(Used in this project: Circle Labels in Mele Kalikimaka style.)
Last summer we went to the Cowboy Dinner Tree. It is pretty famous among a subgroup of Oregonians who value odd experiences in the country and like to eat a lot. It’s outside of the town of Silver Lake, Oregon, about two hours south and west of the dead center of Oregon. We wanted to eat there; we had heard about it for years and years, and never came close enough to stop, but on this trip, we knew well enough ahead of time to call and make a reservation (that’s the only way you can get in). They asked, “will you have chicken or steak?” so we knew what we were going to have for dinner a month in advance.
You leave Silver Lake and drive about seven miles south on a side road through dry scrub and juniper. We passed a jumble of old cars and old buildings down a dirt road. What’s that? My phone tells me it’s the Cowboy Dinner Tree.
(Image source: 1859 Oregon Magazine.)
Wait a minute, that’s not a restaurant. That’s a shack! Yup. Looks even more like a shack when you get out of the car and walk up to it. A shack with a lean-to porch that’s been walled in sort of, and another lean-to on another side, and a lean-to on the back side. When you walk around it, on one side there’s an open shed where the chicken and steak are cooking. Smells good. We peered inside to see if there was headroom. It was like the Alice in Wonderland room where, when you go inside, it is way, way bigger than the outside of it. It looked like it would hold, say, a dozen people at most. But the crowd inside numbered at least fifty. All happily chowing down.
Well, the food was amazing. Really, cowboy food: baked beans, a tray of light bread (that’s yeasted white bread), a jug of water, a green salad, and a chicken for each of us. Crispy, salty skin, juicy, tender meat. Yes, a whole chicken, one for each of us. And strawberry shortcake for dessert. Pretty amazing. The server told us it started out as a cowboy line shack, and about twenty-five years ago someone had the idea to turn it into a restaurant. She said the kitchen area is the original line shack, it’s her mom who owns it now and who makes the light bread. She makes it every day, has the ‘touch’. Light bread is not easy; serving good food is not easy. Out there in the middle of nowhere, with rustic equipment. It just tells you, fancy equipment doesn’t get you great food. It’s the brains behind it all, and the commitment to good cookin’.
They have a gift shop too, in the horse shed, which actually is larger and much better built than the restaurant. There’s a lot of cute country-type stuff in there; cowboy things, like coatracks made of horseshoes, and knives made of old saw blades. And the cutest potholders made of country-print chickens and sagebrush and things like that. The filling is blue jean material, which edges the potholders with blue-white fuzzy cotton. These are cute and charming… and hey – they look very easy to make!
What fun it would be to make a bunch of these for all the cooks in my life. It would probably take one afternoon, I’m guessing. Right away after I got home, I went down to the Goodwill bins. You can find anything there for $1.25 a pound, no guarantees. All I needed was denim fabric, which would be a couple pair of old blue jeans. They were darn easy to track down as a matter of fact. When you look for blue jeans, be sure to get 100% cotton. I also went to the fabric store and bought a couple pieces of pretty cotton fabric with chickens and eggs and other country things on them. And then found a little stack of cotton squares all cut out with pinked edges (that’s zigzagged edges), all exactly the same size, each one with a different, adorable print. These little squares would be very easy to make into potholders.
So this is what I did. I cut out the jeans into squares same size as the cotton squares, then layered two pieces of the denim with a piece of cotton on the bottom and the top (right sides facing out), pinned all together carefully, and sewed around the outside two or three times around. No turning inside out. Then I sewed another smaller, square of stitching in the middle so it was good and solidly sewn together. This topstitching is called quilting, and it holds all the fabrics together as one piece of fabric. I made others a larger size, because sometimes you want small potholders and sometimes you want big ones.
When you have sewn all of them, toss them in the wash, then the dryer, then trim off the threads (there will be a lot of trimming). The denim edges, when washed and tumbled in the dryer, turn into fuzz that looks cute. Pick your personal favorites to keep for yourself, and choose for each of your giftees the perfect style for them. Cats for my sister-in-law Frankie, chickens for Mattie and Steve, the Hawaiian style for Ella, cherries for Amy, and so on. So easy to make a bunch and when you’re done, you’ve got something nice for a lot of special people.
Package for Gifts
• Cut strips of leftover fabric to wrap.
• 2 1/2 inch circle labels to seal.
Fold a small and large potholder in half, snuggle the large one inside the small one like ingredients overflowing out of a taco shell. Or fold both together in thirds. Wrap with a strip of leftover fabric, seal with a label.
Used In This Project:
- Circle Labels • I chose the “Mele Kalikimaka” style in Green and Deep Blue.
More homemade gift ideas from Jeanne:
Mom’s Chocolate Cake Mix Rosemary Infused Vinegar Squash Molasses Fresh Eggs