Jun 21, 2012

I've been missing you! Check out the latest recipe of the week.
And don't miss the weekly crop reports :-)


Apr 11, 2012

What have you missed this week?
Oh, nothing much...


If you want to keep up with all the goings-on, come on over and follow me at my new blog home! And be sure to catch tomorrow's post - the draft is looking pretty interesting so far.

Happy following,

Mar 27, 2012

Here's a (tiger) bread crumb trail...

Pssst!  What are you still doing here?
I'm musing and baking and organizing and gardening over here!  

Come join me and check out my second effort 
in the monthly Daring Bakers Challenge:  Dutch Crunch/Tiger Bread!

Happy spring,

Mar 6, 2012

I miss you!

And you're missing all the fun if you haven't made the jump yet to my new home on the web.  
Today I shared plans for my new bulb bed 
Be sure to bookmark the new link!

Happy Primary Tuesday!

Feb 22, 2012

Feb 14, 2012

Bride for a Day, Wife for Life

Today's post is just in time for Valentine's Day:

(If you are reading this, please be sure to note my new blog addy when you click on the link above.)

Happy Valentine's Day,

Feb 13, 2012

Daily Bread

Come join me as I start this week with a Monday musing here:

Happy Monday!

Feb 7, 2012

Pier 1 and I meet again!

Check out my latest blog post and see what's new at Pier1 (and my dining room!)

Feb 6, 2012

It's the first Monday in February:  time to start the annual countdown to spring and planting dates! If you haven't yet switched to following me on Wordpress, here's the latest and greatest (well, that's questionable!) news from my little corner of the world:

Happy Monday,
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Feb 3, 2012

Pinspired Project: Chewy Granola Bars

My latest post at my new Wordpress blog is short and sweet.  And a little chewy!  Check it out:
Happy pinning!

Feb 1, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Sausage Muffin Bites

Just dropping by to say check out this week's recipe, Sausage Muffin Bites - perfect for this Sunday's Big Game.

Happy cooking,

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Jan 30, 2012

A resolution checkup

For those of you that didn't catch my big announcement last week, here's today's post at my new blog home over on Wordpress:

I hope you'll come visit me at my new digs!

Happy Monday,

Jan 27, 2012

Big news: I'm moving!

Just when I got settled in and comfy, I started noticing a few things around here that don't work quite right.  I've tried to repair them myself but after talking to some experts, I have learned it can't be done. They're simply defective and no one knows how to fix them. 

I've tried to just live with them, work around them, and ignore them. But to be honest, some of these problems are downright annoying.   And life is too short to settle, especially when there are better alternatives available.

So I decided it was time to see what else was out there.  After weighing all my options, I'm happy to report I've found a new home and I'm packing up everything to move, starting tomorrow.

I'm really hoping it will be a one-day move, not spread out in a piecemeal fashion.

Realistically, I'll probably wind up with stuff at both places for a while, which will be a pain, but it will give everyone time to get comfortable at the new place.

The good news is, the new place should look and feel a lot like the old place - in fact, it's an almost identical layout, so everything will be pretty much in the same spot as it is here.

I thought I should let everyone know the new address, so you can find us.

Here it is:

(notice the extra "d" - I'm not just a domestic dilettante, but a domesticated one.)

Oh my.

I just realized the potential for confusion here.

But surely you didn't think we were moving to a different house so soon after our last move

Did you?????

Puhleeze!  We haven't even been here a year yet!   Give me at least a few years before I could begin to entertain that thought without laughing hysterically.

Anyway, please come visit me soon. The good news is, it will take you EXACTLY the same amount of time to get here instead of the old place.

Happy moving,

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Jan 25, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Won Ton Soup

As I post my final soup recipe for January, I thought I would end with an old family favorite: Won Ton Soup. 

First, a little back story: I grew up on the high plains of the midwest and the front range of the Rockies where cattle and wheat fields outnumbered people.  My earliest years were spent living in a culture heavily influenced by Dutch, German, Polish and Czechoslovakian immigrants. When we moved to southeastern Colorado,  the ethnic backdrop shifted dramatically:  mostly Hispanic, along with many Italian families whose parents and grandparents had ventured west to work the coal mines and railroads.  Everyone else was a smattering of this and that.  Our little town housed Germans and Italians during WWII and just east was a similar camp for Japanese. I have no idea how many of them remained after the war ended, but I didn't have any Asian classmates.

Even though I grew up in two very different melting pots, there were were no Japanese, Chinese, Thai or other Asian restaurants in my childhood towns. None.  Nada. Zip.  But my mom was an adventuresome cook and we enjoyed americanized Asian dishes like stir-fried vegetables, beef pepper steak (the canned variety and homemade), and Won Ton Soup.  She taught herself how to wrap the noodles around the pork filling and how long to cook them thoroughly without disentegrating.

When I married and moved to a college town, I suddenly had access to the entire spectrum of eateries.  And what I found was that my mom's recipe was pretty authentic, at least in comparison to your typical Asian take-out place.

Here's her version, which I have made countless times for my own family - I've even been asked to make it when someone has the sniffles. 

Mom's Won-Ton Soup
1/4 pound mild pork sausage (could substitute turkey sausage)
1/8 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 package won ton wrappers
4 cups chicken broth
2 scallions, diced (include the green tops)

In a small mixing bowl, combine the sausage, ginger and soy sauce together - use your fingers to blend it well.  Place a half-teaspoon of filling in each square; fold to form a triangle and lightly wet the two edges of the triangle and smooth with your finger to make them stick together; be sure to press out any airbubbles around the filling as you go.  With the folded edge of your triangle pointing toward you, bring the two lower triangle points together and use a bit of water to get them to stick together.  Here are some tips on won ton folding plus variations if you want to go all fancy.

While making the won-tons, heat the broth in a large saucepan or 6-quart stockpot just to boiling.  Drop the won tons in the gently boiling broth and cook until they rise to the top, approximately 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle with the diced scallions and ladle into serving bowls.  Makes 4-5 bowls.

Once you get the hang of folding the won tons, this is one of the fastest soups you can make for your family and is ready to eat immediately.  It's a light but filling soup, good for chasing away the sniffles and aches of a winter cold.

Happy cooking!

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Jan 23, 2012

Blog headers made easy

Hey all you fellow bloggers - how often do you change your blog header?

Some bloggers keep their same "signature" header year in and out, but I like changing mine with the seasons - I consider it one of the pros to working in an online environment.

I initially used pre-made headers, but it didn't take me long to shift to using my own photos and free photos from places like Morguefile.com.

But I confess, I was frequently frustrated (and not terribly skilled) at cobbling photos and text together with Microsoft tools like Publisher and Powerpoint (yes, it is possible, but I don't recommend it.)  Here's a rundown of most of my past headers.

I use Picasa almost exclusively to edit my photos and I like that it's free and user-friendly.  But until I saw this blog post at Blissfully Domestic, I hadn't bothered to learn how to apply text or create photo collages.

Sarah's step-by-step tutorial made it very easy to create the header you see.  Kudos to her skills and gratitude for her generosity in sharing.  I might start changing by blog header more frequently, now that I know how easy it is!

Happy blogging,

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Jan 22, 2012

The feathered nest


Just think about the word.  It's two words:  house and work.  For many of us it calls to mind negative words like "routines" and "tasks" and "chores" and "drudgery."

But then I think of the phrase "feathering the nest."

It alludes to how birds (and it's probably the girl birds) who line their nest/home with feathers to create a comfortable and safe environment for their family.

Most of us have been blessed with a home that is warm, safe, dry and comfortable.  We have added furniture for seating, sleeping and eating; appliances to keep and prepare our food, wash and dry our clothes, and generally make our lives easier.  Even the most humble American home or apartment is palatial when compared to how most of the world lives.

If birds are happy just to methodically gather up feathers to cushion their nests, why do we view taking care of our homes as menial work to be avoided as long as possible, and then done under duress?

Don't get me wrong - I've often viewed it that way too.  And some tasks are not particularly pleasant, but if they're done regularly, they really aren't that gross or off-putting.

These thoughts went through my mind as I did a fairly deep cleaning of our bedroom and bathroom this week. (I have no idea if I'm in sync with FlyLady or not; I follow her general philosophy and do general surface cleaning regularly, and focus my efforts on various areas of the house in a somewhat regular rotation.)

On this particular day, I stripped the bed down to the mattress, tossed the mattress pad and blanket in the wash, rotated the mattress.  While the laundry was going, I let some bleach work its wonders on the shower grout, cleaned the bathroom and then hopped in the shower to finish wiping it down and wash my hair.  When the bedding was dry, I remade the bed and hung fresh towels.

All-told my efforts took about an hour.  When I was done, the bathroom sinks were shined and the toilet scrubbed (as they are each week); the baseboards were wiped down and all the shower crevices were bright and clean again, and the linens were all changed.  Vacuuming and mopping had been done just a few days prior, so I skipped it.

An hour to "feather my nest."  How can I view that as drudge work?

Happy cleaning,

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Jan 20, 2012

A collector's guide to collecting practically anything

Before Christmas, I came across two Fiesta finds (okay, steals) on ebay.  One was a Riviera "Mexicana" platter that the seller had mismarked as Universal Potteries.  (A quick lookup with Google confirmed that Universal Potteries never made ANYTHING that looked like Riviera.)  The platters, whether solid or decaled like the one I bought, typically start at $25 and go up from there  I was the lone bidder so I got it for the opening bid of $12.99.

The other was a Kitchen Kraft cake plate for $0.99 that typically commands a $30 to $75 pricetag. The seller described it as "unmarked Fiesta plate," but I knew what it was when I spotted the photo.

I felt like the American Pickers, except I only had to tap a few keystrokes and know what I was looking at to unearth my treasures.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Mr. Official and I scouted out the Fiesta dish "outlet" on Sevierville Highway as we headed home from Gatlinburg several weeks ago.  They had some nice vintage pieces, along with new factory seconds and (maybe) first quality items, which were overpriced. Shrug. We were in a tourist trap, so the markup was expected and it was still fun to look.

Among the vintage pieces was a stack of cream soup bowls they had tagged for $65 each.  Which is about the going rate if you have pristine-quality pieces and a willing buyer.  (I paid about $10 each for mine, and accepted a couple with chips in the mix.)  But, here's the kicker:  they had marked them as onion soup bowls, which retail for about ten times that amount.

Now granted, for those of us living in 2012, we don't usually differentiate between cream soup and onion soup bowls.  Even our fussiest china dishes probably have just a single bowl for each place setting, and it serves soup, cereal, ice cream, fruit, pudding or whatever requires a bowl.  But back in the day, there were special dishes and serving pieces for just about everything.  And whether you know Fiesta or not, there's no mistaking these two pieces once you see them:

Cream soup bowls with lug handles
Onion soup bowls with Nautilus handles and lids
Let's hope no unsuspecting buyer thinks they're getting a steal based on the misleading tag, which could happen if you just know the Fiesta lore and know that onion soup bowls are exceedingly rare and expensive.

I have collected things just because I liked them, and didn't really care what they were called or what they were worth because I wasn't spending much on any of them.
a "pig in a poke"

In fact, that's how my Fiesta collection began.  Along with several plant collections (roses, hostas, daylilies, heucheras...the list goes on.)

But I caution anyone who is ready to move from dabbling dilettante to serious collector to do your homework first. You don't need to become a walking encyclopedia of details on the object of your desire, but at least know where to go for answers before you get caught up in the excitement of finding a treasure.  It might be a great buy, or it might turn out to be a proverbial "pig in a poke."

I've found the more I learn about Fiesta, the more I appreciate the pieces I come across.  Sometimes I have the fun of unearthing a piece from the dark, dusty recesses of a salvage store.  I wipe away layers of dirt and grime to see it is, then try to act nonchalant as I hand it to the cashier.  Other times, I simply admire a gleaming, beautiful piece that is proudly displayed by someone who knows what they have, and what it's worth. 

So what do you collect, and why do you love it?

Happy collecting,

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Jan 18, 2012

Recipe of the Week: Stuffed Pepper Soup

January is national soup month in the U.S., which makes sense.  Most of us are faced with cold and/or wet and/or snowy weather this time of year, so a bowl of hot and hearty soup warms us from the inside out.  

Like last year, I've focused on soup recipes each Wednesday in January.  (You can find lots of soup recipes in my Recipe Box here.)  Today's recipe is a newer one I recently found on Pinterest.  I made it for our family last week, then made it again for the Bunco girls on Monday night. It was one of those recipes that was on the right track, but needed some modifying; here's my second rendition which was well received:

Stuffed Pepper Soup
1 pound ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 green peppers, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, or 2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 jar mushroom and pepper spaghetti sauce
1 can petite diced tomatoes
3-4 cups chicken broth
1 cup cooked rice (1/2 cup uncooked)

In large stock pot, brown beef.  Drain and remove from pan. Add a tablespoon of olive oil and saute onion and peppers until soft. Add back the beef and all other ingredients except the rice.  Simmer for an hour or longer.  Just before serving, stir cooked rice through.  Makes 6 servings.

The original recipe called for two cans of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce; not spaghetti sauce.  And a LOT more rice. It also had a very short - 35 minute - cooking time.  When we tried it, we found the rice made it very thick; more like a stew. And the flavor of the peppers and tomatoes didn't really meld together, but remained raw and distinct. I gently modified the ingredients and quantities, and adjusted the cooking time. That is key to most soups:  unless you're dealing with ingredients that will toughen or fall apart if cooked too long, be sure to give your soup some time for the flavors to release and come together.

Happy cooking!

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Jan 16, 2012

Vulgar is as vulgar does

Yes, the title is a Forrest Gump-ism.

My apologies to Forrest, but it sounds like something he might have said, doesn't it?

A few days ago, I saw where the Supreme Court is being asked to weigh in on the FCC's guidelines and fines.  Basically, the case would open the floodgates to the broadcast networks to show and say anything, just like the cable networks.

Not too long ago, I came across an online discussion regarding offensive language in a prime-time television show. Someone raised an objection to the proliferation of "G-D" bombs in a new USA Network original series.  I happened to see several episodes of the series they were referring to and also found the inclusion of this particular phrase to be gratuitous and crude - it wasn't uttered in the context of a heated outburst, it was a casual adjective tossed in and repeated numerous times, like a kid who has learned a naughty word and looks for every opportunity to use it in a sentence until he gets scolded.

But apparently, the majority opinion - at least in that little fishpond/forum - was that this phrase and others of its ilk are now commonplace in modern society, and anyone who objects to them is either geriatric and/or too sensitive for their own good. And the old-school folks would do well to get used to such language. Or turn off their TV.

Really?  That's their best argument?

For too long, I think we've accepted the idea that if we don't like something, it isn't our place to render judgment, but we should simply leave it for those that do. That advice might be fine for the buffet line, but when it comes to what comes to us through our radios and televisions sets, just how long do we continue down this path before the only recourse is to shut ourselves in our homes and tune out the rest of the world, figuratively and literally?

As a kid growing up, any potty-mouth phrases were met with--at a minimum--a stern, "Don't be vulgar" rejoinder from any adult within earshot. And so I always equated the word "vulgar" with coarse, crude language.

But its core, vulgar (vulgare, vulgaris in Latin) means "common." I guess it is fair to characterize offensive words and phrases as vulgar - sadly it seems they have truly become truly common and commonplace.

I'm not naive and I do understand that most of us utter impolite things from time to time - some people more than others.  However, if I could, I would ask script writers to consider this:

Does life imitate art, or vice-versa?

if it's life imitating art, then screenplay "art" has a moral imperative to inspire us to be better than we are.

If art imitates life, then that's a pretty sad commentary on what the writers see when they view the world.  Maybe they should get out more, or at least become a little choosier about the company they keep.

Looks like a lot has Gone With the Wind...
Maybe someday televisions and movies will come up with the "novel" idea of holding up a more enlightened and refined vision of humanity to us, instead merely echoing what is coarse and crude and well....vulgar.

If they do, let's not spoil it for them by reminding them they've gone back to the "good old days" when only movies were allowed to have any bad words and the earliest adopters of coarse language even had to pay a fine to the FCC to include those particular phrases.

Until then I guess I'll keep picking and choosing what to watch from a shrinking pool of possibilities.

Happy thoughts,

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Jan 13, 2012

Fiesta Friday: Is a pitcher worth a thousand words?

Barry Zito is a very
expensive pitcher

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

But how much is a pitcher worth?

Well, if he (or she) can throw like Barry Zito, they are worth a lot more than a thousand words.

Beyond the boys of summer, there are Fiesta pitchers.

A few weeks ago, I did a quick rundown on the ball jug/tilt pitchers made by Fiesta under the Harlequin name, along with other similar pottery pieces of that era.  The ball jugs are usually found with fairly modest price tags; full size pitchers in pristine condition can command $100, maybe $150 or $200 if the right buyer comes along.  The smaller creamer-size versions bring far less - I snagged mine for $5, which was a bargain, but pretty typical.

However, if the pitcher in question is a full-size Fiesta disk pitcher in the ever-elusive medium green full-size, like this one:

 Or a gray juice-size Fiesta in perfect condition, like the smaller one shown here:

then they can command major-league prices in the ballpark of $2,000 or more.  (All puns intended.)

One of Fiesta's most unique and iconic pieces is the disk pitcher.  Fiesta included a disk-shaped juice pitcher in their very first year of production, then added a larger 7-inch pitcher in 1938.  They continue dominating the disk pitcher market with the larger version in all the new colors, along with a newer (post-1986) mini disk version that holds five ounces and works as a personal creamer or syrup server.

While sorting out the old and new can be a challenge, at least there aren't nearly as many look-alike disk pitchers as there are ball/tilt jugs.

I've found some disk pitchers, but really none of them would be mistaken for a Fiesta pitcher.  While a few of these pieces have great  lines and shapes in their own right, it seems the disk pitcher is/was fairly difficult to execute with graceful lines.  I've picked out some of the better attempts, as well as a few that are undoubtedly beautiful in the eyes of their beholders.

Hall Pottery made several attempts with disk pitchers; some were more graceful than others.

Alamo Pottery made a version that was stylish and pretty - and the shape is similar to Fiesta, although the markings are distinctly different:

Vernon Kiln Pottery's Vernonware disk pitcher was particularly graceful and came in several colors:

Feltman-Langer USA, creators of the no-spill travel mug, made their own splash on the mid-century pottery scene with this sleek horizontal ribbed version:

Universal Potteries' disk jugs were...well, we'll just call 'em distinctive. They even came with a cap for the spout.

A few more full-size jug mugs in this rogue's gallery.  On the left is a Wallace China pitcher; on the right is a Shawnee/McCoy "Stars" pitcher - you have to look closely to see the embossed stars:

And here are some miniature disk pitchers. These mini disks are both most likely from Cronin/Sevilla.  At a glance, they look much like a Fiesta pitcher, except for the lower handle placement; those with the telltale white interior are definitely not Fiesta.

Below is a Cantinaware Pottery creamer.  This is a relatively new piece in a line offered by Target in the mid-1990s until a court-ordered injunction was issued by Homer Laughlin.

 There's even a collector's market for "Burrite" plastic disk jugs. To each his own...

And now for the final burning questions on everyone's mind, I'm sure:

1.  Is it "disk" or "disc?"  Disk is the older word, but both refer to thin, circular things.  You'll find the pitchers labeled both ways.
2.  And about the term pitcher?  It was first used by the ancient Greeks to describe earthen vessels.  It wasn't until 1845 that it was used to designate the baseball player on the center mound.

If you are a Fiesta lover, you'll undoubtedly want to add some disk pitchers to your (ahem) "lineup." Fortunately, they can be had for much less than an MLB player's contract.

Happy collecting,

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