Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Welcome To the World!

As I mentioned last night, the reason I’ve been missing off the blog rolls is the early arrival of my nephew "Little Hoss". He was in a hurry to meet his family and came 2 and a half weeks before he was due. He is just fine… guess he was feeling a bit cramped. He weighed in at 9 lbs and 12 oz!!

Meeting my nephew!

Little Hoss and his mommy.

He’s so tiny… it’s hard to believe he is considered “big”.

Cute little feet.

In his car seat all ready to come home!

Jack can’t believe his eyes… ANOTHER baby???

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Back from My Adventure

I've been busy babysitting this...

...while her mommy (my sister) delivered this...

Friday, June 25, 2010

Buy Resale...Not Retail

I love sniffing out a good deal. Buying resale can save you some big bucks… as long as you only buy what you can use! Check the item VERY carefully for “issues” that you can’t live with or fix.

I don’t have much time for most “antique” stores as they seem to be filled with downright trash at treasure prices. Thrift stores are a favorite shopping stop. Most are run by charities so not only are you getting a bargain, you are helping a good cause.

My favorite local thrift stores are:

ReStore – this shop is by “Habitat For Humanity. It has almost anything in it…you never know what you will find! In a later blogs I’ll be posting some to the things I’ve brought home and what I have done with them.

New Spring – supports the mission organization “Africa For Jesus”. It’s amazing what they have been able to do since they opened their shops.

Goodwill – in my town… it’s not the greatest. Has a tendency to be a bit junky and overpriced. But I have found some treasure – like my piece of pottery marked “Persia” (Iran before 1935). So I take a peek every so often.

Another way to buy resale is the old standby – yard sales. At the beginning of our “chick day” last weekend, Best Friend and I stopped at a yard sale. I scored some darling outfits (2 and 3 piece!) for my nephew for $1-$2 each and a pie plate for .50c.

Below are a few great blogs to get your creative juices flowing on how to redo treasures you might find at resale stores. You’ll never look at old furniture the same! Or lamps… mirrors… platters… jars…

And there are a few stores that while they are retail establishments, they sell overruns and end of season items at good discounts. Sometimes crazy discounts!

I am a dedicated TJ Maxx/Home Goods shopper!

So is my sweet niece Hanna!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Good Eats: Stonies Sausage Shop in Perryville, MO

I’ve had several cookouts in the last few weeks. They have all featured the bratwurst I get at Stonies Sausage Shop.

This 4th generation family owned business does it right. The brats are SO good. In fact, friends have me pick up brats for them when I go up to Missouri to visit my family.

Their selection includes: Apple, Cherry, Pineapple, BBQ, Cheddar, Jalapeno, Beer, Pepperjack Cheese, Chilly Cheese, Onion & Pepper, Sundried Tomato Basil, Supreme Pizza, Mushroom & Swiss, Original, Greek, European style, Original with Kraut, and Turkey Brat.

My favorites are the Cherry, Sundried Tomato & Basil, and the Apple.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Good Eats: Log Cabin Café – Dover (Big Rock), TN

On one of our errand days, Himself and I spotted this cute café. Since it was past lunch and both of our stomachs were growling like starving wolves, we decided to try our luck with a new (to us) place.

Inside, it looked alright. Not fancy but clean and cheerful.

Himself ordered an appetizer of fried mushrooms. That is when we realized we had hit the jackpot with our stop. The mushrooms were fresh made… not frozen. The batter was light and they were not overdone. And there were a LOT of them. The photo shows about half of what we received. (I told you we were hungry!)

I ordered steak tips with mushrooms and Monterey Jack cheese, salad and hash browns. There was easily enough to feed 2 people. The tips were perfectly cooked.

Himself ordered a stuffed chicken breast, salad and baked potato. His chicken was juicy and tender. Both orders came out piping hot.

We (greedily) ended our meal with a homemade dessert. Himself had some sort of molten brownie thing and I had coconut cake. Hmmm… next time I might skip the steak and order 2 cakes!

Don’t have an address for it but it is on Hwy 79 about 8 miles east of Dover (near Big Rock).

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Frugal Food: Eating In or Out

It is possible to cut your food budget without sacrificing taste and quality.

My favorite shopping is local produced and seasonally grown items. We have an Amish bakery and a German bakery, farm stands selling produce and home canned jams & jellies, a berry farm (blueberries, blackberries and raspberries), and an herb farm.

If you want to save on your food budget, you need to know your stores that are available to you. Familiarize yourself with what each does best. And remember quality can trump price if the cheaper alternative has more waste.

In my town the grocery fliers come out on Monday. So that would be a good evening to plan a week’s menu. Match up what is on sale with what coupons you have for better savings.

In this economy, perhaps it’s time to bring back an old form of entertaining… the potluck meal. It’s not just for church socials!

It’s fun and informal. Make is special by working with a theme. Ask your guests to make their favorite ethnic dish or highlight an ingredient or bring a different component to the entrée you prepare. If you make a nice salad, everything will tie together!

Oh… you might have everyone email you their recipe beforehand. Then you can print them out to share…because they’re going to be good!

I love to eat out. Especially in ethnic or specialty restaurants.

First tip is to go at lunch. In quite a few restaurants, lunch prices can extend all the way to 4pm. That can be an early supper. (Combine that with a movie at matinee price and you have a home run!) Many ethnic restaurants will have a lunch buffet that costs no more than the average entrée. It is a great way to try something new.

It just irritates me to pay $2 or more for a glass of tea. Seriously… it cost them .25c to make a huge vat. Order tap water. Ask for lemon or lime to flavor it up a bit if you’d like. The bonus is you'll get a truer taste of your food.

Most desserts are monster sized. Split one with your dining partner. Half the cost and half the calories!

Many restaurants offer coupons and special event notifications by email. I have these sent to the same address I set up for my coupons. In my inbox right now are 2 coupons from my favorite St. Louis restaurants - $5 off $25 at Senor Pique and $20 off of $50 at Bristol Seafood Grill.

Enjoy your meal!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Saving Cash By Clipping

Another way I save a bit of money is with coupons. I did it a lot more in the past but after someone stole my coupon briefcase I didn’t make the effort to start a new one. It’s something I plan on working harder on.

First step is to make a new organizer. I don’t like the standard index card style as I find it too deep. In my organizing of my office and the garage I’m sure I’ll find something to use! Until then, the cheap little Dollar Tree accordion file will serve.

In clipping, I need to decide what products I am brand loyal to (Hunt’s tomato products) and what ones I really don’t care about (Ajax, Comet, Bon-Ami). It is pointless to clip them if you are not going to use them.

Besides the Sunday paper, I have signed up with several companies – like Proctor & Gamble – and they send me coupons both in the mail and by email. I’ve found the best way to do sign-ups it to set up a free email account (hotmail, yahoo, gmail). Almost every product now has a web site listed on the label. You’d be surprised at how many will send you coupons and offers.

And speaking of the internet, there are sites were you can go to print off coupons. I have never used them so I can’t say anything about them. I’d love to hear some feedback from anyone who does use them!

In addition, I will stock up when there is a good sale. I’ve put a shelf in my laundry room with food items and a shelf in my garage for cleaning/nonfood items.

Coupons aren’t limited to groceries either! Stores, restaurants and services now offer coupons – both by mail and internet. My favorite sushi restaurant regularly has coupons in a local advertisement for $2 off or a free order of edamame. My favorite crafting/decorating store very often has a 40% off coupon
I do my coupons in the evening while I’m relaxing and watching HGTV or Food Network. I would guess on the average I save about $5-$10 a week on things I was already going to purchase. And those high end percentages off coupons have saved me $40-$50.

And that is worth the effort!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Guest Blogger: Himself - Pieces of a Life

Teri asked me to go on an outing with her recently to pick up some special items for our soon-to-be born nephew Owen. Two baby quilts. At a ‘quilt auction’.

Quilts…woman stuff. To be made/looked at/admired/bought…by other women. Or so I thought. Turns out this is a sizable local event that brings in some decent money for the Amish and Mennonite communities, with buyers coming from local to multi-state areas to purchase these quality items.
Little did I know I would be one of them…

Teri and I seated ourselves along the perimeter in our sling-chairs that are way more comfortable than the metal folding chairs everyone else sat in within bunched up rows. It gave us ‘elbow room’. However…my elbow seemed to be a ‘tapping point’ for some dude who sat himself down on a pull-cart next to me, and who--out of the blue, would continually tap my elbow to tell me something about quilts—old and new.

‘Johnnie-Ray’ was his name (first & middle names only used, Southern style). Before sitting down next to me he had been pacing behind us—kind of excited. Turns out he had a personal interest in the quilts; he had brought in 15 of them to be sold. When he informed me of this (and that he had 28 total), I looked at him…he didn’t look like the type.

Then he told me the story…

Johnnie-Ray was a logger—60 years old and the smallest logger they made! Probably 5’6” and 150 pounds soaking wet, he said he used ‘technique and leverage’ with proper tools to get logs cut and moved, not sheer bulk.

It was his job that got him in contact with 28 quilts…and someone named ‘Miss Jessie’.

Miss Jessie was a 97 year old lady who died last year. Having outlived three husbands, she lived WAY out in the country all alone…and was lonely. Johnnie-Ray? He met her 12 years ago (when she was 86) while on the job. He mentioned he was on a ‘trial run’ with a new driver for his logging truck and it was his policy to ‘ride out with him’ the first day to verify their driving skills. An unskilled driver with a load of logs and an attitude of, “Hey, I can do it!” was a danger to other drivers in case he didn’t anticipate ‘stopping time’ with a heavy load, and to road signs if he made too sharp a turn with a long truck bed.

Johnnie-Ray said that after hiring his new driver they headed out into the country to work a new area. Along the way the drive shaft started making funny noises. With no place stop, they had to drive four more miles (with Johnnie-Ray starting to sweat) to find a place to turn off. Funny noises are NOT good! Well, they pulled over into the first back-woods driveway they came to and proceeded to fix the problem. Took hours. In the meantime? A little ol’ Lady named ‘Miss Jessie’ came out of a little ol’ house to see what was going on.

And to visit…

Johnnie-Ray said that after Miss Jessie assured them that it was OK to fix their logging truck in her driveway. She also said that ‘she was lonely out here all alone,’ and asked if she could ‘go get her chair’ and visit with them while they were fixing the truck. She did. Johnnie-Ray said that due to her hospitality, he was impressed and, “the Good Lord put it on my heart to offer to go to the grocery store for her” once the truck was fixed. She accepted, and that was the start of an eleven year friendship between Johnnie-Ray and Miss Jessie…a friendship that lasted until she died last year at the age of 97—the last five years with him coming to visit her in her nursing home.

He said that even though Miss Jessie lived 25 miles from him, he didn’t mind doing this. His own wife had died five years earlier so he was a bit lonely too, and besides, “Shoot, it ain’t no trouble a’tall” (at all). So for the next eleven years Johnnie-Ray got groceries for Miss Jessie twice a week and took her to her doctor’s appointments. For the six years she still lived in her house she would invite him into her home—sitting a meal for him and telling about the good ol’ days.

For someone in their 90’s, that is a lot of telling…

That was the special thing about Miss Jessie -- she had such a heart and attitude toward life that she made those days pleasant to listen to. Having little, she shared what she had and took life one day at a time…grateful she had someone to visit with. One of the things she shared? Stories about 28 quilts that she had made during her lifetime--starting at age sixteen. Each had a history. Each had a story. (There is a difference.)

Johnnie-Ray? He said that he didn’t have a clue about quilts when the stories started. No more than any man he said. But over the years with Miss Jessie that changed as he learned about patterns, and material, and quilting styles…and history.

And about loved ones.

For those who might recall, do you remember your mother or grandmother sitting quietly with you talking about…life? For those with old quilts in their past, what represents more life—and love—than the stories that can go with that old quilt? Hours of work in the making, yes, but more than that—the hundreds of cloth pieces and patches represented a more frugal time of re-purposing old dresses, old suits, old table cloths, old (whatever)—each with their own story. And with the recounting of the story, that grandmother with the quiet air about her suddenly seemed a bit younger as her eyes—and heart—lit up with the telling of countless memories…

…each one somehow represented in that quilt.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Amish Quilt Auction

Last summer I went with Best Friend to an auction in Fairview, KY of Amish quilts and crafts. It’s held by the same group that does the plant auction we went to in April. I had purchased 2 darling and beautifully made crib quilts for Little Bird at extremely good prices.

This summer I was back… Little Bird is getting a new brother! Owen will be arriving this summer and of course he needs his very own quilts.

This year Himself came with me since it was a couple days before he left for Alaska. He was amazed by the beautiful quilts up for auction. I think he had sensory overload by the time we left!

This quilt buzzed my eyes! I told Himself that is what my world looks like WITHOUT my glasses! Oh my... it would give me such a headache to have it in my house!

I thought this one was pretty though. There was really nice quilting in the solid blocks.

I don’t know what this blue one is called. I like its randomness.

This ‘vintage’ quilt was one of my favorites. There was so much detail in each block. You don’t see that detail – those tiny pieces of fabric – in most modern quilts. People don’t want to take the time. With the old quilts, each one was a display of its maker’s sewing skills. She took pride in every block and stitch.

There were many different sects of Amish at the auction. I’m not sure about each one… around here those that dress like this are called “calico Amish” (original, eh?). This little guy’s mama had had enough of his antics. He was all over the place and being a general pesky brother to his older sister.

In-between times of helping, these boys had a good time playing with the toy tractors that would soon be up for sale. I wonder if they wished they could use a tractor instead of their Belgian horses?

We came home with unexpected treasure. This is Johnnie-Ray, who was there selling some quilts from a friend’s estate. This beautiful Double Wedding Ring came home with us, as did the handmade cedar blanket chest it had been stored in. Himself has written a story about its maker – Miss Jessie. That will be a guest blog for tomorrow.

It was hard to explain to Himself about why the old quilts are so much more special than the new ones at the auction. It’s like an old piece of furniture that has been smoothed over the years by the hands touching it in use. You can listen to an old quilt with your eyes and your fingers. Feel the soft piece of baby clothes? And the rougher material of the flour sack? Notice how the “masculine” fabrics are mostly in certain shades? Even the worn places are saying something to you.

You can really appreciate the beautiful quilting when you flip it over. The bright fabrics don’t hide the painstaking stitches.

This quilt is the total opposite end of the spectrum from the Double Wedding Ring. A basic block with BIG pieces. No quilting, it’s a tied quilt. And no batting between the layers either! However…it’s going to make a fun picnic quilt. Because even ugly ol’ quilts look special with a picnic spread out on them!

This one made me laugh. It’s called “Cat’s In The Cabin”. It’s a hand pieced top only, so I’ll have to quilt it myself. I thought it was worth the $7 I paid for it.

This is what I came to the auction for…a crib quilt for my nephew. This is the ‘dressy’ quilt. It’s called “Weaver’s Fever”. I’ve never seen this pattern before. It’s all hand pieced and quilted. Each piece is 1”X2”.

And finally, his “everyday” quilt. The embroidered scene with the mischievous puppy is just so much fun. It’s not a pieced but it is hand quilted.

I have many quilts made by my “grands”. And I have just thought of a way to display them in our home… when I get it done, I’ll post photos for you!

Do you have any family quilts? Who made them and how did they come to you?


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Grow Your Own

I’m slowly making it possible to grow some of the more spendy herbs and veggies I use in my cooking. In this rock strewn property we own, any sort of digging takes a mattock and a wrecking bar to get thru all the stones. Ugh!

Then you factor in the varmints (deer, possum, rabbits) I am going to have to fence out and you start to understand the “slowly” part.

This year I am getting most of my herbs in. I’m digging in the perennials and making some beds for the annuals to go in each year.

This fall I’ll starting prepping the area for my veggies. I’m going to do raised beds. Around here are a lot of saw mills and they sell the “slab” boards (the rounded pieces from turning a log into lumber) for practically nothing. A 31/2 foot high “bundle” of 8 foot long slabs costs about $15. Now I have to get these by August because they are snapped up by the tobacco farmers for use in “firing” the tobacco.

My beds are going to be 8’X4’X2’. That will make it easy to manage and to fence against the varmints. I’ll have a dump truck load of top soil brought in to fill them with. The first bed (maybe 2) will be asparagus! Mmmmmm…

Others will have English peas, salad greens, tomatoes, okra, maybe a few kinds of squash and I don’t know what else. Around here green beans, corn, egg plant, melons and such are plentiful and cheap. I pick those up at the Amish produce stands.

Might have one or two beds for trying out those fun, weird things you see in the Burpee catalog.

At some point I will add in berries and some fruit trees. This will take some major fencing… as the one apple tree I did plant was eaten up by deer! I have a feeling chicken wire is going to be my good friend.

Do you grow a garden? Is there anything thing you would like to try to grow?


Monday, June 14, 2010

Movie Review: "Letters to Juliet"

After a cooking class on Northern Italian dishes, Best Friend and I decided a nice chick flick would be “Letters to Juliet”.

Oh boy was it appropriate! One of the characters is a chef preparing to open a restaurant, so he and his fiancée head to Verona so he can meet his suppliers. The scenes as he travels from one farm supplier to another could make a foodie’s heart sing!

Filmed on location, the landscape is incredible. I mean… Tuscany. What more needs to be said?

Vanessa Redgrave steals the show with her character of Claire and Christopher Egan is perfect as her Brit Brat grandson. “Letters to Juliet” isn’t a movie that is going to get a lot of brain cells firing – unless you’re a foodie or a photographer! But it was fun. I am glad I saw it.

Salud! At Whole Foods – Summer In Tuscany

Saturday I took another fantastico class at Whole Foods. This time it was part of a major Chick Day with Best Friend. (It was time to have a Y chromosome free day!!)

First lesson was on the making of caramelized onions. Merijoy explained that most people don’t caramelize onions correctly. The secret is to NOT over stir them, which messes up the release of the sugars that will caramelize the onions. And also, cook them over a slow heat. Let the juices release without browning immediately. As they start off, you can stir a few times but as it just starts to brown (minutes later!) – LEAVE THEM ALONE! Put a bit of parchment paper over the top to help pull off the excess water (a method called “sweating”) and let them brown. Check them every so often but don’t stir. As they get to the point of perfect brownness, you can give them a stir. Turn off the heat and recover with the parchment. Then let them finish cooking in the residual heat. And there you have it – perfect caramelized onions!

We started making our own little pizza… Italian style. No tomato sauce (which I prefer!) and just a few toppings on a fresh made crust. I went a bit different in direction as I have a food intolerance to onions…I can handle a small amount but no more. So I asked Merijoy if I could have a bit of the basil instead. We learned that if you overwork the dough it gets “angry”. That is when it keeps snapping back to a smaller size after you have rolled it out. What is happening is the gluten is activated. If you let it rest for a bit, you’ll have better time.

Those baked while we began working on the entrees, whose ingredients were laid out on trays ready for our use.

When the pizzas finished we took a break to eat them while they were hot. Mmmmmm!! Molto buon!!

Then back to work!

There were steaks to be grilled!

And one on one instructions to be taught.

Until finally it was time to eat. The buffet was lovely with fresh roses from the floral department of Whole Foods.

Florentine Steaks over Arugula with fresh Parmigiano-reggiano & Grilled Peaches

For the steaks we learned that most restaurants on grill long enough to get a bit of flavor and put on the “grill marks”. Then it goes into the oven to roast until the proper doneness as tested by an instant read thermometer. I can see where it would be useful with mega steaks like these.

Merijoy emphasized the need to let the meat rest for about 10 minutes after cook.

Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Basil

The chicken was SO easy! Mix a sauce, cover the chicken with it and bake. I think the only thing I would do different would be to brown the chicken a bit more.

Grilled Radicchio and Roasted Cauliflower

Radicchio is one of those ‘love it or hate it’ veggies. I love it. Best Friend hated it. Added to the dish was roasted cauliflower (I guess it was for the “I hate it” folks). Roasted veggies are high on my “good” list, so I was all-around happy with this dish. BTW, cauliflower is not just white… it comes in green, yellow-orange and purple.

Balsamic Berries with Mascarpone Cream

This could be a meal for me! Bliss!! Meraviglioso!!

The cream was whipped in a copper bowl. For some reason, this produces better whipped cream and egg whites. Something about the ion transfer. If it works…it works!

And we finished with a palate cleansing Basil-Mint Sorbet. Light, fresh, and cool. Sorry I didn’t get a photo. I was too busy enjoying!

Here’s the entire meal. It was even better than it looked!

Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Basil (recipe from Whole Foods)

6 bone-in, skin-on, chicken breasts (can use whole chicken)
½ cup basil, chopped – plus some for garnish
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
Fresh juice of 2 lemons
¼ cup olive oil
Salt (to taste)
Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
1 lemon, thinly sliced and seeds removed

In large bowl, mix onions, basil, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix and rub onto chicken pieces and place in a well-oiled baking pan with 1 cup water. Do not crowd chicken. Scatter lemon slices in pan.

Roast, uncovered, at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Check for doneness. Garnish with additional basil leaves.

Arrivederci!!Our class was called “Summer in Tuscany”. Oh my!! While both are excellent, I prefer the Northern Italian cuisine over the southern. The difference? Northern is more “farm” and Southern is more “urban”. Northern uses butter, cream, simpler cheeses, fresh pasta. Southern uses more olive oil, dried pasta, heavier tomato sauces. Personally I think the Northern Italian dishes are faster and easier to prepare as a whole.

Our menu for the class was:
*Personal Pizza with Onion Confit & Olives
*Florentine Steaks over Arugula with fresh Parmigiano-reggiano & Grilled Peaches
*Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Basil
*Grilled Radicchio and Roasted Cauliflower
*Balsamic Berries with Mascarpone Cream
*Basil-Mint Sorbet