Tuesday, December 30, 2014

More Meals for One

Some time ago I posted a series of posts on making meals to serve one person and the huge mileage I got from one little $5.00 rotisserie chicken. Those posts are right here:

These recipes are economical and tasty even if you're preparing meals for more than one. You'll just get less mileage from your ingredients.

I find myself in this position of preparing meals for just one person and it's a challenging change of pace from cooking for a family of five. Thank God, it was gradual so that I could get used to it a step at a time. If you have had kids leave the nest, you know how difficult it seems at the time to make that adjustment of not setting their place at the table and making a little less dinner to accommodate one less person.

With just me to cook for, I am always looking for tasty meals for one and the other day while watching the Food Network I ran across Marcella Valladolid of Mexican Made Easy. On this program she prepared empanadas. I am a big fan of anything Mexican. I downloaded her recipe and made it the very next day. So delicioso ! I flash froze each empanada in it's own little plastic bag so that anytime I feel like having one for lunch or dinner, I just leave it on the counter for a bit then put it in my toaster oven for a quick warm up (in the toaster oven the beautiful crust stays nice and crispy).

Here's Marcella's recipe for ground beef empanadas:

I tweaked Marcella's recipe a bit. I added cumin and coriander ground spices to the meat mixture. And instead of using the puff pastry sheets like she did, I found that by using puff pastry shells, you save some steps. The shells are already cut in round shapes, perfect for empanadas. I left the centers intact (which you would remove if you actually wanted them to become a shell). I put each pastry shell on a floured counter and rolled it out to about a 7-8 inch circle, then spooned the filling toward one edge of the circle, then brushed the edges with beaten egg and folded the other half circle over the filling, sealing it by pressing edges with a fork.  Otherwise, I did exactly as the recipe suggests.

       I am going to have one for lunch today along with a small caprese salad and iced tea.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Christmas is all about gifts. Who doesn't love gifts and Christmas? No matter how you say it - Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings - there wouldn't be any of it without the perfect King leaving His heavenly kingdom and experiencing a human birth so He, as one of us (human) for a time, could carry out the divine plan of redeeming us from the curse. The Father's Gift to us. This scripture says it best:  2Cor. 9:15 "Now thanks be to God for His Gift (precious) beyond telling (His indescribable, inexpressible, free Gift)" Amplified Bible.
It's reason to celebrate

This old tale by Clement Moore sits on my piano

I made this little grapevine tree by wrapping grapevine around and around a tomato cage. I made most of the snow people too. The snow lady with hat and fur, you can find in my etsy shop.

I made this angel on a long ago Christmas. It never gets put away. I want to see it all the time.

These 3 little trees are all made from vintage bedspreads and have old wooden spools for trunks. You can find these in my etsy shop as well

I like to put Christmas time on  the mantelpiece

Close up of the Nativity scene on the mantelpiece
                     How do you celebrate and give thanks for this awesome gift?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Marketing Genius

The popular local grocery supermarket in my city is a family owned enterprise. It has expanded out of our local area to PA, VA, NJ, MA and is always in the top 100 businesses in an annual account of thriving area business. It also usually ranks, by their employees, as the #1  "best places to work". I have blogged about this business in an earlier post.

That's just a little background so I can tell you this story.

All of the stores in this chain have a dining area. People can buy a meal and then go to the dining room and eat right in the store. There are microwaves in the dining rooms although you can also buy a meal from a steam table which is just the right temperature to eat on the spot. All of the dining areas that I have been in, though they're all differently decorated, are extremely pleasant places to take a meal ( some with upholstered couches and chairs, big flat screen TV's, blown up vintage photos of a local nature) and sure beats messing up your own kitchen to prepare, then clean-up after a meal.

This past Summer, on Friday evenings, the ultra keen marketing gurus have hired local big bands (of the Benny Goodman type) to play dance music from the 40's and 50's (Swing) at supper-time. The band strikes up about 5:30 PM and plays until 8:30 PM. The diners/dancers are almost 100% seniors/retirees. They get something to eat for dinner, bring it to the dining area, have dinner with friends, then dance the night away. And for most seniors, 8:30 PM is time to call it a night.

A little "aside" - this is just about the time that the younger generation is getting ready to go out on the town.

How clever of the marketing department to think of such a delightful way to get shoppers into the store on Friday nights.

Sometimes I stop in the store after work on a Friday. I get out of work at 5 PM. When I walk in the store that is near where I work, I actually enter the store through the dining room and it's already packed with seniors. The tables are filled. It looks strangely like "dinner theater".

I never have my camera with me because I don't expect to have any reason to use it. I then have to resort to taking pictures with my phone. I just can't resist this opportunity. I apologize that they are not the best quality.

The last Friday night, a few weeks ago, that I observed this event - and I think I might call this the "piece d' resistance" - a store employee/chef (dressed in proper chef attire) wheeled a tea cart into the dining area about midway of the 3 hour event - loaded with sweets - and SOLD them - at less than the rate that the diners would have had to pay for them at the cash register !!!

This scene and the others I have witnessed at different times and even different locations of the grocery chain always remind me of the local dances I used to attend as a teenager. Girls all dressed up, worrying about how they look, running to the ladies room every few minutes to apply another spritz of perfume, freshen their lipstick and blusher, fluffing up their hair, guys gussied and smelling of aftershave, all having that certain "far away" look in their eyes............     It's the same scenario but one is populated by teens and the other by retirees and the only real difference (besides hair color)  is time.

As far as I know this program is just a Summertime event. It will be interesting to see what surprises they have for us to wile away the dreary Winter months.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Holiday House Tour

On Saturday last, myself and my two "house tour" buddies went to The Federated Garden Clubs of New York State Candlelight Holiday Tour. There were six houses on the tour and each was decorated in holiday finery by the Garden Clubs which means that the outside of the houses as well as inside were bedecked by flowers, greenery, berries, seed pods, pine cones, ribbons, etc. It was glorious to behold.

You could visit the homes in whatever order you chose. The first house we visited was the Stone-Tolan House, built in 1792, the oldest house in our county. The docents in each house were encyclopedias of the history of each home. When Mr. Stone and his pioneer family lived in this Federal-style structure, it was part of a 300 acre farm. The house is such a classic style that it looks like it could have been built last year.

anonymous tour goers waiting in line to see the home

Evidence that the Garden Club was here
no electric blankets - you put live coals in this tin box-then pop in under the covers
no Wegman's either - you preserved meat in a smoke house like this one
tester bed - handmade coverlet
Heart of the home - soups - stews - pies - biscuits cooked here
this is what the modern bathroom looked like in the 18th century


Because this home is now a museum, pictures were permitted to be taken in it. Not so with the other homes on the tour. Suffice it to say, this was the house I enjoyed visiting the most. There was another, an 1840 house, that was a close second. But people lived in it. It was scrumptiously fitted with antiques of the period plus filled with Christmas. I did take a couple pics of the garden there. Here's one:

My friends and I always enjoy a leisurely lunch when we do a "girlz day" like this. All in all, a totally delightful outing.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Primitive Kitchen Cupboard

One of my favorite haunts is Country Craft Sales. Usually these are "Girls Day Out" events and sometimes involve a long motor trip. This particular Show took place in a town about twenty five miles from where I live.

When I saw this primitive wooden shelf unit, I fell in love immediately. I could just "picture" it hanging in my kitchen. My kitchen is small-ish and has only three walls. Two of which are home to countertop, closed door cupboards and stove. Wall #3 houses the fridge and an whole empty expanse (this is the space I want to "gussie" up). On the forth side is total openness into the family room - creating a greatroom space.

I would gaze and gaze at this open available space and try to imagine what to do with it. I did have a large watercolor hanging in it at one time but that picture looked lost in the midst of all that space.

At this Craft Show, I saw the perfect solution to my dilemma. The primitive shelf unit !!  I could fill it with primitive collectibles.

I purchased it from a carpenter who had his huge truck parked behind his showroom booth. His truck was outfitted like a carpenter's work shop. Lathes, saws, sanders, etc. The smell of freshly hewn trees, intoxicating to me. He put the finishing touches on my unit and loaded it in the back of my car. It measures 33" high and 44" in width. Perfect for that wall.

note the roller skates belonging to my boys on top shelf-their marbles on 3rd shelf

Now the next hurdle is to convince my husband to hang it up. He's not too keen on making holes in the walls. Plus, after having been married to him for a very long time, I knew better than to harass and nag him to get it done. That would have just cemented his resolve to never suspend that thing in his kitchen. So, I waited..........................

And then one day..............................done ♥♥♥

note sewing items-threads-needles-buttons
I love it. It makes my kitchen feel cozy and warm like kitchens of yore. It's not at all sleek and clean, spare and functional. It's full of memories, warmth, hominess and nostalgia.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Sammysgrammy Expansion

I'm taking my etsy shop in a new direction. Since the beginning, I have always focused on the repurposing of vintage linens and laces. I have made snowmen and Christmas stockings from vintage bedspreads and seed sacks, I've made aprons from heirloom tablecloths, old buttons remade into brooches and bracelets, messenger bags from coffee bean burlap bags and on and on.

Body: Martha Washington bedspread and hobnail spread arms-fur wrap

I've pumped up the volume in my shop by also carrying a selection of items that I've knitted and crocheted. But, my hearts desire is to refashion the antique version of what I can make with my own two hands. The lace crocheted by yesterday's homemaker, I want to make  usable again for today's bride. I am so determined to rescue these beautiful pieces of lace that someone worked so diligently on so many years ago. There were once useful and needful to Victorian, Edwardian, bungalow style, roaring twenties, depression and WWll years households. They protected the parlor upholstery from soil, kept genuine wood furniture from scratches and spills, they hung in the windows, keeping out mosquitos and filtering the sunshine, they trimmed every kind of linen imaginable. The Victorian housewife loved decorating "overkill". Their hand crocheted lace strips (many times crocheted by young girls learning the skill) trimmed petticoats, nightgowns, towels, pillowcases, sheets, napkins and tablecloths.

Example of lace trimmed pillow cases

Now this magnificent needlework that was once so highly valued is found many times at garage and household sales because no one wants it any longer. It is not a needed commodity. The fact that it's lasted intact for 100 years does not seem to impress. The skilled needlework of generations of women and girls is entirely passe'.

But there is one place where romance and nostalgia still reign supreme - that's the wedding industry.

Granted, there are many brides who want a svelt, modern, contemporary, sleek style of wedding. But, Hallelulia! there are some brides who want romance, tenderness, sweetness, ruffles, girliness, intrigue, enchantment, lushness........... This girl wants a wedding with some sentimentality and tradition. She may not know it yet, but a garter made from a 100 year old strip of lace is perfect for her big day !
Example of wedding garter made from strip of vintage lace
Example of wedding banner made from a collection of round vintage doilies

Example of bride's clutch made from a lace doily


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Art and Craft Shows

Doing a craft show is much like planning a wedding. For several months before the event, you imagine every little detail in your mind. You may even draw it out. You might even make up a "mock craft show display" with a table and display pieces, backgrounds, etc. in your garage. The plans fill your mind so that sometimes it's very hard to shut your mind off and get a good night's sleep.
My unskilled drawing of what the table would look like
I made a burlap banner with the name of my shop. For a wedding, I may make a wedding banner with the bride and grooms names on it or "congratulations" on it, or "Mr. and Mrs.________" on it.

The burlap banner is in the background

You design lots and lots of paper art for both events. "Save the dates", invitations, thank yous, table place cards for a wedding. For my show, I made coupons for each bag, I purchased a new supply of business cards, I tagged each item with it's price........

Coupon tag - business card - hand stamped shopping bag
I tagged 101 items
In the case of my show, I packed up all my items for transportation to the venue location. For a wedding, The planner is definitely going to transport "ambience" to the venue - flowers or table centerpieces, table covers, wedding favours, memory book, to mention a few.

And this is just the beginning. The BIG day arrives. You pack up your now, much too small car, and drive to the event venue. Imagine your surprise to discover that there are no tables provided! You must bring your own. We are now in the "countdown to blast off" phase. No time to disassemble a table that might be at home, loaded with sewing machines and other crafting paraphernalia. You must go to the store and purchase a brand new folding 6 foot table and take it to the venue just before showtime, set up your little shop upon it, unloading all the boxes you packed the day before (when you thought all you had to do was to cover your table and assemble your inventory upon it. Go back home and rest up for the BIG day tomorrow.

At this point, there's no guaranty that you'll even sell anything. I had no competition. I was the only vendor who sold hand knit items. I think there were about 40 vendors. The show took place at a local"Y" and was a fund raiser for them.

Sadly (for me), it was a dud, a lemon, a flop. I sold 3 items. I did, however, cover the fee for my space and just about covered my new table cost.

I learned some things the hard way. #1 pack your inventory in the largest plastic bins you can find. (these bins can then be covered and used as extra display space). I packed in reused cardboard boxes. You can't get much in them. They are unwieldy to carry, and you can only carry one at a time. If you use plastic bins, you'll need wheels, but you can put one bin on top of the other. Thus making one carrying trip instead of many. Possibly 1-2 large bins is all you'll need to use.

#2 - get one of those wheelies. I saw the professional vendors had a fold up "L" shaped dolly (wide bottom plus folding handle). This whole affair folds up flat. I do have the old fashioned type of dolly that you transport heavy furniture with. But it's not foldable, it's heavy and big and wouldn't even fit in my car after all the inventory and display pieces were in my car.  The 4th picture is the one I saw the professionals use.

You did notice that I said "professional vendors" in the previous paragraph. By that I mean, people who do many shows - perhaps even one a week during this pre holiday season. They even hand out lists to customers of all the shows they can be found at this season.

I don't normally do craft shows because I had long ago learned that it is a tremendous amount of work for very small return (why did I think this time would be different) while etsy offers an easy, comfortable, low key alternative. But when I saw this show announced and the very low entry fee, I thought "I'll go for it".

I have even reasoned that now that I've done all the prep work, why not do another one. The folding table is still in my car. But then on the other hand, I think I'm a glutton for punishment and should be put in a straight jacket for even mentioning it. But I have this "fatal attraction" for craft shows. I love being surrounded by creative people. I am a "planner". Much as I complain, I love planning parties, events, weddings and, yes, even craft shows. I'm an incurable optimist, to boot.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Scarecrow Contest

The annual Fairport Scarecrow Contest takes place on the second weekend in October. The scarecrows line the Main Street in our little town from that weekend until the end of the month. Oftentimes, they get pretty ratty looking from standing out there in the rain and winds that usually accompany Octobers in upstate NY.

Therefore, I had a look at them on the Monday following the contest. It was a lovely balmy day and I took a few selected pictures of the many scarecrows, with my phone. I don't know which are the winners but it is an actual contest and scarecrows take honors in various categories.

Businesses, local families and organizations (like Girl Scouts) will create a scarecrow.

Fairport High School sports teams are the "Red Raiders"


Pre-School in the Village
Pizza Delivery Scarecrow outside of Salvatore's Pizza
EMT Scarecrow administering CPR
She was outside the Library - Notice her skirt made of books
Girl Scout selling cookies - notice the boxes of cookies
I think she's my favorite with the EMT scarecrow running a close second.
Which is your favorite?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Historic House Tour

The Historical Society in my town has an annual house tour. This year's tour celebrated the 100th birthday of the lift bridge over the Erie Canal. This landmark is located right in the middle of town.......because the Canal dissects the town. Many times impatient drivers must wait until the bridge goes back down after letting a boat that is higher than the bridge, pass under it.

The canal itself is almost 200 years old, runs for 363 miles, from Albany to Buffalo, NY.  It was built to facilitate commerce through the port of New York City to inland locations by water rather than dirt roads - boats rather than horses. It actually cut transportation costs by 95% and opened up western New York to population growth.

Enough history. The houses on the tour were built between 1806 and 1903. All of them overlooking the canal. They were built in stages, with additions built in subsequent years, as their families grew and modern amenities became available.

Back of house - facing the canal

At the edge of a rolling lawn - a canalside dock
An irresistible red dahlia in this backyard
This brick house was a funeral parlor in it's early days - note the red barn

The loft area of this barn is where the embalming was done. You can faintly see the markings above the new-ish garage door where the much larger door was located which could accommodate a horse drawn hearse. The viewings would take place in the front parlor of the brick house.

As you can see the packet boats were low and fit under he bridge easily. This is a modern one and is a summertime vacation rental. The originals were much the same except they carried cargo and were pulled by mules walking alongside on the canal paths. In the far left upper corner of this shot, you can get a small glimpse of the liftbridge. It would not have to raise for a packet boat but for large yachts with fishing equipment, the bridge would raise to accommodate the passage under the bridge.

An enchanting historic tour. I enjoyed it immensely.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Purple Painted Lady Barn Sale

I received one of those totally charming postcards announcing this barn and junque sale. I had never been to it before and it was being held at a farm in a little town just east of where I live.


Held right on a farm ! That sounded enchanting to me and when I arrived there I was not disappointed. The farmhouse was situated on a hill overlooking acres and acres of rolling hills. There was a lovely barn. That, too, was filled with merchandise for sale.

musicians on the front porch

Vendors tents were spread out over the rolling hills.

From the house out to the road was a tree lined dirt driveway that had chandeliers hanging in the tree branches. This was a totally romantic setting, reminding me of Tara (Scarlett O'Hara's plantation).

purple chandelier hanging in a tree

The days of this event were two beautiful, sunny, not too warm days - perfect for wandering through the alleys of white vendors tents.

There was live music. There were meals being prepared on grills (barbeque chicken dinner). There was a whole section of the gardens filled with tables and chairs where dinner guests could have their dinners. There was also a food truck which sold regular picnic food - hotdogs, hamburgers, etc.

And so many vendors of some of the lovliest handmade items I've seen in a long time. This was an enchanting way to spend a lazy Summer afternoon.