Thursday, October 29, 2009


It finally arrived!!! Waiting at the front window, I spied the big brown truck driven by a veritable angel as it screeched to a stop in front of my house. In my stocking feet I ran out the door to meet the cheerful lady who was sprinting up my driveway. She handed off the package and turned back to her truck. I was about to hug her but man, they are fast. Instead I hugged the humble cardboard box and headed back inside. After making quick work of ripping it open, there it was in all it's glory, my own copy of Pioneer Woman Cooks!! My sweet mother-in-law had purchased it for my birthday this summer and I have been on pins and needles ever since. Why does it take so long to print a little old book anyway? So it is here and after I get the kids in bed and the kitchen cleaned I can sit and revel in PW's wonderful work. If you have talked to me for longer than 5 seconds then you have heard of my devotion to PW. It's serious, I may need intervention. She may think I am stalking her. Good thing she lives out in the middle of no-where, who would watch my kids while I drove all the way over there just to shake her hand. Last night I read through to chicken fried steak and twice baked potatoes. Really, it would be in every man's best interest to buy a copy for his wife, it's full of man-food. So, PW, I want you to know that you have brightened the life of a little Arkansas mama and I thank you!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trash to Treasure

One of my latest projects has been this simple clipboard. My mom gave it to me and when I turned it over, my name was scrawled on the back! I remember using this clipboard for my grade school projects. That memory reminded me of how much I loved clipboards as a kid. The years had not been kind however and the front was pretty rough. Inspired as usual by all the great Trash to Treasure project at Reinvented, I grabbed my handy can of spray paint and got busy.
A week before I found this cute scrapbook paper on sale at Hobby Lobby and picked up a couple of sheets. It was the larger size so I trimmed it down using the Exacto knife that stays hidden at the very back of a very high cabinet. Living with boys will eventually teach you something about precautions. By the way, concealed under the clipboard is the big broken piece of my cutting mat. What did I tell you about precautions, this took a licking before I learned to hide things.
After decoupaging the paper on the board and letting it dry, I attached a piece of braided hemp trim under the clip and with some very professional masking tape to the back so I could display smaller things on the board. Feeling very Martha-ish, I found some silver leaf beads in my bead stash and put them on the paperclips. Now as I stand at my sink I can read my verses and bits of encouragement. Makes me happy. Makes me want to raise my right hand in the air and give myself a pat on the back like my first grade teacher taught us to do.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

War Eagle Mill

A few weekends ago, we ventured out to visit one of my favorite places in our state. It's called War Eagle Mill. There is a little something for everyone, an amazing old building, food, history, a river with a spillway, and lots of rocks to throw in the water. That cover the major interests of everyone in our family so a trip to War Eagle makes everyone happy. I'll let you guess which parts I like the best. The drive out there is beautiful with windy mountain roads and fabulous views. As you approach the mill you cross over an old one lane bridge and from there you get the best view of the water wheel. This is one of the only operating grist mills left in the country and the history of the place is quite an education. Three times the building has been destroyed and rebuilt. The current owners run the mill, a large store and on the third floor, a restaurant called the Bean Palace. That name just makes me happy.

On the first floor is where the flour, cornmeal, jams, jelly, honey and other things are sold. All the flour and cornmeal is packaged in cotton prints that really add to the charm of the store. I bought a 10 pound sack of yellow corn meal for myself after Big Sister chose the flour sack material she preferred. She has a collection of flour sacks from War Eagle that she uses alternately for doll beds and bags. After she viewed all the choices she settled on a pink flowered stripe pattern. That girl knows her fabric!

Here is a view of Baby and the mill. The corn falls down in the funnel shaped thing and the grindstones are underneath it. The big wheel in the background is powered by the belt that runs down below to the waterwheel. It's pretty loud in there when it's running but the kids love it. They have displays of different grains and what the flour they each make.

This is a side view of the mill. You see the funnel thing with the corn in it? Well, below that on the floor is a gray box that collects all the cornmeal. And this is no ordinary cornmeal. When you pick up a pinch of it you can feel different size pieces in it. Cornbread made from this is something to write home about, as my Mamaw would say. Around here, we use it for baking and for making big pots of cheese grits. Creamy with a little bite to it, my kids devour it!

Head up the worn wooden stairs, I love worn treads on stairs, and you find a whole different shop. Up here they sell pottery, enameled dishes and pans, cast iron, wooden toys and trinkets, jewelry, quilts and other odds and ends. The kids always love the miniature cooking utensils and of course the boys love the pocket knife display.
These polished rocks are a favorite to dig into and find a special stone. My mom is a rock collector so whenever I see all those colors I think of her.
Here is Little Sister looking out the window at the water wheel and the river. She was busy running from one thing to the next in complete amazement. Almost wore her Grandma out.
Outside you can see the water wheel up close. I love the moss that grows on it when it is not being used. Speaking of that, I have only been there one time when the wheel wasn't turning and grinding corn. Big Brother pointed out the DANGER sign to me as he poked his head through the bars to get a better view. Thanks!
When you go down below the bridge to throw rocks in the water, what you say everyone doesn't go down and throw rocks in the water? Tell that to my boys! Anyway, when you are down there you can really get a feel for the size of the wheel. That thing is big! You can also get a feel of the spray from 30 feet away. All in all, it's just about my ideal day trip, rock throwing included.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Aunt Becky's Treat

Oh my goodness, this stuff is dangerous. My mother-in-law said she could never be around it again. If you have a problem sharing then you should probably just skip this recipe. My mom made this snack for us when we were kids and since I have a favorite Aunt Becky I thought this recipe came from her benevolent hand but my dear mother said she didn't know where she acquired this recipe. Whoever came up with it was a genius and all their family and friends were blessed indeed. I always make it in my iron skillet from Grandma, it tastes better that way.

Aunt Becky's Treat
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 cups Cheerios
1 cup oatmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup raisins

Melt the butter in a skillet or large saucepan. Stir in the honey and brown sugar and mix until smooth. Add the Cheerios, oatmeal, pecans and cinnamon. Stir, stir, stir until everything is coated. If you used a saucepan then turn the mixture into a greased 9x13 pan, if you used a skillet then bake in that. Bake in a preheated 325 degree oven for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. As soon you take it out of the oven, mix in the raisins. Spread it out on waxed paper to cool and enjoy!

A note about the photograph. I used golden raisins because that's what I had on hand but it's best with regular raisins. Also, you may notice the absence of any pecans. My parents own a pecan orchard but someone had eaten all the pecans her loving parents had given her and she is eagerly awaiting this year's pecan harvest. My dad shelled pounds and pounds of pecans by hand that he had gathered last fall. Several pounds found their way into my freezer and subsequently onto my bowls of homemade yogurt and countless bowls of hot oatmeal this past winter. I can't buy pecans at the store, it's just not the same after eating pecans grown, gathered and shelled by your sweet dad. So, no pecans were to be had for my Aunt Becky's Treat but it was still great and only survived one snacktime around here with the ravenous horde, not too bad I'd say.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Harvest Corn Muffins

Let the pumpkin cookery begin! The poor pumpkin is delegated to an almost exclusive decorative role in America. With the exception of a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, most of us don't eat pumpkin any other time of the year. In France you can buy slices of several varieties of pumpkins at the farmers market to cook for your dinner. There are hundreds of kinds of pumpkins grown around the world and so many ways to eat them. Every year I buy some pie pumpkins, roast them, eat some mashed with butter and salt and puree the rest for freezing. Joe loves Pumpkin Pie, it was the first thing I ever cooked for him, and he had never had one made with fresh pumpkin. If you never have cooked your own pumpkin then pick up one of the small round ones next time you are at the grocery store and get crackin'. Here's how to make your own pumpkin puree. I couldn't have said it better myself.
These muffins are a loose adaptation of a recipe in this cookbook. It is full of great wholesome recipes for families. The wonderful thing about it is that each recipe has a footnote telling how that food can be served to a baby so you can cook one thing and feed anyone from 6 months old and up. I'm all about making my own baby food so this was right up my alley. Now about these muffins, I cut the butter/oil and maple syrup in half and substituted part white flour for the whole wheat flour. I have since made them with all whole wheat flour and they are delicious that way too. Once I made them with oil and applesauce and then with butter, we didn't notice any difference, so use what you prefer. Start out by gathering up all your ingredients.
My dry ingredients are combined in the big bowl. In the bag is my thawed pumpkin puree and I have oil, eggs and applesauce. Any baked good can have applesauce substituted for part of the oil or butter so I used some here. Also, a note about corn meal. Here in Arkansas we have a water powered grist mill that grinds fabulous cornmeal. It is whole grain meaning it contains the germ of the corn kernel. If at all possible find some whole grain cornmeal to use instead of the degerminated cornmeal sold in a grocery store. You should be able to find good cornmeal at a health food store or order online from a grist mill. You won't regret it. The flavor, not to mention the nutrition is a world apart from the sandy grit sold as cornmeal.
Harvest Corn Muffins
1 1/2 cup of corn meal
1 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour, or use 1 cup whole wheat and 1/2 cup unbleached white flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup of pumpkin puree
1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup of oil or melted butter, or 2 Tbls. oil/butter and 2 Tbls. applesauce
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
2 eggs

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Whisk together the pumpkin, milk, oil/melted butter, honey/maple syrup and eggs. Stir gently into the dry ingredients and spoon into a greased or paper lined muffin tin. Don't you love paper muffin liners? They are practically my best friend.
Bake for 25 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven. Cool for a few minutes then place in a napkin-lined basket and serve. You can serve them on a platter if you want but they taste better from a napkin-lined basket. Makes 12 hearty muffins. Naturally they are delicious with a big bowl of hot steamy soup.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

8 Years and Still Going Strong!

This weekend we are headed back to the little cabin in the woods for a little getaway in honor of our eighth anniversary. The big difference between this weekend and the one earlier this summer is that we will have only one of our delightful offspring with us. Our brave and wonderful Grandma will be entertaining the four big ones so remember her in your prayers. And don't worry Grandma, we will come back, just take some Motrin and everything will be fine. As for us, I have some snacks packed along with some double dark chocolate Ghiradelli cookie dough to bake and serve with cold milk, I'm taking some books we are reading and a sewing project to work on. I'm excited and ready for some relative quiet and chocolate cookies!