Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer sewing on the cheap

I put some of my stash of vintage sheets to good use after coming across
Vintage sheets at thrift stores or garage/estate sales are usually a buck. Figure in the 15-20 minutes it takes to sew and you've got a great bargain and an awfully cute summer skirt!
No hemming, no fuss, no muss! If you can sew a straight line, you can sew this skirt!
Couple with a tank top and some cute flip flops and you're good to go.....they're good for twirling in, too!

Monday, June 29, 2009


Meet the newest member of the family.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

First figs of the season

Doug surprised me the other morning by finding some ripe figs on the tree. I thought it would be a few more weeks before we had any, but there they were! I picked a bunch and decided to make some orange fig preserves.

Orange Fig Preserves
(Makes one quart)

4 cups of fresh figs, cleaned and diced
2 cups of sugar
(you can reduce sugar if you want, but the preserves will not set properly.)
Zest of one large orange
1 cup of seeded and peeled orange slices
(Cut both ends off the orange, stand upright and cut down the sides of the orange taking away all of the white pith. Hold the skinned orange in your hand and cut between the membranes for perfect orange slices with no skin!)

Place ingredients in a large bowl and allow to sit for 30 minutes to macerate.
Put everything in a large saucepan and begin to boil over medium heat. Cook for about 30-45 minutes. If you spoon out a bit on to a small plate that has been in the freezer, you can push the mixture around a bit with your finger tip to see how thick it is. If it is runny, cook it a couple minutes more. You can also check by seeing how the jam runs off of a spoon. If it seems to firm up a bit as it drips, it's done.

Pour out the jam into jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headroom from the top of the jars. If you want to keep your jam in a cupboard, then use sterilized jars. If you plan to eat up quickly and will keep them in the refrigerator, regular clean jars will do.

Friday, June 26, 2009

I'm a complete basket case!

I have a horrible addiction to buying thrift store baskets, I just love them!
New baskets in the store will run you quite a few bucks, but thrift store baskets are usually fifty cents to a dollar and
I use them for EVERYTHING!
Their use is mainly corraling the clutter around here! I have baskets for just about everything: blankets, books, school supplies, mail, you name it. I think they look pretty and rustic and it's much easier to access the things I need from a basket rather than a storage bin or closet.
I also use them for gifts. I hate spending money on those little gift bags with the tissue paper, they can be quite expensive! I try to keep several on hand and if I need to send a gift I'll just use a fifty cent basket and line it with a fifty cent vintage dish towel. I think it makes a gift look so much more pretty and personal. Even simple gifts that are beautifully arranged in a basket are more inviting. I think they take homemade gifts to a whole other level!

I only spent less than a dollar on this welcome basket for a new neighbor.
A casserole or homemade bread and jam would look just as nice.
It just goes to show you that you don't have to spend a lot to make someone feel special!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A TV product that really works!

My feet are like a desert. They are dry, flaky, cracked and calloused. There is no way you could call them pretty. I abuse them every day, yet I barely ever take care of them.
I'm too cheap to spend 30 bucks on a pedicure and way to embarrassed to let anyone else work on them. I was in the local drugstore and saw some Ped Eggs on display and decided I should give them a try. Let me tell you, it was the best ten bucks I've ever spent!
In minutes, the Ped Egg sheared off layers of calloused skin without any discomfort. The buffing pad made them soft and smooth. After a slathering of lotion I was ready for flip-flop season!

What the Ped Egg did for my feet is no less than a miracle....go get one today!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


And as cute as ever!

Heirloom vs. Conventional

For the past two years I have planted mainly conventional seeds with an occasional heirloom thrown in for fun. This year I planted mainly heirloom varieties and I can really see a difference in the plants as well as final fruits!
Here's a great example:
Obviously the squash on the right is an heirloom variety. The color is amazing, it has fewer seeds and has a nice nutty flavor. The conventional summer squash on the left is still very good, but the flavor has NO comparison to the heirloom variety. The conventional squash also has lots of water in the fibers. I suspect it was "bred" that way to make them appear bigger and more appealing to consumers. I love all the lumps and bumps in the heirloom variety! They make for a great centerpiece on the table until we're ready to use them.

I grew most of my peppers from heirloom seed this year but had to supplement with a few nursery plants.
The bell on the left is a standard nursery variety. It has a thick skin, is perfectly round, and fair flavor. The bells on the right are the heirlooms. They grow very elongated, have a thin outer skin, and their pepper flavor is more pronounced but they remain quite sweet.

My favorite heirlooms, though, have got to be the tomatoes!
The shapes and colors coming out of the garden are like works of art! Not one of them is the picture perfect round red tomato ~ and I LOVE that!
I've never been a real big tomato eater so I can't begin to describe the flavor distinctions between the heirloom and conventional varieties. All I know is that we are loving the homemade salsas and sauces being made with them.

Another big difference between the types is how they grow in the garden.
This is one of my heirloom pepper plants. The white and light green variegation is just beautiful to see out in the garden.
I'm really going to put forth an effort to save seeds from my heirloom varieties and continue purchasing from companies who do not genetically modify their seeds. It has really turned out to be a real treat to garden with these varieties this season!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Words fail me...

Thank you for our four beautiful boys
and our three angels in Heaven.
Happy Fathers Day!
We love you very much!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Dutch Baby and Vanilla Syrup

I had plans to make pancakes this weekend for breakfast but soon found out that after I had assembled all my ingredients that I had run out of maple syrup. I was NOT going to get dressed and run to the store so I looked online for a quick syrup recipe. I found out that it is really easy to make your own ! I also found a recipe for this fabulous oven pancake called a Dutch Baby. It looked so much more easy that standing over a hot griddle flipping pancakes and I decided to give it a try...we were not disappointed!

Dutch Baby

3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

(I doubled this recipe for our family of six and cooked it in a 12" cast iron skillet.)

Fifteen minutes before baking preheat the oven to 425°. Put the butter in an 8 inch oven-proof skillet. Place in the oven until the butter is melted. Swirl around to coat the sides.

Whisk together the milk, flour, eggs, sugar and vanilla; Slowly pour batter into hot pan; bake for 15 minutes ~ reduce heat to 350° and bake another 8-10 minutes until pancake is well-browned.

Vanilla Syrup

3 cups sugar
(I used 2 cups white/1 cup brown for a bit more caramel flavor)
3 cups water
1 vanilla bean cut in half lengthwise with seeds scraped out and added to sugar/water mixture.

Combine all ingredients and stir to dissolve sugar. Bring mixture to a rolling boil then reduce heat to a steady slow boil. Cook for 15-30 minutes stirring frequently. To check consistency of syrup, spoon a small amount onto a plate and allow to cool for a few seconds. When you reach your desired consistency, syrup is done!

JP says this was the best breakfast EVER!

Friday, June 19, 2009

The House Guest

Dearest Nana,
I hope you are enjoying your vacation in Las Vegas this week!
Don't worry about me, I'm having a great time with Doug, Jo, and the boys...

The accommodations here are truly FIVE STARS!

John Paul shares his breakfast with me...
even though he makes me do a humiliating dance for it.

I'm hanging out with all the cool kids from the block.

And I get all the back scratches and belly rubs I want!

Danny even lets me take him for walks!

It's been great here, but I still miss you LOTS!
Hurry home soon...

...til then I think I'll just take a nap.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Note to self...

...denim shorts get very heavy when wet!

(Thank God he was at least wearing underwear,
you never know with my boys!)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Inspired by my neighbor's gift of homemade vanilla, I decided that it was something that I wanted to try myself! I ordered my organic grade A beans from amazon.com for a great price (I got 45 pods for what it would have cost me to buy 10 at Whole Foods!)

After sending Doug on a liquor store run, I just split the beans and popped them right into the bottle for a six month soak. In December I'll pour the extract into pretty decanters for Christmas gifts.

Also on my homemade Christmas gift list is
vanilla sugar scrub and vanilla soap.
(and don't tell Doug that I plan on making him dozens upon dozens of
homemade Nilla Waffers! )

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The growing season


....and country boys

grow big and tall in Texas!