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Blog: My Little Farm in Town

Living a rich country life in a small Midwestern town.


Showing 13 posts from January 2011 for this blog.
Entertaining Friends: Personal Pizzas
Monday, January 31, 2011

Entertaining is becoming a lost art for many families. People are getting too busy for people. Or they are just “peopled out” by the time they get home and hit the automatic garage door opener. It is easier to watch television, surf the net (!), or play a video game than invite guests and prepare the house and a meal for them.

It can also be challenging to find one dish that pleases a wide range of ages and preferences. Add vegetarianism and food allergies to the mix, and it can be hard to figure out what to serve guests! The goal is for everyone to feel comfortable and satisfied at the end of the evening. Make-Your-Own personal pizzas are always successful.

I start out by making the crusts. I have a very nice recipe for prebaked yeast crusts that don’t require any rising time and a minimum of handling. This crust freezes well and tastes great. I shared it with a friend who does once-a- month cooking, and it is popular with her large family. My daughter won reserve champion with this recipe at 4-H fair. It will be a winner with your guests, too.

Easy Pizza Crust

  • 1 cup water, warm
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

1.       Combine water, yeast, and sugar and set aside.

2.       Preheat oven to 350°F.

3.       Combine rest of ingredients and add yeast mixture.

4.       Stir well and turn out onto lightly floured board. Knead lightly until firm.

5.       Cover dough with a towel and allow to rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

6.       Divide dough into 12 pieces for personal size crusts or leave whole for a normal size pizza crust.

7.       Roll out individual crusts and place on a lightly greased cookie sheet or pan dusted with cornmeal. Pierce with a fork.

8.       Bake for 10-12 minutes, then remove crusts from oven, brush with oil,  and add toppings.

9.       Raise oven temperature to 450°F. Bake pizzas 10-15 minutes or until done.

Toppings:

  • Vegetables: Green peppers, mushrooms, onions, rehydrated sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, zucchini, lettuce, tomatoes, and spinach
  • Meat: Italian or Chorizo Sausage, Pepperonis, Canadian bacon (pineapple!), anchovies, chicken, meatballs, taco meat, hamburger
  • Sauces: Pesto, chunky tomato sauce, seasoned tomato sauce, sour cream, Alfredo sauce
  • Condiments: Greek, black, and green olives, garlic, pickled yellow peppers, capers, olive oil
  • Cheeses: Fontina, parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar, grana, queso fresco
  • Seasonings: Italian seasoning mix, oregano, basil, garlic salt, sea salt, black pepper, red pepper

The crusts and toppings can be prepared ahead, giving you time get your house in order! Serve with a green salad and drinks of your choice and you have an occasion for the whole family to enjoy. Begonia

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Odd and Ends: Orange Peels
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I love the smell when I am peeling an orange. Most of the time I cut them into slices for easier eating, and the peel goes into the compost pail when the meal is over.  Sometimes when we need a quick snack on the go, we just take the whole orange and peel it in the car or when we get to our destination, and the peel goes in the trash if I don’t pack it home and throw it on the compost pile on the way into the house.

Years ago when oranges were precious treats eaten only at Christmas time, many mothers would confiscate the peels and use them in baking or to make into that delicacy, candied orange peel. http://candy.about.com/od/fruitcandy/r/candied_peel.htm

I think that fresh or frozen orange peel gives the best flavor to baked goods, so I try to have a small supply of it in the freezer at all times! Whenever I buy oranges I use my potato peeler to scrape the orange layer of the peel from one or two fruits after I have washed them with a dab of Dawn liquid dishwashing soap. Be sure to rinse all of the detergent off after you are done sudsing the fruit! (If you are worried about pesticide residue, buy organic fruit, but still be sure to wash the fruit well before peeling.) This method can also be used to save lemon and lime peel.

I place the citrus peels in a small tightly sealed plastic bag or container and store in the freezer. I have also stored them in the freezer wrapped tightly in foil. They freeze well, but beware of freezer burn. If the peels get too frosty, start over with a new batch.

Next time you eat an orange, don’t throw out all the peel—freeze some to use later! Begonia

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Frugal Family Fun: Pizza and Football
Monday, January 24, 2011

It’s been a tad frigid here in Wisconsin on My Little Farm in Town. It is that time of the season. It is also that time of the season for football—playoffs. My husband was happy to have family time at home this week.

We had been entertaining friends and their families a couple of nights this week with make-your-own-personal pizza suppers. I had plenty of leftover toppings, crusts, and salad, so pizza was on the menu. One friend left us with ice cream and the other with brownies so we had dessert covered as well! (Thanks again!)

I know that I am unnatural, but I really don’t care for football that much. The ratio of physical trauma to entertainment value is skewed a bit too far toward “blood sport” for my taste—I do enjoy the funny commercials, though. It all works out in the end. We all sit under a blanket on the couch and eat pizza and brownies with vanilla ice cream.  To pass the time between commercial breaks, I crochet or comment on the size and condition of various players. (“Wow! He sure is big. I didn’t know a leg could bend in that direction!”)  The other members of my family actually follow the game. I ask my husband who is ahead every once in a while and judge by his mood at the end of the game whether or not the Packers won.

The important thing is that we all had a good time together. Stay warm. Begonia

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First Eggs of 2011!
Saturday, January 22, 2011

This morning I found two newly laid eggs in one of the nesting boxes! My husband and I each had an egg for breakfast! The egg laying season has started on our little farm in town.

My hens started molting in the late autumn when the day length got too short for egg laying, which is kind of handy because birds don’t lay eggs when they are in full molt anyway. The downside was that I have such a small flock (four birds) that I had to use some supplemental heat in the coop to keep them alive until they got more feathers!

They are fully feathered again and the days are getting longer. The sun is setting at about 5:30, but it is still bitterly cold. This is the coldest part of the year for us. I don’t use artificial light in the coop. I want my chickens to sleep more when conditions are more crowded. I don’t want them awake getting bored and thinking about bad things to peck like each other or their own eggs.

Since they are both pets and egg and manure producers for my little farm in town, I don’t mind if they have a couple of “unproductive” months each year. I am in this for the long haul. These girls are never going to end up as stewed chicken, so they have a few more years to lay their eggs.

I noticed for the last three or four weeks that the girls have been hitting the oyster shell pretty hard. I’ve had to refill the quart jar in the feeder several times.  In the last two weeks, the shavings in the nesting boxes had been disturbed. Last week, I came into the coop one evening to turn on the heater and found that they had been fighting over one of the boxes and had knocked off the front of it! I brushed out the dusty old shavings and replaced them with a fresh supply.

I’m going to keep better track of egg production this year. I have a chicken journal that I started a few years ago that I will use for the purpose. Now I have one more marker to gauge the coming of Spring! Begonia

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Bulk Food: Buying Citrus--'Tis the Season
Friday, January 21, 2011

Citrus is in season and a good buy. In line with our New Year’s resolution to use money we would have spent eating out to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, we skipped a snack at Panera after our family time (another New Year’s Resolution!) visit to the art museum and visited a local fruit market instead!

The fruit market samples most of its fruit, so it is always easy to cave in to purchasing some out- of-season delicacy. The best tasting and cheapest fruit are usually the ones that are in season.

One section of the store is lined with stacked boxes of fruit. (The boxes contain approximately a bushel of fruit and weigh about 30 pounds each.)  At this time of year, this area holds mostly citrus: several types of eating oranges and grapefruit; juicing oranges, and tangerines. The boxes varied in price by size of fruit with the smaller sizes being cheaper with higher counts of fruit per box.  We ended up purchasing a box each of grapefruit and oranges. I went for a higher count with the grapefruit because I like to eat an entire fruit at one sitting and smaller fruits are better for that. I bought the medium grade of orange because I felt they were in better shape and there was only a couple dollars difference in price.

When buying bulk fruit, be sure to open the box that you want and check out the condition of the fruit and how it is packed. If the fruit is too bruised, it won’t store well and will rot before you can eat it—a waste of good fruit and good money! Ask to sample the fruit, if they won’t let you, buy your fruit somewhere else, or ask them if you can return the box if the fruit isn’t good. (Some grocery stores will let you do this.)

I store the fruit in our cool pantry (55°F) or in a cooler corner of the basement, and it keeps very well until we are ready to eat it. Be sure the temperature of your storage place doesn't drop below freezing. Frozen citrus is only good for the compost pile!

At this time of year in Wisconsin, the weather alternates between dreary gray and cold and bright blue and REALLY cold. Those boxes of citrus brighten the days until warmer weather. (I’d settle for temps in the high 20s F!) Begonia

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Frugal Family Fun: Eagle Watching
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

This past Sunday afternoon, we went down to Lock and Dam No. 11 in Dubuque, Iowa, to view eagles. We have done this other years as well with varying results as far as numbers of eagles seen. Eagles can be found in our part of Wisconsin in the winter anywhere there is open water after the rivers and lakes have frozen over.

The colder the weather, the more water is covered with ice. The more ice, the more eagles congregate near the open water below locks and dams.

A couple of years ago during a spell of -0 F weather, the Mississippi River was frozen near Dubuque from shore to shore with no opening in the ice except around Lock and Dam No 11. (http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/1407082356000603324vOdqLE )  That year we counted over 60 eagles on the ice, fishing in cracks, dipping into the water below the sluice gates of the dam, and perched in trees on the near and far shore of the river.  http://www.jeffraflik.com/wintereagles05-06.htm

Other years, we have viewed the birds during Eagle Days in Sauk Prairie, Wisconsin, below the hydroelectric dam on the Wisconsin River. The city has created riverside viewing areas, and there are always educational displays, lectures, and raptor demonstrations by wildlife rehabilitators at one of the local schools.  http://www.ferrybluffeaglecouncil.org/eagledays/index.html

This year we saw two birds along the divided highway on the way down to Dubuque, three near the lock and dam, and one on the way home! The reason for why there were so few birds around the locks became obvious as we walked along the top of the bluff overlooking the lock and dam and the river in Eagle Point Park. (We could see pockets of open water several miles upriver. (The river is about a mile wide behind the lock and dam at this point. Pickup trucks pulling ice fishing shanties onto the river ice looked like matchbox cars. This summertime picture should give you an idea of how wide the river is at this point.  http://outdoors.webshots.com/photo/1409402321000603324OEaiqJ

If you are interested in viewing eagles in your state, check out this website: http://www.baldeagleinfo.com/eagle/eagle1.html  it has a lot of great information for a great family outing! Dress warm and bring along some hot cocoa, binoculars, and your camera. Have fun! Begonia

P.S. In researching images for this blog entry, I came across this incredibly neat wildlife photo site. Enjoy!

http://www.jeffraflik.com/photos.htm

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Winter Pleasures: Corresponding via Snail Mail
Sunday, January 16, 2011

Now that the holidays have passed, things have slowed down here on My Little Farm in Town, and I’ve been catching up on correspondence. A number of friends and family have responded to the letters I enclosed in Christmas cards and during this cold weather is a great time to write.

Sadly, more and more people seem to be abandoning the fine art of letter writing. I tend to blog on one day and answer correspondence on the opposing day.  (I’m really writing letters both days because to me blogging is just writing letters to a bunch of folks I don’t know really well yet!) I enjoy getting letters in the mail—I consider them small 44-cent gifts!

I started corresponding when I was in third grade with a friend of mine who is a Catholic priest. Once a month, he was the guest instructor of our Catechism class and would tell us Sherlock Holmes stories when Sister Bernadette left the room!  I still write to him a couple times a year. He has since retired to his home seminary in India and is in his late 80s and still teaching English literature! (He is a scholar of Chaucer. When he heard that I was studying Chaucer in college, he quizzed me in Middle English for a couple of letters. I’m afraid I must have disappointed him. God Bless him!)

Over the years I’ve kept in touch via letters with family; friends from grade school, high school, and college; and Pen Friends in other parts of the world. I write regularly to ten people and less frequently to eight others. Most people seem to enjoy my letters. Some of them have been writing back for over 30 years. Here are a few pointers for writing a good letter:

  • Always keep who you are writing to in mind. If they don’t care about chickens but love to read, write about the books you are reading right now and skip the chicks!
  • Ask specific questions about the life of the person you are writing to and remember the answers.
  • Answer questions that are asked of you thoughtfully. Refer to the letter you are answering so that you don’t miss any questions asked of you.
  • Enclosures add fun and interest. Stickers, postcards, brochures, newspaper clippings, photos, bookmarks, coasters, tea bags, perfume samples, magnets, book plates, magazine articles, fabric swatches, and seeds are all things that I have sent or received in letters.
  • Write about everyday things as well as special events in enough detail that the person you are sharing with can experience them again with you. What is a common event to you may be a novelty to the person you are writing to. It also gives them a snapshot of your daily life.
  • Don’t brag about your kids or your pets too much. Some pride is natural—too much is tiring.
  • Share your feelings. Confidences build intimacy and give the other person permission to share more of themselves with you. This give and take is important for building and maintaining friendships.
  • Be patient and faithful. During different seasons of life people write more or less often because of illness, hardship, or crazy busyness. Don’t be a bean counter. Sometimes you will write more than you receive, but it usually evens out.

Next time you get a real letter rather than an e-mail from friend or family, treat it like the gift that it is. Sit down with pen and paper and return the honor. Begonia

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Frugal Family Fun: An Art Museum Outing
Thursday, January 13, 2011

One of the resolutions we made for the year 2011 was to try to make Sunday afternoons family time. It is January and both property and quarterly income tax time, plus there isn’t much snow and the wind chill is below 0F! What is a frugal (aka just about broke) family to do? Answer: Look around for a free indoor activity that will interest everyone.

If you have a university near you, be sure to check their website for free activities they might have to offer your family. The University of Wisconsin Madison is within easy driving distance of our little farm in town and has a lot to offer. In the summer, there is the Allen Centennial garden, Picnic Point, Indian mounds, Lake Mendota, and there are a couple of museums that are open all year.

The museum we visited this Sunday was the Chazen Museum of Art (http://chazen.wisc.edu/home.htm). It cost us a little under $2.00 to park in a nearby ramp, and it was a short walk to the museum. Admittance was free, and it was open until 6:00 p.m. which made it an easy place to visit on a Sunday afternoon. The featured exhibit was illuminated manuscripts. If we had wanted, we could have stopped here, but we decided to move on into the main galleries.

A note of caution: If you are concerned about your children seeing the undraped human form, you will have to be highly selective in most art museums. Our child is of an age and stage in development that we were comfortable taking her through most of the museum. There was one area of the collection that we decided wasn’t appropriate, and fortunately, it was easily bypassed.

On the way home, we talked about what our favorite art pieces were and why. My favorite painting was big and brilliant and told a dramatic story (http://chazen.wisc.edu/shop/Notecards/00000016_f.jpg ). I also enjoyed the abstract sculpture (http://chazen.wisc.edu/popups/pop.asp?ID=2001-46) . We all thought the illuminated manuscripts would have made the trip worthwhile even if we hadn't viewed any other part of the museum!

I was more than satisfied with our first family outing of the year. I can hardly wait until next week! Begonia

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Scratch Cooking: Slow Cooker Chuck Roast Three Ways
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I learned this very simple method of preparing inexpensive beef chuck roasts years ago and have embroidered on it since!

Basic Beef Pot Roast with Vegetables

  • 2-3 lbs.  beef chuck roast trimmed of visible fat (dredged in a little flour salt and pepper and browned in a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil—or not—your choice)
  • 1 envelope dry soup mix (Lipton, Knorr, or store brand onion, leek, or vegetable) or you can make your own by combining 2 tablespoons of beef broth powder with 3 tablespoons dried vegetables or minced dried onions.
  • I medium onion sliced and separated into rings
  • Three medium carrots and potatoes cut into equal-size pieces.

Place the onion rings in the bottom of a medium sized slow cooker and top with meat and sprinkle all with dry soup mix. Top with carrots and potatoes. Put lid on pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. When done, meat falling apart and vegetables soft.  Remove meat, potatoes, and carrots and keep warm. Use one of the methods of making gravy from my December 16 blog “Scratch Cooking: Good Gravy.”

Beef Burrito Filling

Follow each of the steps for making pot roast except add

  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder
  •  ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 small can of chopped green chilies or sliced Jalepeños
  •  If you like some heat and a smoky flavor, add a few chopped ancho chiles in adobo sauce.
  • Omit the carrots and potatoes.

Remove meat from crock pot and chop or shred with a couple of forks, removing any bone, gristle, or visible fat. Return shredded/chopped meat to slow cooker and mix with juices and soft vegetables. Serve with warm tortillas with sides of sour cream, salsa, shredded lettuce, and diced fresh tomatoes.

 Italian Beef Sandwich Filling

Follow each of the steps for making pot roast except add

  •  ½ to ¾ cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 and ½ teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil

Omit the carrots and potatoes.

Remove meat from crock pot and chop or shred with a couple of forks, removing any bone, gristle, or visible fat. Return shredded/chopped meat to slow cooker and mix with juices and soft vegetables. Serve on hamburger buns or dinner rolls and topped with chopped yellow peperoncini peppers.

These are all excellent recipes for a quick meal when you get home from a busy day. The pot roast is a one-pot meal; just set the table. Serve the burritos with rice and refried beans. The Italian beef only requires a green salad to a make a balanced meal. Enjoy! Begonia

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Snowshoeing in Donald Park, Dane County, Wisconsin
Sunday, January 09, 2011

I have a friend that I hike with. We pick a different county or state park to visit each time we get together and spend two or three hours exploring the trails. In the warmer months, we take our trekking poles and explore the different trails. In the cold snowy months, we do our hiking on snowshoes and cut the brush, sometimes we even use the trails!

Yesterday was pretty warm—in the 30s F. We knew it was going to warm into a January thaw in the next 48 hours, so we took advantage of the last bit of warm weather with a little sun and decent snow to visit Donald Park.

We parked in the small public fishing grounds lot and slipped into our snowshoes. Then we skirted the creek and crossed it at a shallow, snow covered spot and followed the rock formations around into a wide prairie area bordered by rolling, forest-covered hills. We could hear the call of a Great Horned owl way back on the ridge where the park borders private land. It was unusual to hear one in the afternoon. They are big owls with big voices, and you could hear this one echoing through the entire valley.

Our goal was a special “boiling” spring on the opposite end of the 600+ acre park. The trails were well used this year because the park is gradually becoming more well-known. We saw tracks of skis, snowshoes, walkers, and dogs, as well as the footprints of mice and rabbits and hawk and owl pellets of fur and bones. 

We walked on a trail bordering the trout stream that runs through one quadrant of the park. The active corps of volunteers has been working for years clearing brush along it, and now we could see it clearly as we walked: the small river of open water rushing on one side of us and the rising upland of restored oak savannah above us.

Finally, we entered the woods again. Still with the trout stream on our left, we passed the now-shrouded and snow drifted excavation of an early settler’s cabin. The park is made up of donated farm land, so there are a number of cabin foundations in it. (This site has been under excavation for several seasons and continues to be a golden opportunity for any volunteer wanting to participate in a dig.) The trail we were traveling had once been a stage coach road that literally passed at the doorstep of this cabin.

The final trail to the springs snaked through the woods and on, but we stopped at the small observation deck overlooking the springs and climbed up to get a better view of the open pool of water below. It is not a hot spring. It gets its name because of the way the spring water rises from the floor of the pool, bubbling up and disturbing the surface in perfect rings like boiling water in a shallow pan.

There is something mesmerizing about liquid water after every bit of outdoor moisture has been frozen solid for a couple of months. I can stand and watch that bubbling water (it seems like) forever. I can understand why this was considered a sacred place by the tribes that moved through this area in earlier times.  The water is so clear that you can see the sand “smoking” as the fresh water pushes up through it. The 10-inch fish swimming around in it and the logs and branches on the bottom look close enough to touch, but I know the water is at least 3 or 4 feet deep. You can even see the springs rising in the river channel where the pool and stream meet. The water stays open here most of the winter, so I’m looking forward to hiking back in later in the month to share a few liquid moments with my family.  Begonia

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Greeting Card Bookmarks
Thursday, January 06, 2011

After the holidays, I am left contemplating a stack of beautiful cards that are too pretty to throw away. In the past, I’ve made them into gift tags, but there’s a limit to how many of those I can use per year. I’ve also given a lot of cards to a friend who converts them into pretty wall decorations with scripture verses and sends them to missionaries as gifts for the people they are serving.

Bookmarks are one thing that I never seem to have enough of. (At any given time, I will be reading five or six books.) I also like to give books as gifts and will often include a bookmark. I correspond via snail mail with a number of people as well and have found that bookmarks make nice tokens of esteem and liven up a letter. While traveling last summer, I bought photo bookmarks of that section of the Mississippi River in lieu of post cards (although postcards also make good bookmarks for bigger books)!

Making cards into bookmarks is simple.

1.       If the back of the card is written on heavily, cut it off and retain the front, reinforcing it with white pasteboard or cardstock from another source. (I save stiff white cardboard packaging material rather than throwing it away or recycling it so I can reuse it to make bookmarks.) If the back of the card is not written on, simply glue the card shut and trim to the desired width. Sometimes I will fold the front of the card over and glue the halves together to stiffen it.

2.       I use glue stick for most of my projects because it goes on relatively dry, and I make sure to apply the glue all the way to the edges so they don’t separate later. You could also use white tacky glue and spread a thin layer with a small paint brush.

3.       One card can sometimes be made into several bookmarks, depending on its size and design. I usually trim off the greeting, unless it suits my purpose, and any excess cardstock to make a nicely proportioned finished product.

4.       Finally, I punch a hole in the top of the card with a die cutter or hole punch and attach a ribbon or cord. Beads can be threaded onto the cord or ribbon to make the bookmark even more attractive.

Try making bookmarks out of birthday and anniversary cards you’ve saved because they were too pretty to discard (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!) or recycle. Even pretty product packaging can be made into attractive bookmarks. (I’ve even made bookmarks out of the printed linings of envelopes!) Have fun. Begonia

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Baking: Peanut Butter Blossoms
Monday, January 03, 2011

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies! I made Peanut Butter Blossoms today. The house is full of the smell of chocolate and peanut butter as I write this. The recipe and how-to follows:

http://www.hersheys.com/recipes/5191/Peanut%20Butter%20Blossoms.aspx

I’ve been enjoying my oven and the extra time that I now have after the dust has settled on the holidays. My husband installed the oven in time for the absolutely necessary (to me) baking for Christmas events, such as 4-H caroling, gift wrapping, and game day at the local retirement community and toasting the crostini that always go with the Sundried Tomato tapenade that we bring to the Christmas Eve get together with my husband’s side of the family. There was no leisure to do the baking that I really enjoy.

It all started with my Betty Crocker Easy Bake oven back in the 1970s. I chose it from among many other possibilities out of the Sears catalog that year. There were a lot of us at 321 Pine Avenue, so it was easier for our parents to supply us with the Sears catalog and its extensive toy section and ask for a list for Santa rather than trying to surprise all nine of us!

Back then, the Easy Bake ovens looked like real miniature ranges and had 100-watt light bulbs inside that really baked food!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VpFjQoWMUoU&playnext=1&list=PLF986481B00B143B3&index=30

This oven came with some mixes and a real recipe book, so that a kid could be a scratch cook right from the start.  Teacakes are still my favorite cookie. They were the first thing I baked in my Easy Bake Oven! Many years later, I bought my daughter her first easy bake oven hoping to recreate for her my experiences as a kid. It looked like a microwave—please! It never cooked worth a darn. She much preferred the real oven and real recipes (all  my daughter's version of the Easy Bake came with were instruction for making mixes).

I sold my Easy Bake Oven at a flea market when I was a teen in need of some cash. We were never given allowances—times were too hard. I regret selling it to this day. Maybe one of these days I’ll find another one at a garage sale for a good price. (The ones I’ve found on the internet are more expensive than my new (to me) wall oven!) Begonia

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A Sewing Day
Sunday, January 02, 2011

It was a lovely bright day here on My Little Farm in Town. The sun was shining and actually felt warm! My daughter and I spent the rest of the day sewing with a friend.

My friend is an excellent seamstress. I provided the fabric from my stash and she helped us make sense out of the diagrams and directions! She came in the morning and stayed until the sun went down.

We started out by chatting and looking through some books on making tote bags and purses that I had gotten from the library and picked up at my favorite library book sale. We settled on patterns from two books: The Total Tote Bag Book: Designer Totes to Craft and Carry by Joyce Aiken and Jean Ray Laury, Taplinger Publishing Co., New York, 1977; and Making Handbags: Retro, Chic, Luxurious by Ellen Goldstein-Lynch, Sarah Mullins, and Nicole Malone, Rockport Publishers, Gloucester, Mass., 2002.

We moved to the family room and combed through my extensive stash of fabric. I find fabric at garage sales throughout the season for as little as 75 cents per yard or less—April through November. Some of my fabric came from friends who were sharing large windfalls of material from quilters.  I never turn down or pass up fabric, crafting materials, or art supplies because my daughter is very creative.  If she doesn’t use the items now, they will be there when she is ready for them!

After a break to collect eggs and eat lunch, we started cutting and sewing. I’m not a great seamstress. (I once made a pair of shorts with one leg!)  I just decided to jump in there and sew something myself. I’ve been watching my daughter sew her 4-H projects for a couple of years now, as well as lining up expert help to get her over the rough spots (such as a assistance with a plaid six-panel skirt for a season’s barter of fresh eggs).  

In the midst of all this frantic creativity, I got some strawberries out of the freezer and made shortcake.

We ended the day with two completed tote bags and one still under construction. We invited my friend’s husband over to ruin his supper by eating dessert and drinking strong coffee with us first. It was a nice way to break up the tedium of winter by doing something different and creative with a dear friend.

Can you think of some activity you can share with a friend? Try something new! Begonia

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December 2009
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