Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Grandma’s Vintage Linens

Saturday, February 4th, 2012

This is my grandma.  She’ll be 93 next month and she’s one of the feistiest girls I know.  This past week has been rough for Grandma.  She and Grandpa had to move from their condo into an assisted living apartment at the “Big House” (as Grandma calls it).  Grandpa has been fighting cancer for a couple of years, and came out of remission this past fall.  Just before Thanksgiving things were a little touch and go, but he’s doing much better now.  However, they and my family realized it wasn’t a good idea for them to continue to live completely independently.   So, this past week my parents, aunt, and uncle have been helping Grandma and Grandpa go through all of their belongings, choosing some things to go in the new apartment, some into storage, and some to get rid of.

Apparently, Grandma has been hoarding linens for about the last 70 years.  My parents had loaded up most of her linens, and although it was tearing her up, Grandma agreed that it would go to Goodwill.  I’m so glad my mom called to give me an update, and I was able to stop the train!  I wonder if there is a gene for fabric/fiber junkies?  Everyone (except Grandma) thought I was nuts for wanting a bunch of  “junk”, but they happily agreed to give it to me.  Do you have any idea what 70 years of collecting household linens looks like?  I can tell you that Grandma had to buy one or two sheets a year to explain what I got. I found almost a couple dozen vintage sheets that appear to never have been used.  Can you say gorgeous!

Here are some closeups of a few of the patterns. I’ve decided that I’m going to have to learn how to quilt, and get over my fear of sewing.  Check out this quilt tutorial at Pins & Thimbles.

There were also some small retro, card table sized tablecloths with floral patterns.

There were a few random pieces of lace Grandma had tatted.  There were four of these.  I’m not 100% sure what they are, but I think she may have used them on the arm rests of a couple of upholstered chairs.

Aside from the vintage sheets, I think some of my favorites are these striped tea towels.  I already own a few, and I’m always on the lookout for more.  I now have a lifetime supply of vintage tea towels that look like they are brand new.  The scary part of all of this….. there’s more to come.  My mom told me they found some more sheets and another whole box full of tea towels.  I’m really glad that I’m going to  have some of my Grandma’s favorite things.  There is so much here, that I’ve decided to share some of it with my very creative friend, Maggie.  It would just be sinful to keep all this fabric-y beautiful-ness to myself.

Sweet Potato & Root Vegetable Seasoning

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

I’ve got anther seasoning blend for you already.  It’s just that time of year.  Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been grabbing as much as possible from the herb garden before the first hard frost arrived.  A freeze was predicted last night, so about an hour before sunset I went out to the garden and picked the last of the green tomatoes. I also covered the peas, greens, and a few herbs with some sheets.  Sure enough, there was heavy frost on the ground this morning and the bird bath was covered with ice.

With a glut of freshly dried herbs and seeds, I decided to replenish one of my favorite spice blends for seasoning sweet potatoes and other winter root vegetables today.  I’m honestly not sure where I came up with this particular blend, but I’m glad I did. You can use pre-ground coriander and fennel, but I highly recommend using the whole spices and toasting and grinding them yourself.  Your taste buds will thank you.  I heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat and dry roast the coriander and fennel until the seeds begin to pop and smoke.  I always keep the pan moving, and remove the seeds to a big plate at the first sign of smoking.

Sweet Potato & Root Vegetable Seasoning
2 parts ground coriander seed
2 parts salt
1 part ground fennel seed
1 part crushed dried basil
1/2 part ground cayenne pepper

Blend together and store in a jar. Toss your favorite root vegetables with a little olive oil and this seasoning blend, and then roast in a hot oven.

Monster Chickens!

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

A couple of days ago we had some visitors show up on the property, and they’ve decided to stick around.  The first evening they roosted in the rafters of our barn.

Today after work I went out to check on the girls, and discovered my little  flock had expanded.

These guys are VERY skittish, and I’m not able to get very close to take pictures.  I had to crop the pictures very close to give you a good view. I’m not sure if this is aggression, or if this peacock thinks he’s courting.  We think these pretty birds have wandered from one of our neighboring Amish farms, and will probably start trying to find the owners this weekend.

Husbands & Vermin (or Rats in the Chicken Coop)

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Isn’t my husband a funny man?  See what he left on the nest boxes out in the chicken coop?  Just after dark last night he reminded me to go out and shut the chickens in for the night.  I always grab a flashlight before I head out to any of our barns after dark.  I’ve run into far too many skunks over the years.  Imagine my reaction as I was reaching for the handle of the coop door, and the beam of my flashlight swept over this. The door handle is about 8 inches from this little guy’s position. It’s a good thing I’m not a screamer, or the neighbors would be deaf this morning, judging by the way my heart almost leapt out of my chest.  Any suggestions as to how I should even the score?

Saturday Morning at the Giant Swap Meet

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

My husband, youngest son, and I got up at 5 am, before the sun was up, to make a trip to Northern Indiana’s Giant Swap Meet.  The swap meet is a summer time tradition for me and I’ve been visiting it off and on since I was 12 years old. I love that my dad took me as a kid, and now I have the opportunity to pass the tradition on to my own kids.  The purpose for my visit this year was to pick up a few odd laying hens to round out the six Delaware hens I’ll be getting in the next couple of weeks. The Delawares won’t start laying eggs until the end of summer. Being impatient for fresh eggs, I decided to pick up a few hens that were already laying.

Be forewarned, this post contains lots of pictures.  Also, I’m issuing a cute puppies and kids alert.  The swap meet takes place on the first Saturday of the month for 4 months during the summer, and always contains an eclectic array of birds, cats, dogs, exotic pets, and small livestock. One of our first cute puppy encounters resulted in Bart, my husband, longing to take this little guy home with us.

I’m surprised I didn’t have to pry the beagle out of Bart’s arms. Before we had our kids, Bart and I used to raise beagles, so we have a bit of a soft spot for them.

These folks had rabbits that are used in a petting farm, so the very tame bunnies were out in tubs for the kids to pet.

I was given permission to snap a couple of shots of this little Mennonite girl who was petting the rabbits.

The next few shots are of some of the more exotic offerings we saw. This is an Egyptian Goose.

Deer fawns.


This fox was not for sale, but was a pet along for the ride. His owners showed us pictures of one of their pet fox that was featured in the March 2011 issue of National Geographic magazine as part of an article titled , Designing the Perfect Pet.

One of the fox’s owners. He was a really likable, fun guy!


More kids with rabbits. Somehow I couldn’t resist taking these pictures.

This tiny pup was hitching a ride with his Amish owner. The “awww! factor” here is completely off the charts.

Miniature donkeys.

Pink piggie!

I used to raise a few Toggenburg dairy goats, and just had to stop to have a conversation with this girl and give her a good scratching between the eyes.  I asked her if she would be willing to give me a little extra attitude for the camera, but she told me “nah”.

More obscene cuteness.


I’m not sure why, but I connected with this dog.  If he had been for sale I’m pretty sure he would have come home with me.

This was my favorite kid for the day.  She didn’t realize I was going to take her picture until the moment right before the shutter clicked.

Ramp It Up!! Part 2 – Ramp Compound Butter

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Compound butters are a great way to sneak more flavor into your cooking and they also provide a way to preserve short-lived seasonal flavors.  Spring flavors are always favorites, but the window of opportunity is often as short as only one or two weeks.  If you don’t take advantage of that window, it will be a whole year before you get to taste those flavors again.

Ramp butter is extremely versatile.  Use it in any way you would use butter and onion or garlic.  Instead of garlic bread, you could try warm toasty ramp bread.  I love to use ramp butter to make my morning eggs…. even better if I had a fresh morel or two to throw in the pan (no such luck this year).

Ramp Compound Butter
1/2 pound butter, softened to room temperature
Baker’s dozen cleaned ramps, or approximately 6 ounces
Zest from 1/2 lemon or lime
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice

Place butter in bowl, set aside. Blanch ramps in boiling water for about 30 seconds, then remove to an ice water bath to stop the cooking.  Blanching the ramps will help them retain a bright green color when you freeze the finished butter.

Squeeze as much water out of the ramps as possible and then chop them up. I like to chop the bulb part finely, and the greens a little on the coarse side so I get a nice pattern in the butter when I slice it off the roll.

Add the chopped ramps, zest, and lemon or lime juice to the butter and blend thoroughly with a spoon or spatula.

On a piece of parchment paper, form the butter into a long log.  Roll the butter tightly in the parchment paper and twist both ends. Store your butter rolls in the freezer until ready for use.

Homemade Cider Vinegar

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Recently, I decided I wanted to learn to make my own vinegar. I happened to recall that Leslie, an online herbie friend of mine, had tried her hand at vinegar this past fall. After checking out her blog post on making vinegar, I also picked her brain clean, and she was kind enough to hold my hand over the several weeks it took to make my vinegar. A big “thank you”, Leslie! If you take a look at her post, you’ll notice that she was taught how to make vinegar by someone she knew.  Unfortunately, Leslie’s friend’s blog with the step-by-step updates is no longer available.  One of things I enjoy about the online herb community I’m involved with is the willingness to share knowledge.

What I love about this particular method of making vinegar is that it can be made in small batches, and utilizes apple scraps that would normally end up in my compost pile.  I used the chopped up cores and peelings of some organic apples I used to make a batch of apple crisp.

I decided to use an half gallon glass jar for this project, instead of my crock, so that I would be able to watch the whole process and take pictures.  In the future I will probably use one of my smaller crocks.  On a side note, it’s very important to use a container made of a non-reactive material like glass, crockery, or stainless steel.  Your finished vinegar is highly acidic and will react with a material like aluminum.

I placed the apple scraps in the jar and covered them with water. Next, I mixed in a nice dollop of raw local honey and about 1/4 cup of Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar that I picked up at the health food store.

The addition of honey helps get the first stage of fermentation going, where sugars are converted to alcohol.  I didn’t have access to a vinegar “mother” for this first attempt, so I used the Bragg vinegar to provide Acetobacter.  Acetobacter is an acetic acid bacteria required for the second stage of fermentation, where the alcohol is converted to vinegar.  In the future I will be able to start batches from the mother that developed in this batch (more on that later).

Once I had given the whole thing a good stir , I covered the jar with a piece of butter muslin and set the jar aside to start doing it’s thing. It’s important for the mixture to get plenty of air while the fermentation process is taking place, thus the use of a cloth cover.  If you don’t use a cover you might end up having problems with flies and such getting into your project.

Now, after the above warning to keep your project covered, I will admit to keeping my project uncovered for the first few days.   I wanted to be able to provide a few good shots of the process, and it had been cool enough that flies weren’t a problem.  I placed a little antique glass canning jar lid on top of the mixture to hold the apples down below the surface of the liquid, and still allow me to see what was going on.

Within 24 hours I saw the first bubbly signs that yeast were happily munching away, and fermentation was underway.

By the end of day 2 serious foaming was underway, and I could see the gaseous bubbles moving under the glass lid much like carbonation bubbling up in a glass of soda.


Once the primary fermentation activity had settled down, I covered the jar and set it aside for the next several weeks. When I checked it at week 3 I found a skim across the top of the liquid, which indicated the secondary fermentation was progressing along.

This substance that forms at the top of the vinegar is called a “mother”.  It contains the acetic acid bacteria that convert the alcohol to vinegar, and can be saved to start future batches of vinegar. As time passes, this bacterial colony continues to multiply and increase in mass.  By week 5, which was this morning, the mother had increased significantly, and my vinegar tasted sufficiently “vinegary”.

I removed the mother, setting it aside in a small dish, and strained the finished vinegar into a quart jar.  After tasting the vinegar, I decided that I’d like it to be just a little more sour, so I placed a small piece of the mother in the jar and will take it out when the flavor is just a little stronger.    The rest of the mother has gone into a small jar with a bit of the vinegar, and I will be using it soon to start a batch of white wine vinegar.

Meet My Family …. Sort Of

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Work has been ruling my life for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve not spent much time in the kitchen lately. I’m ashamed to say I actually fed my family take out food twice in the last two weeks.  Truthfully, my hubby suspected I would be tired and surprised me by bring the food home, so technically I didn’t do it.  Yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  Anyway, the backlog of projects on my camera is quickly disappearing, so I’d better get busy, or this blog is going to experience a dry spell. In lieu of a recipe, I though you might like to meet my family.  The only catch is that my 19 year old son will be making the introductions. I found this highly entertaining portrait of my family on my refrigerator white board.

The youngest member of my Heathen Tribe is my 15 year old son.  He’s almost 6 foot tall, thin, and ripped. He conditions for wrestling almost year ’round, and during the wrestling season sports 8-pack abdominal muscles. He’s also a bit artistic, and was recently chosen as one of the 25 students from all grades in his high school to be included in the art teacher’s advanced art program. I know it might not sound like much, but it’s a pretty big deal. He’ll be allowed to work independently, and many of these students compete in local and regional art competitions. I’m proud of him! Another quality I love about my baby is his wicked funny, super quick, highly intelligent sense of humor. He’s one of those people who can dish out zingers on the spot.  I’d have to think for a month, and still not be able to think up some of the stuff he spits out. Apparently, this is how he’s viewed by his big brother …. a skeleton with biceps.

Now let me introduce you to my eldest son. I could write a book about this boy and all he’s put my husband and I through! Every parent has to have a difficult child.  His kindergarten teacher was convinced he was ADHD (he’s not, by the way), and his first grade teacher told me he marched to his own drummer. He had the same teacher for 3rd and 4th grades, and she gave me hope. She introduced me to a gifted child who operated outside the box the rest of us live in. He’s currently a Computer Networking major on a scholarship at a local college. I won’t bore you with the laundry list of his many talents, but I will say that I wouldn’t be surprised if he went back to school some day to pick up an engineering degree. In exchange for many difficult years of parenting, he’s saved my business a LOT of money by lending me his computer expertise. This is how he views himself. Does anyone know what a Super-FPS 9001 is?

This is my future daughter-in-law, my 19 year old son’s fiance. I love this young lady as if she were one of my own.  She’s my salvation from testosterone. At 21 years of age, she’s perfect for my son …. I could not have chosen better for him.  He had better not screw this up. She’s an English major at a local college, heading for a master’s degree in library science. She has a beautiful clear ivory complexion, and good-naturedly endures lots and lots of albino jokes. For some reason my son has focused on the fact that she loved the Twilight series of books. She and I both hate the movie Edward.

Moving on to my brother-in-law, my husband’s identical twin. I recently introduced you to him in my rant about art. He’s an artist and a one-of-a-kind art teacher. He lives a couple of miles down the road from us, and spends quite a bit of time at my house. Although he and my husband are identical twins, they are a unique type known as mirror twins. They are identical, but instead of sharing the same dominant traits, one has some dominant genetics while the other received recessive genetics. My hubster is left handed, his twin is right handed …. stuff like that. My brother-in-law is a very different type of thinker than my husband, and I enjoy lots of esoteric philosophical conversations with him.  I think that may be what my son was poking fun at when he drew this representation of the “other” twin.

Meet my husband.  One of his greatest joys in life is hunting. I’m not quite sure why my son decided to draw him like Rambo with a machine gun. I think the chain saw must have something to do with the amount of time my husband spends putting in the supply of wood that heats our home in winter. My mom has always said the my husband is the only man on this planet who can tolerate me.  She’s probably right.  I’m a real piece of work to live with sometimes. My husband is one of those laid back, easy going, really likable people. It’s disgusting how easily he makes friends … I say that because I’m jealous.  I’m very high strung, and my husband has a stabilizing, grounding effect on me. Without him I would probably end up institutionalized.

I’m a little disturbed seeing myself through my sons’ eyes.  I told you I’ve been working a lot. He chose to depict me as this faceless, personality-less “It” behind a stack of boxes. He pictured me at the shop with a pile of orders.  One of two things is going on here. Either he’s trying to send me a message, or he is deliberately trying to push my buttons. You have to understand that he’s the child of my heart. We are cut from the same cloth. I understand the way he thinks because he’s a lot like me. My youngest boy is an enigma to me. I’ve never been able to crawl into his head the way I can with my oldest son. I think he was listening in on a conversation his fiance and I were having.  We were discussing what it’s like for a young adult to discover that parents are human. I was challenging her to try to get to know her own mother as a real person …. someone with a personality and a life that had nothing to do with being a mother. I’m choosing to believe my son was trying to push my buttons with this picture.

First Snow

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Yesterday evening the sky over my house spit a little snow at me.  However, so early in November I expected it to melt on contact with the ground. It was a little shocking to wake up to a  thin layer of snow on the ground this morning. My morning walk around the property involved a wool coat, cold fingers, a red nose, and hot herbal tea afterward.  It’s pretty, but I’m not ready for this.

Split rail fence post at the edge of the meadow.

Grass at eye level. I started my walk with wet knees and elbows. There’s a visual for you.

I believe this is a type of foxtail grass.


I walked back to the house by way of the barns ……

…. past the woodpile …….

… and straight into my kitchen to warm up with an herbal blend I make. It consists of rosehips, hibiscus, mint, and lemongrass.

Now I’m bundled up in my favorite faux fur blanket, sipping hot tea, and the snow is already melting away. I think the weather is very appropriate for the soup recipe I’ll post later this weekend.

Autumn Morning

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Yes, I know …. I promised that my next post would be pumpkin risotto.  So I just made a liar of myself, but I wanted to share a couple of shots from my early morning walk in the meadow behind my house.  As soon as I’m finished with this post I’ll get right to work on your pumpkin risotto.

I had to walk past my herb and vegetable gardens to get to the meadow. The frost on the snow peas made them look like they had been dipped in sugar.

There’s something about the quality of morning light and the moisture in the air that gave the pineapple sage a watercolor effect.

Drab brown goldenrod was decorated like a tacky flocked Christmas tree.  Somehow, when nature does it, it’s not tacky at all.

Just one more, although it was hard to choose just one. A few apple leaves left on a mostly bare tree.