Fun Stuff

Vintage Thankgsiving Post Cards

While we made our home in Waskom Texas, I frequented several antique shops near our home.  My favorite was just over the border in Greenwood, Louisiana.  It housed a large indoor space where vendors could sell their antiques and outside old train cars were turned into individual antique stores.  Whatever you were looking for- you could almost always find it at the Greenwood Flea Market.

I collect old Post Cards and a vendor there always had the prettiest assortment. These decorate the mirror inside our front hallway every Thanksgiving.  I've made them available for you to easily download.  Just right click the image and save to your computer.

Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!



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Taffy Pull


My Family moved to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee when I was 10 years old, and since we moved from a very small town, it was like moving to Disney

World.   My brother and I were fascinated by all of the sights, sounds and smells of the tourist area, but our favorite places of all were the candy stores!

Never in our lives had we seen chocolate candies dipped by hand or the glistening sticks of rock candy. We especially loved watching the taffy being made (probably because they gave us samples.)  It was a fun  place to grow up and I cherish the time we had there.

I came across this recipe for homemade taffy when my children were small and we make it every Autumn. We’ve spent many happy evenings pulling taffy to make the texture just right.

So fun to make and pull, but watch out!  It is messy!

2 cups sugar

2/3 cup cocoa powder 1/2  teaspoon salt

1 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons butter, plus additional for greasing pan and hands   

In heavy medium saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Stir until thoroughly combined. Add corn syrup, water, and vinegar to pan and place over medium heat. Stir until sugar and cocoa dissolve,

raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, clip candy thermometer to side of pan and cook until mixture reaches 260 degrees

  1. Remove pan from heat, add the butter and stir. Butter edges of sheet pan, line with silicone baking sheet and pour on taffy. Allow to cool until you are able to handle it.

Once you are able to handle the taffy, butter your hands, and start  folding the taffy over and pulling it. Pull until it loses its shine and becomes stiff. Pull into ropes, and use scissors to cut into 1 inch pieces. Wrap each piece in waxed paper.. Make sure to keep pieces separated or they will stick to each other.

That’s the news from the homestead, see you next week!

Quilt hanging that I made many years ago. I LOVE Halloween!

This morning, I enjoyed a symphony.   The owls, wrens, and crows all got together and sang a hauntingly beautiful tune that told of rainy mornings, melting into golden October afternoons.
The thick gray clouds along with the trees that are on the verge of a color change made for pretty scenery.
Feeling the cooler temperatures and seeing the pumpkins that are in my neighbor’s garden reminded me of a recipe that I got on a school day, long ago.

It was around Halloween, and Buddig Beef was at our school doing a promotion.  They treated us to boxed lunches with sandwiches made with their luncheon meat, along with some chips & cookies. There were stickers in the sandwiches and whoever was lucky enough to bite into a sandwich with a sticker slapped on the meat, got a prize.    The boxes in which the lunch was served,  looked like the old Happy Meal boxes. They had interesting facts and games about Halloween.   I took my box home because there was a recipe for Toasted Pumpkin Seeds on it.  I cut out the recipe, and in fact, I still have it.  It is burned around the edges.  Let me explain; when we were kids, my brother, Cameron and I loved the thought of buried treasure.   We used to draw maps that showed where we buried some old trinket out in the yard.  We liked to crinkle up our treasure maps and light the edges on fire to make it look old.  (I am grateful that we didn’t burn the house down.)  We placed the maps in strategic places, hoping someone would find them and dig up the treasure we buried. 

When you are carving out your pumpkin this year, why not save your seeds and make up this tasty treat for your family! It might just become a tradition at your house too!

1.While you are carving out your pumpkin, save your seeds in a separate bowl. 

2.Separate the pulp and let the seeds soak in some salt water for an hour. 

  1. Take seeds out with a slotted spoon and dry on paper towels.

4. In a bowl, add pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup of oil or butter and 1 TBS salt.

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Place seeds on cookie sheet and bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Turn them once during baking.
  2. Remove from cookie sheet, let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

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That’s the news from the homestead, see you next week!

Reading ‘Aloud’ Is Fundamental


Reading ‘Aloud’ Is Fundamental

Every year the R.I.F (Reading is Fundamental) program would come to my school and set up thousands of new books on tables in the gymnasium.  They would generously let each student pick out not one, but two books.  These books were not for borrowing, but for us to keep forever.  That thrilled me to no end because I dearly loved reading and loved the look, feel, and smell of a brand new book.   I would go home and devour the book in one night.   I still have all of those books from those carefree school days.  After all, they were treasures to me then and still are.  Sweet, simple gifts like that make the best memories.

When we first started our homeschooling journey, I was lucky to read a paper by Carole Joy Seid, a veteran homeschooling mother, on the benefits of not only reading but being read to.

 My Daddy read to us often when I was a child and when he wasn’t reading from a book, he would recite a short story or poem from memory.  He was a radio broadcaster so his stories always sounded polished and professional because he would use his radio voice

I started the habit of reading aloud to my children when they were very young; sometimes I was bad, though and would skip pages of One Fish Two Fish or The Cat in the Hat because after you’ve read it eight times in one day, your brain turns to mush.

It was when I started reading chapter books aloud that I found myself caught up in the stories and couldn’t wait until the next day to read the next chapter.  The best part was, my children were excited too!  We have been on voyages to the Fiji Islands with RM Ballentyne in The Coral Island and have sailed Around the World in Eighty Days with Jules Verne.   We have gone on adventures with Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey and felt the heartache of losing a loved one in Charlotte’s Web.  This past week, we re-read Walk the World’s Rim by Betty Baker.  I read it the first time eight years ago, but my daughter was too young to remember it.  I wanted her to experience the beauty and emotions that we felt at the first reading.  I was surprised when my 16 year old recalled so many of the important moments from the book.  Contrary to what I thought the first time I read it, he WAS listening!

Even though my children are 16, 15 and 12,  I still read aloud to them daily.    It is a beautiful bond that we share, and I will always treasure.  I encourage you to start the trend with your family too!

Developing that passion for reading is crucial, according to Jim Trelease, author of the best-seller, "The Read-Aloud Handbook." "Every time we read to a child, we're sending a 'pleasure' message to the child's brain," he writes in the "Handbook." "You could even call it a commercial, conditioning the child to associate books and print with pleasure."

This reading "commercial" is critical when competition for a child's attention is so fierce. Between television, movies, the Internet, video games and myriad after-school activities, the pleasures of sitting down with a book are often overlooked. In addition, negative experiences with reading - whether frustrations in learning to read or tedious "skill and drill" school assignments - can further turn children off from reading.

That can have long-term consequences. As Mr. Trelease says in his handbook, "Students who read the most, read the best, achieve the most, and stay in school the longest. Conversely, those who don't read much, cannot get better at it."

A few things to keep in mind when picking out chapter books to read aloud.  Do not choose the abridged versions.  They are watered down and to me they are dumbed down.  Read the original!  You may have to hunt for them but you can find them.  Yard Sales and Library Sales are great places to start.  We once found an abridged version of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.  What a sorry mess it was!  The original is filled with such poetic language, it would be a shame for your children to be shortchanged and not hear those beautiful words that Irving penned. 

An important note; if you have small children, let them play on the floor with their toy trains, dolls or legos.  Don't make them sit still while you are reading to them. They ARE listening, Mama!  My boys had a hard time keeping still and I found that even if they were doing flips over the back of the couch, they could dictate back to me the last paragraph that I read.  Sitting for long periods of time isn't natural for young children.  Don't make them do it while you are reading to them.  They and you will enjoy the time better. 

Below is a very short list of some of our favorites for Elementary age children.   If I listed them all, you would grow weary of reading the list, it is so long!

The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe

Charlotte’s Web

Henry Huggins

Miss Piggle Wiggle

Homer Price

The Boxcar Children

Miss Hickory

Along Came a Dog

Tuck Everlasting

Walk the Worlds Rim

A lion to Guard Us

Johnny Tremain

The Winged Watchman

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

The Borrowed House

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow


That’s the news from the homestead, see you next week!

Summer Afternoon


“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
Henry James

The garden at Sweet Harvest is starting to produce many fine vegetables.  Tomatoes, cucumbers and squash are ripe and ready to be picked.  The herbs are growing in profusion and the basil that was cut early this morning was made into my favorite summertime salad dressing.   It will be delicious over a bed of freshly picked greens for a light evening meal.

Our evenings are spent outside, watching the sunset from chairs strategically placed at a clearing on our land for the best view.  Sometimes we celebrate the day’s splendid end with a glass of chilled wine and linger long enough to watch the lightening bugs start looking for their mates with their bright blinking.  That is when I like to leave my chair and sit on the ground at the base of an ancient hickory tree.  Leaning against that old tree gives me a sense of well- being and protection.  It is warm and comforting and the tiny lights from the blinking beetles in the leaves are like having a twinkling light show, just for me.

Summertime is my favorite season of all.  Of course, I’ll probably say that about autumn, winter and spring once they arrive, but for now, I am blissfully soaking in the sweetness of summertime.

With the abundance of yellow squash from the garden, I enjoy making a relish that goes well with just about anything.  It is sweet and tangy and makes a delicious accompaniment to beans, sausages and oddly enough, it makes a great sandwich spread.

The recipe for Summer Squash Relish was given to me by Mrs. Dora Efird and has become a family favorite. This is sure to become a favorite in your home too!  I have relatives that ask for this as their Christmas present every year.

  • 10 cups shredded yellow summer squash
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons canning salt
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon each celery seed, ground mustard and ground turmeric

 In a large pot, combine sugar, vinegar and seasonings; bring to a boil. Add squash mixture; onions and green pepper.  Return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat.

Carefully ladle hot mixture into six hot 1-pint jars, leaving 1/2-in. headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot mixture. Wipe rims. Center lids on jars; screw on bands until fingertip tight.

Place jars into canner with simmering water, ensuring that they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil; process for 15 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Refrigerate remaining relish for up to 1 week. Yield: 6 pints.

*I will have jars of this Summer Squash Relish made up to sell at the Locust Farmers Market this Thursday, June 30th if you would rather buy some ready made.*

Thank you all for taking the time to let me know that you enjoy reading my column.  Writing about our little homestead brings me so much joy and sharing with like-minded people like you, is icing on the cake!

That’s the news from the homestead, see you next week

Sweet & Simple Wedding Cake

I am a little obsessed with these naked cakes. Back when I worked at a catering company, many years ago, we called this the crumb coat. Now, this look is a hot little number.
Last weekend we went to the sweetest wedding but had to leave before they cut the cake. They had the most beautiful naked cake there and I really wanted to taste it.
I made my own yesterday and I have to say, I enjoyed this much more than the traditional iced cake. Icing is too sweet to me. You can fill the layers with a tasty jam and just barely ice the cake to keep it moist. Cover it with beautiful flowers and it's a sweet, simple way to make a wedding or birthday cake!


Sheep Shearing

Raising sheep is brand new to us on the homestead.  In the past year, we have learned that tending to them is a humbling, but a gratifying task.

Our primary reason for buying the lambs was so that our children would know the value of taking care of something other than themselves. Sure, a dog or cat would have been easier but with a barnyard animal, you must crawl out of your warm bed and leave your cozy home, every, single, day, to water them and make sure they are well.    Rain or shine it must be done.  Our thinking behind it was that we have become somewhat soft in our automated society.  We wanted them to know that there is gratification and honor in work.  So we brought in the sheep.

 The second reason for having them is to harvest their wool.  They both grew nice, thick fleece in their first year and a couple of weeks ago, the sheep shearers traveled down from Raleigh to shear them for us.  It’s almost comical to watch the process.  The sheep appear to be having a spa day.  For the most part, they do not fight it.  When you sit them down on their behinds and let them lean their backs up against your legs, they grow even more docile and sweet and don’t seem to mind having their wool cut.  While the shearer was shaving off the fleece, I noticed that his hands were incredibly shiny. Thinking he was sweating, I asked him if he was hot and needed some water.  It turns out, that wasn’t sweat, glistening on his arm.   It was lanolin, a naturally occurring oil found in sheep wool.   Working with wool has an added benefit, you have nice soft hands.

We have two very full, fleeces now and soon we will take them to a fiber mill in Weaverville, North Carolina.  There they will be processed into quilt batting and wool roving that we can dye and spin into yarn.    My daughter and I are currently working on a quilt as I write this.  The pattern is called Postcards from Sweden.  This fall, she will sleep under a quilt that was pieced with love and will be warmed by the wool from the little sheep she took care of all year.

I wanted to thank all of you who came out and braved the cold last Thursday at the Locust Farmers Market.  We had a great variety of farmers, artisans and craftsmen turn out with delicious, locally grown produce, pasture raised meats, fresh strawberries, homemade bread, jars of jam, handcrafted soap, and some very nice wooden birdfeeders.

We will be there again this Thursday from 11-4.  Come out and see us.

That’s the news from the homestead, see you next week.

Just a day at the spa for these gals!


Wool cut from one of our sheep. Notice the crimp.



An Easter Memory from a Tennessee Childhood


Last night I dreamt of my great grandmother, Ida Belle Page Mayberry.  She was visiting us here in North Carolina and she was walking through the woods and talking to my boys.  It was a very pleasant dream and left me with a feeling of wanting more when I awoke.

As I lay thinking about her, a long forgotten memory came to mind and it brought a smile to my face.

I couldn’t have been more than three years old; my parents, brother and I drove from Waverly to Nashville to spend Easter Sunday with “Memaw” as we called her.  I remember pulling in to her driveway on Tennessee Avenue and the morning sun was shining on the old red swing that sat on her front porch.   She met us at the front door with a look of excitement on her face.  I remember her saying “Come on in, the Easter bunny has been here and he left something for you.”  I was at the age when Santa and the Easter bunny were pure magic and I remember feeling joyous anticipation while following her across her front room and back to her kitchen.

She opened her screen door and told me to follow her outside.  I still remember the way her shoes sounded on the back porch and the old wringer washing machine that sat back there.  I looked everywhere but couldn’t see anything that resembled a gift from the Easter bunny.  She walked over to her clothes line and said “well looky here!”   Hanging from clothes pins were a row of cellophane wrapped Easter eggs.  I remember her telling me that he sure was a thoughtful bunny for not waking her up and leaving them out on her clothesline instead.

Funny, I can STILL taste that sugary sweet candy with the marshmallow filling and hear the way the wrapper sounded when I took it off. 

 When she was outside that morning, hanging those little treats up for her little great- grandchildren, I wonder if she imagined that her surprise for us would still be a fond memory-40 years later?  She was magic like that so, yes, she probably did.

Spring Water Source in North Carolina

We have found a spring that tastes nearly as good as the one that flows through my Great Granddaddy's land in Goodlettsville, Tennessee.

My daughter and I loaded up our jugs and headed to Mt. Pleasant early yesterday morning to bottle some of this elixir. A friend of mine who only uses this water to make her breads told me about it and I was happy to know it was only 20 minutes from my house.   Folks have been using this spring since way back in 1830 and it has been tested to be very pure.   We spent about 30 minutes out there because it was such a peaceful, calming, magical sort of place.   Check it out, Carolina friends.

Please remember, if you go there be respectful because it is on church grounds, and leave it better than you found it.

2550 Cold Springs Rd, Concord, NC 28025
You have to park and then walk down to the spring. There are signs to guide you there. It is continuously flowing from a spigot.

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Have you any wool?

Bartering for goods or services can be such fun!

When we met Kate at the farmers market a few weeks ago, I knew instantly that we would be friends. She lives right here in Stanfield and has sheep, chickens, horses and rescue dogs on her farm. She said that she always wanted to learn how to make soap and since we will be getting our own sheep in a few weeks, I told her that Lainey and I were interested in learning how to process a fleece after it had been sheared.

What else could we do but barter our skills!

Yesterday, we went out to her farm and were treated so special. Kate spent 4 whole hours with us. She introduced us to her animals, taught us how to skirt, clean, card and finally spin the wool in to yarn. After that we were treated to a delicious home made peach bread and mint tea from mint that she grows in her yard.

She also sent us home with Wool Dryer Balls that she makes, a tub full of fleece to practice washing and she loaned Lainey a spindle.

 Meeting a kindred spirit like her made for such a wonderful afternoon.


Full Fleece
Washing the wool


Carding the wool


Mrs. Kate made it look so easy.
Some of the gorgeous yarns Kate has spun and dyed herself. The top three are dyed with Marigold Petals.