. They made an adorable match: they were both pretty nerdy, and smart, and even looked alike, aside from coloring. They’d started dating as soon at they were two inches long, and now they were inseparable. Rutabaga handed the couple a set of cards, and asked them to host the Bug Game. Carrot and Parsnip were more than pleased to oblige, both being big entomology geeks.

    Ginger made a grand entrance, and was disappointed at the small size of her audience. She swayed provocatively across the room, and leaned on Carrot, peering over his shoulder.

    “Hey, Carrot,” Ginger breathed, “What’s ‘Bega got you doing this year?”

    Parsnip glared, and answered for him, “Hello, Ginger. Rutabaga asked us to do the Bug Game. So we’re getting ready now. What are you doing for game day?”

    Carrot looked really uncomfortable, standing in-between the ladies’ stare down. Luckily, Turnip busted in right then, breaking the tension with his joviality and hugs. Ginger transferred her flirty gaze to Turnip, and he just laughed and pinched her cheek.

    The party began filling up. Beet came in and chatted with Parsnip, catching up on the last couple months. Radish arrived and turned all the ladies’ heads, except Ginger’s, who didn’t seem to bat an eye at Radish’s appearance. Daikon and Yam, the other couple of the group, pranced in and immediately started on the dirty jokes with Turnip, making Beet blush.

    Rutabaga handed out the rest of the game supplies to various groups. Radish would be leading Root Predator, and Turnip was an expert at Pollination Station. Beet was terrified she’d be paired with Ginger, who intimidated her greatly, so Beet had preempted the possibility by joining up with Parsnip and Carrot.

    Daikon and Yam had created their own game, “Vegetables of the Stars.” Ginger was still partner-less, and starting to look like she might throw a temper tantrum any minute. So, Rutabaga asked quietly if Ginger could help the guys with their game. Yam sighed theatrically, and looked over at his mate.

    Daikon shrugged, “It’s up to you, honey.”

    “Alright, Ginger,” allowed Yam, “but NO DRAMA.”

    At last they were ready, and Rutabaga bustled up to the front of the cellar.

    “Hello, roots and rootettes!” she chirped, “I’m so pleased that we were all able to get together again this year for Game Day! I’m delighted to announce that we have a new game, Vegetables of the Stars, invented by none other than Daikon and Yam!”

    All the roots clapped, and Turnip yelled, “Attaboys!”

    ‘Bega continued, “There’s platters of dirt and minerals on the back table, and plenty of fresh water to drink, of course. We’re going to start with Root Predator, so, Radish, please take the stage!”

    Radish smiled beguilingly at Rutabaga, and stepped up with a flourish. Parsnip leaned over to Beet and whispered, “Look at Radish’s new mustache! It’s so cute!” Beet nodded and giggled. Carrot frowned, and tugged on one of Parsnip’s greens.

    “Good afternoon, my fine, nutritious, and easily-preserved gentlemen!” Radish began, “And, of course, to all of you crunchy and delicious ladies, whether sweet…” he winked in the direction of Beet and Parsnip, “or spicy!”

    Radish blew a kiss toward Ginger at this last adjective, and she rolled her eyes.

    “Oh, please, Radish, everyone knows you’re the spiciest one here-” Ginger stopped herself abruptly as Radish stepped closer to her.

    “Ginger, darling, please go on! I have been waiting for many growing seasons to hear such words from your luscious lady lumps! Together, my dear, we could create the spiciest, tangiest, most flavorful-”

    “A-HEM!” Rutabaga interrupted Radish’s reverie before it got too inappropriate. Radish was inches away from Ginger at this point, and Ginger’s face was frozen in an expression of fascination mixed with feigned revulsion. Everyone else was cracking up.

    Radish backed away, and stood again in front of the group.

    “Please pardon me, my fine and pleasant vegetables. Let us now begin the great game of Root Predator. To start, we must choose a predator to prey on each team. Who would like to play the horrible, disgusting, fuzzy BUNNY RABBIT?”

    Beet gasped and hid her eyes at the very thought of the beast. Then, to everyone’s surprise, jolly Turnip volunteered to play the hated creature.

    “I’ll try, Radish!” he called out bravely, stepping up from the back.

    “Oh my! Way to go, Turnie!” encouraged Daikon.

    Amid light applause, Turnip took the stage. Then, as Radish was about to launch into his next announcement, a din sounded from outside the cellar door.

    “Shh!” hushed Rutabaga, “What is that awful racket?”

    “Hello? Anybody in there? Where’s the PARTY AT?!” called a voice. This was followed by a number of whoops and shouts.

    “Oh no! It’s the Potato Brothers!” whispered Parsnip, grabbing onto Carrot with concern.

    “Oh, we are out of here! Come on, honey,” Yam determined, turning to Daikon.

    There was a general murmur of consent with Yam, when suddenly an unexpected voice rose up from the crowd.

    “Wait, you guys!” said little Beet, “Maybe we should invite them in. I mean, Root Cellar Game Day is all about fun and friendship. We could lead by example, and teach those Potato boys a thing or two about good community!”

    Beet’s assertion was met by stares of disbelief. Then Radish spoke up, “I like what the little root girl says. She has real heart.” Beet blushed a deeper purple, and stared at the ground.

    Yam’s rage dissipated, and everyone started to look around and nod.

    “Let’s do it!” called out Carrot, “Let’s invite the Potatoes in!”

    “Yeah!” Ginger agreed, “Maybe some of them are cute this season!”

    Turnip and Daikon undid the latch of the cellar door, and Rutabaga stood between the two big guys to greet the Potato Brothers.

    “Hello, Spuds! You may enter, if you promise not to make any trouble!” she said in her bossiest tone.

    “ALRIGHT!” yelled the eldest Potato, as he and his brothers stumbled down the cellar stairs in a disarray of dirt and leaves, “Thanks, old lady! And you’ve all got to try this drink we just invented!”

    The rest of the roots welcomed the Potatoes into the party, and showed them how to play their games. In return, the Potatoes plied all the guests with plenty of their new drink, a clear liquid with a good burn going down. And, well, you can imagine how the party went from there!

  6. Urban Homesteading in Chicago: Canning
On a recent trip to Los Angeles, my friend, Nell,strongly urged me to buy this book. Trusting her judgement in most things, I bought it, even though my suitcase was already bursting with a multitude of books obtained on my travels (it’s a weakness…).
The Urban Homestead is a guide to living self-sufficiently and sustainably in an urban environment. It contains a vast assortment of tips and ideas for gardening, saving energy, preserving, recycling, and all the good stuff. I was hooked right away. My step-mom leafed through the book, and immediately got up to put a water-bottle filled with rocks in the toilet tank.
Throughout the last 6 months or so, Alex and I have been working hard on making our urban apartment a comfortable, colorful home. We’re big into cooking and gardening, and art projects galore. Needless to say, Alex was delighted with The Urban Homestead. And before I knew it, he’d purchased a flat of tomatoes at the farmer’s market and was rarin’ to go on our first ever canning project.
We bought quart-sized Ball jars at our local hardware store, Crafty Beaver, which I much much much prefer to the terror of the Home Depot. They were cheap! I’ve since gone back for 2 more packs of 12 jars.
The canning supplies were borrowed from our downstairs neighbor of epicurian mastery, Sarah Chang. Alex wants to get a pressure cooker, but I’m thinking let’s wait a year for that investment.
The tomato sauce recipe came from Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal Vegetable Miracle. I have actually not read this yet (I know, I know) but it’s next on the list.
The recipe included many spices (more on our newly organized spice rack later). Alex stirred all the spices together, which amounted to a mound that about filled a cereal bowl. It was crazy! But mixed into 10 quarts of tomato puree, I think the flavors will spread out nicely. Our kitchen smelled awesome.
The sauce had to cook down for about 3 hours, and by that time I was crashing hard. I’m still getting over a cold, and I fell asleep before the actual canning occurred. Alex finished the canning process solo, by adding a little lemon juice to each jar, placing them in the canning bath for 35 minutes. Apparently it went well, cause those jars look great! Can’t wait to taste it.
Now we’re trying to brainstorm the name of our urban “farm,” and the names of the products we create. We’re going to the farmer’s market again tomorrow morning to pick up for produce for canning. Next up: pickles, and then some sort of jam.
Happy Homesteading!
-MOA

    Urban Homesteading in Chicago: Canning

    On a recent trip to Los Angeles, my friend, Nell,strongly urged me to buy this book. Trusting her judgement in most things, I bought it, even though my suitcase was already bursting with a multitude of books obtained on my travels (it’s a weakness…).

    The Urban Homestead is a guide to living self-sufficiently and sustainably in an urban environment. It contains a vast assortment of tips and ideas for gardening, saving energy, preserving, recycling, and all the good stuff. I was hooked right away. My step-mom leafed through the book, and immediately got up to put a water-bottle filled with rocks in the toilet tank.

    Throughout the last 6 months or so, Alex and I have been working hard on making our urban apartment a comfortable, colorful home. We’re big into cooking and gardening, and art projects galore. Needless to say, Alex was delighted with The Urban Homestead. And before I knew it, he’d purchased a flat of tomatoes at the farmer’s market and was rarin’ to go on our first ever canning project.

    We bought quart-sized Ball jars at our local hardware store, Crafty Beaver, which I much much much prefer to the terror of the Home Depot. They were cheap! I’ve since gone back for 2 more packs of 12 jars.

    The canning supplies were borrowed from our downstairs neighbor of epicurian mastery, Sarah Chang. Alex wants to get a pressure cooker, but I’m thinking let’s wait a year for that investment.

    The tomato sauce recipe came from Barbara Kingsolver’s book Animal Vegetable Miracle. I have actually not read this yet (I know, I know) but it’s next on the list.

    The recipe included many spices (more on our newly organized spice rack later). Alex stirred all the spices together, which amounted to a mound that about filled a cereal bowl. It was crazy! But mixed into 10 quarts of tomato puree, I think the flavors will spread out nicely. Our kitchen smelled awesome.

    The sauce had to cook down for about 3 hours, and by that time I was crashing hard. I’m still getting over a cold, and I fell asleep before the actual canning occurred. Alex finished the canning process solo, by adding a little lemon juice to each jar, placing them in the canning bath for 35 minutes. Apparently it went well, cause those jars look great! Can’t wait to taste it.

    Now we’re trying to brainstorm the name of our urban “farm,” and the names of the products we create. We’re going to the farmer’s market again tomorrow morning to pick up for produce for canning. Next up: pickles, and then some sort of jam.

    Happy Homesteading!

    -MOA

  7. Before we move on to another spectacular issue next month, check out my illustration for July’s Ragbag Magazine.
ragbagmag:

Spectacles of Spectacles
by Meg O’Reilly Amandes

    Before we move on to another spectacular issue next month, check out my illustration for July’s Ragbag Magazine.

    ragbagmag:

    Spectacles of Spectacles

    by Meg O’Reilly Amandes

  8. The June issue of our magazine has arrived. Theme: Alternative Transportation. Here’s my story, based on somewhat true events…

    ragbagmag:

    by Meg O’Reilly Amandes


    The perfect vegetarian burrito had not yet been discovered, and so the girls decided it was time to head to town. The bus stop was packed with other cig-smoking, backpack-sagging kids. A walk was out of the question; who decided to isolate this campus on a hill? The…

  9. Shark Week is long over. But fun with sharks has just begun! Anyone with a fondness for the cartilaginous fish family, and a tendency to take quizzes when procrastinating, should check out my Shark Chart for Rag Bag Magazine’s May issue.

ragbagmag:

TEST 1: MAPS AND DIAGRAMS
 by Meg O’Reilly Amandes This is a test about using maps and diagrams to get information. Read the directions at the top of the page to yourself.  → Read each question, and be sure to refer to the map or diagram above it. → Four answers are given for each question. You should choose the answer that you think is better than the others. → Work until you come to the stop sign at the bottom of the page. If you finish early, you may go over your answers, but do not turn the page to any other tests. → You have 15 minutes to complete the test.   I. Chart: Well-Known Sharks 1. Which types of sharks have the greatest difference in their “cuteness” factor? 
A. The Great White and San Jose. 
B. The Westside Story and Great White.
C. The Westside Story and Land.
D. Only baby sharks are cute.
2. What? Really? Real Great White shark sightings?
A. Yes, really. It was the most terrifying moment of my life
B. Sunny Cove, Santa Cruz, CA. Like 30 feet away.
C. Also, in a tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
D. All of the above.
3. Why is the “coolness” rating of the San Jose Sharks so low?
A. San Jose is the armpit of the country.
B. You can never find the San Jose airport without getting lost.
C. I’ve never watched a hockey game.
D. Wait, they ARE cool! They play on ICE! Ice… cool… get it?
(Answers in the next issue of Ragbag Magazine)

    Shark Week is long over. But fun with sharks has just begun! Anyone with a fondness for the cartilaginous fish family, and a tendency to take quizzes when procrastinating, should check out my Shark Chart for Rag Bag Magazine’s May issue.

    ragbagmag:

    TEST 1: MAPS AND DIAGRAMS

     by Meg O’Reilly Amandes
     
    This is a test about using maps and diagrams to get information. Read the directions at the top of the page to yourself.
     
    → Read each question, and be sure to refer to the map or diagram above it.
    → Four answers are given for each question. You should choose the answer that you think is better than the others.
    → Work until you come to the stop sign at the bottom of the page. If you finish early, you may go over your answers, but do not turn the page to any other tests.
    → You have 15 minutes to complete the test.
     
     
     
    I. Chart: Well-Known Sharks
     
    1. Which types of sharks have the greatest difference in their “cuteness” factor? 

    • A. The Great White and San Jose.
       
    • B. The Westside Story and Great White.
    • C. The Westside Story and Land.
    • D. Only baby sharks are cute.


    2. What? Really? Real Great White shark sightings?

    • A. Yes, really. It was the most terrifying moment of my life
    • B. Sunny Cove, Santa Cruz, CA. Like 30 feet away.
    • C. Also, in a tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
    • D. All of the above.


    3. Why is the “coolness” rating of the San Jose Sharks so low?

    • A. San Jose is the armpit of the country.
    • B. You can never find the San Jose airport without getting lost.
    • C. I’ve never watched a hockey game.
    • D. Wait, they ARE cool! They play on ICE! Ice… cool… get it?


    (Answers in the next issue of Ragbag Magazine)

  10. Midnight Moxie’s song sesh on the excellent music blog Living Room Songs!

    livingroomsongs:

    Couch Potatoes//Living Room Songs Presents: Midnight Moxie

    (for slow connections turn HD off)

    *performing “Met A Guy.”

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