Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Easy Ornaments for Gifts or Tree

Pipe Cleaners to the rescue. About the time I ran out of my previously purchased decorations for packages, one of my daughters grabbed 3 pipe cleaners and pinched and twisted the above holly leaves and berries into existence. It took her a matter of seconds and intrigued me enough to give it a try myself. The holly and snowflakes each used 3 pipe cleaners, the bells and tree each used two. Just take a closer look; they're not hard to figure out. And, with a package of 55 pipe cleaners selling for $2, they end up costing only about 4 cents each. (For reference, the tree is 5" tall.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Studio Update - December

I thought the onset of Florida winter, with its intermittent rain and cold spells, and the inevitable busyness of Thanksgiving and Christmas would bring progress on the little studio to a halt but I overlooked the tenacity of my son and his wife. A little at a time, not every day or even every week, but with a flurry of activity here and another there, they are still bringing my dream to life. There is now a step, a porch and a porch roof and as they add sheets of tin to the the steep pitch, my husband and I work slowly to fit and install the antique door and windows.

With money and time in short supply, this project would never have gotten off the ground had it not been for my son. "It won't be quick," he said, "but it's not impossible."

There are philosophical lessons in his words. Lessons that I learned from my father and obviously passed along. One step at a time. Never give up. Never lose faith. Pray as you go and don't forget to be thankful...I am.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Easy Pina Colada Cake

These cakes contain a tunnel of Pina Colada goodness and are beautiful when sliced.
  • Using store bought Angel Food cakes, cut a slice from the cake tops, about 3/4" thick and set aside.
  • About 1/2" in from the outside and inside edges of the cakes, press the tines of a fork straight down, into the cakes creating the outer boundaries of what will become a channel.
  • Once the channel boundaries are established, use the fork to remove the cake between the two rows of fork perforations (Be careful not to dig out all the way to the bottom of the cake.)
  • Fill the channel with 1 package of prepared instant Coconut Pudding to which 2 cup of very well-drained Crushed Pineapple has been added.
  • Replace the tops on the filled cakes.
  • Frost with ready-to-use Cream Cheese Icing.
  • Pat Flaked Coconut onto frosted cakes.
  • If desired, coconut may be "toasted" using a torch as when making a flan.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Idea Starter - Twin's Cakes

I had an original idea for cakes for my twin grandson's third birthday. With little money and less time, it is not well executed but you get the idea...and the party was themed around cars.
A quick trip so the store for a single cake, a bag of cookies and some icing. As you can see, I cut the cake in half and trimmed for the windshields and hoods. Beyond that, you can take your time and do a much better job than I did. Imagine the cars being two different colors. Think if there had been a good job done of piping the windows. How cute these could be. Cookies for the tires. Gumdrops for the lights.
But, my grandsons loved them just the way they were and went immediately for icing covered "tires".
If you give the car cakes a try, please share your photos with me and I'll post them.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sweat, Sacrifice and Love

The tiny studio that made its way from my dreams to a drawing pad sometime last winter, captured the imagination and heart of my son, Trace. With spring came his determination that the studio would become a reality and in the glow of autumn color it is. In early spring came a Saturday surprise of cinder blocks and 4x4s. I might have been able to stop right there. Just seeing the footprint in place seemed to satisfy something in me. But the dead tree that needed to be removed spurred a level of activity and added a sense of excitement to the project as if it were actually leading to something real.
This morning, as Trace and my daughter-in-law, Susan, set about another day of labor on my behalf, I was, quite simply, overwhelmed.
Every step of construction had seemed to be a kind of completion in and of itself, the day the floor was set, the day the walls were framed, the day the exterior sheeting was finished. They were great moments and there was great satisfaction. And between each step, there were long periods when life would return to normal and the little building would sit quietly and wait.
But this week, when the gable ends went into place with my crazy oval window cutout, the ridge timber set and the rafters perfectly cut and spaced, a different kind of excitement took place. There was celebration of accomplishment with great smiles and "job well done"s. But there was to be no familiar pause between stages. With the oncoming rain, here was suddenly a rush to dry it in and the hurry felt uncomfortable.
The work on the roof was genuinely difficult. It began each day at first light and continued long past dark and something in me ached for the labor that was being done on my behalf and without my help. I've spent all evening thinking about this; what was the source of my ache, my discomfort? And, as I've pondered the matter, I've continued to see my son's face as he kissed me goodbye this evening...exhausted, sweaty and smiling.
Just a few minutes ago it came to me.
What a silly thing. How seriously we take our roles in life. How many years do we labor for our children? How many sleepless nights do we spend as they step awkwardly toward adulthood? Somehow, the birth of our children prepares us for those things. But what in life prepares us to relinquish that role? At what moment do we recognize that it is they who will labor for us and they who will spend sleepless nights as we step awkwardly toward old age? My moment was today.

Monday, October 31, 2011


Welcome once again to my versatile front porch table. This time it's turned upside down, its standard position for holding winter fire wood, but holding bales of pine straw instead. To make better use of funds, I've opted for pine straw instead of hay and will use it later to protect bedding plants from the winter's cold. And, I'm hoping for double duty from the planters as well, using Crotons for color instead of Mums. I'll plant them later to replace things lost to this summer's drought.
The grand-babies got a kick out of the "Candy Corn" painted pumpkins though I must give credit for the idea to some fabulous magazine. I would love to mention which one but I must have flipped through dozens while at Mayo last week and sadly don't remember.
Since most of the pumpkins will be cooked and processed for Holiday pies, my only real splurge was the crow and I just couldn't resist. In another setting, he might look a bit sinister but with all the squirrels and birds on, around and thourgh my yard and porch, he seems to be just another visitor and I like him. I'll turn the Jack-o-lantern face around after Halloween and he can stay in place as a decorative vase through Thanksgiving.
My sister told me about creating the dolls with a bit of candy and hot glue. What a great, cost-saving surprise to find the combination of lollypops, Dots and Tootsie Rolls all in a single variety pack.
After the pumpkin carving and porch decorating, the grand-babies and I made "Pepitas" - roasted pumpkin seeds. Placing the pumpkin "goo" and seeds in a bowl of cold water, tends to do most of the separating for you. The seeds let go and float and can be easily scooped from the surface.
Drain. Toss in a plastic bag with oil and salt. Drain again and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Try adding some Cayenne or Cajun Spice Mix if you want a little zing. Fresh, crunchy, and FREE greatness. Yummm.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spring Dreams - Autumn Faith

About the time the Dogwoods and Azaleas and Wisteria were in full bloom and the spring sun was fully into yummy, mellow mode, and people were tempted to say, "It doesn't get any better than this"; it did. Having been on the tenuous precipice of the the "unwell" since Christmas, I had become remotely resigned to giving up the building of my little studio any time soon. Then the music began.

To the random tap-tap-tap rhythm of hammers, the staccato injections of "how-tos" and "dos" and "don't dos", rose the melody of children's laughter, to a crescendo of giggles that would wain only to rise again and again. Then a litany of doctor's visits began and summer came and summer went and I have no idea how it passed so quickly. The almost month long visit of my daughter's family flew by as if passing in only days.

The planning of a 50 year high school reunion that began in January as a committee of two, took a heart wrenching turn when my dear friend of 57 years died suddenly on a golf course a month ago. No time for grieving, I had just become a committee of one. And, at the changing of the seasons, to complicate things even more, I found myself five hours away from home, wandering aimlessly through the diagnostic routine of the Mayo Clinic with nothing but the needs of the reunion on my mind.
I've been home a few days now. With the reunion plans fairly well in hand, I have finally experienced a sense of competition, a genuine belief that it will actually come to pass. So, this morning, for the first time in weeks, I granted myself permission to retreat with my morning coffee to my chair on the front porch, a most favorite spot in my world. For a moment, the low, early sun captured my attention with it's long, lazy shadows and fresh, yellow light. Then my eyes fell on the lonely, little studio, unfinished and abandoned, the siding stained by the needed gift of rain, the primed and pretty floor littered with curling and colorless leaves. My heart sank and a sense of melancholy threatened. But, from somewhere, the distant sounds of children's voices laying lightly on the heavy morning air, reminded me of the joys of the spring building project, the happy faces, the satisfaction. If there is built nothing more than that, the tiny studio will have been a blessing.

The 50 year class reunion is just a week away. My work is all but done and I look forward to posting highlights of this labor of memorial to my good friend who will never be truly gone.
And September will end and November will begin with return trips to Mayo - Jacksonville.
It is a curious thing to me that the book written by Lady Lucia Edmondson, the mother of the woman for whom I was named, is titled "Scrambled Impressions at Mayo Clinic". Though my copy, passed to me by my mother, was lost decades ago, I was stunned to find one online. It is signed exactly as our copy was. Wouldn't it be serendipitous if the self same book had come full circle?
At any rate, my posting will be sporatic for a while. I intend to work on my own "Memories at Mayo" and will share them with you. In order to keep this disjointed, little journey of mine accessible to you, I'm going to label this post and subsequent, related ones - "Faith and Flutterbys". And for those of you who were not raised in my household, a flutterby is another way of saying butterfly. What a neat message of hope that seems to me to be, that my studio project is not abandoned; it is simply in a cocoon stage and will emrege, in it's time as the lovely little retreat I intended it to be.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Away from the Action until mid October

Well, I've done what a lot of us do these days and overextended terribly. So, while I'm chasing my tail for about a month, I won't be able to experiment with new ideas or research solutions. I will, however, pull up some great Autumn archive materials and keep them front and center. So, check in often.

So it's time to start thinking about things like
(see below)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eggs-Eggs-Eggs - 5

People with chickens crack me up. No pun intended.
Now, you can be sure that raising chickens is no easy task but if you have a large family to feed, I can understand it being well worth the effort. What has me tickled is the two families I currently know who raise chickens for eggs. One is my daughter who, with her husband, eat quite a lot of eggs but not the dozens they gather regularly so they give most of them away. Surely it is a blessing for their friends but..........??? Then, there is my friend down the street who has taken to selling her eggs (which is great for me) because her rather large family just doesn't like eggs. Hummmm?!

Anyway, I thought, for both of them, I would come up with some uses for their abundance of eggs. Some links are posted below and the recipe for "Overnight Eggs" follows. I will have more links & recipes in a few days.

Alton Brown's Angel Food Cake - takes 12 eggs
Baked Egg Custard - takes 4 eggs

Grandma's Lemon Meringue Pie - takes 3 eggs
Egg Tempera Paint - takes 1-2 eggs

Each time I post something new, I will change the number in the title so check back.

Overnight Eggs
In bottom of 9" x 13" sprayed pan, place:
  • 6 slices White Bread - cubed
Cover with:
  • 1 lb Cheddar Cheese - shredded
Top with some or all of these optional ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup Onions - chopped
  • 1/4 cup Green Peppers - chopped
  • 1 cup Ham - Chopped
  • 1 can Mushrooms - sliced
Beat together:
  • 8 Eggs
  • 4 cups Milk
  • 1 tsp Dry Mustard
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Pepper
Pour egg/milk mixture over all, being sure to completely cover everything.
Cover pan tightly with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, bake, uncovered, for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
Served with fresh fruit, this makes an easy and absolutely wonderful breakfast/brunch for a large family or guests.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

RAIN - Some is Better than None

What a wonderful surprise to seek out a suspicious noise and find it to be the sound of windblown rain tapping at the screen door.
It wasn't a lot of rain (barely a quarter inch) but it was enough to bring hope, and for the next two days, I felt my spirits rise with each passing cloud.
On day three, the rain came again leaving a full inch behind. So that's an inch and a quarter just in the last week. It's a long, long way from ending our drought and even a greater distance to recovery. We remain in Water Conservation Mode for now but, as I said, it does hold hope. Perhaps our weather patterns are changing. Perhaps my little paradise will flourish again, if only for a short while, before winter sets in.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Blueberry Dats" - Stovetop Cobbler

Inexpensive. Easy. Delicious. I guess because my EEG was scheduled at lunchtime, the tech, Cynthia, and I began a conversation about food. As the test was lengthy, so was the conversaton and it inevitably turned to Southern Foods and "old ways". During our discussion of cobblers, she shared the story of her family's favorite...made by her father and called "Blueberry Dats".

Today, being our first gray and rainy day in three months and with a container of blueberries as well as the required roll of refrigerated biscuits in the refrigerator, I decided to give the stovetop cobbler a try. It is beyond good and it's simple. Although I didn't measure as I went along, I didn't have measurements from Cynthia either. So, I'll estimate for you as she did for me and hope yours turns out as well. It seems fool proof.

2 cups fresh Blueberries in 3-qt saucepan.
Cover with water 1" above berries and boil 10 minutes or until berries plump and begin to burst.
Add 2 cups more water and 2 cups Sugar with a dash of Salt. Bring to a rolling boil.
Reduce heat to slow boil for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in 1 Tbsp. Ground Cinnamon.
Open a can of Refrigerated Biscuits and cut each one into small pieces with scissors, letting them drop into the boiling syrup.
Cover and let simmer 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and let stand until ready to serve.
Serve this warm with a scoop of ice cream in a fancy dish with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top and a mint sprig garnish and you will have a gourmet-looking dessert that actually tastes heavenly.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Water Conservation During Drought

A year ago, about this time, my Cypress pond looked like this. My flowers were in bloom and the garden was off to a good start. Not so this year.
Today the herons moved in to feed on what is left of the fish
in what is left of the pond.

In the last 90 days, we have had less than a collective total of 3/4 of an inch of rain. For the last 30 days, each afternoon weather report has offered the hope of a 75%+ chance of afternoon thunderstorms. And, it has stormed. We see the lightning and hear the distant thunder and if we get in the car and drive for 15 minutes in any direction, we are likely to get wet. But my neighborhood seems to exist under an giant, unseen umbrella and we passed desperate two months ago. First, the garden slowed down, stressed by the temperatures hovering around 100 degrees day after day. My watering of containers changed from once to twice daily and still the leaves would wilt. When the shrubs around the house began to show signs of stress, I set out the sprinklers, along with shallow containers to measure water amounts, moving to another location when a 2" soaking had been achieved. I realized I was fighting a losing battle when the brown grass began to turn black as the roots actually deteriorated and several shrubs, some distance from the house, actually died. Now my smaller trees, like the dogwood, look as if they are in trouble.

---These have both died---
Last week I noticed a change in my well water. The iron content is greater and there are tannins, all signs that the well water level is dropping. So, conservation is now a necessity. Here are the things we're doing to reduce our water usage:
  • Brushing teeth with the water turned off.
  • Placing a 1/2 gallon jug of water in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of "flush water".
  • Reducing shower time and frequency by half.
  • Hanging bath towels to dry and sanitize in the sun after showering to launder less often.
  • Combining darks & lights into a single load of laundry.
  • Eliminating use of the dishwasher.
  • Keeping a dishpan of soapy water in the kitchen sink for quick hand washing.
  • Watering container vegetables using a watering can instead of the garden hose.
  • Cooling water used for cooking pasta & vegetables for use on garden containers.
  • Accepting the fact that some plantings will be lost.
For us, the drought is a matter of inconvenience. For the area farmers, it's a tragedy. Corn crops are ruined. Cotton did not even come up. The loss of summer grasses and winter hay endanger livestock and much of the livestock is having to be sold for lack of water.
These are difficult times but we will all get through them. Somehow, we always do. And I've noticed that, whether we were inclined to roll up our sleeves or get down on our knees, when we look back on hard times, we seem to have gained strength or pride or self-confidence in having come through them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fitting a Bar-B-Q for 25 into the Budget

Although we build our Independence Day celebrations around the history marked by the occasion, we also look forward to the food, family and fun of the equally traditional 4th of July Bar-B-Q.
This year, we themed it as an old-fashioned, red, white and blue, birthday party and it couldn't have been any better with lobster and crisp linens.I love the versatility of my chalkboard. It's just a piece of Masonite that I painted with blackboard paint and placed in an old frame, distressed to "shabby chic" with a coat of white paint and sandpaper. When the chalkboard is not heralding some special event, I use it as a fireplace shield. It almost disappears behind the firescreen and hides the unsightly, sooty view.
Everyone attending shared in both the effort and the cost by bringing something. The drinks cleverly kept with the color theme with the blue labeled bottles of water and red cans of Coke. The wash tubs were perfect containers and my prized, very old chair made a perfect stand.
Although new and a gift from a daughter, the frosty lemonade container looked equally old-fashioned sitting on an old step stool and made it easy for the children to get their own refills.
All decorations were from years past, just re-purposed. The patriotically painted, slat basket was the ideal container for baguette halves. And although I didn't think to get a photo of it, we used an old, weathered section of redwood fencing set on sawhorses as a buffet/serving table.
So as not to break my self-imposed budget, a couple of months ago I began purchasing and freezing the slabs of pork ribs and beef brisket. Here's my hint for not slaving over a grill for hours while you have guests: Brine the ribs and apply rub or marinade to the brisket overnight. Spend your time at the grill early in the morning. Then, sauce and wrap each slab or brisket tightly in double layers of heavy duty foil just when they look gorgeous, long before they are actually done. Keep them on a heat-controlled grill or in the oven at 185 degrees for 2 to 6 hours and remove 15 minutes before serving time to let them rest. The flavor will be wonderful and the meat will fall off the bone. AND...that's great for everyone except me. I like my ribs the genuinely old-fashioned way... where you have to tear the meat from the bone with your teeth like a hungry dog. To that end, I cooked one slab completely on the grill and tossed it, uncovered, in the oven for about a half hour to reheat before serving. (in photo above)
Click HERE for Brunswick Stew Recipe using leftover bar-b-q.
My Texas daughter brought CORN SALAD...scrumptious! Here's the recipe:
  • 1 Red Onion - diced
  • 6 cups Corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 bunch Cilantro - chopped
  • 1 carton Grape or Cherry Tomatoes - cut in half
  • 1 Jalapeno - finely diced
  • Feta Cheese - crumpled
  • Juice of 2 Limes (& zest from one)
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
In Butter, saute 1/2 of the Onion. Add Corn. Remove from heat and add everything else. Salt to taste. WONDERFUL!!!
We used the red & white & blue serving bowls and star-spangled dinnerware from last year...
and a daughter found these wonderful paper baskets for the children. (Don't know how or why this child is holding a white Styrofoam cup instead of a red one.)
In addition to red, white and blue decorated cupcakes, we had a cool, light and fluffy concoction made with lemon Jello and whipped cream, topped with strawberries and blueberries...
homemade ice cream sandwiches were made with big oatmeal cookies and rolled in red, white & blue sprinkles. And they would have photographed much better had I not spent time trying to find my camera. They really are cute, tasty and easy...just remember to make them ahead of time and freeze several hours before serving.
In the middle of a terrible drought, we didn't dare bring out any fireworks but the children were more than happy with glow sticks and sparklers after potato sack races and 3-legged races and relay races and laughter and giggles that still ring in my ears.