Monday, November 30, 2009

Crazy about Crazy Girl!!!!!!!!

I know I told you that I was on a yarn diet. I can cheat as fast on a yarn diet as I can on Weight Watchers. And I did. Sue me.

(The good news is that I ate no pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. I did eat an incredible pumpkin mousse at mis-fit Thanksgiving. But no pumpkin pie. Brie covered in cinnamon-apple topping with pecans and wrapped in puff pastry does not show up on any "Don't Eat" lists. I'm sure that was fine!!!)

OK ---- a couple of weeks ago I showed you the hat I received in the mail. It was in sorry shape. Here is the note that was packed with it.

This is near tragedy. Look what happened to my favorite hat! The good news is that I actually washed it. I'm sure I've washed it before but I have no memory of this.

Please, please, please tell me it can be saved!! It's my most favorite thing.


Seriously, am I going to turn down such a request just because I am on a yarn diet???? Somethings just have to be done.

I sacrificed my diet ............... and went to Crazy Girl yarn shop in Muscatine. (Note to Readers ........ DO NOT GOOGLE "CRAZY GIRL". Just follow my link.... enough said!)

Yep .............. it was like walking into the Godiva Chocolates of Yarn!!! Sock yarn to the right. Sock yarn to the left. Sock yarn was everywhere! That hot pink sock yarn to the far upper right of the photo? That now belongs to me. I was in serious trouble!

See that friend/enabler there?? My friend Robin. She got me spinning. And now, she is hooked on drop-spindles and says I should join her. She is a psychology prof .......... she knows all the tricks for making me fall for that!!! She's really good. I am sooo ready to try. (We know what I tough-sell I am. All she had to mention was the word ..... portable!)

I was actually quite good. My purchases did not reach the three-digit level. That is usually a given.

But if you have never been to any of the Crazy Girl yarn stores (Muscatine, Coralville and Cedar Falls) you need to make a road trip. They are warm, friendly, laid-back places where you can have a cup of coffee ......munch on a biscotti ......... and browse through a book. You can fondle yarn to your heart's content. They are every thing a local yarn shop should be.

Life is good.

PS..... the author of the fore-mentioned note received TWO replacement hats ... exactly like the one that was damaged. Can't take a chance on losing or misplacing someone's most favorite thing!!! Maybe we can get photos to follow.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Free the Detain-eggs................

Trapped in the depth of a Whirlpool refrigerator at Miss Effie's are twelve dozen eggs. They are a diverse bunch ........ eggs of shades of brown, white, pink and even, green.

They live in darkness ........ only seeing light when their captors reach in for a swig of milk or to add more detain-eggs to the crowded conditions. Two more dozen will be captured today.

Their mothers are from all different ethnicity. There are Orpingtons, Brahmas, Aracunas and Wyandottes. All were hoping for a life for their eggs outside of Donahue.

You can help.

You can show the detain-eggs a life over easy. They can be sunny-side up. Or show them what cream puffs they could be.

Your donation of $3 can free 1 dozen detain-eggs and keep them out of hot water. Leave a message and we will readily release them from captivity.

Thank you.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Water 4 Christmas

What I am most thankful for ................. incredible friends with giving spirits and open hearts.

Last Saturday night was the Wine to Water Event at the River Music Experience. This was the fundraiser for Charity:Water that my friend Leslie and her friends created.

Now .... one of things that I like best in Leslie is her frugality. With me, they would call me cheap. With Leslie ..... it is frugal.

She went all over town, looking for just the right venue. There were several beautiful venues...... with nice rental costs to use. But Leslie is creative and got this spot ........ for nothing.

Now you may notice the bare drywall with mud over the drywall tape. We did not see that at the event. The room was lit with wonderful candles everywhere. The glass jars flickered wonderful light throughout the area. Which was a good thing.......... there were no lights!!

But the fantastic view of the Mississippi River.............. the sky bridge ............ and the wonderful reflection of the city that bounced off the Figge Art museum, made the night and the room magical.

Beth and Sherri (above) were manning the dessert table. Beth did a fantastic job of making the table sparkle. And look at all those goodies!!!

Yea ........ can you say ..... chocolate over-load???

As if I really think that a person could possibly consume too much chocolate!!!

Where is that healthy food that I am always talking about???? Well ........ there were strawberries........... dipped in chocolate!!! Yummmm!

Fantastic music, seeing some great friends, drinking some good wine (Hey! Felony Red by Wide River Winery ............. yea, its a new must-buy wine!) and an inspirational speech by Scott Harrison.... it was a wonderful evening.

And over the weekend, $30,000 was raised in eastern Iowa. Six wells will be dug in Liberia. And a few less mothers will lose their children to disease caused by dirty water.

All because a half of dozen women in eastern Iowa opened their hearts and therefore, opened our minds.

Because of them ........... I now truly know that all things are possible with love.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Bit of Nostalgia.........................

OK -- ya know I don't eat bologna or commercially processed hot dogs. I buy my hot dogs from small local meat lockers.

But this is an icon!!! I mean seriously, don't we all know "OH ........ I wish I was an Oscar Meyer Wiener.........."

And we all know that bologna has a first name .............. O-S-C-A-R.

Yea may not be healthy. It may not be fresh. It is actually local. But it is sure cute!!!!

And some days ............. we just need a bit of cute!!!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Gold in my Life...............

Do you remember going to camp and singing this round?

Make new friends,

but keep the old.

One is silver,

And the other gold,

Well, these two gals are the gold of my life!!!

We wander the world. We meet a lot of new people and make a lot of new friends. But some how, some way .......... the ones that knew you way back when are just tooo special.

A few years ago, Debbie (on the right in the red) saw an article in the Radish about Miss Eff and surprised me on the farm one Saturday. Honey says it was the first time he saw me speechless. And since .... we have had so much fun together.

Nancy .... on the left ... came from Tuscon area to help get her parents settled into their new home. So we had to get together!!!

So there was really only one place to go .......... Lunardi's! Great, locally owned Italian restaurant.

I know ..... why do we go there??? Honey has such a time with the menu!!! But he has learned to be spontaneous ......................... and always order the lasagna!

Me .............. I have to be the last one to order and then I might as well let the waitress order for me!!! Too many good options!!!!!! But we do know what wine and appetizers to order!

Wonderful meal ............ wonderful time............ and most of all, wonderful friends. Oh yea ..... the other two........... Debbie's husband Jim is at the end of the table and his cohort in humor is across from me. That would be Honey.

I love you guys! Thanks for being there for me for the last 50 some years. You are truly the gold in my life.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Water Water Everywhere............

What a busy busy week! I have a lot to say and not enough time to say it.

So -- I'll give you all a quick summary.

I have been baking like a wild woman! I think that is probably a given since I have been known as a bit of a wild woman!

I have baked 2 loaves of glazed lemon bread (recipe will follow in a day or so) a sour-cream chocolate cake that is to die for!!! and a batch of filbert bars. Yesterday ........ I baked four batches of mini cream puffs that I kept burning their butts!! But today the problem is solved so two batches of mini cream puffs are done and if I get enough time, I will bake one more batch!

And why am I baking like a wild woman????

Because this wonderful, kind, generous woman asked me to ............................

Join us for a glass of wine.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Knits and News.........

It has been really busy here at Miss Eff's. I don't know if I am coming or going. And of course, my house shows that!!!

But things will slow down in a couple of weeks. So at the moment, I guess I need to enjoy the merry-go-round ride that is our life! I will try to catch you all up on everything but it will take several posts. So bear with me .......... and I'll keep talkin'!

I have been trying to knit every free moment I have. I knit in the car. (OK! OK! I will knit when other people are driving! You talk on your cell phone!!!) I knit before meetings. I knit all evening. I knit over lunch. I just knit.

There are lots of projects on the needles at the moment. OK ... there are four plus in active knitting mode. Uhhh.... maybe that's a couple too many??? But I do have a completed project to show!!!

Handspun Shetland wool from Willow Homestead in Redgranite, Wisconsin. And look at that button!

Vintage 1930's celluloid button that I bought here. Cute????

Now to find just the perfect person for this hat. First of all ......... they need to live in a cold climate. And walk to work and to school. And they really should have 2 dogs.... a terrier and a smaller dog. Doesn't have to be a scotty dog.

And they should have a hat that currently looks like this!!!!

Suggestions??? Volunteers???

In other quick news.......... Yesterday, Phil Crandall and I went to the state Buy Fresh - Buy Local meeting to represent the Quad-Cities chapter. Great meeting ......... we learned a lot. But best of all, Phil and I came up with some great ideas to move our chapter forward. So stay tuned, check out the webpage and the Facebook fan page for Buy Fresh - Buy Local QC.

Now, to find an owner for that hat.....................................

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Been Busy................

Lots has been going on ....... I'll catch you up on it later.

Its the time of year that we seem to concentrate our lives around food. Between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve ... its all about baking and cooking and roasting. We stuff ourselves along with that giant turkey. (Maybe we are the giant turkey!!)

But yet .... many of us know so little about the food we eat. So I hope to help enlighten the urban masses at Blog for Iowa. Today's post is a plea to learn about agriculture in Iowa. Unfortunately, many people think that farming is a big new John Deere tractor or Old McDonald's way of life. There is a happy medium.

So drop by ... say hi. And I'll see you in the next couple of days.

For now ........I've got 5 dozen dinner rolls to bake.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Making do .... but not doing without.

There are times in our lives that we just make do.

Sometimes, it means wearing an old dress when you would rather have a new one. Sometimes, its shortening a hem or adding a ruffle. Sometimes, it is finding something at a thrift store that is glittery enough for a one-night event.

We are "making do" a lot this year. Its been repairing windows when new storms would be more efficient. Its been chopping wood for the wood stove when its easier to turn up the heat. Its another blanket on the bed and another pair of hand-knit socks. Its listening to Pandora on the computer instead of buying another CD. Its a trip to the library or borrowing a book from a friend.

Its just the way life is.

But I have really scored on recent thrift store expeditions. The sweater above was a vintage cashmere from Scotland .... I'm thinking about 1965???? $4.00!!! Now I have to decide if I want to dig through the button jars to replace the 10 matching buttons with 10 (if I can find them!!!) pearl buttons.

Ahhh...... the joys of having little hands and feet! Today ... it was all about little hands. Look at those lovely kid leather dress gloves. $5.00 ........... perfect fit! Love them!!!!

I am really trying to get the importance of "stuff" out of my life. (You can see that as I buy a new sweater and gloves, right????) But I see these beautiful homes online and in the magazines........ and I want. So ..... I try to create.

I love trays. My BFF Cindy gave us a beautiful tray for a wedding present that I cherish. A pot of tea and a biscotti or muffin with a good friend deserves a tray.

I wanted a new tray for the living room and the corn-zebo. So a trip to the ReStore Store was in order. And for $3 -- I got an old kitchen cabinet door, 2 handles and a paint brush. I had the paint already.

And with a little work .... and a little cussing the tiny little Phillips screws on the handles!!! ...... I had a new tray for the living room. Nice addition for the holidays and something I will use a lot.

In other "make do" news ........ I am on a yarn diet. No new yarn this season. My knitting season goes from September to March. By the end of March, I am back in the garden and my hands become too rough to knit fine yarns. Stash busting seems like a really good idea this year. And besides, I have a closet that is busting with roving and clouds. And there is bin after bin of yarn. So I can knit everything I could possibly want and not make a dent in the stash.

If truth be know....... I could probably do this for several years and never run out of projects or yarn.

So a couple of new projects are completed.

This is the Marsan watchcap pattern from Ravelry. Love the pattern. Love the story. And I love the yarn from Farmhouse Yarns .... it is Andy's Merino in a color called Black Cherry. I am currently working on a pair of socks out of Fannie's Fingering in Glacier. Great yarn to work with. Wonderful hand and knits up beautifully!

And these are my new socks...........

Making do in that style ..... really isn't too tough!!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Miss Effie's and sports analogies.............

I need a cheering squad!!

I need my own version of the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders but dressed in gingham aprons, straw hats and rubber gardening clogs. I'm not looking for glamour here ......... I'm looking for inspiration and enthusiam!!!

Why, oh why do I have the self-confidence of an earthworm???? (Actually, I do know why but that would mean explaining 19 years of therapy and a very dysfunctional relationship with same-sex parental unit! You don't have the time!)

Ok -- so here's the story. Five years ago or so -- I became aware of an organization called Silos and Smokestacks. Silos and Smokestacks is a National Heritage Area under the umbrella of the National Park Service. There are forty-nine National Heritage areas in the country and Silos and Smokestacks tells the story and the history of agriculture.

History .... Agriculture .......... I'm interested in that. So Candy Streed and Sue Pridemore sat down and talked to me about my participation in Silos and Smokestacks. Have you ever met kindred spirits and known it instantly??? That was my meeting with Candy and Sue. It was warm and friendly and fun ...... in spite of cold pouring rain. We sat in my kitchen and talked and talked and shared ideas.

And they got Miss Effie's. And they got Miss Eff.

Lot of people get Miss Effie's. But getting Miss Eff can be a whole 'nother story!!!

I'm a little farm. It's me and my Honey. And almost two little acres with a whole bunch of chickens. We don't have visitor center or a fancy gift shop. I plant the flowers myself. I paint the signs myself. I cook the jam myself. And I even designed the website myself........ ok ok -- I had the help of a few adult beverages!!!! But this is DIY all the way....................

And in a world of glitz and shiny and fancy ........... Miss Effie is rusty and wrinkled and gray. I have peeling paint and worn holes in my jeans. Nothing is new. Nothing is store-bought. We make-do and we do without. My cash register is a canning jar!!!

So would Miss Effie's fit in the partners plan for Silos and Smokestacks? For five long years, I would say ........ I'm not ready. I'm not up to snuff. And to quote a family member, "Who would drive down a gravel road to buy flowers?" But people did drive down that gravel road and I am ready.

Well ............ I'm walking to the plate. I may strike out ..... but the application is going in the mail today!

We all know that Babe Ruth held the record for the most career home runs for decades. But he also holds the record for the most strike outs. So if you don't try .......... you will never win.

I obviously don't know much about sports or I wouldn't have mixed baseball metaphors with football metaphors. (Yea ... I did know that much!)

But I do know about Miss Eff's and her mission to teach women's role in agriculture. And to explain the history of where we were and to tell where we are going. We are not well-behaved women!!!

So wish me luck ... cheer me on. This is going to be a long process. Hopefully by the end of next year ...... we will be part of the tale of American agriculture.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Eggin' me on!

I love this time of year! Now is the time when the chicks I bought last spring are springing into action and are finally worth their feed costs!!!!

Yes ....... I have pullet eggs. Lots of pullet eggs. At this moment, I have 4 dozen pullet eggs in my refrigerator. I don't sell pullet eggs well. They end up being gifts to my friends. Or .... I bake/cook a lot.

Saturday was one of those days. I made a big batch of noodles. There were still lots of eggs in that refrigerator and Honey walked in with 5 more!!!!

So ....... it was time to pull out the big guns. Yep, time to make custard.

Except this time, I decided to make creme caramel.

Now the problem with pullet eggs is the size. Recipes are usually based on using large eggs. Hmmmmm? Pullet eggs ........ not so much. So are three enough?? Five too many???

In the end -- I had a very rich custard. Lots of yolks in that one. So let's see how it went!!

Caramel ......... perfect!!! Didn't burn it!

Custard cups were filled beautifully and were awaiting their water bath.

Now ..... the time to un-mold the custard. The higher the percentage of yolks to the whites, the softer the custard will be. Hmmmmm? This needed another white or so!!

But it was rich and creamy and delicious. So really who cares about the lack of perfect shape??

Well -- Martha does. And if truth be known, so does Miss Eff. Yea........ its a control issue thing.

(See, Honey -- I admitted it!!! I'm trying to surrender that control thing! And the stool .... anyone at Heritage yesterday? I'm trying to give up the stool!!! And did you notice that name ..... Cathleen?? I am in trouble!!)

In other eggy-news, a couple of pics of the newest members of the coop. Sheepie Neighbor and I split an order of Easter-eggers back in September. This order had some of the prettiest Aracunas that I have ever had!

And this little roo won't be seeing the inside of the oven anytime soon!!! (As if that would ever happen anyway!!!) But what beautiful feathers!! He may not lay pretty green or blue eggs but he is staying. He needs a name. Got to work on that.

And that is all the egg-citing news from Miss Effie's!!!!!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Life's little securities...............

When economic times are tough, its hard to feel safe and secure. And I know they say we are coming out of the recession...... but Honey's salary has not gone back to 2008 levels (let alone, 2003 levels!!!) And gas prices are continuing to rise and who knows what the winter might bring.

So I give thanks for the little things that mean so much in my life. And one of those things is the availability of having great locally produced food.

For those of you who don't live on the east coast of Iowa or the west coast of Illinois, you might want to catch a glimpse of one of Buy Fresh-Buy Local's newest local projects. This is our newsletter. I am really proud of this project. It has given our organization a better public presences. It is connecting farmers to consumers. It is giving our members the publicity and the recognition they so deserve.

Phil (our director) has done an awesome job of writing this and putting it together every month. And note that wonderful recipe ........ courtesy of adopted daughter and hopefully, future Miss Effie's intern, Emily.

And to top all of this off, Gwen is the grower of the month! Talk about cool beans!!! I'm feeling the love here!!!!! If you have a chance, sign up for the newsletter online. We may be considered the "fly-over-zone" by some but we still know how to farm!

Another really great thing for all you Quad-Citians --- the Freight House Farmers Market is open year round both on Tuesday and Saturday. So get your sweet little behinds down to that market and pick up those potatoes, squash and baked goods!!! And its all inside -- so you will be toasty warm as you select your steaks and cheese!!!

And then .... there is my own little food factory. Yep!! We grew potatoes! Most of these are Kennebecs. There are currently 90 pounds in the house with at least that many pounds in the garden still. We will finish digging this weekend.

I hope to freeze some for hash browns. USDA recommends letting them cure for 30 days before freezing them .... we will see how that goes. But I am going to dry some for scalloped potatoes and for soups. There has been some mention in recipes about the potatoes turning black. They recommend blanching the 1/4" potato slices for 8 minutes and then plunge into ice water for 15 minutes. I am going to use citric acid in the water............ any comments on that??? What do you think? Does anyone else dry potatoes? Any tips?

And finally, the girls....................... no post about food security would be complete without my girls. (Even if it is one of glamour girls........ ZsaZsa!) They seem to be happy campers in the new upscale chicken complex. I am still filling the runs with leaves and still need more. The windfalls from the apple trees have made the chickens happy ...... but I am certain they are waiting for the pumpkins to reach them.

Local food systems are huge for a community. But an even bigger step is taking personal responsibility for your own food security. Grow your own -- buy from your neighbors -- and preserve the harvest so you can eat local ....... because you can.

Yea ......... life on the farm is good.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Making cents out of your food dollars..........

I hear people complain everyday about the high costs of food. Compared to the rest of the world, we spend much smaller percent of our income on food. In fact ... since 1957 ... Americans have spent 40% less of their income on food.

So why do people claim that it is expensive to eat healthy????

In January, I'm teaching a class on how to eat healthy for less. So you are my guinea pigs. You get my theories, my recipes and hopefully, I'll get your comments and ideas.

Today --- let's start at the beginning ....... breakfast.

It is amazing how much money is spent on cereal. In 2007, Americans spent $7.2 billion on ready-to-eat cereals. Whoa!!! That's a lot of money! Of course, we did spend more on overdraft fees than we did on cereal or fresh veggies! Yes .... and those banks really did need our help!!! (Can ya hear the sarcasm??? Do I feel those bankers' pain??? Yea .... not so much!!)

But I digress..............

So I did a little price comparison at the grocery store the other day. I love running the numbers so bear with me!!! Annual costs are based on eating the cereal 5 times a week -- 52 weeks a year.

Reeses Puff Cereal ..... 12 servings were $3.99 .......... .33/serving .... annual cost $85.80

Cap N Crunch ..............17 servings were $2.99 ........... .17/ serving .... annual cost $44.20

Quaker instant oatmeal
(Peaches and Cream)
...10 servings were $2.58 .......... .26/ serving ... annual cost $67.60

Quaker Old-fashioned oatmeal .. 30 servings were $2.78 .. .0925/serving .. annual cost $24.05

And finally .......... bulk oatmeal from Amish Store/ local health food store (not organic)

.42/lb ..............................................30 servings were $1.10 ... .0367/serving .. annual cost $9.54

Those prices do not consider the cost of milk or additives (sugar/honey/cinnamon) But it also does not consider the fact that children are twice as likely to eat more than the recommended amount of pre-sweetened cereal.

We spend more money on ready-to-eat cereals than any other food product (and I'm using that term loosely!!!) other than soda or milk.

So the moral of the story is to get off the ready-to-eat cereal bandwagon. You won't be hurting a farmer .... there is less than 5 cents worth of commodities in every box of cereal.

But you really don't think you have time to fix breakfast or you can't break your kids from the cereal bowl???? Try this recipe from the Incredible Edible Egg. Even buying Miss Eff's Pretty Eggs from Pretty Chickens (I so need to trademark that baby!!!) cost...... 34 cents!

Alternate with some oatmeal, breakfast pizza, granola and you are on your way to healthy kids and a healthier checkbook. Not too shabby in anyone's book!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Where have all the antiques gone????

And I am not talking about me!!!! Collectible, maybe. Antique ... not so much!!!

After church on Sunday, Honey and I took off for Amana to have brunch, pick up some beer and soda and generally, just to walk around and enjoy the beautiful fall day.

We explored several of our favorite shops. We bought cheese and bacon, sausage and ham. We tasted some beer and bought my favorite cream soda.

We were disappointed as it looks like one of my favorite antique shops has closed. So I remembered seeing one that I hadn't been into for years and years and years ..... if ever.

OH MY!!!!!!

First of all ........... I was not banned for drooling. The owner is very kind. I should have been!!! This is one of the BEST collection of primitive antiques that I have seen in years. So sit back .... enjoy the brief tour. I wish I had taken more pictures. Mary Anne was so gracious to let me.

Step back cabinet -- sides are made of one board. And the beautiful original pumpkin orange paint. Out of this world!!!

A beautiful wall arrangement of spatterware, yellow ware and iron work. Love the spice box!!!

Decorative finished box.

Not sure if it is original paint on this dry sink but it is early paint. I rarely have seen two-toned painted cabinets here in the midwest. Love the colors!! And don't you love the wear of the paint of the left door?? How many little fingers reached in for a pan to drum on?????

Ok -- this is the piece that put me into cardiac arrest. I know that I don't have any place in the world for this bench. I know it is bigger than most of the rooms in my little old farmhouse. But seriously, I want/crave/heart this piece!!!!

Wanna know why???

Look at that beautiful decorative paint!!!!

Yea .... anyone that wants to buy me that for Christmas, please feel free to!!! Oh yummmm!

So ... if you are in eastern Iowa and you are taking in the Amana Colonies, stop by Erenberger Antiques. They are at 4514 F Street in Amana. And their phone number is (319) 622-3230.

Just in case you want to order the bench for me ................ its just a suggestion!!! sigh.