Friday, February 26, 2010


I have been many things.

I have been short, squaty, chubby, thin and just plain fat. I have been called perky, bubbly, joyful, intense, driven, funny, witty, moody and a bitch.

I have been described as hard-working, lazy, happy, grumpy, sleepy (Hmmmm..... sounds like a bunch of dwarfs!) cheerful, bouncy, pleasant, easy-going and completely certifiably crazy.

But I was never described as effervescent. Until yesterday.

I read the article and quickly went to tell Honey. "Honey .... Miss Eff was called effervescent."

To which he quickly quipped, "Isn't that when you foam at the mouth?"

That's what husbands are for .... to keep me humble! :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cue the Music..................

Imagine. Queen singing......... "We are the Champions! We are the Champions!"

It was absolute cheese perfection last night at "Pizza Pizza!" Six kitchens......... six perfect batches of cheese!

(See, Mom. She really did make cheese!!!!)

I really enjoy teaching these classes.

1) I am just an old farm cook. Not a chef. Not anything special. Just a good old cook.

2) I like showing people that they can do it. Heck! If I can do it.... they can do it. This is not brain surgery or rocket science. And if you mess it up, well, ya eat 3 times a day! You have another chance to redeem yourself!

3) I like having a good time with everyone. We laugh at our failures..... and often, there are many. But we rejoice in our successes. And that is what makes it fun!

And we eat the results .......... yum!!!

(But remind me next time .... those ovens temperatures are running waaay low. The top burners run hot.... the ovens run cool. Crank those temps up!!!)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Stuff.. Stuff... and More Stuff........

I went to the Iowa Farmers Market Managers Conference in Des Moines this weekend.


First of all, the weather has been absolutely dreadful in Iowa on a whole. Poor Des Moines has had the snow target on it all winter. Bulls-eye. Right there. Dump it all there.

So after Friday nights storm, we saw car after car after car in the ditches. I'm sitting in the backseat thinking, "YIKES!" Fortunately, we left at 4 am and my eyes don't work too well at that time in the morning. (My eyelids are in closed mode then! Hard to get them to change.)

But we made it there in one piece and got registered for the conference.

OK -- first speaker is from the Extension Service on food safety and the farmers market.
Interesting enough until this statement........... All fruits and vegetables should be treated with a sanitizing solution of 1 Tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon of water.


I make a preservative solution for my flowers that uses bleach..... 1/2 teaspoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water. And the veggie sanitizing solution contains 6 times that???????

Wash your veggies .............. whether you buy them at the grocery store, farmers market or pick them from your backyard. Wash them. But soak them in bleach???? Not so much!

We have become a germaphobic and disinfect everything in sight! Eat a little dirt ....... you will be healthier for it!

More stuff....... part two.

Tonight I teach pizza and homemade mozzarella class. I think I have figured out how to avoid the cheese failure of the past class. I'll let you know tomorrow!!!

But to cover my ever-expanding butt (!!) I'm making a batch of cheese this morning to take along. Got to have enough cheese to cover the pizzas!

And still more stuff!

Library project continues to progress. But we are in that awkward stage. You know the one. We had to move pieces around to get to the next set of bookcases. But I still don't have enough storage space to put everything away. So the mess has gotten messier before it will get neater!!!

I am still trying to sort through magazines. File and organize what I want .... toss the rest. And I have a four-drawer file cabinet that is close to being empty...... but not empty yet.

So that's the stuff that's happening or not happening at Miss Eff's. I'll be back tomorrow with a class update.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Giving Back!

I just watched the ABC Nightly News and caught this story.

Bob Moore .... founder of Bob's Red Mill grains .... turned down numerous bids for his company. And gave it to his employees. Not an employee buy-out. He gave the entire company to the employees.

THIS man is a class act.

And in the days of immorality, thievery and greed running amuck in corporate America ..... Moore is a breath of fresh air.

I pledge .... regardless of the cost difference .... to buy any of his flours/grains that I possibly can. Anything for a man that does the right thing.

He made the statement that his employees were the company. Yea .... I would really like to get to know him.

Bob Moore, if you are ever on the east coast of Iowa.... I have an invitation for you. Come ... sit... have dinner with us. We will be ever so honored to have you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Turning Back the Pages........

I have been cruising the thrift stores lately, trying to find a blender to use when I do demos.

Today ... I'm running through one and there ...... I spot this.

I know that pattern book! Here it is ...... the pattern book from the very first sweater I ever knit.

Yep .... my first sweater was the bright yellow vest. Yes, I know. Technically, it is not a sweater. It is a vest. But at the age of 11, you are allowed to label any garment that you pull over your head as a sweater. If you knit it. And I did.

And it wasn't bright yellow mohair but a relatively bulky peach acrylic yarn.

My 6th grade teacher was also knitting her first sweater. So Mary Alice McAtee (still my favorite teacher ever!!!) waged a bet with me. The first one finished with their sweater got an ice cream soda from the New Windsor Cafe. (I can still taste their awesome ice cream sodas!!!)

I won ....... I'm pretty certain she let me win.

So the book came home with me from the thrift store.

I'd like to tell you that the book was very very old when I knit the vest from it. That would be a lie. It was brand new. It did cost me 15 cents more to buy it today!

So let me see.............. that would make me How old ???? Yea......... you do the math!!!!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Ya know those situations when you just know you had a great idea?? And then there are those who doubt your abilities and try their best to discourage you??? That was what it was like for me to organize the Buy Fresh-Buy Local "Love your Local Farmer" breakfast.

I felt I was in the middle of an Edgar A. Guest poem!

When you grow up in a small town ... you learn how to feed the masses. Between Easter breakfast at church, 4-H Chicken BBQ's, Fireman's pancake breakfasts ........ you learn two eggs per person, 4 slices of bacon, two pieces of chicken and a 1/4 cup of baked beans! And then you add a bunch for teenage boys and farmers!!!

It just comes automatically.

So ..... it was kind of tough hearing that this was going to be an impossible task.

Never fear ....... I had secret weapons. First of all, I had four years of intense training at 4-H House! Fifty six girls .... 3 meals a day. We shared cooking and cleaning duties so several times a week, it was your turn (along with a couple of others) to cook breakfast or lunch or supper.

Secondly, I am Georgia Whitenack's granddaughter. Gran was an incredible woman that could take a meal for six people and stretch it for 15! During the Depression, Granddad was always bringing home people to get a good meal. Relatives that were having a tough time, hobos that were hungry.

It was through Gran that I learned the importance of a pantry. If you serve another vegetable, have another cake, maybe another salad............. you can feed another 8 people! I also saw first hand ..... that a fancy kitchen wasn't the key to good food. Gran lived in a small trailer on a hill in rural Illinois. Her actual kitchen might have been 12'x8'..... small. And she fed nine hungry grandchildren incredible meals.

And my last secret weapon ........ Doug Coobs! Doug doesn't say much but he jumps right in and gets the job done! Beautifully! And although I was sworn to secrecy..... he is a hell of a dishwasher! (I promised that I would never utter a word to Gwen!)

So ... after a week of cracking eggs, flipping crepes, creaming butter, baking bread, peeling potatoes, chopping onions and grating cheese....... the breakfast was on! And wow! The comments and the support from the community has been incredible!

We could do this week after week after week...............

But we won't!!!!!!

(There are rumors afloatin' about a dinner this fall. Don't be surprised! Gwen, Dawn and I are gearing up for it. And yea --- we are counting on Doug!)

Monday, February 15, 2010

My Valentines Day gift...................

Honey and I try to spend lots of time together. So when I do something like the breakfast the other day..... he was right there.

You know, lots of gals get roses or chocolates or lingerie for Valentine's Day. I didn't. I got something much much better..... my Honey.

Thank you so much for opening up your home and making it ours. You've embraced chickens in the backyard and cats in the house. You have learned to love goat cheese, polenta and roasted beets. (Though, I don't understand not liking liver!) Heck, you even know what lisianthus is!

You are my support system, my cheerleader, my roadie, my best friend and my lover rolled into one. You are even Mr. Effie!!!

You are my Honey.

Love you
Miss Eff

Friday, February 12, 2010

Get me out of the kitchen, NOW!!!!!

It has been a very long week in the kitchen ..... with about 18-20 hours to go. I will be sooooo glad when noon on Saturday arrives!

First of all .......... where was my dear friend Debbie when I opened my mouth?? She has been given instruction to stuff a sock in it when I say something really stupid.................. like "Doing a farmer's breakfast for 50 or 60 or 70 people --- Piece of cake!!!" Or ..."Sure, we'll host our 40th high school class reunion".

I think I am learning.... the key is to have Debbie next to me when I start to say something stupid! Not half-way across town!!!

Actually ... so far, so good on the breakfast. There are two things that I have learned --- one, there are very few farm cooks left in the world. And if I want an upscale breakfast ..... I have to get a job on the Food Network! They make it look so easy!

Most farmer's type breakfast events use frozen hash browns, Jimmy Dean sausage, pancake mix and maybe even scrambled eggs in a bag.

I insisted on more than that.

Ahhh.... that's where the problem lies.

I insisted.

So ... I have made bricoche dough. I have shaped honey buns, I've creamed butter, made crepes, baked bread.... now, I'm baking potatoes so we can peel and roast them in olive oil with shallots and garlic. I have cooked chickens and made a creamy wine sauce. I've made biscotti and baked muffins. I have grated cheese, cubed bread and chopped onions. My kitchen is a disaster but smells wonderful.

And I have watched waaaaaay tooo much Martha Stewart!!!!

In organizing the library, I discovered I have an entire shelf dedicated to entertaining books. Seriously, all you really need is one Emily Post book to tell you where to put the seafood fork! But no.... I have an entire shelf on how easy it is to cook for 750 people in your 17'x17' kitchen!!! And they lied!!!!!!!

In reality .... I have had lots and lots of help. Geest Farms provides bacon and sausage and cooked it for us. Cindy Heilman has been super help with potatoes and shallots and hauling and cooking. Gwen .... what can I say about Gwen? She baking like a wild woman for me. The Mad Farmers are also baking like crazy.... tiny raspberry tartlets ..... YUM!!! Rhonda Groh is baking all the french bread for the stuffed french bread. And Dawn from Blossom Farms is providing blueberries for the french toast along with some baked yuummies and onions, mushrooms and brocolli. And then there is my dear friend and neighbor, Sheepie Neighbor who's feathered girls are picking up the slack of my girls! And she has given us strawberry-rhubarb jam to go with all those baked goodies.

So I have had a ton of help! And I am still sweating this!!!!!!!

If you live outside the QCA or have been under a rock under the Arsenal Bridge..... you may not realize the press this event has gotten. I have noooo idea how many press releases have been out there. I just know it has been in the Radish, The Argus, The Times, The Dispatch and the River City Reader. And I told Paula Sands I didn't have time to be on her show.

And the event is completely sold out! Completely. Over the top!! The money from ticket sales goes to Buy Fresh-Buy Local QC. We are also taking a collection for the The Share the Love food drive to benefit the CCC Food Pantry and Cafe on Vine.

So ... I want this to be perfect. Perfect! Martha-Stewart-Frickin'-Perfect!!!

No pressure on that one!!!

If you are in downtown Davenport today or tomorrow and see a short gray-haired gal going nuts....... walk over and give her a hug!! She needs it.

Now..... I am being called by a bag full of brocolli,

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Paradise Found...................

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.
Jorge Luis Borges

The library projects continues. It is still very messy as there is still too much furniture in this itty-bitty tiny room. Stuff needs to be sold, moved out .... just taken away.

I am taping for touch ups and I need to caulk more. Baseboard needs to be caulked, taped and painted. And there is still another 7 feet or so of bookcases to build. I haven't decided on molding yet. That will come.

But for now..... I am extremely content. I love this room.

It's amazing the comfort one finds when surrounded by books.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Sandwiches You Will Like.........

One of our favorite PBS shows is a simple show about sandwiches. Sandwiches all across America.

Rick Sebak has a quirky style that makes you want to run to the Central Grocery in New Orleans and grab a muffalata or to Marshalltown, Iowa to spoon up a Maid-Rite.

Unfortunately, I am a long ways away from New Orleans. (I do have a Maid-Rite a few miles away! Love loose-meat sandwiches!)

But as much as I like Sandwiches You Will Like, Sebak missed the best sandwich in America.

Yep ..... I'm talkin' the VandeReuben on Raisin from the Belgium Village Inn in Moline. Homemade bread, lots cheese and sauerkraut and ham. If you don't like raisins .... they will put it on rye.

And yea ..... I can eat it in one serving. (Please, don't tell me that you don't!!!!! I have no self-control!!!!)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A rant about customer service

I have a love/hate relationship with Big Box Home Improvement/Lumberyards.

There is something about house parts that I love. I like looking at lighting, digging through cabinet hinges, creating intimate quiet spaces out of pieces of wood. It really doesn't matter whether it is new hardware or rejected windows. I like looking at house pieces and putting them together.

In the interest of public disclosure ... I have to let it be known that in a previous lifetime, Miss Eff was a kitchen designer and worked at a home improvement/ lumberyard.

But yesterday, the hate part of our relationship reared its ugly head.

Now I am cruising the ad posted this week at Menard's. The laminate shelving pieces that we are using to create the library are on sale. Great timing as I need more parts!

But the last time we bought pieces ...... we bought the last of the good holes-on-one-side pieces. I don't need a lot of those as I can use the holes-on-two-sides pieces but I do need 2.

Two ....... Just two.

But I would like two good pieces .... no cracks, no big gouges in the laminate ...... just two good pieces.

Last time we purchased pieces -- 3 weeks ago -- we were told there were none on order. OK -- but why would they run them in their ad again if there are none??? They don't note that they are being discontinued or unavailable.

So I thought the wise move was to call and confirm that they had some in stock.

Remember .... I love house parts. I worked in a lumberyard. I can quickly and easily describe what I am looking for and state sizes and widths.

"Oh yes...... we have those" said a cheerful voiced gal named Stephanie. I asked if they were good pieces with no gouges as they still had 3 damaged pieces left before. "They are fine, we have a lot of them".

(Now ... in the previous post, you will see a nail. That nail went into our tire about 1.5 miles from home on a very wet and muddy gravel road....... while we were heading to Menards. Honey changed the tire. We drove home to pick up another spare..... Where there is one big old spike, there will be another.... and headed again to Davenport. We were already frustrated.)

Then .... we get to Menards .......... no parts. None on order. On sale. You are fine if you want to build a box without holes to mount shelves.

So this evening .... when I have recipes to prepare for classes, a kitchen to organize before a breakfast and an approaching snowstorm .......... we will be driving to Moline (20 miles away) to pick up two shelf sides.

No..... I asked already. They do not transfer between stores.

The lack of good quality customer service is why I grow flowers for a living and shop the Re-Store store as much as possible!!!

When will big box retail get the message???????

Cheap is not the answer.

Calling the Michelin Man!

You need to put a bit more padding on your tires. Just one hit of that nail ............ and that was all she wrote!

Just the ending to a very tough day for my Honey.


Monday, February 1, 2010

Random thoughts ............

Wow! That weekend went by fast!! Faster than that infamous speeding bullet thing.

I started Saturday at my usual haunt ....... The Freight House Farmers Market. I was selling tickets to our Love your Local Farmer breakfast. The tickets are flying out fast.... I don't know if we will have any available by Saturday so if you are interested, drop me a note.

My dear friend Sarah had a party for her husband's birthday on Saturday night. How do you refuse an invitation to a party that reads "Party like its 99 degrees"? Brats, potato salad and beer............... it was all good! We had a wonderful time!!!!!

Sarah and Jamie live in the same neighborhood, on the same street, that my good friend Mona once lived. I drive down the street and always remember the laughter and the tears that Mona and I shared. And the knitting and cross-stitch and basket weaving that we did together. Fargo is much too far away.

Sunday was hectic with church and a stint at Retail-Hell. Yes...... I like my job. Yes.... I like many, many, many of our customers. But lately, the Messy Marvins have been showing up.
Dishtowels in the flower pots. Earrings in the draperies. Looks too much like this office at the moment!! So Dear Retail-Hell Customers, please pick up after yourselves. I am not your mother!

Speaking of the office project..... it is progressing. The west wall is up and ready for books .......... there will be molding later. But so far....... I LOVE IT!!!!

In other bits of news......... I'll be at the Freight House again tomorrow with an egg class. I promise some different yet yummy egg recipes.

Thursday, I'll be working with some home-schooled 4-Hers with knitting and spinning projects. It is entitled .... "From Sheep to Scarf". This is the third time we have scheduled this program.... our Iowa winter has held us back every time.

And speaking of knitting...........

Stash busting project #5 is in the books! Blue hand-spun yarn from Argyle Mills in Wisconsin. This makes the 9th pair of socks I have made this winter. Yea!!!

And the next project should be done by the weekend. (Hold your excitement. I know .... you can barely wait. I'm thinking things are pretty pathetic when I measure my winter by the number of pairs of socks I have made!!!)