Cozy Breakfast

Baked oatmeal...a perfectly cozy start to yesterday's snowy morning.  Especially delicious when chock full of the summer's bounty of blueberries, just waiting in the freezer until called upon to warm up a winter morn.

Sabbath Rest

Blue jay trying to find food in the feeder this morning.

I have no need for a bull from your stall
or of goats from your pens,
for every animal of the forest is mine,
and the cattle on a thousand hills.
I know every bird in the mountains,
and the insects in the fields are mine.
If I were hungry I would not tell you,
for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
-- Psalm 50:9-12

Baby Shower

It was Felicity's baby shower today!  The color palette was neutrals.  But not greens and yellows...oh no.  Neutrals as in: chocolate brown, ivory, tan, oatmeal.

And the theme was owls, as Felicity's had a love affair with owls for a long time.  The centerpiece was a cylinder vase filled with shell fragments and holding twigs from our property (the beech twigs with a leaf or two still clinging to them).  Seemed appropriate for a winter shower, especially with a parliment of owls, drawn by Colette, roosting in the branches.

The menu:
fruit platter with fruit dip
vegetable platter with dill dip

mixed nuts
crackers and assorted cheeses
chocolates (packaged in pink and blue, please)

raspberry-lemonade-white grape punch
water infused with oranges and garnished with mint leaves (so light and refreshing!)

and the most amazing owl-crowned cake (decorated by Felicity's talented mother-in-law)

And, of course, there was a shower of blessings in the form of gifts!

I knitted a pumpkin hat for the baby, and can hardly wait for next autumn!

It was a lovely, lovely day!

And then, when the loveliness had come to and end, and the presents were all bundled off with Felicity, and the dishes were all washed, Max took the balloons, stood in the doorway, and used them for target practice.

Back to reality!  It's a wonderful life!

Delightful, Beautiful Snow

Winter is my favorite season, and I have to confess that I've been a bit sad lately to see our three-ft. deep snow pack diminish to closer to one foot.  My heart is not quite ready to say goodbye to the quiet, peaceful, pristinely beautiful days of winter.  So I was thrilled to awaken this morning to see huge, fluffy flakes drifting down.

I usually stay home on snowy days, but today Colette and Max were snowboarding, so out we went into the white New England countryside.  Some scenes along the way:

All told, eight more inches coated our world.  Lovely!

Give Us This Day

It was all about bread.

Felicity came over to spend the day with us.  Her particular kitchen specialty is sandwiches.  She is a sandwich connoisseur!  Today's epicurean delight was Boar's Head Oven-Roasted Chicken and mozzarella on crusty bread spread with a mixture of mayonnaise and honey-mustard.  This mouth-watering creation was put in the panini press, and then served with Cape Cod chips and organic baby carrots.  Delish!

For her "homesteading skills" course this year, Colette is studying and practicing bread baking.  Today she tried her hand at the no-knead bread from the New York Times.  (Technohubby says, "If you don't knead it, why are we making it."  Haha!)  Her first attempt has turned out a bit flatter than she liked, but it certainly looked beautiful in all its flour-y glory basking in the afternoon sunshine.

I've tried this recipe before, and can never get it to rise enough to suit me.  Does anyone have any suggestions?

Haversack in the Shop

My first haversack sold in the shop, so I replaced it with another...just in case another boy needs a prop for a book report, or a hiding place for secret dispatches...

...or a stray frog or two.

Sabbath Rest

"I heard the voice of Jesus say, 'I am this dark world's Light;
Look unto me.  Thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright.'
I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him -  my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I'll walk, 'til trav'ling days are done."
-Horatius Bonar 1846

Thrifted Finds

Scrumptious scarf finds at the thrift store lately!  The taupe & winter white one looks fabulous paired with chocolate brown, and is wide enough to double as a shawl.  But the green, wool one…

…I’m saving that one for cool, spring days!

Garden Planning

Yesterday, midday, I sat down to plan this year's garden...a delightful job!  I've decided to keep the garden the same size.  Maybe expansion next year, but this year I'll be content with what we have.

Last year's blueprint was studied, to remind myself what I planted and where it was planted.

I decided what I did NOT want to plant this year: broccoli (takes up to much room for what it produces, pest-ridden), tomatillos (huge plants, lots of fruit, but nothing ever came to maturity), potatoes (fun to grow, but had brown spots inside; sitting this year out for potatoes), less basil, no radishes (kids aren't wild about them), fewer jalapenos and bell peppers, and fewer varieties of tomatoes.

I also worked out the plan for crop rotation for soil health and pest control.

Then I sat down with my gardening journal (to see the notes I made about last year's garden), and with this year's Seed Saver's Exchange catalog, and began to comprise the list of crops we will plant this year.

This is what we're planting, with a few notes made for interesting seeds:

green beans (Kentucky Wonder)

carrots (Scarlet Nantes - long story why we didn't get a better crop of these last year, but the ones we got were the best carrots I've ever eaten!) - planting LOTS of them this year! - are said to freeze well.

cucumbers - (Bushy for pickling, and Parade for eating -- both Russian varieties, because I've discovered that if it grows well in Russia, it will grow well in New England...haha!)

garlic - already planted and currently hibernating

pumpkins - (Jack-be-Littles for decorating; Boston Marrow for pumpkin pies and pumpkin bread; Cornfield Pumpkin for carving)

lettuces - (three varieties)


onions (red and yellow...lots and lots and lots!)

jalapeno peppers - (Traveler Strain - a new variety for Seed Savers)

bell peppers - (King of the North - "The best bell pepper...for northern gardeners...")

zucchini - only ONE PLANT this year!

tomatoes - (Brandywine for eating; Siberian for canning and for making salsa for freezing)

herbs: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley, sage, thyme

sunflowers - (Just planting them for pretty's sake! Orange Sun variety - "Bright orange flowers explord with a flash of color.  Almost entirely double flowers have a unique outer row of single petals surrounding large 6" heads, reminiscent of large chrysanthemums.")

So, that's the plan!  It's starting to come together!

A Good Read

I’ve been keeping company with Lorna Doone as of late.  We traveled together on two recent flights.  I can’t recommend her enough!

This sweet, little, leatherbound version (a steal at $2.00 from a used bookstore) was a delightful read!  The tale of Lorna Doone takes place in England in the early 1600′s against the backdrop of Catholic-Protestant tensions.  It’s the story of a young girl, Lorna, who lives with the outlaw Doone’s in their naturally fortified enclave.  The son of a farmer has a Providential meeting with her and falls in love.  But is there hope for love when she belongs to a band of fearsome outlaws?  The book is full of adventure, wit, and romance.  It would make a good read aloud for families with older children/teens.

Early New England Cookery Bag

It's in the shop today!

It's all about cooking, and hearths, and recipes, and colonial America.  And the cocoa colored accent color just makes me yearn for a warm cup of hot cocoa!

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!  One trip last week to a candy shop that's been making candies for 84 years took care of all my Valentine gift giving…heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, heart-shaped jelly beans (can they be beans, if they’re heart-shaped?), a red box full of truffles for my beloved, and sugar-coated heart jellies.  Love that shop!

Started the morning by filling the small bowls above with candies.  Had lunch with Technohubby (French Onion Soup, caesar salad, baguette).  Made phone calls to Felicity and my parents to wish them “Happy Valentine’s Day”.  Had Chicken Pot Pie (with a little heart-shaped vent hole in the pastry) and green salads (leaf lettuce, dried cranberries, red onion, walnuts, and Girard's Champagne Dressing) for dinner.  Exchanged Valentines with everyone at dinner time!  Had Chocolate Pots de Creme for dessert.  Love my family!

How did you spend your Valentine’s Day?

Saturday Domesticities

Things were creeping out of control.  A little pile of this here.  A little pile of that there.  That sorting project that would only take a few minutes.  Those forgotten or ignored jobs.  Today was the day to put the house in order. 

-The last of the contents of last weekend's suitcases emptied.
-Some hand-wash-only garments gently laundered, and sweaters laid to dry.
-The dress form redressed in Colette's ballgown.
-A little light dusting.
-Floors swept.
-Carpet vaccumed.
-Major work in the pantry: half-full bags of pasta consolidated into jars, crackers transfered from boxes to cracker jars, empty canning jars returned to their boxes in the basement, white chocolate chips put into their jar, potatoes growing eyes...tossed, cippolini onions bought from the clearance bin added to the onion basket, everything removed from the floor and a thorough sweeping occured, the last of the basil and oregano that had been hanging to dry was crumbled and put into jars, and the last of the sage was ground with mortar and pestle.

"Order" and "pretty" are best friends, so then it was time to arrange some everlastings in a pewter tankard for a bright spot of wintery color on the dining table.

Putting the house in order...big improvement to the house AND my sense of calm.

Time to Enlarge and Update

Sometimes, when you do a lot of sewing, you wear things out.  My sleeve board was so old the cover was crumbling.  And then the dog ate some of it (really!), and I knew it was time for a new one.  And then there was the pin cushion.  Enough pins could just never fit in that small one.  Time to use up those gift cards to the fabric store!

Ahhh...much better.  That will do!

New Bags in the Shop

I've been busy sewing this bags for the shop!

I confess to adoring this one!  So unique!  So funky!  That's Colette modeling it, wearing a thin rain coat and her Wellies and trying to convey the look of a temperate day in England instead of a below-freezing day in New England.  Bless her heart!  This one is in the shop tonight!

And going into the shop tomorrow is this bag featuring Boston Baked Beans cooked in a brick oven.  Be still my hearth-loving heart!

An Unexpected Gift

Much to my surprise, a sweet and generous friend sent a gift!  Mastering the Art of French Cooking!  The two-volume set!  Boxed!  Oh my!

There they sit on the kitchen counter.  I must say it sort of transforms my kitchen !  It makes it look like someone who really knows how to cook lives here!  I confess to being a bit daunted just looking at them.

Then I cracked open a volume and started to read.  I was particularly taken with the end of the last volume (I always start to read something from the back first) which was devoted to “Kitchen Equipment (Batterie de Cuisine)”, and is illustrated with black and white drawings of every conceivable kitchen essential.  My favorite section was entitled “Bashers, Bludgeons, and Blunt Instruments” and reads, “For whacking up turkey carcasses, chopping bones, and flattening cutlets, here is a choice of weapons…”  Such humor!  I am less daunted now.  Ready to dive in and master the art of French cooking soon!

Sugar on Snow

Last week, just as the snow storm was ending, Colette and I made sugar on snow.  Remember the story in the “Little House” books where the Ingalls family drizzles maple syrup on fresh snow?  Well, that’s what we did!

First, you have to slowly bring maple syrup to a temperature of 240 degrees.  Patience required for this part.  I think it took us at least 20 minutes, because we were constantly adjusting the temperature to keep it from boiling over (since cleaning hot, sticky syrup off of my stove top does not rank high on my list of fun things to do).

Then Colette scooped up a plate of fresh, clean snow.

Then she drizzled the hot syrup on the cold snow.

The syrup does harden, but not as much as I was expecting.  I assumed it would harden up like a hard candy, but that’s not true at all.  It hardens to more of a rubbery, soft-caramel-like texture.  You can peel it right off the snow and eat it.

Delicious, intense maple flavor!


"To everything there is a season...

Mourning the passing of my husband's dear grandmother today.  Preparing for a weekend full of family and sadness and services and comfort.

...and a time to every purpose under heaven." - Ecl. 3:1

Snowy Day

The snow came.  Technohubby worked from home.

Snowy days call for something special...of the baked variety.  I kneaded.

The snow plow rumbled by.  God bless the men who drive them!

The dough was set to rise, and rise it did.

Colette taught me a card game she learned from her friend in California.

Colette joined in the baking.

Technohubby took advantage of a lull in the snow to snow blow the driveway.

Copious amounts of melted butter spread on dough and topped with cinnamon and sugar...oh my!

Snow markers were located.  This one was easy.  Others had to be dug out.

Deliciousness taking shape!

Then it was eating time...even before the cream cheese frosting!

If you like Cinnabon's cinnamon rolls, these are a copycat recipe.  I think it may be even better.  You can find the recipe here.  And the best thing about this recipe is that they freeze beautifully!  Just a quick reheat in the microwave, and they are almost as good as fresh-baked!
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