Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Where Did the Month Go?

Happy Halloween! Halloween is a VERY big deal here in Georgetown. The whole town closes down at dusk with Main Street and Church Streets becoming spook central. Kids from all the ranches and farms come into town to trick or treat and the community has been collecting/donating candy for the occasion all month. The shops on Main Street usually offer hot food and cider to the grown ups as well as candy for the little ones and there is a truly scary haunted house around the corner if you're brave enough. Everyone is expected to get into costume young and old and we look forward to walking down Church Street in the dark delighting in the children's laughter and sometimes shrieks.

I truly am amazed at how swiftly October has flown by and when I looked at my calendar I realized why it went so fast - we have been really busy! How do you keep track of your life, schedules, appointments? This is how we do it. This systems works for us and has for many years so I thought I'd share it with you.

This is the door to the mud room/hallway in the kitchen. I used brown chalkboard paint and painted the top third for messages etc. A metal strip from the hardware store also painted brown is stuck on with double sided tape so that I can put the biggest calendar I can reasonably fit with magnets to the door. Every appointment and meeting is written on the calendar. Reminders are written on the chalkboard as well as messages.

Then we both have personal calendars. Chris' is the large desk type one, very neat. Mine is kept in my purse, not so neat  but it works for me. Usually on Sundays we sit down together with all three calendars to plan our week and coordinate to make sure we know what's coming up and who is going where. This might seem like over planning to some but it absolutely drives me crazy to not know what, where and when events are coming up and more importantly what's expected of me.

I see now why the month flew by so fast. We spent nearly two weeks traveling in So. Calif, camping with friends, doctor appointments both human and animal, a fun trip to Apple Hill (I'll tell you about that soon), an all day car repair, quilt guild and sewing with friends (leave room for fun I say), out to dinner with friends (ditto)... See what I mean, time flies. How do you keep track of your life? Are you as compulsive orderly as we are?

Until next time,

Monday, October 29, 2012

Design Wall Monday/Back in Provence

I finally have something to show you for Design Wall Monday. It's been a while since I've been able to get into the sewing room and I'm so glad that I was at least able to sew a few seams together this week. Remember this table runner that was the on my wall last DWM?

Well, I just didn't like that brown border,the more I looked at it so I decided to go with the gold instead and I'm so glad I did. The whole thing is so much better I think. I'll use the brown for the binding. It's waiting for a backing which I ordered from Hancock's of Paducah, I love that place. The catalog is yummy and they have a great selection of quilt back yardage on sale right now.

Then I moved on to my Memories of Provence block of the month. Because I was traveling I'm behind a month so I need to get crack'n. This is block #9 and I think it's really nice but let me tell you right now that the directions I was given for construction just made no sense to me.

 I struggled and struggled with this unit. Until I finally resorted to math and the tried and true method of constructing HTS. When I did it came out perfectly. I really wanted to learn something new to add to my knowledge but the only thing that happend was a waste of fabric and about two hours of my day! Good thing I purchased some extra fat quarters of fabric when I had the chance or I would have been out of luck on this one.

Until next time,

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Slow Food

Hambone soup, that's what my Aunt Sissy called it so that's what I've always called it and it pretty well describes this wonderful, hearty bean concoction. I had a ham bone in the freezer saved just for this purpose and finally a rainy day to enjoy it. 

Lots of people are afraid of dried beans and the time it takes to make bean soups from scratch but to my mind there's nothing more satisfying on a cold autumn day than a bowl of Hambone soup and cornbread on the side. Well worth the time and effort. If you're someone who doesn't eat beans because of the toot factor did you know that the more you eat them the more you build up flora in the gut to handle the bean protein? Also I have a tip from Julia Child to reduce the gas - read on.

Any really good bean soup will take two days! You can eat it on the first day and it will be good but it will reach perfection on the second day. I make my plans accordingly. Hence the title of this post.

Quick soak the beans:
I lb of Navy beans or Great Northern beans turned into a sieve and picked over to be sure there are no tiny stones in there. Wash them well and put into a large pot, cover with water at least 2 inches above beans. Bring to boil uncovered for about 2 minutes; cover the pot and set aside off heat for 1 hour. (Julia says: Drain this water completely! This is the part that helps to get rid of the toots.) The beans are now ready to cook. Cover again with fresh cold water and proceed.

Hambone Bean Soup - serves 6 1 lb soaked and drained beans, water to cover
1 ham bone (if you don't have a ham bone you're making some other kind of bean soup)
1 lg onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 tbsp dried herbs of choice (I used Herbes de Provence - thyme, fennel, basil, savory, lavender)
DO NOT USE SALT (salt will toughen your beans and there will probably be plenty in that bone) you can salt at the table if you need to. Always add salt after the beans are soft.
You can add chicken stock  in place of water or or ham base into the water and of course the basic method of cooking beans works for all bean recipes just change the flavors.

I put the whole thing in the crock pot on high and walked away. It was ready in about 6 hours, the beans will be soft when pressed against the side of the pot. But I resisted, instead of serving it up I let it cool and refrigerated it. I heated it up the next night and served it with corned bread straight from the skillet. Magic!

Until next time,

Monday, October 22, 2012

Blessed Rain

It's wet on Dogwood Lane and we are so grateful.

Glorious rain falling steadily, soaking into the thirsty earth. The first rain in six months! Those of you living in drought can appreciate how glad we are to hear the trickle of water in our gutters. That's what the weather is like here in the Northern California Sierra Foothills, six months of heat followed by six months of wet. If we're lucky. If the planets align. If, like today the seasons arrive on schedule. 

River has never seen rain before, her short life has been measured in sunny days. She doesn't like it much. It falls on her big ears and tickles and drips. She'll have to get used to it. Hopefully it will be around for quite a while. Just when I think I can't stand another rainy day there will come the sun and our six months of hot. If...

Until next time,

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Silent Bob & His Ladies

Bob has grown up to be quite a handsome boy. Big, beautiful and robust. He struts around like he owns the place but true to his name he seldom crows. Just about the perfect rooster. He does get all uppity once in a while and has to be put in his place by a large leaf rake I keep close by just for that purpose. Sometimes he gets confused about just which side his bread is buttered on and who does the buttering!

Every morning he greets the day around 6 AM and soon after that one of us opens the hatch to let the flock out. Bob is very anxious to do his husbandly duty by each of his nine wives but like most women they are not so interested in the early morning so a wild chase ensues around the yard with hens dashing here and there trying to avoid poor amorous Bob. If only he would employ a little finesse I'm sure he would be more successful. Don't feel too sorry for him things calm down and by mid-morning even Bob has had enough chasing around. No wonder he's silent, he's out of breath! SB has his favorite wives and every night they cuddle up with him on the perch where he spreads his wings and they snuggle, two under each wing. Even when it was so hot they would not give up their preferred spot next to the Big Man.

Linking to Farmgirl Friday  hop over and visit all the fascinating farm girls.

Until next time,

Friday, October 19, 2012

Keeping Friendship Alive

When we moved to Dogwood Lane over 15 years ago it was a momentous decision. Not only were we leaving the hometown we both grew up in we were leaving behind all the familiar places and faces, family and friends. Which brings me to keeping friendship alive. Most of the friends I have I have had most of my life. These people know me. They know all about my less than stellar younger years and they know about my few achievements. We have history. In my new place I have made new friends and I treasure them, they make life fun and I look forward to spending time with them. But I'm sure we can all agree that there is nothing like an old friend. Someone who knew you when, someone who you feel completely comfortable with, someone you could not impress if you had too!

The view from our camp site.
We just spent the weekend with just such a group of friends camping at the beach and it was so much fun. We got caught up on all our kids and grand kids. Surgeries and travel plans, worries about aging parents and thankfully no politics. After all we all know where we stand and no longer try to change anyone's mind.

Cocktail hour at sunset.
River enjoyed tent camping for the first time.
 There was a lot of reminiscing about camping trips of the past 30+ years when all our kids were small and we were hauling them on impossible 4-wheel drive trails. Now they are parents camping with their children and we just get to sit back and laugh at their antics.

I can cook anywhere! Not bragging, just the facts.
We kept tradition alive too by bringing along our giant frying pan and frying up a camp breakfast of bacon and eggs and hominy for the entire group. It just would not be a real camping trip without that pan. It has even been hauled on backpacking trips by mule so that the Indian Princesses could have their deluxe breakfasts. My boys are convinced that's the only reason they were invited on those Indian Princess trips, that and to scare the bears away!

Camp watch dog!
Until next time,

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I've been away visiting grands and friends and family. Put more than 1,500 miles on the car and I have a ton of washing to do now that I'm home. I'll upload some photos after I help put away the camping gear - yes, we also tent camped at the beach. Whew, no wonder I'm so tired these old bones aren't as limber as they used to be. Be with you in a tick.

Until next time,

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Home Work

Now that I am taking Master Food Preserver classes I have assigned myself homework. There really aren't any homework assignments as such from our instructors so I've given myself tasks to do in order to reinforce what I'm learning. Now I'm not new to canning, I've been canning for most of my life using techniques I learned from my sweet Aunt Sissy which she learned from her momma and grand momma on their Arkansas and West Texas farms. However, let me just tell you that their methods would not pass current food safety regulations and I am currently all about learning regulations. So...

A lovely box of freestone peaches was converted into peach jam and preserved peaches which will make Chris and me happy all winter long. I tried my hand at orange marmalade, something I've never before attempted and it's so good nothing at all like that rubbery store bought stuff. Some of that jam might even make it into Christmas stockings. I also managed to dehydrate three pounds of green beans which now reside in a pint jar, as you can see that pint jar isn't even full. I'll be adding those to soups and stews this winter. The red jars are the Thai Roselle jelly I told you about. As you can see I get a C- on the peaches (no prize at the county fair) too much float.

I feel all housewifey and frugal and all of it is FDA approved!

Linking to Farmgirl Friday at Deborah Jeans

Until next time,

Monday, October 8, 2012

DWM/Rapid Fire Hunter's Star

What with puppy classes, canning, cleaning, cooking and chores it's a miracle but I did get a chance to take an actual quilting class! Rapid Fire Hunter's Star was the promise and while I wouldn't say it was exactly rapid fire it was pretty fast. That wasn't the best part though, the best part was that the ruler used in this class produced a no fail perfect, eight point, lay flat star!! No kidding. If you're like me you avoid those things like the plague. Who wants to cut a bunch of crazy diamonds and trapezoids or whatever they're called and have all those bias edges and then not have the darn things come together in the middle and lay down? Can you tell that geometry was not my strong subject?

I have absolutely no affiliation with or compensation from this product.
Using this ruler the star blocks are made entirely from strips using two, three or four colors. I chose three colors and following the booklet that came with the ruler and tips from our instructor cut, pieced and pressed my way to one complete unit while in class. Then I came home and tried to remember what I had learned to complete my table runner project.

Strip piecing 

produces units which look like this
which you then join together like this

and trim up with the magic ruler!

Presto your block is complete. Wait a minute, that looks nothing like an eight point star. In fact I don't see any kind of star.
Look what happens when you put four of those blocks together.
Now that's what I'm talkin' about!
Take a good look at that center!!! In fact take a good look at every intersection. Perfection - all because you make the block slightly over sized and cut it down before joining together. Wow!
Now for the bad news. The pamphlet that came with the ruler is a little hard to follow because of the way it's printed - all upside down and backwards. The website for the company Studio 180 Designs has a tutorial on using the ruler though that really helps. This a pricey tool as well for a single use ruler, it only makes this particular block. That being said it makes this block really well so if you've ever wanted to make one of these Hunter's Star quilts especially the beautiful two color ones like the one on the package this is the tool for you.

This is as far as I've gotten on my table runner and I love how it's looking.

Until next time,

Friday, October 5, 2012

Thai Roselle Jelly

Exotic right? As I've mentioned before my son Zack is a Master Gardener and he loves to grow different and exotic food plants in his vegetable garden. He came over the other day with a bowl full of flowers from his Thai Roselle a type of hibiscus grown in tropical climates and used in Thai, Asian and Mexican cuisine. It's kind of amazing that he has been able to grow it here in the Sierra foothills!

Photo courtesy of
The next step was to process the flowers for use. We decided to turn them into jelly and since we had no clue as to how to do this the whole thing turned into a grand experiment. We boiled the flowers in water until the water turned a really beautiful dark red. 

 Then we strained out the petals and added wild honey. Look at how dark that honey is. I told you about collecting the honey from my youngest son's house in San Diego in this post

 We used all natural Pomona's Universal  Pectin to help with the gel. If you haven't used Pomona's Pectin I can highly recommend it. It allows you to use any amount of sugar or honey in your product and still attain a set. After boiling the allotted amount of time suggested on the Pomona's box we processed as you would any jelly and SUCCESS! Two pints of Thai Roselle jelly. Tart , semi-sweet and loaded with vitamins.

6 cups Roselle petals
6 cups water
3/4 cups wild honey
3 tsp calcium water
3 tsp Pomona pectin
yield 2 pints 

This is a Master Gardener, apprentice Master Food Preserver experiment that went entirely right. Linking up with Zack's blog Food, Forest, Garden

Until next time,

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Puppy School

River is in puppy school and just like school everywhere this involves homework. In fact, she has pages and pages of homework! Things we have to do with her, commands we have to work on between sessions and activities we have to expose her to in order to make her a well rounded canine - sheesh. I am destined to be helping kids with homework forever!

Her one eyed pirate look.
With this in mind we took her with us to the BIG CITY the other day. I do mean big too. Sacramento is a real city and all and she did a fabulous job adjusting to the hustle and bustle considering that up until now the nosiest thing she's heard is a loud rooster. There were buses, cars, trucks and sirens. Strange people and smells. We sat outside at a cafe and ate and she was all ears. People stopped to pet her and exclaim at what a pretty pup she is and she was calm and confident. 

We went to an orchard to pick up some peaches on the way home and she met a field trip of school kids and loved them. All in all it was a very successful outing for our girl. We'll see how she does with those down commands in class - she doesn't quite get that so far.

It's exhausting being admired by total strangers. Now I know how Angelina Jolie feels.
Until next time,