Tuesday, January 31, 2012


OK -- I'm kind of pissed.  Yea ....I am.  And I am not sure how to express it.

I'm pretty certain I am going to sound like a word rhyming with "witch."

I want to know when it happened.

When did I suddenly had to do your job?

OK -- let me give you some background.

A little over a week ago, I taught a bread-baking class.  It is based on ABin5

What I try to teach when teaching the ABin5 method, is creativity.  You make this fabulous dough and look at everything you can do with it!!!

So I start the class by passing out a 9 page illustrated (on both sides) handout on how to make the basic dough recipe.  It has websites.  It has blogs.  It has book titles and authors.  It is a complete handout on making the basic dough.

The evening before the class .... I mix up two batches of bread dough.  The morning of the class (around 7 am) I start baking.

Last week, I baked Crusty Sandwich loaf, Olive loaf, two batches of Cinnamon Rolls, Ciabatta and Fougasse stuffed with roasted red pepper.  Then I made another batch of bread dough.  I finish prepping for the class around 4 pm.

We start the class by make a fourth batch of dough. And I shape and bake the classic boule and several pita breads.  

And then .... I get my evaluations.

The evaluations were good.  99% of all people loved the class.  But this one... really has stuck in my craw.

Please give a handout with all the recipes, cooking times and temperatures.  I have worked all day and don't want to have to take notes during class.

Yea.  I'd hate to bother you.

So -- I got over that one. Sort of.  (Can you tell .... maybe....... not so much?)

Then I got a letter from Canada.  

A couple of months ago, Farm Show Magazine did a quick article on Miss Eff's. Since then, I have been contacted by several people about starting their own u-pick flower farm.  

I am glad to help.  I really am.  I have always had the philosophy that sharing information just builds better relationships.  

There are no trade secrets.  I grow flowers.  You cut them.  And when you get down to it, that is it.

But this letter really really bugged me.  What do you grow?  When do you start them?  Send me all the seed catalogs you use.  How much will that cost me? I need all the information you can give me.

And all I can read is give me, give me, give me.

OK -- first ... I don't know what the planting zone is where you live.  I don't know what acreage you have.  I don't know your gardening ability or physical limitations.

And I have worked for ten years building my business .... from the dirt of my knees and the seat of my pants.  I have studied.  I have succeeded.  And I have failed.  

But to start out ...I read.  I read everything I could get my hands on.  And really, that wasn't an awful lot .... which is why I made a bunch of mistakes.  But they were my mistakes.  And you will make your own.

We have become a society that expects all knowledge handed to us.  Silver platter and all.  And as adults, we don't want to work for it ... not one little bit.  We aren't going to open a book.  We aren't going to Google.  It is all at our fingertips ... and that's not good enough.

If we as adults aren't willing to put some effort into learning ......... how can we expect that of our children???

We are in deep deep chicken doo-doo,


Monday, January 30, 2012

A place to knit.........................

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this light.  Not a new version!  I love this one!

The other day, my dear friend Cynthia organized a knitting day.  Fifteen women spent the day knitting, crocheting, sewing and laughing at a fantastic bed and breakfast in Tipton.

Now -- most people would have taken pictures of the fantastic dress that Christine was embroidering or the lush alpaca that Cynthia was knitting with or the incredible projects that Robin kept pulling out of her bag!

Me ....  I take pictures of houses.  Well, old houses to be exact.  Details.  Like light fixtures and staircases and newel posts and cupboards.

Hey!  I come by it naturally.  Even the leaf and stick houses that I would arrange as a child had turrets and bay windows.  I am an old house freak.

Spear House

So sit back and relax and enjoy the view from the Spear House and Barn Bed and Breakfast in Tipton.

Spear Barn ... notice part of the cupola that is being re-built.

Foyer light fixture

Parlor light........... drool!

Great pie safe and I love the plate rail.

This was the front staircase ... and of course, there was a back staircase!

This is the upstairs finial on the stairwell.  Fantastic!

You don't need a headboard when there is this beautiful piece of architectural fretwork!

It was a fantastic day.  Wonderful friends.  Great food.  And women that appreciate a by-gone era.

But maybe that's why we are all sisters of the soil.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Get thee to the nunnery!

Just not a phrase that flows from me!

Yep ... if you ask my good friends .... I'm pretty certain they have never ever ever heard me say that!

But once a year, on a cold weekend in January,  you can find me ............wait for it ................at a convent.

(And that brings me to a question. Is a convent the same thing as a nunnery???)

It is time for Crafting at the Convent. 

Yes .... it is like the Super Bowl of local crafters.  Quilters and knitters, jockeying for position on a couch or dining room table.

Dress code ... jammies!  All weekend!  I LOVE IT!

The latest and greatest of gadgets.  

Look at that cute little iron!  And the sewing machine is seriously drool-worthy!

The coolest and neatest of fabrics. 

Tina cut and sewed this quilt top in ............. (drum roll, please!) ... 2 1/2 hours.

And the food..... we will talk later about the food!

I am awe-struck by the quilters.  And I swear .....one of these days ... I am breaking out the sewing machine and going to catch that quilting bug! 

Friday night .............. fabric is in fat quarters.  Sunday morning ............ top is put together and binding applied.  And more amazing than all of that ............... FIRST. QUILT. EVER.

Look at Sally's fabrics.  Aren't those yummy?  I love that color combination.

And how did I get so lucky to be there?  It was my dear friend Laura .  Laura, who would regularly summon Saint Anthony ... patron saint of lost items ... to find a piece of binding, a lost knitting needle or a pattern that had gone AWOL.  Laura, who started that sweater on Friday and seriously kicked butt with that fabulous Bartlett yarn.

Not only was she knitting like a wild woman .. she was designing this sweater as she was knitting.

It was a fabulous weekend.  Amazingly talented women.  So much laughter.  And a few tears as another seam was ripped or a project frogged.

I am thankful to have been invited and included on such a special weekend.

Oh ..... I did mention food, didn't I?  Well ... a new-me-recipe was shared.  And I will share it with you.  You no idea how good these are!!!

Pecan Bar Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter

3 eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups whole pecans, toasted & tossed with 1 tbsp butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a 9×13 pan with foil, grease.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt. Cut in 2/3 cup of butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the prepared pan, and press in firmly.
3. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven.
4. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. In a large bowl mix together the eggs, corn syrup, 1 cup total brown & white sugars, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in the pecans. Spread the filling evenly over the crust as soon as it comes out of the oven.
5. Bake for 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until set. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing into bars.

*Note- After these cooled on a rack for about 3 hours, I put them in the freezer for 30 minutes. This made the cutting process super easy.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Duh moments..........................

I was washing dishes other day with an incredibly dingy, worn-out, shredded dishcloth.

I thought to myself .... I need to buy new dishcloths.

Yea .... I said that.

A few days later, I tossed out a bath scrubbie and thought ................. I need to buy a new bath scrubbie.


And I looked at my slippers and I thought .... I need new slippers.

And suddenly, the homemade life I wanted ... the homemade life I preach about .... had been pushed out of my mind for consumerism. 

I was going to the dollar store for dishcloths.

I was going to the drug store for bath scrubbies.

I was going to the department store for slippers.

And when that duh moment came..... I realized there was someone that had to practice what they preached.

You may find a few less dishcloths, a few less bath mitts and a pretty pair of pink mohair slippers are missing from the Summer Kitchen. 

But living a homemade life ... is all the little stuff.  From pillow cases to baking bread, from aprons to pickled jalapenos....... its about doing it myself.

It is sad when a dingy dishcloth had to remind me of just that.

And the winner is......................................

Number 10!!!  Lindy!! 

Lindy, if you would go to the "talk to us" section of our website........... you can send me an email with your address and the color of your coat .... I will get your package in the mail tomorrow morning!

And  the best answer came to me by email...........  and you have to agree .... it is an awesome answer to "Why I hate winter".

The trials of winter are many:
The cold and the dark and the snow.
But people before us were canny,
Making coats and lights and a plow.

The comforts of winter are found
With mittens, wool socks and some wicking,
Snow tires and yak tracks abound
And a good heavy quilt with ticking.

But hair was always smashed flat
For my beanie was just warm enough.
But Miss Effie remedied that:
Her wool beret lets my hair fluff.

There’s one thing that still bothers me
About going outside in the snow:
With my hands holding shovel or ski,
My nose always drips til I blow,

Or I wipe my nose on my sleeve,
So Cathy, conqueror of mobieus,
A great challenge is this, I believe.
Can you solve this problem for us?

So Helen is the winner of a bar of soap and two of our hand-knit super soft face cloths!!  And since Helen is one of our regular egg customers .......... I will catch her on her next trip to the farm or meeting place!

Thank you all for entering our first blog give away!  Hopefully, there will be more in the future!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Twist and Shout!

This is one of my latest obsessions............. the mobius scarf.  This is made out of a favorite yarn ...... Burly Spun by Brown Sheep company.

You start with a needle taller than you are.  OK -- you start with a needle that is taller than I am.  60 inches long.  They do say you can do it with a 48" needle .... but I don't see that happening with a bulky yarn.  Maybe if you were using a DK weight.

A long needle is necessary so you can loop the stitches around.  Yea ... not one loop.  But two.  Suddenly, that "taller-than-me" needle doesn't look too long!

A marker is not an option on this scarf.  You must place one to know where to start  the row.

I know ....you think you can tell by the tail of your cast on.  Not so fast!!  The tail will end up in the middle of your project as you are knitting from both the top and the bottom of your scarf at the same time!!!


Can you see the stitches on both sides of the needle?  
Yea ..... it is magic.

If you are interested in learning the mobius cast-on, there are several great tutorials on YouTube.

Or ... come hang with me.  And make sure you have a Miss Eff size needle!

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Season-I-Hate Giveaway!!!!

I am a three season type of gal.

I am joyful over spring.  I love summer.  I am dreamy over fall.

I used to like winter.  It was slow down time. I would curl up .... read a book .... spin some yarn.  Suddenly, it is no longer my time!  We have classes, events, meetings and more social demands.

So now, when winter comes.......... I am not a big fan.  I don't like being cold.  Being extremely short, snow goes over my boots when I trudge through the drifts.  Heck -- there are many times that the drifts in the lane are much taller than I am! 

I hate getting stuck.  I worry about Honey.  It is not my time of year!

I could move to the southwest ... maybe Arizona.   But I don't like brown.

I could move to the southeast ... maybe Florida.  But I don't like snakes and alligators.

So I will stay in snowy, cold Iowa ...................... and do a give-away!

Yep!! I am giving you a chance to win some great cold-weather gear.

1) A jar of Double Fudge cocoa mix  ($8 value)
2) A hand-knit coffee cozy for your commuter cup ($6 value)
3) A hand-knit, hand-embroidered tea cozy for your teapot ($25 value)
4) A hand-knit hat ($35 value)
5) A coordinating hand knit luxury fiber scarf ($40 value)

So how do you win this fabulous prize package worth over $114?????? (Who has been watching too much The Price is Right???)

1) Become a follower of this blog.

2) You leave a comment to answer the question .... Why I hate winter?

3) You "Like" Miss Effie's on Facebook or Follow @MissEffies on Twitter.

On Monday .... 1/23/2012 ... we will randomly select one winner.

But.............wait............. there is more!!  (Guess who has watched too many late night infomercials???)

IF you have the best answer to the question to Why I hate winter, you will win a very special prize. (As determined by very talented judges that are easily bribed by cookies or a shoveled driveway!)

A bar of Miss Effie's Bees Knees soap .... full of honey and goat milk!!! And two fabulous hand-knit face cloths.

Watch for the winners on Monday morning!  And in the mean time, share this giveaway with your friends.

(Official legal double talk!! Items that are pictured may not be the items in the giveaway.  Winner will have the opportunity to tell me what color of scarf/ hat combo they may like.  I will do my best to find something that will make you happy.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Keeping up with the girls....................

Every day, she comes to call.


She flies the coop and comes to visit and share the news.

You can find her on my porch .... or at least, by the front of the house .... every day, somewhere between 11:30 and 1:00 pm.  Never earlier.  Never later.

She checks on the cats.  She tries out their cat food.  She digs in the garden beds in front of the house.

And then ... she leaves.

After all, a girl has to keep her schedule.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Look what I made!!!

I     finally    conquered this....................


A true mobious scarf ..............

Took me long enough.

I tried umpteen different needles. I bought 3 different needles.  I'd watch the directions... start ... and then hyperventilate.  Today ... I said enough was enough.  I am smarter than the needles. And after accomplishing the cast-on, 2.5 hours later the scarf was done!!

There will be more to come. 

And that uber-wonderful yarn .......... Girl with a Sword Productions.  It is as cool as it looks!  Perfect for this application.

And now ... I am living proof .......that you can teach a dog a new trick!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

You talk too much!

And again with the talking ..........................

OK -- If for some silly reason --- you miss the sound of my voice, you can hear me talk tomorrow. (And  maybe get the chance to hear me say something stupid!)

This one is a new one for me.

I will be state-wide tomorrow as I will be a guest on Iowa Public Radio (NPR affiliate) at 10 am.  Charity Nebbe from Talk of Iowa will be talking to the four new partner sites for Silos and Smokestacks.  My interview will be around 10:25.

The big thing will be to explain where in the world is Donahue! 

So as they say .... you can hear it, state wide, on Iowa Public Radio.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How to eat an elephant .................

This is my slow time of year.

This is the time of year that I get to knit.  I get to spin.  I paint and re-decorate our house.

I attempt to clean and organize my house from the whirlwind season of activities that we call Summer.

I try to get my books organized, my plant orders put together, and the planting layout of the garden completed.

I look at the farm and and try to come up with creative and fun ideas.

And I teach a class or two.

Or           FOURTEEN!!!!!!!

(Seriously, what was I thinking????  And there are a few more in the works!  It does help being insane to start out with!!)

So here is a line-up ..........

Feb 2 -- Cream Soups .... Cream of Mushroom, cream of California, and Beer Cheese soup 

Feb 4 -- Chicken class at Bettendorf Middle School for their Science Day

Feb 9 --Variation of a Basic Salad ... a lunch and learn event

Feb 16 -- Cheesemaking ... mozzarella

Feb 18 --Pizza, Pizza ... a benefit for the Clarence Library Fund.

Feb 25 -- Salads from your Garden .... at Nursery School put on by the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension

Mar 1 -- Brioche class

Mar 8 -- Growing cut flowers

Mar 15 --Quinoa salad ... Lunch and Learn

Mar 17 -- Homesteading Seminar at Illinois Valley Community College

Mar 22 -- Farm Marketing

Mar 29 -- Crepes

April 12 -- Jam 

April 29 -- No cucumber pickles

And one of my favorite groups ... Rock Island County Master Gardeners Spring Series .... has asked me to teach another class.  At this point ... I'm trying to figure out if my teeny-weeny brain can hold any more information to teach a fun and interesting class!

So -- if I seem a little vague at times ....
So -- if I don't recognize you in the grocery store ....
So -- if I seem to be running late for everything! .....

Please understand that this is my slow time of year!

And I'm just trying to eat that elephant!

Friday, January 6, 2012

A little creative license

We went to wine club last Friday night. 

And during the course of the evening, my friend Nancy pulled out a bag that she had picked up at an estate sale.

In this bag were bundled bits of yarn .... all approximately 12" long.  I'm not sure how many bundles were there .... but there were a lot!!!!!  All neatly sorted and tied together.  12 pieces of bright pink yarn, 15 pieces of purple mohair.  There was ribbon and novelty yarn.  There were beautiful boucles' and soft chenille.

And Nancy and I wondered what the master plan was.  All of these yarns... neatly cut, sorted and bundled.

I am certain that one of my last glasses of  wonderful cabernet released some creative juices and I could see this funky cowl coming together.

I started knitting first thing in the morning.  First on a size 10.5 then, after 3" of knitting, I frogged it to use a size 15 needle.  Then ... it had the right amount of drape.  And the more I knit ... the more I personally liked it.  Fun.  Funky.  Maybe even fabulous. 

But I am not known for being a fashionista!!  After all -- I wear Riders Jean and Carhartt shirts.  Farm and Fleet is my fashion headquarters.

So do you understand why I questioned the fashionability of my creation???  And the chances that anyone would buy it????  Yes ... it is for sale.  $35 and it can be yours. 

Each 12" scrap of yarn was knit for 4-6 stitches.  No knots.  Just the pieces knit into place.
And yes, you could pull on the fringe and it might end up in your hand! 

But you should know .... you don't tug on Superman's cape.  :)

Now -- if I could only remember the vintage of that wine!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Is this heaven?

No ..... it's Iowa!

Wow!  But it feels like that to me!  Today's temp on the east coast of Iowa .... 55 degrees!

Hold me back, sistas!  I want dirt under my fingernails!! I'm feelin' the itch to plant in that ditch!

Seriously ... that is the joy of having an AARP card.  I am now old enough to know that .... This too, will pass.

There is a whole lot of winter between now and May!!!!!

But its a great time to share some of our new plans and projects.

See this tree?

Well .......... now that it looks like this ...................

It is becoming a children's garden with an edible landscape. 

Our trip to the Denver Botanical Gardens inspired us so much!  It was November .... most of flowers were long gone.  But  .... we could see the great bones of the garden.

Our goal this year .... is to "tuck" the gardens in place.  We want to hide them from immediate view ...so there will be surprises as you go around a corner ... or walk through an arbor.

There will be more flowers......... more to see ......... more to do. And hopefully, you will be happy with the new and fun ideas we want to put throughout the farm.

Yea .... the 10th year anniversary of Miss Eff's hopes to be an exciting year.  And just to entice you a bit more ....

Well, you know how I love .... love .... love zinnias!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Color my world.....................

I love this look.

Neutral.  Peaceful.  Elegant.

And so not me!

Today is a cloudy, gray windy day on the east coast of Iowa.  The house shakes from the strength of the wind.  And the heat-less upstairs chills me to the bone as I write this post.

And the only thing that warms me .....is the sunny yellow of the office walls.

I crave color.

I was the gal that wore red shoes .......... in junior high! 

I organized my blue shoes ... not by the fact, that I had blue shoes .... but I had flat blue shoes, high heel blue shoes, sling back blue shoes and flip flop blue shoes.  And not ... navy blue shoes ... but robin's egg blue, Copenhagen blue,  pale blue, and royal blue.  (now .... its the color of my favorite muck boots.  Robin's egg blue with polka dots.)

Definitely not a neutral!

I know the decorators say ..... you can do anything with a neutral sofa.  Yea ... I can stain it with my morning coffee and get it dirty with the seat of my jeans. 

I know the decorators say .... you can add a "pop" of color.  But their "pops" of color ... leave me wishing for more.

Maybe its a flashback from growing up in the 70's.  It was the decade of avocado green, gold, and orange.  In fact, one of  the rooms in college was neon yellow and orange .... and it made you smile every time you entered the room!

I like smiling ......... because a color made me happy.

And don't tell me that neutrals are color!  Cuz every time I go to the hairdresser with my signature gray hair ... he asks if I want a color.  If gray was a color .... he would never ask!

I'm in the nesting mode.  And for the next month or two ... you will see a lot of color. 

I'm just hoping that decorators from HGTV don't put a big black rectangle over my blog!!!