Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Thank God for dirty dishes?

The dishwasher is broken and it's uncertain when the parts will be in to fix it. I'm all for simple living and doing things the old-fashioned way, but I do miss my dishwasher.

There's a little poem taped to my window sashing. It's the same poem that was inscribed on a plate on my grandmother's kitchen wall, and I remember it very well because there were always piles and piles of dirty dishes at Grandma's -- especially when all of us were gathered. Isn't it funny the little things that a young girl will remember and cherish?

Dirty Dishes

Thank God for dirty dishes,
They have a tale to tell,
While other folks go hungry,
We're eating very well.
With health and home and happiness,
We shouldn't want to fuss,
For by this stack of evidence
God's very good to us!


Monday, July 30, 2007

Queen of Substitution or Reformation

When you live 55 miles from the nearest grocery store, you learn early how to make substitutions. I have a wonderful zucchini chocolate cake that I enjoy making and since my dad gave me a baseball bat sized zuke, I thought it was time to turn it into something delicious. I saw Deb's chocolate zucchini muffins at Homespun Living that I wanted to try too so what I did was a combo of my recipe and hers.

Deb's recipe called for 70% dark chocolate, mine called for baking cocoa, so I used half semi-sweet chocolate chips and half baking cocoa as a substitution.

My recipe called for buttermilk, I didn't have that so I made my own by adding a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of whole milk. I let it sit a few minutes until it curdled the milk. Perfect!

Deb's recipe called for dried cherries, but I didn't have those so I subbed craisins. I know that my men don't always like the things I do, so I made the muffin dough plain, poured it into the tins and then individually added the craisins to a few muffins, walnuts into a few more, and left some plain. After these were baked off, what a delicious reward we all enjoyed! I absolutely loved the craisin muffins, Hubs loved the nutty ones, and the boys ate any and all of the others. I'm sorry, but there's no picture.

Here's the reformed recipe I came up with by combining Deb's and my recipe.
It's worthy of a do-again.

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins Reformed

1 1/2 c. sugar

3 eggs

1 c. oil

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 c. baking cocoa

1 c. buttermilk

3 t. vanilla

2 c. grated zucchini

1 t. salt

1 t. soda

1/2 t. baking powder

2 1/2 c. flour

nuts or craisins or dried cherries (opt)

In a bowl, mix eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.

Pour oil into a small bowl, add chocolate chips and cocoa and heat in microwave until chocolate is just melted. Stir well. Add this to the eggs/sugar mixture. Add buttermilk, zucchini, and vanilla and mix. Lastly, add all the dry ingredients and mix. Pour into prepared muffin tins, add nuts or dried fruit to individual muffins if desired.

Bake in 350* oven for 15 min. or until desired doneness.Makes about 2 1/2 dozen muffins.

Picture: "Baking" by Sharon Pederson

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Giovanna Garzoni

I love art. I enjoy stumbling upon a "new-to-me" artist and setting the art on my desktop. Though I'm just a simple homemaker, I take joy in spending a little time appreciating art and learning about artists. If I had quite a lot of extra to spend, I would buy art. I share this artist with you now. This piece is called "Plate of Figs" by an Italian artist, Giovanna Garzoni. She lived from 1600-1670 and was one of the first women artists to practice still life. I stumbled upon her art over at Artcyclopedia where they are featuring Women in Art. Fruits, flowers, birds, and insects became her specialty and since I'm a nature lover, it would be natural for me to fall in love with Giovanna's art. I found the largest selection of her art at Allposters.com and now I really want to splurge and purchase a couple prints for my kitchen and dining room.

Piatto Di Baccelli by Giovanna Garzoni

How do you like this one? It's called "Piatto di Bacelli." I don't speak Italian so I cannot interpret, but you know what this is. Can't you just taste these sweet fruits?

I really like this one with the bird pecking at the fruit. What kind of fruit is this; do you know? Is it another fig? I found this print at Ciudad de la Pintura. I no speak-a Espaniol so.......
Here's one more website I found with a variety of Garzoni's images -- Scientific Illustrator.Com.

Friday, July 27, 2007

News from Lake Woebegone

If you've never heard of Lake Woebegone, a fictional small town in Minnesota on the edge of the prairie where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average," then you're really missing out. If you have a few minutes and would like to hear some of the "News from Lake Woebegone," click here and you'll be transported (via podcast) without leaving your comfy chair. Garrison Keillor will fill you in on all the town's news -- gardens being planted, bird watching competitions, church socials and more. Just sit back and enjoy Mr. Keillor's Country-Time Lemonade voice as he carries you away to charming, and all too familiar, small-town America.

~A Prairie Home Companion website is home to Garrison Keillor online.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Green or Practical Living?

There's a lot of talk in the world today about living "green," in other words, doing things differently to keep the air we breathe cleaner, conserving water, using less energy in home heating and cooling. To me, these things aren't about being "green" but rather, practical. I guess I'm old enough to have been raised by frugal parents that naturally taught me the art of being a dollar stretcher and water conservationist. It was just a way of life for us then rather than a lifestyle choice or a politically correct decision.

When I was a "Kid Back Home" there weren't a lot of choices for me to make. We were middle class Americans who had to squeeze a dollar. When I got the hard rap on the bathroom door, that meant my showering was over. Five minutes was about the limit. There were too many people in the house and not enough hot water to shower six bodies for as long as you pleased. The same went for loads of laundry. We never, ever did a small load of wash. When there were enough pieces to make a whole load, you were allowed to wash the darks or whites. If there weren't enough towels to make a full load, they had to wait another day or so. We always, always used the clothesline to dry clothes unless it was too cold and the wash would freeze. Left-over coffee and tea was never poured down the drain back home, but was used for watering plants.

Nowadays I still have a fairly good showering/bathing restriction on my children and I hate to just drain the kitchen sink after washing dishes. So I often will bail water from my kitchen sink into a pitcher or bowl to carry out to my thirsty geraniums on the porch. The coffee and tea also is used for watering plants at my house. One year here at the ranch we had to put ourselves on severe water restrictions. I could not water the flowers or trees or lawn, but I did my best to keep things growing. I washed in a plastic tub that fit in my kitchen sink, and I poured every bit of dirty dishwater on potted plants and flowers and trees that year. Some asked me if it was good for the plants to drink in soapy water, but I read that soapy water is in fact, good for plants. It allows the water to soak into the soil better and deters bugs. (See Impatient Gardener by Jerry Baker)

In my childhood kitchen, conservation reigned supreme. Bacon drippings were never scraped into the trash, but were poured into a canning jar and kept in the refrigerator to be used for frying eggs or sauteing vegetables or poured into the pancake batter for the "oil." (Actually, we preferred the flavor it gave to our pancakes!) Tin foil was always folded and re-used unless it was too dirty. Newspapers or paper sacks were used to cool cookies or to drain fried foods. We never had paper towels. My step-mom thought it was far too expensive to buy them when we had enough rags in the house to wash things and sop up messes. We washed and re-used ziplock bags when we had them. We washed and re-used sour cream containers and Cool Whip bowls for our left-overs or to send food home with a guest who came for dinner. Coffee cans were used in the garden to protect young plants from wind and cutworms. They were also used for storing cookies in the freezer or nails in the garage. I remember seeing a coffee can in an outhouse with a roll of toilet paper inside. It kept it clean and dry! I learned from my mother-in-law many years ago how to cover left-overs with out using plastic wrap. I thought it was ingenious then and I still do today. Simply put a plate over the bowl and slide it into the frig. The nice thing about this clever topper is that you can stack bowls on top of bowls this way. She also taught me to keep a slop pail underneath the sink to throw kitchen scraps in. We use the scraps to help feed our chickens. Then there's baking your own bread. That's simply the best-tasting option, not to mention good for you, and cheap. I did the math one time and figured that I could make a loaf of bread for about 35 cents a loaf. That's quite a savings for a family of seven.

Saving energy in a family home only made common sense. No one wanted to spend their precious pennies on an electrical bill or gas bill when it was so easy to turn down the thermostat and wear a sweater. We cut felled pine trees in the forest for our wood-burning stove to help with the heating bill and frankly, we liked warming up to it. Is there anything better than sidling up to a crackling fire when you're chilled to the bone? It's hard to do on a furnace vent. Today we have a wood-burning stove in our home and it's been a life-saver when there were power outages in the middle of winter.

Driving the car was a luxury rather than a right. We kids all had ten-speed bikes which were the "in thing" back in the 70's. We rode our bikes everywhere or else we walked. Driving to high school was never an option when your dad was driving by it on his way to work. It wasn't about saving gas, or saving the planet, it was about making a smart decision. I hitched rides with friends who had their own cars and otherwise pedaled my way to and from work in the summertime.

As a new mother way back 23 years ago, I had the option of disposable diapers or cloth. I loved using the disposable type, but found that it cost us a large chunk-of-change to keep our little bambino in them. So I opted for the notorious cloth diaper with diaper pins and plastic covers. I thought it would be messy option, a dirty job, an uncomfortable butt-covering for my baby, but what I found was a very satisfying choice. I loved hanging out rows of diapers on the clothesline, I even liked folding them just-so. And diapering was easy. Since I was at home, it was not a problem to change the baby often and wash diapers when needed. There was less diaper rash too. When we went on trips to town I tossed in a few disposable diapers for ease. Back then, cloth diapering was a practical, financial decision which later on taught me that it was a good choice for my child as well as for my environment.

I'm sure I could go on and on about the many ways that I could be considered "green" in today's terms, but I'd rather be thought of as practical and sensible. I've found that most times a practical choice makes good sense in many more ways than one.

I'll bet all of you have a frugal story to tell -- how your mom darned holey socks or how your dad smoked a pipe to save on the cost of cigarettes. Do tell!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Don't Fence Me In

This was a monster hit for Bing and the Andrews Sisters during WWII. Bing entered the studio on July 25, 1944, without having seen nor heard the song. Within 30 minutes he recorded the song, which then sold more than a million copies and topped the billboard charts for 8 weeks in 1944-45.

Don't Fence Me In

Written by Cole Porter

Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don't fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don't fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze,
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees,
Send me off forever but I ask you please,
Don't fence me in.
Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the western skies.
On my cayuse, let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise.
I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I cant look at hobbles and I cant stand fences
Don't fence me in.
Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies,
Don't fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don't fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evenin' breeze
And listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees
Send me off forever but I ask you please,
Don't fence me in
Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the western skies
On my cayuse, let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise.
I want to ride to the ridge where the west commences
And gaze at the moon till I lose my senses
And I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in.
No. Poppa, dont you fence me in.

Monday, July 16, 2007

HOT Sunshine and Sunflowers

We've hit 100 degrees!
The sunflowers love it!
And I love the sunflowers.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sinatra & Strawberry Jam

On the way home from church, my daughter-in-love and I stopped at the grocery store for a few things before heading home and found strawberries for $1 a pound, so I said, "Let's make jam!" She said yes, so we did it this afternoon.
She had never made jam so I went to her house to show her how. She was playing Mr. Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, on the stereo while we cooked up her berries into jam. I went home and clicked on my Sinatra CD
while I stirred my pot o' strawberries too.
I wonder if we'll always have Sinatra & Strawberry Jam from here on out?
It goes well together, don't you think?
Oh this stuff is delish! And so easy!
The recipe I have been using is from Isabella in the 21st Century.
You really ought to give it a try.
"Clink" there goes another seal!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Redwork Teapot with Ric-rac

Look at what a Little Red Ric-Rac can do!

Find this and other redwork patterns here.

Cookie Balls

I made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies this afternoon but didn't want to bake up the whole bowlful so I decided to make some of the dough into cookie balls. It's a nice way to bake in small batches yet use your recipes and time economically. Make up your dough and bake all that you want for the time being. Then roll dough into balls, set on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper and quick-freeze the balls by setting them in a freezer for about 30 minutes so they set up fairly hard. After that, dump them into a freezer bag and store in the freezer until you want to make some up fresh. There's nothing like a fresh-baked cookie in comparison to a frozen, thawed cookie (although I like them any way, shape, or form). If you're a cookie dough eater, this is a very handy method. Just go to the freezer and grab a few balls and pop in your mouth. You really don't have to thaw the balls before baking. Just set them on your sheet and pop them into a pre-heated oven according to your directions.

Squash Blossoms

Is there anything as beautiful as a squash blossom? So big and sunny-yellow and ruffly! Just before I snapped this picture, there was a great big bumble bee dipping inside the female blossom. Yes, there are male and female blossoms on squash and pumpkin plants. This one (above) happens to be a male blossom. He has an elogated knob, a staminate blossom, in the center which produces the pollen to fertilize the female or pistillate blossom (below). Do you see how she has three stigmas that look like "lilliputian boxing gloves?" This is the description that Anna Botsford Comstock gives it, and I frankly can't think of a better one.

There are little openings inside the female pistil where the nectar is stored. The bees must stand on their heads to reach it. The squash plants absolutely depend on the bee to pollinate them or else there will be no squash or pumpkin produced. So you might guess that it is the female blossom that will magically turn into the pumpkin in the end. The male blossom, after he has finished his mission, will close up and die off the vine.

I learned all of this several years ago while doing nature studies with my children using Handbook of Nature Study. It's a wonderful book for discovering "All Things Nature." Best of all, Anna Botsford Comstock really brings science to life with her prose. Think of Beatrix Potter stories and you've got an idea of Comstock's writing style. I'm a budding naturalist thanks, in part, to Miss Comstock.

The expanding of the flower bud is a pretty process; each lobe, supported by a strong midrib, spreads out into one of the points of a five-pointed star; each point is very sharp and angular because, folding in along these edges in one of the prettiest of Nature's hems is the ruffled margin of the flower. Not until the sun has shone upon the star for some little time of a summer morning do these turned-in margins open out; and, late in the afternoon or during a storm, they fold down again neatly before the lobes close up; if a bee is not lively in escaping she may, willy-nilly, get a night's lodging, for these folded edges literally hem her in.

~Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study
"The Pumpkin"

Thursday, July 12, 2007


Ahhhh, I'm sitting in the cool of the house with a tall glass of iced-down lemon water and feeling lots more refreshed after some time in the yard. I got my mowing done in the morning and set to pruning this afternoon. I pruned my lilac bushes by trimming off the stem that was once a gorgeous blossom and has now gone to seed. If you don't trim this seed head off, it will not flower on that branch again. You see how it grows in between the fork of the leaves? I wish there was something I could make with the seeds of lilac bushes. Lilac jam or jelly?

The picture below shows a new little bud beginning to form already. This will be where a lilac blossom will come next spring. I circled it in red. I can't help but thinking of the lessons that Jesus taught about pruning when I'm doing a job like this.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit. ~John 15

Where is he pruning me? Or is he removing something altogether that is unproductive?

I also spent some time pruning the caragana bushes that grow in my backyard near the clothesline. Little did I know seventeen years ago that those little sticks we planted would turn into bushy shrubs that poke out towards my clothesline and cause towels to fray and trousers to snag. I try to only hang "short things" on that inside line now so they don't get caught in the prickly bushes. I've pruned them back quite a bit today, but they're sure to grow out there again. Picking up all the twigs is important to me because I go to the clothesline barefoot often. Do you? How many of you use a clothesline regularly? I love mine and consider it nearly immoral if I don't use it on a hot summer day and choose to use the dryer instead. What a waste of warm sunshine and a nice breeze.

Now that that job is done, it's time to hang out the blue jeans!

A wee bit of Lilac History:
Lilacs in the United States date back to the mid 1750's. They were grown in America's first botanical gardens and were popular in New England. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew them in their gardens. Lilac bushes can live for hundreds of years, so a bush planted at that time may still be around. Lilacs originated from Europe and Asia, with the majority of natural varieties coming from Asia. In Europe, lilacs came from the Balkans, France and Turkey.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Of Dragonflies and Porch Swings

Just glancing out my kitchen-sink window one evening, I saw this pair of dragonflies perched on the chain of my porch swing. They were huge! I measured the links at 1" each so these dragons were approximately 2 1/2" long! From my field guide, it appears that they could be the Small Western Gomphid. (how does a dragonfly this large get the name small?) The dragonflies are thick here since we've had a wet spring and the mosquitoes make abundant victuals for them. I love seeing them perched on my clothesline too. One day I wanted to hang a towel right where a dragonfly was perched so I set my finger out to him and he sat there on my finger while I tried to move him. He chose to go back to the line and remain in the same spot. I moved him again, and once again until he finally chose to move. It seems to me that dragonflies are very much like pets in this way.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A Little Sunday Embroidery

The completed tea towel "A Good Cook" was done by first coloring some parts with colored pencil and then pressing with a hot iron to set the color. After that I embroidered the outlines. You can find the pattern for her here at Needlecrafter along with lots and lots of free vintage style embroidery patterns.

The second piece in progress is a cute little redwork teapot. I first saw it over at Homespun Living where Deb gave the link to the pattern. There are a few teapots there if you're especially fond of them. They'd make a cute set.

I enjoy a little time with needle and thread on quiet Sunday afternoons. My hubby's great grandmother, who lived to be 103 years old, always embroidered on weekdays, but set it aside on Sundays to rest. It was on her Sundays that she chose, instead, to write letters. What is restful to you?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Sprinkler Seat - Simple Things

It's really the simple things in life that bring me pleasure. This is an old tractor seat which was made into one of those high stools for use in the shop. It was SO uncomfortable that no one wanted to use it and so it ended up out in the iron pile. One day as I was mowing, I spotted it and decided it could stand in my prairie garden in the backyard. And then an idea came to me. It would be perfect for setting my sprinkler on --spraying high above the tallest flowers.
Just perfect!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

One Nation Under God.....

Happy Birthday Americans!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Chic Chicks

Granary(left) and Coop (right)

We began here and now, the job is finished at last!
My daughter-in-love and I power-washed, primed and painted this old granary and chicken coop these past few weeks, trying to do most of our work in the mornings to dodge the 90-degree-plus heat of the day. We used barn-red and white to add a little country charm to our premises. Today I finished up by caulking, shining windows, and adding the screens to the coop. I also set a fogger inside (chicks outside) to try to get rid of some of the July Flies that seem to be thick out there. I think we turned our ordinary chickens into "chic chicks" since giving them a snazzy new place to roost.
I'm thinking of stenciling
"Fresh Eggs"
on the door.

This is the chicken coop, as you can see a few of the biddies are going in-and-out the door.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


A friend of mine, Joyce, always sends me letters sleeved in the prettiest envelopes. She makes them by using up old calendar and magazine pages. I have taken some of her envelopes apart and then trace around them onto brown paper sack. I use these as templates to trace over the pictures I like.

A few tips......

* Use heavy pages. If they aren't sturdy pages, put an extra piece of paper or cardstock on the backside of the traced envelope for additional durability. One time I received an envelope that was almost shredded due to the light weight of the paper. Also, if you are using your old written-on calendar pages, you may not want the recipient to see your appointments in the blocks so a liner works well for that.

*Use a ruler to make a nice, crisp fold by sliding it along the fold line.

* Use a good glue stick to glue down edges or you can use double-stick tape.

* Use stickers to seal envelope flaps and use labels to write the address on. If the envelope is too busy and will be difficult to see the address clearly, the postmaster may not deliver it.

* Check to see if you might need additional postage, especially if you are lining your envelopes.

* It's fun to sit for an hour or so and make a few envelopes at a time so that you have a nice assortment to choose from when it's time to write a letter.

* You can use any envelope as a template. Just gently take one apart and trace.


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