Tuesday, March 29, 2011


This is a honey of a post.  And I'm not talkin' my Honey.  (Even though ... for the record.... he LOVES his new job!)

I have been as busy as a bee.  Last night ... the ever energetic Miss Eff talked about planting a vegetable garden with preserving your own food in mind.  Now first of all .... it can be tough to be the ever energetic Miss Eff!!!  But if that's what you get billed as .... ya go with it!!!

This is the third year I have done a presentation for the Rock Island County Master Gardener horticultural series.  I love this group!!  I have a lot of fun.... Lou started me crying with a simple line..... the group is interested and interesting.  And I love doing it.

And Julie .... just sign me up for next year.  Lou convinced me!!!

Saturday is the Homesteading Conference at Illinois Valley Community College.  Deborah from Antiquity Oaks and I will be trying to convince you ... and ourselves .... that our way of life is not totally beyond reach of anyone. 

So I have finally ...... yes, finally ..... wrapped up all the handouts for the 6 hours of classroom presentations that we are each doing.  Saying yes in November sounds so very easy!!!  I know this will be fun!  I know I will have a fantastic time doing this ..... but after 6 hours ... the ever energetic Miss Eff may not be!!! 

And in other awesome news................... really awesome news.... over-the-top awesome news....... the fabulous multi-talented urban beekeeper , Zan Asha is coming to the QCA!  (I told ya it was awesome!)

Zan is featured in the new film, Queen of the Sun about colony collapse of bees throughout the world.  Zan is bringing her urban bee knowledge ... she beekeeps in Da Bronx! ...... to VanderVeer Park in the conservatory on May 2.  From 6:30 to 8:30, Zan will be sharing her natural approach to bee keeping that she learned from her mother and grandfather.

The class is only $50 ..... I promise a honey of a snack.  And I know you will love the energy, knowledge and laughs that only Zan can share.

We will be using the observation hive at VanderVeer that was built by my friend and another awesome beekeeper, Phil Crandall.

The class is limited to 20 students.  To sign up ... just send me an email by going here and hitting "To talk to us".  Send me an email and I can get you signed up.

Seriously ..... Zan was in a movie with Micheal Pollan.  Rock star of healthy eating!  He replaced Robert Redford on the list!  Living healthy .... yea, its sexy!

Yea .... you need to be in the buzz!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring fever!

Yea. Yea. Yea.  I'm falling a bit behind in the blogging department this week.

I've been busy teaching ... Augustana students learned to make pizza and mozzarella cheese from scratch last Wednesday evening.  I taught 14 people how to make sour cream, buttermilk, cottage cheese, whole milk ricotta and mozzarella in my kitchen last Saturday.  Of course, we munched that mozzarella down on top of a pizza!  And tonight ... I teach making your own baby and toddler treats at Scott Community College.

And two more major classes next week ..... including the Homestead Conference on April 2!

To top it all off .... Honey got a new job!  He will be starting Monday as a designer in the engineering department for a sand-blaster manufacturer.  Yes ... more money.  Yes... better benefits.  And most importantly, a very happy Honey doing what he loves to do.... design things with lots of mechanical parts.

But you don't want to know that ..... you want to see pictures of what we have been doing.


The bump out of the Summer Kitchen!

Walls are painted ... floor is sealed.  Light fixture should go up this weekend.  Maybe the window trim.  And the egg cooler (dorm fridge) will be going in. And the bump out should be complete ... less the antique porch posts!

Spring scents like Lemon Verbena from Full Circle Soaps are here!

The wall behind the large shelving unit will be a gallery wall.  If I can get everything to fall into place.  Still some issues....... but I'm holding a couple of aces in my hand.  Steve and Julie.  They just don't know it yet!

Onion Grove Mercantile signs are available at Miss Effie's!

I love the yellow bead board wall ......... its soft, yet warm.

The table is decked in pretty spring items.  Like Julie Wall's eggs for an Easter Egg tree.
I love the grayish blue green of the rest of the walls.  As my dear friend, Sheepie Neighbor said.......... "It looks like an Araucana egg!"  Yep ..... it does.  Never doubt a woman that knows chicken math like she does!

Speaking of Sheepie Neighbor ......................

Fresh today ... they will go fast!

And according to the sign ........ and the weather man.  It is spring.

And at Miss Eff's, that means one thing.........................

Four.  We have four adorable kittens courtesy of George.  Who is mother to George.  And mother to Little Fast George.  We need to think of another name here!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Today is a very special day at the Lafrenz household.

Fifteen years ago today .... Honey and I had our very first date.

Now ... we didn't go on that date willingly.  Neither one of us.  But we had a guardian angel prodding both of us! 


Now Jill and I worked together as cashiers at a lumberyard.  She (for some silly reason!) thought I would be perfect for her Dad.  When I announced that all men were toads ... she said... Go out with my Dad.  He's not a toad.

At that point ... she must have nagged, harassed and badgered her poor father into asking me out!  She drug him into the lumberyard. And promptly told everyone in the store that he was asking me out ..... so the poor nervous, trembling guy had a built-in audience. 

I couldn't say no ..... I didn't have the nerve!!!!

But I quickly got a case of the this-is-not-a-good-idea panic attack.  Nope.  I am not going on a blind date! You can't make me!  I am not going!

I called my friend Mona .... who calmly told me to go on the date.  After all, I was really poor.  This is my favorite restaurant.  It was a free meal.  With left overs.  And she wasn't going to feed me!

So I went ... nervous, scared and .......... well, nervous and scared!!!!

Honey and I slowly got into a conversation.  I talked.  And I talked.  I talk a lot when I am nervous!!!  We ate.  We talked.  We laughed.

And we were totally unaware that our matchmaker was cruising the parking lot ....... watching how the date was going!!!

Yep .... it worked out just fine!!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Getting your knit on!

OK -- this is yarn that is to die for!!  Fabulous colors!  Great yardage!  Lots of wonderful colors.

All spun from the talented fingers of Cassie Moon!  Yea ... they raise hand-spun yarn!  I like that in a person.

(Warning ... the yarn you about to see is drool-worthy.  Please move important papers away from your desk!)

Love the tweed. 

Cassie calls it "Blow fish".... we would call it "Oske-wa-wa!"

The periwinkle, creamy yellow and brown combination is lovely!

This reminds me of the zinnias in late summer.  The colors are bright and fun!

I think this would be wonderful knit up as a "potato chip" scarf!

 Remember ... these are one of a kind yarns.  They are large skeins... carefully washed, carded, dyed, spun and skeined by Cassie. And these skeins are only available at the Summer Kitchen.... which will be open on Friday from 9 to 4 for your shopping convenience!!!! (Its beginning to sound like a big-girl store!)

Drop me a note if you are interested and I will gladly hold one for you.  They will go fast!

I'd hate for you to regret the yarn that got away!!!!

Going back to college........

I love moments when my life really rocks!!!  Last night was one of them.

Garry Griffiths is the director of food services at Augustana College in Rock Island.  Their food program is a model in conscientious, thoughtful, local food choices.  And guess what???  They lowered costs!!

You cook from scratch.  You save money.  Who knew?????

So Garry asked me to do a pizza and cheese making class for the Farm-to-Fork program.  Farm-to-Fork is a student run organization that cares about the sustainability of the food they eat.  They intern at local farms.  They have their own Augie Acres where they raise produce for the college's food program.  And they sell their excess produce at local farmer's markets. 

Yea .... they rock!!!!

We were in the bakery at Augustana college.  Great mixers.  WONDERFUL ovens.  But the induction burners .... not so much.

I had started the cheese.  And we determined that my pan was not right for an induction burner.  So we emptied the milk into another pan.  Still no heat.

We went to another induction burner.  Blow the breaker.  Still no heat.

OK -- I'm trying to stay calm.  No heat = No cheese.  Pizza needs cheese.  It can live without 'shrooms, sausage, anchovies.  Cheese?  Not so much!

We find a butane burner and after a few false starts............ we are in the curds!!!  I love it when a plan comes together!!!!!

After one quick demo --- the students took over the cheese making.  And after a quick crust demo -- they took over the crust making.  And this was the results................

Yea ..... it was AWESOME!

It was a great evening! 

And because I said I would........ she made this dress!!!  Too cute!!!

Thanks to Garry, JoJo, Julie and the Farm-to-Fork program for such a wonderful evening.  You are welcome on the farm anytime!!!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

They say spring is in the air..................

I'm on Face book and everyone is talking about planting.

They are planting lettuce and spinach and radishes and peas.

And I am envious.

Cuz when I walk out my back door, I see this!

Yes.  That would be snow!!! 

So is this............

This is where the crocus and hyacinths are.  First signs of spring .... still in the grips of winter. 

So ... I do what anyone that tries to live a sustainable, locally-based life does.  I sit at my spinning wheel  and I dream of spring flowers, dancing in the breeze.  Crocus and daffodils, snow drops and grape hyacinth.

A tiny viola, tucked in under the leaves.

The color of hand-spun yarn!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

More fibery fun!!

I promised to show you what I brought home.  It was a lot ... in my book ..... but I could have done a lot more damage!!!!

I never really have been a stash-shopper.  I'm a project shopper. I buy yarn as I need it for projects.  Now -- the projects that end up as UFO's or never materialize ..... that becomes stash.  But it didn't come in to Miss Eff's world as stash.

So ... I shopped with projects in mind.

Sort of.

OK -- time for truth in blogging.  I did not buy this.  Nor did I steal this. This is a favor to Maggie.  The art yarn is incredible.  I ooooooh and aaaaaaah a lot! Sometimes people have a difficult time imagining what can be made with it.  So I am knitting a mobius cowl out of it....... John will photograph it and it will be posted somewhere.

If it turns out.  That's always a worry!!!!!

If you look carefully, you will notice vintage rick-rack, and seam binding and buttons ....... spun into this creative fun yarn.

But judging how fast Maggie's yarns were selling, other people definitely have ideas how to use this beautiful yarn.

I was afraid I wouldn't get any for myself ........... so I quickly grabbed this for another mobius cowl.  Mine!!!

This was easy.  This beautiful tweedy yarn was made by my friend Jill.  It screams to be a new hat for Honey.  I love. love. love. the colors!

Then there was this... also made by Jill.  Shetland wool plied with cotton crochet thread  LOVE  IT!!! I'm hoping there is enough to knit a caplet for myself.  If not ... it will become a hat and a scarf.  But a caplet would be welcomed in the winter in this chilly house..... in between the hot flashes!!!!

That was all the yarn I bought.


That was all.

This was the pre-yarn I bought!!!

Romney, mohair and alpaca.  And its not leaving the house!!  Nope!  You can't buy it!  It is mine!  I have noooooo idea what I will knit with it.  But I will love it! Its a color called Strawberries and Cream.

Did I tell you that I love it????

I also love my new yarn bowl.  I'm in a beginning collecting stage.  Three is a collection.  I have two.  That is not enough!!!  Becky did the herb markers for the farm last year.  This year ... she is making flower markers.

I always dreamed of learning how to make pottery.  But I think I have enough projects to last a lifetime.  So I will continue to buy Willow Avenue Pottery and keep her busy!!!

(Did you know that the fabulous sign painter Jen ... is painting Becky's sign!  I can't wait to see what she creates for her!!!)

And finally .... I have waaaay too many friends that make wonderful soap!!! And I buy from all of them.  Saturday .... I bought soap from Teri!  Oh my!!! First of all ....... I now have enough soap to make it till the next millennium.  And secondly ..... my yarn and roving smell so good!!! I love the clean natural scents that come from hand-made soaps!!!  And Teri's makes everything smell real and wonderful!!!

So other than some awesome Peace Tree Beer (yes, you are welcome, Honey!) those were my purchases in Central Iowa on Saturday!!

That will keep me off the streets of Donahue for a while!!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Diet Rich in Fiber

Yarns from Girl with a Sword Productions

 You knew this wasn't going to be about oatmeal, didn't you?

On Saturday ... me with a very empty car headed to Winterset, Iowa for Heartland Fiberpalooza! 

I needed a break .... I sooooooo needed a break! I needed peace and quiet and no telephones.  No emails, reminding me what I need to be doing.  No weedy gardens.  No dirty chicken coops.  No knitting needles calling my name.  I needed a break.

And I needed to see friends that "get that"!

I needed to meet Claire before she leaves on her big adventure into wine making.  Claire is the creator of THE "chicken hat".  I missed seeing the new nest that goes with it.  Maybe a photo will follow. That a hint, Jill.

I needed to see fiber packaged like sticks of cotton candy.

I wanted to see the flowers of spring ... only Saturday they were packaged as sock yarn.

My finger tips craved for the touch of incredibly soft yarn.

Willow Avenue Pottery

I wanted to feel the heartbeat that lives only in locally thrown pottery.

Miss Effie, Jill from Blue Gate Farm, Becky from Willow Avenue Pottery, and Maggie from Girl with a Sword Productions.

 I wanted to learn and be inspired by fabulous women.

And I was!!! I'll show you what I bought tomorrow!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A new toy!!!

There is nothing a girl loves more than a new toy..........................

Even if it is 100 plus years old!!!

Like a well-done sewing project...............

It is all in the details.

Like the house.... the lifestyle we live .... the seamstress........ it is a simple machine.

Full of rich details........  symbolic of a fruitful, productive life.

Thank you, Maggie!  I love it!!!!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Procrastination .... the real circle of life!

Blogging is not easy.

I have had nothing to say this week.  Well....... that's not true.  Cuz if you were at the Eldridge Knitting Nook yesterday, you know I had a lot to say!!!

I needed to break away from home yesterday for a couple of hours.  I needed to escape the computer, the phone and the smoke signals!  I needed the therapy that only a pair of knitting needles or a wheel can give.

Lately, my time has been spent working on our local Buy Fresh-Buy Local directory.  As membership chairman, I'm responsible for putting it together. I search the web for new members.  I ask for suggestions.  I develop and send out the forms.

And  I wait as the deadline approaches.  Then the work really starts.

I call.  I email.  I harass.

We always want to make the directory bigger and better.  We always want to serve our members more and more.  But unfortunately, like everything in the world, it doesn't always come together like it should. People don't get their forms in.  They want changes .... but they wrote (or didn't write) the information in the first place! Or they send me partial forms.... I'm good but I can't do anything with one page!!!! 

I could guess. 

I could put on my secret decoder ring.

I could pull out the Ouija Board and try to work the magic on it.

I could use last year's information that they changed .... but they forgot.

So ... in the meantime,  I call.  I email. I harass.

I have less than 20 days to get this done, proofed and to a printer.  And in that time frame, I have 9 classes to teach.  Handouts to write.  Recipes to develop. Taxes to do.  A couple of flats of flowers to order. Another seed order to get put together.  And a garden planting plan to draw out.

And a stack of forms from two junior colleges that needed to be returned a month ago!!!!

So they call.  They email.  They harass.

Life is just one big circle of putting things off!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Baa! Baa! Black Sheep.........

I am going to get somewhat personal. ( like I usually don't!?!)

But .... putting things in terms that I understand .... if you were to ask my family about the fleece of my life .......... they would tell you that there is a lot of black yarn!

I've learned to accept everything and moved on.  I'm certain that my therapist's daughters got to go to a fine university!!!!  And I do I have to say ... my therapist is no longer on speed dial!  That's what we call progress.

So ... I find ways of making my own memories.

I adored my Dad.  He was smart and funny and inspiring.  I'm not sure if he would understand the flower thing ... my grandmother sure would! ... but he would be proud of the classes and the speeches. 

Dad was a large animal vet.

I loved going on calls with him. The mud .. the smells... the animals.  I loved it.

I put together memories of my Dad as I find them.  One of Dad's college professors was a guy named Sleeter Bull.  Sleeter Bull must have been quite the character.  He wore an Aussie style hat and carried a cane.  And Dad would have three kids rolling in laughter,  imitating him.

A year or so ago ... browsing through a flea market ....... I found this.

Sleeter Bull is actually known for re-writing a mid-19th century classic ... Feeds and Feeding by Morrison and Bull
I had to have it.  Of course, buying a 1917 book on modern livestock feeding practices usually raises an eyebrow or two!  But every time I see it ... I think of Dad imitating Bull's raspy voice.... telling his students that they would buy a new book or they would flunk his class!!
And today .... I got a new memory.  My dear friend Jen made this.......................

Yea ........................ I cried.

Thank you so much, dear friend....  My Dad would have liked you.