Along the way.

I have lined up another canning class to teach this summer – a pickling class in August for Market Central.  In talking it over with the folks there, we thought it might be fun to do different types of pickles, maybe even some fruit pickles.  Admittedly, I have wanted to try pickling some fruit.  If you have been reading this blog for some time, you might have noticed I tend to pickle pretty much everything in sight.  I am utterly fascinated by the process of pickling and I happen to have a husband who likes pickles, so it’s kinda win-win. I thought it would be best if I actually pickled some fruit before I marched into a class and taught it, so that you know, I might appear as if I know what I’m doing. 

So I called up my friend Melissa and borrowed her copy of “The Joy of Pickling” yet again, with an invitation to come help me figure out how to pickle peaches.

Melissa came over and held my hand on the watermelon rind pickles the first time I did them – I like having her come over and help me when I’m doing something new in the canning realm.  I’m so glad I had her over for the peach pickles, she definitely helped me get myself organized, get down to business and get the job done.   She made sure we followed the recipe exactly, even measuring out the peaches to the weight called for in the recipe.  She also tried to ensure we used the proper equipment, another thing I tend to overlook.

I have learned the hard way that when pickling, you really need to use ‘nonreactive’ pots.  Which means stainless steel. I might have a few hard anodized pots that are slightly scarred from pickling & jamming adventures.  I didn’t think I had any stainless steel pots left until I remembered a huge stock pot that seems to have found it’s way into the sandbox.  It didn’t start out as a sandbox toy, I think it was a piece of camping equipment that was stored in the basement and since the gang of girls that hang out around my house think that pretty much anything in basement is up for grabs, it somehow found it’s way into the sandbox.

I needed an extra large bowl, my big orange plastic one having gone missing (I seem to recall it being borrowed by a certain wee one that lives here for some sort of project.  I’ll have to check the tiki hut to see if it’s there as it’s not in the sandbox.  She’s lately started dragging things down into Brian & Betty’s yards, building forts there too.  It really could be anywhere on the block now that I think about it.  Hmm….)Thankfully, I was able to grab a punchbowl to use as a spare large bowl.  It’s good for your various collections to do double duty I think, and as they are large and glass, they are excellent for pickling.  I keep those out of reach of little hands, which is why they haven’t been moved into another location.

I also realized I have no empty half pint jelly jars on hand.  I have no idea what that’s about. I swore I had a case or two down there.  Thankfully, I did have a few empty cases of pint jars, so we used those.

This morning I felt the call of the thrifts, thinking I might find myself a new stainless steel pot.  The one I rescued from the sandbox holds about 20 gallons or so (okay, not really, but it’s the biggest pot in the house) and honestly, I have nowhere to store it upstairs, which is how it ended up in the basement and then the sandbox. So off I went.

I totally scored today.  I found a new springform pan to replace mine, which has a dent in the bottom thanks to one of the neighborhood kids and their hijinks (it sounds as if my kitchen is regularly raided as a toy box, but really, it’s not.  The springform pan has been like that for a few years now.  I’m slow to replace things, can you tell?) as well as a preforated baguette pan and a Julia Child cookbook, Julia Child & Company, which was apparently the companion book to her show in the late 70’s.   Good scores, all of them.    But those were not my best scores. 

My best scores were a pair of Land’s End pink suede boots and a pair of red cowgirl boots, with room to grow for a certain girl’s foot.  Her face when she saw them was priceless.  She has always refused to wear anything matching with me, but red cowgirl boots?  Watch out world, we’re gonna have matching boots. 
There were also punch bowls galore at every thrift I went to today.  It was hard to resist them, but I did.  I think three is enough, don’t you?  I never did find a new stainless steel pot.  The one I have works for now, it’s just, huge. 
Oh, and the peach pickles?  7 pounds of peaches yielded exactly 4 pint jars.  Not a whole lot.  I got some half pint jars today and did another batch, as there was a bunch of brine left over and I didn’t want to waste it.  They have to sit for at least 24 hours and I don’t feel like opening one of my 4 large jars tonight, so I can’t report on the taste.  Two batches of pickles didn’t make a dent in the half bushel of seconds I picked up out at Henley’s for a song yesterday, so I also canned a half dozen pint jars of plain peaches and whipped up a pie this afternoon, because yesterday’s slightly underripe peaches were today’s about to be overripe peaches when they sit in a box in your un-air conditioned kitchen and it’s 90 something degrees outside.  Also exactly why I felt I needed to can AND run the oven today because honestly, the house didn’t feel like it was 90 something out there today.   I can report my pie crust definitely acted as if it was too hot to be making a pie, but I perservered anyway and made it work.  It’s not pretty, but it’s pie.

Various things to do, read and eat.

  • In case you missed it, my favorite Riverkeeper was on the local news over the weekend talking about his organization’s new initiative. You can find out more info on being a James River Hero at their website.

  • Lesa is having an apron pattern giveaway.  One can never have enough aprons.  I’m thinking about making one to garden in.

  • Want a quick and easy dinner?  Look no further.  Peanut Sauce that is quick, easy and good with just about anything.  We like it with rice noodles and any combination of nuts, veggies, tofu, and shrimp.

  • Have you read Frecklewonder’s  guide to thrifting?  Parts 1, 2 and 3.  She knows her thrifting.  I was in her neck of the woods this weekend and when we passed the Goodwill, Edie was feeling it.  I wasn’t, but considering all the times my gal has put up with my thrifting, I thought I’d play along and we stopped in. She scored.  Two dresses, a new blouse for the upcoming chorus concert and the sweetest little denim jacket with pink trim.  Never ignore the call of the thrifts. 

  • I’m currently on a dry German Riesling kick for those you wondering what wine I’m drinking these days. I’ve yet to fall head over heels with one label, but generally, if it says it’s dry and it’s on sale for less than $10, I’ll give it a try.  I think a longer post on this might be coming if anyone is interested.

  • The cotton candy picture has absolutely nothing to do with anything. No, I did not eat both of those, I shared part of one with Edie at her school’s Spring Fair Friday night.  There really is nothing better than freshly spun cotton candy.  It’s a certain kind of happy.

Treasures and Kindred Spirits.

So, I was all set to tell you about the absolutely wonderful baking class I assisted with at the cooking school this weekend, but on my way home this morning, I stumbled upon the most fantastic estate sale I’ve been to in a long time.  So, the baking class recap will just have to wait until tomorrow.

We had borrowed some tables and chairs from the Parks & Rec department for bingo night at school last Friday that needed to be returned this morning, to their storage shed over by CHS.  Along the way, I saw a sign for an estate sale.  On my way home from dropping them off, I popped in, just to see what I could find.  I noticed as I walked in, this was the last day, so everything was half off.


As I walked into the garage, I couldn’t help but notice all sorts of good kitchen gadgets.  Although picked over, I could tell, there was a cook that lived here.  I hoped that not everything was picked over, that I could find a few useful things for myself.

And then I walked into the kitchen.  I saw a shelf of cookbooks that looked seemingly untouched.  I started rifling through them, then, suddenly became aware that there were at least 4 other bookshelves next to me, all FULL of cookbooks.  I stepped back and realized the breakfast nook off the kitchen had even more.  There were cookbooks EVERYWHERE.  There were complete sets of cookbooks – Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Time Life, Betty Crocker, McCalls, Southern Living, I could go on and on.  There were vintage cookbooks, there were new cookbooks, there were shelves upon shelves of what I call those church cookbooks – you know the ones that churches and ladies groups put together and sell as a fundraiser?  She had a whole collection of them.  I noticed many of her cookbooks were noted as to who had given them to her and when.  She had handwritten notes in them, she had recipes she’s written down, shoved in them, she had cards taped to the inside covers.  I realized I was standing in the kitchen of a woman who’s cookbook ownership style was very similar to my own.  Not only that, I realized that she had some of the same cooking interests and cookbook collecting habits as myself – with a heavy emphasis on southern style cooking as well as those church collections.
The first cookbook I grabbed was a rather beaten up one.

That I realized was an old, beloved copy of The Joy of Cooking.

A 1943 edition as a matter of fact.

Shoved full of recipes and notes and stains.

This newspaper clipping was in the front of the book.
  I like to imagine she cut it out because of the picture it painted.
Isn’t it lovely?

This was glued to the inside front cover. I think she covered the book in a wallpaper scrap and that appears to be a label from a product she wanted to remember.  This is something I do – shove labels I want to remember into cookbooks.  Hers was glued in, on top of the book cover edges.
The inside covers and all blank pages on the inside of her Joy of Cooking were filled with handwritten recipes.  Some are water damaged, but they are a treasure.
I realized as I looked that she had multiple copies of cookbooks – I found two Joy of Cookings, but went with the beat-up copy.  I have a newer version myself and what I really wanted were her notes.
So now I have two Joy of Cookings myself.  Which will fit in splendidly with all my Betty Crockers cookbooks.  (I have two an early 1950’s and a late 1980’s, plus the Cooky cookbook from the mid-sixties).

Amazingly, I held myself to two of the church collection cookbooks.  The one on the right is from First Presbyterian Church, here in Charlottesville, circa 1966.  The other is from a group called the Proud Land Rose Society and it’s the “Bicentennial Issue”, 1976. 
She had shelves upon shelves of these.  She had multiple copies of some of them.  I couldn’t help but notice, we had some of the same, from different areas of the state.  She had them from up and down the east coast.  I collect these as well, but I narrowed it down to these two, because one was from Charlottesville and the other one fascinated me. 
It had pages I had never seen before in these books. Serious menu planning.

Baking hints and food measures.
Gardening charts!

And then I found this.  Good Housekeeping, 1949.  Also full of bookmarks and notes. 

This one being my favorite.  An old Sweet & Low packet to mark the Indian Shrimp Curry recipe, with notes.  Yes, I will be making this and soon.
A canning cookbook.  Always good to have more of those, especially ones with pickles, jams & jelly recipes.

This is a classic.  I first learned about Edna Lewis from my dear friend Leni.  I’m not sure the previous owner used this, as it’s in mint condition, but I’m tickled to now have a copy in my collection. Edna Lewis was the granddaughter of a slave, and this cookbook is considered a classic in Southern Cooking.  Edna Lewis was sometimes referred to as the Julia Child of southern cooking. 

For years, I have collected piecemeal, books from a collection put out in the mid-1980’s from Southern Living, called the “Southern Heritage Collection”. 
Today I discovered the missing books in my collection.
I snatched them all up, as well as the index.
She had two sets of these. TWO!

I have loved the ones I’ve had, so to complete the collection has me beyond tickled.
I got my first one, “Vegetables”, at a yard sale when we still lived in Birmingham.  They are full of old Southern recipes, with illustrations and pictures from the late 19th and early 20th century.  They are gems. And I now have the complete set, which includes, but is not limited to:
Breakfast and Brunch
Just Desserts
Gift Receipts
Pies and Pastry
Socials and Soirees
Soups and Stews
Sporting Scenes
Oh the possibilities in there!

And then I found this, right next to that collection.  
The inside cover.

The note on the inside of the card. More than a few of her cookbooks had similar inscriptions. 
I love that she kept track of her cookbooks this way.  I want to start doing this to my cookbooks.
This particular cookbook was written by Eugene Walter.  The most charming man you probably have never heard of.  I read this review of his oral history, Milking the Moon: A Southerner’s Tale of Life on This Planet and thought it looked interesting.  I wrote it on a running list of books I wanted to remember to read, only to have my dear husband buy it for me one Christmas.  Go read it. 
Allison currently has my copy, otherwise I’d lend it to you. It really is mandatory reading if you are going to know me.  I’m quite sure Eugene and I would have been kindred spirits, had I ever been lucky enough to meet his acquaintance.
I have been looking for my own copy of this cookbook for years now.  I’ve borrowed it from the library, so I’ve read it, but to now own it?  Happy happy.
She actually owned the entire series, but at that point, I felt I’d picked up enough cookbooks.  As it is, I’m not entirely sure where I’m going to store all these.  But this one I had to have. 
As I was walking out, I stumbled upon one last treasure, that they just gave to me, for free.

A binder of recipes, labeled as to the contents on the spine.
I found another binder with meats and casseroles and so on, and decided to leave that one.
This one, with desserts and cakes and breads suited me just fine, thank you very much.

Table of contents.
Menus – she has a spot for menus.  In there, she had menus of Thanksgivings past.  I have thought about organizing my menus of Holiday Dinners past and now I shall.

Inside, she had an assortment of recipes, all taped or glued down to looseleaf paper.

She had little headlines and sayings cut out and glued down too.

These two gems were covered by a sheet protector. Stapled to the Dark Fruitcake recipe is a note signed Mother.  It was written on a Tuesday and her mother wrote she had included some tips in the recipe so it should turn ‘just as well for you as it does for me’.  She closes saying she’s not going to the club party tonight- ‘it’s too bad for me to go out.’ In pencil, just under the ‘Tues. nite’ written in the upper right hand corner is ’66, marking the year.
Anne Thomas gave this recipe to her in 1963. It’s noted by hand in the corner.

This recipe, for green sauce, is written partly in German, with English translation.   
It looks like a Green Goddess recipe.
She had decorated some of the tab pages of the binder with images cut out of magazines and the like.  It reminds me of notebooks I made myself in high school and college, dedicated to fashion clippings.
Pictured above are the dessert and cake cover pages. 

Mother Carter gave her this Cranberry Salad recipe in 1958.
I’m guessing that was her mother-in-law.

And then there was this.  Tomato Aspic.  With multiple exclamation points on either side of EX, which I gathered was her way of saying a recipe was good, as it is on many recipes throughout her cookbooks, especially ones with stained pages and other notes. Stained pages are a dead giveaway a recipe has been tried and probably well liked.  I have never, ever been inclined to try any recipe for tomato aspic, but in going through her cookbooks today, I find myself wanting to try this.  Perhaps I shall.
Flipping through these cookbooks, I found all sorts of notes, both cooking and gardening.  As I walked through the rest of her house, I realized not only did she collect cookbooks, she was an avid knitter as well as a gardener. She was a big reader and must have been well traveled, as there were many travel books and books on other countries.  There was a number of history books too – honestly, I probably could have filled my truck up with all the books I saw in that house that I wanted to bring home. Her record collection was simply amazing.  In so many ways, I felt that I was in the home of a kindred spirit.  I’m sad our paths didn’t cross sooner, but I do feel like I was meant to stumble upon that sale today.  The only other thing I bought was a new watch – the battery in mine died a few months back and the watch is too beat up to put yet another battery into.  My new watch is a Seiko – that I got for a whopping $2.50.  I’ve wanted one of those for a long time, never thinking I could actually score one second hand for such a great price. All in all, I ended up paying about 25% of what everything had originally been marked for, which ended up being less than $25.  That’s right.  23 cookbooks and a watch, for $24. 
I spent a little bit of time looking through the knitting and gardening things, but honestly, I was so jazzed about the cookbooks, I couldn’t quite focus.  And I’m quite content with my current knitting and gardening libraries.  This was the third day of the sale – the knitting supplies had been well picked over and I don’t want to add to the stash.  (That was part of the deal with Pat when I started knitting, that I would NOT have a stash for that, as my sewing stash is uhm, sizable to say the least.).  As for the vinyl records, I know I walked away from some gems, but at that point, I was in line, ready to go and well, as much as we love music, we have been moving away from vinyl.  Most of our library is digital these days and I’m quite okay with that.  I’ve even moved to e-books, having gotten a Kindle for Christmas.  I can’t go to e-cook books though.  I need to be able to spill and to note in my cookbooks.  I need pictures.  I need to flip back and forth between pages.  I need to stack about 3 or 4 of them and cross reference similar recipes while I’m cooking, so that I can write my own recipe when I’m done. Most of all, I like using all random manner of items as bookmarks in my cookbooks and today I learned I’m not the only cook who feels that way.
What an absolute score.

Thirteen may be my lucky number.

My last official day of employment was Friday the 13th. Today, my first official day of unemployment also happens to be our 13th wedding anniversary. Today is the first day of the rest of my life, post-job and marks the anniversary of the first day of the rest of my life with my love and both are marked by the number thirteen.  Co-incidence? I’m thinking not.  Thirteen has always been good for me, even the age of thirteen was pretty decent for me, so today I’m wondering if it’s actually my lucky number.

And as if that wasn’t enough, the thrift gods smiled on me today. I went to one store, with one thing in mind – a new white vintage chenille bedspread to replace the one currently disintegrating on top of Edie’s bed. It was a gift, it came with the bed and belonged to a dear friend’s ancestor (I can’t remember now if it was his grandmother or great aunt. At any rate, it’s been around a while). Edie thinks I can repair it, but there are too many spots and some of them are big. I think I just need to cut into what I can of it and make some pillows. Anyway, I came, I saw, I scored exactly what I was looking for, as well as finally finding myself a new round pink rose china butter dish cover that I’ve been seeking since mine broke last summer. And one of those sweet old school screw into the wall pencil sharpeners that is going in my happy corner today. My days of wandering around the house looking for a pencil sharpener are over.

Saturday afternoon, while working on the chicken house with Brian, I discovered this little guy hanging out.  The tiniest praying mantis I’ve ever seen. 

It is said they are harbingers of good luck and messengers.  Some cultures associate them with restoring life to the dead.  A praying mantis supposedly guided the pilgrims to Mecca, the holiest spot in the Muslim world.  Some African cultures refer to them as gods.

Either way, I probably should pay attention to messages the Universe is currently trying to send.

Dreams really do come true.

For years I have harbored this secret fantasy that one day in my thrifting adventures, I was going to stumble upon a beautiful, large, mint condition, nice rug for a completely unbelievable price, like $50. I had never actually mentioned this fantasy to anyone because I was worried that if I said it out loud, it would never happen and I was already pretty close to thinking it really might never happen. I have luck with thrifting, but that seemed like a whole new level of luck. Like, the thrifting gods would have to smile down upon me and shower me with serious love kind of luck.

Yesterday, that dream came true.

I just so happened to be at the shop when a guy came in unloading a van full of housegoods. He dumped the rug on the ground and it had a $50 price tag on it. Really? It literally landed at my feet. The other end of the rug had the label – I started getting excited seeing the name of the manufacturer and the fact that it was 100% wool. We unrolled it so I could check it all out and omigod I knew I could not pass this up.

The best part? As I was carrying it out of the store, a woman walking in stopped and offered she had purchased a similar rug 20 years ago, for thousands of dollars. !!!!!!
I’d say the thrifting gods definitely showered me with their love yesterday. Next up, I want a new round china butter dish, something floral please, (in pinks of course) and some cake stands. Something pretty and vintage looking. That’s reasonable, right? Certainly more reasonable than a really nice rug for $50.