Friday Night Yard Fire

So, last Friday, we were invited to a real country get-together, known in these parts simply as a ‘yard fire’.  Let it be known that most everyone ’round here has some kind of fire pit in their yard somewhere.  For entertainment, simply throw some logs into the fire pit, ignite, and serve drinks.  There ya go.

Anyway, I was so excited because we really never get to go out and do much of anything, especially with other adults, so I was all geared up for a great time.  However, J wasn’t home yet, and I was slap starving to death, so I decided I’d venture out all alone (well, my daughter was with me), stop at Bertha’s and pick me up a fried steak sandwich and their awesome onion rings.  Let me take just a sec here.  Remember when Sonic made REAL onion rings?  I mean, the hand battered kind…back in the days when Pickle-Os still graced their menu board.  Anyway, Bertha’s makes these hand battered, delicious rings that remind me flavorwise of those tasty Sonic rings.  Naturally, Bertha’s are even better because they’re big and thick.  Anyhoo….so, we stopped off at Bertha’s, grabbed our food, and headed out. 

Let me just say that it was now pitch black, and I had never been to this house before.  AND it’s way off in the country.  AND I get no cell phone service out there.  AND I have a semi-flat front tire.  AND I have NO gas.  So much for being prepared.  However, I decided that there’s nothing like a little pioneer spirit (The Donner Party, anyone???). So I plodded on.  And on.  And on.  And I came to realize that I may not be in Kansas anymore. 

My directions were to ‘go until the road turns to a dirt road’.  Well, I did that.  Unfortunately, I had taken a wrong turn and was in some God-forsaken, Deliverance-looking part of East Texas.  No fences, no lights, no houses.  No sound….except for the very faint first few chords of Dueling Banjos.  Now starting to sweat a little, I called my friend*.  Don’t ask me how I got any cell signal.  It was a sheer miracle, believe me.

“Where are you?”, she asked.

“I don’t know, but I hear banjo music and I just passed a deer that threatened me with a box cutter.” 

“Ok, what did you pass?’

“Well, besides a church about 2 hours ago, lots of grass, red dirt, and a house that looked like it was in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”

“Turn around and meet me at the church.”

She didn’t have to tell me twice.  I zipped around somehow (looking in my rearview for toothless rednecks wielding banjos and shotguns and deer with box cutters) and hauled some major you-know-what.  Sure, I shook my brains out on the graded dirt roads, but by then I didn’t care.  I followed her truck as closely as I possibly could.  When we got to her house, she exclaimed, “Wow, did you see that huge armadillo on the side of the bridge back there?”  I told her if it wasn’t her tailights I didn’t see it.  It could have been the second coming of Christ himself on the side of the road, and I assure you I would have never seen it. 

Well, it turns out we had a great time (albeit having a near falling-in-the-fire experience), and we got to spend some time with some great people.

Here’s to yard fires!

*names have been omitted to protect the innocent

Fun with Dogs

Just thought I’d share some cute photos I snapped of the puppy dogs:
Fran by the Fireplace
Fran and Hoss frolic in the leaves

I have to admit, I’m nuts about my Fran.  I could, seriously, have a zillion of her and just love it.  She is the funniest, coolest dog I know.  Please don’t tell Hoss, though….he’s a great boy, too, I just kinda wish that he were the size of Fran sometimes, lol.

Givin’ Martha a Run for Her Money

fall09 011
Autumn at our pond

Today was an extremely productive day here on the homefront.  I recently bought Martha Stewart’s huge tome: Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook, and, inspired by the thought of gleaming vitreous china, floors, and faucets, I decided to make today the Super Cleaning Marathon.  So, I donned my new, super awesome apron (I will be posting about it SOON), and my bright yellow Playtex rubber gloves, I got down and dirty today.  I started at about 10am and did not finish until about 4:45pm.  I hand scrubbed the entire stairway, floors included, as well as my bathroom, kitchen, and hall floors.  Naturally, floor cleaning is reserved for last, so beforehand I had dusted and polished every surface, every facing, every knob, etc. 

But, what I discovered today, thanks to information gleaned from MS’s book, was how to create your own cleaning solutions.  I have been using a product called CitraSolv for the majority of my cleaning, but after reading about        d-limonene in the book, I thought I’d try some of the homemade cleaning recipes, which are supposed to be very safe and effective.  Anyway, I have been using baking soda and vinegar for several years now for various household chores, so I am not totally new to the DIY cleaning department.  BUT, today, I have to brag and tell you that I was MOST PLEASED with the outcome of my window washing solution!  To preface this, I have been getting more and more aggravated with using Windex as it seems like it smears terribly whenever I try to clean glass with it.  Isn’t that it’s sole purpose?  To clean glass???  Did I miss something here?  Anyhoo, today, I used this simple, extremely cheap recipe.  Mix 1 part water to 1 part white vinegar.  There.  That’s it.  No pretentious chemical lists, just pickle maker and water.  I am here to tell you that it left not one streak nor speck of dirt.  OK, I’m totally sold on this now.  Naturally, I used a microfiber cloth in conjuntion with the solution for a lint-free shine.  Also, I found that it literally only takes about a drop or two of this solution to clean an entire 12×15″ window.  So, for pennies, you can have your own super safe, effective glass cleaner, too! (Note: because vinegar is acidic, there are some surfaces you do not want to use this on, but it is definitely safe for glass)

Recipe number two was also super simple and effective.  To make an all-purpose cleaner, take 2 tablespoons of a mild liquid dishwashing detergent (I used a brand called Maison Belle that I snapped up @ Pier One on clearance), add to 2 cups of water, and there ya’ go!  See, how cheap and easy is that?  And, I used that on my painted walls, woodwork, and tile with no residue and it left it so clean.  I actually did not have a spare spray bottle for that, so I just threw it in a little plastic washtub and dragged it around the floor with me. 

So, there are a couple of ways to make yourself some nice, effective, safe, and very cheap cleaners.  Now, let me tell you something funny….

I am an avid window washer.  I can’t stand dirty windows!  If you have dirty windows, I want you to whip up some vinegar/water glass cleaner, throw on your rubber gloves, grab a microfiber cloth and get to work!  Don’t worry…I’ll be right here till you get back.  Done?  Ok, moving on.  So, being a rabid clean window freak, I cleaned most of the easy to reach exterior windows before tackling my window nemesis: the windows in my dining room.  The problem with these windows is that there is a 3 1/2′ wide growth of dwarf yaupons sitting right in front of them. Obviously, whomever planted these things was NOT a window washer.  Anyway, they were by far the dirtiest, so I decided to tackle the task.  Lacing up my apron tightly (yes, I so love my apron) and using a 3 step ladder, I figured the best plan of action was to balance myself on the 3 inch ledge in front of the eight foot length of the windows.  To do so was to ultimately face my fears of heights, falling, and being stung by a rogue gang of yellowjackets (hey, yaupons are thick and scary…you never know what lurks in there).  Somehow, by the grace of our dear Lord (cause I certainly am lacking in that department), I managed to precariously perch my bare toes on the very ledge, while simultaneously gripping the edge of the window.  Now came the hard part.  I had to spray the solution, plus manage to wipe it without killing myself.  Don’t ask me how I did it, but the windows are now nice and clean.  I was able to hook the spray bottle to my apron and buff the windows all while gripping like a deranged spider monkey on a ledge no wider than a credit card.  Probably not a safe thing to do….especially since the number one cause of death in the homeplace IS falling after all, now isn’t it?

Well, shine on, ladies and gents!  I’m hitting the sack!

Farmhouse Photos…FINALLY

Let’s face it…blogs that don’t have nice pictures are high on the Snooze Factor.  Without further ado, here are some pics I have snapped recently:
Here’s those pickles I told you about in my last entry.  I think I have some juice left….maybe.
Homemade Refrigerator Pickles
Homemade Refrigerator Pickles

 Now, here’s that apple pie I wrote about last time:

HOmemade Apple Pie

I hand cut the little apple motif from some leftover dough.  It was fun!

Now, here’s some pics of my pantry that I remodeled, yet again.  This once was the laundry room, but space was so limited, it just didn’t make a good laundry area at all.  Plus, there is virtually NO kitchen cabinet space for all of my food.  I have no idea where I would have put all of this food and stuff if we hadn’t converted this room to the pantry!

pantry 007

I don’t know why I have a thing for vintage wall calendars, but I just love them!  So I dedicated the back wall of the pantry just to them.  I may eventually cover all of the walls with them, who knows?  The pantry still needs some tweaking (hanging up the onion basket, etc) but oh well.  I already had the 2 white plastic racks and then I bought the large metal rack from Lowe’s on sale.  Also, I got the clip strip that holds my popcorn for free from a convenience store.  Never hurts to ask!!!  I love my pantry…



pantry 006

Lastly, here is a little chalk wall hanging I snapped up at Goodwill yesterday for 99 cents.  I mean…how could you NOT smile at a singing pickle?  Honestly….

vegetable chorus

The Simple Life is the Life for Me

“Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.”

My mom and I were talking the other day about all her stuff that she has.  It depresses her to know that she has a huge house full of stuff, a storage building packed to the gills with stuff, and a huge barn full of stuff.  What constitutes “stuff”?  I would classify it as nonessentials that are taking up space.  Essentials being food, some household goods, and some clothes. I made the comment that I LOVE the ‘simple’ look for my home.  In other words, lots of uncluttered clean lines.  I also made the comment that the act of simplification is HARD!  For example, when I decorated my kitchen counters, I had to decide what I use on a daily basis.  For the most part, aside from my dry goods such as sugar and flours, if I did not use it on a daily basis, it did not deserve to take up space on my kitchen counter. The most difficult decision was deciding not to leave out my kitchen utensils (ladle, spatulas, etc) which, even though they were tastefully arranged in a vintage crock, were just too much eye clutter for me.  It sounds silly, but I do believe that my stress levels go down when I see ‘clean lines’, that is, not a lot of STUFF laying around!  I also believe in the power of a CLEAN KITCHEN SINK. I swear, it’s better than anti-anxiety medication! 

Anyway, I think this is why I have embraced the vintage country look so tightly.  I have also embraced the saying, “If you don’t love it, lose it.”  If it is an item of considerable worth, I will sell it.  If I can ‘recycle’ it into something new, I will do that.  If I just can’t figure out what to do with it, I run it to Goodwill.  I think this is an extremely valuable lesson for all of us to learn.  Why surround yourself with things that you don’t absolutely love?  This is just simplification of your Life.  Are you, too,  drowning in a vast sea of stuff?

I came upon a website that I fell in love with:  The Farm Chicks blog.  I am going to direct you to her Laundry Room blog.  I saw that blog and it so inspired me that the next day, I took an hour to re-do my own laundry ‘room’. She totally decorates with the same style that I love.  I also spent the rest of that same day re-doing my pantry.  Three hours later, I love it!  I will post pics soon.

In farm news, I would like to brag to you all for a minute.  I had this shirt that I got at Goodwill the other day.  Truthfully, I did not love it.  I will have to admit to you that it was an impulsive, dumb buy for 4.99.  But I did love the fabric.  Well the other day, I decided to do something with it.  I ripped out the side seam of that shirt, and I made each of my girls a prairie skirt/maxidress (why not get 2 uses out of one item of clothing, right???).  Oh, they really turned out so cute.  And, to top it off, the elastic I used to make the skirts’ waistband was an elastic band I had removed from one of my own skirts that I am re-doing!  Oh, please pat me on the back, lol!  See, I’m really getting into this whole ‘repurposing’ thing.  Like, I took some sundresses that I had, where I really LOVED the fabric, but frankly, as sundresses, they made me look like a beached whale.  I whacked off the straps and VOILA!  they became a full-length skirt.  I have gotten many compliments on them, surprisingly not as dresses, but as the new skirts.  So, when I go to Goodwill, yard sales, etc.  I don’t always look at something as it’s original intended purpose.  God bless my mom for buying me a sewing machine 10 years ago!

Yesterday, I made my first batch of refrigerator pickles.  I planted some pickling cukes back in September and they are now ripening.  Boy, are they good!  Here is another reason to hang onto used glass jars!!!  I was wondering what I would do with all of these glass jars that I can’t use for canning.  I can’t bear to toss a good glass jar!  Here is the recipe for those pickles.  I scaled down the recipe to make just one quart jar.  I did this by tasting the vinegar solution after boiling (Hint: Do NOT inhale when bringing the tasting spoon to your mouth.  Bad, bad idea)  I didn’t have enough liquid the first time by simply cutting the recipe down, so I just made some more up, flavoring with sugar and pickling spices.  You can substitute pickling spices instead of all of those spices they use, by the way.  I believe one reviewer used 2 teaspoons of pickling spice for the full recipe, but do add to suit your taste. 

I also made a homemade apple pie!  I picked up an apple slicer, peeler, corer at the flea market the other day for four dollars.  They are usually about 25 brand new.  I had bought one previously for 2 dollars, but I found out it was missing an integral part, so I will have to come up with something to fix it.  Anyway, to peel, slice and core and apple with this doodad takes about 20 seconds.  It is so awesome!  Well, the pie turned out delicious.  Here is the recipe.  You know it’s good when it gets almost 4,000 5 star ratings!  But, I would only suggest this:  Add a teaspoon of cinnamon and a tiny (!!!) pinch of nutmeg.  Also, after you made the syrup, combine it with the apples, THEN pour it into the bottom crust.  That is all!

Well, I ordered 13 books for my birthday from Amazon.  As you can probably guess, most, if not all, are on self-sufficiency.  Well, I did also get some on how to make rag rugs and vintage kitchen linens.  How I love books!  Right now I am reading through the complete Tightwad Gazette.  It is like my own personal bible.  I love it! 

Until next time, learn to simplify!