Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Friday, October 29, 2010

You Can't Always 'Trust' Thrift Tags

vintage white 'hobnail' bedspread

It pays to be patient when 'thrifting' :)
Today was 'date' day with Mr. Mac.  We were supposed to go to the hardware store (hey, it's raining;) but decided to stop at a few thrift stores on the way.  My favorite hangout was having half off the entire store .. so that was the first stop.  A few more USA made vintage diner pieces were picked up (plates and bowls @ 2 for 25 cents and 2 for 50 cents :) .. afterward we ventured to the Goodwill and I spied a hobnail (double) white bedspread.  Impressed, I checked the tag .. it read 'Dog Blanket' .. $1.99.  What?  I had stumbled on a rack of older bedspreads that the store thought would make good pet bedding.  Well, I checked the bedspread over pretty well (no fleas;) .. just a few small surface stains near the top edge.  After treating the spots and adding a smidgen of bleach with the blanket in the washing machine .. viola .. a perfectly good spot free bedspread .. with just a few minor snags.  A similar spread was priced at $58 when this bed was added to our guest room.  What do you think?  Is it a keeper?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

If Ever ...

Photo by Mrs. Mac
my stove stops working completely, I'd search high and low for something like this .. then do a little remodel in the kitchen area to make a free standing wood cook stove fit in.  Of course, then I'd need a summer kitchen on a closed in porch for cooking when it's warm outside ... canning day would not require an apology for such a mess in the kitchen should company drop by :) ... you've read the story, "If You Give A Mouse A Cookie" .. or .. " ...a Duck a Doughnut .. or ... Moose a Muffin" ... one thing leads to another.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Homemakers Movement

I have been so pleased in recent months to see the number of women making their way .. or deciding from the get-go to be keepers at home.  With that said, there are still areas in my own home that need work. 

Organic Fruit Snack (barely touched while I was away)!
Earlier this month I was gone for nearly four days.  While I was pleased to have the family step up and take care of our youngest (disabled) child, it came at a cost meal wise.  Without my influence let's just say that highly processed foods were consumed.  It would have been best to have had some home made freezer meals available (that was not the case) .. and my family saw this as an 'opportunity' to eat junk.  I must continually teach my family about the importance of good quality food.  When 'mom' is gone, no one seems to care or make the effort to prepare nutritious meals.  More work and training needs to take place about the benefits of good nutrition, and ... yes, while junk food may not harm you if eaten every so often, I need to bridge the 'GAP' (or gape) in my family's food choices when I'm away. 

Tonight there is a sporting event on TV (don't ask ... because I don't remember;) ... pizza seems to be the food of choice.  With plenty of fresh tomatoes available, it will be homemade and healthier than from a pizzeria or the frozen food isle.  

A homemakers job is vital to the well being and health of her/his family. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Replacing Dinner Plates

Beware of Cabella's dinnerware
I'm on a roll with rants about junk products.  You have to walk through a mine field when purchasing anything these days.  Three years ago my folks gave us a nice service of stoneware dishes, purchased no less at the high end outfitter store Cabellas. While the dishes themselves seem to perform well enough in the oven/microwave/dishwasher, the moose images have just about been scraped off from occasional use.  These were never used every day.  As you can see, the picture is from a salad plate.  Needless to say, I have stopped using them for fear we have been ingesting lead paint.  The plates were made in China.  Several wildlife themed coffee mugs purchased from Cabellas should have been marked 'for decoration purposes only' ... and who would buy them knowing that?  Seems the mugs were coated with a shellac type finish so the image wouldn't rub off.  These were marked 'not dishwasher safe' ... now I know why .. tell that to kids that don't read the fine print.


Of late I've been picking up vintage odds and end pieces of Homer Laughlin, Shenango, Syracuse and various other dish brands made in the USA that once graced diners and private homes.
Homer Laughlin & Shenango

I rather like the look of mix and match .. and at 25 & 50 cents to $1 a plate on days the thrift stores give a 50% discount, you can't beat the price.
Homer Laughlin

My favorite plates are the oval diner plates made of vitreous china (the same durable product sinks and toilets are made from;).  

Jackson China, hotel supply, Portland, Oregon

They are great to heat up before use to keep the food nice and warm.

I think it's time to pay Cabella's a visit to see about getting a refund.  Buyer beware! 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Junk Products

Since building our home in 2007, I have been very disappointed in some of the kitchen appliances.  We did not buy cheap .. but middle of the road quality/price.  To date, my microwave, dishwasher, and fridge have all needed some repairs.  Even the range, which had an electronic starter go on the fritz has been worked on.  Our high efficiency washing machine purchased in 2004 was replaced in 2006 with a less high tech model that uses more water and has no electronic brain.  I'm not sure the dishwasher will get replaced anytime soon should it completely go kaput; I can envision a nice calico curtain on a rod with storage shelves for my cast iron pans in this space.  Product quality seems to have been replaced with customer no-service ..  or at the least ... expensive repair bills (or extra insurance policies) that are about half the original cost of the product.  We need to re-invent quality USA made products instead of importing junk.  How did our country come so far as to send a man to the moon ... and yet have such poorly made foreign products for sale .. and a HUGE percent of the population out of work?  Government manipulation, big unions, and a less than united front in the workforce have contributed to this demise.  My pocketbook has been emptied .. but no more.  This same trend has not been just for large ticket items.  I have had countless small appliances (shall I mention coffee makers) that have stopped working just as the warranty expired.  Next up will be my rant about dinner plates!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Elegant and Frugal!

An organized kitchen workspace.
Give me half-a-dozen eggs, a few spoonfuls of gravy and as much cream, with a spoonful of butter and a handful of bread crumbs, and I can get up a good breakfast or luncheon,"   said a housekeeper to me once, in a modest boastfulness that became her well, in my eyes.

For I had sat often at her elegant, but frugal board, and I knew she spoke the truth.
Elegant and frugal dining room
Elegant and frugal!"   I shall have more hope of American housewives when they learn to have faith in this combination of adjectives.   

As quoted from:  Breakfast, Luncheon and Tea, by Marion Harland, 1875 .. part of  the "Common Sense In The Household" series.

For gaining much wisdom about domestic life, visit the 'Feeding America' website to read complete one and two century old books published in the United States of America.

Monday, October 11, 2010

To salt or not to salt .. butter that is.

For better butter .. try unsalted sweet cream butter; the taste is much fresher.  Salt is often added to butter to mask off tastes and used as a preservative.  There are many types of butter sold in the market.  In the U.S., most butter is of the salted variety.  You can buy some European butters that are made from grass fed cows/goats that are very dense and naturally yellow ... while I do buy these as a treat, they are often very expensive.  Lately, I've been buying unsalted sweet cream butter.  The taste is so much fresher and delicious compared with the salted variety.
What type of butter is in your fridge?  I'd rather use butter than the man-made 'plastic' version called margarine ... which is extremely bad for your health.  Another example of a marketing ploy to push cheap laboratory chemicals on to the public and touting them as 'good for you' ...
Betty Botter bought some butter,
"But," she said, "the butter's bitter;
If I put it in my batter,
It will make my batter bitter;
But a bit of better butter,
That would make my batter better."
So she bought a bit of butter,
Better than her bitter butter,
And she put it in her batter,
And the batter was not bitter;
So 'twas better Betty Botter
Bought a bit of better butter.   Betty Botter Poem of unknown origins
Painting by Carl Larsson, The Cowshed, 1905

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Just Dessert

Last night we had dinner with neighbors and friends.  I was asked to bring the dessert.  OK .. I've given up sugar .. but caved in and made a lemon meringue pie ;)  The point here is that by keeping a well stocked pantry/fridge/freezer with whole food items, I was able to throw together a 'peach' of a pie in no time.  With the ingredients on hand, I could have made a chocolate, rhubarb, apple, cherry, or peach pie as well.  Who needs Betty Crocker or Sara Lee .. or Mrs. Smith?  It is far more economical to learn to make your own pie .. or cake .. or whatever, than relying on a boxed/frozen store bought product.  Take the time to learn to bake.  Teach your children how to as well; you will save money in the long run, expose yourself to far fewer artificial ingredients, and pass on a much desired skill to the next generation.  Bye-bye Betty!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

A New Spice

... has been added to my cabinet;  ground chipolte peppers.  If you like chili powder, try to find some made from smoked chipolte peppers.  It adds another dimension to food without all of the added chemicals typically found in the canned peppers.  Our local health food store carries it in their organic bulk spice section.  It makes taco night more festive by adding it to the cooked meat and the refried beans.  It would be a good addition to homemade chili.  Give it a try if you enjoy spice.