More finished projects.

I've been saving my recipes little by little on Epicurious Tastebook site for some time. When they sent me a $10.00 off enticement I went ahead and gave it a try. It just came in the mail today and it's a cool, cool thing.
I have my time tested recipes in it. The ones I turn to time and again so it makes it pretty special, Also, I have credit for about 30 more pages so I can add them as I like. Hey, it's fun and pretty classy looking, too. I especially like how you can spend months (or as long as you like) designing your book. This would make a great gift for someone. I keep thinking wedding shower or baby shower. Have everyone submit a recipe and voile'....a very useful and meaningful memory book. You can add your own pictures to each recipe....another nice feature.
I just finished a nice little candle mat from one of my frequently visited quilting sites: This-n-That Fabrics.  They have lots of clever free patterns for your enjoyment. One of the free patterns was this Christmas candlemat.  I just finished making it with some leftover scrap fabrics from holiday projects. It's a sweet little thing. I'm so much more inspired to make Christmas projects immediately following the season. Probably because I have the time and the inspiration is staring me in the face. Once the tree comes down and all the decorations around the house, the holiday projects will likely follow suit.

I'm truly looking forward to the time spent in my sewing room this year AND with my knitting needles in my hands. It's back to school on Monday and I have a musical to direct that will keep me busy throughout the winter until March. I'm sure I'll have tons of projects queued up and waiting by that time.


The Day after....thinking something healthy, like Carrot Soup and while I'm at it, more ornaments.

I swear this soup has restorative qualities. Around 10:00 a.m this morning as I was busy working in my sewing room I knew I needed to make this soup again. It's probably the 4th time I've made it since early October. I've already sampled a couple of spoonfuls and already I'm feeling back to my old self after imbibing in too much rich food and spirits on Christmas Eve and Day.
Don't be taken back by the addition of the crushed pineapple in the recipe. Somehow it elevates the soup to a new level, hardly indistinguishable and is a perfect balance with the ginger and curry. This recipe is from one of my favorite recipe books
"Soup Makes The Meal" by Ken Haedrich. I've tried numerous recipes from this book and have enjoyed them all. It's one of those recipe books that doesn't sit on my shelf. 

Curried Carrot and Pineapple Soup
2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp. ginger
5 large carrots
1 large potato, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
4 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 tsp salt
1-8 oz can crushed pineapple
Melt butter in large saucepan over med. heat and add onion. Cook until softened for 8 -9 min. Add curry powder and ginger and cook stirring for 30 sec. Add stock, carrots, bay leaf , potato and salt. Bring to boil then reduce heat heat to mod. low. Cover tightly and simmer until carrots are very tender......about 20 min.Transfer solids to a food processor or blender (remove bay leaf) adding a ladleful or two of the broth. Add the pineapple then process the solids to a smooth puree. Stir the puree back into the soup. Reheat and enjoy.
While I was in the Christmas spirit. I dove into my Christmas fabric this morning and put my energies into making a couple more of the quilted ornaments. I can't get into making these during the year, but always seem to find the motivation now for next year. I may give these away as gifts next year...sort of like buying the after Christmas sales and saving them for gifts next year. I LOVE doing that. Well the pattern is such a great way to use up bits and pieces of fabric and ribbon.
In fact, the ball that has satin ribbon in the center is from the package my mother-in-law gave me. It was a bathrobe with red satin ribbon around it from Macy's AND the box was also wrapped in white satin ribbon. In fact as I was opening the gift, I saw the ribbon and thought, " I can't wait to use this for some craft or sewing project. Well, they didn't go to waste. They now adorn the center of the green and red ornament. I cut them into squares equal to the width of the ribbon. 
I took the time to put sew on little glass beads on and it's a pretty special little ornament with some significance. Perhaps I will keep that one...I guess it will be my 2009 ornament. Not only that, my mother-in-law hit the "ball outta the park" with the bathrobe. I love it and finally I can toss out my tattered and thread bare 11 year old bathrobe. I'll have to relay the great pleasure I obtained from both gifts. (The ribbon AND the bathrobe)


Motherly influence. Her gift is my gift.

I have to brag. My mother makes the most amazing hooked rugs. She inherited the skill from her mother and a couple of my siblings are carrying the tradition, somewhat. Her entire house has beautiful scatter rugs of every design and her wall hangings are equally as beautiful. She buys designs but also creates her own. She dyes all of her wool. I never caught the rug hooking bug, but I did try it for a while. Probably best I not take on another fiber art at the moment.
This most recent rug took our breath away. She made it as a Christmas present for my brother and his wife.

What a cheery rug! What is so amazing is my mom is 81 years old and has very disfigured hands from rheumatoid arthritis: she still perseveres in making these rugs, only not as fast. She managed to place hook a small picture of Deep Spring Farm in the background of the rug.

This my brother and his friend....but notice the wall hanging on the wall. That is another one of my mother's hooked rugs. It's a Currier and Ives winter picture ~ but hooked in wool. It is gorgeous.

And here is another brother ~ (the recipient of the rooster rug; lucky guy!)  But on the wall, (graced and partially hidden by the silly sofa pillows), is another wonderful hooked rug wall hanging Of geese and the moon.

Anyhow, these are just a couple of dozens and dozens she has made over the years.
Here is the artist. My mom, Joan Keefe.
 Kudos to you and your vast talents, Mom and thanks for letting me play with cloth and yarn and glue and thread and needles of all shapes and sizes.


Making up for a busy weekend. My favorite: White Chocolate Spice Cookies.

  • Well, if there was one quintessential Christmas (or anytime) cookie; this has to be it.  The mother of two of my piano students makes these for every piano recital in June. She kindly shared the recipe with me so I can make it a staple at our holiday table. Today, after a long day of teaching the very excited little ones at school, I came home and decompressed by making my favorite cookie! 
  • Wait until you taste the perfect spice to these cookies. It is delectable and can you detect the secret ingredient? The perfect balance of spice, sweet, heat and creaminess. 
  • 2  cups  all-purpose flour
  • 2/3  cup  firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1  teaspoon  ground ginger
  • 3/4  teaspoon  fresh-ground pepper
  • 1/2  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground allspice
  • 1/8  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  cup  (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1  teaspoon  vanilla
  • 1  teaspoon  grated lemon peel
  • 8 ounces  white chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2  tablespoons  vegetable shortening


1. In a food processor or bowl, whirl or stir flour, sugar, ginger, pepper, baking soda, cocoa powder, cinnamon, allspice, and salt to blend. Add butter; pulse or cut in with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal.
2. In a small bowl, mix vanilla, lemon peel, and 1 tablespoon water. Add to food processor or bowl; whirl or stir until dough forms a ball.
3. Divide dough in half. Roll out each portion between sheets of waxed paper or cooking parchment to about 1/4 inch thick. Stack and chill rolled dough until firm, about 45 minutes (or freeze about 25 minutes).
4. Cut out cookies with a floured 1 1/2-inch round cutter. Place 1/2 inch apart on buttered or cooking parchment-lined 12- by 15-inch baking sheets.
5. Bake cookies in a 325° oven until pale brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to racks to cool completely.
6. Place white chocolate and shortening in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bottom of bowl should not touch water). Remove from heat and stir occasionally until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.
7. Dip each cookie halfway into white chocolate mixture, then place on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Drizzle undipped half of cookie with more white chocolate mixture, if desired. Chill just until glaze is set, about 15 minutes.

I place the cookies outside on our cold winter porch. They chill quickly that way.  Also, the mother who makes these for recitals rolls the cookie dough into a 1 1/2 log and wraps with Saran wrap. Chills and slices into thin slices, like a refrigerator cookie. There is no waste this way and faster, too. She also suggests using white chocolate melting discs as white chocolate can be very temperamental. I'm with her on both of these recipe adaptations. The smaller the cookie, the better. I guess I just like my cookies small. Less caloric guilt.


Baking Day, well at least for the little tarts

No surprise here: baking is something I have always enjoyed during the holidays but with little time nor reason to bake I have to be a little more selective to the treats we enjoy during this time of the year. One of my favorite tea/coffee time treats are "Maid Of Honor Tarts" or "Derby Tarts". I always make them.  Essentially they are mini pecan pies~ very mini ~ which makes them even more enjoyable. Also, it doesn't make a ton of cookies which I appreciate.
These cookies are very nice for gift giving.

Maid of Honor Tarts
Melt: 1/4 cup butter
Add: 1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sugar ( I use part brown sugar)
1/2 cup finely chopped or ground nuts. (I use pecans)
1 egg, well beaten
Pie crust - 1 single pie crust recipe
Bake 375 degrees for 12-13 minutes. 

Roll out pie crust very thin. Cut with a small 2" scalloped edge or plain edged biscuit or cookie cutter. Place in mini cupcake pans. No need to grease the pans as they will not stick due to the fat in the pie crust. Lightly press each crust circle into pans. Fill, but DO NOT overfill the pasty shells. They puff up and expand when baked. 
Makes about 3 dozen mini tarts.
And yes as a time saver you can use a pre-made frozen pie crust


Dressing up the house and the cat

Scrambled to get the house decorated over the weekend. The demands of a music teacher during the holiday season can border on the frantic, however my husband and I braved the cold winds last Friday to venture our woods to find a tree. By Sunday, the house was all dressed up for the holidays. Most of the ornaments on the tree are handmade or nature themed. Last year I made grapevine garland for the tree and instead of placing on the tree this year I wove it around the base of the chandelier. I add a few berries for color and voile'; I really like the look.....

 The tree is especially nice this year. It can be tricky finding a tree in the wild. It's fun though and feels even better since we got it from our "backyard". Our hikes during the entire year consist of the quest for possible Christmas tree candidates.

My elementary concert is tomorrow night and with all the rehearsals and the stress of the season, it's been a challenge finding quiet time to knit and kick back. Tonight I had the pleasure of Lily, our cat sitting in the middle of my new sweater project (Elizabeth Zimmerman pattern made with Noro Silk Garden). She nestled right in the center of the sweater and since it's knitted in the round, it just kept rotating around her. Smart cat.Leave it to her to live in the lap of luxury.
Back to knitting....



I have a SNOW DAY today which means I was up bright and early finishing Christmas  present projects. Unfortunately I miss an important rehearsal with my 4th and 5th grade chorus (100 member strong!) as we have our concert early next week. Snow Days are always a mixed blessing!

 I just finished a small version of the Grids & Grommets bag from Indygo Junction.(A very favorite pattern place!). It turned out great.

The pattern must be very popular as it is difficult to locate the grommets. They are also pricey so it jacks up the cost of making the bag. However, the Dritz grommets are a breeze to install and look very professional.The other project I just finished is a lap quilt called "Tradewinds" using Bali Pops from Hoffman fabrics. Again, a nice and easy quick quilt. I will post a picture in due time! Meanwhile, back to the sewing room.


It's snowing!

Last night the snow finally arrived to Central New York.
The view off my front porch.......
The view this morning was so beautiful. For some reason, the morning coffee (Green Mountain Nantucket Blend) tastes better when the picture out the window is so pristine and white. Of course the urge to bake something akin to a Christmas treat seems like an obvious choice today. Last night began macerating dried fruits to make my Aunt Sue's fruitcake. My mother and I enjoy fruitcake, as long as it's filled with organic dried fruits and only the good ones....you know, figs, dates, raisins, and apricots. They are smothering in bourbon whiskey at the moment and will be battered up later this morning.
Weekends of course mean catching up on chores and some much needed fiber therapy. I made two folk art ornaments from an Indygo Junction pattern I acquired earlier this fall. They turned out beautifully and I am going to make all 6 of the patterns before Christmas settles in.


Pondering the Christmas Wish List...

My husband and I find ourselves at a turning point in our lives. The traditions of Christmas have fallen by the wayside with our children all grown and starting families of our own. Should we put up a tree? Should we get presents for each other?
Of course we will. However, our new agreement is one present under the tree and stockings for each other. It's really wonderful to think hard and long about the specialness of a single gift for the one you love.

We have a great little opera house in our town. It's called "The Earlville Opera House" and it has a great Christmas sale (2 rooms full) of arts and crafts of local artisans. Some really beautiful things. I buy a few things but I also enjoy admiring the objects on display to perhaps gain inspiration for myself. I hope to submit some things to sell there next year. If I just had more time to do those things! The sale is the 4 weekends prior to Christmas and last year I did most of my Christmas shopping there. (I have my eye on a watercolor print.) Keeping it local. It's a very good thing.


A Blissful "Black Friday"

Spent Black Friday finishing up projects: Making two soups from the leftover Thanksgiving Day foods and finished a sweater that has been waiting in the wings for a few weeks. It turned out wonderfully in the end.
It's a Nora Gaughan design from Interweave Knits. I changed the neckline to accommodate the wearer (my daughter.) 
Also, I've been making quilted purses. They are fun and and a great way to use up scraps.



Thanksgiving Day 2009
A great day for cooking and feasting. It is still one of my favorite dinners to make, despite all of it's cliche's.

One of my favorite sides is my cranberry chutney. It's a wonderful change from the traditional cranberry sauce (although I make both). Along with being a great accompaniment to turkey, it's also  fantastic wIth cream cheese or brie.
Cranberry Chutney
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup fresh cranberries
4 tsp. vinegar
2 tsp. brown sugar
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 tsp. powdered ginger
1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
In saucepan, combine water and sugar. Stir over medium heat to dissolve sugar. Bring to boil without stirring and add the remaining ingredients.  Boil slowly, stirring occasionally until fairly thick (7-10 minutes). Allow to cool and then cover and refrigerate. Can also be frozen. Delicious on cream cheese or heated over Brie. 


Sourdough Bread Obsession

It's working! The sourdough starter, through trial and error is now working and it's full steam ahead. 
I found a better recipe online for an excellent sourdough bread. Also,  I found better directions for making the starter and how to maintain it from Allrecipes.com
Here's my adjusted version of the bread. It was amazing with dinner tonight and I can't wait to make it again.

San Francisco Sourdough Bread.
4 3/4 cups bread flour
3 tablespoons white sugar or honey
2 teaspoons salt
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups sourdough starter
1 extra large egg
1 tablespoon water

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt, and dry yeast. (If using honey, add it with the liquid ingredients.) Add milk and softened butter or margarine. Stir in starter. Mix in up to 3 3/4 cups flour gradually, you may need more depending on your climate.
Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turn once to oil surface, and cover. Allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in volume.
Punch down, and let rest 15 minutes. Shape into loaves. Place on a greased baking pan. Allow to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled.
Brush egg wash over tops of loaves.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 30 minutes, or till done.

Mostly work and a little play

Finished an elementary musical yesterday with 2nd graders. It was called "The Share Bears" and it was a perfect theme for the time of the year.  They sounded beautiful and did a great job. It's the beginning of performance season so it seems like one show after another these days. Late nights and and long hours do not leave much time for play. Finished a pair of mittens that are perfect for driving. Lightweight and not bulky. Used a handpainted yarn called "Artyarns". 

The weather has been unseasonably warm for this time of year. How many times have we gone through November in New York State without any snow? Our hikes through our hills cease today as it is the beginning of deer hunting season. We have statelands behind our house so it's "fair game" for the hunters and dangerous for the rest of us. Mike and I took our last long hike last weekend. The temps were near 70 and we found many little discoveries, like this minute 'cute' baby snake that was no bigger than a piece of chunky weight yarn ~ hey, it's what I know. 

We also located this year's Christmas tree. 
That's always something to look forward to.


Halloween memories

Just got this from my son.  We travelled to Maine to see the grandaughter. Thank goodness that I managed to get a "Cruella DeVille" costume, compliments of a retired Kindergarten teacher at school. I tried not to look too evil. There was a large "under 4 crowd" in the neighborhood. I didn't want to scare them.

Quilting and sewing days are here

Been busy making quilts for gifts.  The hard part is finding the time but it's worth it. I've always thought it was pretty wonderful to get something from someone which is handmade. After all, their hands have touched every part of the gift AND it's truly one of a kind....even if it is made from a pre-made design.
Here is one of my snowmen on my Christmas garland I have made. Absolutely a blast to make. 
Here are some of the things I have been creating lately. The Christmas decorations are my own design and creation. 

And here is one that I made last year to show you what it looks like as a garland.

A Brown Bear, Brown Bear quilt I made for my grandaughter for her 3rd birthday. 
On the back of the quilt I wrote:
Brown Bear, Brown Bear 
What do I see
I see Claire is turning 3!


The Seasons of Soups, Sewing and Singing

For the first time ever I've delved into making my first sourdough bread. I don't know why. I've always been curious to the process. I'm always making homemade bread basically because we can't stand most breads in the store. After research and a bit of confusion as to which way was the best, I just ordered the sourdough culture and the canister from King Arthur Flour
It is interesting and it had me a little put off by throwing out half of the starter each time it is fermenting. I mean, throwing out flour! Well, after the initial process I see it won't be a regular routine, just goes against the grain (excuse the pun).

Every Saturday from the beginning of June to this very day in November my husband and I pick up our vegetable share from our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture - Alambria Farms)We have an abundance of fresh locally grown organic produce that will either overwhelm a carnivore or inspire the vegetarian that lies within you. With the beginning of the school year I make a Saturday soup with the ingredients. I get to enjoy this all week long for my school lunch.  The inspiration brought on by this bounty have brought dozens of new recipes to my already bursting recipe file. The soup today was Tomato Vegetable Lentil.

Tomato Vegetable Lentil Soup
I serve this with parmesan cheese and fresh homemade bread

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion
1 rib celery
Salt to taste
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
3/4 cup dried lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 large all-purpose potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 " dice
2 cups of coarsely chopped kale (4-5 leaves, cut up)
1-15 oz can stewed tomatoes

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion & celery. Cover and sweat over medium low heat until the vegetables are soft, 8-10 minutes.
Add the stock, lentils, carrot, bay leaf, herbs and season with pepper. Bring to a boil, cover partially and reduce the heat. Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the potatoes, kale and tomatoes. Add salt to taste.
Makes 6-8 servings.