Saturday, February 23, 2019

Lilly's Subway Hoodie

It does NOT SEEM POSSIBLE that it's already been TWO years since I took Lilly to New York City. As we ramp up to her 10th birthday -- I am planning something special, but it's not "announceable" yet.

This is from a blog post I wrote two years ago, but never quite got around to posting.  It involved one of my favorite activities -- FRANKENSEWING...
As Ritaluck would have it -- I found this wonderful NYC subway map sweatshirt at a Clinton, Iowa thrift store.  I paid $2 for it.  But it didn't fit Lilly...
It was too tight in the body -- and too long in the sleeve.  NO PROBLEM -- remember -- my Grandma Superpower is I CAN SEW...So, the first thing I did was open the side of the jacket...and add about 3" of black fabric on each side.
Then, I cut out 1 inch from each sleeve -- and reattached the ribbed wrist piece...

Honestly, I cannot imagine a better Grandma moment...


Friday, February 22, 2019

Shoofly Pie!!

Growing up in Iowa, I never heard of Shoofly Pie. But it is one of my "MUST EAT" items whenever we visit John's family in Pennsylvania.

And, years ago -- when Ross was living with the Keefer's in Pennsylvania -- he, too, became addicted to this unique pie.  He actually MAKES IT HIMSELF...and has taken it into work for potluck food occasions.

(Kathy -- you should be SO PROUD!)
Kathy Keefer is one of the BEST COOK'S I KNOW -- and she is famous for her shoo-fly pies!!


Here's what the internet has to say about Shoofly Pie:

Visit the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania and indulge in a Pennsylvania Dutch original, the Shoofly Pie. Also know as Shoo-Fly Pie, and Shoo Fly Pie.

First time visitors to the area always comment on this pie and its strange name. Most of the area restaurants and bakeries sell this favorite pie. The pie is more like a coffee cake, with a gooey molasses bottom.Pennsylvania Dutch cooking is indigenous to those areas of southeastern Pennsylvania that were settled by the Mennonites and Amish. William Penn (1644-1718), founder of Pennsylvania, was seeking colonists for the Pennsylvania area. The Amish and Mennonites both settled in Pennsylvania as part of William Penn's "holy experiment" of religious tolerance. The first sizeable group arrived in America around 1730 and settled near Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

These settlers were addicted to pies of all types and they ate them at any time of day. The most famous of their pies is the shoofly pie. As the very earliest settlers came to North America by boat, they brought with them the staples of their diet - long-lasting nonperishable that would survive a long boat trip. These staples were flour, brown sugar, molasses, lard, salt, and spices. Arriving in the new land during late fall, they had to live pretty much on what they had brought with them until the next growing season. The women, being master of the art of "making do," concocted a pie from the limited selection that could be found in the larder. This resourcefulness led to the creation of shoofly pie.

The origin of the name has been debated for years and will probably never ultimately be solved. The most logical explanation is related to the fact that during the early years of our country, all baking was done in big outdoor ovens. The fact that pools of sweet, sticky molasses sometimes formed on the surface of the pie while it was cooling, invariably attracting flies, show how such a pie could come to be called shoofly pie.
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Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Unbaked Pastry for 10-inch one crust pie

 Dry:
3 tablespoon butter
1  cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Wet:
3/4 cup hot water
1 cup dark molasses
1 egg
Mix:  1/4 cup boiling water with 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, then stir into wet mixture

Preparation:

Dry:  In a large bowl, using a pastry blender, cut shortening or butter into flour, brown sugar, and salt until mixture is the size of small peas; set aside. (reserve 1/2 cup for topping)

Wet: In a large bowl, mix molasses and egg and 3/4 cup hot water. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 c. water with baking soda. Combine all wet ingredients and whisk until soda quits foaming.

Gently stir wet into the dry. Pour mixture into unbaked pie crust, sprinkle reserved crumbs on top.

Bake 10 minutes and then reduce oven to 350 degrees F. Bake an additional 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

1920's Laundry Book

OH MY GOODNESS...I had no idea it would be so entertaining to look back on my blogging life.  I had completely forgotten this little booklet...and I AM SO GLAD I BLOGGED ABOUT IT.  Altho, this particular blog post has given me a mission.  I MUST FIND THIS BOOK...it's gotta be in this house somewhere...surely, I put it in a safe place.

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From 2014...

I have LONG been a collector of all-things-laundry. I love pictures of women (or children) hanging up clothes...
I paid $28 for this small picture at an auction. I'm glad I photographed it, because right now it is lost somewhere in my basement....
This little soft cover book is one of my most prized possessions. But, it is a very difficult thing to photograph...you can't read the title....
The title says, "Approved Methods for Home Laundering". It was published in 1920 by Proctor and Gamble.
The illustrations in this little book are amazing...
They are so small, it is hard to get a good picture...but I kept trying...
I was gob-smacked (Marion's term -- is that a Canadian expression?) by the detailed description of how much work it was to do the family laundry in 1920...
HOLY COW...doing laundry was an unbelievable amount of crushing, back-breaking hard work. One whole chapter in the book was about Planning the Week's Work, with an outline for your Daily schedule...YIKES...I am trying to imagine the world my women ancestors lived in...they had to make their own soap...soak the clothes for several hours (or overnight)....then build a fire...rub each garment on a wash-board...then wash in small loads (the book recommends sorting into five different groups).

this is one of the many pictures from my Pinterest board...
Squeeze out the water. Then BOIL the various loads of laundry (a clean stick is recommended for this step). Rinse in two or three different waters. Then Blue the laundry. Starch the laundry. Hang the laundry out (putting pieces of a kind together, and have the threads of the cloth straight). Take down, piece by piece, and fold. Dampen. Roll Up. (never dampen more than you can iron in one day). Then iron.

OH MY GOD....I love my life. And I am very grateful that I was born AFTER the invention of the automatic washing machine...
Make that VERY, VERY, EXTREMELY GRATEFUL...
Next week the Monday post will be some tips about how to dry your laundry.  Don't worry, I understand that most of you don't have access to a clothesline....hey -- I have a clothes dryer, too!! 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Painted Luggage!!

Hey -- looking for some OLD posts to run during my winter break has been kinda fun.  I originally wrote this one way back in 2012 --because I always had so many questions about my painted luggage.  Altho it's very easy to do, I've learned some tricks along the way...

Of course, my starting point is always a thrift store.  I have never paid more than $8 for a rolling duffel.  So -- START THERE.  Because there are always LOTS OF BAGS in thrift stores -- most of them in excellent condition -- my theory is that many people buy luggage for a specific trip,  then stick it in a closet.  Five or six years later, they are cleaning the closet (moving to a smaller house), and they remember how much they HATED traveling....

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My name is Rita Farro.  And --Yes -- I paint my luggage...


Actually, it's one of my FAVORITE THINGS TO DO...
Other people watch the dozens of black bags go around and around the airport carousel... wondering which one is theirs...because THEY ALL LOOK ALIKE...

But my suitcases are always VERY EASY TO FIND -- and I'm the first person out on the curb, looking for my ride...
My bags have been to many, many airports over the years...including Memphis...

Reno, Cincinnati, Seattle, Chantilly, Kansas City...



NO AIRLINE could ever lose my bags...there simply is no excuse...I have the AIRPORT CODE painted right on the bag...

Here are the steps:

  1. Mod Podge any part of the bag you intend to paint. It seals the luggage fabric, otherwise, the paint just soaks in, and it won't be vibrant.  Let it dry overnight.
  2. Add your paint in layers.  I often paint a big area WHITE, then let it dry, and go in with some designs later, with other colors.  I use any kind of paint -- just those cheapo little bottles of craft paint.  
  3. Use PERMANENT felt tip markers to do the writing.  (I prefer a Sharpie, with a chisel point).
  4. When your design is complete -- use a foam brush to add two more coats of ModPodge.  (let it dry between coats).
 Believe me -- this paint job will last MUCH LONGER THAN THE BAG ITSELF..

Optional: If you want to add EMBROIDERY to your bag, you still should Mod Podge the area you are decorating. Embroider the words you want on the fabric, then cut it to fit into a specific area. Use Peel n'Stick to apply the embroidered fabric piece to your suitcase -- Then two coats of Mod Podge to protect the embroidery.



THIS SUITCASE was written up in Designs in Machine Embroidery magazine! I did all the embroidery on fabric, then cut it to fit the shapes needed for the luggage...

Sadly, last year, two of these bags were destroyed by the rough handling. Ugh. One had the handle ripped off...another lost a wheel...

Treating them with the respect they deserve, like a worn out American Flag, or a treasured Lazy Boy recliner -- I had a little funeral and burned them...

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Tuesday, February 19, 2019

When They Were boys

After his fall on the ice -- his trip to the E.R -- and his near death experience -- I guess it's to be expected that John and I would have a conversation about funerals and where we want to be buried.  As it happens, I really don't care that much.

But -- talking about our funerals reminded me of a post I wrote way back in 2013.  When John was inducted into the Holland Club...and we made an epic road trip from Iowa to Chicago to Groton, Connecticut.

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The first nuclear submarine was commissioned in 1953 by President Truman. The USS Nautilus, which is on permanent display in Groton, Connecticut.





The tents for the ceremony were set up on the Nautilus dock....and that huge submarine is a very impressive thing to be in the shadow of.

John served on the USS Haddo SSN604.

The Haddo was the same class of submarine as the Thresher and the Scorpion -- the two nuclear submarines that went down with full crews. What those Cold War sailors did during those tense days when both sides had nuclear weapons locked and loaded  was extraordinary. And dangerous. And historic. And most of those men never, ever talked about it.


After their Navy enlistment was up -- they walked off the boat and spread out across the country.  They were eager to get regular jobs and live the American Dream. 


John became an electrician in Washington D.C.. His friend Pat McGovern became a Illinois State Patrolman. Joseph O'Hara was an insurance man in Pennsylvania. Their friend Matey worked construction. They blended back into society -- by simply putting one foot in front of the other. They were deliriously happy not to be under water for 90 days at a time. Maybe ANY job looked good...


For 30 years, John rarely talked about what he did in the Navy.  He was too busy doing all the stuff that makes up a normal life. Working, paying bills, golfing when he could, arguing with his wife. The usual highs and lows...

But in recent years -- and especially on this special day -- these men seemed eager to talk. And this Admiral enjoyed listening.  He had a lot of questions about a particular Mediterranean patrol...


NOW -- 50 years later -- when these men get together -- THEY ALL KNOW WHAT THEY DID. Only with the benefit of time do they really understand that they were a part of something extraordinary. The Navy provided them with schools, experience and training that served them throughout their adult lives. But beyond that -- being a sailor on a nuclear submarine was a measurement in so many ways. It was a daily test that required brains and strength, quick-thinking and patience. They learned who they are and what they were capable of. They relied on one another because their lives depended on it.



Like many other people that morning, I watched the ceremony through tears. Because the men being honored are old now. Their submarine service happened 50 years ago -- when they were young men. Kids, really...

I wonder if all the men being inducted that day felt the same way John did.  With the pictures of them as young sailors, and the speeches, and the music -- nobody does it up like the Navy.  But, at the end of the day -- it was bittersweet.  Because John felt like he was attending his own funeral.

When he said that, I realized that was EXACTLY why I'd been crying all day.  Then I told him it was actually a pretty good way to look at it.  Because, for the record, this deal was WAY better than his Iowa funeral is gonna be...

Monday, February 18, 2019

My Friend Janet

Dear Blog Readers,

You are the best. You read this blog -- you sew, you laugh, we share stuff. And you almost NEVER yell at me. That's the very definition of a good girl friend.

I feel like we're in this thing together -- and even though we maybe never met -- I know you.

You are somebody's daughter, mother, sister, friend. When I write this blog, I think of you as my "sewing sisters".

And there is nothing more important to a woman's sanity than having other women as friends.

This is a piece I wrote for a writing class. The assignment was to write a letter to somebody you've lost. I wrote to my college roommate Janet.

She died almost 20 years ago. I try to make the most of every day...maybe a teeny little bit because she never had that much time.... And I miss her.

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Dear Janet,

When Steve Jobs died of pancreatic cancer, I thought about you.  You always made me believe you were going to beat it. It was like that with us. From our first day as roommates at Wartburg College, I believed everything you told me. You were the smartest girl in the dorm and we all knew it.

You learned everything about everybody. It was a gift. You would meet a new person, and within the first 20 minutes – they would spill out their whole life story. But you were private. It was as though not talking about your childhood would make it disappear. But I knew that freshman year in college was the moment you’d been waiting for…your chance to get out in the world.

Everybody hung out in our room. You had a stereo with surround sound, every Johnny Mathis album AND you could play the guitar. I remember your soft alto voice singing “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?” You introduced me to so many things –-- blowing smoke rings, Dostoyevsky, Slo Gin Fizzes, Ayn Rand. Of course – poetry. Although, I didn’t get Rod McKuen any more than I got the Woody Allen movies you loved so much…

A bunch of us would play cards and smoke cigarettes and talk and laugh until 4:00 in the morning – but you were the only one who never missed an early morning class. You were on a full scholarship and you needed good grades. You were so happy to be there – you loved every class and you made it look so easy. You breezed through English Lit, you were the top student in the psychology department -- and the only person I ever met who could use the word existentialism in a sentence.

I didn’t know until 30 years later how hard it really was. Even though we were roommates, I didn’t notice that you only had two bras. I didn’t know you worked those three part time jobs because you were sending money back to your bipolar Mom in Ohio.

You were fighting pancreatic cancer when you told me about the day your family drove the 600 miles to Waverly, Iowa, with your college supplies packed in the trunk of a borrowed car. You were terrified that something would go wrong. You did the driving…with your Mom in the passenger seat, reading the map you had memorized. Your younger sister was in the backseat with your lobotomized uncle. They had to come along because there was no place for them to stay -- and you had been taking care of them for so long – they couldn’t manage without you. When you stopped at an Illinois restaurant for lunch, your uncle drove the car away. You stood in the parking lot -- knowing it was all gone. Your album collection, the second hand stereo, the new clothes....every single thing you owned or cared about was in the trunk of that car.

It was six hours before the highway patrol brought him back…

The night you told me that story, I cried myself to sleep in your California guest room. Sad because we’d been best friends for 30 years and you never told me about your uncle. Sad because you’d lost 60 pounds by that time and could barely talk. Sad because you never got over being shamed by them....

Mostly –Janet, I was sad because I no longer believed you were going to beat it...

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Abraham Lincoln Luncheon

Our weather has been SO BAD -- Scott Community College had to cancel a luncheon I'd signed up for this week. It was about Abraham Lincoln...and I was looking forward to it.

But I wasn't the ONLY person affected by the icy road conditions. The good news is -- it's been rescheduled. THREE WEEKS FROM NOW...and I am hopeful...

I originally wrote this post in 2013...(remember, Linda?)...

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The Outing Club is the Davenport, Iowa version of the tony "members only" country club for rich people. Like most of those clubs -- the Outing Club has fallen on hard times. The fabulous old mansion that used to host the weddings of the elite -- and debutante balls -- is not so relevant in 2013. But even though it's looking a little worn...

It is still the grandest lady in town...

And I love the fact that they've opened it up for more public events -- partnering with the local colleges to run luncheon events, etc. This is the balcony and ceiling medallion in the grand ballroom. See what I mean??


On this day in January -- the event was a luncheon with a speaker who was a local historian. Our local history involves some Indians, some corrupt politicians, the murder of Colonel Davenport...Antoinne LeClaire was a fascinating person....I LOVE THIS STUFF...

I went with my cousin Linda. The food was terrific, too! Roast pork AND a catfish fillet. Who knew??

And -- hey -- how often do you get a chance to eat in a room lit by a dozen crystal chandeliers??

Thanks for setting it up, Linda! Hey -- GREAT COAT!!