Nov 28, 2014

Cherishing Time From Long Ago

My cherished clock turns back time for me.


I hope all is well in your world. Like most everyone else, I have  been super busy and when I got a request to write about a cherished treasure, I thought it was a good time to slow down and share a bit.  I was asked to write about a cherished item in my home by Chairish, a very cool site that allows vintage lovers to sell and buy fabulous objects and furniture. I am not getting any compensation, only a request to participate blogging about a cherished item, which of course, is a favorite topic of mine. But do take a moment to check them out - there are some really neat items on their site!

This is my cherished 1890's German clock that belonged to my father. I grew up with this special clock in our dining room. The memories of that clock....Oh, how the minutes just dragged by as I would look up to check the time until Charlie Brown Christmas was due on the tube (as we called television back in the day). And yet, how those minutes flew by when my mother would announce that bath time would be in 20 minutes. I was usually busy making intricate spirals with my Spirograph wheels and colored ink pens - and with no intention of stopping for a darn bath. 

I also learned to count from the clock with its musical chiming throughout the house. Being a night owl, I remember counting to 12 as I laid wide awake in my bed and then being confused that it chimed 12 times then only just one chime on the next hour. By daybreak, I would forget my confusion. But one night, at the stroke of one in the morning, I remember getting up and sliding down to my parents room (in feet pajamas, one can't just walk, but one must "slide" or "skate" down the hallway), tapping my dad on his forehead and telling him something was wrong with the clock. Understandably confused, and he not being the Leave-it-to-Beaver-type of dad that pounced upon teachable moments to explain time to his four year-old daughter at one in the morning; no, he sat up, grunted, "Whaat? Who?  What the hell?" And told me it's late, nothing is wrong, and took me back to bed. However, I wasn't convinced that there was nothing was wrong with the clock, because I was pretty sure how to count and for quite a while, I felt that "my" clock was just mixed up a little.

My favorite memories of my clock have more to do with my father, than the clock itself. The above pic is how I remember my clock as a little girl. It seemed so high up (to keep curious little hands off it, no doubt) and it looked so impressive. This is the viewpoint I had of my clock for years - unless I stood on the stairwell, and suddenly I was tall enough to see it straight on. 

I remember my father winding the clock every Sunday. I was most definitely a "daddy's girl" and would lean on his leg, looked up, as he opened up the door and took the key out of the "secret" hiding place. 

I was fascinated by that little key - it looked nothing like car keys, or the house key or the little key that locked our tool shed. I often wonder if my love of old keys today stems from this clock key.

But mostly, I loved that key, because when my brothers and sister weren't around, my dad would pick me up and hold me with one arm, as he turned the key with the his other hand. And on rare occasion, he would let me "do a turn" as I would beg. He would show me the secret hiding place for the key, and always remind me that I wasn't to play or touch the clock, which I never once did. 

My dad would sometimes wipe down the wood, and I would reach out and gently touch the wood myself and felt all the curves and knobs. All the while, pulling on my dad's neck, as he held me, while I leaned in to stroke the polished wood.

I often think about cleaning up the old marks, the worn areas, and buffing out the pitted stains - that is what my dad would do. But there is a part of me that likes to believe that those old marks are the last marks from my father's hand. My logical part tells me that it is just aged over years of travel, boxed up, and natural patina. My father never really allowed it to tarnish. But his last two years of life, his health was very poor, and I would be very surprised if he cleaned his clock at all during the last year of his life. I like to tell myself that these marks are left by him, and so, I want to keep them. And a part of me also wants to believe that somewhere, there may be a small fingerprint from my childhood, left from those days that I held tightly onto my father's neck as I left my own mark.

When my clock chimes, it warms my heart, brings back memories, and although I am so much older now, the sound of the chimes make me feel young again. I like to think of my clock as my own time machine - stuck in reverse.

But reverse is just fine. While the future holds many new adventures, it is nice to relive those memories that hold my father.

May your own reverse time machine take you to a place of joy.

from my house to your house,


Oct 4, 2014

A Ball of Fun with Jars and String

*String, Jars, and a Tangled Ball of Fun*

Hello my dear friends!

I have been out of town with my barber husband for a week and just got back today. We went to a little fishing cabin and enjoyed the beginnings of autumn in nature - a lake - some fishing - campfires - zero cell coverage, and just sitting on the porch discovering more stars than we have seen in ages! On the way home, we stopped and antiqued a bit and as I unpacked my goodies on our back table, the light was hitting my treasures "just so" and so I grabbed my camera and took a few shots.

I am on a mission to rid of all things plastic. Well, almost all things plastic. And my first project is to rid of all my tons of spice "jars" that I get when I pick up a little spice here and there from the markets. I hate those little plastic containers they come in when I am buying just a tad. Some spices do come in glass, but many (actually most) come in plastic. 

Why the sudden disdain for plastic? Well, it really isn't sudden, but I am finally getting around to do some changes in my lifestyle that has been on my  mind for some time now. Plastic just isn't healthy (for our body and our planet), plain and simple. We have collected some vintage refrigerator jars to hold our water (and we love them!) as well as vintage glass refrigerator food storage containers to replace tupperware. So, I am determined to rid of plastic wherever possible, and replace it with only vintage jars to hold all of my spices and ingredients. I found these little jars and I love the "shot glass" bottom that a few of them have! 

I found the cutest little "baby" mason jars (1 pint) that are perfect to hold larger quantities of some ingredients such as my variety of sea salts, pepper corns, whole basil leaves, cocoa powder, baking soda, vanilla sugar, corn starch, and so on.

And then I found this fab vintage counter jar that is perfect to hold some course cornmeal I bought at a little Amish grocer while on vacation. But even better? For only $18, I get the fab jar filled with spectacular string! Can never have enough string, twine, rope, thread, yarn, or whatever else type there is out there. I just love it all, actually. 

So, I had to play a bit...

I think even though I am 50, I am still like the kid at Christmas who spends the morning gleefully playing with the boxes and wrapping paper...give me a jar of string and you find me in my own box of joy.

It's "late" and we are still technically on vacation, so we are settling in to watch a movie, eat Amish snacks, and have the kitties on our lap tonight. I hope your Sunday is spent in your own "box of joy"!

from my house to your house,


Sep 26, 2014

Lavender, Linen, and a Little Bit of Love

Ribbon, lavender, and a little bit of linen

Hello my friends,

I hope all is well with you on this b..e..a..u..t..i..f..u..l fall day today! I thought I would share a little project that I did a while back, but decided to make a few more today - lavender sachets.

I have tons of linen scraps here and there and they (along with vintage ticking, old table cloths, or any natural fiber fabric) and they make the perfect little sachets. I cut the scraps into 3.5" x 3.5" and just fill and sew!

I like the rustic look, so I simply place one piece of fabric onto the other (wrongs sides together). I sew about 1/4" allowance and then fill with buds and carefully sew it shut. Seriously, the entire process takes less than five minutes from cut to shut.

The rough, unfinished edges give a feel of homespun elegance.

A little velvet ribbon tied around a bundle of three...

Makes an elegant and simple gift to thee...

Just "squish" them periodically to release the wonderful lavender scent. Perfect for under your sleeping pillow during the day and at night, remove, flip pillow over, and rest your head on a lovely, soothing scent.

Wishing "thee" a happy and creative weekend!

from my house to your house


Sep 19, 2014

Who Needs Hallmark?

Hello my friends,

Thank you for the comments - blogger is broken over here and I see your comments, but can't publish them at the moment. Please keep commenting, as they will get fixed...I am working on that this very moment.

In the meantime, speaking of working. I am sitting here, working on the computer, and reached for my little notebook to look up some notes and as I flip through my little book, I discover the best note of all - a love note.

I snapped the love note with my iPhone and just wanted to share with you. A great way to end the week for me. And a great way for my barber husband to begin his weekend (or as he will find out)!  ;-)

Not Shakespeare, Hallmark, Robert Browning or even Elizabeth Barrett could have worded it more perfectly - spiral notepaper and all. Small moments such as this, makes my barber husband taller, stronger, and more handsome than any man in the world. 

And he is, too.

Just wanted to share my moment with you. My wish for you is that someone in your life sees you the way I see my barber husband simply because of the way you make them feel.

from my house to your house,


Sep 2, 2014

Canning: Fun, Simple, Tasty!

Canning Tomatoes...A Summer Tradition 

Hello my friends,

Before I begin, I would like to say that my comments are not working properly (for several posts now) and once in a while I find them in spam, but for the most part, when they do come in, and I click "publish" Blogger doesn't publish them. I am still trying to figure out the issue, but please feel free to comment, as once this is fixed, they will all be published. Thank you so much for visiting.

Now on to canning tomatoes.

As stated in my last post, my tomatoes have been coming in very sporadically this year, which makes it a pain. But, then the other day, just like that, about 30 or so pounds came "due" and I really wanted to harvest them fresh, and took the plunge. For those who have never canned, this post is for you. I will give you the basic steps, and a very general salsa recipe to get you started. If you never considered canning, or don't grow tomatoes, then your local farmer's market is a great place to start. It is so very nutrias and tasty in the cold, dark winter to have fresh salsa, tomato sauce, or even whole tomatoes for recipes. The flavor is so superior, that store-bought tomatoes will be a thing of the past for you.

There are many great websites that give very detailed information, that are easy to google. Here is my favorite: Fresh Preserving. I will provide only very basic information, mainly to show how easy this process really is.

Here are the basics you will need:

Canning jars (size depends on what you want to can, and how much)
Jar holder
canning funnel 
Lids (lids and rings)
Canning pot and rack that goes inside
Lemon juice
Tomatoes (I won't bother to can unless I have at least 20 lbs)
Wooden or plastic chopstick (or a long thin knife or long metal spoon handle for getting rid of air bubbles)
Wet cloth

I will be canning by water bath. This type of canning is for highly acidic produce and a pressure canner (one I hope to get sometime in the future) is for anything that is not acidic enough for a water bath.

First - wash all your jars and lids. 

I have a tiny kitchen, so I get out my smaller canning pot and fill with hot water and soap and let them soak a bit. I put this on the counter, which frees up my sink for other duties. You may wash them in the dishwasher, and keep the dry heat on until you are ready to use. I prefer a soapy wash, then place the jars into the canning pot with very hot water, and lids in a small pan on low heat.

I am making three types of tomatoes today. I am making a seasoned tomatoes sauce, a salsa, and canning quartered tomatoes. 

First,  I will show you how I make my seasoned sauce. For the sauce, I used about 20lbs of fresh, washed tomatoes. One med white onion, four garlic cloves, fresh basil, and a little salt. 

I diced up the onion, and sauté it in olive oil on med heat until clear. 

While my onions are sautéing, I take my chopped garlic cloves and my fresh basil (about a handful - I like basil) and begin to mince it. I grow it fresh, and this purple basis has THE best taste ever. For 20 lbs of tomatoes (more or less), I would use at least 6-10 leaves. I probably used a bit more.

Mincing can be done with a number of kitchen gadgets, but I prefer to use my vintage mortar and pestle. A bit more work, but gives me complete control at the exact consistency I like. 

I cut my tomatoes (grew yellow this year, which was so pretty) and ended up with about 16 cups. You will read many recipes about removing the skins, seeds and so on - which I do for other times, but NOT for my sauce. I have an extra step with a new kitchen gadget that saves so much time, that leaving skins and seeds in tact is just fine. I grow mine organic, absolutely no chemicals, so I want all the nutrients that I can get - which the skins have. 

Once the onions are fairly clear, I add the basil and garlic mixture to the onions, and then I toss in the quartered tomatoes all into the same pan and cook on med heat for about 20 minutes, stirring it all together and coat everything with the onions, garlic and basil.

I then take take my tomatoes and mixture out of the pan and put it in my new Vitamix blender (love this new machine). I puree it on "10" for severe minutes - and presto! NO seeds or skin to be seen.

Because I want it to be extra sooth, I let it strain down for extra silky sauce. But the left over "pulp" that was left in the sieve was so minimal, this step could actually be skipped. 

Note: I pureed my tomatoes in batches - just easier that way. I love the pumpkiny color that came from mixing in the yellow tomatoes. I then put the sauce BACK IN THE PAN and cook on medium heat to reduce it down to almost half. This thickens it a bit, and makes it rich.

After the sauce is reduced, I add one tablespoon of lemon juice, then ladle the sauce into my very hot jars. I then take my plastic chopstick (or thin knife) and insert it and move it around carefully to release any air bubbles. I wipe down the edges with a damp cloth and then place on the lid and tighten the ring with gentle pressure. 

I place the jars in the water bath on the rack and lower into the water. (Use your jar holder for this! Don't drop down into the water.) The jars must be completely covered at least an inch to ensure proper sealing. Depending on your location, altitude and size of jar, will depend on how long to process. Just check your jar box, which should have guidelines. I then place processed jars on a dish towel, which is on a thick cutting board. As they cool, you will hear a "pop" from the lid - that means it is now sealed! After 24 hours, you should check all lids by gently pushing down on the center of the lid, and if properly sealed, then it will be firm and not move. If not sealed properly, it will "pop" as it flexes up and down. You may either reprocess, or just stick it in the fridge and eat it first. 

Now on to my salsa:

For me, salsa is so personal. Meaning, some like it hot, very hot, or very mild and everything between. I hate cilantro and so I don't add it (I know, I am from Texas, and actually hate its staple vegetable.) I make it mild, if I am to give the salsa away as gifts, and then let the receiver add as much spice to it as they wish. I personally add about three Serrano peppers, 4-6 garlic cloves, lime, onion (white, red, or both) and green bell pepper. 

I also use smokey red pepper spice, chili powder, salt and a little bit of sugar. I don't mean to aggravate you by not giving exact amounts, as I cook so often by look, tastes, and quantity.  But to give you an idea, for about 15 pounds of tomatoes, I used 2 med-large onions, juice of two limes, 5 cloves of garlic, about 1.5 tablespoons of salt (or more) and just enough sugar to cut down any bitterness from the flavors. Other spices such as chili powder and smokey red pepper is done to taste. 

I coarsely cut up my onion and pulse it in my processor/blender. I then let it drain while I prepare the other ingredients. I add a little bit of salt to help it drain. If you want your salsa really spicy, you can add this "onion juice" to your recipe, but I find it has too much of an onion taste with all that juice. 

While the onions are draining, I chop up my tomatoes and toss tomatoes (seeds and skin), garlic, and peppers into the processor and coarsely pulse.

I then, coarsely chop up more tomatoes and add to the mixture.

So while my tomato sauce was processing (on left) my salsa was cooking on the right. I cooked the salsa on med heat for about 15 minutes. The photo below sorta looks like a crazy woman cooks in there!  :-)

I add my tablespoon of lemon juice, then ladle in the salsa, remove the air bubbles with my chopstick, wipe down the edges of the rim, then place on the lid and tighten the rim with gentle pressure. I put into the bath and process according to my altitude. Please see your canning box (or look it up online) the exact processing time for your area. 

Now, with my left over tomatoes, I just want to can them with no seasonings. I plop the whole tomato into boiling water for a minute or two and then place them in ice water to remove the skins easily. Yes, I remove the skins when canning just plain, everyday tomatoes. It makes my cooking them later in recipes easier. Then skins will crack in the boiling water and you can see how they crack in the image below as they cooled a bit in the ice water.

Once I peel all the tomatoes, then I quarter them and core out the white center. I personally don't bother removing all the seeds. Most fall out on their own and those go down the drain, but some remain behind which is fine with me.

The procedure is simple: I put in my tablespoon of lemon juice in the jar, put in the tomatoes, pour in any water (or tomato juice) to fill the jar, remove air bubbles, wipe the edges down, add the lid and tighten the rim and process for the amount of time for your altitude. Easy peasy. 

Here are a few reminders and tips to show you just how easy this is:

Wash all tomatoes, remove any dark spots or bruises.
If pureeing, skins and seeds are fine - even nutritious. 
Lemon juice in every jar - don't forget!
Make sure jars are at least 1" below the water line when processing.

And once you have your product ready (be it a sauce, salsa, or plain tomatoes) the steps are all the same:

Lemon juice in jar
Fill jar (leave one inch space from top)
Wipe jar rim
Remove air bubbles
Put on lid and tighten rim
Process in water bath for correct amount of time

Like I said, Easy Peasy!

Salsas, sauces, yellow tomatoes, plain tomatoes, and even some apple spice topping and one jar of peach jam are in my cabinet. I am hoping I will process about 30 or 40 more pounds of tomatoes by the end of the month. Everything you see (except for the three apple and peach jars) were processes in one afternoon. It takes only a little practice and actually, the prep time takes more time than the actual processing. But so worth it all when in the dark winter days of February you can pull out zesty sauce and make a big batch of spaghetti and meatballs and let it simmer all afternoon...makes those cold days seems so inviting. 

I hope this helps a little. There are so many website and You Tube videos that explain it all so much better than I do. But I just wanted to show that it really isn't complicated and the rewards are so satisfying.  If you can produce or have a great recipe for canning, please feel free to share with me - would love to learn!

from my house to your house,

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