Monday, February 28, 2011

I Love Getting Dirt Under My Nails

Yesterday was so mild and lovely; I couldn't resist getting out and getting into my plants and doing a bit of very early Spring gardening.
So yesterday I started my tomato seeds (my first try) and separated and planted some day lilies. I'm starting my own tomatoes from seeds because it's cheaper than buying 25 nursery plants at $5.00 each when I put in my garden in April.

First, I got a bag of fully composted stall muckings courtesy of our horses. Yep, it's manure and all that stuff found in horse's stalls..... turned into a delightful dark soil. And yes, I touch it with my bare hands. It's not nasty, and it doesn't smell bad. I mix it in a bucket 50 - 50 with potting mix.


Day lilies grow into thick clumps that need to be dug out and separated from time to time so they bloom better. I had dug these up a month or so ago, and crammed them in a bucket for later...... here is an example of a clump; and as you can see they're already starting to green up and grow, even out of soil. They're very hardy plants:

And a separated portion:

 I planted them in  one of my metal wash tub containers; I think they're so cottagey and cute. This is right beside the fence post of our garden entrance. I had to put one of my big tomato cages around it, to protect it from my four free ranging chickens that will not leave anything I plant alone. By summer, I will have a lovely pot of day lilies greeting me each time I enter my veggie garden. :)


Starting the tomatoes...........



 The contents of one $2.50 pack of tomato seeds. Beats paying $5 each down the road, though......


   Put the water in the tray first


 Then place the seed cups in; they soak up the water.


 I did two trays total, and have to keep them in a rabbit cage in my house to protect them from the cats; because - well - you know about cats and dirt.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Love It!

I am so going to do this. Look at it; it's the perfect accessory cabinet/jewelry box. I love the hooks inside the doors for necklaces; I love the cup hooks under the bottom shelf for bracelets or whatever; I love that I could stash things in cute cups or trays and store them in it; I love the wallpaper idea..... the only thing I do not like about this particular piece is the bubblegum pink color. Mine would be some neutral color with a pretty blue and white toile wallpaper.

As soon as I can find a cabinet to suit my purpose, I am going to do this very thing to it.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Cajun Gumbo

My dad's birthday was this past weekend, and he requested that I make his favorite meal: Gumbo.
My dad was raised in Louisiana, so Cajun foods are his favorites. I didn't learn to make gumbo until my later teen years, when I asked my aunt Dee Dee (my Dad's older sister) about it. I also did a lot of research on it and looked at many different recipes for different versions.

Gumbo is basically a stew - a thick, spicy stew usually comprised of chicken and/or seafood. It's like this: roux, broth, the Holy Trinity (green peppers, onions, and celery) and then other items such as your chicken, seafood, and andouille sausage, and other items such as okra, and tomatoes in some cases. It is typically made in really large "batches".

What I make is Cajun gumbo, as opposed to creole gumbo. "Cajuns" were descendants of french speaking settlers in the early days of the exploration of America; with a lot of African influence also. "Creoles" were primarily around New Orleans and were primarily settlers from France and Spain. A creole gumbo is a bit thinner and has a lot of tomato base to it; whereas a Cajun gumbo is darker, thicker; based on the roux made from fat and flour, cooked until it appears almost "burned". There is seafood in Cajun gumbo, but chicken, duck, goose, etc. is it's primary meat. And andouille sausage.
It took me a long time, and many tries, to get the gumbo to where my Dad said it tasted like the Gumbo of his Louisiana childhood.

The roux is the most important step. It takes a long time to do, so make sure you have at least an hour of uninterrupted time to make a roux. And some flour and oil.

In a large, heavy, well seasoned cast iron skillet,  combine 1 cup of vegetable oil and about 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour. You don't want it to look too shiny; but not too thick either. You want a nice, smooth look to it. You may need to add more oil, or more flour, depending.  Begin cooking on med-high heat until it starts to get bubbly, stirring constantly.


 If at any time during the cooking of the roux you stop stirring it, you could burn it and have to start all over again. So have someone to talk to, or some music to listen to, because you're going to have to stand there and stir for about 45  minutes.


As it starts to brown, you may need to turn the heat down if it is bubbling too fast. The idea is to slooooowly cook the roux until it is  dark and fragrant; there is no way to hurry the process along.


 As it approaches "doneness", it's going to start to smell like it might be "burning" - don't worry. As long as you're stirring it constantly, and the heat is not too high, and it's not turning black and getting dry, it's not burning - it's just that nutty, rustic roux smell! Mmmmm.

Once it is a nice rich brown color, transfer the roux into a big stock pot, and add the Holy Trinity -  in this case, I added:
4 green peppers, chopped
1 bunch of celery, chopped (leaves included.)
3 med. onions, chopped.
Mix it all around and cook for about 5 minutes - or a little longer - in the stock pot, stirring frequently.

Next, I add about a gallon of chicken stock or vegetable broth, or both; and a Tbsp. of salt. Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for a while. A while being maybe 30 minutes or so. (This is not an exact science to me; I do it by smell, taste, and "feel".......)

 Then add your chicken. Traditionally, you just put a whole chicken in the pot - bones and all (for flavor) while it simmers; and then you can take out the bones and skin before serving. But, my Mom hates that - because she seems to always get a bone or nasty piece of skin or other grody part from the chicken in her bowl; SO! I cook the bird, remove the skin and bones, and add the meat, torn into pieces.
In this batch I sliced and added my sausage, added a bit of okra I had from last years garden in the freezer, and a quart jar of home-canned stewed tomatoes from my garden as well. I brought the pot back to a boil, reduced the heat to low and continued to simmer. At that point I added my spices: red pepper to taste; black pepper, a bit of oregano, a bit of cumin, a Tbsp. or two of parsley flakes or fresh chopped parsley; and several dashes of Worcestershire sauce. By a "bit", I mean about a couple of teaspoons each, considering the size of the batch. You may need to add a quart or so more water; I did because it was getting awfully thick as it simmered all afternoon. But don't add too much, you don't want it to be runny.  Cook very low for about an hour and it will start to thicken. several minutes before serving, add the shrimp - in this batch, a couple of pounds. Legs removed.
Traditionally, "file" powder is added as a thickener - file being dried, ground sassafras root. (This was started by the Choctaw native Americans of the region.) But, I cannot find file powder to buy in this area, so I don't have it. :(

Serve with hot rice....... you will enjoy it. Sorry I do not have a finished product photo; I didn't think about it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Vanity Boxes

I love vintage vanity items. Toiletries used to come in such pretty containers, unlike the plastic ho-hum ones you get cosmetics, soaps and bath items in these days.

One of my little collecting habits happens to be these pretty vanity items; especially unusual little boxes.

Like this painted porcelain hair pin box from Japan:



 I bought it at a flea market for fifty cents.

 This "hair receiver"  box if a family relic that belonged to some female member on my Grandfather's side. The lid has a hole in the top, and ladies would save the hair from their brushes and use for little projects. Kinda gross, I know.... but they didn't think a thing of it. Anyway; it's hand painted in China; probably around the 20's.


 This is a silver plate powder box with a monogrammed lid that I bought at an antique shop. I polished it up and it still remains stubbornly tarnished on the lid..... not sure why. The monogram isn't mine but I love monograms no matter what letters they are. I just store vintage brooches in it. Until I get some powder and a powder puff for it.



 This is another cute old trinket box my mom gave me when I was really little; I used to put my lost teeth in there. Eeeew! Anyway, the box's design is made from pieces of grass, or reeds; or some kind of plant material and lined in satin. It's really old; and I believe it also used to belong to a great grandmother or aunt or someone in the family.


 These are just a few of the oldest in my collection; I have newer antique reproduction boxes that I stash various jewelry and trinkets in.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why They're Called "Victory Rolls"

A couple of people asked why Victory Rolls are called Victory Rolls, so I dug a little bit to find out more info on the hairstyle.

In the 1940's, many women started wearing their hair a bit longer than they had during the 20s and 30's; and a soft curled look became popular. Women got the curls using the "pin curl" method, or "rag" method.

Along came World War 2, and with it, a shortage in metals due to pretty much all metal being used for the War Effort. I even found a reference to women using pipe cleaners to curl their hair when metal bobby pins became scarce!

I guess at some point, some model or celebrity pinned their curls up on top of their head, and the look took off and women everywhere were doing it.


I have always heard that they were called "Victory Rolls" because so much of every day life was all about victory then. When I read (parts of) the book "Women and World War 2" by Doris Weatherford, I gained a new understanding of women and girls that lived through this time in history and insight into their lives - my Grandmother and her sisters were some of these strong women.
While the men were off fighting valiantly for freedom, women on the home front wanted to have a connection to the War Effort - through making do with what was available (not much), salvaging items and re-purposing, recycling, sewing, re-fashion, "Victory Gardening", etc. It kept the ladies busy, and gave them a sense that, in these ways, they were helping their loved ones fighting overseas to win the fight, and therefore, come HOME! Since all the men were off to war, it was during this time the women entered the work force and for many, the first time ever, had employment outside of the home. (Look at these hard working ladies below wearing the rolls...)


But I also read that the hairstyle got the name from the "V" shape you get from the rolls when they're pinned directly on top of your head in an upwards way. (I am not convinced. Not all victory rolls get this shape.)

I also read that women named the hair style for a fighter plane maneuver used by fighter pilots of the time, by the same name.

Another item I read said they named the style "victory" rolls to honor victorious soldiers.

So I don't know for sure why, exactly; just that it has direct connections with WW2.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Victory Rolls: Parts Two and Three

The top photo is of today's first attempt. I tried to get the rolls higher on top of my head, the way I've seen some people do it. The problem was, I didn't like it .... it just didn't look right from the front. It looked like I had just put pin curls in my hair; not like a finished "hair-do". It was also really hard for me to get the left side even with the right side! I'll have to work on getting height some more.

The last three pics are what I ended up settling with. A little more defined curls - or ROLLS - than my attempt the other day.  I also did my "fringe" in front - which was shorter than the layer that ended up in the roll - in a little pin curl of it's own. I was going for a big "roll" in the middle (More height here would have been good) and two rolls on the sides. I also have to sort out what to do with the back hair - as the curl kind of flopped by the time I got the front done. maybe I need to get a better holding product! I must say, it was a little easier this time...... but I'm still no expert. I'll just keep trying!
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February Thrifted Treasures

Of course, I buy a LOT of stuff in a month for inventory purposes; but some lovelies I cannot part with. Like this sweet boxy little snake skin handbag I snagged for $3.00 at Goodwill. I almost missed it; and saw it as I was going out the door.... it had damage, that I did get fixed, but I love it and will use it, for sure.


And then there was this classic blue Harlequin Fiesta Ware covered vegetable dish from the 50s - that I picked up at a different Goodwill for a mere $2.50.


I just love finding these kinds of goodies. I'm telling you, I'm a vintage Pirate on a treasure hunt, and my home is my treasure trove!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

PS - Valentines Day

I became a Valentines Day Grinch when I was single, and remain a Valentines Day Grinch now as a married person.

Kevin and I simply do not see the point; so we don't celebrate the holiday at all.

Don't get me wrong - were all in favor of love and romance and showing one's regard and affection for one another. We just don't do it on Valentines Day with the rest of the huddled masses, frantically scrambling for a lame gift (stuffed animals?!)to give their SO, just because the calendar says it' a holiday.

I'm all for others doing it and getting a special warm and fuzzy feeling from it; but I'll pass.

My Valentine's Day "chocolate" could be any random day of the year, when I open the fridge and find a quart of chocolate milk there that I didn't buy.... because Kevin did. He knows I have a soft spot for "chocolate cow" and he surprises me with it now and then when he's gone to the store without me. Or, when he brings me a chilly glass of it while I am lounging on the sofa on a Sunday morning watching "Meet The Press" and wanting to strangle David Gregory so bad. That's my Valentine chocolate.

My Valentine flowers could be any random spring evening..... as the sun is going down and Kevin returns from plowing the back fields, carrying a pile of delicate pink blooms in his hat from the rose bushes that grow wild on the back of our property. Or daffodils. Or iris. Or lilacs. Or any of the wild flowers that grow on our farm.

I prefer to celebrate "Valentine's Day" with more spontaneity. It's Valentine's day when I'm not expecting it to be Valentine's day. For us, it's Valentine's Day when an ordinary day turns into something special because of a small random gift or act of love and affection.

And I just find that so much more romantic than those predictable, boring gifts that get pushed on the public every year in February.

Monday, February 14, 2011


Today I determined to try doing traditional, 1940s style "Victory Rolls" in my hair. Look at these pics and then I will describe the whole ordeal:




I have gotten this look before using combs; but I have never tried to make actual rolls using the traditional method. First I watched a bunch of tutorials on You Tube (there's a lot of them.)

A few things I discovered on this attempt: First, you have to start with rolled hair - either hot rolled (what I do) sponge rolled, rag rolled, or if you're lucky, naturally curly hair.
Second, It is a good idea to have "product" to put in your hair. I despise putting "product" in my hair, but if you don't, wispy hairs will be all over the place! I tried it a couple times without, and finally put in some "sculpting" gel.
Third: My arms were killing me!

Anyway - my first couple of results were way poofy and fluffy. Then I decided to stop trying to follow all the methods in the videos I watched, and I ended up pinning large "curls" down closer to my head; as opposed to "rolls"; getting less poof.
I also pinned up the back in one big "curl". But, it also looks nice let down in the back.

So, I am resolved to start practicing several times a week at least; until I perfect my "method", and maybe I can get a sister or two to let me practice doing it on someone else's head also.

So, first attempt: "sorta" Victory Rolls. Passable. Meh.
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Friday, February 11, 2011

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, EVER. Period. End of Story.


I don't remember where I got it from. It's printed off on a wrinkly, splotched old sheet of printer paper. All I know is, the recipe makes the best chocolate chip cookies ever. They're chewy, and they stay chewy even the next day - if they last that long.







My husband married me because of these cookies.

Naaaaaah, just kidding.

He married me for my Southern charm and excellent wit. (Tee hee.)

Best Big Fat Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups chocolate chips

Oven: 325
Sift the dry ingredients; set aside. Cream the sugars with the melted butter. Add the vanilla and egg and mix well. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just moistened. Mix in the chocolate chips. Drop by 1/4 cup fulls (or so) on lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake 12-15 minutes until lightly browned on the top but still gooey in the middle. Cool on the sheets for a few minutes and remove to cooling racks.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Young Etsy Shops I Heart

I have a lot of favorite Etsy shops, that's true. But these shops are special because I know the owners, they're my friends and they have cool stuff!! Please check them out:

Gates of Elloree My friend Lorie makes lovely necklaces and chokers. I have one and I love it! I also gave several for Christmas gifts last year.

Mary's Woodland Cottage
Woodland items here.

Dear Little You Vintage items.

White Stone Studio Awesome artwork.

And for the funniest cards to be found just about anywhere, check out The Laugh Factory! I don't know the owner of this shop personally, but I love, love love these cards. I will probably buy every single different one they offer, for all this year's family birthdays!

So before you spend money at Wally World, try Etsy for cards, gifts, home furnishings, clothes - just about everything! Happy shopping. :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cutie Pies



I love pie. I especially love mini pies. They're like cupcake's little cousins.

These lil' single serve goodies are some that I made with an old chocolate cream pie recipe; with cornstarch and milk and cocoa and flour and all that - in a double boiler. I make my own pie crust also - it's the only way! I find that, usually, a typical (not deep dish) pie filling recipe makes a dozen mini pies (about 1/3 cup size pies.)

I didn't have cream to make whipped cream, so I put cool whip on them. The real thing would be so much better. Or at least, Redi Whip.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Cute Love Story!

In this post by Aunt Ruthie at Sugar Pie Farmhouse, she relates the story of how a lovely lady met, fell in love with, and married a wonderful guy she met by

- Visiting the guy's sister's blog
- Commenting
- emailing
- Saw the guys picture on the blog
- Meeting up with the blogger
- Meeting the blogger's (handsome and single) brother


You have to read the post to find out the details and the rest of the love story.

Just too cute.

Oh yeah, happy Groundhog Day. :)