Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tick, Tock, Kitchen Clock

So, with my kitchen painting project at a standstill while the regular (read: insane) life of a single working mom continues, I've been contemplating decorative items like kitchen wall clocks.

I sort of like this homey, floral number that would fit in well with the 1960-70s era feel of my kitchen:

                                          Source: via Laura on Pinterest

In a rare mood I like this one, which would tie in with some gold framed accents I will end up with elsewhere in the dining area. Other times, this seems too foofy to me, especially for a kitchen. Probably won't happen.

                                          Source: via Laura on Pinterest

I also sort of like this metallic number:

                                          Source: via Laura on Pinterest

This is also 1970s era, but instead of Americana, it's German. I've been seeing a lot of these earthy European ceramic clocks for sale on Etsy lately, and I'm both intrigued and attracted to them. This or something like it is a strong contender:

                          Source: via Laura on Pinterest

As you can tell, I'm all over the place with materials and design, which means I haven't come close to deciding what I really want. I have plenty of time to decide while I slowly get the paint project done.

(And can I get this off my chest as just a side comment? Is it like a rule written down somewhere that all photos on Ebay have to be crappy? It drives me bonkers. Fuzzy, over-exposed, too dark, you name it. It's like Ebay sellers are TRYING to take the worst photos possible of their stuff. I realized it's the reason that I prefer searching Etsy for my vintage stuff. Sellers on that site seem to be able to present their items more attractively. Okay? Rant over.)


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Vintage Cookbooks: Oven Triumphs!

I'm still getting around to sharing stuff from my Junk Jamboree trip a few weeks ago. I've been behind on everything from laundry to bathroom cleaning to yard work since I started this new job. But as far as blog posts are considered, I believe it's like the kids that peel back the gift wrap slowly, slowly on Christmas morning, to make the presents last as long as they can. Or you can call that my excuse. Either way, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Since I enjoy cooking and baking, and vintage things, it's hard to resist those two ingredients in a bin of dollar items at a junk sale. I picked up two recipe booklets at the Junk Jamboree, each for different reasons.

The first one came home with me because of the title: The Calumet Book of Oven Triumphs! Exclamation point! And who wouldn't want a book of oven triumphs? Sign me up!

As a woman who's also had her share of Oven Flops!, I'd say the title has timeless appeal. Maddeningly, the little booklet, a promotional cookbook for Calumet brand baking powder, doesn't identify the cover photo with a recipe inside. I suspect it's the Lady Baltimore Cake, but I'm not sure. Not a fan of raisin filling, but that fluffy frosting looks amazing, doesn't it? I wouldn't even need the cake part. Just hand me the bowl and a spoon. (There needs to be an intervention group for adult frosting addicts).

One of the things I find.....reassuring I guess is the right word, is that these little paper cookbooks with the black and white photography inside and the quaint language, survived all these years (this one from 1937!) to guide yet another homemaker (me). It's even reassuring to me that there's a can of Calumet baking powder in my cupboard too.

I also bought this one ($1) for the recipes. The cakes and biscuits featured in it look really good, and I'm eager to try them. I'm adding Hungarian Cream Cake and the Gingerbread recipe to my list of things to make next time I've got the mixer out.

The second booklet was also product promotional literature, this time for PET brand instant nonfat dry milk, and with no copyright date that I could find. It had to be Midcentury, because get a load of this cover:

I love this cookbook cover. I'm neither young, nor modern (in fact I'm getting more old-fashioned with every day), but the colors and graphics were such an eye-candy treat for so little (75 cents) that I scooped it up too. I'm considering a color copy to frame and work into my kitchen or screen porch lounge area somehow.

Do you collect ephemera or old recipes? What are some of your favorite finds in the dollar bins?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fork and Spoon: Joe's Pizza Soup

My youngest, Joe, is the jovial joker of the bunch. He's the kid with the belly laugh, the impish sidewise glance, the silly idea.

The other night when I asked the kids what they wanted for supper he smiled broadly and said, "why don't you make us some....PIZZA SOUP! BahahahaHA!"

Okay, so in general I don't endorse being dishonest with kids. Pizza soup isn't anything new. But he was so amused with himself for thinking the idea up and I just wasn't in the mood to squash the laughter out of that little boy soul.

When I told him I wasn't exactly sure how to make pizza soup, he said, "Mama, will you just go in the kitchen and invent some for me please?"

You just don't say no to that. It's in the Mama Rule Book.

I did a quick hunt for recipes online, but I was pretty unimpressed with most of them. Some started with a jar of spaghetti sauce, but I find most brands so sugary sweet they are odd tasting to me, and I don't buy the stuff. Some recipes had topped bowls with italian bread toasted, covered with cheese and broiled, like french onion soup. I'm sure it's yummy, but I'm far too lazy to fuss around that much with a soup recipe. On the other hand, recipes that called for adding crumbled Italian sausage to a couple cans of heat-and-serve tomato soup? Okay, I'm lazy, but I'm not THAT lazy. I like to FEEL like I'm trying. A little. I have an ego to maintain too.

So I started up the basics to any soup: an onion and some garlic in olive oil

Then I assembled some other likely suspects for pizza soup:

I threw in:
1 32 oz. carton of (low sodium) chicken broth
1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14 oz. can Muir Glen fire roasted diced tomatoes (and the juice)
A couple tablespoons of pizza spice. I used Tone's brand, but it could also be any combo of pizza goodies--basil, oregano, stuff like that.

I brought it to a simmer, and then tossed in about half the box of cellentani. Rotini would be good. Noah later said "and cheese tortellini would be like stuffed crust pizza soup." Not a bad idea for next time! I added a cup of water to compensate for the liquid the noodles would absorb cooking.

While the pasta was simmering I chopped up a green pepper and four or five mushrooms. I added these at the end because these were veggies I didn't want boiled to death:

I also added about 1/2 to 1 cup mini pepperonis. We topped the bowls of soup with mozzarella cheese and chopped green onion.

Though it needs a warning label (cheesy, buttery goodness, oh my!), we also made this cheesy bread on the Simply Recipes site.

The kids really, really liked the soup. As in "make it again" liked it. It's made of simple stuff and came together in about half an hour, important on week nights. It's certainly flexible, just like pizza toppings.

Not bad for something that started with this inspiration:

And ended up here:

I hope Joe invents some more supper ideas soon, with a big side order of that smile.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Lamp Love Link: Woodland Flowers

A pair of faux wood and floral ceramic lamps from Etsy seller VintageLancaster.

Maybe it's because I just got back from a hike in the sticks. But these lamps are speaking my language big time. 

I had a great time in Arkansas and it's beautiful country in the Ozark Mountains. But this trip saw a lot of rainwater in my boots and a bigger share of greenbriar thorns than any sane person cares to wrestle with. So maybe these lamps appealed because they're the pretty-as-a-picture Disney animated version of the great outdoors. 

Uh, and as far as I know, there's no such thing as blue dogwood blossoms either, but why be such a Debbie Botany Lesson Downer when these lamps look so good? Not me. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Junk Finds: Chairs and Bookcase

I promised I'd share my Junk Jamboree finds from two weekends ago. Here are the furniture pieces that came home with me, two school chairs a little red and blue bookcase.

I'd been looking for some metal and wood laminate school chairs for some time. I even found some at Kudzu in Decatur, Georgia this summer while shopping with my sister. But at $79 a pop, I passed. These were $16. Yeay!

They are already in use in the twins' room, at their built-in desk, which I wrote about in a previous post:

I still need to paint and trim the end of the desk. 
The bookcase is also for the twins' bedroom. I'm not sure it's really all that vintage, and is pretty dinged up. However, it is exactly the right size, and the paint, while beyond distressed and verging into "wrecked," fits the colors in the room. Until I decide what I want to do with it to clean it up, it works, and it's not like the boys can do anything worse to it. 

The boys have been asking for a nightstand to replace this "baby-ish" (their word) piece, made to look like Side Table Drawer from the preschool TV show Blue's Clues: 

I think the little shelf needs a small-sized vintage globe, a piggy bank, an alarm clock, and a stack of story books when it takes its place between the two beds: 

I have a few other things to share from Junk Jamboree. Stay tuned on those! 

I'm also back from my trip to Arkansas. I'll update with a post when I've had time to sort through photos and reflect on the journey. Oh, and sleep off some major road wearies. As much as I love road trips, I don't much love driving. Crazy, isn't it? 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Arkansas: Lessons from Grandad's Land

Here's a piece I published in April 2010 about my first trip to Arkansas. While you read this I'm tramping around some of the beautiful country mentioned. Do you have a place that makes your heart sing? This is one of them, for me.

Lessons from Grandfather’s Land
Sometimes, if you miss someone bad enough, you’re going set out in search of him.

For my sister and me that meant going to the Ozark Mountains, in search of Grandad. He’s been gone now for some time, but that didn’t prevent us from looking for him, or at least the whispers of him, in his boyhood home.

An Arkansas Ozark spring is clear green and as pretty as a young girl in love. We knew my Grandad grew up in poverty. We didn’t know he’d grown up in such riches of beauty.

As we steered through twisting mountain roads, though, it wasn’t just the scenery that took our breath away. Sometimes it was the drop-off side of the road, and we would both shout out in only somewhat mock terror, “guardrail!” Wishing there was one. Knowing that only 10 inches of rocky shoulder separate you from the clear blue sky of an Arkansas morning is a little unnerving, no matter how beautiful.

We researched our ancestors at courthouse and library. From dusty pages we got dates. But from the hills their character leaped to life, and of this I am certain: they didn’t have any guardrails.

One ancestor, Francis Marion Millsaps, was a soldier in the Union Army, and lost an arm in the Civil War. Perhaps being a southerner who fought for the Union made him a man of great virtue, but I somehow doubt it. He was also a moonshiner of some local renown.

Another great-grandfather, who joined up to fight the Confederates on the same day as Francis Marion Millsaps, was Jesse Sparks. In his portrait no smile softens a hard lean face. He looks meaner than a starving stray dog. They say a clock stopped ticking at the time of his death. I’m not sure it wasn’t his scowl that killed the clock, and him too.

Yet another forebear, Sam Davis, came to these hills in search of a sister who’d been kidnapped by the Indians. In his later years he was on fire for the Lord, or insane, depending on whom you ask. He would climb up a mountain now named after him to preach, sometimes only to the wind and the trees. Local legend says he disappeared and was never seen again. I like to think he was preaching on his mountaintop during a thunderstorm, and his Maker just took him on home.

These men, along with some equally stubborn and colorful women, somehow made a life and a clan on these mountains. Once upon a time in a beautiful April much like the one in which we visited, there came to this tribe a baby boy that would one day be my Grandad.

I don’t know what Grandad knew of the mountains in his youth. Did he see the poetry of bird, sky, fish, water, stone, tree? Or did he only comprehend the shoeless winters, the trap-lines for rabbits, and the other stark realities of 1920s poverty in these hills?

The Ozark Mountains were achingly beautiful, but hard as rock on the people who settled there. There were no protections from war, revenuers, horse thieves, wildcats, typhoid, buckshot, hunger, and the Holy Spirit.

Life is still like that, only the varmints and rascals take different form. My life is beautiful with my sons, my work, my family and friends. But there’s no guardrail for a marriage off course, for an uncertain economy, for risking your here-and-now for a future that might, only possibly, be better.

I think my ancestors and Grandad knew this somewhere deep down, where you don’t even think about it in your brain—it’s just knowledge you hold in the fiber of your being. They settled in a land and lived a life that would knock the tar out of them one day, and turn around and offer speckled trout, blackberries, and pale blue wildflowers the next.

They obviously thought it was worth it. I hope I always remember this too.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Homecoming: Arkansas

My Grandad and my Daddy. Diamond Caves, Arkansas. 1958
I only came to know the place of my Grandad's birth and childhood two years ago. In that short span of time I've come to love Arkansas like a long lost and finally found member of the family.

My sister Dyan and I made our first visit in April 2010. We wanted to do some family history research at the little gray stone courthouse in Jasper and see if we could find any whisper of my Grandad's past there. Me, I was feeling unmoored and adrift, a hurtful divorce finally over. I wanted to reclaim my maiden surname with some ceremonial act that I chose, rather than in the sad legal language of a dissolution decree. My Grandad was one of those first good men in my life who loved me unconditionally. It made sense I'd go looking for him again, even though he'd been gone a long while. I was looking for a piece of geography-- a solid and real place-- to hang my memories upon, since I couldn't actually have his strong brown arms around me.

Me 'n' my Grandad, 1968
You can't get much more solid than the rocky faces and impenetrable green depths of the Ozark Mountains. In addition to this beautiful place, we found good people, polite to strangers. Only we weren't really strangers. We would explain our story to them, and when they heard our name they'd say, "Why yes ma'am, and I am kin to you," and explain how. There was never any cold "distant relative," only the soft southern warmness of "kin." There's a mountain there, too, with our surname on it, and kin still lives there. I couldn't have asked for a stronger homecoming at a time I was so starved for it. 

I think it would have amused my Grandad to know we sought out his childhood home when for the most part, he never returned. He left the Ozarks when families here, poor to begin with, were still struggling out of the depths of even grimmer times, the twenties and thirties. He was looking for a better life. But so am I, now, for different reasons. So the place he came from became the place I came from, at a time when I really needed it. It's not so much geography, but geography of the heart. I think he'd understand. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Southern Road Trip: Arkansas

This week I'll be moseying on south to Missouri and Arkansas, two of my favorite places in the world. I'll be meeting up with my Dad and sister, Dyan, to do some family history work that requires hiking boots. My family has a cemetery in the Hurricane Creek Wilderness area of the Ozark National Forest. That's a stretch of Hurricane Creek, above. I've said it before, but to say my people liked to live pretty deep in the holler is a bit of an understatement. They were mountain people, and preferred the remote places in this rocky land. The cemetery is accessible only on foot. Maybe mule back, too, the mode of transportation a century ago.

It will also involve coffee, biscuits, and gravy, of that I can be sure.

I'll have a special post up in my absence, so that you get the feel of this beautiful place and its special (to me) history.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Junk Jamboree

The wingspan on those sconces was a good foot and a half each. Serious bling statement.

You know those weekends when you have a chance to go thrifting/estate sale-ing/garage sale-ing/junking/curbside shopping and you say NO because you need to catch up on the laundry and clean the bathroom? 

Yeah, I don't know any of those either! On Saturday, friend Kristy and I loaded coffee, sweaters, and a map into her sport utility and headed out for our local area's "Fall Junk Jamboree," where barn sales, junk shops, and thrift stores throw open their doors, serve cider and cookies, and offer cool stuff for sale. 

It was pretty good stuff. Here's what caught my eye (but didn't come home to live with me): 

If I'd been looking for fantastic, cool dressers for only a few dollars, it would have been a weekend of scores. Take a look at the feature photo for the post and then check out this mid-mod ash number: 

Or this lovely Art Deco piece: 

There were also some unusual vases, both for under $20: 

The gentleman who made this very sharp looking coffee table said that now reusing old rulers was "a thing," prices had gone up for crafting with them and pieces like this wouldn't stay at thrift store prices for long. I can't remember exactly, but I believe this piece was around $110. I really liked it, but the look doesn't "fit" my house. 

Kristy and I both loved the cheerful colors of this metal topped table from the 1940s. Don't you wish you could store stuff like this just for Christmas? It would be perfect!

Also on the list of "lovely, but I don't need it" was this twin size metal bed, with pretty Art Deco stenciling.

I did come home with three pieces of furniture and three "other goodies," but I'm going to save them for another post. Come back for more!