What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Talking Shop (In the Kitchen)

Let's talk kitchens, shall we?  Or rather... kitchen tools.  

I spend A LOT of time in the kitchen.  Three square meals a day x 7+, baby.  I discovered a looooooooooonnnng time ago that having the right tools can make the work downright pleasant.  I was asked recently what are some of the best kitchen splurges a new bride should stock her kitchen with and it got me inspired to look around at what I most appreciate.

Ironically, almost everything in the picture above I have only recently gotten within the past year or so.  Most of the items in the picture were gifted to me by a sister in law who also loves to cook. (Everyone should have a Holly in their lives.)  But they all *spark joy*, Marie. 

I'll tell you about the things in the picture and then share some treasures that are too used and utilitarian to be photo worthy after that.  

Warning: With the exception of things given to me by above stated sister in law,  I have nothing top of the line except my dehydrator...which I could only afford after getting a huge tax return.   I lean toward cheap, always.  Second hand will do, cast offs are even better.

Here we go:

Last Christmas, my sister in law gave me two gorgeous turquoise enamel coated cast iron dutch oven/pots..  And my world was rocked.   Using them for cooking things LITERALLY makes me happier.  They cook things so awesomely, can be used on the stove top and then transferred to the oven without switching pans, hold a lot more food than just a cast iron skillet and the very, very, very best part?  When the food is done and I have to call to the four winds to find children and husband to gather 'round the table, and it takes 15 minutes for them to find their way to the table... the food is still HOT.  They also work great if you are taking a meal to someone or to a Thanksgiving dinner.  There have been plenty of nights where I was madder than a hornet that I had slaved away to make a good meal just to have to eat it cold or reheat it before even taking a bite because I couldn't find everyone to sit and eat.  Not since these beauties. 

Along the same vein- cast iron.  I use cast iron for almost all of my cooking.  It is fabulous.  When I was a young bride who didn't know much I swore by teflon.  Now as a seasoned cook, I'll stick with seasoned cookware.  ;-)  I have normal round cast iron skillets to use for meals but I bought a square cast iron pan at a yard sale for $2.00 once upon a time and it is my favorite one to use when you don't need a large quantity at once... like making batch after batch of sunny side up eggs or grilled cheese.  It is amazing to use for hot dips.  It is a perfect size for the stove and doesn't crowd other burners like the big round ones do and it isn't as heavy to pour out, more or wash either.  So cast iron, definitely.  And if you can find a square one- snatch it up!

A two tiered serving stand.  Any will do.   I use them not just for pretty presentations at parties, but easy access to ripening cherry tomatoes, garlic, peppers, herbs, clementines, strawberries- or anything I want to snatch up quickly and not crush.  It is as utilitarian as it is aesthetically beautiful and mine are never tucked away in a cupboard.

Any pretty wooden utensils are a must, in my opinion.  But most recently, I discovered the joy of a ladle with a hook.  I bought a two pack to give as Christmas presents and then wound up keeping one of them for myself. Because I am greedy, that's why.  I still can't believe it has taken me 18 years to figure out that ladles should have hooks at the end.  No more ladles falling in the pot.  I suppose a long handled ladle would work too...but I don't have one of those yet.

A long pizza cutter.  We make pizza at least once a week here but I use this pizza cutter for much more than just pizza.  Cut biscuits, breads, rolls with it.  Or brownies.  Or Granola bars. I even use it to scrape the dough/flour scraps from the counter.  Just a super handy thing.

Speaking of pizza- my all time favorite pizza pans are the ones with holes in them.  But maybe that's because I don't have a cast iron one yet.  HA!  

The last thing pictured is a danish dough hook.  For years, a wooden spoon worked fine.  But then, I was given this dough hook and I realized dough making doesn't have to be just 'fine'.  Making dough has the potential to be FABULOUS.  But you need this dough hook.  

Other ABSOLUTE ESSENTIALS in my kitchen (that are too well used to be pretty):

~ A stand mixer.  I bought mine used from a friends mother more than a decade ago for a song.  Mine is almost shot from wear.  It makes weird noises every time I use it now.  (I blame it on the butter making.)  But when it finally bites the dust, I know that as expensive as they are... I am going to be saving my pennies to replace it.  STAT.  Until then, I cross my fingers and hope it isn't today.

~ A heavy bottomed stock pot

~ a good food processor.  These are crazy handy for chopping and shredding. Coleslaw becomes one of the easiest side dishes to make in the world.  Saurkraut.  Salsa.  Hashbrowns.  Guacamole.  Even shredding cheese you buy in blocks.  You're welcome.  

~ an ice cream maker.  I have this one and bought a separate

~ a crockpot

~ a fryer (because, DONUTS.  And fair food.)

~ large stainless steel bowls.  I have all sorts of big bowls- some ginormous like 30 qt. sized.  Some more reasonable at 13 or 16 qts.  For canning and baking any quantity of food, these are important.  Also- for eating copious amounts of popcorn.

For preserving-

~ a pressure canner.  If you are just starting out with canning- go with the pressure canner.  You want to buy that new.  And you can still water bath can in it.  Later, you can always find an enamel water bath canner at a yard sale- I see them all the time.  But by then, you may decide you can just keep water bathing in the pressure canner.

~ Canning Jar lifters and funnels are an absolute must with canning.  I have two.  Because, like scissors and nail clippers, they disappear JUST the minute you need them.  

~ a food dehydrator.  If you will just be dabbling with dehydrating, you can go with the Walmart special and it will suit you.  They are almost always around at Christmas time for gifting, so now is your chance!  If you are SERIOUS about dehydrating... this one is the real deal.  

I've heard great things about things like Instapots but since I don't own 'em, I can't vouch for them.  

What did I miss?  What are your most used kitchen tools?  And what things do you LOVE?

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Troll Tattoo

 Ineke was given a coloring book for the movie Trolls (which I absolutely do NOT endorse, btw.  It's horrible.) and apparently she liked this character:

...enough to draw it on herself during naptime.

The Newunion

The Newunion used to be called 'Christmas In July' because in order to buy our house from the family,  we were "coerced" into promising to uphold the tradition that Gram had of hosting Christmas each year.  IF, that is, you can 'coerce' the willing.  

I happily conceded, promising a gathering but not at Christmas... hence, Christmas in July.  

And now you know how behind I am at blogging pictures!

It has been a joy and a treasure to do this gathering- and something we look so forward to every year. 

 Especially seeing our out-of-town family who make the long trek up every year.  It is a sweet time made even more sweet after months of isolation.  

I have to post two group pictures because boys will be boys, even when they are men.  Stop goofing off, Newman boys!

(Actually, I like these goofy grins best of all.)

It was 100 degrees, or thereabouts, on this day and the little girls had the right idea about getting cool.  

Eat homemade ice cream in the pool!

So the Smo'Smo and I joined them.

Is this FOR REAL?!?


Up until this point, I would hand him a baby toy or two.  

When I dumped the bag of Duplo blocks, I think I blew his mind.

The Lake Cottage

Gary and Linda began to work on a Lake Cottage this year.  

Thankfully, it is only a few minutes away because Matt and the boys (and sometimes the girls) spent many spring and summer days over at the lake, working on building.   

Which meant, of course, swimming while we were there.

I am very well aware of the good gift of space that my children have had access to during this time of lockdowns/shut downs/shut ins.  This year, more than any other, I have been acutely aware of these blessings.  I am so very grateful for it.  I am also so sad, knowing how many children, for so many months, have been stuck at home, unable to have space or places of retreat or to be exuberant or to get fresh air or to stretch their bones or breathe deeply or to clear their minds and hearts and roam wild.  These are the things that children need to flourish.  

And my heart breaks for the children who don't have these things.

Lord, fix this broken world.  

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Back When There Were Butterflies

We found lots of caterpillars on the dill which meant lots of butterfly hatching this year. 

The first of the bunch was a  Eastern Black Swallowtail.

My favorite part about Eastern Black Swallowtails are the teeny pin pricks of vibrant blue at the base of their wings.

And also the faces they elicit from Ineke.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020



~ I took a picture because the counter was clear.  For about 15 seconds. ~

~ one of my quarantine projects was to get more soap made.  The first batch worked beautifully and got me excited to do more.  The second and third batches failed miserably and got me determined to figure out the problem.  The fourth batch and the rebatches worked better than nothing.  And now I have a lot of soap... but not many bars that I love.

So naturally, I need to make more!  Any very reliable soap recipes out there anyone is willing to share?

The black eye happened when he pulled out the drawers to the standing jewelry box and then climbed them like stairs.

Not only did the whole thing kerplunk down upon him- but the leftover water glasses standing on top doused him to soaking.

And I think he will probably not try THAT again.

~ making cookie pizzas saved me a lot of cookie making effort this summer. ~

 What girl goes outside with her pan of hot roasted squash?

The answer is me.

Oh!  Those little footprints!  

The boy sleeps in some pretty crazy positions.

~ I got tired of having multiple jam jars almost empty in the fridge taking up space, so I slathered all the leftovers on a batch of dough and rolled it up like cinnamon bread. 

I didn't hear any complaints at breakfast. ~

Matchy Matchy Misters

~ Ineke, my little mint gatherer. 

Leftover flowers before frost.

It has been dreary and gray outside for days.  The rain comes, the wind blows and I find it all overwhelmingly cozy.  It means the outdoor chores can be put off for a bit and for a while, the 'things that must be done' list is smaller.  Which means my level of guilt at not getting EveryLastThing done is lessened.  ;-)

The fur blankets are out and about to wrap up in.  The tea pot boils on the stove and tea boxes are on the grocery list every week.  (ONE teabag a day, children!)  Socks cover toes, and they feel warm and toasty; not stifling, like before.  The candles are lit every day.  We got our bulk apple order in so we are eating fresh apples every day and the house smells like crisp apple.  We eat our meals in the dining room once again, where the sounds echo from the walls and make dinner loud and boisterous...much different than porch suppers where the sound heads to the hills.  (More sweeping, too.)

The teensy amount of tomatoes left (almost all cherry) sit on the island ripening, waiting for Moses to sign "more" when he sees them.  Soon, they will be all gone and Moses will be very, very sad.  The only fresh flowers left are the buds of cosmos whose protective shells kept them warm and sheltered against the frost.  

Homegrown pumpkins line our porch and make for wonderfully cheap fall decorations.  Orange, yellow, moss, copper, burgundy or flaming red in all directions.  The rain makes the colors fall, but while they last it is marvelous.  

We haven't yet started our woodstove and have no other form of heat- so I bake breads and make soups to warm our chilly bones and heat up the house in the freezing mornings.  I am more inclined to knit or crochet and have started a few new projects, and picked up a few older ones too.  I finished a bunch of dishrags recently.  It is shameful how much cotton yarn I have.  Dishrags make such wonderfully quick gifts, especially when paired with a bar of homemade soap.  I am also working on some baby gifts.  Most recently, this simple garter bonnet.  I am finishing up Willa Cather's O, Pioneers! and listening to Dante's Divine Comedy on audiobook.

I have quite a lot of pictures from summer time that never were plunked on the blog that just don't fit in  this new season of cool weather.  A lot of naked babies.  A lot of summer fun.   I am going to work on getting them up here so that I don't feel further and further outdated.  I am ready to call summer quits, if I must, and step into the present.  Whatever that may bring.

If you find the blog deluge overwhelming, paddle downstream.