Cream Cheese, Quilts, Cars & Gratitude


Clearing through the attic last week, I found a treasure. When my girls were little I used to make their clothes. Whatever material was left was cut into patches to make simple quilts. I found a bag of these patches, wrinkled but otherwise perfect. I ironed them and sewed them together into a quilt.  I showed it to my daughters this weekend and it brought back such nice memories for all of us.  My middle daughter is the most sentimental of my 3 so I’ll do some hand quilting on this and have it done for her by Christmas.
I’ve been wanting to make my own cheese so I started with an easy one..cream cheese. It was just a matter of getting the milk to the right temperature, adding the culture and letting it sit until the whey separated. Then I set it to drain. It came out delicious.

Now that gardening season is over, I’ve been putting aside time to take walks.  There’s woods, fields and streams right outside my door and this time of year is especially beautiful.
I’m mad at myself for not taking better care of my car.  It’s 9 years old and the road treatments for snow have created a big rust problem.  I should have  rinsed it down and parked it  out of the elements but I never did.  Soon I’ll be traveling a lot to help my daughter take care of her baby since she has to go back to work.  I was hoping to trade in my jeep and get something newer but the rust has devalued it.   Lesson learned.  The money part is a problem but what bothers me most  is that I didn’t care properly for something that I was lucky to have.  Poor stewardship.  To me , that says there’s a lack of gratitude.  Not a good thing.  I started this blog for the opportunity to stay focused and thankful for all the wonderful things in this world and in my life.  It’s been  so great to see, read, learn things and make blog friends from all over the world.   Thank you all!

Fruit Toppings & Keeping Flowers

A few weeks ago I made strawberry topping for ice cream sundaes. There was some left so I refrigerated it used it to top the yogurt and kefir I make. It was delicious.  I decided to do a healthier version with the small amount (1 cup) of gooseberries I harvested. I mashed and cooked them down for a few minutes and then once they were cooled, I stirred in raw honey. Heat kills the enzymes in the honey. Had I been sweetening with sugar, I would’ve just added the sugar in the beginning with the berries. I’ll keep this gooseberry topping in the fridge and make blueberry and strawberry as well.

Flowers are so pretty I wish they would last forever. My cousin told me that Mod Podge preserves fresh flowers. I printed out some quotes that I like in a dimension for bookmarks. Then I decorated them with fresh flowers and glued and sealed them with Mod Podge. (Elmer’s or white glue works just as well but needs to be thinned a little bit with water.)

I posted about our losing my cousin John a few weeks ago. His daughter Stacey (she is so much like her Dad), sent me roses. I wanted to keep them so I made rosepetal beads . The link gives easy directions and a wonderful story of how they were used in Medieval times. The only ingredients were 4 cups of petals and water. They were very easy to make. I strung them on a chain that I wear with my Grandfather’s wedding ring and a few other things that are meaningful to me. Body heat imparts the rose fragrance. It’s a beautiful reminder to me of people that I love so much.

Good Friends & Lily Bugs

Saturday, I was picking bugs off the lillies.  I don’t know what these red bugs are but they will decimate a lilly patch in no time.  Then, they move on to asparagus fronds.  I’m loving all the time in the garden, (even the bug picking) and thankful for it because things around here have been very stressful. When things get tough, I go into seclusion but my good  old friend of 20 years caught wind of what was going on and was having none of it. She showed up unexpectedly and dragged me away on a surprise “field trip”.  We went out to breakfast and then went tag saling.  It was a fun day.  It was good to get out. it was fun to look at a lot of “junk” and mentally transform it into something fun or pretty or useful.  It was great spending the day with a wonderful friend. I found a vintage serving bowl in perfect condition and  a beat up, wooden sewing box table. The cost was $7 for both and a metal plant stand was thrown in for free. The sewing box  table is cheap wood and not worth doing a lot of hand painting on.  I decopauged it instead and  replaced the handle with a glass dresser knob.  This was a quick, fun project and will  be a good thing to keep my threads and needles in.

Bleeding Hearts & Tadpoles


Today I’m off on a little road trip with my friend Pat. About an hour away is a giant garden center. People visit from miles around. These days, I’m hesitant to buy anything because I don’t want to bring flowers into my yard that may have been sprayed with something that could kill the bees. I never would have even thought of that 10 years ago. I think that is sad.
On a happy note, we’re getting a much needed drizzle today. I planted 25 more strawberry plants and dug a new bed for my homeless potatoes yesterday so they’ll get a soak. A new bed isn’t ideal for potatoes but as I’m going to build the soil up anyway as the grow, I think it will be fine.
The bleeding hearts are looking gorgeous and my little pond is filled with tiny black tadpoles! I wonder what kind of frogs they are. They develop into tiny black frogs, only about 3 mm. long.
I finished the bag I started a while back. All ready for Spring!
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April Showers


The rhubarb is unfurling and things are coming alive. The fritillaries I planted are looking good but seem to have had no effect on deterring moles. My front yard is a giant mole hotel. All the roses except the rugosas are ruined, the roots eaten to nubs.
It’s raining so I’ll be spending the day in the kitchen.   I have more seedlings to transplant, (they are taking over the house!),  and I want to catch up on some cooking. There’s chicken broth on the stove. We buy local, free range chickens and not a bit is wasted. Even the bones are used.. burnt in the fireplace and composted.
If I have time, I might work on some needlework later and make some berry crumble with the last of the blackberries and raspberries, in the freezer from last year’s crop.

Happy, productive days!

Hyssop , Cactus Sprouts & Roof Rakes

This is what a roof rake looks like.   It has come in very handy.  I’m getting a lot of needlework and painting done in these long, cold nights.  My cactus seeds sprouted into 7 little cacti so far.  Still holding back on the major seed starting but I can’t resist starting a few early trays.  I planted some blue hyssop.  The bees love it but really I’ve planted it for my friend Arthur. When I had my shop, he would cycle in a mile or so every day to visit me .  On his 80th birthday, he brought in a cassette player and some big band music and asked me to have a birthday dance with him.  He loved Blue Hyssop.  It will bring happy memories and good energy to my garden.

Snowed In

We were snowed in again yesterday.  At this point, it really doesn’t matter.  I think I ‘ve gotten used to it.  I spread my projects out on the dining room table and spent the day meandering through them all.  It’s too early to plant up the seeds but a few pots here and there give me something to look forward to.  It’s exciting to see the little sprouts coming through and to check them each morning.  March 1 st came in like a lion so you know what that means!

Snow, Bees & Yo-yos

My daughter is back at school and snow is in the forecast again.  I’ve been working on color filled projects and reading about bees. I’ve tentatively decided to go with the top bar beehive..it seems easier, a little more natural and organic.   This is a big expensive.  I figure, including the bees it will be $500!   A hive  starts with around 10,000 bees.  I watched some videos on You Tube of new bee keepers  getting  bees into their hives.  I have to admit, it is a little intimidating.   I’m not ready to commit, lol.

I’ve been resourcing heirloom seed companies and I came across a company that sells heirloom fruit trees..some dating back to the 1600’s.   It’s called Orange Pippin Trees.   A lot of  the trees are sold out.  Hopefully that is a good thing, maybe a lot of people are trying to keep these old varieties going.  I’m  trying to fit a few small apple trees into my garden plan.

This is a good time to paint woodwork, mend quilts and freshen up the house.  These little yoyo’s will soon become  pillows.   My goal is to have everything inside fresh, clean, cheerful and organized  by the time gardening season starts…yayy

 

Warm from the inside

 

I woke up to snow this morning! I never checked the weather report so it came as a complete surprise. I guess I’ll spend some time shoveling today before everything turns into a frozen, crusty mess..it’s still soo cold.
Yesterday I made a good, warming soup. A bunch of kale, 2 carrots, 2 small potatoes, a tuber of tumeric and a 3 inch chunk of ginger root all went into a pot with homemade chicken stock. Everything was brought to a boil and then simmered until the carrots were tender. When it cooled down a bit, I pureed the whole lot. It tasted good.. a little,spicy, warm and kind of exotic to my New England taste buds. Sea salt, black pepper and a teaspoon of coconut oil made it even better. I’ve been trying to think of ways to incorporate fresh tumeric into my diet..it has so many health benefits: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and there’s a lot of studies showing it may improve brain function and increase endorphins. I’m in! Maybe I wont feel crabby and sore from shoveling this snow:)
My daughter is still home with me for a few more days. Last night we watched the first of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy together and we turned this year’s Christmas cards into next year’s gift tags. Tonight is part 2. I do love having her back home.

Homemade Christmas Gifts

My house felt like a Christmas workshop up until Christmas Eve. The carols were playing, sewing machine whirring and the house was filled with the smell of warm cookies, beeswax and herbs.
All my homemade gifts were done on time. Cotton pillow slips and floursack towels were embroidered, washed and ironed. Beeswax votives came out clean and sweet, their wicks straight and trim. The rosebud and lavender drawer sachets smelled like my summer garden and so did the lavender soap. My daughter’s painting was finished, framed and varnished.
The last of the baking, apricot pastries, went quickly so I had time to try out a new recipe. I saw these Almond Bars on Everyday Cheer and I knew they would be delicious and easy… they were!
Christmas Eve was rainy and chilly but it didn’t matter. We had a fire crackling away, a delicious dinner and everyone was filled with a happy, expectant feeling.

Cookies and Christmas Projects


Such a fun time of the year! The weather has been icy, rainy, snowy and overall dreary but it doesn’t matter, I’ve been busy inside baking and trying to finish Christmas gifts. This picture will be for for one of my daughters. My Dad’s 79th birthday was this week so I made a batch of his favorite cookies. It’s the same recipe his Grandmother used when she made them for him. I had a lot of felt from my Mother’s sewing room so I’ve been playing with making these ornaments. I had them all hanging in the kitchen window. My girls noticed them on Thanksgiving and took home what they wanted. You learn to share everything when you come from 3 sisters and have 3 daughters, lol! I’m glad my daughters liked them. I hope all of you are enjoying the season!

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These cookies bake from 7-10 minutes.  It’s best to refrigerate the dough,  for about 15 minutes, before rolling it into little balls.  Set them a couple inches apart onto the cookie sheet, they do spread.

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!!!

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!