Sunday, December 22, 2013

I'm baaaack!

It's been a long time since I posted.  It's been a hard year but I'm better now, as Stan says to Ollie.
This Christmas I'm embarking the long-planned and still very exciting doll project. . .  I'm making a long winter scene from Laura Ingalls Wilder's writings.  There has been a flurry of collecting and making and assembling things.  The bespoke dolls are being bespoke, as we speak!  Today I have pictures of Ma, still in her underwear and that only partially finished but you'll get to make her acquaintance.

She is wearing a petticoat made of fine linen and hemstitched but old and worn.  Remember the brown and red shawl she got at the Christmas party at the church the year before?  I haven't hemmed it yet.  Note the lovely dresser, restored by the resident restorer, Bill.  All the items are quarter size, that is 1/4 our size.

 On the dresser is Ma's knitting basket.  Don't you think her hands are beautiful?
 And on the bed is the fabric for her dress, ready to be cut out.  On the dresser are some quilt squares.  Note the chamber pot under the bed!


 Here are the packing case kitchen shelves, with their dishes, jars and pans.  See the coffee grinder on the top?  Ma's and Mary's rocking chairs stand ready.

 I plan to make a new what-not but this little one is making do right now.  The clock works,  the little flowered box is not really right but the spotted dog is exactly right! Leaning against the bottom shelf is an 1881 calendar which is actually a trade card from 1881.

Stay tuned for more progress reports!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

I saved us $600!

     We've had our little settee for 13 years, sat on it almost every night to watch tv, slept on it some nights, restless.  We wore it out!  So, for Christmas, we decided to get it reupholstered.  We called a place we knew.  They said "Sure, we'll call when we're ready for you".  That was at the end of January.  I did call and plead at one point.  In May they said we could pick out the fabric.  That was hard, though they had so many fabrics, they didn't look like I had imagined.  Eventually I picked one out.  If they had started then, I would have gone with it.  But they didn't call back until July.  By then I had only a vague memory of the fabric and a certain aversion.  Then too came the estimate:  $650. . .  We had chosen them because they had a reputation for being a little cheaper than some other places.  I realized that we could probably buy a second-hand one for half that, maybe even a new one for less.  Of course, I had long since spent the money we had budgeted for it.  It didn't take me long to decide.  I'd make a slipcover for it myself!  A few decorating magazines showed a clear trend towards muslin, or even natural canvas.  I got my coupons together.  My daughter sent me a gift certificate too.
     I confess that I didn't buy enough fabric the first day, but as soon as I figured it out, I went back and was able to buy more from the same bolt.  14 yards, about $50.  I hemmed the ends and washed it. Then I started.

 I made 19 yards of cording, using a vintage cording foot on my vintage Kenmore sewing machine.

First I made the cushion cover.

Each piece was pinned to the  settee to cut. A couple of times I had to pick out and resew parts but I persevered!

We are quite satisfied with it.  And it comes off to be washed.  It took me about a week.  And wasn't such a chore that I wouldn't do it again.  I am afraid I am quite pleased with myself!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Menus and a Comment

I know it looks bad for Paula and I make no defense nor do I wish to add to the criticisms already out there in spades.  But Paula Dean showed me how to make nice drop biscuits!
You just use an ice cream scoop!

Now for the menus.  I know how hard it is to keep thinking of lovely meals 24/7.  So here are my successes this week starting yesterday and going back.  Several weeks ago at the Cloverleaf Cafe, one of our favorite eateries, which has had to move out Second street by the Big Red (past 37) we  had an item listed I think as a snack, Chili cheese sauce on baked potato.  It was yummy! So after a few weeks of thinking how I wanted to make it, and had a chance to go to the store for our monthly groceries, last night I tackled it.  I browned half a pound of 90% lean ground beef in a skillet and when it was done but not overcooked, I added a cupful of water and about 3 ounces of Velveeta in slices and turned it down low.  In a few minutes it stirred into a thin sauce.  I added one of those packets of hot sauce from some Mexican restaurant (theirs always seems to have a better flavor than my purchased hot sauce) and half a cup of salsa.  It was still a bit thin so I added 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch mixed into 1/4 cup of cold water and stirred until it was just starting to bubble.  Then I got out the baked potatoes, micro-waved this time but I really prefer oven-baked, smacked them open and poured the sauce over them.  This was served with a chef's salad with sliced cold chicken, hard-boiled egg and grated Cheddar cheese.  We had Breyer's low carb vanilla ice cream for dessert.  This morning I dabbled a little of the sauce over the scramble eggs next to our waffles and it was again a big success.  No doubt we'll have it at least once a month henceforth!
Several weeks ago I bought a little pamphlet full of Pet Recipes at an Antique store in Mitchell.  In it was a recipe for Meatloaf which had in it:  2 pounds ground beef, 1 can Pet milk, 1 packet onion soup mix.  Period.  I didn't have any soup mix but I substituted 2 teaspoons of beef boullion and 2 teaspoons of dehydrated onion.  No additional salt.  Baked at 350 for 1 and 1/2 hours.  No carbs.  and delicious.With it we had Potatoes and onions Au Gratin ( I was reading Julia Child) and home-canned green beans cooked with onions and a little chopped bacon.  The meatloaf is a recipe we will have often.  The left-overs are good too, either heated or made into sandwiches.
I saw an ad for Arby's, I think it was, showing a chicken salad sandwich, with grapes and pecans.  That sounded good to me, although my Hubby doesn't like anything with mayo in it.  But when I had a friend for lunch I deemed it a good time to make it.  The night before I poached three chicken breasts in water flavored with celery leaves and dehydrated onion and smoked sea salt for about 40 minutes.  It cooled during supper and in the morning I skinned and boned the chicken.  One breast I saved back for the Chef's salad later and the other two I chopped up with the red seedless grapes, celery chopped fine, pecans, one tiny green onion and some mayo and sour cream.  Just a little pepper too.  With this I served two tiny 4 ounce custard cups of the left-over Potatoes Au Gratin and some sliced tomatoes, the first I've been able to buy at my favorite farm stand in Ellettsville.  I put out Low carb bread, Kroger brand, which I've found to be quite good.
The chicken broth I simmered until it was reduced to a nice chickeny flavor, added some of the chopped chicken and the next day made it into an Oriental soup with lemon, ginger, soy sauce, a little rice and some edible pod peas.  With that we had ham and cheese sandwiches with lettuce and tomato, and applesauce for dessert.
As usual, on Wednesday we had hamburgers, this time with Swiss cheese and lightly toasted mushrooms, always a favorite.  With them I made tiny straw potatoes cooked in about an inch of canola oil in a small stew pot. and a green salad.
Tonight, for our special Sunday night supper in front of the TV we'll have French bread Pizza.  Easy peezy.  I think I've mentioned this before.  And some salad.  And vanilla ice cream with dark chocolate syrup that I make with little sugar.  Yumola!  A week of favorites!  Best wishes with your meals this week.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Canning in May?

This week some of  the loss leaders at Kroger were Corn, 10 ears for $2, Green beans, $1 a pound, and Pork Roasts, $1.77 a pound.  The corn and beans were from Florida.  Usually I try to buy locally to can and freeze but last year, because of the drought, I did almost no canning.  There was no produce to buy!   When I got to the store I observed that the corn and green beans looked fresh and unblemished so I bought a lot!  Likewise the pork roasts were the large ones with little fat.  I bought lots of that too.  Then I took them home and began processing them for storage.  I cut the pork roasts into tenderloins, enough for 17 meals.  I parboiled the corn, froze it on cookie sheets and made about 30 meals worth of corn on the cob.  Then I broke and canned the green beans in a pressure canner.  Now breaking 7 pounds of beans is a fairly long job but in my childhood this job was done on the cool front porch, sitting in a rocking chair if possible and chatting with a handy child or neighbor.  This time I did it watching Dr Phil and other shows and it passed as effortlessly.  The beans were so young and tender that I didn't tail them, just took the stems off and broke them in half.  It's only long tough runner beans that one tails in order to get the last string off.  I canned them in two batches for an hour each at 10 pounds pressure.  Two jars didn't seal, I used one piece lids on those and it was the second use so no surprise there and we've eaten one already and will eat the other before the end of the week.  No harm done!
There was only one thing I didn't plan for.  Remember all those chicken breasts I froze?  And there were about 6 loaves of bread, extra ice cream bought on sale.  My freezer is very small.  I could only just cram all my frozen goods in by starting on the ice cream early.  And taking out a half-gallon of milk a few days early, also some bread.  The little freezer is full to the very top!  But that's the way I like it!

I would like to report that the miniature rose bush my daughter gave me last Mother's day has outdone itself this year!

And now a word from my colleague Elyah
Here's a picture of me and my classmates presenting an afghan to our teachers.  We made the whole thing.  The  purple square next to the left  was made by Ana and me.  Ana and Bill and Steve came to see me graduate and eat cookies in the gym.  After it was over my Mom and I went home and watched  the new Star Trek movie.  It was very good.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Happy Mother's Day

I decided to have a happy Mother's day by making a big deal over the things that Mothers do. Like cooking, cleaning up the kitchen and straightening up.  Accordingly I asked my Husband to take me out to dinner on Saturday evening, which he did.  We went to Outback and ordered the small sirloin.  It was delicious!  It was only when the check came that we realized that we had been eating the Filet Mignon!  They admitted they had made a mistake and only charged us for the little sirloins which was very satisfactory to us!  So on Mother's day I made a lovely breakfast, omelettes full of cream cheese and mushrooms and the wicked and forbidden buttermilk biscuits.  Note my lovely Mother's Day flowers on the table!
Then I made a cream sponge cake.  I had saved up extra eggs. The recipe was in one of my favorite cookbooks.  I carefully followed all the directions (not something I always do).

It is a cream sponge, one whips up the eggs, adds the flour and sugar, but just half as much as the other recipes.  It ends with  boiling water and is then so done that it only requires 15 minutes in the oven and consequently is not dry like most sponge cakes.  The flavorings were ground nutmeg and lemon peel!

 I had never used ungreased waxed paper before in the pan but I suppose that since it was only in the oven 15 minutes not too much wax ended up on our stomachs.
 The paper peeled right off.
It was presented on a pretty little tray perfectly plain.  At the table I spooned the vanilla flavored custard over each piece.  It was absolutely delicious.

The supper was Martha Stewart's Mother's Day luncheon, Shrimp Stew with flower bedecked salad on the side and wine to drink.  I am afraid however that after all that glorification of Mother's work, I left the dishes in the sink until Monday!
All day I chatted on the phone with my children and friends, received gifts of flowers, gift certificates, a lovely bowl for Mary Lincoln's what-not, Oh just a host of lovely things, Thank you all, It was a pleasure!

A beautiful horn bowl sits on top of Mary's what-not.  Note that the plate is in a rack for better display.

Today I made a table-topper out of a sample I got in one of my gift boxes and picked the finally blooming iris in my yard.  The Mother's Day flowers lasted a week and a half!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Food From Pern!

For the last year, Eliyah and I have been reading aloud the series "The Dragons of Pern" by Anne McCaffrey.  I've made the popular hot drink described in the first book and referred to throughout the series  as Klah  by infusing decaffeinated  tea bags with oil of cinnamon, then making the tea in a drip coffee maker..  Eliyah liked it.  I love it and may become addicted to it  Then he found a recipe on Facebook that he wanted us to try using biscuit dough stuffed with red sauce, Italian cheese and Peperoni.  We had made other meatrolls but these were the best by far.  Eliyah and Bill disappeared a whole pile of them in record time.  Recipe follows:


2 cups Self-rising flour                                             
1/2 teaspoon baking soda                                          1/2 cup red sauce, any brand
3/4 cup buttermilk                                                  
1/4 cup olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425.
Mix the soda with the flour in a bowl and the butter milk with the olive oil in a cup.  Pour the liquid into the flour and stir just until it forms a ball in the bowl.  Flour a dough board or the counter and set the dough in the midst of the flour (use plenty) and gently pat out  into a circle about 10 inches across.  Fold into thirds and pat out again.  Repeat a time or two, just until the dough seems smooth.  If it begins to shrink back, stop immediately, it's getting tough.  Now roll the dough out into a big circle, 12 or 14 inches across and cut into rounds with a jar lid, about 3 inches across.  Flatten each round.   Place a slice of peperoni in the center of each, a teaspoon of red sauce, a cube of mozzarella cheese and another slice of peperoni.  Gather the edges together and pinch into a ball.  Bake at 425 degrees for about 12 minutes, or just until tanning and brown on the bottom.  Serve hot or cold.
We served a salad and hot klah with ours.  Lovely!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Making Laundry Soap!

In the past, my daughter Rose and her husband, Matt made laundry soap for me and gave it to me as a gift, in a fancy jar with a ribbon and label and scoop.  I enjoyed using it for that reason alone.  But in time I found it does a better job than detergents, smells better, and I know it is better for the septic system. 
 The people across the street seem to have had a disaster in their house involving water or worse and have gone to stay somewhere else while the Fire and Water Restoration people work daily at drying out the house.  It's been more than a week and still the house is deserted.   It's true that I don't actually know that their septic system is at fault but seeing a workman wandering around their yard looking down was maybe a clue . . .
 I have always been an advocate of septic systems because back in the 50's when the idea was new, my architect Dad touted them as a low-cost, efficient and permanent solution to household wasteHe went on to be a designer of malls, schools and nursing homes all over the Eastern half of the United States.  And back then, no one thought of pumping septic systems out.  The worst thing we put in them was a little chlorine bleach for the wash.
Now we pour noxious chemicals down our drains routinely, as well as sanitizers to kill bacteria, and bacteria is what makes a septic system work.  Not to mention ultra soft toilet paper!  I'm dedicated to keeping ours going as long as possible!
I use 1 cup borax, 1 cup washing soda and 1/3 of a bar of Fels Naptha soap, finely grated and some drops of a scented oil like lavender.  I made a big batch so now it lives in a big plastic container with a lid.  In a few days it will be time to hang the laundry outside, for the benefits of the sunlight (the best bleach you could want and a bactericide as well).  I forsee some clear-starching in my future too!