One Day Tray

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My summer vacation is counting down and I am in full DIY mode getting everything done and crossed off my summer list.  We go back to school August 1st.  That’s next Monday.  I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.  Only SIX days left!!!!!!!

Today I made a wooden tray with my very own hands and with a teeny tiny bit of help from Olivia.  Here she is demonstrating her sawing with a mitre box technique.  Chupa is unimpressed with her skills.

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I think she is trying to audition for a Home Improvement Show.  “Ogee with Olivia” (That’s an S-shaped molding found on baseboards.  I just Googled it.)

So enough with the shenanigans.  I needed a tray to fit on top of a microwave that I have so I measured it and determined I needed a 12 X 18 inch tray.  I had wood and no extra money for a tray so I decided to make one.  It actually was pretty easy.  I had some beadboard and a piece of 1/2′ X 1 1/2′ X 8′ strip of wood.  Other items I used were wood screws, wood glue (optional) a handsaw, a screwdriver, a jigsaw, sandpaper, white paint, and two shiny silver handles.

The cuts I used were 12×18 on the beadboard with a jigsaw and two 18-inch cuts on the strip and two 10 3/4 cuts on the strip with a handsaw.


I then drilled starter holes in the wood where my screws were going to assemble the lip of the tray.


I put the four strips together with the two shorter strips placed inside the longer strips. I sanded any rough edges.


Screw on the bottom. Cover the screws with a piece of felt or felt pad.


Paint and enjoy!  I love my new tray. It’s going on my microwave at school and will hold my napkins and plastic utensils for lunch.  It was a fun and quick project.


It’s crossed off the summer list and now I’m on to the next.

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Favorite Brownies and Kitchen Cleaning App

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If you didn’t read  the Ketchup and Mustard  post, you completely missed out on my aromatic mustard kitchen.  I mentioned that the fumes were quite intense.  I can see why mustard gas during WWI was effective.  Wow!  I also reported that we made late night brownies to replace the odor with something more pleasant.  It did the trick.  I thought I would share the recipe of our favorite brownies in case you need an emergency kitchen aroma makeover in a hurry.


Polly’s Picnic Brownies

from The Cat Who…Cookbook by Julie Murphy and Sally Stempinski

4  1-ounce squares baking chocolate

3/4 cup butter

6 eggs, beaten

3 cups sugar

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chopped nuts



1/3 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup cocoa

4 cups powdered sugar

1/2 cup  milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Melt chocolate with butter.  Cool slightly.  In a large bowl, beat eggs and sugar together.  Combine ;flour and salt with egg mixture.  Stir chocolate mixture into flour and egg mixture.  Add vanilla extract and nuts.  Pour into greased and floured 11-inch  by 15 inch pan.  Bake 30-35 minutes.  Spread with frosting.   To make frosting  beat butter until fluffy.  add cocoa and beat until well-blended.  Add powdered sugar alternately with milk.  Beat until smooth.  Blend in vanilla extract.


And if you didn’t read the Talented blog before that, you missed out on the fact that I wanted to find an App that would clean my kitchen.  I do try to “clean as I go” but I’m not the best at it.  This time though I purposely left a lot of things out as I went because I wasn’t sure if I would have to make the recipes again.  In addition, all my canning supplies were out and I still hadn’t put away my dehydrator.  Whew! Lots of stuff when I finally was finished.  Here is why I so desperately wanted a cleaning App or even a cleaning elf.DSC_0785

No elves or fairies appeared so I was resolved to find a good  App that would magically clean my mess.  And do you know what?  I did find one!


It is called “App”ly some effort to the task and clean up after yourself!!!  Works every time!

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Ketchup and Mustard and the Ellie Mae to Granny Clampett Transference

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I made pickles Friday and yesterday I made some other condiments – ketchup and mustard.  A few years ago I made some ketchup and it was legendary…at least to me.  I loved it much more than commercial ketchup.  The only negative that I noticed about making and preserving ketchup is that it turned off-color pretty quickly in the jars so this time I didn’t make as much of it and didn’t preserve it. I just put it in a jar in the refrigerator.   I found out that I can freeze it so I might try that instead of water-bath canning it.

Even though I didn’t make my usual amount, I do understand why people make big batches because both recipes are time consuming — I’m not going to lie.  However, I am always intrigued by recipes that are “institutionalized” and I like to know how to make them. So now I do.  And if we are ever under a Zombie attack and everyone is out of their favorite condiments, come to my house, we will have ketchup and mustard.  We may not have anything to put them on, but we will have the condiments.

Here is the recipe in case you have a whole day to spend making ketchup instead of running to the grocery store for a $1.99 bottle. Time is money, I know, but sometimes making something interesting and new justifies the time.  Ketchup is near and dear to my heart because one of my earliest food memories is of me sitting in the kitchen and dipping some chicken in ketchup.  I’ve been eating (and wearing) ketchup for a long time.



Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens You Can Can: A Guide to Canning Preserving and Pickling

8 pounds tomatoes (about 24)

1 medium onion (about 1/2 cup chopped)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3/4 cup sugar (or less to preference)

3/4 cup white vinegar

1 1/2 inches stick cinnamon, broken

1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves

1 teaspoon celery seeds

1 tablespoon salt

Core and quarter tomatoes; drain.  In a 10-quart pot combine tomatoes, onion, and cayenne pepper.  Heat to boiling.  Cook, covered for 15 minutes, stirring often.  Press tomato mixture through a food mill or sieve.  Discard seeds and skins.  Return tomato mixture to kettle; stir in sugar.  Heat to boiling; reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 2 hours or more until reduced by half, stirring occasionally.  In a small saucepan combine vinegar, cinnamon, cloves, and celery seeds.  Heat to boiling.  Remove from heat.  Strain vinegar mixture into tomato mixture; discard spices.  Add salt.  Simmer uncovered about 30 minutes or to desired consistency; stirring often.  To can, ladle hot ketchup into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Wipe jar rims, adjust l ids.  Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes.  Remove jars from canner; cool on wire racks.   Or freeze in half-pint freezer containers leaving 1/2 inch head space.

The spices smelled good simmering in spite of vinegar overtones. I guess some people like a vinegar smell but it’s not my favorite.


And then you simmer and stir ad infinitum (look at me using my classical education) until you get the ketchup juuuuust right.



Ketchup is done and now on to mustard.  I have many jars of mustard in my refrigerator already so I thought I would try a unique variety instead of plain old yellow mustard.


Ginger-Garlic Mustard

Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Kingry and Devine

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup coarsely grated peeled gingerroot (about 1 4-inch root)

2 tablespoons chopped garlic (about 4 cloves)

1 teaspoon cracked black peppercorns

1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds

1/4 cup brown mustard seeds

1 cup cider vinegar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/3 cup dry mustard

1/4 cup granulated sugar

In a medium saucepan combine water, gingerroot, garlic and peppercorns.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low and boil gently for 5 minutes.  Transfer mixture to a sieve placed over a bowl and press with the back of a spoon to extract the liquid.  Discard residue and return liquid to saucepan.  Add yellow and brown mustard seeds.  Cover and let stand at room temperature until seeds have absorbed most of the water, about 2 hours.  In a blender or food processor, combine marinated mustard seeds with dry mustard.  Process until coarsely chopped. (Mine never chopped and just whirled happily around the food processor as though the mustard seeds were enjoying the Tilt-a-Whirl at the county fair.  I finally used a mortar and pestle to grind up a few of the seeds and then just dumped the rest back in the pan.)  Return to a sauce pan and add vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring constantly.  Reduce to low heat and boil gently, stirring frequently until volume is reduced by a third, about 15 minutes (mine took 25 vinegar and mustard fume choking minutes, whew!)  You can process in hot water bath for 10 minutes.  Leave 1/4 inch headspace.  I chose not to preserve this batch and just keep it in the refrigerator for consumption in the near future.


Making mustard is quite the aromatic process.  Olivia called it pungent and Davis called it sickening. In fact, we had to make late night brownies just to replace the smell with something better. I can imagine what my mom endured as my grandma made a mustard plaster for her when she was sick.  Glad we had moved on to more modern medicine my youth of the 70’s.

Speaking of my youth…when did I make the transition from Ellie Mae to Granny? One minute I’m with my critters and have long flowy hair like Ellie Mae…


and then, POOF!….The next minute I’ve become Granny Clampett with my hair pulled back making mustard poultices and canning in my big vat on the stove.

Someone please stop me before I start making lye soap out by the cement pond!

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I went last night with my friend Terri to see a performance at Eddie’s Attic in Decatur.


As enjoyable as it was to watch Terri and her Rockettes imitation at the Decatur gazebo, the real show was singer Hunter Callahan.

He actually went to Olivia’s high school but is now playing in venues in Atlanta and elsewhere.  We met his parents last night and they are delightful, too.


Do not sign me up to be a rock star photographer.  I’m not the most aggressive when it comes to jumping in there to get the best lighting or poses.


Hunter is EXTREMELY talented and he put on a wonderful concert.  Remember the name because you’ll be hearing it again.

Tonight we went to Mellow Mushroom for dinner.


As it happened Mellow Mushroom was a Pokemon stop and we got to eat delicious pizza and grab a few Pokemon.  To answer your question, yes I am playing Pokemon GO.  It’s a fun App.  Has it taken over my life? No, but it is cute.


Also tonight I finished up more of my canning and I will show you the results tomorrow. For now, I must clean the kitchen.  It’s a bit messy after my last few days of food preservation.  Wish there was an App for that!

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Traditional Bread and Butter Pickles

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I made pickles for the first time this morning.  In life, I was pretty late to the pickle party only starting to eat them a few years ago.  My philosophy was why eat home canned goods with vinegar (pickle) when you can have something with sugar (jam)?  I seem to have a bit of a sweet tooth.  I finally decided to make myself like pickles by eating them as my first bite when I was starving and then I got where I could tolerate them (almost) when they were hidden in food such as relish in tuna salad or a pickle chip buried in a sandwich. Your first starving bite is powerfully convincing. This went on for many years and now I actually enjoy pickles.  I would never choose them over a cookie but I do not go into adolescent spasms when I encounter one.

My favorite kind is Bread and Butter Pickles however I will eat dill, and sweet pickles.  I honestly don’t taste much difference in the store-bought varieties but I can taste a difference in small batch pickles from county fairs. Usually the ones I find at fairs are super syrupy and sliced thin.  Mine are thick and crinkly cut.  Also,making these today was MUCH cheaper than store-bought and waaaaaay cheaper than fair pickles.  It would have been even cheaper had I grown my own cucumbers.  So, I banished the dog, vacuumed the floor, pulled back my hair, wiped down the counters, washed my hands, boiled my jars, and heated the lids and bands — I was ready.  A few hours later I had 14 jars of pickles.  I look forward to tasting my first ever batch of Bread and Butter Pickles.


Bread and Butter Pickles 

Adapted from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Kingry and Devine

10 cups sliced, trimmed pickling cucumbers

4 medium onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup pickling salt

3 cups white vinegar

2 cups granulated sugar

1 tablespoons mustard seeds

1 teaspoon celery seeds

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

  1. In a large container, combine the cucumbers, onions and salt. Cover with crushed ice and mix well. Let stand for 3 hours. Drain; rinse and drain again.
  2. In a Dutch oven, combine the sugar, vinegar and seasonings; bring to a boil. Add cucumber mixture; return to a boil. Remove from the heat.
  3. Carefully ladle hot mixture into hot pint jars, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe rims and adjust lids. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Here are the photo steps:

Slice cucumbers and onions.  Be sure to cut off and discard the blossom ends of the cucumbers as they contain the most enzymes in them and enzymes hasten the decomposition of foods.


Soak the cucumbers, onions, and salt in ice water for 2-3 hours.


Prepare your jars and lids.  Meanwhile, bring the vinegar, sugar, and spices to a boil and boil for one minute.


Add the rinsed and drained cucumbers and onions. Return to a boil.


Pack vegetables into hot, sterile jars.  Wipe the rims and screw on the bands.


Process in boiling water for 10 minutes.  Remove from the water and place on the counter to cool.  Store unopened jars of pickles in a cool, dark place for up to one year.

Here are your pickle factoids of the day!  Pickles have been around since Mesopotamian times in 2400 BC.  Cucumbers are mentioned twice in the Bible Isaiah 1:8 and Numbers 11:5.  And way back in the day in the Pacific Islands, pickles were fermented in the ground in pickle pits lined with banana leaves.  They were seen as a sign of being able to provide for your family.  Hopefully mine will taste good enough so I that my family will like them.  Surely they will taste better than ones from an outdoor pit lined with banana leaves.  I’m hoping so.

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Manchester Arms English Pub

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I went with friends to the Manchester Arms English Pub tonight in College Park.  We sat outside because the restaurant was completely full. There was the beginning of a slight breeze so we thought it would be cool enough to sit outside in spite of the heat. So instead of waiting for a table inside, that’s what we did. Here is a photo of the exterior from Trip Advisor.  We sat under one of those little red umbrellas that appear to be from the nearby Woodward Academy or it was a misprint with an upside-down M for Manchester and A for Arms?

The breeze continued to delight us as we placed our order.  Then the clouds rolled in and the breeze picked up and nearby phones began to buzz emergency weather warnings. We soon found ourselves in the middle of a downpour complete with zinging lightning and gully-washing rain.  We squeezed in tighter to the umbrella but still got wet.  Was it better to sit near the lightning rod umbrella pole or out in the rain?  Decisions, decisions. Our food comes and we ask if we can go inside.  No can do.  All the seats are still full. Apparently no one was rushing to get out in the rain to drive home. Imagine that.

It’s windy, rainy, ligntningy and on top of that we had Nosy-Ned at the table beside us listening to our conversation.  Not the most relaxed dinner I’ve had, yet it was one of the most delicious dinners ever and I got to spend it with amazing friends, so I CANNOT complain!  It was delightful and I imagine, will prove to be memorable.


The server was apparently some kind of hypno-waiter.  I am trying not to eat pork yet I hungrily listened to his description of the restaurant specialty and I found myself ordering the 4-inch-thick smoked pork chop.  4 inches!!!!  It was tender, smokey, moist and fabulous!  If you like smoked meats, this is a must-order.


We did not linger over coffee and dessert but dashed through the rain to our cars to get out of the lightning.  It was a fun evening and I look forward to returning.  Maybe next time I’ll get a hypno-waiter that will guide me to a vegetarian selection.  It could happen.

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Ice Cream Sandwiches

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My two favorite treats are ice cream and cookies so it’s pretty obvious how much I like this recipe.  My most vivid memory of ice cream sandwiches goes back to my high school days.  Those of you reading along who went to Headland can verify my story.


Back in the day we had three serving lines (the cafeteria was that curved portion of the building.)  One was for hot dogs/hamburgers and fries and the others had “real” food such as fish sticks, spaghetti, or Salisbury steak which was, in fact, a hamburger without a bun. Dessert was something pretty bland like canned peaches or a square of jello with a squirt of sticky whipped topping.  They did have ice cream for sale for 25 cents but in order to get a cherished “ice cream ticket” you had to buy a lunch.  But, what if you didn’t want a bunless wonder lunch? Or maybe your brought PB&J from home.   No ice cream for you!

This policy reduced us to beggars. As our friends would go through the line, we would bombard them with…”Are you getting ice cream today?”   If the response was no, then about 10 people would pounce on this hapless student asking…”Will you buy me an ice cream ticket?”  If you were the lucky one to find someone who actually didn’t eat ice cream at lunch, and there were a select few, then you could have ice cream in spite of the fact that you turned down the cafeteria fare. It’s a cruel world but some of us did learn to navigate through the ice cream maze of cafeteria politics.  Today at my house, it’s ice cream for everyone even if you didn’t eat your dinner.


Ice Cream Sandwiches

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup milk

Mix together the shortening, sugar, egg, and vanilla until well-blended.  In a separate bowl mix together the cocoa, baking soda,  and salt,  Add to egg mixture alternately with the milk.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place by tablespoonful on ungreased cookie sheet and use a glass bottom dipped in sugar to flatten cookie dough to approximately 1/4 inch thick and about 2 3/4 inches in diameter (Just smash it.)  Bake 7-8 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on  cookie sheet one minute.  Remove to cooling rack and cool completely.  Fill with ice cream or frozen yogurt.  Roll edges in nuts, sprinkles, or candies.  Return to freezer to harden a few minutes before serving. You can also make them ahead and wrap them individually to freeze.

Don’t forget, you are what you eat!  So go easy on the ice cream!



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Crispy Peaches

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Today was peach day.   I made 10 jars of peach jam and some fruit leather. My jam recipe comes from the insert in the pectin box so it’s nothing exciting to report, but it is tasty.  This time I made 5 jars of peach jam and five jars of strawberry peach jam.


I’m always glad to make pantry staples for myself if nothing else to let me know what’s inside.  And, I’m shocked EVERY TIME I make jelly and jam to realize that there’s more sugar than fruit in the jam.  It makes me enjoy them sparingly.

I pureed some peaches to make some fruit leather.  I have a dehydrator and it is a snap to make fruit leather with a dehydrator.  I don’t find it nearly as easy to make it in the oven.

My dehydrator is round and so to begin, I make some parchment sheets that fit my trays.  You can buy fruit leather plastic sheets but I like to make my own and I like to use paper rather than plastic.


Some recipes have you add sugar or corn syrup to the fruit puree.  I do not.  Some people also add lemon juice to keep the fruit a lighter color.  I don’t do that either.  I don’t mind the slightly darkened color of the fruit after it has been dried.


I puree peaches to make 4 cups and then spread one cup on each tray. I stack up the trays, plug it in, and let them dry for about 4 hours. If you want the leather chewy, you can test it before 4 hours.  If you like the fruit leather to be dry and crisp, then about 4 hours is good. I like it crispy the best.


When it’s done, it is no longer tacky to the touch and it will be stuck to the paper.


I peel it off and eat it or store it in the paper for later.  The only tricky part to me is allowing it to cool and then leaping into action the millisecond that it is cooled so I can put it in an airtight container before it starts to absorb moisture again.  Needless to say the South is very humid and you can’t let anything sit out for any length of time before it loses its original texture.  I exaggerate but not by much!

The picture shows some of the crispy fruit leather on a plate and some rolled in the parchment paper for later. It looks like a peach rose.  I love it for a snack or to decorate other foods. DSC_0752 p.s. The dog loves it, too.

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Battle Bots and Pokemon

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Who knew that this week would provide such contrasts in the world?  We have been astounded at the world-wide excitement for the new PokemonGo game while at the same time astonished at the evil in the world and the slew of terroristic acts that have taken place.  While my heart is saddened by the deaths of so many innocent people at the hands of mad men, I can also save part of my heart to appreciate that there is some playfulness and joyfulness also to be found.

One joyful event this week was the introduction of PokemonGo.  It has been a worldwide phenomenon.  People all over the world are “catching” Pokemons on their phones.  If you drive through any public place you will see dozens of people laughing and walking in groups as they play the game.  Davis, Olivia, and friends are making funny videos to go along with this craze.  Today’s video involved papier mache heads of Weedles and Caterpies.

1  Chupa wanted in on the action, too. Don’t you think that people from the future will look back on this photo and wonder what in the world was going on?


The next fun fad sweeping the country is Battlebots.  This is a TV show on Thursday nights that pits two remote-controlled robots against each other to battle to the death.

After last weeks show, Davis and Olivia had a contest of their own to  see which of their friend teams could make the best cake or cookie Battlebot.  The results were fabulous!

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Hope next week is a little calmer in the world.  If not, I may never want to come out of my cartoon and robot filled world. It’s definitely a more innocent and happy place to be right now.

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