Grandpa was a Piddler…


~Grandma & Grandpa posing behind the basement bar~

So I guess I come by it honestly. I have unfinished projects all over the house at any one time. It doesn’t stop me from launching into another and another and another. And it carries over into the kitchen. I think about something way too long before actually doing it. I do eventually finish most of my projects, it just takes time.

Pardon my absence from blogging this fall. Driving people places, household chores and homeschooling a 13 year old have filled my time. I’m not complaining…it’s my job and I wouldn’t have it any other way! However, it does leave less time for blogging and piddling. And I’m afraid piddling comes first.

Grandpa had a workbench (an elevated space in his basement similar to a stage) to hold his projects and all of the tools he needed to work on them. He scoured flea markets for broken things and fixed them. I had a clock radio in college that was one of his projects. 70’s era yellow/avocado plastic, space age looking, clock face aglow at night, alarm loud enough to wake the dead dorm full of oversleeping college students.

Grandpa got things done. He was hardworking and capable. He installed central heat by himself in the first home he bought after he and my grandmother suffered through their first winter by the fireplace. He grew stuff, fixed stuff and built stuff. He drove a bread truck, and baked doughnuts when the bakery was short staffed ~happily indulging in the imperfect ones!

Grandpa was also a problem solver. Facing the dilemma of an aging body tasked to push a lawn mower up and down his hilltop home, he fashioned a rope on the handle and lowered and hoisted his way to a freshly mowed lawn.

His solution currency was duck tape, although he usually tried glue first. He would relish all of the new tape colors and patterns available today, but I suspect he would stick with the tried and true silvery gray. Indeed the product itself is symbolic to me; it’s strength and versatility representing Grandpa’s.

He made his hilltop home basement a sanctuary for the whole family where we spent time celebrating each other; eating great food, playing games, singing and dancing to river boat tunes or just hanging out.

When he passed away after 90 something fruitful years, the whole family went to the house and reminisced through photos and Grandpa’s workbench. I brought home an old paint scraper (spotless blade-red wood handle encrusted with the remnants of past piddling) and a broken pocket watch (salvage for parts he used to repair his mother’s old pocket watch), both very cherished reminders of him.

So for this last day of November post, before we launch into December (both Grandma and Grandpa’s birthday month), I’ll share some of my piddling with you. Please don’t judge me poorly. Grandpa’s long, full life proves piddling is good for you!

Baking profiteroles in my new oven (old circa 1989 oven finally kicked the bucket, no duck tape fixes this time). For the recipe go out and get Dorie Greenspan’s Baking Chez Moi, it’s an excellent book!


Bought this old camera for the lens and it was broken. Took me 2 weeks but I was able to fix it. I think Grandpa would be proud!


Dried pumpkin puree, spread thinly on parchment lined baking sheet and baked in a slow oven (215 Fahrenheit) until dry ~ looks like bacon and dipped in maple syrup and sprinkled with smoked paprika kinda tastes like it too!

Grind the dried pumpkin in the spice grinder with some granulated sugar and sift out the tough pieces and you get pumpkin sugar! Don’t throw the unsiftable pieces out, just reconstitute them a little in liquid~I used apple cider (heated too quickly it exploded in the microwave). I managed to salvage it and used it in my single serving morning muffin. FYI, it never fully reconstitutes to puree state. You get soft little pumpkin nuggets.


Froggy came a callin’ while I was piddling with my pumpkin. It was a very windy day and he was trying very hard not to get blown away!


What to do with pumpkin sugar? I used it to make a gluten free pumpkin snickerdoodle cookie to take to my sister’s for Thanksgiving. To make them use my recipe for The Classic Snickerdoodle Cookie ~ Pumpkin’d up! substitute an all-purpose Gluten Free Flour mix and 1 teaspoon xanthan gum for the regular flour. I used a mixture of brown rice flour, oat flour, coconut flour and potato starch (1/3 cup each). If you’ve made pumpkin sugar you can leave out the pumpkin puree and use the pumpkin sugar for the sugar called for in the recipe.


I experimented with Pomona’s Universal Pectin on some lower sugar peach jam. My sister had given me some to piddle around with and I love it! This product is a citrus derived pectin made especially for lower or no sugar jams and jellies. Choose your fruit of choice and follow the package instructions.