Monday, August 31, 2009

Keeping it local..............

Saturday, I had a great day at the market! OK -- I always have a great day at the market. But on Saturday, I got to teach another class .... this time, making salsa.

I go into the market ... say hello to my dear friend, Darcy and rush down the aisle to Four Daughters coffee to get an iced coffee with caramel, chocolate and whipped cream. YUMMMM! Yes .. I know I shouldn't but once a week ....... and Cory makes them sooooo good!

Next -- I go visit Sheepie Neighbor to pick up some nutritious breakfast .... in the way of shortbread cookies. Again, yummm and yes, they are all gone! After a hug from my friend Gwen, I am off to get set up for my demo.

IF you don't shop a local farmers market .... you need to get on the bandwagon now! (and seriously, have you listened to anything I've been saying???) But truly, I love love love this market.

No .... that's not right. I love the people ... the people who shop a farmers market and the people that vend at a farmers market. I love standing at a booth and a little girl comes running up to me ......... Miss Effie! Miss Effie! I love the pretty colors of the peppers. I love the vendors that come up to me ......... Do you need anything for your demonstration? Can we help you? And then they tell me that I am part of the market.

I love seeing the different bouquets walk away, the dark green shell of a Moon and Stars watermelon and the sweet scent of the peaches. I love the heirloom tomatoes that smell like the soil where they grew. I love the pretty jewelry, the hand-woven rugs, the sparkling jars of jam.

Yea ..... I love that market.

And I love what local foods can do for a community.

So .... on September 4th, Miss Effie and a band of friends will be heading to Fairfield, IA for a local food conference. Denise O'Brien and Dave Swenson will be keynote speakers. Its gearing us up for the Local Food Summit on September 26th at Augustana College.

I'll be telling you more later. But this week, just for me......... visit a farmers market near you. It will refresh your soul and do your community more good than you can imagine.

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Ten years....... Honey and I have been married ten years. I really don't think anyone had ten years in the pool. So to all you nay-sayers.......... you are so S.O.L!!!!

Our motto (after all we have been through) is "make memories, not reservations." So we always try to do something different or quirky for our anniversaries. This year ....... our 10th year...... was the anniversary of yarn and cheese.

At least that is what one of our adopted daughters told us!

We were told by these people that all anniversaries are cheese anniversaries....... at least, in Wisconsin!

So we make the 108 mile trip to Mineral Point, Wisconsin. We have been through Mineral Point many times before. We have ooooh-ed and aaaah-ed. OK ....... we drooled. Big time! This is one awesome little town. It is in the top 10 coolest towns in America........ there is a reason!

This is number one........... this is the entry to one of the most delightful yarn shops I have ever been to in my life. That really should be bold!!! Yes ... this shop is WONDERFUL!!! Yarn shop ... bookstore .... serving coffee and biscotti. Seriously, after our local yarn shop barely knows me when I drop a couple of hundred dollars for a shawl ..... and puts down their foot when I have a bottle of water....... I was in love!!!!!

We walk in .... and tell the owner that the fore-mentioned adopted daughters had told me about the shop. The owner says ..... "Is one a baker? Really cute girls? They spent all day here." And quickly started telling me about a fiber/yarn festival that will be the last weekend of September.

Uhh... yea. The fore-mentioned adopted daughter and I are heading north!! Its on her planner already.Then Honey and I dined at the Brewery. You know how we are about local. This was incredible! Only local meats and cheese and greens and tomatoes (Hydroponic in the winter) The breads and buns are baked in Madison and the all desserts and salad dressings are made from scratch. They do serve alot of salmon ... which of course, is not local. But the meal was beyond superb!

And lets not forget the beer. Honey and I like darker beers. At the moment, there were 3 beers on tap..... a golden ale, an amber ale and a porter. I had the amber ale .... very good, great flavor. Honey had the porter. OMG! A growler came home!! Many porters have a bitter after-taste. This was sooooo smooth. Probably the best porter we have ever had!

After lunch we prowled through art galleries and cheese stores. Hook's cheese make some wonderful blue cheese that we have had before. This was such a treat going into their factory. We walked in the door....... and I was looking at wet floor and stainless steel vats. I was certain I had gone in the wrong door. Nope. That was it. Up a few stairs into a small sales room. I loved it!!!

We bought Paradise Blue, Little Boy Blue (a sheep's milk blue) and Bloomin' Idiot along with some Muenster. Bloomin' Idiot is a blue cheese not pierced when they add the mold. So the outside has a tart blue flavor -- the inside is creamy and delicious.

So if you like your weekends glitzy and busy and fast-paced......... this is not for you!!!! But if you like a step back in time, if you appreciate a hand-made touch and a warm and friendly smile, if you want to eat real food...... this is the place for you!

Thank you, Mineral Point for making number ten so very special. It was so special ... Honey agreed to go for another ten!! Yea ...... I love that guy!!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I'm interrupting my war with high fructose corn syrup to mourn the passing of Senator Kennedy.

I am of the age that when you ask .......... Where were you on November 22, 1963.......... you know the answer.

The Kennedy family inspired a generation of young people. Their youth, good looks, vitality refreshed a nation that was tired from a Depression, a war, a conflict and battles over a bomb. It was a joy to see people with glamor and style and living in Technicolor after years of shades of gray.

So we as a nation, put a lot of hopes and dreams on one family. And one by one......... our dreams were taken away.

But Senator Kennedy persevered. One piece of legislation at a time...... he improved educational opportunities, he worked for civil rights and liberties and he tried to improve health care.

And through it all, he held a family together in a very public way.

It bothers me when the media says ...... he never became President. Like that should be the ultimate goal of a public servant. We have had many a President that should never have been there. I really don't think he wanted to be there.

This morning ... I heard an interview where Roger Mudd asked Senator Kennedy why he wanted to be president. Senator Kennedy stuttered and stammered out a vague answer. I can hear Paul Tully -- his campaign manager then -- greeting him in heaven. "Damn! I wish they wouldn't play that tape!" (Actually, Tully would have spicier words to say!)

I think Senator Kennedy had learned that he could do so much more in the Senate than he would ever have the opportunity to do in the Oval Office. And I admire a person that can recognize their strengths and go with them!!!!

Today ........ we lost a strong voice for health care. I can only hope the Senate decides to honor the man that wanted health care for all, by passing a bill that insures that all Americans have access to affordable health care.

Today ....... we are sad as a nation. But I am certain, in heaven, there is a game of touch football. A family reunited again. As a nation, we thank you for all you gave. God Bless You.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Take that, Audrae Erickson!!!

OK -- the Corn Refiners Association decided to take on a little old lady in Iowa that makes her own salsa without high fructose corn syrup. Boy -- Audrae Erickson didn't have clue who she wrote to!

So without further adieu -- let's look at this article. We Americans are eating too much sugar.

Hmmm? What shocking, startling news!!! There is added sugar in the foods we eat!! (Stop the sarcasm, Clink! You are talkin' to the choir)

But seriously, there are 6 added teaspoons of sugar in yogurt. I don't know about your yogurt but my yogurt is milk + culture. Period. End of story. And if I want some flavor in it -- I stir in some home-canned fruit or frozen fruit or sprinkle some homemade granola over the top.

Why are we adding sugar to products that don't need it if prepared properly? Yes -- I can my own salsa ..... but if a ripe tomato was used instead of the hard, green, perfectly round thing that attempts to pass for a tomato........ sugar is not needed in any commercial salsa. Even in Erickson's own words, it improves flavor by reducing tartness (spaghetti sauce, ketchup, canned tomatoes).

Ya know........ I think canned tomatoes should be canned tomatoes. Tomatoes, water, maybe a little salt. That's all! I don't want to see hfcs and sodium benzoinate in my tomatoes. I want tomatoes.

You know how I feel about health care. But health care does not start with insurance policies and hospitals. Health care starts at home with people that care about what they eat, how they live and how they care about the world around them.

So .... I'm continuing to rant and rave about learning to feed yourself. Preserve some of your own food. Yes -- we are a tad over the top here on the east coast of Iowa but you can do it. Dehydrate some apples, freeze some tomatoes, make your own yogurt. Make your own baby food.

And since I do want you to do it .... here is my favorite recipe for salsa. I will be teaching this one at the Freight House Farmers Market this Sat (Aug 29) at 10 am. I'd love you to be there. I promise a good time will be had by all. And you just might learn something. I know I will.

Zesty Salsa

Makes about 6 (16 oz) pints or 12 (8 oz) half pints

You will need:
� 10 cups chopped cored peeled tomatoes (about 25 medium)
� 5 cups chopped seeded green bell peppers (about 4 large)
� 5 cups chopped onions (about 6 to 8 medium)
� 2-1/2 cups chopped seeded chili peppers, such as hot banana, Hungarian wax, serrano or jalapeƱo (about 13 medium)
� 1-1/4 cups cider vinegar
� 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
� 2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
� 1 Tbsp salt
� 1 tsp hot pepper sauce, optional
� 6 (16 oz) pint or 12 (8 oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.)COMBINE tomatoes, green peppers, onions, chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, cilantro, salt and hot pepper sauce, if using, in a large stainless steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.
3.) LADLE hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot salsa. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band until fit is fingertip tight.
4.) PROCESS both pint and half pint jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

You know .... I looked and looked and looked. And not one tablespoon of sugar, high fructose corn syrup, natural or unnatural sweeteners are in the recipe. Double check it for me. My bi-focals must have missed it because Audrea Erickson says its necessary for flavor and to prevent tartness!!!

Take that one, Corn Refiners!!!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Stitches of time...............

I can't remember a time in my life that I didn't love beautiful linens. I grew up in the Age of Aprons. That ended right before the Age of Aquarius. Pant suits and culottes rang a death knell for fluffy, ruffly aprons.

And as much as I admire, appreciate and aspire to be Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug or Jane O'Reilly............ I wish they could have burned bras and broke glass ceilings while embroidering a tea towel or wearing a cross-stitched gingham apron. Equality and liberation took a huge toll on a girl's trousseau. How can you hand embroider a 60"x120" long tablecloth and 8 matching napkins when you are trying to keep up with the guys in the boardroom?

Even though I do embroider some of my own, I love to search out wonderful pieces at sales and thrift stores. And here are some of my newest finds.

I love the table topper above. Appliqued poppies, pretty bright embroidered asters and bright red rick-rack. How can anyone give away something so lovely?? Yea ... there was/is a stain. But how cheerful and bright! It makes me smile everytime I see it.

This is my current favorite tea towel. I love tea towels for lining a basket or in the case, an old wooden bowl. Next week -- I'll use my "latest" favorite tea towel. But for now ... I love the cheery flowers and the pretty crocheted edge. And it makes me wish that I had watched my grandmother crochet more carefully.

This set is more like I would/ would have done. Cross-stitched on linen ... beautifully hemmed-stitched by the owner. I found this set at a benefit garage sale for $3.00

Colors seem a little garish ... maybe a little too 1990's for me to really appreciate at the moment. But look at the lovely hemstitch. I wonder if my eyes would let me do that now.

This last picture is one of my downfalls. Absolute perfection. Every single stitch goes the same direction. The thread is run through the stitches perfectly ........ not a knot in the set. I was raised that its not worth doing something half-way. Perfection was always the goal. Not enjoyment or satisfaction or creativity ...... the goal was always perfection.

I have worked very hard to break that. (OK -- it didn't take all that much! All I would have to do if I really wanted to find out how imperfect I am .... is ask my mother! She would be overjoyed to point out all my faults! Heck! I don't even have to ask.)

The last ten years, I have pushed myself creatively. I paint ... badly. But I do it. My knitting isn't as perfect as it used to be but somehow, the socks still get worn. I doubt if I ever spin a yarn so fine that it will knit a shawl fine enough to go through a wedding ring. But I can spin a warm yarn to knit a sweater to do chores in.

I have discovered joy in the process. Not the perfect completion of a project. And that is what I love about finding old linens. Particularly those that are stained and maybe torn but well-used. Practicality and joy and beauty were the goal....... not a perfect item to store in a cedar chest.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Market makes healthy kids..........

If you were at the baby food and healthy snacks class and want my granola recipe, here it is.

I just finished baking what we made in class. It smells so good. Just remember, you can add what you want to make it your granola......... not some big cereal manufacturer.

Talking to my new friend and co-teacher Emily (weren't those no-bake granola balls fantastic!!!) you may want to use refined coconut oil or olive oil instead of the canola oil. If you are using the olive oil instead ..... be sure to bake it at 250 degrees for an hour. You want to use the lower temperature there.

The brown rice baby cereal recipe is as follows.

Grind the brown rice in a coffee grinder or blender till it becomes a fine powder. Mix 1/4 c of the brown rice powder with 1 cup of breast milk, formula or milk (what ever your doctor suggests) and simmer on the stove for 8-10 minutes on low heat covered. Be sure to stir it once in a while.

Then serve what your baby wants and store the rest in the refrigerator to use promptly. For a small infant -- you may want to cut this in half.

How easy is that?? And how inexpensive.

If you are interested in more healthy kids options ......... let me know and we will get more recipes posted.

Next week ............. salsa at the market. Ten a.m. Be there!!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Life is sweet enough!

I had a totally different post in mind today. But while strolling along, minding my own business, someone throws a challenge down! Yep.......... its time for the soapbox!

Ya all know that I like to can. And one of my favorite things to can is salsa. A couple of years ago, Honey and I ran out of salsa. We tried cheap salsa .... we tried expensive salsa. And literally, they all taste like sugar. No tangy spicy flavor-- no tomato taste -- no taste of onions and garlic -- no cilantro -- maybe a little pepper tang.

To quote Scarlett O'Hara ..... "As God is my witness, I will never run out of salsa again!!!"

So when the Freight House Farmers Market asked me (in connection with Buy Fresh, Buy Local) to do a salsa class ........ I jumped on the chance.

Our market friend and supporter, Brandy Welvaert, called me and we did a quick interview to promote the class in the local newspaper. All is good.

Until today ....... and I get this letter................

August 20, 2009

Ms. Cathy Lafrenz

27387 130th Ave

Donahue IA 52746

Dear Ms. Lafrenz:

We read the August 18 article “Summer in a jar: Learn to can your own salsas at the Freight House,” in the Moline Dispatch with interest, particularly the comment that “homemade salsas don't contain high-fructose corn syrup or added salt and sodium-based preservatives, which makes them better for people with diabetes and those watching their blood pressure.” There has been a lot of confusion about high fructose corn syrup. We would like to provide you with science-based information on this safe sweetener and be a reference for you for the future.

High fructose corn syrup, sugar, and several fruit juices are all nutritionally the same. High fructose corn syrup is simply a kind of corn sugar.

Like sugar, honey, and some fruit juices, high fructose corn syrup contains almost equal portions of fructose and glucose. As noted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1996, “the saccharide composition (glucose to fructose ratio) of HFCS is approximately the same as that of honey, invert sugar and the disaccharide sucrose (or table sugar).” (61 Fed. Reg. 43447 (August 23, 1996), 21 C.F.R. 184.1866. Direct food substances affirmed as Generally Recognized as Safe; High Fructose Corn Syrup - Final Rule.)

Dr. Marion Nestle, Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and author of “What to Eat” and “Food Politics” told the Spokesman ReviewHFCS is glucose and fructose separated. Table sugar is glucose and fructose stuck together, but quickly separated by digestive enzymes. … The body can hardly tell them apart.” (Lamberson C. January 2, 2008. “High-fructose corn syrup may be the next target” Spokesman Review.)

According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), “high fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Once absorbed into the blood stream, the two sweeteners are indistinguishable.” The ADA also noted that “High fructose corn syrup…is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose. Both sweeteners contain the same number of calories (4 per gram) and consist of about equal parts of fructose and glucose.” (Hot Topics, “High Fructose Corn Syrup.” December 2008.

The American Medical Association stated that, “Because the composition of high fructose corn syrup and sucrose are so similar, particularly on absorption by the body, it appears unlikely that high fructose corn syrup contributes more to obesity or other conditions than sucrose” (Report 3 of the Council on Science and Public Health a-08, June 2008.)

To read the latest research and learn more about high fructose corn syrup, please visit Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information about the products made from corn.

Thank you for your consideration,

Audrae Erickson


Corn Refiners Association

Washington, DC

(202) 331-1634

Okey Dokey now.

And I am not the first blogger to get this type of letter from the Corn Refiners Association. This one is from 2005. And bloggers aren't the only target of the information correction campaign. Seriously, who could possibly be against healthy school lunches??? Well -- I guess healthy is fine as long as it contains lots of sugar!

So I am on someone else's radar. Seriously, is this little old lady in Iowa that is canning her own salsa without added-sweeteners a threat to the corn industry???? And isn't it scary that yogurt, catsup, spaghetti sauce etc etc have to have a sugar in it to be edible?? I don't know about your spaghetti sauce but mine is just yummy without some highly manufactured ingredient!

Wait till Erickson sees Food, Inc. That will keep the corn refiners busy!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Life .... by the numbers.

Isn't it funny how life is all about the numbers? How much to cook? How many places to set at the table? How many people are coming? How long you have known someone? How old are you?

Well -- it all came together on Saturday night. Four girlfriends that I have known since first grade all came to the corn-zebo for an evening of laughter. And laughter there was!!!!

Nancy was my best friend all through grade school. We were practically inseparable! I will not talk about the mumps incident but we all remember it!!!!

Nancy and her husband Rich live in Arizona now. And although we Facebook and email -- its just not like seeing each other! They came to celebrate Nancy's Dad's 80th birthday so it was a chance for all of us to get together.

So Debbie and I came up with a party in the corn-zebo! I made frogmore stew which is basically a shrimp boil. Onions, garlic, potatoes from the garden, sweet corn from down the road and sausages and shrimp. Debbie and Jim handled the adult beverages and dessert.

I had so much fun decorating the corn-zebo in full rural regalia. Lots of vintage tablecloths, enameled dishes, canning jars for wine glasses and bandannas for napkins. Ya can't get more country than that!!!!

And most of the pictures are a tad blurring......... basically cuz I was laughing too hard!!! Has nothing to do with the empty bottles of wine in the pictures!

My good friend Debbie, Nancy and her husband Rich get ready to enjoy Debbie's award winning peanut butter iced brownies. Yummmmm!

Jim (Debbie's husband) Linda and John ......... they won the prize for being married the longest! OK -- they only had one marriage...... rest of us had a few starter marriages! Linda brought a fantastic relish tray, straight from their garden --- it was so good!!!!

Honey looks to Jim for the flow chart! Or he is searching for another beer! He hasn't a clue who we are talking about and can't even begin to follow the conversation! "You dated who??? We didn't know that!!!!"

JoAnn had us in stitches telling stories!!! Hopefully, she will send some pics .... she took more than I did -- and hers will not be blurry. Cuz of the laughter ... not the wine!!!

Five friends ..... 37 years since high school ..... 55 years old. The numbers and the laughter tell the story. I love all my new friends......... but the girlfriends that remember when you had a crush on the kid with all that acne, swimming at Crescent lake, the really awful prom dress, the bad hair cut, the moonlight skate at the skating rink and the albino (long story, guys!) ....... those are really special people in your life.

At least, they are in mine.

I love you all.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Free movie!! Free popcorn!!

Seriously, how could you turn that down??? Let's see the cinemas do that!! And none of that microwaved stuff! Or stuff popped in orange mystery oil!!! FRESH popped local popcorn!

OK -- this is the scoop! The QC chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local is hosting movie night and we have got FRESH the movie, coming. So without further adieu, I will let you read the words of our fearless leader Phil Crandall.

FRESH the movie, showing in Quad Cities September 18th.
Quad Cities Chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local and Progressive Action for the Common Good-Local Foods Initiative will sponsor a showing of the movie FRESH, new thinking about what we are eating, a film by ana Sofia joanes, Friday September 18th.

FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Among several main characters, FRESH features urban farmer and activist, Will Allen, a 2008 MacArthur's "Genius Award" fellow; sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, Joel Salatin, made famous by Michael Pollan's book, the Omnivore's Dilemma; and supermarket owner, David Ball, who is creating a new market model for our family farmers. FRESH's focus on these inspiring individuals and their initiatives around the US provides the audience with actionable solutions. FRESH is a call to action.

"We need to celebrate and support our local food supply. FRESH inspires folks to join the local food movement and gives them hope that we can realize our goal of a safe, sustainable, local food supply," Caroline Vernon, Progressive Action for the Common Good-Local Foods Initiative.

"QC Buy Fresh Buy Local is connecting consumers in the Quad Cities to the freshest, most delicious locally grown and produced foods available. Through outreach events, local food guides, and educational materials, Buy Fresh Buy Local makes it easy for people to find and connect with local food from farmers they can know and trust,"
states Chapter Chair Phil Crandall. "We invite people to come out, watch FRESH, join in discussion and learn ways to act for a local food supply."

The event is free, open to the public and include delicious, fresh, local Popcorn. Members of Quad Cities Buy Fresh Buy Local will be on hand and attendees will be able to pick-up a copy of the 2009 QC-BFBL member Directory.

The showing will be at the Unitarian Church 3707 Eastern Davenport, Friday September 18th at 7:00pm.

For information call: 563-676-7580

Or visit

Ok -- I know that I am usually preaching to the choir. But if you are new to the local food journey .... come see the movie.

If you think Cheese-Whiz can be classified as a food, rather than a chemistry experiment run-a-muck.... come see the movie.

If you don't think there can be a difference in taste and nutrition between a free-range egg and a CAFO egg .... come see the movie.

If you don't know what CAFO means ......... come see the movie.

Free movie!! Free popcorn!! Priceless education!! Come join us.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Life moves on .................

The other night was an amazing experience for me. First of all, the forum was respectful and very civil. There were none of the shouting matches as seen on the national media.

I was put in the "hot seat" up front at first. And I am sitting there and I see this guy that looks very familiar. And ya know when you see someone and you are certain you know them but just can't place them??? And it drives ya nuts!!!! Well -- there was this tall gray-haired man with a beard and I am searching my brain for the connection!!

For all my Iowa fiber friends ..... it was Mike ..... Abi's husband! So I was in good company!!

I met a couple of my regular blog readers........ who knew anyone read this!!! So that was very nice.

I tried to keep my composure. But when I got to the end of the speech --- I could hear the tears in my voice. Its hard to admit that you are no longer "middle-class". Hopefully, people will see that the health care crisis can put hard-working Americans in financial peril.

But life moves on to things that are more normal and definitely, more fun!!

Canning is beginning to kick into full gear. I have seen some amazing things being canned! Maggie has been hard at work with some zucchini salsa and some purple basil jelly. You can find the purple basil jelly recipe on the Prairieland Herbs website. And while you are there..... and if you have dry skin issues, check out Wise Woman Whipped Shea Butter. LOVE that stuff!!!!!

OK -- back to my canning accomplishments.... that really should be in small type. Cuz they are definitely small accomplishments!!

I've canned 30 pounds of sour cherries for cobblers and 3-3/4 bushel boxes of peaches for Honey's night time snacking. He loves his peaches!! Last year --I canned either 150 or 200 lbs. of peaches. There was one quart jar left when I started canning again. These peaches came from Missouri.

And look at these cute labels!! My very good friend, Debbie, that I have known a very long time (we won't say how long!!) gave me these for my birthday. I love these!!!!!

And this is peach jam, cooling in the jars. It really looks dark but its a beautiful peachy orange color. 8-1/2 8 oz jars are done!

Finally, I love seeing the flowers as they leave for a wedding. Here are 12 buckets heading for a wedding. I love seeing the back of a car so colorful!!

The next time I talk to you ... I will tell you about 25% of my grade school class, dining on Frogmore Stew in the corn-zebo!!! Yea .... I know. You are excited. I can hear it now..... "that's all I can take from the east coast of Iowa for today!!!"

Talk to you all later.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Tonight is the local Congressional meeting on health care. Our congressman will not be there but our local state senators will be. The media has talked about the protesters. I have no problem with protesters as long as they allow everyone to talk and civilly debate the issues at hand. Debate is critical to solving a health care crisis that over 60% of all Americans believe exists. Just spend two days in a hospital and try to figure out the bill! It can be a struggle. Finding the right solution may be difficult. I sure don't know what the answer is. We may take two steps forward and one step back. Sometimes.... that's how progress works.

Well -- that's all the wishful thinking for the time-being. I will be at Fairmount Library in Davenport at 6pm. I just got a call that the New York Times is going to be there. In Iowa!!! And its not an election year!!!
For those of you unable to attend .... ok , you are thousands of miles away.... here is the text from my speech. Just picture the short gray-haired lady giving it!!!

I was born with a soap box. For years, I thought it was because I was short and I needed to see what was going on. Now I've seen what was going on and I know what the soap box was for.

My husband and I will celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary later this month. When we got married in 1999, our life together seemed secure and happy. We had good jobs, money in the bank and the future looked good.

Then in 2003, our life changed. In July, my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer. We were lucky that they found the lung cancer in stage 1-A. For lung cancer -- that is almost unbelievable. Surgery went well and life went on.

A month after surgery, my husband lost his job. We knew it was coming -- we had planned ahead and saved everything we could because we knew it may be a while before another job came around. We lived off the $200 a week unemployment insurance. We had to pay nearly $800 a month to cover my husband out of our savings.

I did not have insurance. We could not afford it.

Every month we paid the bill ....... then in Aug. 2004 --- a regular CTscan showed some un-explained lesions on the lung. First one lung ........ then both ........then there were more lesions. They thought the cancer had spread to stage 4. Immediately the drs were working, trying to see what these very small lesions were. Too small to biopsy -- they kept ordering CTscans and PETscans to determine what was happening.
Unfortunately, our COBRA insurance limited the number of CTscan a person could have -- and PETscans were considered "Experimental" We had no coverage for these scans. There was a $5000 bill.

And in October of 2004 -- as quickly as the lesions came -- they disappeared. Even the oncologist calls it a miracle.

We are still paying some of those bills but we survived.

In 2007 -- my husband had a heart attack. After two surgeries and cardiac rehab my husband is healthy and strong. Unfortunately, our bank account is not. Even with a good prescription drug benefit -- we spend $1200+ a year now on drugs. At one time it was almost $1700.

We have little bills and big bills. At one time we had 17 different medical bills. Its been two years since his heart attack --- we are still paying the bill.

I don't always know how we will pay these bills.

But I do know this.

I know our 32- year-old daughter was denied health insurance because she had been treated for psoriasis.

I know when the oncologist and the radiologist found a small aortic aneurysm this spring, my first thought was "How are we going to pay for that?" Not .... what are the consequences? What can we do? Where do we go? It was "How are we going to pay for that?"

I know that 6 years ago we had 9 months of living expenses in our savings. We had 10 weeks of paychecks in our checking account. We have roughly 2 weeks now ...... if I can convince my husband that a concentration-camp diet is sufficient.

I know my husband's income is 33% less than in August 2003 --- its 10% less than just 6 monthes ago.

I know that I don't own a cell phone. I don't have cable or satellite tv. My television is 19" and we own one. We don't have air conditioning and our newest car was built in the last century. And I know I can't afford them.

I know we have not been on vacation since 2002.

I know that 19.6% of our gross income goes to pay health insurance, medicine and yearly health costs. AND......... that does not even include eye exams and glasses nor does it include any dental expenses.

I know that just over 10% of our gross income goes to pay for our house payment, taxes and insurance.

And I know that something is wrong with this picture.

We struggle. But we are blessed. We are strong capable Iowans that will make our way. My husband repairs and re-builds everything from our 10 and 13 yr old cars to our 30 and 40 yr.old lawn mowers to our 115 yr old house.

We have a large garden. I can over 700 jars of produce in a year. I bake our bread daily. I raise chickens and sell eggs. And I teach what I know to help others learn. We will find a way.

We were conservative with our money. We are simple people with few needs and fewer wants. We tried to plan for the future. We just didn't know health care would take the future away.

I don't want a free ride on medical costs. But I don't want to be bankrupted because my husband had a heart attack.

So with soap box in hand, I will state my case. We have received excellent health care. From the doctors and nurses to the housekeeping staff to the accounting office........ we have been treated with care and respect. But I can't afford it anymore. And someone has got to speak out.

And I was born with a soap box.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


I try to have a consistent theme to my posts. This one ...... not so much. This is just the happenings and not-so-happenings around the farm.

In the next 4-5 months, I will be doing a lot of demonstrations, classes and public speaking. Yikes!! I just hope I can keep it all straight!

I was offered the chance to teach five adult education classes at Scott Community College through their continuing education program. Some of the classes I have taught before which is nice because the recipes and hand-outs are ready to go. I'm very excited about a couple of classes.

I'm teaching Pizza, Pizza again where we make the crust for a gourmet-style pizza with roasted veggies. And during the class, we will make the mozzarella cheese to go on the pizza. So that will be fun! Besides .... no one will get mad if I talk with my mouth full!!!

And then. I am teaching a winter jam class .... using items easily stored or purchased at the grocery stores. We will make apple pie jam (YUM! My customers' favorite!) Sunshine Jam ( a pretty blend of dried apricots, pineapple and oranges) and then finish it off with a traditional English orange marmalade.

There are other classes and speeches too. I'm really excited about teaching a salsa class at the Freight House Farmers market on Aug 29 ..... the market will be really spicy that day! Salsa contest among vendors (and yes, I'm hoping they will take my entry even if I am not a vendor!) and salsa dancing. Which I won't be doing..... nope, ya can't pay me enough!!!!!!!

I have been doing a lot of thrifting lately. $20 and a thrift store or two. I have had the nesting bug BAD!!! I want to re-decorate, re-do, re-make. And at the moment -- there isn't a lot of money in the budget for that.

So .... I've been changing things in little ways.

A yellow tablecloth for $2 ... an embroidered topper for $5 and a candle stand that started life (and will re-live again!) as a crystal cake stand ........ for $2.38.

I freecycled this bench. The woman that gave it away said it wasn't very sturdy and should be used for display only. Well, Honey and I have re-built a couple of these benches in the past so we were not daunted. Turns out ........ there were screws missing! Literally. We replaced and tightened the screws and I cleaned the very dirty finish with deck scrub and applied teak oil. Total cost ......... under $12. Love it!!

And finally, I'm not the only one, flitting from place to place. Yesterday, outside my kitchen window, I spotted this goldfinch. I zoomed as much as possible (zoom-zoom-zoom!) A really nice moment while I was doing dishes.

Hope we all have a special moment to brighten the day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Rebel with a Cause.

Obviously, I was born with a soap box. For years, I thought it was because I was short and I needed to see what was going on. Now I've seen what was going on and I know what the soap box was for. (Yikes! Mrs. Leigh is a-twisting in her grave! Talk about ending sentences with prepositions!)

OK -- back to the topic at hand. Health care.

As many of you may know, we have had our health care issues here at Miss Effie's. My darling husband, Honey, has had part of a lung removed, a heart attack, 2 heart surgeries, a cataract removed and this year, the discovery of an aortic aneurysm that needs to be watched and photographed on a regular basis. At one point. the oncologist thought that the cancer had returned so in a matter of 8 weeks -- we had 5 CT-scans and a PET-scan done -- only to have insurance cover one CT-scan. One. The rest was up to us. Of course, that fact came after we had all of them done.

All of this in the last 6 years.

So I have been asked to speak at one of the many Congressional hometown meetings on health care. And I will ........... soap box in hand.

I don't know how to fix health care. I don't know if the plans that Congress or the President are proposing will do what needs to be done.

But I do know this.

When the oncologist and the radiologist found the aortic aneurysm, my first thought was "How are we going to pay for that?" Not .... what are the consequences? What can we do? Where do we go? It was "How are we going to pay for that?"

I know that 6 years ago we had 9 months of living expenses in our savings. We have roughly 2 weeks now ...... if I can convince Honey that a concentration-camp diet is sufficient.

I know that I don't own a cell phone. I don't have cable or satellite tv. My television is 19" and we own one. We don't have air conditioning and our newest car was built in the last century. And I know I can't afford them.

I know that 19.6% of our gross income goes to pay health insurance, medicine and yearly health costs. However......... that does not include eye exams and glasses nor does it include any dental expenses.

I know that just over 10% of our gross income goes to pay for our house payment, taxes and insurance.

And I know that something is wrong with this picture.

I've been chastised by small business owners because I am speaking out. I don't want to put the burden on small business owners. I don't want a free ride on medical costs. But I don't want to be bankrupted because my husband had a heart attack.

So with soap box in hand, I will state my case. We have received excellent health care. From the doctors and nurses to the housekeeping staff to the accounting office........ we have been treated with care and respect. But I can't afford it anymore. And someone has got to speak out.

And I was born with a soap box.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ok .... I can't get this to work!

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to be one of the Newsmakers on our local cable access channel. This was a 5-minute interview.

Now it started out with ........... "We need you in make-up." Huh? So a very nice young gal tried to work her make-up magic on me. Do I look really young????? Oh --- not so much!

I cracked up laughing when she said......... "Let me look at you to see if you need blush." Blush???? Have you seen my skin??? It glows in the dark!!! Seriously, we worry about planes assuming that my nose is a beacon!

But I did the gig ............ I haven't seen it yet as I can't seem to get it to pull up on video. Maybe you can.

Or ..... I can probably find someone with cable ......... Mediacom 29. Its on 144 times this month! That's a lot of Miss Eff!