Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I got this idea from my friend Cindy's shop a couple of weeks ago. She had some of the cutest magnets - letters, words, slogans, pictures. So cute! And that got me to thinkin' - I've got this spot

in my office, right in front of my laptop. It's pretty bare, as you can see. Not very inspiring.

And I really wanted some inspiration - like those cute magnets at Cindy's shop. But I needed some metal to attach the magnets. And just like that, a DIY project was born!

I picked up some galvanized sheet metal at Lowe's. They've got it cut in lots of handy sizes. I also grabbed self-tapping sheet metal screws, # 10s, 1 1/2 inches long. I positioned the first sheet and screwed it in.

Then I lined up the other two sheets right up against the first, and repeated.

Ta da! My magnetic bulletin board is complete!

The original plan included putting some wooden trim around the edges, but I may skip that step. It looks pretty cool as is. Now I'll head to Cindy's shop and get some of those cute magnets!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


Not only has it rained today, which we needed more than you can know, but that very fact also gave me the chance to do some "inside work" that I've been neglecting for a while. Seems like there have been so many errands to run and so much work to do in the garden, that I hardly ever spend time in the kitchen anymore. So today, I took advantage of the weather and made homemade tomato sauce! It's a whole lot of work, but once you taste it you know you can never buy a jar of spaghetti sauce from the store again. It's life-changing! If you're interested, here's how I do it:

First, I add some olive oil to a really large pot and heat over medium heat.

Chop 3 onions

and 4 or 5 cloves of garlic - you can't have too much garlic, in my book.

Add onion and garlic to the olive oil and sautee until slightly golden.

While that's cooking, fill another large pot about 1/3 full of water and put it on to boil. This water will be used to blanch tomatoes so you can peel them quickly.

Place one layer of tomatoes in the water. If you have a strainer that fits into your pot, that works perfectly. (Thank you again, Big John, for my birthday and Christmas presents! I still love them!)

And plop your strainer into the boiling water. They only need to stay in for 30 seconds or so, but it's okay if you're busy stirring the onions and garlic. You're going to cook them for hours later on anyway.

Pour the blanched tomatoes into a cold water bath and have an empty bowl nearby to hold your peeled tomatoes. This is a great way to use up extra tomatoes if you're tired of making hot sauce. You can even use those tomatoes that are past their prime - although the chickens would prefer you feed them!

The tomato skins will usually slip right off. If you've got slightly underripe tomatoes, or some that just won't peel easily, you can cut an "X" into the bottom, just through the skin, before you put them into the boiling water bath. That gives them a head start on peeling. In no time you'll end up with a sink full of tomato skins and a bowl full of peeled tomatoes!

Next comes the messy part - this is why there are towels spread everywhere when I cook. I'm not that messy normally, but tomatoes don't lend themselves to neatness. Big John handmade my gorgeous wood countertops, so I'm a little uptight about stuff getting on them - in case you were wondering about the towels!

Now core the tomatoes and give them a rough chop. I like my tomato sauce to be "rustic," nothing too fancy.

And I like chunks of vegetables so I know what is in there. It's much easier and I'm really lazy!

This part takes a while, and it's messy - I may have already mentioned that. A friend of ours doesn't peel his tomatoes; just cores them and puts them in the food processor. I was going to try that method today, but I chickened out. Maybe next time, as it sounds like a lot less work and mess.

Throw all the chopped tomatoes into the sauteed onions and garlic and add the herbs and seasonings. You can be creative here, but I use all the Italian herbs from the garden: rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme.

Fresh picked or dried - or a combination of the two - they are just amazing!

Chop it all - again, I went with the rustic chop -

and add to the pot, along with bay leaves, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and about 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Stir and turn down to low. Let simmer for two or three or four hours, stirring occasionally. It will thicken some the longer it cooks.

Here's two hours in:

At this point, you can press your sauce through a food mill, remove the seeds, and return to your pot to simmer for another couple of hours. I don't (rustic!) but I do continue to cook for a while longer - at least another 2 hours. It makes the whole house smell amazing!

Once you're satisfied with the taste and consistency, you've got some options:
  • refrigerate and use within a week or so
  • freeze in a good freezer-safe container
  • gift it in pretty jars with instructions to refrigerate and use soon
  •  process in a boiling water bath (can it!)
 I opt for canning. It looks gorgeous on your shelves, next to your green pickles and yellow corn relish. And there is nothing more delicious in the dead of winter than spaghetti (or even pizza) with homemade tomato sauce! Sitting in front of a roaring fire while the wind howls outside - makes you wish for a cold winter night!

Homemade tomato sauce - a good day's worth of work, but well, well worth the effort. Try it just once. You may decide it's more trouble than it's worth to do again, but your family will LOVE your finished product. I guarantee it!


We've been wating a long, long time for this. Everyone in the area has been watching the radar. We're a tiny bit east of that red dot, surrounded by beautiful rain.

As the skies darkened

and the clouds rolled in,

the animals took their places. Chickens chose to hang out under the cover of the patio.

The geese, on the other hand, wanted to be right out in the storm! They LOVE this kind of weather - and they haven't seen rain for a long, long time.

The cows figured rain was cause for celebration - and a chance for extra feed. No such luck!

Poor Belle is deathly afraid of thunder. I couldn't take the sound of her tearing down the back door, trying to get in to safety. And I didn't want to put her in the carrying kennel, because it's a pretty tight space .... and sometimes I forget she's in there - so she got to come inside and weather the storm. Big John probably won't be happy about that.

Belle assures me he'll get over it. She's not interested in going out any time soon!

We're at a little under an inch right now - and the radar shows a little more coming our way. Hopefully it won't dissipate before it gets to us. We need a whole lot more, but we're thankful for all that we got! Bless the rain!

Saturday, June 18, 2011


What a way to spend a hot summer day.

We should rename her Lucky!


Another item from my wish list: learn to sew. I've "sewn" before - if you count making pillow coverings. There's not much to that, stitch 4 fairly straight lines and you're done. I want to learn to REALLY sew: sleeves, pleats, ruffles, zippers. Well, maybe not zippers. Those look hard. But definitely sleeves.

Fortunately, I have really good friends who are REALLY good seamstresses! Like, award-winning good! And they are teachers by trade. How cool is that?! So on Friday, we put everything else aside and began The Sewing Club! Membership is open and free, and we take all skill levels - I'm proof of that! Come join us!

Jeanette (left) and Wendy (right) are the experts in our group. Can't you just tell by looking at them that they KNOW sewing? The expertise almost oozes from them!

I'm the novice. Here, I am VERY CAREFULLY cutting a straight line - which I had to have help pin down. Doesn't the ineptitude just ooze from me? And what's with that hair, woman? Don't you own a brush???

It was a really long piece of fabric. Concentrate, concentrate.

After much pleading and coaxing, Jeanette obliged me by pulling out some of the items she'd made as a little girl. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE stories from my friends' pasts, so I was fascinated by the history of  these pieces. This dress has sleeves, a lining AND a hidden zipper! Wow!

And this is the outfit she took to the State Fair! It's a beautiful wool dress (side zipper AND back zipper, both hidden!) with matching belt and jacket. She even made the buttons - MADE the buttons. I didn't know you could make buttons. I thought they only came from fabric stores! Who knew?

Now while I was eating up this show-and-tell, Wendy was busily working away on her own project.

She's piecing together some gorgeous fabrics - patchwork style.

All I could hear from Wendy's side of the table was the rapid whirring of her machine. She's amazing! I'm not sure what this will be, in the end, but I know it will be so pretty!

At the end of the morning, Wendy had a couple of rows pieced together, I had an apron cut out and the armholes stitched, and Jeanette had been persuaded to bring out some treasures. We enjoyed Jeanette's beautiful home and homemade sweet roll. But mostly we had 3 wonderful hours of fellowship and fun. And I can't wait until our next club meeting!

I'm starting my homework right away!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


There have been some developments in the Carancahua Creek Trading Company empire!

Produce sales have gone swimmingly well, and with Big John's help, I may have gotten a handle on the weeds (knock on wood.) The Saturday Market has been a huge hit, and each week we've managed to add a few more touches to make it even more inviting. This means I get to shop for cute "stuff" almost guilt free!

With a routine in the works and many of those chores that teachers have to save up for summer marked off the list, I've begun branching out into other ventures. I've secured a booth in a nearby antique mall, and Sunflower Antiques was born. (I'm obsessed with sunflowers at the moment.) This will give me a chance to "weed out" (garden pun intended!) some of those treasures I've collected over the years - and again, the chance to shop for deals almost guilt-free! What luck!

"Survival bracelets" - braided bracelets made from parachute cord - seem to be all the rage in certain circles, and Big John has become an expert at making them. He's sold quite a few and is experimenting with many new designs, colors, latches - even making necklaces and keychains.

Buyers are so impressed to see him tying bracelets as they watch! Big John Jewelry is open for business!

There are a couple more ideas fermenting in my brain - with adorable names to go with each and to be revealed at the appropriate time in the future. Let's just say they are SWEET ideas! Can you guess that one??? Honey, it will be amazing! (That's another hint...)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


The first sunflower bloomed this morning! What a beautiful "weed!"


I'm not sure why, but Sammy seems to like hopping up into my planter - and posing.

Enjoy the photos of this beeeeeeeautiful rooster!


(2 down, 18 to go)




Saturday, June 4, 2011


If you're not eating homemade hamburger/rosemary/tomato/basil/3 cheese pizza with homemade tomato sauce on homemade crust...

Well then, you just ain't livin' right.

It sure was good!