Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Return of Artisan Bread

Crispy fall leaves. Brisk north winds. Stew on the stove.

And the return of artisan bread.

Nom, nom.

--Rational Mama

Monday, November 29, 2010

T-Minus 26 Days and Counting

Can you believe it? We have less than a month left of rationing! The end is near!

So, how's it going?

This is traditionally a very busy time of year for us; between Thanksgiving and the middle of January we have four family birthdays, three holidays and two birthdays of very dear friends. Plus, this year we're dealing with trying to decide what life will look like after rationing and all of the house stuff. Luckily, by now we're whizzes when it comes to rationing and it doesn't take much brain power to come up with a ration-friendly menu and point total.

In fact, we've gotten so accustomed to rationing that lately we're using only a fraction of our points. During previous months I tried to use up all our ration points as best I could without crossing that fine line between maintaining a surplus and hoarding. After all, ration points seldom went unused during the 1940s. But at some point that tactic seemed to contradict the idea behind rationing - focusing instead on wants rather than needs. And so I've been trying to "shop" the freezer and cabinets, so to speak, and use what we already have on hand.

As a result we will be ending the month of November with a surplus of 95 red and 45 blue/green points (!).

We are starting to make some headway and consensus on what life will be like after rationing. Some small changes, some big changes, some things dropping to the wayside and some things status quo. Over the next month I'll be revisiting some of the original rationing project posts to bring you up to date.

In the meantime, thanks for sticking with us!

--Rational Mama

Sunday, November 28, 2010

So THIS is What We've Been Saving All That Butter For!

I hope everyone out there had a wonderful, safe Thanksgiving holiday!

We had a pleasant dinner with TMOTH's family. It was potluck style and we were in charge of the relish tray and desserts. I wanted to do something quasi-traditional but easy for the desserts, since I was working both the day before and the day after Thanksgiving. The following are the two dessert recipes I made for the day -both are do-able on rations as long as you've been saving up your sugar and butter (luckily, we had). They were both divine, especially when paired with homemade whipped cream.

Sorry for the lack of photos - neither dessert survived more than 24 hours past the big meal and we were all too busy stuffing our faces to take pictures. I think that's a sign of a successful Thanksgiving.

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake

1 package yellow cake mix (yes, these were available in the 1940s)
4 eggs
16 TB butter, separated
1 8 0z package of cream cheese, softened
1 15 0z can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 tsp vanilla
8 oz powdered sugar (if not available granulated sugar will do)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg

1. Prepare the cake layer by mixing together the cake mix, 8 TB melted butter and 1 egg.
2. Evenly press cake mixture into the bottom of a well-greased 9" x 12" baking dish.
3. Prepare the filling by beating together the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth.
4. Add the remaining 3 eggs, vanilla and 8 TB melted butter to the pumpkin mixture and mix well.
5. Add sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg to the pumpkin mixture and stir thoroughly.
6. Spread pumpkin mixture over the cake layer.
7. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes (center will still be slightly gooey).
8. Let cake cool completely before serving (a few hours in the refrigerator will help).

Pecan Pie Bars

2 cups sugar (divided)
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 3 TB butter
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups Karo syrup
2 cups pecan halves or pieces

1. Prepare cookie crust by combining 1/2 cup sugar, flour, salt and 1 cup butter (softened).
2. Beat until mix is crumbly.
3. Press cookie mixture into well-greased 10" x 15" baking pan.
4. Bake 20 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned.
5. While cookie crust is baking, prepare filling by beating together the eggs, 3 TB butter (melted), vanilla and remaining syrup and sugar until well-blended.
6. Pour mixture over the hot cookie crust and top with the pecans.
7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
8. Cool completely before cutting into serving sizes.

--Rational Mama

Friday, November 19, 2010

Television Daze...Part 2

That would be a picture of digital PBS programming on our new T.V.

I would be lying if I said it wasn't beautiful.

One of the folks following Rational Living on Facebook asked how our television price compared with the cost of purchasing a new family radio in the 1940s. According to this website a mid-range floor radio model would set a 1940s family back $60 to $80. The inflation calculator says that would be equivalent to roughly $900 to $1200 in today's dollars. Even after you add in all the extra cables and accessories we were still well below that figure.

Blame it on the bad economy or deflationary electronic technology. Either way, we'll be happy watching Star Trek on the big screen in high definition.

Anachronistic? Yes. Geeky? Most definitely. Good? Oh, yes. And we look just like that family in the Westinghouse ad...I promise.

--Rational Mama

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Whew. And Cobbler


That's about the only thing I can say about the past month.


October always go by so quickly and this year was no exception. With Halloween on a Sunday there were virtually three full days of Halloween this year. Costume gathering, school parties, friend parties, trick-or-treating...lots to do.

Add to that house issues. Yes, our house is still on the market but the original house that started all of this is completely out of the picture now (and we're okay with that). In the end they were asking too much, especially considering the amount of elbow grease required to get everything up to par. So we've been spending time perusing the internet for possible homes, visiting open houses, debating what features we consider important in the next move and researching schools. We had actually found a property we were very interested in (3/4 of an acre, unconventional A-frame, great school) but then it was taken off the market because of all the foreclosure mess. Sigh. All this and we have to keep our own house nearly pristine in-between improvement projects just in case someone wants to see it.

And then there was last week. The girls were off of school on Monday so we had some extra bonding time and they were sweet, sweet, sweet. On Tuesday Eowyn woke up with a stomach ache and quickly began vomiting. Unfortunately, she started on an empty stomach and has a history of acid reflux. Thus, in less than four hours after she first vomited we were in the emergency room. She was very dehydrated and was showing signs of intestinal damage so she spent two days in the hospital, soaking up the I.V. fluids in between tests and lots of meds. At one point they gave her morphine which alleviated the pain enough that she could sleep, but it dropped her respiratory rate down so low that all the machine alarms were going off. A lot. Ugh. Not good times.

She came home last Thursday with several prescriptions to get her by until she can see her pediatric gastroenterologist in Kansas City this coming Monday. So far, so good...but we were all rather exhausted last weekend - both physically and mentally.

We needed something to make everything right...to sort of reset the household. So last Sunday night I made venison stew with dumplings and a pear cobbler for dessert. The stew was wonderful - stick to your ribs comfort food. The cobbler was absolutely amazing and oh-so-simple. I used a jar of cinnamon pears I preserved in September and the taste was amazing, but I'm sure you could use commercially-canned fruit and have equally impressive results.

I'm going to post the cobbler recipe I used because I know we all have those times...when life has strung us out and scraped us thin. This may not make everything better, but it will make you feel a bit more at peace.

1 15-16 oz can of fruit (peaches, pears, apples, blueberries or cherries would work well)
1 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
5 TB butter, melted
1 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Grease the bottom and sides of an 8" x 8" baking dish.
3. Drain canned fruit and evenly distribute fruit in the bottom of the prepared dish.
4. Combine remaining ingredients and pour the mixture over the fruit.
5. Bake the cobbler for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown.

The fact that the cobbler did not survive long enough for me to take a picture should serve as an adequate testimonial.

Wishing all of you healthy, happy days.

--Rational Mama

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Based on a True Recipe

Hmm...what to say about the Six Layer Dinner?

Well, it's from the most-awesome Betty Crocker rationing cookbook.

But...I made it for dinner back on September 17th and I'm still trying to find the words to make it sound interesting and exciting.

It's been harder than I thought. It's just layers of potatoes, ground beef, peppers, onions and tomatoes (I know - no white sauce!). I did add some cheddar cheese on the top and some extra seasonings (garlic powder, oregano) to make it palatable. Otherwise, there wasn't much hope for it.

Maybe, rather than focus on the actual historic recipe I should instead go all Hollywood on it and add some sizzle. You know, "based on a true recipe." Yeah, that sounds good.

Six Layers of Fury Dinner: You Will Be Hungry


2 cups sliced angry and raw potatoes
2 cups chopped celery with something to prove
2 cups ground beef so fresh it's still moo-ing
1 cup onion, sliced by Jackie Chan fighting off three ninjas
1 cup finely cut green peppers picked by a migrant worker with dreams of becoming a internationally-known songstress
2 cups cooked tomatoes, dripping with lycopene
2 tsp salt gathered by slave laborers in SE Asia while Angelina Jolie protests nearby
1/4 tsp pepper so spicy it's kept under lock and key - until Jason Bourne is on the scene

Directions - Destroy After Reading:

1. Layer ingredients in a shallow 9 x 12 baking dish, careful not to trigger the sensitive detonation device buried within.
2. Bake for 2 hours at 350 degrees, or for only 3 minutes when the sun goes supernova after North Korean spies hijack a nuclear missile.

What do you think? Shall I call Spielberg?

--Rational Mama

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Light in the Darkness

What is a rationing mother to do when the family must be fed, she doesn't want to cook anything complicated and the rest of the clan wants something tasty now?

Ahhh, yeah! She pulls out a can of SPAM (or, SPAM light) and makes SPAM burgers with a side of fresh roasted sweet potato wedges.

Easy, relatively quick and everyone is happy! Yay for SPAM!

--Rational Mama

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Television Daze

Sometimes it's really challenging to be patient - especially in today's day and age. I can get takeout ordered and delivered, check out the game score and view the week's forecast all within half an hour and all without leaving my house. Patience may be a virtue, but today it seems a seldom-needed virtue.

And we typically don't like it when we're asked to use it.

Take, for example, our most recent appliance dilemma. Our current TV (yes, we only have one in the house - I believe this makes us an anomaly in the U.S. for our family size and income bracket) is roughly seven years old. It's a standard early 2000's model and after years of use and abuse the remote has gone AWOL. Also, it doesn't have a digital tuner and, considering how much cabinet space it takes up, it doesn't provide the nice wide screen features of the newer flat-screen models.

Additionally, it apparently has Seasonal Affective Disorder.

For the past several years the speakers have not worked properly during the colder months. It took us a few seasons to realize what was going on, but during the colder months the speakers rattle with noises of specific frequencies (think mumbling dialogue, car chases or an awesome Viper/Raider fight sequence from, say, Battlestar Galactica). Understandably, this can be quite irritating.

But then spring comes and temperatures warm up and we forget about the speaker plague of the previous four months. We tolerate the display even if we can't see the far edges and labels of the PBS program we're watching.

Oh, and we continue to pay around $12 per month to get our local affiliates (plus a handful of ot her channels that we don't really watch) since we lack the digital tuner.

Well, we are finally ready to purchase a new TV! All modern with a wide screen, working remote, digital tuner and functional speakers! We've been doing the research and it seems like our best fit would be a 32" LCD HDTV with 1080p and 120 Hz. The girls and I were in the area of the big box electronic store today so we stopped in to browse.

I had been estimating about $600 for our future purchase, based on prices from a few months ago. I had heard rumors that the prices on LCD televisions were dropping because of a glut of inventory (bad economy = slow electronic purchases). Wow - those rumors are true! I found a model with the exact features we're looking for with a high customer rating on mega-sale for only $450! Plus, with my credit and such we could do eighteen months of interest free financing.

Oh man...the temptation was there! How was I able to walk out of that store without a television?

Because appliances were rationed during WWII. Remember our oven range dilemma? We were in a pickle because ranges were in short supply during the war (not very many were being produced in the war-driven factories) so families in need of a range had to apply for one. If they were turned down then they either had to find a used model or make do without one.

So that's how I was able to say no to the television temptation. I was thinking about appliance rationing and delayed gratification and such. If you combine our Internet/television usage time I believe it roughly equates to what would have been the average usage of telephones and radios in the 1940s (and they serve the same purposes). If a new radio wasn't an option for 1940s rationers then a new television shouldn't be available to us during our rationing year.

But then I came home and did a little research. Apparently, I over-estimated the variety of appliances and such that were rationed during WWII. True, oven ranges were available only through an application process - as were automobiles, bicycles and typewriters. But that was the extent of appliance rationing. It doesn't take much effort to find War-era advertisements for new radios via Google. This all makes sense considering how much the government used radio as a tool for morale and support during the War.

So...what to do?

--Rational Mama

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Vintage Halloween

While the girls were charming the neighborhood as Hermione Granger and Ginny Weasley...

I couldn't help but find inspiration in the rationing year for a costume idea...

--Rational Mama

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


It's November and the weather has finally realized that the season is currently autumn, not summer.

Up through the middle of last week we'd been experiencing a warm, dry autumn. In fact, the Rational Living household hadn't fired up the furnace until last Thursday - typically this happens around two weeks earlier in the season. Although our area had it's first official "hard" freeze last week, our own corner of the city did not, so we we still have peppers and basil (!) working their hardest to produce something worthwhile in the garden.

Now that the weather is more seasonally appropriate even the furnace doesn't keep the chill out of the house entirely. It's not that we have poor insulation or a faulty furnace - we have decent insulation and a modern, high efficiency furnace. It's mainly due to the fact that during the winters we keep the thermostat set at 62 degrees (higher if company is expected).

That is a full 10 degrees cooler than the wartime recommendation!

Why do we keep it so cool? Partly to curb heating costs, partly to conserve energy. On most days 62 degrees isn't too bad, especially if you're active (i.e., doing chores). If you're sedentary it does mean long sleeves, socks and maybe an afghan or two on the sofa. Nighttime typically isn't a problem since heat rises and the bedrooms are upstairs (the flannel sheets help, too).

Energy conservation during the winter was a big worry during WWII, since much of the coal reserves were needed for the war machine. There were multiple instances of families running out of coal mid-winter and not being able to secure more because of scarce availability.

Obviously, we don't have that problem today but we still feel a responsibility to use these resources judiciously.

So, friend...have you turned on your furnace? What is your thermostat setting?

--Rational Mama