Archive for the ‘Homekeeping’ Category

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Always, always jump in with both feet.

As you all know by now I used to own and operate a very successful soapmaking business.  I sold the internet portion and closed the rest (what I thought would be temporarily) when my mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer in May of 2007.  Not knowing how long she would be with us, I certainly didn’t want to be distracted during her illness.  And honestly, it was beginning to be more than I could handle on my own.  And soapmaking is something you have to love to do because frankly, it is a lot of work. After her passing I just didn’t have it in me to stir the soap pot for what has ended up being forever I suppose.  Oh I will still make it for my immediate family when needed but never for a business.  Oh yeah, never say never.  But you know, I have no plans to ever do it again.

What I don’t know is if you know what I did before soap.  My mom, my oldest daughter and I baked for people.  We sort of inherited the business from Husband’s mother when she retired.  We started on a whim, and many times the fun things are started this way.  We wanted to make a little extra money and before long from October to January, our ovens were never turned off.  One year we made something close to 1200 dozen cookies from October to January.  I am not kidding.  that is 14,400 cookies or approximately 4 cookies for each man, woman and child that live in our town.  Whew.

Well, through the years, we have had many a phone call asking if we still bake.  I always had to tell them “not while I am making soap.  If I ever quit making soap maybe, just maybe, we will get back into that.”   Well, here we go again!  Rachel and I are throwing our spatulas into the ring!  Rachel has a natural talent for food art.  There isn’t much else to call it when it turns out so beautiful and tastes so good. I have had to work a little harder to be a good cook/baker.  But we are quite a team.  Just as Jessica and I were “back in the day”.  We would buzz around our little kitchen and practically use telepathy to communicate.  We each had a job to do in order to get the baked goods to the right person and we performed like a well oiled machine.  I am much older now, so we will see how well I hold up!  Rachel is like a circle saw so she should be able to make up whatever I lack.

Without putting out the word or brochure, we have orders for next week.  This is a good sign, don’t you think?  This will be a seasonal thing.  October – January, just like old times.  Maybe an occasional order thru the rest of the year, but this is when people need the help with their baking needs.  They need holiday sweets and food gifts, candy, cookies, pies, cakes…

So, Rachel has designed the brochure we will give people that want to know what we make and I am working on the contents and pricing.  I found some of my mother in law’s notes and order books from back in the 70’s.  SEVENTY CENTS for a dozen cookies???? Well…the price has gone up a bit!  I never thought she charged enough.  She was just so talented.  There wasn’t anything she couldn’t cook.  And her pastry was just to die for.  I have her hand-written recipes – what a treasure.

So this is what is running through my head today.  Plus we have a baby shower to attend and a wedding if time permits. And tomorrow evening we are having company for supper.  Husband is making pulled pork sandwiches and I am supposed to make homemade buns and potato salad.  I better get up and rolling!

And just so you all know, I really am working to get all the recipes up on the recipe page.  Soon…soon.  Oh…and THE PIE BOOK…so close to being finished it makes me giddy!  We will have a proof copy shortly!

To whet your appetite here is a photo (credit goes to Rachel) from NotQuiteJuneCleaver Bakes a Pie!


Have a great weekend!  And stay tuned…Awesome Autumn Apron Giveaway next week!


NotQuiteJuneCleaver’s Got THE SCOOP! oh, and a giveaway, too.

Contest Closed But PLEASE read the interview and feel free to comment.  Congrats to Nicole, the winner of the drawing!
As many of you may know the past few days have brought about many changes for my friends The Farm Chicks. As of  11 September 2009, there is now The Farm Chick, as Teri has retired from the business.  What relief we all felt finding out Serena would be carrying on and bringing us more of what we grew to love about The Farm Chicks!  I can’t tell you all what it meant to me to have Serena take the time and effort to answer my questions and share what’s going on with all of you.  She was very generous with her responses and you will love what you read.

Not only do I have The Scoop for you, I also have a signed copy of  the beautiful book, The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen!
Are you excited yet? Yeah, I thought so.  This book is absolutely beautiful.  From cover to lovely cover.  Oh, and that’s not all…an apron of course.  I am making an apron especially for this!  Actually I am making two…one for me!  When I started designing it, I thought ~ I can’t give this away!! I want it!  So, of course, I am making two…one for me and one for the winner of this drawing.  You lucky chick, you!

Before I get on to the interview let me tell you quickly how to enter to win.  Leave me a comment telling me you want to be that lucky chick! That’s it.  I won’t make you tell a story or share an anecdote, BUT if you would like to leave well wishes for Serena as she steps into the limelight solo, that would be sweet of you.  Won’t get your name in twice, but sure would be nice.  Awww, I made a rhyme. You will have from today until Sunday morning when I will draw the winner!

Now with out further ado, help me welcome Serena Thompson of The Farm Chicks to the house! WOOT WOOT WOOT!

NQJC:  Serena, welcome!  I can’t express to you how honored I am that you took the time to do this interview. The news of the day is the fact that there is now a Farm Chick. I am trilled to be able to talk with you about the changes coming up.  Thank you so much for your time and help in bringing “all the news that is news” to my readers and your fans!  I understand you are continuing on with this business we have all fell in love with and for that we are all so glad.

NQJC: What has being a Farm Chick meant to you and how has it changed your life?
ST: I’ve been able to celebrate my simple life as a homemaker, and I think, help bring some validity to it.  It’s a life I’ve chosen and I love it.  Being a part of The Farm Chicks business has allowed me to become an entrepreneur, which has been really rewarding.

NQJC: What does the immediate future hold for The Farm Chicks now that it is The Farm Chick?
ST:The Farm Chicks will stay The Farm Chicks.  I won’t change the name to be singular.  It’s a brand we’ve built and it really stands for more than just one or two people.  It represents a lifestyle – that of a happy life.  You won’t see many changes at the moment.  The next Farm Chicks Show will continue on as planned, in June 2010.  I have many avenues I am continuing to explore, but need to be selective and take my time.  It’s important to me that I stay with the vision that I have for The Farm Chicks and not make hasty decisions.

NQJC: Will this change the focus of The Farm Chicks business and the kinds of products you offer?
ST: The focus of The Farm Chicks will stay on course, while continuing to explore the opportunities that come my way.  Yes, I will continue on with the show.  I love it, and it is the roots of this business.  I will be adding more paper products in the near future and am considering what else I’d like to offer.

NQJC: Do you see yourself taking on another partner or do you think you will be happy as a “solo act”?  Will you continue to “put yourself out there” even though you will be in the spotlight alone?
ST: I won’t be taking on another partner.  I will carry on with the support of my family and friends.  I consider my role in this business to be a public role and know that comes with being an author, blogger, and contributing editor of a magazine.  I’m comfortable with it and am thankful for the opportunity to share what I love.

NQJC: How will this affect your Christmas book that we are all anxiously waiting for?  Will you continue to write books and if so, do you have somethings in mind?
ST: That will be up to the publisher to decide.  They have been incredibly supportive through this transition.  I would love to continue to write books, as long as I feel like I have worthwhile subjects to write about.  I want to create things I can continue to be proud of.

NQJC: We still be able to find you in Country Living?
ST: Yes.

NQJC: Do you ever say “What have I gotten myself into”?
ST: Sure.  There have been several opportunities that have presented themselves in the past, that would have been a really big deal.  In the end, they just weren’t the right fit for us and we had to move on.  I’m glad we walked away, as we wouldn’t have been happy.

NQJC: Now there are a few specific questions about your lovely book The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen.

NQJC: Did you ever imagine you would have such a great following, national magazine column and now a BEAUTIFUL cookbook?
ST: No, I had no idea any of this would come to be.  We thought we might have a huge antique show someday, but couldn’t have predicted the other aspects of the business.  It continues to humble me.

NQJC:  I notice the title: Country Living The Farm Chicks  in the Kitchen.  Did the folks at Country Living approach you about this idea? And did you have creative control over the outcome?
ST: Country Living produces a certain number of books each year.  They approached us about doing a book with them.  We were able to tell them the subjects we were interested in writing about and they chose the cookbook from that list.  We were involved all along the way.

NQJC: Did you know what you wanted the book to look like before starting?
ST: We both had visions in our minds, and the designer was able to sort of take our feel and design from there.  We were really happy with the end result.
NQJC: Is it what you thought it would be?
ST: Not exactly, but that’s a good thing.  Neither of us had any experience in the publishing world and we needed to listen to their vision, which came from our original outline.  It evolved into the book you see today.

NQJC: An did you look to other cookbooks/lifestyle books for inspiration?
ST: Not really, although we both really loved the ooey gooey sticky chewy cookbook and hoped it would feel “happy” like that cookbook does.

NQJC: What do we have to look forward to with your upcoming Christmas book?
ST: Lots of decorating ideas, Christmas projects, and recipes.

NQJC: Now that I have picked your brain about business changes and books, and got The Scoop, let’s move on to some fun questions! Are you ready?

NQJC: I read on your blog about your “gypsy” childhood and was so touched because I too, had a fairly unusual family growing up. Tell us a little about your childhood and how you think it influence your creative spirit. Take as much space as you want here! I am intrigued and I know I am not the only one!
ST: As you know, the early years of my life were spent in our family gypsy wagon, traveling about the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.  I was born in a rickety little cabin in the woods of Siskiyou County, California, where my parents had parked the gypsy wagon at the time.  The one room cabin had a dirt floor, and my dad delivered me.  My sister, Heather, who was five at the time, claimed me as her baby doll and really was like a mother to me.

We had very little money, as my parent’s income came from selling postcards of the gypsy wagon, at each little town we’d travel through.  Hippies were definitely a novelty at the time and we’d always attract a crowd, television crew, or newspaper reporter.  Since money was scarce, we lived very simply.  Food was purchased in bulk, clothes were handmade, and extras like furniture and toys came from landfills.  My parents are both extremely creative people, so they always made things aesthetically pleasing.  When bulk food was purchased, it would be put in a pretty jar.  Dish soap would go in old cobalt blue medicine bottles with beautiful glass stoppers, and old advertising was treated like art – which at the time was unheard of.  I couldn’t help but be influenced by their creative and adventurous spirits.  I don’t hesitate jumping into the car with the family with no notice, and just seeing where we end up.  Sometimes, spontaneous adventures are better than those that have been planned out.  And creatively, I learned early on, there are no rules.  Just fill your home with happy things that have meaning for you.  But I think the biggest thing that came from my childhood is that I lived much of my life in silence, especially after my brother and sister left home.  Deep in the woods, with no electricity, television, or other modern conveniences.  So, I had a lot of time to bake, read, daydream, and think about my life.  I always told myself that I would make something of myself someday and have a family of my own to love, and that was my dream.  And now that I’ve accomplished my dreams, I’m content and I want others to be as well.  And that’s why I spend a lot of time on the blog, trying to bring attention to other businesses and celebrate others and their creativity.

NQJC: Was there any one particular person that inspired you to follow your dreams?
ST: Many of my childhood teachers had an impact on me, but one in particular, Miss Goughnour, who was my Home Economics and Future Homemakers of America teacher.  She taught me to sew on an electric sewing machine (I only had a treadle machine), and encouraged my love for baking.  She always told me I had special talents and encouraged me along the way.  I was overjoyed when I heard from her a few years ago when she saw me in an issue of Country Living magazine.

NQJC: When did you begin cooking?
ST: I’ve been cooking as long as I can remember.  I made many family meals and almost every dessert.
NQJC: And who was most influential in your love of cooking?
ST: I was always told I had the spirit of my late grandmother, Cecelia in me.  I never had a chance to meet her, but was told what a fancy cook she was and that she did things like tint the cottage cheese before stuffing it into a pear.  So, whenever I’d cook, I’d imagine my grandmother was looking down on me from heaven and I didn’t want to disappoint her.  And I had my grandma Marjorie’s banded bowl set.  So, I had a special family connection every time I was in the kitchen.

NQJC: What is your very favorite meal, including dessert?
ST: This will probably be REALLY disappointing…. Creamed Tuna.  (which is a curried cream sauce with tuna, served over rice).  I grew up eating it, and whenever we had it, it was a really big deal.  I think it’s probably one of those things that unless you grew up eating it, you’d not really like it if you tried it now.  My favorite dessert is Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Buttercream.

NQJC: What kitchen gadget can you not do with out?

ST:This sounds silly, but I can’t really think of a kitchen gadget I can’t do without.  Since I taught myself to cook without any special gadgets, I wouldn’t be lost without them.  I recently got a Kitchen Aid and a Cuisinart, and when I purchased the Cuisinart at William Sonoma, the cashier asked, “Aren’t you a Farm Chick?”  I told her I was and she said she was shocked that I didn’t have a Cuisinart already.  I told her I was just a simple person.  : )  I do love it, but I’d definitely be okay without it.

NQJC: What blogs to you read regularly?
ST: I try to visit the blogs that are listed on our blogroll and those of new visitors when they leave a comment.  I want to stay connected to the readers.

NQJC: What three “things” can you not live without?

ST: My family, friends, and faith.

NQJC: Please in as many words as you like, tell us about your 2010 show?

ST: I think the show just gets better every year and gains more and more energy.  And the vendors just keep stepping it up a notch each time.  The shopping is AMAZING.  I plan on adding more ways for everyone to connect as well, from the vendors, to the shoppers, to me.  I’ve got lots of ideas that I’m fine-tuning at the moment.

NQJC: Serena, thank you again!  It has been a pleasure working with you on this!  Best of luck!

Now y’all get over to The Farm Chicks shoppe! Serena’s having a SALE!



Who knew drying clothes outside on a clothesline is illegal in some states? ME EITHER!  Apparently it is also illegal in Paris. France.  HUH??? Whwhwhwhatttt??? You can’t have your clean, freshly laundered clothing outdoors?  I never heard of such.  But in one of my “green” newsletters that came in today’s email there was an article about Alexander Lee and his decade of activism in trying to change this.

I have to tell you I am stunned. I mean, I have spent, probably too much, time this morning researching where and why.  That is something I would have never considered illegal.  Of course I have always lived in the country.  I don’t have a clothesline at present, but this makes me want to put one up.  I find it kinda absurd.  I mean maybe I am just not thinking this thing through but why in the world couldn’t a person hang their laundry?  Maybe in big cities they don’t want the whole “drawers hanging across the streets” like I remember seeing in old movies and such.  That is the only reason I could think of.  But not everyone has a dryer.  Or a washer for that matter.

When we finally replaced our 20 year old dryer that was taking at least two cycles to semi-dry a load and  replaced our green Maytag washer (that I have no idea how old it was because we inherited it and it was old then but I am thinking it was at least 30 years old) with a Fisher & Paykel, it was amazing how much laundry we could get done in 1/4 the time.  Not to mention cost. The clothes came out of the new washer  almost dry due to the exceptional spinning cycle of the new washer and then a dryer that actually dried the clothes instead of just tumbling them until we got impatient and took them out anyway- there is no telling what we saved in energy costs.  So I did a little figuring to see how much our family spends to wash and dry our clothes per month.  Now this is based on information I got from several websites and is general cost per/load and not pertaining to a specific brand of washer or dryer or how new the appliances are.  And believe me that makes a difference.


Wow, if my math is right (and these estimations are anywhere close to being accuate) we spend nearly $750 per year just to wash and dry clothes.  That’s not counting detergent and my obsession with dryer sheets and electricity to run the water well and pump it to the house.  I know, Iknow…don’t lecture me about the dryer sheets.  The previously mentioned well water is a lovely shade of raw sienna and if it is real hot weather and it sits in the tank very long it smells a bit like pond water.  Not a thing we own stays white for more than 3-4 washes.  NO! We don’t drink or cook with this water.  We have a high dollar reverse osmosis thingy.

Anyway back to this crazy illegal clothesline thing, Project Laundry List is working hard to make air-drying and cold-water washing laundry acceptable and desirable as simple and effective ways to save energy. And is petitioning the White House to restore the right to line dry your laundry. This may seem like a ridiculously extreme measure to go to but good grief…if I want a clothesline (and after all this research I most certainly do!) then I intend to have one.  This is AMERICA people!  So yeah, I signed the petition.  Now to convince Husband about the clothesline idea.

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