Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mama Rosie's Buttons

It was a lovely Christmas. Joseph made me a wonderful birdhouse out of an olive oil tin. I'll post pictures soon. My Mom gave me a tin of buttons that were her Mom's, or Mama Rosie's, as we all called her. Because I've begun sewing, she thought I'd appreciate them. My grandfather, Angelo, had a small factory before the Depression. Afterwards, he worked as a tailor out of his & Mama Rosie's home. I remember as a child spending hours sewing buttons on fabric at their house, in the shapes of flowers, trees and such. It's been a treat looking and sorting through all the buttons. I like to think they'd be happy with my newfound interest.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Holidays

From our house to yours, wishing you a blessed and joyous holiday!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Love & Peace & Christmas Trees

This day always encourages me, knowing that the daylight will be lengthening once again. Wishing all a Happy Solstice!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holiday Spirit

The Piedmont Biofuels crowd really knows how to throw a party. Their holiday potluck/party was last night, complete with some pretty outrageous karaoke. Good food, good cheer, great dancing. An excellent way to get in the holiday spirit. We've been sent some excellent cards this year, including the one on the right from Mark & Meredith of Whynot Pottery. I've been in cookie making mode. Yesterday's was Sparkly Cinnamon Coins, a recipe I got from Food & Wine several years back.

Sparkly Cinnamon Coins

2 sticks(1/2 lb) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
crystallized sugar for rolling (I've used both demerara & Sugar in the Raw with good results)

1. In large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar & beat until combined. Beat in cinnamon, salt & vanilla, then beat in flour. Divide the dough into thirds, wrap each piece in plastic wrap and shape into a 10" log, about 1 1/4 inches thick. Refrigerate until firm, about an hour.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap one piece of dough. Sprinkle crystallized sugar into a 3-by-10 inch rectangle on a sheet of wax paper. Roll log in the sugar, pressing lightly. Cut log into 3/8 inch slices. Arrange coins about 1 inch apart on 1 of the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with remaining 2 logs of cookie dough. Bake the cookies for about 17 minutes, or until golden. Let cool on baking sheets.

I've had the best luck in getting the crystallized sugar to stay when I roll them prior to chilling, rather than after. This recipe always seems a bit on the dry side, and makes a pretty, crispy cookie. I'm thinking today's cookie is Crispy Gingerbread Stars. Happy Sunday!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Crispy Oatmeal Cookies

Sunday night, Joseph turned the water on, and all that came out was a trickle. Uh oh. After checking out the situation, he determined our well pump had bit the dust. Monday morning saw us hauling the pipe & pump out of the ground. I was able to keep up until he got about 175' out of the ground, at which point we had to call for reinforcements. That stuff is heavy! Once we got to the plumbing supply store, we found out he had a roller we could have borrowed to assist us. Live and learn. By 3:15 PM, we again had water. And boy, were we grateful for it. What a beautiful thing hot & cold running water is. We're lucky in that we have a cistern full of water, so we were able to wash up and such. But nothing beats a hot shower!

My dearest friend, Teresa, shared a cookie recipe with me years ago that I make every Christmas. They're Crispy Oatmeal cookies, and just wonderful. I do love a crispy cookie! Try them for yourself:

Crispy Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp grated orange rind
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup oats (quick or regular)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cream butter. Gradually add sugars, beating well at medium speed. Add egg, orange rind and vanilla, mixing well. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl, & add to mixture, mixing well. Stir in oats and pecans. Divide dough in half. Spoon each half onto a large piece of waxpaper & shape into a 10" log. Roll in wax paper and freeze. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350. Cut dough in 1/4" slices (no larger) and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool 1 minute, then loosen with spatula.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Trees for the Future

Joseph & I got a dozen trees planted today. We finally got our order from Arbor Day Foundation, & needed to get them in the ground. There are 4 different cherries, some sweet & some sour. Also 2 plum, peach, butternut, redbud, hawthorne & red maple (a freebie). It's a cold & drizzly day, so we were in need of some warming up when we were done. I made a pot of Candy Bar Hot Chocolate. I found the recipe recently on Four Green Acres. This stuff is rich. I've got to put some half & half in mine to thin it, but hey, I used 2% milk in the recipe & didn't use the whipping cream. Hopefully, it balances out! I did the Holiday Hoopla show yesterday, which was not as well attended as hoped, but still worth doing. The second picture is of my lovely sister, Vicki, who kept me company for a good part of the show. Thanks, sis!

Candy Bar Hot Chocolate

2 egg yolks
2 oz of bar chocolate, chunked
1 cup of milk
whipping cream (optional)
Ghirardelli ground chocolate (optional)

Beat egg yolks in a small bowl.

Place chocolate and milk in pot.Heat & stir with whisk until chocolate is melted, or put in microwave in glass measuring cup at 70% power for 2 to 3 minutes, whisking once, until chocolate is melted. Whisk well.

Slowly pour the milk into the beaten egg yolks, whisking constantly. Heat on the stove, or return to the microwave for a minute.

There will be some eggy bits, which you can strain with cheesecloth if preferred. Garnish with whipped cream & a sprinkle of chocolate if desired. This recipe is for one serving; multiply as needed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Morning Kitty

Today is my last full day at home before the Hoopla. The weather is still iffy. All I can do is act as if. Last night, I started sewing some small bags to hold my soaps & other small treasures. I also got a package with some webbing I'd been waiting on, and made my first bag with a new fabric. My kitty, Sage, is especially loving in the mornings. She and the other two cats wandered about with me in the garden this morning.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Show Time

The house has been crammed with bolts of cloth, the sewing machine has taken up residence on the kitchen table, & assorted flotsam of the creative process are everywhere. Thank goodness Joseph is an understanding guy. I've been preparing for Holiday Hoopla. I've had lots of learning curves, never having done any real sewing. But, it's been lots of fun seeing ideas take form. Yesterday, I played with the table display. Little signs for the various products were made last night. My Mom & sister are baking some goodies that I'll have in my booth. The weather is looking more & more iffy, with a 60-90% chance of rain or snow, depending on the source. So, there's a good chance my house will be in upheavel another week. Here's a picture of one of the tables, and the bags I've been working on.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Before I get into the thick of making pumpkin soup and sweet potato pies, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I am so grateful for the many blessings in my life, and to be spending the day with so many loved ones. I wish you all a day of sharing and caring, of good food and laughter..... a day to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Paying Attention & A Winter Bouquet

Lately, I'm working on paying more attention to the small voice within. After meditating this morning, the voice said "let's create a winter bouquet". Though I'd often incorporated grasses in my bouquets, I'd never fully embraced the idea of a bouquet made out of naturally dried plants, until I was inspired by a Bittersweet blog. It's a rather gray & drizzly day here, but I just dressed appropriately and wandered a bit to see what I could find on my homestead. Besides the various plants, I found some wonderful moss & lichen-covered sticks, acorns & pinecones. It takes a different sort of vision to find the subtle beauty in a fall landscape. I think I'll cultivate it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Remembering Hickory

My wonderful brother recently sent me a card, just because. He knew I'd love it, given my propensity for big dogs. It makes me smile every time I look at it. I can totally relate to the glee in the little girls face. I lost my sweet dog, Hickory, a little over a year ago. Hickory was a Black Lab/Great Dane mix. Though I am admittedly biased, he was a truly special being. He was the type of dog that, upon coming to my house & meeting him for the first time, people would ever after ask about him when we saw each other. He was a most excellent walking companion, and cheered me during some pretty dark days while going through a separation and divorce. He was, and remains, the dog of my heart.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Today I had the pleasure of touring, and meeting several of the wonderful folks, at STARworks. Joseph has been part of the team installing their biodiesel plant. They're a business incubator, and at present include glass, ceramics, a garden and geothermal business at the site, with many more interesting ideas percolating. They're a wonderfully creative bunch. It was a pleasure being around all their good energy. The garden was gorgeous, and amazingly productive so late in the season. Good job, Anne!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Winterizing the House

Joseph has been working hard getting the house ready for winter. He made some thresholds to tighten up two of the doors, and has been caulking between the siding on the house. So, far he's used up 46 tubes of caulk, plus a few cans of Great Stuff for a few really large gaps. The house is noticeably warmer & quieter. Which shows that it really does make a difference, as the house was pretty warm & quiet to begin with. Joseph's Aunt Faye & Pamp came for a visit & lunch on Saturday. It was their first visit, & Joseph had to go meet them & bring them to the house. We do live in a pretty rural area, & they just couldn't find us, even with Mapquest directions. But we all had a nice visit, which included exchanging plants. They gifted us with a banana tree, which we'll keep in the house until spring. Lyle at Piedmont Biofuels got bananas from his this year, so you never know. We did take some time out to go see Men Who Stare at Goats this weekend. We both knew a little about remote viewing, in the military and otherwise. Pretty interesting subject. The movie didn't delve into it with any substance, but it was fun and had a good ending. We enjoyed it. Today I made my first batch of soap using biodiesel glycerine. It looks OK so far. I'll post a picture once it's out of the mold.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fall Friday & Free Boots

ugg boots
I just found this link for to win free Ugg boots at Our Old Homestead blog while taking a lunch break. Oooh, I've always wanted a pair of Ugg boots! It's a beautiful fall day here. I'm staying outside as much as possible today. Looks like we'll likely get a killing frost tonight, so I'm enjoying the flowers while I can. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Crunch Time

The past couple of weeks, I've been hard at work making soaps. These will be ready just before Thanksgiving. The weekend following Thanksgiving is the busiest of the year at the local potteries. I'll be volunteering at the Celebration of Seagrove Potters, a great event held that weekend. I've also been working on eye pillows. I'm really wanting to spend some time outdoors weeding and cleaning up, but haven't been able to do more than take a few pictures on my rounds of chores. Recently, I've had some doors close and a few other possibilities open up. Life is always interesting!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hot Stuff

Today, Joseph & I made salsa & pepper jelly. Both of them are hot!! I had been thinking of Sweet Red Pepper jelly, which I recently realized I like when it's put over cream cheese and then on crackers. We needed to do something with all the peppers remaining, and it so happens many of them were hot ones. So, we've got hot instead of sweet this round. In between, I took some photos of my newest soap, Green Tea Facial Bar, and worked on the font for my labels. My marketing friend, Bob, over at EcoBlend, suggested I use a clearer font, one that makes my name more legible. I'm happy with the result.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sweet Things & Soap

After doing the less than fun housekeeping chores this morning, I got to some fun things. First, I made a batch of Wake Up soap. Next I made cookies. Today was an off again, on again rainy day. Also, Joseph was working today, & the day didn't go as smoothly as he hoped, so I thought he could use a little comfort when he got in. While perusing bloom, a blog I wrote about recently, I found the cookie recipe. They're Grandma Mollie's Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies. Yum! I took a picture, but it wasn't pretty, so I hope the soap will do.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Harvest Time

We've had light frosts a couple of nights this week, so it was time to get the last of the tender plants harvested. Before the first frost Sunday night, Joseph pulled all the basil plants. I made many batches of pesto to carry us through the winter. Yesterday, I dug sweet potatoes. We had a wonderful harvest. I do not say this lightly. The past several years, sweet potato harvest has been a bit discouraging. Joseph & I would fork up the ground, only to find that the voles had been blissfully & safely eating all the innards out of almost all of them. I'm a reasonably good sharer, but I wanted more than a meals worth of sweet potatoes. So this year, Joseph outsmarted them. He dug a 2 ft trench, lined it with chicken wire, then built a wooden border for the raised bed, enabling him to add another foot of soil on top of the ground. It worked! It's always fun to see what sizes and shapes of sweet potatoes show up. We had 2 "hosses" that were over 3 lbs a piece. I gave Joseph a standing ovation. Our plan is to rotate the "Irish" potatoes with the sweet potatoes, as he made another potato bed this summer. I harvested eggplant yesterday & made Eggplant Parmigiana, along with an apple pie from our apples. I love eating a meal from food we've grown here. Today, I've made a batch of Kitchen Thyme soap, & have been working on cleaning up some beeswax I got from some potter friends. It's a beautiful day here, with temps in the mid-70's, blue skies and lots of birdsong. I hope it's just as nice where you are.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Homestead Blooms

In doing my outdoor chores this morning, I noticed how many things were still blooming, which inspired me to grab the camera. I made my first batch of candles today, some beeswax votives. Hopefully, they'll easily come out of their molds tomorrow. I also made a batch of For the Love of Rose soap, which has the house smelling lovely. All the greens in the garden are looking happy. I'm hoping today's rain will inspire the carrots & herbs I planted to germinate.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Peak Heights

Melissa & I waiting our turn


Joseph & the guides on the rocks during a break

Melissa checks out the rocks

A zipping Joseph

You know those rare days when all things conspire to make it a perfect day? Yesterday was one of those. Joseph made his daughter Melissa & I pancakes, then we headed to the zipline. We met a group of friends there, got harnessed up and went zipping through the woods. We zipped through the tree canopy, over water & some of the massive boulders we're blessed to have here in the Uwharries. Our guides were great, & their humor had us all laughing. The weather was perfect. We had a blast!
Last night we had a gathering of a wonderful community of people at our home. Artists, glass blower, massage therapists, organic farmers, herbalist, yoga instructor, zoo curator, beekeeper, biofuel makers, fire dancer, photographers, musicians. What fun it was to wander from this group to that catching all the conversations. Such an interesting and diverse mix of folks. It was a longterm dream come true. Creating this home took so many years of hard work & focus, it was such a pleasure to share it with this gathering of people. It was a day with an abundance of memories to treasure.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Steam Power

Joseph & I are the proud owners of an 1890 steam engine. We are SO excited! Joseph plans to use it as part of a system to generate power. He had to go to Mass. this week to work on a biodiesel plant, & went to look at it on the way home. He bought it from an Amish farmer in upstate NY, who was pleased to sell it to someone who would use it for its intended purpose, rather than scrap it. It was originally used to provide power for a large manor house. It's extremely heavy, & as you can see from the pictures, took quite a bit of finagling to get it off the truck. After all was said & done, I realized Joseph definitely deserved a standing ovation. Off to glean a neighbor farmer's field for corn for our chickens!

Pondering how to proceed

Working with the come-along

Moving it into position

Using the chain hoist

Starting to get it upright

It's off the truck!

A Westinghouse. Built with pride in America.

On blocks in its temporary location while we build a generator room.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Inspiration & Standing Ovations

Now that my nursing job is being phased out, I've had more time at home. One of the things I've done with that time is find some excellent blogs, some of which I've linked to here in my blog. This morning, I read two & was blown away by them. Such incredible inspiration for what a blog can be. They provide gorgeous photography with inspiring words. The first, on bloom, taught me a beautiful poem I had not known. The other, on Rose Notes, reminded me of something my Mom shared with me a few years back. There's a very funny comedienne, whose name I cannot remember at present. She does a bit on standing ovations, the gist of which is the majority of us occasionally do things that deserve a standing ovation. I agreed & took this to heart. It doesn't have to be anything of monumental importance. In my life, doing something that required a lot of courage or even something as mundane as managing to get the groceries in the fridge when the garden bounty has taken up seemingly every bit of space deserves a standing ovation. I don't know anyone who can't use a little encouragement for a job well done. I bet you can find someone who deserves a standing ovation this week. Here are a few sites from the garden this morning.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Prodigal Chicken

Our little hen has come home! There was no sign of her yesterday, but this morning when I went outside, she was clucking & wanting back in the pen. Joseph thinks she may have visited our neighbor's chickens. That would have required her to cross a road & walk a quarter mile to the neighbor's house. But, who knows, she may have a boyfriend! Or maybe she was just wandering around on the property somewhere new & couldn't find her way back. She's always been a bit of a loner, but today she's been staying close, even sitting by the kitchen door visiting us for a while.

Friday, September 25, 2009

There's a Frog in the Okra

While harvesting okra this morning, I noticed this little guy on one of the plants. He's just left of center; I expect you'll need to doubleclick on the picture to be able to see it. A few minutes later, while gathering basil for a batch of pesto, a hummingbird came & visited the okra flowers. I wasn't fast enough to catch that on camera. I'm a little concerned about the hummingbirds this year. I'm pretty sure I don't usually see them this late. I always miss them when they go, but I hope they leave in time to make it to their winter grounds. Once they leave, I typically take down their feeders, replacing them with homemade suet. Joseph & I were saddened last night by the loss of one of our chickens. I let them out of their pen in the morning, & one didn't show up at roosting time last night. We searched all over, but she vanished. I've been seeing hawks in the area recently, so am thinking one probably made off with her. Living with chickens, you learn to deal with predators, but I've never had one vanish in broad daylight before. Living close to the land makes you more aware of the circle of life, & how precious it is.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pawpaws & Purple Fingers

Today I turned our elderberries into medicine. They'd been soaking in brandy for several weeks, & I strained & sweetened the juice. Studies show elderberry syrup to be one of the most effective remedies for flu, beating out even Tamiflu for avian flu. They're deep purple & pretty messy to work with, but worth it. I made a batch of Cedar Lemongrass soap & turned some soap scraps into liquid soap. The cucumbers were turned into lacto-fermented pickles, & I've got some bread rising. Last night I made Fig Sherry Cake with some figs my Mom gave me. And a Pawpaw Pecan Pie. I mostly use them fresh in my smoothies, but a few days ago the last bunch of them fell off the trees. I think they gave up with the drought. The pie was pretty good, but I'm still looking for the perfect recipe. A few years ago, I tried making pawpaw cake in canning jars. To say I wasn't impressed is putting it kindly. This evening, I gathered a bouquet of flowers for the table. It's been one of those days that makes me thankful to be here, with time to do all the homesteading things I love. Now I've got to figure out what to do with all the passionfruit!