Pie for Breakfast & Christmas Cactus


I officially start my Christmas season with pumpkin pie for breakfast. Thanksgiving was wonderful, all 3 of my girls were here. We had a great day, lots of good food, games, memories and so much to be thankful for! Yorkshire pudding was on the menu, as it has been for generations in my family. This year it raised up nice and puffy….made up for the gravy which was a little on the thin side, lol.
I saved some of the seeds from the spaghetti squash. Hopefully I can get these to grow in the spring and if I manage to confound the dreaded squash borer this year, I love the idea of having squash in the summer from the one we had at Thanksgiving.
The market had these pretty Christmas cactuses for $5.00. I couldn’t resist. They are easy house plants and live for generations. Once this little cactus settles down and gets used to its new home, I’ll transplant it and with permanent marker write the date and my name on the new pot. I’ll paint a rock with the same information and a little picture of a bee. If I use acrylic paint and varnish it, set it on top of the soil with the plant, that will last for years too. Maybe some day a grandchild who loves plants like I do will have this plant! My blogger friend Ginene, from Fox and Finch Antiques had violet plants that were her great Aunt’s from 1955! Thanks for the inspiration, Ginene, and have a wonderful day everyone!!

Thanksgiving plans


The snow is falling and the lights are blinking. Six to nine inches of snow are predicted but it’s alternating with sleet so the roads are treacherous and the lines are heavy. All I can do is keep cooking. If there is no power tomorrow, we’ll load up my old jeep with food and figure things out.
I started my pies early. The dough was mixed up yesterday so I just had to roll it out and prep the fillings. My daughter came home from college yesterday and I was happy thinking about her waking up to the smell of pies baking, in her own bed. Unfortunately, the apple pies started bubbling over onto the bottom of the oven and caught fire. Smoke poured out from the stove and the fire alarms went off, LOUDLY all over the house. I opened the doors and the dogs took off in 2 different directions, running outside towards the road. I would like to say I quickly, calmly and competently handled the situation…BIG LIE
I made a cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries and brown sugar but it was too watery and didn’t taste very good. I added a lot of blueberries that I had frozen from my garden, cider vinegar, allspice and cinnamon and cooked it down until it got thick. Now it’s delicious. The pies are kind of a funny color though.
Things rarely come out the way we expect them to. Maybe tomorrow will turn out to be the perfect ‘Norman Rockwell’ Thanksgiving! Probably not. That’s okay.

Thanksgiving Table Arrangements

I spent some time today figuring out how  I’m going to set the table for Thanksgiving.   There’s a lot of Bittersweet outside but the berries are poisonous and drop easily from the vines.   Better to keep everything contained. A few strands placed within vases does the trick. There’s no need to add water and they will stay pretty for a long time. These bring color to the table, look light and airy and stay neat.  Sparkling glass, natural twigs and berries with a bit of metallic…  Simple, homey and a  little special. Works for me!

Loose Ends


This has been a busy week! Mostly I’ve been cleaning, organizing and tying up loose ends so next week I can focus on Thanksgiving. Then our Christmas season begins. So exciting!
Oranges are tasting good right now. Citrus shouldn’t be composted but I don’t throw away the peels. The oils are naturally antibacterial and they smell so nice and fresh and clean. I spread them out on some paper and as they dry I add them to  white vinegar in a big jar. Soon this will be filled with the dried peels and in about 4-6 weeks, I’ll strain the peels out, put the liquid in a spray bottle and I’ll have a good, natural cleaner that won’t smell like salad dressing.
The tinctures I made this summer were all ready to be strained, bottled up, labeled and put away in the medicine chest. One of my favorites is lemon balm. It’s such a safe and gentle herb and it is said to have anti viral properties and be mildly relaxing. The tincture picks up that green, lemony scent. It’s delicious as a tea but it’s properties aren’t retained well in drying. It’s very easy to grow, kind of takes over really, but for some reason the tinctures and essential oils are  pricey in the stores. I think it would make an excellent cordial- another project for next year.

There’s going to be a lot of cooking, baking and holiday projects going on here. I arranged a separate work space for the projects because I’ll need my kitchen free. It’s been fun organizing my sparkly bits and pretty patterns and arranging it all together. Just looking at everything gives me so many ideas! The sewing machine will take up a permanent residence in the midst of it from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas week. This is such a wonderful time of the year!!!

Kuri, Cabbages, Tomato Soup and Winter

The forecast of snow and freezing rain prompted me to pull in the last of the cabbage. Blustery winds and an icy chill, the kind that goes right to the fingertips, drove me into the kitchen. The tomatoes had all ripened in the windowsills and I found an interesting looking Kuri squash on sale at our organic market.  The squash was such a rich and pretty color, I decided to use it to make our Thanksgiving soup. Googling it, I read that Kuri squash has a delicate flavor reminiscent of chestnuts. I interpreted that as being bland so I seeded, quartered and roasted it on a cookie sheet with other vegetables that I had on hand; garlic, onions, carrots and tomatoes. After about 30 minutes, I scooped the flesh out of the squash and puréed it with the other roasted vegetables. It tasted delicious. Into the freezer it went. I will add broth to thin it out and finish it with a little cream on Thanksgiving.

Meanwhile, I stewed the last of my summer tomatoes and put them through the mill. Instead of freezing the lot, I made a quick batch of tomato soup. I sautéed an onion and a little garlic with lots of fresh oregano in butter until the onions were soft. I puréed that with the tomatoes and let it simmer for awhile.  A touch of cream  cut the acidity and brought some richness and warmth  to the mix.

I made up a batch of sauerkraut with my cabbages and added carrots and kale. I get such a thrill over my sauerkraut.  It’s so gratifying to think how I started with tiny seeds in April and end up with beautiful jars  of healthy, probiotic goodness that will last me all winter!  A lot of people give testimony about the healings that take place when they introduce fermented foods into their diets.  The only thing I noticed was  a weight loss , around 10-15 pounds.  I’m not complaining.

 So, Winter is here, unofficially.  I have embraced it.  There’s usually something good bubbling on the stove and roasting in the oven.  Extra quilts are pulled out of the chests and piled on the beds.   Sewing  baskets, hooks, yarns and my paintbox keep me happy and busy after dinner,  by the fireplace.  Life is good.

 

 

Staying on Task


I would like nothing better today than to pull out my paintbox, brew up some tea and spend the day painting happy pictures. This always happens when I make commitments or have looming events that I don’t want to deal with on the horizon. I promise myself that tonight, after supper is cleared, I will paint. In the meantime, I’ll plan my pictures and  think of all the colors and cheerful things I’ll put on my boards as I get on with the tasks at hand.

November- Wormwood & Apples


Wandering outside in the garden today, Silver King Artemesia caught my eye. It’s a Wormwood, one of the few things harvested in November and I had almost forgotten about it!  I snapped a few stems and within minutes had them wound into a simple wreath. It has a fresh, clean scent. I hung it in the kitchen, on the door leading to my spooky old cellar.
Tomorrow, I’ll gather the rest of the Silver King. Dried, it makes a great addition to sachets, being a powerful moth and insect deterrent. It also has antifungal and antibacterial properties so I use it to make a simple household cleaner. I fill a glass jar with fresh or dried wormwood and citrus peels and completely cover everything with white vinegar, so all the herb is submerged. This mixture sits for 4 weeks and is shaken daily. Then the herb and citrus are strained out of the vinegar and it’s all done. All this will take no time at all but today I had other plans.
I had a big basket of local organic apples and wanted to use them while they were fresh. I made apple turnovers. They freeze really well and are worth the effort. I used organic, non hydrogenated vegetable shortening and butter to make the pastry and rolled it a little thinner than I would for a pie. Also, I mixed a couple tablespoons of arrowroot flour in with the apples, sugar and cinnamon. That thickened the juice as the fruit cooked so the crust didn’t get wet or soggy. So delicious!
 

The Hawk

Yesterday I was plagued with worrying thoughts.  As I went about my work, these thoughts grew to such an extent that I lost focus on the task on hand.  I dropped an entire pot of soup stock on the kitchen floor.   Then, I knocked a cutting board full of vegetables into a dirty sink.  After cleaning everything up and feeling very annoyed with myself, I decided to take a break and  do some yoga poses.  Unpopular as this may sound, I don’t like yoga at all.  I’ve  had to do it  since I was a teenager because of back and neck problems.   I put it off shamelessly.  Yesterday, I was hoping  it would  balance me out.  In the middle of a halfhearted warrior pose,  I began to wobble and came crashing down.   Ouch!!!  Self pity threatened to take over.  No way.

Grabbing my i pad, limping and rubbing my shoulder ( which still hurts, lol), I went to my gardens, determined to see beautiful things, bigger than my problems and be grateful for them. As I was trying to take a picture of a tree, a hawk flew right over my head.  It was so close, I was under his shadow and I felt the wind from his wings. It happened so fast but as he swept past me, I saw the giant spread of his feathers and I reached out my hand, thinking I could touch him.  I couldn’t of course but he lifted up and perched on the tree I had been trying to take a picture of.   We stood looking at each other for a while and I lifted my camera to take pictures of him and he flew away.

Hello November

Hello November! Today was windy, raining and cold.  Gloomy  Aconitum, not one of my favorites,  is still holding on to its flowers.  Also called Monkshood and Wolfsbane, every part of this plant is poisonous.  It’s often featured as the culprit  causing gruesome deaths  in murder mysteries.   It was one of the few plants here when I moved to this house 14 years ago.

This little Black Eyed Susan vine, on the other hand, is so cheerful and  still blooming.   I started the seeds inside in early April and  then set the baby plants into a pot,  trellis in place,  6 weeks later.  By mid June the vines had scrambled to the top of the trellis and were covered with flowers.  I save these seeds.   After the flowers bloom, I pull the pods and set them in a bowl on the window sill.  One night in September, I heard  lots of little popping noises. All  the pods were opening and shooting little black seeds out of the bowl.  This is a fun and exuberant plant from start to finish.

Today I made some pizzas.  Trying to come up with a  thin crust that is  both crispy and a little chewy, I  substitutied 1/3 of the white flour for semolina flour and it worked pretty well.  I topped them with mozzarella, cheddar and asiago cheeses and tomato sauce.   Really good! Thinking of something else I wanted to get done, I headed out to the vegetable garden for some cabbage. Halfway there, soaking wet and freezing, I turned around and decided not to make sauerkraut. Better to spend the afternoon with a pot of tea in my favorite chair, making Christmas presents.  Happy November!