Friday, December 31, 2010


We found this lovely book at an estate sale this fall. Decorum: A practical treatise on etiquette and dress is digitized and available through Harvard. The book includes 1877 and 1879 dates of publication.

It is full of gems - advice on social interactions of all kinds, dress, letter writing, courtship and marriage, and attire in the late 1800's.

On Wall Flowers at Balls:
The master of the house should see that all the ladies dance; he should take notice, particularly of those who seem to serve as drapery to the walls of the ball-room, (or wall-flowers, as the familiar expression is) and should see that they are invited to dance. But he must do it wholly unperceived, in order not to wound the self-esteem of the unfortunate ladies.

On Love at First Sight:
No doubt these is such a thing as love at first sight, but love alone is a very uncertain foundation upon which to base marriage. There should be through acquaintanceship and a certain knowledge of harmony of tastes and temperaments before matrimony is ventured upon.

On Trifling with a Man's Feelings:
Some young ladies pride themselves upon the conquests which they make and would not scruple to sacrifice the happiness of an estimable person to their reprehensible vanity. Let this be far from you. If you see clearly that you have become an object of especial regard to a gentleman, and do not wish to encourage his addresses, treat him honorably and humanely, as you hope to be used with generosity by the person who may engage your own heart.

On Breaking an Engagement:
...Still breaking an engagement is always a serious and distressing thing, and ought not to be contemplated without absolute and just reasons...It is generally best to break an engagement by letter. By this means one can express himself or herself more clearly, and give the true reasons for his or her course much better than in a personal interview. The letter breaking the engagement should be accompanied by everything in the way of portraits, letters or gifts which have been received during the engagement.

What is the ruling on a text message break up?

This is such a fun look at the view of etiquette and dress for "the best American society" in the 1800's.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Summer finds & fun

In an earlier post, I mentioned the fantastic vintage photos we found in Atlanta. Here are a couple of my favorites. You have to wonder what mischief these boys were up to - classic brothers fighting and playing. Love the photographer's eye for everyday moments.

Our other fantastic find was this amazing store called Mingei World Arts. The store had so many beautiful and fine things, including a large basket of chapati rolling pins. We selected three - all lovely with a beautiful patina. You and tell that these were used frequently and the wear makes them that much more precious. They are displayed in my kitchen were I also have a bowl of domestic rolling pins shared by family members or scavenged at vintage stores.

My mom and I have been enjoying some time together canning. We are alternating between tomatoes - pizza sauce, pasta sauce and salsa - and peaches. The latest version of peaches uses honey in place of some of the sugar in the syrup. I love the time with mom and love learning about how to preserve great food.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The latest finds

We have been fortunate enough to travel a bit this summer. In Atlanta we spent some time in consignment and antique stores. Aside from my $23 JCrew suit, a basket of black and white pictures in an antique store was my favorite find. I picked out a couple of dollars worth, but should have purchased the whole lot. Shopper's regret - the worst!

The photographer had mostly candid shots - two had her caption written on the back. Any that made me smile moved to the keep pile. Here are a couple of samples.

And, the big decision is what is the project? How will I use them? Maybe cards or an art collage - they are just too great to be in a dusty antique store and not shared.

Summer bounty

Our garden has been producing beautiful tomatoes. Despite a serious heat spell and a lack of rain, we have had an almost constant supply of tomatoes and peppers. Mom and I have been bonding over some canning adventures. You will find us on a Saturday or Sunday in my kitchen canning salsa, pizza sauce and a tomato pasta sauce. The pizza sauce is by far the winner!

Our first canning project was salsa. We decided that we wanted to save ourselves the messy foodmill and clean up, so we would just blend the hot salsa. This sounds easy. You ladle the hot soup into the blender, zip it through, and then put it back in the pot. We violated every safety rule and had salsa in my hair and splattered on the kitchen cupboards before we were through! We decided that we needed a better plan and that led to the purchase of the hand blender. Best money I have ever spent!

My favorite part is just learning along side mom. A long-time canner, she has all of the details in her head. She is a stickler for cleanliness, has all of the gadgets, and just standing at the sink with her peeling tomatoes after a long week has been so calming. I bring the recipe and she helps me get it through to finished. We also love to hear the pop of the jars sealing when they are out of the hot water bath.

Next on the canning agenda - peaches!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Meet our new hobby

Our long search for a vintage pickup came to an end when Jer found a posting on Craigslist for a 1950 Chevy in Osage City. The gentleman selling this beauty knew some of my family from the area and was just the type of guy we had hoped would be selling our dream truck. He had been taking great care of her - driving it every day to and from work at the parts counter for the local Chevy dealer.

We asked dad along to help with the test drive. We were really glad since neither of us knew how to start the thing. It has a starter on the floor next to the gas pedal, a key, and a choke. It might have taken us a little while and we both seemed anxious about proving we would be good caretakers of the truck.

She runs beautifully with an original engine. And, by beautifully, I mean a top speed of 40 miles per hour. It is an interesting contrast to the rest of our lives where we are driven by the clock and have to be places fast.

Once we made the purchase, we drove her home from Osage at the top speed of 40 miles per hour. I followed in the car and we only backed up traffic a few times on Hwy 99. We took a break in Alma for pizza and as soon as she was parked, we got our first compliment!

While she is not perfect, over time, we will begin to restore her. Jer has already installed a new wood bed. We have her at the shop now having the windshield reset with a new seal - still original glass, just a little leaky.

By chance, one of my new friends has a 1950's camper she and her boyfriend are restoring. We joked that we need to get our two projects together!

As for the truck, watch for us in parades in a couple of years or maybe at a Farmer's Market stall...or still doing what we are doing now...driving 40 miles an hour to deliver our recyclables to the station in Westmoreland and cruising country roads on our way back home.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Kind people - we are blessed.

This week has been full of challenges and blessings. Several staffing changes at work and a tremendously busy time for our programming has created a lot of extra stress and hours at the office. Just the nature of our work allows us to interface with the public a lot - some of the people are amazing and others are very insistent and demanding.

Lately, I am reminded that there are kind people in the world. I am surrounded by many of them - simply some pretty fantastic men and women who care a great deal about others. Today, a long-time resident of Lebo sent me one of the most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. Sara and I have connections through K-State and we recently saw each other during a meeting on the campus. At the conclusion of business, I shared that a Saturday program would require me to miss the third and final auction associated with my grandparent's estate. My husband would go as my representative with a list of things I really wanted to remember my grandparents.
Today, a package arrived at the office with a note from Sara. Her two daughters and son went to the auction and bought a lot of my Grandmother's jewelry. They had sent off several pieces to be made into a necklace for me. It is simply lovely. I was overwhelmed to think of the kindness of the gesture. It is a creative and elegant way of paying tribute to my Grandmother. I am blessed by kind people.

We have the most generous friends and neighbors around us showing kindness through small and large gestures... the sharing of plants, tools on loan, book recommendations, and thoughtful gifts. I have a visual for the number of thoughtful people in our lives in my kitchen, spare bedroom and garage. Brace yourself.

About two months ago, my husband put out a note at his school that we were low on egg cartons and if anyone had any they could share, we would appreciate it. The result was simply amazing.

My kitchen.

My garage.

My spare bedroom.

The bottom line is that you can get what you need when you simply ask. You can have more than you ever want when you surround yourself with great friends. I am blessed.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My grandparent's estate auction - round one

Saturday, April 3 was the first of three Saturdays devoted to my grandparent's estate auction. Avid auction goers, farmers, and collectors, the amount of stuff is overwhelming and impressive. I certainly understand my desire to accumulate - especially interesting old stuff. It must be genetic! Anything with a bit of rust or worn/well loved patina is looked at with affection. Things in multiples (collections) have so much power in form and function.

My dad has been working really hard to prepare for the auctions. His first task was to sort through the farm equipment and all of the years of stuff that made the farm go. Anyone who has lived on a farm operated by depression-era people knows that you keep everything - just in case! My grandfather kept bolts, nuts, screws, and many tools and pieces and parts. The wagons were loaded with boxes, old coffee cans, galvanized buckets, refrigerator drawers - anything that could hold items was filled to the brim with bits and pieces of the farm. I loved the texture and intrigue of all of the rusted bits.

We had beautiful weather, though the farm was a muddy mess from serious rains in the days leading up to the sale. Luckily, we had warning to wear old shoes. The kids loved roaming through the mud in their mud boots!

The old trucks, tractors and equipment were really interesting. We waited with anticipation to see if all the tractors would start...only one needed a jump. Thank goodness for good friends who are excellent mechanics.

We watched as the two old grain trucks that Jeremy drove when he helped with wheat harvest sold. Now, we hope we can get one with the floorboards still in tack, better brakes and a bed that operates consistently and doesn't get locked in the up or down position. The adventures of helping my dad!

I was most surprised to see all of the tires, rims and wheels as part of the auction. Hubcaps were another popular items. Grandpa saved everything. We had several scrap metal dealers attend and they bought up some of the metal parts that did not make any sense to me. My brother said they make 25% as a finders fee for the metal. When I was little, I wanted to own a junk yard and I think that is why I was so intrigued by their work.

We got such a kick out of the old license plate from Osage County, my home. It is secured to the truck with bailing wire on one side. This just speaks to how we do things - make do, figure it out, bailing wire can fix a lot.

The old barn has a pretty good lean. The weathered barn wood and great doors inside are pretty amazing. There was stuff literally everywhere on the place - inside the barn, in the Quonset, in piles. Piles of abandoned parts, a huge old church bus, eight bale feeder rings set on their sides, worn out bikes, and some really awesome, amazing junk.

It was a good day. Tired, sun burnt, emotional hangover...ready to go again in two weeks.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Feeling nostalgic and crafty

A few weeks ago, I found this gorgeous book in Acme Gift in Aggieville. After spending a great afternoon catching up with a friend from Nebraska at Bluestem Bistro, I ran through Acme on my way to meeting Jeremy for an evening work activity.

The Pattern Sourcebook just jumped off the shelf at me. Not too long before I had been working on a scrapbooking project and began to muse about the paper patterns and how combinations of solids and patterns began to help a project take shape. This book is essentially a collection of mostly fabric patterns, but also some patterns from china and dinnerware. The examples span the decades and the book even includes items from my favorite decades - the 30's and 40's.

This beautiful sourcebook made me think about an old family photo album we have at the house. It was a gift from my third cousin who has identified a few of the family members, but most are anonymous and most stare seriously at the camera. There are a few gems in this album - like the photo of two grandmotherly looking women with a little boy standing between with his tongue sticking out! There is also a family picture that looks as if the photographer took the photo too early and everyone seems to not be ready, except the baby. I am trying to find the best way to reproduce the photos - any ideas?

My favorite things about the album is the inside cover. The fabric pattern is pretty amazing and I have no idea if it is original. The best part is that the fabric has folds that are pockets - very ingenious!

I also love the detail on the pages that hold the photos. There is a whole exhibit at The Beach Museum of Art on the K-State campus that features Gail Gregg's work. The exhibit is cast off scrapbooks and photo albums the artist has collected from flea markets, estate sales, etc. artfully arranged.

The exhibit and my own review of my family scrapbook this morning sparked some feelings of nostalgia. My grandparent's estate sale is quickly approaching and will take three weekends in April. Avid collectors and my grandpa a frequent auction goer, there promises to be so many interesting finds and plenty of junk. I am on the look out for two main things that belonged to my grandma - one a gift from me to her when I was in college and purchased a framed photograph called "Grandma's Quilt" from a local artist. The other is a glassware chicken on a nest. I always loved those chickens and loved that the nests had candy at Easter! I will also be on the look out for boxes of photographs. It is always a heartbreaker to see old family photos go for pennies at auctions.

The outside of the family album is worth mentioning, too. The cover has a nature scene with a bugling moose. The back is a green velvet fabric. The clasp is an intricate gold fastener. What a unique package! I am thinking very hard about how to use scanned images of the photos for a project and how to display this treasure more prominently in our home. Your ideas for incorporating the family photos and album pages into a project and your good wishes for happy bidding at our family's auction are welcomed.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Something else I love

Where Women Create highlights "inspiring work spaces of creative women." I am just a little bit in love with their regular bits of beautiful artwork by women with a motivational theme delivered weekly via e-mail. The most recent by Lisa Kaus has me a little deeper in love.

Check out her website with beautiful pieces of art - some incorporating found objects, all elegant and inspirational. I think her work speaks to my love of items that have been loved and repurposed...a little nod to junky and a whole lot of elegance. How can that juxtaposition work? She makes it work beautifully.

If you are wondering about the bread worked out very well. The knock-off pot held up to the heat and a beautiful rustic loaf of bread emerged. It was just as tasty and easy as promised. The crust is crunchy and flaky and the inside is soft and chewy.
My husband was skeptical of the whole process - even more so when he found the laptop open to the blog showing the four year old making the bread.
Next weekend, we make homemade whole wheat spaghetti.

Catching up

Schedules have prevented me from trying new recipes, new kitchen gadgets, and just having time to make something that varies from the usual menu of meals. This weekend was a flurry of kitchen experiments.

Experiment 1: KitchenAid pasta press
Over the winter break, Jeremy and I caught up on DVR and watched an episode of Martha Stewart Living where she demonstrated (and gave away!) this little wonder. It is the latest KitchenAid attachment and makes spaghetti, large and small macaroni, bucatini, rigatoni, and fusilli. We found it on Williams Sonoma and Jer ordered it for our anniversary gift. It was back ordered for three months and arrived during my busiest travel time. This weekend, my dad and oldest niece visited and we tried out the fusilli with a homemade tomato sauce - delicious fresh pasta.

Experiment 2: Oatmeal cookies
Ok, so this is nothing new for me, but apparently, my husband has never eaten an oatmeal cookie. He said that they always sounded gross and they did not have oatmeal in Western Kansas. I think we converted him with this recipe that is chewy (even after sitting on a plate for some time) and crunchy on the outside.

Oatmeal Cookie Recipe

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups quick cooking oats
raisins or nuts (optional)

1. In a medium bowl, cream together white sugar, butter, and brown sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla.
2. Combine flour, cinnamon, baking soda,and salt. Stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in oats. If you are using nuts or raisins, mix into dough, combining well. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour.
3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. Roll the dough into balls, and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
4. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.Makes approx. 36-60 cookies, depending on how large or small you make them.


Experiment #3: Ham and egg cups
Our chickens are producing so well that we have a lot of eggs on hand. While looking for a new breakfast idea, I found the ham and egg cup recipe on a blog

Ham & Egg Cups

12 slices of deli ham
12 eggs
grated cheese
chopped basil

1. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.
2. Line each cup with a slice of deli ham (I asked that they not be sliced too thin...and had rather hefty slices this time).
3. Break an egg gently into each ham cup. Season with salt and pepper...sprinkle with chopped basil (or chives or your herb of choice).
4. Bake at 350' F for about 15 minutes.
5. Remove from oven...and top each egg with grated cheese (cheddar or Parmesan)...and bake for 5 minutes longer.
6. Remove from pan and serve immediately.

I used ramekins instead of muffin cups. The ramekins worked great! I also increased cooking time by 5 minutes and the yolks were much more firm than they seemed in the picture, but still good. The ham we used was also much more thinly sliced and the edges were a little crispy (ok, burnt black), but easily removed.


Experiment #4: No knead bread
The website promises that it is so easy a four year old can make it. I am feeling the pressure because the author even posted pictures of her four year old son making the bread! We are at the second proofing stage when the dough is napping in a floured towel. The recipe seems very straight forward and we will see if my knock off Le Creuset pot holds up to the 450 degree oven.

Fresh baked bread in approximately two hours!


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Homemade valentines

Just wanted to show off my Valentine's Day card designs. I was inspired by Impress, a rubber stamping and paper company in Washington. Check out their website for some great card ideas and pay special attention to how they use punches.
The paper is all Creative Memories, including the cute floral paper ribbon - my new scrapbooking, gift wrapping and card making obsession.

Catching up and feeling overwhelmed

Overwhelmed might be the word of the season. Too much to do and too little time. However, the lengthening days are a welcomed reprieve from the cold and darkness. It begins to seem like we have more time to work through the growing to do list.

Our local produce market, Eastside and Westside Markets in Manhattan, had these beautiful leather bracelets on their counter during a recent trip to pick up our favorite locally produced honey. Masie and my mom picked the bracelets with the four small flowers and Masie selected the bracelet with the purple flower for McKenzy. These were my belated Valentine's Day gifts. (Catching get the idea.)
One of Jeremy's co-workers knit this beautiful scarf out of alpaca fiber from Scout, Blue and Manny. It is really lovely and so very soft. She did a beautiful job with the stitches and I am so happy to have something complete.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The great quail experiment

Today was the day I decided to prepare the quail. You might remember that my husband, dad, and father-in-law went hunting this fall. I, feeling unusually adventurous as a cook, asked for all of the quail and pheasant they shot. I was reading Julie and Julia and felt that is a twenty-something secretary in New York could master French cooking for a Julia Child's cookbook, I could figure out how to cook these birds.

Since nestling the birds next to my Tyson 100% natural chicken nuggets in the freezer (and then completely rearranging my freezer over the holiday break - twice), I looked up recipes on the web and asked around knowing that I could easily lose faith and eventually throw them all out.
I defrosted the quail overnight and then put them in salt water for several hours. We had an unplanned trip to my dad's to pick up hay for the alpacas, so I decided to fillet the breast meat off the quail and soak the small quail nuggets in salt water in the fridge until this evening. Anyone with any experience cooking wild bird suggested the salt water bath/brine to take out the gamey flavor.

This evening, I drained the quail, patted them dry with paper towels, and wrapped them half-slices of thick sliced bacon. A toothpick secured the bacon around the quail. They were placed on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and parchment paper.

I put them in a 400 degree oven and baked them for about 20-25 minutes, until the bacon was brown and starting to crisp.

I set them out on a paper towel to drain and then served them up to an apprehensive husband. During the preparation, he told me liked the ratio of bacon to "dove." I had to remind him that it was QUAIL, not dove and he shot them.

Once on the plate, it was a mini-stand off as we waited to see which of us would take the first bite. I started us off. We both agreed that it tasted just like bacon. So, with perhaps a tenth of the effort, I could have made a plate full of bacon and we would have served the same purpose. Except, I really liked learning about cooking a new food and I felt really brave carving up the birds this morning.
Now, on to the great pheasant experiment!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Year Wishes

One of my favorite magazines if Mary Janes Farm. Her February/March issue is a delight, including the seven tips to tap into your own brilliance. Check them out and be inspired for a great start to 2010.