Friday, October 31, 2008

Curbside shopping

If you are just getting to know me ....... you don't know that I have become incredibly cheap. Sheepie Neighbor says I'm frugal. She is waay too kind. I am cheap.

And I don't do "new". I don't know why......... I don't live well with "new". I'm perfectly fine with finding an old ratty chair and throwing a blanket over it until I can re-do it. But new ........... not so much.

Honey is also cheap ........ actually, much cheaper than I am in a funny sort of way. But he doesn't scrounge through the garbage like I do. Personally, if you put it on the curb for the garbage man -- I think it is fair game. And if it has my name on it (FREE!) -- Baby, it is mine!!!!

We will be driving down a street and I will scream "STOP!!!" And he will slam on the brakes thinking that a child has run out in front of the truck. No ---- there is just a great metal lawn chair along side the trash!!! Now --- I have to yell "Dive. Dive"--- it means STUFF.

So it surprised me the other day when he came home with these ---This small child's rocker is missing an arm. Minor point. Honey can fix it now that he has his new bionic eye. ( I told him "No more cancer -- no more heart attacks." So he went for cataract surgery. I would have been happier with a hangnail!!!)

And then .......... he also brought home this ----
Cute, isn't it??? I'm guessing 1880's - 1890's. It doesn't have a pressed back -- very simple but really nice lines.

And notice my new project. I have got to learn how to cane. It can't be too hard -- after all, I weave baskets, do counted cross-stitch and knit fair isle. Same thing -- different material. And every thing is on youtube so watch and learn.

But it is truly time to learn. I love chairs. I buy or find lots of chairs. But if you come to my house for dinner -- you sit on folding chairs. Why??? Because of the seat conditions of my chairs -- they are used as end tables!Notice how my books sag to the left?? That's because there is a hole in the caning there. Yea -- it is time to learn.

Quick story about the chair above. I bought 4 of those at my college roomie's mother's auction (ya get all that???) They were Julia's dining room chairs. So my BFF Cyn is at the house -- helping clean for a 4-H House gathering. And she is dusting away in the living room and asks, "Clink, where did you get those chairs? I feel like I have dusted them a thousand times." "You have -- I got them at your mom's auction!"

So learning to cane is our "winter" project. Yea -- you will probably hear about my trials and tribulations. But mark my words. One of these days ......... I'll be sitting pretty!!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bits and pieces .................

Monday, I went to a play day at Abi's. What a wonderful experience to be invited with all these talented women! I am not worthy!!! But I learned a lot -- bought some great fleece -- and ate some tasty food!!!
This is Jill -- she and her husband farm in Central Iowa and operate a CSA. (Community Supported agriculture) She gave me some great ideas about how they promote their farm. She is spinning intently ........... actually, she is doing Navaho plying. And she calls herself a novice! I think not!!!
This is Maggie and John. Maggie and her mother own 2 acres and raise herbs at Prairieland Herbs near Woodward, Iowa. Maggie just got a 1914 Singer treadle --- how cool is that!!! It was really fun to meet such like-minded women and men --------- so much talent! Thank you Abi, for inviting me!

In other news ---- Miss Effie's Country Flowers and Garden Stuff has just been accepted by Animal Welfare Approved. Our farm was inspected in September for humane treatment of animals. And we passed!! So labels will be coming soon for all of our egg cartons! Not only are you getting pretty eggs .... you are getting eggs from humanely raised hens. Like you didn't know that before!!!!! Anyone that names their hens .......................

Right now I have a cold --- so I will curl up on the sofa under a blanket and sleep. Good night!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Today -- I will say more..........

I feel silly, crying over a duck. But as Sheepie Neighbor said, it was Walter.

Honey and I were hooked almost instantly when we saw Walter. Fuzzy little top-knot and a sweet peep-peep. So he immediately took up residency in the laundry room. I guess that's where all good ducks should live the first month or so of their lives. Ditto (a little calico cat) sat on top of the cage, playing with Walter.

I work retail in my off-season and had to work late one evening. Honey was home alone with Walter. I came home to hear ........... "You have got to see the new trick that Walter learned!"

He would stretch his legs out on the coffee table ....... Walter would sit down on Honey's knees. And Honey would say "Come here, Walter!" and Walter would come racing up Honey's chest to snuggle under his chin!

Debbie told me that I should leave Honey alone for that long!!!!!

Walter followed me around the garden -- and would dive for grubs as I weeded. One day -- I was weeding and cut Walter's beak with my hand fork. I never knew that a duck's beak would bleed!!! But he forgave me and continued searching for grubs with me!!!

We always locked Walter and Whosit up at night -- they would be right on the porch waiting to go to bed. One night, Walter even pecked at the door with his beak --- we weren't moving fast enough!!

Sunday night was no exception -- in fact, we had just finished larger accommodations for winter for our two feathered friends. I left for a spin-in a little before 9am -- I've never kept the ducks locked up during the day -- and the two buddies were out buggin' away.

When I came home at 4 -- Walter was missing. Whosit was walking around -- not in fear -- but looking for her buddy. I called and searched and called and searched. I found no buff or white feathers -- no sign of a struggle -- but no Walter. Our neighbors saw a fox run across our gardens during the day............ which is unusual. So I can only assume what Walter's fate was.

It was quiet this morning............ no Walter quacking his morning hello.

I'm going to miss that sound.

Its silly to be crying over a duck .............. but I am. And I will.

Monday, October 27, 2008

In Memoriam......................

Walter the Duck................. May 3, 2008 -- October 27, 2008

There is a fox with my name on it. I will talk about it later ...... currently, there are too many tears.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Toasty Tootsies!

A new FO!!!! I know........... I'm shocked too!

I've been working on multiple projects at the moment...... like all of us. But as Honey says, I don't multi-task like I used to! But I did finish this pair of socks.

I love knitting socks........... I love the hand, the feel, the warmth and most importantly to me, the fit. I have what some people would call "little feet". And when you buy a pair of socks -- they also fit people with "big feet". So store-bought socks are sloppy on me and twist when I walk. The heels end up on the top of my feet and Honey then makes fun of me! Lord knows why! (Seriously, there are so many reasons!)

I admire all these finished projects that I see online. But I have discovered ..... that for me.... knitting is not about "projects" but the process. And the process of spinning sings to my soul. I have been knitting far longer than I will admit -- and I love it. But the prayer that sings through you as you spin cannot be described in words.......... only in works.

Its like kneading bread dough or chopping veggies, fresh from the garden for a homemade soup --- the connection with our God and our earth is intense. I am so grateful that I can feel it. I am thankful for the joy that I receive. There are so many that can't see it or feel it or taste it. For them -- a can of Progresso, a loaf of Wonder bread or a package of socks from Hanes -- work.

It is not enough for me.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Blonde Brownies

Years ago -- I baked some blonde brownies that were rich, butterscotch-y and delicious. And never have found the recipe since!

Most blonde brownies are dry and overly chocolate-y. These are good.

So here goes the recipe!

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. And spray a 9x13 baking dish with vegetable spray. I'm pretty certain these wouldn't stick -- but why take the chance! One of my food instructors in college (Mrs. Ries) said ........ "A cookie that can't grease its own butt, isn't worth baking!" I agree.

Mix together the following -- 2 cups of flour
1 tsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans
And set this aside.

In the meantime -- melt 2/3 cup of butter. Stir in 2 cups of dark brown sugar, let it cool slightly and beat in 2-3 eggs. Use 2 if they are extra large -- 3, otherwise. And then stir in the "secret" ingredient ...... 2 tbsps. of vanilla. Yep!! That is right.

Stir in the flour mixture -- a little at a time and mix well. Spread into the 9x13 pan and sprinkle 1/2 c to 3/4 cup of chocolate chips on the top.

Bake for 30 minutes.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

This post is NOT rated PG!!!

I'm pretty certain there have been words flyin' that are not suitable for younger readers!!!

I hinted before that I had bought a "new" sewing machine. Ok -- its not new. In fact, it is one of the few things that is still around and is older than I am!!! Its a 1951 Singer Centennial 66-18. I grew up sewing on a machine that was similar but nicer. Better features.......... but its not around and I wanted a machine that goes forward and backward. None of these fancy stitches or zig-zag ........ just forward and backward!

And most importantly, I wanted a machine that Honey could fix........... being that he doesn't have a PHD in computer science. (The Bosch washer experience still haunts me!)

So today -- I have a day to myself and I wanted to "play" with my machine. First problem --- winding the bobbin. Can't seem to do it. Won't wind thread. Went step by step in the instructions and can't quite get it.

Ok -- there is thread that I can use already on a bobbin --- I will continue "playing". I want to make an apron out of scrap of a dresser scarf or tablecloth .......... just a pretty piece of lace-edged fabric I had found. Gathering the top edge for the ribbon waistband and ties went great! Now its time to edge stitch the ribbon ties together. Aaaaghhhh!!!

Can I get the tension even close to right????? I thought I had it several times .................. close but no cigar!!!! Bobbin tension is great -- its the top thread! Fortunately, I bought four yards of ribbon for the ties. I can cut off a lot and still have enough!!!

But right at this very moment ---- I am stepping away from the machine so no one gets hurt!!

Its time for a cup of tea, a few minutes at my spinning wheel to get my zen back, and maybe ........... a Prozac or two!!! Sewing ........... the reason I needed therapy!!!!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Good People drink Good Beer....... Hunter S. Thompson

You can't argue with a 60's icon like Hunter S. Thompson!

The 2nd Annual Miss Effie's Octoberfest was last night. What a great party!

First of all, I have to thank all my wonderful friends that made the party such a good time! You guys are incredible! Wonderful food like Sheepie Neighbor's pumpkin sour cream struesel cake; Greenhouse Gwen fried Milford Farm cheese curds (I mean, seriously, what could be better than battered fried cheese curds???) Hellen's homemade sauerkraut and then her wonderful horseradish to put on Geest Family Farms brats. Not counting her home-brew!

We started the evening by my dear friend Buffalo Dan bringing me a bouquet of flowers from his wonderful yard that is filled with native plants. It was perfect -- came with its own hook for hanging on the screen door of the corn-zebo.

The beer table was the popular place. Lots of different beers from all over the world. I swore that there was going to be beer to last Honey and I a lifetime. There are 11 bottles left!! Not counting these two from Dandy Dan. I don't understand why no one drank them???? Might be the fact they have been tumbling around in the back of his truck for the last two years!!!

I think the quote of the evening came from Dandy Dan ........ "I under-estimated the quality of the beer that would be here!" Ya think????

Honey got the fire pit in place and it was a wonderful finish to a great evening.

Thank you again, dear friends. You are the best and we love you all!
And start stashing beer for next year............ cuz we are doing this again!! Cuz as you can see............ a good time was had by all!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Autumn in Iowa.........

Wow! I may just have a pumpkin for Addie yet!!! I had hoped to grow pumpkins this year. Due to our very wet spring -- my pumpkin seeds sat in several flats of soil, waiting to be planted.

One night, we had a bad storm (yea, you ask "Which bad storm was it??" We had so many this spring) with lots of high winds. My seed flats full of pumpkins and squash went a flyin'! So I had piles of seeds -- a few small plants -- and a lot of wet soil just sitting on the ground. But somehow -- I got one small pumpkin. Addie's pumpkin. I wasn't sure if it would turn orange in time or not. But I think it just might make it.

Iowa is not for the wimpy. Winters can be tough and getting ready for winter, even tougher. We start out every spring with long to-do lists. And by the time autumn comes along -- we discover that we haven't made a dent!

My neighbors are hustling, trying to get an old barn restored before the snow flies. This is such a beautiful barn and I was afraid it would fall into a heap on the ground. The roof was full of holes, the stone foundation crumbling and the stately cupola was in total disrepair I wish I had taken a picture before its make-over began. But here is a progress shot.
In other news -- I've been doing more cider demonstrations. We really had a fun (but large) group out yesterday. Home-schooled 4-H-ers. Anyone that knows me, knows that 4-H is near and dear to my heart. It has changed a lot -- and these were city kids. But it was a lot of fun.
After making cider, we always do a "chicken" tour. Rarely can I get group to hold the hens on their own. This group of kids begged to hold another hen. As you can tell, my Brahama is as big as she is!!! How cute is that!!

Ok -- that is all for today. We have a busy day getting ready for Octoberfest tomorrow. My dear guests, plan on seeing yourself in the blog!!! Of course, I will be taking pics early in the evening before I imbibe too much!! Chocolate, that is!!!!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Visiting the Holy Grail of Beer????

Welcome to Dirty John's Grocery. Beer lovers' idea of heaven. So we made the mandatory Octoberfest pilgrimage to worship the many kinds of beer sold there.

Here ........ after winding through the organic chips, the over-priced browning bananas, is the ........BEER ROOM. Not just the "liquor" store ......... but the beer room.

Honey was in heaven .... for a brief moment. Then he discovered that there were no 6-packs of Mackeson XXX Triple Stout. So ........... by Sarah Palin's standard, we are not Joe-Six-Pack. We are Honey-Two-Bottles!
All these beers and there are more ( the door way to the left leads to the cooler!) and there are only 2 bottles of Mackeson XXX Triple Stout. Which happens to be two more than in the QCA. But you expect more out of a place with a "beer room".

So ............ eat your heart out, Rooster Man!!!!! Honey got to drool over a world wide beer collection. And speaking of drool, we bought this...............

In respect for the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate. Doggone it now! Does buying a 6-pack of Moose Drool make us "Joe-Six-Pack"???? You betcha!!!!

(note to all..................... you do hear the sarcasm in the keystrokes, don't you???)

Friday, October 10, 2008

I'm the boss -- it said so!

I said I would show you more of my flea market finds. This was one that was tucked into a box of vintage sewing patterns that I bought. It is a 1953 (Hey! Something older than me!!!) Simplicity Sewing guide for using feed bags for clothing and decor design. Judging from the fact that I feed 50 hens -- I should have 6-1/2 yards of fabric. And it says ...............I should demand that my feed comes in print bags. After all, I am the boss.

I'm pretty certain Karen at the feed store would have some spicy answer to that!

Cute cute flyer. I'll have fun with that one.

Other news ......... I am completely done with the sit-com sweater. Blocked and finished. I may add some grosgrain ribbon to the front edge as it rolls a little.

Note the cute pearl button. Now I bought two huge tins of buttons in the last two weeks --trying to find the perfect button. This one came courtesy of Greenhouse Gwen. She had a wonderful box of old buttons. Gwen, I apologize again for drooling all over them!!! But now, I am thinking about what can I do with those gorgeous red ones??? I'll be bringing more roving home soon!

I was asked back to the Farmers Market to present another class on canning. It was such a success. I know -- I had a good time. So tomorrow, you will find me at my favorite farmers' market at 9:30 presenting a class on preserving apples. The main recipe will be apples studded with dried cherries and raisins. It is wonderful for a rustic tart for a special occasion. And its really easy to do. Heck -- you don't even peel the apples! My kind of recipe!
So I canned up 6 qts of that for the "bomb shelter" cuisine!

And I made 14 jars of "As American as Apple Pie" jam. That recipe has been posted in our local newspaper and the Radish. So "Google" Apple Pie jam for that one. Or for my flower-cutting, egg-buying and jam-eating customers, its now available for sale.

Enjoy this wonderful weather-- visit a pumpkin patch or corn maze. Or come see me at the market tomorrow. Cuz Tuesday looks like a Cuddle-duds day!!!

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I don't care if the world is in turmoil. I got to spend the afternoon, rocking my grandbaby. And she squeaks........... just like her Mama did. Nothing else matters. She is perfect.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I love a flea market!

There is nothing more fun than trucking through a flea market looking for treasures. Honey and I went to one of our favorites this weekend. I'll show you some of my finds later -- but here are a few observations.

The picture above is a dealer that sells everything for a dollar. Everything! Now, I don't usually dig through all his stuff -- and dig is the appropriate word because you are covered in dirt after you are done -- but can be the perfect place to find a jar lid, tacky salt and pepper shakers, the Bud-Light pitcher that you can't live without! And as you can tell, people flock to his booth.
Ok -- I found the reason for the canning jar shortage. There they are. OMG! There had to be 30 -40 dozen jars. All at $1.00 a piece. Little pricey for canning but for storage and collectors, it had to be quite a find.

For the gentle readers that are under the age of 40 -- I will answer your burning question. What in the heck are those things??? They are hairdryers. I know, a little big to hold in your hand. Those were from the days that we spent an hour under the burning heat with prickly rollers or very hot metal juice cans!!! They were cone-shaped to dry our beehive hairdos.

I'm pretty certain Sarah Palin owns one. Will they put it in the Oval Office?? The Secret Service could put the seal of the Vice President right on the sneeze-guard of the tall one. And it does double duty as a helmet for those incoming missile attacks.

Ooops! I have now offended "Steve the Republican". He may kick Miss Effie out of market!

And finally, you wondered where all your old prom dresses and bridesmaid's dresses went? I found them.
There they are!! Some things should have been destroyed!!! They were truly too ugly to live. And if you can't believe the green one from the front..... it also has a bow on the butt! So many women look good in green satin with bows on the front and bows on the butt! That dress designer was sadistic!!!

Just an over-view of the gems that can be found .......... if only you look. I'll show you the good stuff later! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bonds of Sisterhood

When I was in college, I lived with the most amazing women in the most amazing sorority house. For some reason (and we have tons of theories) 4-H House builds these wonderful bonds that span generations and years.

Yesterday, I get an email from KA (pledge class Fall 1980). Now I have never spoken to KA or met her but she discovered that I was a 4-H House alum. And we live 4 miles apart!!! Turns out she is a 4-H leader that has a field trip scheduled for Miss Effie's at the end of the month. We talked about how we ended up in Iowa (we were Illinois girls, born and bred!) about our lives, about our daughters, and our friends. What a great experience! I can't wait to meet KA in person.

Sounds like it is time for another 4-H House party!

And included in the mix has to be my friend Deb (pledge class fall 1973) Deb also lives close and we never see each other!!! Fortunately, she caught the canning demo at the farmers market and we have been able to catch up a bit! Her daughter Megan is a "cuddler" at the NICU where little Addie is. Its nice to know when Youngest Daughter isn't there -- my granddaughter is being held by "family".

So .......... if there are any other 4-H House girls in eastern Iowa that I don't know about -- come out! come out and say hello!

I may not have a brass table but I do have a green door!!!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Life on the prairie..........

Every two years, our local grade school hosts Heritage Days at a county park. They spend the day teaching the students about life on the prairie in the 1800's. The teachers and students are encouraged to dress in pioneer attire. Honey and I have been asked to participate in the day. It is something we thoroughly enjoy.

Two years ago -- we took the cider press and made cider with kindergarten students. This year we made cider with 1st and 2nd graders. I have to teach them the ropes of cider making. "We crush the apples! We mash the apples! We squeeze the apples and We squash the apples!!!" And we do this ..... loudly! Several times. Ya know -- ya just have to get the yelling down first!

Its fun watching Honey. He stands behind the press -- trying to help --- on the sly. The kids have to think they are doing the "crushing" all by themselves!

The sad part -- due to government intervention -- the children can not drink un-pasteurized cider. And they wanted to drink what they had made. So they were served Old Orchard. It did give me a couple of gallons of cider to take home!! YEA!!

Look at those little guys! How cute are they! I am a sucker for men in plaid shirts!

This year, they asked me to bring my spinning wheel. So I got to sit and spin for a while. Very few children knew that I was spinning yarn. They thought it was an old-time sewing machine. It was amazing how fascinated the boys were with the process. They loved feeling the alpaca and the processed wool. They would bury their faces into it. (No different than me!!!)

I will tell you -- even at kindergarten and first grade -- its tough to spin with a little one on your lap!!! But it was fun letting them feel the cloud slip through their fingers. So ......... I'll have some yarn with some bumpy spots ........... who cares?!?

You really heard happy children -- square dancing, washing clothes on a wash board and making dried apple wreathes. It seems to be a wonderful experience for the kids. Such learning going on. And really thoughtful questions. One child asked me about Johnny Appleseed. Yea .... I need to research that a little more thoroughly!

I felt honored to be included in such a delightful day. Its nice to share what I know. As I said, it was practice for Addie!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Stringtown ....... revisited.

It was road trip time for Sheepie Neighbor and me. The pantries were getting low so it was definitely stock-up time. Ya know -- you just can't have a properly stocked bomb-shelter without a pound of yeast and 2 pounds of raisins! And clear-gel, you need clear-gel!!!

Our carts were filled with the basics -- flour, brown sugar, oatmeal,yeast and pumpkin seeds. Even older women were questioning some of our buying choices ......... What do you use clear-gel for??

The economic state of the country has led to some really interesting articles in newspapers and magazines and conversations.

The first one to blow my mind (and I haven't used that phrase since 1970!!!!) ........... Front page news. Woman uses left-overs to save money. Really? Seriously, that was the article. Did you know you could take last night's left-over chicken and add it to tonight's casserole??? Who knew??? I'm waiting to see if she made stock with the bones. That will be "News at Eleven"!!

Another article from one of my favorite magazines ......... Having a well-stocked pantry. Buy in bulk and store items in old glass jars. What an idea!! Have you seen my "Oh-so-Martha" cabinet? And another tip -- buy in bulk and share with your neighbor. Now, there is a concept! Be neighborly and help each other out! Where do they get these ideas???!!!

Before long -- we will have articles that will say -- bake your own bread to save money! Can your own tomatoes! Raise your own chickens for eggs! (Oh -- yea -- I've been featured in those articles. Never mind.)

And the "talk-shows" with the budget make-overs. Don't get me started!!! I laugh when they talk about how much they saved by reducing their cable plan!! Think about cutting out cable! Now -- there is a savings!!!

We have raised generations (including myself) that don't know the meaning of needs and wants. And now -- we find ourselves trying to define the difference. It may be a tough winter for some.

But don't worry about Sheepie Neighbor and me --- we have tomatoes, beans and lots of clear-gel!!!!