Saturday, May 31, 2014

This Apron Speaks the Truth

Time once again to showcase one of my favorite aprons. This pink and white striped number was a gift a few Christmases ago, given to me by the older lady whose house I clean every few weeks. She's also a church friend, and one of The Girls with whom I go thrifting  once in a while. Obviously, she knows me quite well:




This apron speaks the truth! More or less, anyway. I do love shoes and I do love to cook. I suppose if the guys at Trade Home Shoes offered to pay me in Danskos and Born footwear, I'd happily cook all the stew and biscuits they could handle! Shoot, I'd even bake cookies and cakes for them.

At first, I wasn't going to wear this apron while cooking, because obviously I use aprons as intended - as a splatter shield, hand towel, pot holder, handkerchief, dust cloth - and stain them up plenty. However, what better way to appreciate a friend's gift than by actually using it? She spent her money to buy something she knew I would enjoy, and enjoy it I shall! This apron makes me smile every time I wear it, and the stains are badges of baking honor.

One day as I was doing whatever it was that needed doing around the house, I happened to walk by the tv just as Lidia's Italy started up on PBS. I paused to see what she'd be cooking up on the show that day, and as she highlighted her recipes, she was wearing this exact same apron!!! Someone had given it to her as a gift, as well, and she loved it so much she wanted to show it off on her program. How awesome is that?! I have the same apron as a famous person! (By the way, I have no idea now what recipes Lidia made that day. The apron thing kind of took over that space in my memory!)

Thankfully, I took photos of the stuff I baked the day I wore my famous apron for this post, or I'd never remember what it was so I could share the recipe with you today.


Oh yes, Blueberry Streusel Muffins! Straight out of the Betty Crocker cookbook, with a few tweaks to personalize them, of course. Recipes are springboards, after all. Kind of like fashion rules. They give you something to start with, but it's perfectly fine, and in fact better, if you improvise a bit. Or a lot.

I've had my Betty Crocker cookbook for quite a long time. My mom had one in her kitchen, so when I got married, I wanted a copy for my own kitchen. Mom actually gave me her old one, which I still have on my bookshelf, although I rarely use it because it's falling apart. My BC cookbook is binder-style, which is really nice because it lays flat when open. It's actually my second one; the first book got ruined when the scrap bucket leaked icky ooze all over the counter one night when we forgot to take it out to the compost pile. All of my cookbooks got wet and stinky, so they had to be replaced. Some of the pages from that first BC book were salvageable, so I punched holes in them and inserted them in my new one. It's not new anymore, of course, but it has held up well for over 20 years.


As you can see, this recipe was designated a favorite by one of my kids when they were little. In case you find it difficult to read in the photo, I'll type out the recipe for you, with my personalizations.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Streusel topping (below)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)
1/2 tsp vanilla (or a small glug)
1 egg (duck, of course)
2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour, something I have enjoyed experimenting with lately. I'ts great stuff!)
1/3 cup sugar (I used turbinado sugar - seemed to work just fine)
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup fresh or drained canned blueberries,
  or 3/4 cup frozen blueberries, thawed and well drained (I'm not messing with all that! I used a heaping cup of frozen un-thawed blueberries, not drained one whit.)

Heat oven to 400°F. Prepare Streusel Topping. Grease bottoms only of 12 medium muffin cups, 2½ x 1¼ inches, or line with paper baking cups. (Baking cups! Way easier to pop those babies out of the pan with paper liners.) Beat milk, oil, vanilla and egg. Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder and salt all at once just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). (She's Lump, She's Lump, she's in my head....and that's actually playing on my stereo right this very minute! How weird is THAT?!) Fold in blueberries. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups. (If you have a Pampered Chef large cookie scoop, it holds the perfect amount of muffin batter if you scoop it heaping.) Sprinkle each with about 2 teaspoons Streusel Topping. (Why would you bother measuring streusel topping? Just dump it on!) Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove from pan.

Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour again)
2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar (I used turbinado sugar instead)
2 Tablespoons firm margarine or butter (margarine isn't allowed in my house)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Not enough! I used at least a full teaspoon, maybe more. I didn't measure it. Of course.)
Mix all ingredients until crumbly. (Use a pastry blender or a fork.)


These muffins baked up beautifully! And tasted yummy! They are long gone by now. As I recall, the whole wheat pastry flour made them light and fluffy, instead of heavy and dense like whole grain flour tends to do. Using turbinado sugar instead of refined white sugar didn't seem to have any effect on the recipe at all, and in fact, it made the Streusel Topping even better, nice and crunchy just the way I like it! The frozen, un-thawed, un-drained blueberries made things a bit juicy and drippy, as you can see above, but since when are juicy blueberries a problem? When I serve you my muffins, you get a napkin with your plate.

Yes, if you're ever in the neighborhood, feeling hungry, you may stop by my house and I will feed you whatever thing it is I have recently baked up. I love to feed hungry people! Especially hungry teenage boys...they love just about anything I make and it disappears in a heartbeat. That reminds me...I promised to make doughnuts for the church youth group one of these days....

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Tiered Purple Dress

For crying in the mud, I am way behind on outfit posts! There is so much to do every day and time gets away from me. Blogging isn't top priority, so it gets put on the furthest back burner. It's something I still truly enjoy, however, so I'm trying really hard to make a teensy bit of time for it!

This is what I wore two Sundays ago, to church:

Studio M dress - eBay
Scarf - thrifted
Shoes - Dillard's


I bought this dress on eBay because it's tiered like my favorite red dress from Target (which is no longer available), except that it's tiered in the back as well as the front. It fits a bit more snugly than my red dress; would this be what they call "body con"? All I know is that I had to wear a firm foundation beneath it! The neckline is on the verge of being too low, certainly too low for going up to communion in church. (I really don't want to give the elders and Pastor a show they don't care to see.) The solution was this enormous pashmina scarf. 

This pashmina was new with tags, purchased for $1 at a yard sale two summers ago. I've not worn it very often because it is so huge and I don't know how to tie it nicely. There's a video floating around on Facebook that has helped some. I tried to tie it kind of like one of the styles the model shows. It's not quite right, but close enough. It certainly covered my neckline well, and after church was over, I untied it to wrap around my shoulders because a cold front had moved in.

Well, I'd forgotten all about that cold front....that was a nice cool week...

It's back to normal weather now, warm and humid. But that's another story....

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Outfit Inspiration: The Birds and The Bees

Yesterday was a very busy day, so I didn't get around to writing this outfit post. Instead, I spent my time putting more stuff away in my new laundry room / mud room cupboards. I haven't mentioned The House Project much here on the blog, although perhaps I should; it's so much a part of my life! Some Postman has been remodeling this Old Farm House for the past three years. He's such a perfectionist in all that he does, the house ought to last another hundred years when he's done with it!

Anyway...on to the birds and the bees!

It's been well documented that I have a thing for bird-themed clothing - shirts, a skirt, socks, jewelry. I also have a thing for bees. My adopted sisterfriend who lives in Michigan, also named Melissa, and I send each other bee items for our birthdays. Because "Melissa" means "honey bee". My vintage pin collection includes a couple of bees; I sent MI Melissa a large bee ring one year (wish there had been two so I could have a matching one!).

And so, with all the bird and bee activity on the farm lately, this outfit worn last week was thus inspired:


Mossimo top - Target
Yellow tank - JCP
Roz & Ali jeans - Dressbarn
Mossimo sneaks - Target
Earrings - gift
Socks - Target

The entire day, this song kept playing in my mind, until I finally had to look it up on You Tube.


My nod to Dean Martin, although in the video above, he is holding a cigarette instead of a drink, but a lot ot times he held both. (I don't smoke, and my drink of choice was tea.)


I'm glad I wore this top when I did, because it's almost too hot to wear it now. The window of opportunity for sheer tops like this is fairly small, because it needs to be just warm enough, and not too warm. There are about two weeks of weather like this in May in Kansas, and that's it until October.

 Bird earrings, bee top...

 And of course we needed some flowers for the birds and the bees...

And more birds! Hey, flamingos are birds...
just not ones you see in Kansas unless they are ornamenting a yard.

I found a great pair of bee socks at Target earlier this spring, but since they are knee highs, elected not to wear them with this outfit. Would have been too warm with jeans. If we get another cool day (wishful thinking?), I have another outfit in mind that could include those socks, which Some Postman dubbed "the bees knees socks".

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Birds and The Bees

A couple of weeks ago, I set out two hummingbird feeders and we have been enjoying watching the hummers ever since. There are several varieties that visit our feeders, all of them tiny and so pretty! One thing we've notice about hummers is that they do NOT like to share! They are quite aggressive and if another hummer tries to sip from a feeder, the first bird will buzz back and forth and dive at the intruder. I keep telling them to chill out - there are two feeders, and I promise to refill them!

Resting Hummer
(Too bad I don't have Photo Shop to remove the old car from the background...)


In other bird news, our one-legged duck, Foxtrot, had a little trouble last week. She has been laying eggs all spring, and even began a nest in the barn at one point. We did hope that she would sit on that nest, because that would have allowed her to rest and would have ensured she would stop laying eggs the rest of the season. But she only sat on the eggs for one night, and resumed egg laying after a brief respite. I've been keeping a close eye on her "under carriage". So far, so good...and then last Thursday, she prolapsed (her ovaries fell outside of her body). Some Postman and I are old pros at fixing a prolapsed duck because Foxtrot has had this problem the past two years. I hold the duck upside down while SP packs her guts back inside. There's some cleaning, smearing of honey, jiggling, averting the eyes so as not to gag, and a big ol' glob of Preparation H involved. It took two such administrations, but Foxtrot Duck is now all repaired and feeling better. She is rather perturbed that she must spend the rest of the summer in the isolation pen, however. It is for her own good, although it makes me sad to do it. The only way to keep her from prolapsing again is to prevent egg laying, and the only way to do that is to restrict her feed. If she is free to roam the yard, she'll eat enough bugs and such to lay an egg every day. Keeping her in a small pen limits how much she can eat, thus not allowing enough calories for egg production.

Poor Isolated Foxtrot
Her duckie friends Jitterbug, Boogie & Woogie are chatting with her. Samba is off on her own somewhere.
About the same time I put out the hummingbird feeders, I came home from a meeting at church one evening, ready to crash into bed...but Some Postman insisted upon dragging me outside to show me this:

A Swarm of BEES!!!!

From the top - it was a good sized swarm!
We've lived here on the "farm" for almost 18 years, and this is the first time we've had a swarm of bees come visit us! Luckily, we have a good friend who is a beekeeper, and she came the next morning to hive the bees. What a fascinating thing to watch!


As she swept the bees out of the tree, they would fall into the hive, not unlike a giant drop of honey!
I did use my camera's zoom feature a little bit, but for the most part, I was right there up close and personal with the bees. No, I was not wearing a suit like my friend's, either! The weather was quite cool that morning, so the bees were sluggish and docile. They were not interested in stinging us. And, I like to think that they were being nice to me out of kinship. After all, my name, Melissa, means Honey Bee!



The bees took to their new home right away, which means that my friend was successful in sweeping the Queen Bee into the hive. She left the hive under our peach tree so that the remaining bees could find their way in, and that is where they have stayed until today. She came over this morning to pack up the hive and transport it to its permanent home at her place in the country north of here. Farewell, bees! It was a pleasure having you visit and I hope you make lots of wonderful honey in your new home.

All this fun with birds and bees inspired me to put together an outfit featuring the same, and I wore it last week. Check back tomorrow to see it!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Apron Story Number Two


This apron was made by my dear mother-in-law. She made numerous aprons for me, once she learned I loved to wear them, including one made of cow fabric (the cows glowed in the dark!). Mom G believed every apron should have a pocket - I am of the same belief! Most of the ones she made also have an adjustable strap like this one, rather than ties. I tied a knot in the end anyway, because the rings don't hold the strap tightly enough for all the wild arm motions I make while cooking.

This is one of the few aprons made by Mom G that I still wear; all the rest are threadbare and stained badly. But I can't bear to throw them away! My sweet mother-in-law lives in heaven now and can't make any new aprons for me. She did not use a pattern, but made them by laying an old apron on top of the fabric and tracing around it.

As I recall, she made a skirt for me, too, also without a pattern. I wish I still had that skirt! Even though it would no longer fit me, I could have made an apron out of it...

What did I bake while wearing my Summer Foods Apron? A Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake, of course! Sadly, I forgot to take a picture of the completed dessert and now it's all gone. You'll have to use your imagination. Here's a shot of some of the ingredients:


The recipe I applied here is found in my old Ultimate Philly Cheesecakes cookbooklet, a mail-away freebie obtained ages ago and well-worn. Of course, recipes are only springboards for creativity, so here it is with my adaptations:

Philly 3-Step Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake

2 8oz pkgs cream cheese, softened*
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla (or a quick splash - who needs to dirty a spoon for vanilla?!)
2 eggs (duck, of course)
1 9" graham cracker pie crust
3 Tbsp raspberry preserves (I had Grandma Hoerner's Blueberry on hand, and have no idea how much I actually used. Probably more than 3 puny tablespoons. 'Cuz it's the yummiest!)

1. Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla at medium speed with electric mixer until well blended. Add eggs; mix until blended. (Is it just me, or does this sound more like two steps?)
2. Pour into crust. Dot top of cheesecake with preserves. Dot? Just plunk a bunch of globs on there! Cut through batter with a knife several times for marble effect. Or leave the blobs intact if you want a puddly look. I swirled. (Again...this is at least three steps...)
3. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes or until center is nearly set. Cool. Refrigerate 3 hours or overnight.
4. (They forgot the most important step.) EAT!

*Usually I use reduced fat Neufchatel cheese rather than full-fat cream cheese, but I found something new (to me) at Aldi's and wanted to see if it would be any nicer to my lactose intolerant tummy:  cream cheese made from Greek yogurt. Guess what? No tummy ache! Awesome stuff! It was in their "Special Buys" section, but hopefully it will stay around for a while. If not, I'll have to hunt for it at other stores.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mother's Day Fun

My sister B, aka Salt City Hausfrau, and I took our Mama to see a play Sunday afternoon as our Mother's Day gift to her. In the past few years, we've taken to giving "experience gifts" whenever possible. None of us needs more stuff, but we can always use more memories!

The play we attended was an adaptation of Little Women. Louisa May Alcott's timeless story occupies a special place in the hearts of the women in our family. If you've followed this blog for a long time, or if you're a family member, you know that each year I host a "Little Women Party" for my mom, sisters, sisters-in-law, daughter and nieces. It's been more difficult to coordinate this  gathering the past few years, so I've settled for variations of it. This year's Little Women Party happened on Mother's Day, with just Mom, B and me.

We had a lovely time together; the play was presented well by youth actors. B gave us each a packet of Swankies to use during Beth's death scene, but it wasn't done as tragically as we're used to, so we didn't shed any tears. I shared  some chocolate during intermission, and we went to McDonald's for coffee afterward, there not being a coffee shop open in that town at that time of day. B and I had icy cold coffee drinks, because it was hot and windy out and our hot flashes were going crazy. Mom doesn't drink coffee, so she visited with us girls while we sipped. It was quite a nice Mother's Day outing!

 Tacera dress - Factory Connection
Basic Editions sandals - Walmart
Earrings & necklace - Cato

 Faded Glory dress - Walmart
Belt - Walmart
BOC sandals - Vanderbuilt's
Earrings - JC Penney's
Bracelet - gift from sister L

 "I could never love anyone as I love my sisters!"
~Jo March

Happy Mother's Day, Mom! We love you! ♥


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

My Grandma's Apron

Those who know me well know that I love aprons. This most likely stems from the fact that my Great-Grandma Nelson always wore an apron, and she was the most wonderful grandma in the world. "Grandma Great" always had cookies in her jar, and one year when my birthday was on or near Easter, she baked me a bunny cake with coconut "fur". She also made the world's best rhubarb sauce.

I have many, many aprons...some that I wear, some that are on display, and some that are tucked away because they are too special or too worn out. My dear mother-in-law made several aprons for me, most of which are no longer worn so they don't fall completely apart. She isn't here to make any more for me, so I want to save what's left of those special aprons. I've made a couple aprons myself, but most of my collection were made by others.  My sweet friend Grammy Goodwill mailed me her own collection of vintage aprons recently. She is moving to a smaller home and remembered my adoration of aprons. I promise that they have a good home here, Grammy!

Aprons don't seem to be all that popular in the fashion world, but that isn't going to stop me from featuring them in my blog. After all, I'm not that popular in the fashion world, myself. I wear what I like, not the latest trends or hottest brands. And I like aprons.

The apron I'm sharing with you today is one that was worn by my other great-grandma, Wilhelmina Clark. I'm not sure if she made it herself or if someone made it for her, but it is a vintage design and fabric. I don't have as many memories of my Great-Grandma Clark, because I didn't spend as much time with her. One thing I do remember: she could recite the Lord's Prayer in German, even after she'd had a stroke and could no longer speak. Granted, her words could not be understood, but the cadence was there, and it was obvious what she was reciting.



Now, because this is one of those "too special to be worn for actual work in the kitchen" aprons, I replaced it with one of my everyday aprons before I began baking my cake. The replacement apron will be shared here eventually! In case you're interested, here is the cake I made:

Snickerdoodle Cake

1 package white cake mix
1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 large eggs (I used duck eggs)
1 tsp vanilla (I used one "glug")
2 tsp cinnamon

Heat oven to 350°. Prepare a 9x13 pan by spraying with oil (I use a Pampered Chef spritzer). Combine all ingredients in large mixer bowl and beat well. Pour batter into pan. Bake 32-38 minutes. Cool completely. Frost with Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting:

1/2 cup butter, softened
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar (I dumped in about half a 2lb bag. I'm not big on measuring, as you can tell.)
3-4 Tbsp milk (again, almond milk, and I used 4 Tbsp plus a few splashes to thin it down since I added too much powdered sugar)
1 tsp vanilla (or so)
1 tsp cinnamon (this I measure, because if I try to shake just a little in, a whole bunch comes out of the jar...lesson learned the hard way)

Beat butter till fluffy. Add remaining ingredients. Beat until proper consistency is reached. May need to add a bit more milk or powdered sugar.


Monday, May 5, 2014

Sunday Dress

 Alex Marie dress - thrifted
Scarf - gift from SIL
Merona heels - Target


While perusing my closet one day last week, I came across this dress and thought about purging it since I haven't worn it in a very long time. It's the dress I wore for my husband's twin brother's wedding more than two years ago; not sure it's been worn since. However, it seemed a good idea to get one more wearing out of it first, and so this is what I wore to church this Sunday. I'd forgotten just how well this dress fits and flows. At least three people commented how much they liked it. Well, I do believe I'd better keep this dress, after all! It is a good quality, has been altered to fit me well, and is fairly flattering to my figure. It stays!


As cute as these pumps are, they do not good walking shoes make, even with gel insoles and heel guards in place. After church, Some Postman and I walked around downtown, visiting various shops. My feet held out fairly well until my pinkie toes developed blisters. Perhaps wearing hose would have helped, but it was too warm for those things. For the three blocks walk back to the car, the shoes came off. Going barefoot on hot sidewalk was preferable to festering more blisters!

After I get my laundry hung out this morning, my plan is to soak my feet in a lavender bath while catching up on missed episodes of Call the Midwife. I've recently become interested in the curative powers of essential oils; my guide booklet recommends lavender oil for blisters. I put some directly on the blisters yesterday, and it did help. Soaking my feet should help soothe them even more.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

May Day!

It's the beginning of a new month! May Day, the first of May...perfect day for a new start. If you're a regular follower of this blog, you may have noticed that posts have not been frequent of late. This is because I have been struggling with several issues, one of which was whether to continue blogging. After much thought on the matter, I've decided to keep it up. It's a creative outlet for me, even though much of the time I am not being very creative about it. This blog is something I truly enjoy, and to give it up now would feel like another failure.

In the spirit of fresh starts, here's a happy birdie outfit that I wore to church this past Sunday:

 Tee - old
Faded Glory sweater - Walmart
Skirt - self-made
Born shoes - thrifted
Bracelet - Walmart



Sunday morning started out warm enough to go bare-legged, but it cooled off later in the day and hasn't warmed up much since. The weekend promises to bring sunshine and higher temps, tho, which will be perfect for the big Kansas Sampler Festival. My parents are going with me - I can hardly wait!

I'll leave you now with a pic of the flowers my sweet neighbor T brought to me this morning. Happy May Day!