Thursday, October 29, 2015

Happy Halloween

This year's Halloween decor.

 Mother Spider on the ceiling of the small foyer inside the carport door/at the bottom of the stairs/between the kitchen and dining room.
Her Spider Babies running along the door, inside and outside (startled some JW's, lol). 

Mother spider is made of black crepe paper streamers (Dollar Tree), two black balloons (Dollar Tree) - one blown up larger than the other, and two circles cut from red card stock paper (you could also use regular paper colored with marker).  All secured with scotch tape.

The Spider Babies are Dollar Tree spider rings, with the ring part cut off, and a small magnet glued on. (You can read about how I made them Here and Here.)

The mantel:


White ceramic urn - Free, inherited - made by Grandmother in 1960's
Sticks/branches - Free, picked up out of yard
Window - Free, salvaged
Clear Oil Lamp - Free, gift/inherited - given to me by Mother-in-law, belonged to her Grandmother. (I did have to replace the chimney glass that was missing/broken/gone.)
Oil Painting - Free, gift - painted for me by an artist friend from Colorado
2 Pumpkin candles, Pumpkin Mug, Black Cat Halloween Sign - Free, freecycle
Handmade Clay Jack-o-lantern - Free, gift - Made by youngest son in 5th grade, won a prize in School Art show

Vintage Blow-mold lighted jack-o-lantern - 50¢ at thrift store
Red glass (compote?) dish - $1.00 at flea market (Long time ago, I used to pick these dishes up for $1.00 or less at flea markets or yard sales. Now they cost $15+.) (Red plaid pj pants fabric scrap = $0)
 I found the black table runner at Dollar Tree for $1.00. It was just the right size for my mantel. They also had red and green ones, good for Christmas.
Skeleton head - $1.00 at Dollar Tree
Pumpkin dish - about $8.00 at Walmart, but you can usually find these cheaper at thrift stores or yard sales.

I found the black candelabra(s) (there are 2) at a yard sale years ago for $1.00.
I made the plastic canvas jack-o-lantern years ago.
The crazy-faced jack-o-lantern was (is) a toy, bought to entertain my youngest son years ago.
I forget where the wooden/smiling j-o-l came from, but I've had it for years, also.
The other plastic, lighted j-o-l's I believe came from the Dollar Tree over the years.

China Cabinet:

Hobnail oil lamp - 75¢ at yard sale
Black roses, Dollar Tree (When I bought/made these, they didn't sell black roses, so I spray painted red ones. Now they sell black ones, around Halloween time.) In the matching ceramic urn, made by Grandmother in the 1960's.
Wine bottles were free, filled with food-colored water...I bought a package of stickers at Dollar Tree, but you can also print your own from the internet.

Skeleton - 10¢ at yard sale
Welcome Witches and Ghouls sign - Free, freecycle
Black scary netting stuff, Dollar Tree
I made the painted, wooden "ghost rising out of scary books" figure menia years ago.
Spider candle holders from Dollar Tree.
Trick or treat animated bowl, forgot how much, from Walmart, long time ago.
Also, lighted pumpkin on top came from Walmart, long time ago, before I shopped thriftily.

I found this big jack-o-lantern bucket/planter at a thrift store just last month for $1.00. Turned out to be just the thing for holding my small collection of children's Halloween books.

The buffet, which did not turn out well.
There's not much co-hesiveness here, or levels of height, or...whatever else decor aspects are missing.

The wall behind the buffet is torn out while we work on the plumbing of the bathroom on the other side of the wall, so I hung a white sheet to try to hide the worst of the ugliness of it.
Our kitten kept climbing the sheet and tearing it down, and running across the buffet to make her escape.

We were also getting ready to go on a two week vacation in our camper in a few days, so I didn't have a lot of time to mess with trying to fix this, so....this is how it is.

For all my excuses as to why it didn't turn out didn't turn out that well last Christmas either. I apparently have difficulty decorating a buffet top for some reason.
I'd say "decorating a flat surface", but the fireplace mantel is a flat surface and I think I do okay with it, so I don't know what the problem is exactly.

I glued a magnet to the underside of a plastic bug (from a package of bugs and stuff from the Dollar Tree). A magnet inside the lampshade - not glued - holds the bug onto the lampshade.
(In case I didn't explain that very well, see this post.)

I think the skeleton bookmark came from the same package as the bug.

"Little Scary Dude", that I made years ago when they still sold the cheap, plastic costumes and masks. 
I used a hooded shirt and pair of jeans of my son's, safety-pinned together and stuffed with newspapers, then dressed it in the costume.
Just found the "eyes" within the past couple of years, at Dollar Tree. 
Have meant to add shoes for ever, but just never got around to it, and now all the smaller sized shoes are long gone.

Yes, that's Kitty-Kitty on LSD's lap.
We were looking for her one day, and couldn't see her when she was laying down with her eyes closed, she blended into the black costume.
Silly Kitty.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Very Important, Do This For Your Children

I'm quite a bit behind in posting lately - have been busy canning, and going on vacation, and this and that - but I had this on my mind and wanted to share.

The thing is, I wasn't really raised learning to cook (or clean, or sew, or many other house-wifely duties) at my Mother's knee.
I'm not criticizing, she worked a full-time job, it's just easier to get stuff done without little kids underfoot....I was/am the same way, and don't even have having a full-time job outside the home as an excuse.
Not to mention, me and my sister were pretty bratty kids. We probably weren't that interested in learning to cook and clean, when we had someone doing it for us.
Besides, I knew everything already and didn't need to learn anything.

But then I got married and moved into my own household and found out pretty quickly I didn't know much of anything about house-keepery type stuff.

So I'd call up my Mom or Grannie and ask them how to do things. In particular, how to cook the foods I liked, that I'd grown up eating, that they'd cooked for me.

I also had a ton of cookbooks that I tried likely-sounding recipes out of. 
Some of the recipes were good, some were not, and some I didn't even try because they were too hard or had ingredients I'd never even heard of.

I'd end up liking one, maybe two recipes from a book, and that was it. I'd have to go back and search through the cookbooks to find a recipe I wanted.
Eventually I decided to compile the recipes from Grannie, Mom, my Mother-in-law(s), and/or the cookbooks that I liked/used into a notebook for easier use.

I don't know where in the world I got this freaky notebook from, or what anything on the cover means, if anything, but I guess at the time I thought it would make a good recipe book.

I added some  page dividers to make sections: Or-derves, Main dishes, Side Dishes, Desserts, etc.

I numbered the pages, intending to make an index on the main page of each section, but that didn't work out. 

I wrote in it all the recipes I knew and used.  No recipes made it in the book unless it was tried and true.
Except, I see Grannie's recipe/directions for Fried Chicken here on the bottom right side page.
I never did learn to make fried chicken the way Grannie made it - that is, good.

Some other things, too, like Grannie's biscuits and chicken-n-dumplings, were hard for me to make, so I didn't try very much.  I'd just wait (or beg) for Grannie to cook them, and go eat at her house.

But, then, as Grannie's eventually do, she passed away.

Eventually I learned my Mom was raised also not learning to cook at her Mother's knee.
Grannie had three girls in three years, I imagine it was a whole lot easier to get things done sending them out in the yard or somewhere so they weren't underfoot.

Mom learned to cook pretty much the same way I did, after she got married, asking her Mom for help, and cookbooks and recipe cards.

I missed my Grannie terribly, but as far as food, I liked KFC and got fried chicken from there, but my Mom could make Grannie's biscuits and chicken-and-dumplins, so I was good in that regard. I'd just wait for (or beg) Mom to cook them and go eat at her house.

Well, then, my Mom moved away. They live most of the year in Florida, spending only the hottest months up here in Georgia, in the mountains, a couple of hours away from us.

We go visit them a few times a year, and Mom would cook us what we liked, but it wasn't nearly enough.
We were eating canned, or frozen biscuits, and they just don't measure up to fresh, hot, homemade ones.
I was lucky to get chicken-n-dumplins - my all-time favorite meal ever - once a year, if that.

So, I had to learn to make them myself.

Grannie's biscuits doesn't have measurements.

She had a 5-gallon metal lard bucket she kept her flour in. She'd hollow out a hole in the top of the flour with her hand, pour in some milk, scoop in a wad of shortening, and mash it all up into biscuit dough.

My Mom kept (keeps) her flour in a large Tupperware bowl, so that's what I do, too.

The first time(s) I attempted making biscuits like Grannie, I ended up wetting and using ALL the flour in the whole bowl, and making a tee-total mess.

Another time, the biscuits came out hard like hockey pucks.

The first several times it was hit and miss. Sometimes they'd be good, other times I'd mess them up and not even know how.

But I didn't give up. Couldn't. I had realized that one day my Mom is going to be gone, too, and that will leave no one to be able to make me Grannie's biscuits. I'd be doomed to having to eat canned, or frozen, or Bisquick mix biscuits for the rest of my life. 

Once I finally learned to make Grannie's biscuits, then chicken-n-dumplins was pretty easy because the dumplings are just the biscuit dough, cut into rectangles. 

Now some of the family comes to my house when they want chicken-n-dumplins.

When Grannie died, she apparently took to the grave with her, her recipe for her chocolate cake that it seems no one else in the whole world knew.

It was just a basic, from scratch, yellow cake, with a crunchy-fudgy icing.

I hadn't been particularly fond of the cake - I actually preferred box cakes (back then) - so I didn't have the recipe for that cake. (Or didn't think I did*.)

 Several of us attempted to make the cake/icing. Two of my cousins like to cook and tried what they thought would create the icing, and ended up close, but no cigar.

I found a bunch of old magazine pages with ads and recipes on the internet and tried a couple of those, thinking maybe she had gotten her recipe from something like that. But still not an exact match.

When they'd moved, 21 years ago, Grannie's old cigar box full of recipes had gotten misplaced. My Aunt swore up and down my Mom had thrown it out, but then many years later, like 18 maybe, the box turned up in my Aunt's basement.
Everyone was so excited!
She gave me the box, and....

It was just full of recipes cut out from newspapers, or photocopies of recipes others had given her.
Nothing she'd written, pretty much nothing she cooked regularly.

No recipe for her particular chocolate cake, nor for the fruitcake she used make that me and my Aunt were the only ones that liked.

*Sometime later I was going through some of my recipes again and came across a paper I didn't recall ever having seen before, written in my handwriting, for what appeared to be Grannie's cake and chocolate icing.
Unfortunately, it's incomplete, only a partial list of the ingredients, and no directions.
I can't recall writing it at all, so I don't know what the circumstances were, why I didn't write the complete recipe or anything.
I've tried working with it, but I'm no natural born baker, I can't figure things out and need complete recipes to tell what to do.

About 10 years ago, my oldest son hooked up with a gal and moved out together.

They ate whatever she knew how to cook, fast food, frozen pizzas, whatever, and then at some point he was calling to ask me how to make this or that, foods that I fixed as he was growing up that he liked, but his girlfriend didn't know about or how to fix.

I remembered back to those days, when I didn't know how to fix the foods I liked and had to call Mom or Grannie and ask.
Some of the things were really pretty basic and easy, but I didn't know that, having not fixed the things myself before.
My first pitcher of sweet tea was a disaster. I added enough sugar for a gallon, but I'd only made a half gallon. We like sweet tea, but not that sweet!

And I bet Grannie thought her chocolate cake was pretty basic and easy, too. She didn't even use a recipe. Obviously it was simple enough to memorize.

Yet none of us, to this day, can figure out how to replicate it.
We can make chocolate cakes all day long - yellow cakes with fudge icing - but none of them are Grannie's chocolate cake.

I've seen lots of recipes on the internet that are titled the same things as I grew up eating, and now cook myself, but the ingredients or directions are different, so it's not the same.

So I got to thinking, I need to write down/keep/save absolutely every single thing that I cook, fix, or make for my kids, that they might ever want again after I'm not here to fix it for them anymore. 

I went back into my homemade recipe book and added recipes for things I make, the way I make them.
You can find recipes for the things on the internet all day long, but maybe they won't be the same way as I fix them.

Other recipes can be good, but still, sometimes good still just isn't the way Momma made it.

For instance, if I search the internet for "french toast" recipe, none of the recipes are like my Momma made it, and how I make it for my kids.

So I'm here to tell you to do your kids the favor of writing down your recipes for them.
Not fancy or special or elaborate or whatever recipes - although you can include any of those you may have, too - but I'm talking about the basic, every day or week or usual things you fix for them.  Even if it seems simple as all get out, put it anyway. "Cheese toast"

Write down or include recipes you use from a box or package, for instance Nilla Wafer Banana Pudding, or Rice Krispies Treats.
Don't assume the recipe will still be on the box or package, or will still be the exact same recipe, twenty or so years from now. 

In addition, if it's not something that can be written out very easily (though most things are), or if it's something harder to make, then teach them how to do it their self.
Even if they don't seem interested, make them learn anyway.
One day, they will thank you (when you're not here to hear it, though).

I have all boys, and the way I was raised, never really thought about teaching them to cook.
They'll marry and their wives will fix them food, I guess I thought, if I thought much about it at all.
Until my oldest moved out with a girl, then asked me to tell (him/her/them) how to fix the food he liked.

Grannie's biscuits is one that I couldn't tell him/her how to make.
She watched me make biscuits a few times, but all she kept saying was, "I couldn't do that".
I told her it took me 40 years to learn, and it just takes practice.

Anyway, eventually she was history, and sometime after that my son was up and I was fixing dinner or something, and made a pan of biscuits. He was sitting there, looking on, so I explained what I was doing and showed him, and some time after that we were talking on the phone and he told me he made biscuits!

Then I decided the other two boys needed to learn to make biscuits.
They don't have girlfriends, but even when/if they ever do, there's no guarantee the girl will be able to or want to make biscuits like their Momma makes them. So they'll be able to make them their self.

I know how they are feeling, like it's not necessary they learn - I was the same way.
But one day, twenty-thirty or so years from now, they may be mighty glad that they know how to make Momma's biscuits.