Valient Viewers of Braver Homes and Gardens

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I was seduced.  I admit it. For as much as I prefer to eat foods in their natural state, and stay away from fake foods, sometimes I fall for them anyway.  Especially if they’re cheap.  This time it was tins of the red lidded International flavored coffee mixes.  These normally sell for about $3.49 but I found them at my discount store for $1.50.

I read the back where I found I could enjoy “the delicious paring of luscious caramel (yum!) and sweet vanilla (heavenly!) and how it would be “sinfully superb”. What Catholic girl doesn’t want a way to be sinfully superb? I took the tin to work and heated up a mug of full-fat milk. You know, for extra sinfulness. I dumped a spoonful of the “coffee” mix on top.

And for a second I thought I had mistakenly made a bowl of Rice Krispies.  As in snap-crackle-pop. My mug of coffee was crackling as the mix dissolved.

Since when does coffee crackle???  And what the hell is in this stuff?  That’s when I did what I should have done in the store - read the ingredient list.  My $1.50 “coffee” is made with sugar as its first ingredient, partially hydrongenated oil (um, yum??) and other such “foods” as cellulose gum and silicon dioxide. 

I took a sip.  Naturally it tastes nothing like caramel.  Or vanilla.   It just tastes like really sugary milk.  The tin told me it would be “your own coffeehouse indulgence right at home”.  I guess.  If drinking melted plastic is considered an indulgence.

Gross.  Turning to my cupboards I found the yellow lidded and the brown lidded hot chocolate mixes.  But a scan of the "ingredient" list proved equally as disgusting.  Did you know if you let the brown lidded stuff sit out and spoil, it! 

Then I remembered that I have two mokka pots which are coffee percolators made in Italy designed for steam coffee at home.  The coffee comes out a cross between espresso and Turkish coffee.   I have a 2 oz. and a 9 oz. pot by the original brand, Bialetti.  The two-ouncer goes for $20 and the nine-ouncer (which makes about one mug of coffee) goes for $40.  Thrifty gal that I am, I found both at Goodwill only about a week after I made a mental note to try and find one.  I paid $9 total for them both. 

The pots separate into three parts - the bottom where you put water, the cup that holds the coffee grounds, and the top.  As the water heats, it's pushed up through the grounds and into the top. 

While the coffee perked on the stovetop, I happened to notice a third container of "coffee" mix that I had left unopened overnight.  It dried out to the point where the entire top looked like a sheet of plastic:

What kind of "coffee" turns to a sheet of plastic just from  exposure to the air??  What IS this stuff?

For fun, I got out my drill:

Now that is just wrong.  Ok...enough fooling around.  I took the coffee off th stove and heated a mug of milk.  I poured in the espresso, added a spoonful of cocoa and a spoonful of powdered sugar.

Whisk to dissolve and nowwww I have a sinfully superb cup of coffee:

Snap, crackle, pop, and silicon dioxide not included. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Marigolds & Old Tables

Today is my Gramma Helen's birthday.  She died two years ago.  For some reason I've been feeling her spirit for about two weeks.  So has one of my sisters.  Marigolds were her favorite flower.  They're one of the last ones to survive here before winter kicks in. 

It's crazy that marigolds were her favorite.  Every spring she and my grampa would get into the same argument.  He'd start planting his red geraniums around the yard.  My Grampa was a Marine drill sargent.  He plants flowers like he marched soldiers.  Two-by-two those geraniums marched in perfect military precision all around the perimeter. 

Every year my Gramma would pitch a fit because geraniums are annuals which means they die every year.  "Why don't you just plant perennials so they come back every year and then you don't waste time and money."  (Gramma didn't really understand us gardeners).

Yet, marigolds, her favorite flower, are also annuals.  Go figure.

But I didn't want to write about marigolds today.  I wanted to write about my kitchen table. 

I got it from my Gramma. 
It used to be my Great-Gramma's.  The top is crooked.  The leaves don't fit into each other properly.  But Gramma fixed it before she gave it to me.  Well, she slapped a coat of varnish on it anyway.  She insisted. 

Tonite it's doubling as my workbench, as it often does.  I need to shorten some boards to fix my front porch with.  My dad may have taught me *how* to use power tools....but my Gramma was the one that actually made me want to learn. 

When my Grampa would leave for meetings at the American Legion, she went down in the basement and taught herself how to use a power sander and a table saw in secret.  Using only scrap wood, she then built herself two floor-to-ceiling shelving units.

She was 65 at the time. 

I have the money to buy a better table. 

But I rather like my Gramma's crooked, ill fitting old table.  My paint splotches and sawblade scratches only enhance it.

Happy Birthday Gramma.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bathrobe for Winter

My late Gramma Helen's birthday is only about a week away. Her presensce must be around or something because at the fabric store this weekend, it occurred to me that I have no winter bathrobe and I really need one.  But what to make it out of?  Fleece?  Warm, but sometimes too warm.  Flannel? Hmm.  It wears well, but it wouldn't be warm enough.  A heavy cotton?  No.  Not warm at all and too stiff.

Then I suddenly remembered the comfiest bathrobes I know are the ones my Gramma Helen always wore.  And they were made out of fake fur.  Incredibly warm, but not overpoweringly so.  And fake fur is very durable.  Her first one was a pretty turquoise blue.  She wore that one to shreds and then started wearing an identical one in red. 

By dumb luck (or maybe it was Gramma working with the Forces of the universe) they happened to have cuddle fur on sale at half-off.  And of the 20 or so prints, the only cute one I found happened to have a blue background with some red ladybugs on it - the two colors of my Gramma's bathrobes.  Coincidence?  Hmm....  Maybe not, since it also had green frogs. 

I bought this unnumbered pattern at a thrift store (which my Gramma totally got me into - Whoa!).  I think it was a freebie given out by a fabric store, although it was uncut. 

I love buying used patterns (when all the pieces are included) because you sometimes see the notes of the person that had the pattern before you.  The previous owner of this pattern included a clipping for a bathrobe idea using velour with a lace overlay.

I don't know about the lace.  But the velour is, indeed, regal ooking.

Anyway, the fleece was a dream to sew on but a pain when I had to rip out mistakes.  Nevertheless, I'm pleased with it.  I did it in a day.  So here's my tribute to my Gramma Helen.

By the way, my Gramma Helen was madder than heck when she found out I bought a sewing machine.  "Why would you want the drudgery of sewing your own clothes?" she'd say. 

And then she'd repeat her story about how her mother, my Great Gramma Jennie, who sewed everything, would always stop her when she came home with a storebought dress and inspect it up and down. 
And then she'd toss it back to my Gramma with a loud "pfft!" of disgust, throw up her hands, and walk away.  Which, funny enough, is the reaction I have to a lot of storebought clothes.  Cheap fabric, poor sewing, no durability - and top dollar prices for stuff I could make so much better at home. 

Like my new Gramma Helen bathrobe.