Thursday, November 20, 2014


One thing I didn't think I'd be writing about in mid-November is the garden, but the survivors deserve to be celebrated. We cleaned up most of the garden about two weeks ago, but the snow peas and Napa cabbage looked so good we couldn't bring ourselves to yank them out.

The snow peas are still producing peas and even more blossoms through wind, snow, frost, and frigid temperatures. We haven't even covered them, so while I don't completely understand their fortitude, they are still hanging on. I've picked enough peas for two meals and frozen five packs since they weathered the first frost, and I'm picking more for dinner tonight as soon as I put the camera down.

The Napa cabbages are still growing, but since they've withstood the same cabbage-killing weather as the peas, I'll also be cutting them today so their courage and durability will not have been in vain.

Here's to the delicious survivors!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

One of My Better Ideas

Christmas was always a fairly simple, easygoing holiday before I had children. I worked in various hospitals from Florida to New York depending on where we were living, and because hospitals never close, I worked on Christmas for 15 years. By the time we were celebrating our second Christmas with Oldest Son and Youngest Son came along in 1993, it was slowly dawning on me that Christmas was becoming more complex and complicated. I did love orchestrating it for my young sons, but there's no denying that it took quite a bit of time and some late nights. I could see what the problem was but didn't have any good solutions.

I was browsing in the fabric store after that Christmas and chanced upon some Christmas fabric for $1.00/yard. I couldn't resist this incredible bargain, so even though I didn't have specific plans for it, I bought a bunch. On the way home it came to me - I would sew gift bags. Wrapping presents is one of the holiday-related chores that I don't enjoy one bit, and by spending some low-stress sewing time throughout the year, wrapping gifts would be as simple as popping them in a bag and tying the ribbons.

I don't remember how many I sewed that first year, but they were such a success that I've been sewing bags every year since 1994. I enjoy choosing fabric and along the way I branched out into birthday bags.

 I've amassed quite a stash of bags, but that way I almost always have the right size for any gift. When my sons are both settled on their own, I envision divvying up the bag stash and gifting the boys with their own bag collections.

Fabric for a few more bags!
I don't have good ideas every day, but this is one of my better ones and has worked wonderfully for me!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ten on Tuesday - Dead or Alive Edition

Today's interesting Ten on Tuesday topic is 10 Musicians You Would Bring Back From the Dead. I've had way too much fun searching for whether some of my list ideas are actually dead or not!

1.   Jeremiah Clarke - If I had to name my favorite song of all time, it would probably be The Prince of Denmark March/Trumpet Voluntary. I walked down the aisle to it at our wedding; it's the ringtone for my family members, and I have an itunes playlist with quite a few different versions.

2.   Johann Sebastian Bach - His organ and harpsichord works are impeccable, and his compositions are often playing when I'm home.
3.   Frederic Handel - Our high school choir sang The Messiah and even after plenty of frustration and endless practices for over a year, it still brings chills and I feel compelled to sing the alto part when I hear it. 
4.   John Lennon - Sadly, he was gone far too soon, and I think he had so many more valuable things to say through his music.
5.   Jim Morrison - Many of The Doors' songs are iconic to me because they provided a sound track to my adolescence. I often wonder what his life would have been like if he had been able to calm down and focus on music and poetry.
6.   Pete Seeger - He wrote so many incredible songs with valuable messages. I've always loved this version of "Turn! Turn! Turn!".
7.   Harry Chapin - I have a soft spot for "story songs" and "Cat's in the Cradle" is one of the best.
8.   Johnny Cash - Even though country is not my genre, I'm a fan of his distinctive voice and songs like "Ring of Fire" and "I Walk the Line".
9.   Harry Nilsson - In college we played his album A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night until it was worn out. I'm not sure why, but his voice really stood out on this standards album.
10. Michael Dunford - Not a name that is widely recognized, but he was a guitarist, chief composer, and creative force for the band Renaissance. Their albums provided the soundtrack to my young adulthood, and I'm grateful for Michael Dunford's part in that.

Who would you like to bring back for more music?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fancy Family Flatware

In 1990 we had just moved from Syracuse and were now close to both of our families; we had bought a house with a huge dining room and a 12-foot table to fill the huge dining room, so I was hosting my first Thanksgiving. I was both excited and nervous while I made my lists and started preparing. I made progress with grocery shopping, cranberry-orange relish making, and pie baking. I had a little trouble finding a tablecloth for a 12-foot table, but my sister-in-law's sewing skills saved me. I did run into trouble when I realized that my stainless service for six wasn't going to work for the 14 people that were coming. While browsing through an antique mall I stumbled upon the perfect solution, a set of Oneida Tudor Plate flatware for 14 in the Queen Bess pattern for $35, and thus began my slight obsession.

It was a set of the basic knives, forks, and spoons, but I decided I needed a few serving pieces. I got several serving spoons, a pie server, cold meat fork and a gravy ladle from ebay, but continued my search after Thanksgiving. 

Over the years I acquired iced tea spoons, jelly spoons, butter knives, and the elusive butter spreaders, seafood forks, and demitasse spoons.

And once I saw the baby and youth sets, of course I had to have them!

I was captivated by the idea that this pattern was part of Betty Crocker's coupon program. Housewives saved coupons from Gold Medal flour and other General Mills products, sent them in with some money, and were rewarded with a new teaspoon or place setting. You could buy one or many pieces at a time depending upon your budget. A teaspoon cost 34 coupons and 5 cents or 2 coupons and 20 cents! The date usually given with this pattern is 1946, but I'm not sure if that's when it was introduced or discontinued. With one of my ebay purchases the kind seller included the original paperwork from when she had sent in her coupons. My growing set began to feel like a family heirloom, one that started with me.

But wait, there's more! I eventually found out that hollowware had also been offered in this pattern. These pieces were much more rare, but I enjoyed the hunt for ones I could afford. After 15 years or so I owned a butter dish, serving tray, water pitcher, vegetable dish, gravy boat, candelabras, and my biggest find - the complete tea set. It's engraved on the back, but that engraving put it into my price range and I do think about the ladies of Emmanuel Shrine #4 while I'm polishing it.

This is probably the only thing I've actively and intensely collected over many years. I had fun finding pieces, but I'm enjoying polishing it less and less. It's more vintage than antique and it's only silverplate so it's not especially valuable, but maybe someday one of my sons will be hosting Thanksgiving at their house and I can pass on the fancy family flatware.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sustenance on Sunday

Sundays are for writing about food, or When Life Gives You Green Tomatoes, Make Relish.

While I don't think relish would sustain me for long, we do use quite a bit of it. I'm not a big fan of fried green tomatoes (but did like the book and the movie!) so after cleaning out the garden,it was time for lots of:


Sitting with salt



3 quarts of relish done

We will relish the taste of our hotdogs and hamburgers with this relish!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Saturday Snippets

Saturdays are for small bits and pieces that I love, and by popular demand (okay, one person. Thank you, Mary!) the snippets are from another picture book. I should probably think of another name for Saturday posts, but there are only two more and Saturday Storytime sounds silly. Today's book is a silly story, but it's another one that both of my sons adored and I loved to read. Bonus: it's also a really fun way to practice money and counting skills.

Bunny Money by Rosemary Wells is the story of Max and Ruby who set out to buy a gift for their grandmother. Ruby (the responsible rabbit sibling) has saved up a walletful of bunny money. She finds the perfect birthday gift, but it costs far too much, and she also has to deal with Max, who thinks that Grandma would really enjoy a set of glow-in-the-dark vampire teeth. Max gets messy, hungry, and thirsty, all of which use their dwindling funds. They eventually find some great presents that Grandma clearly loves; the picture of her wearing them is wonderful!

For extra fun with this book, you can photocopy the endpapers and make your own bunny money to use along with the story. The money took a bit of time to make, but it added immeasurably to our enjoyment of this already-great book. Imagine my surprise when I also found two lucky quarters in our bunny money wallet! Max carries his lucky quarter, and of course both of my boys had to be holding lucky quarters when we read this. 

Rosemary Wells has a whole series of Max and Ruby stories including Bunny Cakes, Bunny Party, and A Christmas Tree for Ruby. More good news is that she's been writing and illustrating for over 40 years and has a multitude of other books besides Max and Ruby. One of my favorites was Yoko, even though my boys felt it was a bit too "girly" for them. They were, however, quite curious about red bean ice cream.

This fun book has stayed with me for 20 years or more; I still wish I could find a pair of singing bluebird earrings for $4.00!

Friday, November 14, 2014


I feel like a kid in the back seat asking, "Are we there yet?"

Here it is, less than halfway through NaBloPoMo and I may have run out of things to post about. For next year, I'm proposing National Blog Posting Fortnight. NaBloPoFo sounds almost the same, but it's only half as long, so it's twice as good.