Places to Party

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The Pizza Kit

Quick, finish this jingle....


"Open a Jar, of _______ ________ ______,  and open your own, pizzeria..."

Like many American homes, Friday night is often pizza night at our house. Growing up as a teenager, I remember making a few "Chef Boyardee" box pizza kits. They were fun, a bag of dried flour mix that became the crust, a can of sauce and maybe a small packet of grated Parmesan cheese. This was the making of home pizza when I was growing up.

No offense to the Chef, but with a lot less effort, we can make a lot better end product.

I suppose I make my own "pizza kit" per se. To do this for yourself so you can have a hot and ready pie for pennies, the first step is to grab your breadmaker.

BTW, I have never bought a breadmaker. If you have, that's great, but what I've usually found with appliances like this is that if you make it known to people that you are looking for one, someone usually has one in an attic or garage that they want to get rid of. It's amazing what you can get for free if you just let people know you are looking for something.

Following whatever bread recipe you may like (This one sounded good:, put all the ingredients in your breadmachine and set it to dough. Walk away. I usually make 2-4 loaves over the weekend this way. If you are using a plain white dough, I sometimes add garlic, parmesan and/or basil to the mix. Once the dough is finished, grab a freezer storage bag, put in a little flour and seal it being careful to remove as much air as possible. Pop it into your freezer.

Now the toppings. I can a ridiculous amount of sauce during the canning season. Get one of these down or sans that, grab a small can of tomato paste. Put in a little olive oil, a little garlic, maybe some Italian seasoning and mix.

Chop up and veggies and/or your meat.

Now for the assembly. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. On your pizza pan or stone, put down a small layer of cornmeal or bread crumbs. Roll out your crust. Bake for 12 mins or so. Remove and start assembling your pizza.

Came out a little darker than I
wanted but
still delicious!

You prebake it to provide a sturdy crust for the ingredients to sit upon so that they don't sink into the crust making it mushy.

Mmmm cheesy!

Lower the oven to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 15-20 mins. Cut as soon as it comes out of the oven and then enjoy. Hot and cheesy!

You just saved anywhere from $10-20 and made a pizza that everyone will enjoy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Cider, Apples & Pumpkin Picking Time!

Fall is my favorite time of Year.....



The crispness in the air, the colorful leaves...

 the canner is put away for another year and the shelves are heavy with all the goodness of the summer garden, it's time for a breather, to just enjoy the fruits of our labors.

And Pumpkins!!!!

We love pumpkins!


And we go to Kelly's Farm Market. Kelly's was a tradition in my husband's family that has become a tradition in ours. Every year we go out for apples, cider and donuts. It is like our official kick off of Fall.

Mutant Ninja & Pumpkin cookies!

Pumpkin & Apple bread.

And who could say no to Ghosty Pumpkin Cupcakes???

Cider drinking Ghosty Pumpkin Cupcakes.

Chocolate, cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar and fry cakes. YUM!

Have to dunk them!


Our Drinking Game:

Shot of cider when someone says, um, Cider...

Yeah, not really complicated...

Ghosty cupcakes ROCK!

Happy Fall Everyone!


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Winter Chores and Tomatillos

 I've never read Thoreau but I'd like to think we'd be homeboys.

We started our winter prep this weekend as I get older, I find that those moments of quiet introspection sneak up on me as I take a quick breather from my chores.  Just to look around, breathe in the air and remember that I am apart of nature as much as the ladybug or spider going about it's business on this fine fall day.

All getting ready for winter!
We all know it's going to end soon sending us into the cozy house to hibernate for the next six months so for today, we give thanks for the warm Fall day as I clean out the garden.

My poor garden was sadly neglected this year as my schedule just simply didn't allow for more attention to be paid to it. Weeds took over and it took me almost two days just to break it down. I clean out the garden during the winter months for three reasons:

  1. I don't want to handle wet, limp, half rotted plant material first thing in the spring. It's so much nicer to start with a fresh palette.
  2. I don't want this year's weed seeds to drop in the garden over winter and become next year's weeds I'm battling.
  3. I also throw out our woodstove's ashes into the garden ("Bio-char") and spread them all over. I don't want to catch some half dead weed on fire.

Wow, huh? From about 8 vines.

In cleaning the garden up, I gathered the last of the year's harvest, the tomatillos. When it comes to salsa, I don't think there is anything better than Salsa Verde and if you like it too, you need to grow tomatillos next year. This was this year's haul.

Tomatoes and tomatillos are very different.
Tomatillos are not tomatoes although they look like one. Their vines appear a lot more delicate than a tomato vine but they are proficient as you can see. As they grow, they form a little yellow and purple flower that very much mimics their nightshade cousin but then they form little green pouches that look much like the "Chinese Lanterns" that you may grow in your garden. Inside each pouch forms the tomatillo. Typically I grow a purple tomatillo that as it ripens turns purple but this  year I grew one that was larger and I think that may be the way to go in the future. As they ripen, they very often pop open their husk which is an
indication they are ready. If they don't,
don't be concerned as not each one will.

Inside a tomatillos showing the "meatiness".

I couldn't find my usual recipe, so this year I used the Ball recipe found here:

I canned this up last night and it smelled delicious! I was up until 1am this morning finishing it but it'll be well worth it over the next coming months.

Additionally, it is time to clean the windows while still warm enough outside to get on a ladder and clean them. I made my cleaning solution, my homemade version of Windex, found here:


Cleaning the windows so they sparkle. Nothing more depressing on a cold winter's day then looking outside in the gloomy greyness through dirty windows!

Still ahead of us is cleaning out the garage so we can start parking our cars in this Fall. I'm not sure why, but during the summer months we part outside like we are "sunning" the cars or something.

We also have to find firewood. Brisk mornings are starting to become more commonplace and the colder it is outside the covers, the harder it is to get up. Fire starters need to be made in the worse way and the porch has to be converted to the winter porch complete with the wood holders. The feather bed has to be brought down from the attic and a trip made into town to clean it and the sleeping bags used over the summer by my son in the big washer/driers of the laundry mat. The feather bed makes you warm as toast but on work days is a misery to get out of.

The young trees have to be covered for the winter and the lawn mower converted to a snow plow with the addition of the plow and weights added to it. And somewhere along the line, a new starter has to be put into the snowblower for use when we can't see the driveway to even start plowing.

Ah, winter in the country....

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Baskets for Your Home: Wastepaper Basket


                                                             Let's make another useful basket.

                                                        One that you'll make again and again....

The wastepaper basket is a great "use up" basket for any odd piece of dyed reed or seagrass you may have laying around.

Weaving is not particularly hard, it's like anything, practice makes you better with each basket you make. Also there is something really satisfying to looking at a bunch of reeds and like Rumpelstiltskin, creating something wonderful out of something very ordinary. Once you have a sense of how to do it, when the need presents itself for something, you can actually MAKE it rather than BUY it. It is a very liberating and satisfying feeling.

This basket is going to teach you how to weave a round basket. The technique is useful in creating harvest baskets, fruit baskets and especially Easter baskets. Practice it now for Christmas gift baskets later or next year's Easter. Can you imagine presenting your kids with an Easter basket you made and having that handed down to your future grandkids?


No matter how many wastebaskets we seem to have it's just never enough. My bedroom trashcan is now located in the dining room. It gets moved around as I clean or when someone needs it. So it's time to make another one.

Materials Needed:

  • 1 T pin
  • Small rubber/plastic child's ball or eraser(from vending machines, who doesn't have a boatload of these?)
  • 2-3 inch round reed
  • 1/2" to 5/8" flat reed, cut to 60" and centers marked at 30"
  • Any sized reed you may have left over from other projects that will fit around your basket or 1/2-5/8" flat if you want a standard reed
  • Water, bucket, scissors or reed cutter, ruler, clamp style clothes pins
  • (Optional) bucket for a liner (mine is a recycled ice cream container)

T pin and eraser

 In order to make a round basket, you have to have something to hold those spokes together to weave around. To accomplish this, you need to have this handy little needle that you can purchase at any sewing/craft shop, a "T" pin.

To save your hands/fingers, impale an eraser or cheap rubber/plastic vending machine ball so as not to impale or poke your hand as you weave.


Remember, reed has a right side and wrong side. To determine, bend the reed and one side will be "hairier" than the other. You will be marking on the "wrong" side.

 Measure, mark and cut your spokes. Make sure to mark the 1/2 point of the spokes as this is the point where you will poke your
T pin through to spiral the read around.


Soak your reed to make it pliable.

Press your T-pin on the right side so that the flat side lies flat on your work surface.

With the marked sides up, spear your weaving piece right where you've marked your centers on the wrong side (wrong side is up facing you). Once you have all your pieces laid out, adjust them so that they appear even to you. Place the child's plastic ball on the point end of the pin so that you do not constantly "pick" yourself (and your reed will constantly get stuck on it). Trust me, without it you will, I speak from experience.

Impale your eraser on top to save your hands.


After soaking your round reed, gently bend off center and loop this around one of your bottom reeds to start weaving.

Try to keep your weaving in a nice circle as you weave your first row, adjusting as you go.


When you run out of reed, and you will,
gently bend the end and slide it in your last row of weaving.



Do the same with the replacement reed.
                                                                      And continue weaving.


Weave until you are happy with the size or until the basket fits your liner.
Now upset the sides of your basket. With the bottom (right side/outside side) of the weaving against your body, GENTLY bend your weaver away from you. You are now creating the sides of your basket. To corral them, you may want to clothespin several weavers together.

Begin weaving your reed and make sure you have lots of clothespin to hold your
weavers down as you build the basket sides.

                                                            LOTS of Pins!!!

Starting at any spoke with a piece of reed that will completely go around the basket and around 4 spokes, weave around the circumference of the basket. When you get to the end, weave across 4 spokes to lock your work and cover up the beginning of the weaver. Continue up until you reach the height desired. You can add a liner in the form of any plastic bucket or in this case

Using your packing tool or a flat head screw driver, push each row of weaving down, essentially "packing" them tightly. Once you have done this, measure down two rows of weaving (at least) and cut off the spoke with a slight angle. Slid this spoke down on the inside of the basket, burying in under your last reed that you measured to.

We are going to learn another new technique, rimming your basket. Rimming is probably my least favorite part of finishing the basket, but it is absolutely necessary to provide a sturdiness and "finished" feel to your finished piece. Now, occasionally I'm lazy as you see in the strawberry basket where there really is no rim but honestly you really should do it. Here is the technique:

I'm rimming my basket with 1/2 inch flat oval. Because this is such a heavy reed, we have to soak it for a long while to make it pliable. Once soaked, remove one of your pieces of reed and, using your clothespins again, measure along the outside of your basket overlapping by about 3 inches at least. Mark this overlap on the inside of the reed and the outside of the reed like so:

Once you have marked the reed, remove it from your basket and, using a paring knife, whittle away the reed until, when you overlap the reed, it lays as flat as desired. Repeat this exercise on the inside of the basket as well. Remove and soak.

The goal is to make the rim lay flat when it comes together.

Taking a really long piece of 1/4 inch flat oval or flat/flat and your packing tool or flathead screwdriver, open up a whole through the top of your twining to create a space to bring up your flat oval.

Make a point on the end of your reed and feed it through this hole with the flat side facing you and he oval side facing the basket.

Once up, take your screwdriver or packing tool and open up another hole in the weaving leaving at least two rows of twining to hold the reed you are feeding through. Once down, feed it through the bottom of your weaving like so.

Repeat this process one more time to assure you have a solid base from which to work.

Begin lashing by bringing up your flat oval from the bottom rim up and around the inside rim feeding under your last row of twinning. As you lash around the basket, continue to feed your filler in between the two rims. Pull the reed tightly as you lash.

Once done, go back and, using your packing tool, make sure you've lashed just as tightly as you can.



After your first rim around, using your packing tool or flat head screw driver, tighten your lashing by pulling the reed around to get any slack out of it.

Once you've gone all the way around the rim, you can decide whether you want to "x" the rim and go in the other direction or not. I did this for this basket. It's simply a design feature but it does make the rim that much more sturdy.

Cut off your reed filler.

Feed it under the lashing.


Once you have made your way all the way around the rim and have packed it, you have to the repeat the initial step but his time go "under" the rim filler. This isn't easy but you have to make sure that after all that work, it's secure.

End on the inside of the basket and cut it off.

Making sure your basket it very wet, take a cnacle or lighter and bun off any small hairs on the basket. Rinse off any soot.

Now decide how to finish your piece. I decided to use a colored stain for the first time and actually wished afterwards I had used a natural stain, the grey was a lot more opaque than I expected. I stain outside to avoid the fumes. Let dry completely.

Once finished you can paint or use rub on stencils for any large band parts of your basket.

The final step is sign and date the bottom of your work and sit back and enjoy the fruit of your labor. Wastepaper baskets are such an easy weave and yet very satisfying as you know you will use this frequently and can make as many as you need. Make one for every room if you want. Once you've made one, you can't help but want to make another!