Sunday, November 25, 2012

David & Kim's Big Adventure

Before I go into the trials & tribulations of our recent trip I do want to entice you with a photo from our trip ~
One of my favorite people is in the floral business & asked that we take pictures of flower shops during our trip.  It's ahrd to believe that this is on the street in Vienna.

Now I can tell you all about our recent adventure.  We had tickets to fly from Newark, NJ to Berlin, Germany & on to Vienna, Austria on 10/31/12.  Is anybody making the connection?  Newark, NJ - 10/31/12..... That's right ~> Hurricane/SuperStorm Sandy week.  Since we'd been watching the weather we figured that flying out of Newark would be a no-go.  We contacted Lufthansa several times on Thursday, Friday & Saturday beforehand & said, "we are ready & willing to fly early, but we have to get to Vienna."  Their response, "wait".  Finally - on Saturday we decided that waiting was not the answer & we booked a flight on Aer Lingus from Boston to Vienna & planned to deal with Lufthansa later.  Our trip over went smoothly (we did have to cancel our airport parking in Newark & find a hotel for the 1st half of the week in Vienna, but we made it work).  Leaving our house on short notice was a little scary since we didn't know if our house would be hit by the storm or if we'd lose power, etc.  We just had to believe that all would be ok.  We arrived in Vienna & began exploring.  The weather was cold, cold, cold, but we layered the clothes we had, figured out the public transportation & went all over lovely Vienna.  On one day we decided to take a tour to Prague.  It had been on my list of "places to see" & was everything I'd imagined.  It's an enchanting place & I hope to return in the future.
On Saturday we picked up the boat for our Danube River Cruise.  The weather continued to be cold & dreary, but our spirits were high.  We met several people on this trip that were both fun & funny & the time flew by.  We traveled on the Danube from Vienna to Nuremberg.  We would recommend a river cruise to anyone that wants an easy-going pace, lots of stops along the way & good views (when it wasn't foggy). 
After a week we disembarked & began our week in Bavaria.  David was determined that every day would be an adventure & he was particularly interested in going to Lichtenstein.  By the end of the week we'd covered Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Austria & pretty good chunk of Germany.  He did lots of driving on the Autobahns & adjusted to the no speed limit as though he were born to it.  The food was wonderful & filling.
After an adventurous week in southern Germany it was time to head to Berlin.  We had checked our flight from Berlin to Newark previously & it showed online as confirmed.  The flight on 10/31 had taken off, but we wouldn't have been able to get to Newark with the roads/bridges being closed.  When we arrived in Berlin we attempted to do online check-in (required within 24 hours of flying).  The results - no reservation on file.  OH NO!  We called Lufthansa (in Germany) & I spoke to an agent that informed me we'd been "no shows" on the first leg of the ticket.  As such - they had canceled our reservations.  If we wanted to get on the flight they would sell us one way tickets at $2985. PER PERSON.  I couldn't imagine that we were being asked to pay for tickets that we'd already purchased.  She suggested that we just cancel the first reservation & book roundtrip tickets to Berlin & then not return.  That wasn't going to work.  I did my best to calmly explain about the storm & where we live in relation to Newark, NJ.  She put me on hold a couple of times & finally came back to say that because of the storm - we could fly on our original reservation.  I still have to plead our case with Lufthansa for a credit/refund for the first leg, but wanted to do it from the US.
Our trip was an adventure from start to finish, but we came back with wonderful memories & our house weathered the storm.  All of our family was able to reassure us (as we watched CNN from Vienna) that they were fine.  Thank heavens for email.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Santa cards using LaBlanche stamps

I took a class last week with Donna Sledzik in CT.  It's always loads of fun at any of her classes & I come away with new techniques.  After the class I came home & remembered that I had 2 stamps made by the same stamp company (LaBlanche from Germany).  I wanted to use what I had on hand.  I found that I had almost everything I needed (with some substitutions for Distress Inks, etc) to create a similar card.

The card on the left was made with Donna.  He's a jolly old elf. 
The card on the right was made with the stamp that I had on hand.  To watch the demonstration by the LaBlanche representative using UTEE and Distress Ink nibs go to this link.
I'm thinking about making several of these cards to send out to David's clients.  It's a very European image & has an Old World look that I love. The one detail I'll probably change is to take the Merry Christmas sentiment & cut it with a circle punch layered onto a slightly larger circle.  I'm hoping to use up papers that I have on hand for the background.
It's apple season here in New England and I made applesauce this morning & apple butter is simmering in the crockpot.  The weather here has been a perfect "10" (70s during the day & cooler at night).  I'm enjoying a day off & will be heading up to my scraproom to play with paper, but wanted to share these cards.
Have a wonderful week!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fall Rhubarb & New Windows

Wow -- time is really flying by.  This morning I headed off to the Farmers Market with my dear friend DS.  We both love to see "what's new" & today's find was Autumn rhubarb & fresh ginger.  You know where I'm headed with this.  Rhubarb Ginger Jam.  It's on the schedule for tomorrow after an 8 am soccer game.

We've had contractors at our house all week installing new windows/doors. Here's the outside photo ~

We took double-hung windows (that looked like the ones on the far left [garage that we're only going to modify by removing the mullions]) & replaced the large windows on the first floor (see contractor installing in my husband's office) as well as the doors/windows over on the far right of the first floor (livingroom) & above (master bedroom).  The difference is amazing.  We took a somewhat dark interior & opened it up to the outside (view of the lake we live on).  Such fun, but now I have the challenge of finding window treatments (at least for the master bedroom). 

My brother-in-law came over today & I wanted to make something sweet for him.  I had been given a recipe from the woman at Cold Spring Orchard (UMass Orchard with wonderful fruits).  It's so simple, but really quite nice .  She called it:

Crazy Crust Cake
13 x 9 pan  (greased)
2 c. flour
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 c. butter (melted)
2 eggs
spices according to fruit used
fresh fruit (peeled & sliced enough to cover 2/3 of greased pan)

Peel & slice fruit directly into 13 x 9 pan.  Sprinkle with spices if desired (I used nutmeg & cinnamon sugar on apples)
Mix flour, sugar, butter & eggs until smooth & pour over fruit.  Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top.
Bake approximately 45 minutes until set.  Delicious & so easy.

I hope that everyone is enjoying one of the most beautiful times in the year.  Autumn in New England is characterized by cool nights and those warm days that make you think winter isn't actually around the corner.  The pace slows, the foods became a little more substantial & the kitchen smalls bring me right back to being a small girl in Grandma's kitchen.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Asian Pears, a Dritz Sewing Basket & other treasures

Yesterday morning it was off to the Farmers Market.  I have to say that the Saturday morning routine is one of my favorite ones.  I was on the hunt for whatever the newest fruit was, but also planned to pick up some hot peppers to make Pepper Jelly for our friend, Mike.  I'm not sure if he puts it on cream cheese & then crackers, but I know that he loves it.  I'd make pickled vegetables the week before & used some beautiful hot, red peppers in it, so I was headed back to the same vendor.  I've developed a pleasant customer relationship with this man since he's my source for beautiful tomatoes.  From him I've purchased & canned Grenardo, San Marzano & Monica tomatoes.  This week I picked up "Joe's" & the hot peppers.  I purchased some pears from my plum farmer (Roundhill Orchard in Southampton, MA) & after buying some yummy morning scones/brioche & I went over to Hamilton Orchard.  They had raspberries, but I wasn't really too interested in them.  They had a small, crabapple-sized fruit & I had to ask.  These were local Asian Pears.  I think I'd seen larger, commercially-produced fruit in the supermarket, but wasn't sure what I could do with these gems.  My morning pal, DS, told me that they were considered a cross between an apple & a pear & I should,"go for it" ... I purchsed about 4 pounds & brought them home.  I hunted online for directions on how I could jam/jelly/conserve this fruit, but there wasn't much out there.  Finally I found a recipe that I adjusted as follows: 
Asian Pear Jelly
Quarter the fruit & place in heavy pot with about 1/4 as much water.  Start on low heat, but stir frequently so that it doesn't stick.  As the fruit starts to soften add more water.  Boil until fruit is mushy.  I probably shouldn't have, but I did use my potato masher to gently break it up.  While the fruit was cooking I took 4 layers of tea towel & wet it with boiling water.  I placed the towel inside of my colander & the colander inside of a large Tupperware cake carrier lid &  poured the mushy fruit into it.  I placed the lid from the pan over the fruit & let it drain (without squeezing) until it cooled enough to place the entire parcel in the fridge.  I let the fruit drip overnight.
This morning I measured 4 cups of juice & checked my Certo insert for what percentage of sugar to use (there's no Asian Pear Jelly on the Certo insert, so I was just looking for approximates).  I used 7 cups of white sugar & brought the juice, sugar & 1/2 tsp of butter to a boil.  I added the liquid Certo, kept stirring for 1 minute & ladeled into my jars.  I processed the jars in a water bath for 5 minutes. The yield was 8.5 half pints of jelly.  The fruit juice had looked cloudy to begin with, but with the sugar after cooking it was a clear, light amber.  
On my way back from the Farmers Market I saw that St. Francis of Assisi was having their annual church sale on the Belchertown Town Common.  Here's a disclaimer - I'm not good at flea markets, tag sales, estate sales, etc. because I have the attitude that if it's being sold, I want it & I think the price is fair I'm not going to negotiate price.  The St. Francis of Assisi sale didn't allow any haggling, but had several tents & once I figured out that the items were sorted I had quite a good time.  I picked up a beautiful teal Dritz Sewing basket in new condition.  I don't think that a spool of thread was ever put inside of it. I also bought some crocheted edging pamphlets that I think I'll send to my friend, Gill.  I found some children's books bundled into baggies for .50 that Emily can use for her classroom library.  My favorite item was a beautiful tablecloth that I'm going to use on my table if I decide to sell jam at some point.
Today we went to our youngest daughter's first soccer game.  They lost 6:0, but we saw a little more hustle than last year.  On the way back we stopped at the Hadley Flea Market.  Please remember the earlier disclaimer -- well ~ I saw a framed print that matches some of the other hand-tinted photographs that I have.  It was fairly inexpensive & I negotiated $1 less.  Not great, but a good start.  I then saw a container full of sewing items.  I mean FULL - seam bindings, threads, etc.  I was almost drooling --- I had been teased so much by my husband & daughter about my savvy negotiating skills that this time I was going to show them.  I asked how much, offered him 1/2 & then he came back up.  I told him that I didn't want the container, only the contents & he thought a bit.  I took another look at the container & reconsidered my position - I brought the price midway between what he wanted & what I had originally offered & a deal was made.  The box has a sticker on it, so I'm going to do a little research.  Wouldn't it be funny if the box was worth more than the inside bits & baubles that I'd been after?  How was your weekend?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Summer Vacation - Day 1 - Peaches, Peaches & Beets

Today is (according to the calendar at work) the 1st day of my summer vacation.  Well - almost.  I'm actually going in to the office for 1/2 day on Wednesday & 1/2 day on Thursday.  I have meetings that I don't want to miss & there's follow-up after a big meeting on Tuesday that needs to be done.  Yes - someone else could do it, but I'd rather go in & take care of it.
So - summer vacation day # 1 - how did I spend it?  Yesterday - (like most summer Saturdays) started with a trip to the Farmers Market.  I picked up DS & off we went - chatting as fast as we could & then taking in the smells & sights of the market.  I knew that we were having about 20 people at our house for the afternoon & evening & I was drawn to more veggies than usual.  I wanted to have fresh vegetables & dip, a big green salad with a beautiful buttermilk dressing (recipe from Yankee magazine & David pronounced it "his favorite" when he finally had salad today for lunch), a fresh tomato salad to highlight the amazing heirloom tomatoes available & next to 2 loaves of fabulous soudough-base bread.  The main course was pizza, but I wanted to have the healthy stuff on the table, too.  I had made a Georgia Special cake (late birthday cake per David's request), but worried that I'd need a 2nd dessert.  Stay tuned for the 2nd dessert details (it's in the title & isn't beets).
On the way home (after leaving my beet greens for the chickens & admiring 5 fabulous new puppies) I stopped by the orchard run by UMass in Belchertown.  The sign said it opened at 10 & I was there at 9:45, but there were plenty of cars coming & going & I went in a few minutes early.  The orchard store opens on August 1st, but we've had such a hot weather that the fruit is coming in quickly.  Right now it's peaches, peaches, peaches.  They had freestone peaches available (which are so much easier to use for jams, etc).  I purchased a good size box of 2nds for $16.  For my purposes they were just fine.  I made a peach cobbler for the 2nd dessert.  My Alabama sister-in-law & Texas son-in-law were quite happy with the results.  I don't eat peaches at all so I can't say if it was good, but there's not much left.
My stepdaughter has been here this week for visit before she moves to Utah.  She asked if I'd teach her to make jam.  I was up earlier than her so made a quick batch of peach jam to start the day (8 jars on the counter).  She loves berries & I'd frozen blackberries when they were in season so that's what she made (8 jars on the counter), after she finished I was still looking at a lot of peaches so I made spiced peach jam (8 1/2 jars), & then saw that I had some local blueberries in the freezer to made blueberry peach jam [see recipe below] (8 1/2 jars).  At this point - I wanted to use up the peaches, but didn't feel like making any more jam - 2 quarts of canned peaches added to the counter.  The peaches have officially been used up.  I picked up beets at the market yesterday & wanted to get them put up ~ 4 pounds of beets yielded 2 quarts using the recipe from the last time.  I still have Fortune plums & a box of tomatoes to put up but that will be on day 2 of my vacation ;-)

Grandma's Blueberry Peach Jam Recipe - Blueberries and peaches with a hint of cinnamon - Delicious! You might want to make an extra batch for gift giving.

3 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh peach slices
1 package fruit pectin
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
7 cups sugar

Crush berries
[note:  I was using frozen blues & did not crush - kd] and put in a medium saucepan. Cut the peach slices into pieces and grind in a food processor or food mill [note:  I did not grind up peaches – kd]; add to the berries. [note:  I added the cinnamon, sugar & ½ t butter at this point] Mix fruit pectin and cinnamon into the fruit mixture and cook over high heat until mixture comes to a boil, stirring constantly. [note: I had added the cinnamon to the fruit & sugar & processed as I normally do using Certo – added after the mixture came to a full boil & cooking for 1 minute – kd]

Add sugar all at once, bring to a full boil and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim and stir to remove foam. Ladle into hot jars and seal.
[See above – kd]

Yield:  8 half pints & 1 quarter pint

Correction to my previous blog entry - they are not elephant EAR plums - they are elephant HEART plums.  All of my jars are labeled wrong & I'm not correcting them.
We cleaned up the house post-party, did 4 loads of laundry, ate some leftover tomato salad & helped unpack a new TV since it's tax-free weekend in Massachusetts.  This doesn't feel like much of a vacation. 
I've got plans to go to several scrapbook stores on Tuesday with Mary C. & I'm taking a class that night.  Right now it's looking to be the highlight of my week ~

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pickled Beets - Red Velvet Cupcake Honey Jelly & a Mermaid

  This is a photo of the pickled beets that I've just finished.  Wondering about the colors?  I bought beautiful organic beets & when they were cooked & peeled the inside was variegated.  The recipe was interesting as it was different from my usual one.  I wanted to can these beets & my regular recipe has jars of beets in the refrigerator.  I bought 3 pounds of beets & the yield was 1 quart & 2 points.  Here's the recipe I used:

  • 5 1/3 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 4 cups white sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground cloves
  • 12 pounds beets, peeled and sliced
  • 6 1-quart canning jars with lids and rings


  1. In a large pot, mix the white vinegar, sugar, water, cinnamon, salt, and cloves together; bring the mixture to a boil, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the beets, and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Sterilize the jars, lids, and rings in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, pack the sliced beets into the hot, sterilized jars, and pour in the beet liquid to fill the jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Run a sterilized knife or a thin spatula around the insides of the jars after they have been filled to remove any air bubbles. Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue. Top with lids, and screw on rings.
  3. Place a rack in the bottom of a large stockpot and fill halfway with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then carefully lower the jars into the pot using a holder. Leave a 2 inch space between the jars. Pour in more boiling water if necessary until the water level is at least 1 inch above the tops of the jars. Bring the water to a full boil, cover the pot, and process for 30 minutes. Add more time if you are at high altitude.
  4. Remove the jars from the stockpot and place onto a cloth-covered or wood surface, several inches apart, until cool. Once cool, press the top of each lid with a finger, ensuring that the seal is tight (lid does not move up or down at all). Store in a cool, dark area.

I changed up this recipe a bit & here's my variation ~ I bought 3 pounds of beets (instead of 12) as they fit perfectly in my pressure cooker.  Did you notice that the recipe doesn't have you cook the beets in a pressure cooker?  I like my beets cooked holding as many nutrients in as possible.  By cooking them via my preferred method I can then easily peel them (you cook with the skins on) by wearing rubber gloves & rubbing the beet skins off.  I noticed that the recipe called for cooking the beets in the pickling liquid.  Since I was changing how the beets & liquid came together I substituted 1 cup of the beet liquid from the pressure cooker for the water.  [I divided the recipe by 4 based on the amount of beets I had].  The pickling liquid was exactly the right amount & 1 quart & 2 pints was ok as a yield for me.

I also wanted to try making a jam with wine & honey based on a recipe that I found.  I bought Cupcake wine at the store & loved the variety - Red Velvet.  When I found local honey I purchased a 32 ounce (2 pound) jar.  It measured out to 3 cups exactly.   Since the recipe calls for 3 1/2 cups of honey (with 2 cups of wine) I had to buy a smaller jar of honey, too.  The jelly is lovely.

My sweet husband agreed to try jam if I could make it in a coffee cake.  He'd seen breakfast danish in the store at almost $7.00 a box & knew that I could beat that price.  I made a coffee cake with Blueberry Jam.  Cross your fingers that this opens the door for him.  He doesn't eat jam - at all.  Ever.  Can you imagine?  I make jam every week of the summer & he has no interest.  He didn't grow up eating pb & j so he has no interest in trying it now. 

I'm also including a photo of a card that I made for my Tea Swap partner.
The criteria for this card was that it was to reflect "where you live".  I live next to a lovely Lake & decided that if rivers have sirens - our lake could have a mermaid.  I love this little redhead & hope that my swap partner likes her, too.  She's made with a Stampendous stamp that I colored with color pencils.  I'd taken a class in CT & she was one of the cards we made.  This is a fun class program as you get to bring home a stamp after each class.  Now I can make as many mermaids as I like.  Since we have an upcoming party & I want it to have a Pirate & Mermaid theme I think she'll be making a reappearance.
How was your weekend?  I worked on Friday so this is a short one for me.  Tomorrow it's back to a long day at work.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Jam Photo - Elephant Ear, Peach Rhubarb, Ozark & Nectarine Vanilla

Here's a photo of the most recent jams (left to right) - Elephant Ear Plum jam, Peach Rhubarb jam, Ozark Plum jam & Nectarine Vanilla jam.  YUM!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Weekend Fun - Cards, Peaches, Plums & Husband

I love weekends like this past one.  It was full of all sorts of my favorite things & it got started bright & early on Friday.  Miss Mary & I made plans to leave at 7:30 a.m. on Friday to visit 2 scrapbooking stores as part of our Summer Passport event.  We paid $10 in early July & that gave us 20% off 8 different stores throughout New England.  We'd been to the first one on Thursday night when we took a Christmas in July class (4 GREAT cards) & now we were off to see 2 more stores.  Our destination was Absolutely Everything in Topsfield, but someone had suggested that we could stop at InkAboutIt during the same trip.  David (knowing traffic patterns) said that we should switch up our route so that we wouldn't be on 95 during rush hour (smart man!)  We had a delish breakfast & off we went.  We really were lucky as we arrived about 15 minutes before the store opened & marched in ready to shop.  The store has $1 Make n Takes & has them on Fridays during the summer.  We each made 9 cards & a bookmark.  Great deal!  After we left InkAboutIt we headed off to Absolutely Everything.  It really is a good thing that this store is 2 hours away.  I came home with all sorts of loot.  Put my 20% discount to good use & picked up some things on Clearance.
On Saturday morning I picked up DS at 7:15 (so that she could be back to work for 8:30) & we were off to the Farmers Market in Amherst.  This market is so well-organized & has such beautiful products.  I came home with 2 new plum varieties (Elephant Ear & Ozark) to turn into jam.  The Elephant Ear jam might rival Formosa for loveliest color, but I haven't tasted either & isn't that what jam is all about?  I'd been given rhubarb by a coworker so I knew that was still waiting to be used, too.  I also picked up a small box of tomato seconds & made 5 1/2 quarts of tomatoes for sauce before I was off to CT.
Right around lunchtime I left home to pick up my husband from the airport.  He'd been in Denver for a week & I missed him terribly.  His plane was a little late, but I was there with my sign (looking like a chauffeur).  My sign was made with the kids' magnetic letters & spelled out "My Fisherman".  There was only one passenger that fit that description.  I made 10 jars of Elephant Ear Plum jam & 11 jars of Ozark Plum jam after we returned from dinner. 
Today I went to the Hardwick Farmers Market & came home with nectarines & peaches.  I knew that I was going to make jam, but wanted to use up the rhubarb, too.  The internet came to my rescue (not an easy search but I'm persistent) with a recipe for Peach & Rhubarb jam. It had 1 flaw - it used powdered pectin & I only have liquid.  I followed the directions re: amounts of fruit & lemon juice & cooked & cooked.  I'd read in the description that the author added red food coloring because otherwise it was a yucky green color.  I couldn't imagine adding food coloring to my pristine jams, but thought I could add some of the Elephant Ear plums & it might be just enough to color it.  My next thought was that since I was using liquid pectin I was pretty sure that 2 c. of sugar wasn't going to be enough.  Hmmmm... what to do?  No easy answers for this question.  I went back to the Certo insert & looked at the quantities of peaches for peach jam & it was the same amount of fruit so I used the recommended amount of sugar & my fingers are crossed.  9 1/2 jars of Peach & Rhubarb jam are cooling on the center island.  I still have nectarines to use, but I've swapped Monday for Friday this week in terms of work so I might be able to get 1 batch of jam done in the afternoon.  Phew -- a lot of driving, a lot of shopping, husband home & jam, jam, jam ... What a wonderful life!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Prettiest Jam Award - Formosa Plum

If there were an award for "prettiest in show" for the jams I've made this summer tonight's bevy of beauties would win.  I made Formosa Plum jam tonight after work.  I'm exhausted from not sleeping well & getting up early to work a long day, but the 9 jars of jam on my counter soothe my weary soul.  Unfortunately, it's too late & they're too hot for me to take a picture.  I'll try to do it tomorrow.  It's been cloudy today so I'd really like some sun shining through the deep magenta hue of this jam.  Oh dear - waxing poetic over jam jars - again!  Time to go read for a little bit & then fingers crossed that I sleep better tonight.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Queen Anne's Lace Jelly Recipe - from Cooks.Com


Printed from COOKS.COM

Read more about it at,181,152174-246203,00.html
Content Copyright © 2012 - All rights reserved.
Jar full of flower heads
Boiling water
Juice of 1 lemon
Certo or Sure Jell
3 c. sugar

For violet, lilac, rose petal, Queen Anne's Lace, milkweed, clover, elderberry, dandelion, carnation, peony or any edible sweet smelling flower: make an infusion by pouring boiling water over jar full of flower heads. (On roses or peonies cut off white parts on petals.) Let stand at least 5 hours or overnight. Strain and for every 2 1/2 cups of infusion add juice of lemon and 1 package of Sure Jell or Certo. Bring to boil, add 3 cups sugar and boil hard 1 minute. Place piece of flower in jar for identification (you may opt not to do this). Pour in jelly and seal. If you use honey instead of sugar, add 1 1/2 cups honey at the end because honey loses its nutritional value when boiled. This jelly is nice to serve with English muffins at tea or breakfast. It's fun to collect the blossoms on a pleasant summer walk.

Jam Update, the Hardwick Farmers Market & Greece

How's this for a visual temptation?  I always tell people that I make jam for 3 reasons.  1.  I love the idea of taking something that's produced locally in the summer & turning it into something that can be enjoyed in the middle of the winter.
2.  There's something very basic in making preserves.  It feels right in my soul & my kids all love my jam.
3.  They look like jewels in their jars when they're finished.  Note photo above.

This morning I got up & was mentally prepared to make seedless blackberry jam.  I have always avoided making anything seedless because it feels like you lose so much when you remove the seeds, but I had plenty of blackberries & thought I'd give it a try.  I had my ingredients on the counter & went to put the empty jars on a towel when I realized that I was going to be short jars for the jam-making that I wanted to do today.  So - after chatting with David - off I went to the store for more jars.  As I was checking out, the cashier asked if I made jam & if I grew my own fruit.  I told her that I do my best to make jam each week with whatever is available locally.  She asked if I'd been to the Hardwick Farmers Market.  I didn't even know that there was one.  She said it's on Sundays at 10 (actually starts at 11) & that there's a jam person there that makes unusual jams (including Queen Anne's Lace jam).  Since it was 9:45 I figured it was a sign from God & off I went.  Since the market opened at 11 I was about 40 minutes early, but sat under a tree & watched the vendors set up.  The Hardwick Farmers Market is quite impressive for a small town.  I left with:  3 varieties of garlic (the man that sells it is so pleasant), 2 bags of granola (how could I resist coconut pineapple & lemon blueberry?), a jar of maple sugar, fresh/local cheeses (Swiss & Barndance), peaches (I thought it was too early, but the heat is bringing in everything ahead of schedule), a lovely baguette from Rose32 [a European style bakery that doesn't know how to make a bad item], cookies from a gentleman that promised to make hermits for me next weekend & some 4 oz jars of jam (including Queen Anne's Lace).  I had a great chat with the jam couple.  We compared notes on the use of sugar, the price of fruit, the search for jelly jars, etc.  I know that I'll go back. 
When I came home I finished up the seedless blackberry jam & made peach jam.  For all of my family & friends that know me well -  I can hear you.  Yes - I don't like peaches.  I don't like the taste, the smell & particularly the feel of peaches.  Everything about them says "fuzz" to me.  But --- I know that people like peach jam & I'm willing to make it.  Want to know what kinds of jam I've made this summer?  Even if you don't - I'm going to tell you anyways since I'm so pleased with the variety ~
* Strawberry Rhubarb
*Red Currant Onion Chutney
*Blueberry Red Currant
*Raspberry Blueberry
*Black Raspberry
*Shiro Plum
*Yellow Raspberry
*Spiced Blueberry
*Triple Berry (Blueberry, Blackberry, Red Raspberry)
*Seedless Blackberry
Wondering what the country of Greece is doing in my title?  I was on Skype this morning with my husband & saw that one of my paper buddies from Greece was on, too.  We'd always said that we'd try to "talk" to each other live & it's never worked out.  I sent her a message & within minutes we were in each other's houses chatting like we'd just stepped apart the day before.  It was wonderful!  Zeffy is so amazingly talented & I've loved watching her on YouTube.  We exchange packages periodically, but this was so much more fun.  I would love to visit her in Athens & of course, she's more than welcome here.  In the meantime - this option worked out well for us.
I'm headed off to read The Paris Wife.  It's so good & since the house is quiet I can tuck under a blanket & get a few chapters read. Before I know it I'll be back to work so I want to make the most of being home for a few more hours.  Before I do that I'm off to track down a recipe for Queen Anne's Lace Jelly [will share if I find it].  Have a wonderful week & check back soon ~


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Early Morning at the Lake & 2 Travel Journals

This is my view when I open the door facing the Lake.  I would normally call it my "back door" since I enter the garage from one side of the house & this is the reverse side.  I've been told that when you face the water the side facing the water is always the "front".  The other issue here is that we have a walk-out basement so this view is standing on a deck about 12 feet off the ground.  It seems strange to say that I opened the "front door" when you'd have to climb stairs to get to it, but that's how it goes. 

Today (continuing the theme of jam-making with local fruits this summer) I'll be off to another Farmer's Market to look for treasures.  I found that there's a good website which lists the local farms & Farmer's Market info so I'll be culling that source for fruit in the next couple of months.

I also want to show you a couple of photos of the journals for Iceland that I made.  Since I seem to have added 1 photo - I'm going to try & add 2 more.  Let's see where they appear in this blog ~

I have to say that I love, love, love preparing travel journals for other people to take on trips.  It's so much fun thinking about how to add an extra location for a photo or journaling or to wonder how someone will take the framework that I've provided & make it reflect their memories.  I think that the most important thing to do when traveling is to pick up what seems to be the boring stuff.  The map from the hotel, business cards, a piece of hotel stationery, the punched subway card, a napkin from a wonderful bakery (go ahead & write on it about what you had to eat) even the barf bags from the airplane can be a surface to right notes on if you go through an amazing cloud formation on the plane. 
So how will you spend your weekend?  I'm off to the market ~

Sunday, July 15, 2012

July 15th - Raspberries & Black Raspberries & some cabbage, too

Yesterday morning I went off to the local Farmer's Market to see what treasures were available.  It was a disappointing trip re: fruit, but I came home with green & wax beans, zucchini & corn.  We made 1 more stop at another stand & found raspberries.  I was all set for the morning's jam-making. 
I came home & made raspberry jam & then a batch of blueberry/raspberry jam (enough of each to mix, but not enough of either to make a full batch of either one).  While on my way home I'd received a message from DS asking what I was doing for the afternoon.  For the 2 of us that translates to, "are we going looking for local fruit?"  She's recently taken on jelly-making like she was born to it.  She even went to Williams Sonoma to pick up some supplies & there was a jam-making class scheduled.  Of course - she participated in the class & learned some new tricks [she's going to use powdered pectin vs Certo, but I was taught using Certo & like the results so I don't think I'll change]. 
At 2 p.m. I picked her up & off we went.  We chat the entire time we're riding along.  We've decided that we both want to be in book group, but haven't found one so we've started our own.  Our first book was Midwife of Venice (we didn't love it) & we're now reading Paris Wife & we both like it.  We headed up route 116 & over to 47 (thinking Hadley farms).  Every farmstand we saw was advertising corn, beans & tomatoes.  We were on a mission to find fruit!  We kept heading north (riding next to the CT River) & found our way to Sunderland.  There was a farmstand that seemed to have more product than some of the others.  We pulled in & hit the lottery.  We found red raspberries, black raspberries & blackberries (all local).  They also had bing cherries [not local] & native cabbages the size of basketballs.  I came home with black raspberries (now 9 beautiful jars of jam) & a cabbage.  DS bought cartons of fruit & 6 big cabbages.  I couldn't imagine what her plans were.  I knew that my cabbage was destined for golumpkis (up at 6 a.m. this a.m. to get the pan made before the heat was up in the high 80s).  Hers were for the chickens.  Who knew that chickens LOVE cabbage?  She said that the big head of cabbage can be chopped up & her chickens would be happy birds.  She has 1 chicken that's "broody" right now & she's trying all of the farmer's tricks that she knows of.  If the chicken continues to want to sit on the eggs & not lay any more she'll have to be removed from the others until she gets back with the program.  Yesterday the silly bird was sitting on an egg-shaped rock, but wasn't being very pleasant to the other hens.  Elvis (rooster) took charge & made it clear that the girls needed to behave.  It's funny to watch - but only from outside of the fence.
Today I'll go off to play with paper at noon.  Our local scrapbook store has make n takes (pre-planned, pre-cut card kits).  At $2 each it's a good way to build up a stash of cards & I get to see some friends.  I don't go very often because of my schedule, but I've planned for it today.
My travel journals safely arrived in California & will be off to Iceland soon.  I hope to hear how the recipients liked them.  They are so much fun to make.
Let me know how you're spending your summer days.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July 11 - Travel Journals beginning trip & jelly cupboards

The journals that I made are safely in California.  Next week they'll be on the way to Iceland.  When I lived in Ethiopia I had a little girl in my preschool class from Iceland.  We became close friends with her family & even visited them when they came to live outside of New York.  Asdis (pronounced oushdish) explained the naming pattern for people from Iceland.  I'll use my name to illustrate.  My father's first name was Robert.  If I lived in Iceland I would have been named Kimberly Robertsdottir.  My brother's name would have been Dean Robertson.  That's right - siblings that don't share a last name.  I found it very interesting & I thought about tying the "dottir" information into the journals - but decided that since they aren't my journals I have to let the new owners do what they want.  I hope that they add lots of Icelandic info to them.  I tucked in a stamp with a spoon, knife & fork.  I love to look back on the foods I've eaten when I travel.  Do you think they'll get the hint?
Changing topics - can someone chime in about jelly cupboards?  My friend that's just begun making jam/jelly is now interested in furniture to house her jarred jewels.  Is it jelly cupboards that sometimes have chicken wire or is that a pie safe? 
I'm off to wander around Pinterest for a few minutes.  4:45 a.m. comes early. 
Have a wonderful week ~

Sunday, July 8, 2012

July 8th - Summer Bounty & an anniversary, too

Yesterday was our 5th wedding anniversary.  It was a quiet day & since it was Saturday - off to the Farmer's Market I went.  This week I was disappointed that there weren't any "new" fruits, but I'd seen a recipe in the Ball Blue Book for Blueberry Currant jam & when the "honey" lady had red currants again -- I bought a couple of boxes.  Making anything with currants seems to always involve cooking & putting through the food mill.  In the past my food mill was pulled off the shelf in the basement for 3 specific things - applesauce, tomatoes for sauce & for pureeing the cottage cheese in the cheesecake recipe that I make.  Now my food mill is getting extra work because of the red currants.  The recipe said that the yield was 2 pints.  Since I make jam in 1/2 pint containers I wasn't going to go through that muh work to make just 4 jars.  Doubling was the path I took [& I NEVER double jam recipes].  This recipe had you cook the blueberries with a little water, cook the currants with a little water, send the currants/juice through the food mill & add to the blues & cook some more.  Finally - time to add the sugar & ................. cook for 20 more minutes while stirring so it doesn't stick/scorch.  This recipe has no added pectin so you're really cooking off all that water you added at the beginning.  My double recipe took 40 minutes of stirrring, but the jam is lovely.  I'm not sure how many palates will taste the currants, but I  know that the juice is in there.
My friend that learned how to make strawberry jam on Friday was making blueberry jelly on Friday night.  I've never made jelly - I like the pieces of fruit, but she has requests for jellies & off she went.  I know that she's planning for Xmas gifts - wouldn't you love to receive jelly when it's cold outside & you can close your eyes & taste the summer blueberries on your toast?  What a GREAT gift.
This morning I'm headed up to my scraproom to finish up 2 travel journals that are on their way to Iceland via California ;-)  I made several travel journals when we went on our transatlantic cruise last year & one of the women has asked me to make them for her daughter's trip next week.  I wanted to finish them earlier, but between work & jam-making here I am.  They are so much fun to make & I can say that when I look back at the one that I completed during our trip [the goal here is to bring it wih you & finish it as you go - at the very most ~> adding photos after you get back, but not recreating the trip afterwards].  For me - it's more about the silly little things that happen that I record at the time.  If I waited - I'd forget about the individual events.
Soooo - another busy day.  Time for the first cup off coffee ...

Friday, July 6, 2012

July 6th - on the farm & a little about the 4th, too

One of my very favorite women in the world has become a "boutique farmer".  She is single-handedly leading me from the path of being afraid of birds to a limited affection for chickens [as long as they are in their chicken area behnd the fence].  I've learned more about chickens than I ever imagined.  Do you know that baby chicks arrive via the mail & if you accept not knowing their gender - they're less expensive? Guess how you find out their gender?  Two ways - an expert [don't ask] or wait until one of your new bundles of fun greets the dawn with a cock-a-doodle-doo.  I am not joking here!  Now - back to my gal pal that has these chickens.  She's a city girl -- no --> not Springfield or even Boston.  She's a New Yorker!  This is so far out of anything that I could imagine her doing & yet [no surprise as she's an avid reader] she has educated herself on all things poultry.  Of course - her motivation for owning chickens has to do with wanting to eat organic eggs (a noble rationale).  From there I can only smile.  Most of us would be happy with our boring chickens laying boring eggs.  Nope - the chickens have to be "pretty" & the eggs should be a rainbow of pale pastels.  Size is not the primary factor here --- pretty is the important adjective.  Now - I thought this had to do with her personality - she's a redhead that loves pink.  All girl.  But ......... nope.  I buy my eggs locally at the Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings.  I'm usually the first one there (sometimes before some of the vendors arrive) & I buy my eggs from an older gentleman.  When I asked if my eggs were laid by "pretty chickens" his response [without any hesitation] --- "all chickens are pretty".  I rest my case.
Today I spent time with DS in the kitchen teaching her to make jam.  Someone taught me to make jam & I was passing on everything I know to be true.  She has jam eaters lined up.  I told her my clause when giving out jam -- I'll give you a jar & if you give it back when it's empty - I'll give you another one.  We picked up fresh, local blueberries & my plan is to make blueberry jam this weekend.  Depending on what I find at the Farmer's Market tomorrow - there might be another batch, too. 
I don't like the heat, but I do love the fruits of summer.  I can taste the sunshine in the fresh berries that grow in New England during a short growing season.  We'll have fresh corn tonight & might even have some steamed wax beans.  They are a treat for everyone in our family. 
For the 4th of July we had an eclectic meal -- spiral ham, red currant onion chutney [yummmmmmmmmmmm], mashed potatoes, local zucchini & cornbread.  I wanted to jazz up the cornbread recipe a bit so I added some local dried chili, fresh scallions & cut some fresh corn off of ears that I'd cooked the night before.  I really liked the flavors that came through.  We had some cornbread leftover so it's going to be transformed into corn bread stuffing.  For dessert - I made a lemon cake & we had it with fresh blueberries, strawberries & whipped cream. 
Katie made a pie to take to her Dad's for the 4th.  She's got magical hands when it comes to pie-making.   This pie was blueberry, blackberry, raspberry & strawberry.  We made the crust together & while it was chilling worked on the filling.  I'm trying to hand over all of my favorite pie-making techniques to her.  She (at 12) can make a lattice crust to rival any baker.  From what I hear - her Dad said it was one of the best pies he'd ever had.  I've sworn her to keep the pie secrets until she passes them along to the next generation.
Time for me to plan my next project.  I might go & work on the 2 Travel Journals for Susan.  They need to go in the mail on Monday.  I might kick my feet up & start reading.  David is waiting for a friend to go fishing & the girls will be home by 4:00.  Where does the free time go?  Enjoy the weekend!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer

July 1st, 2012

I've decided that I'm going to use this little blog to chat about what's going on (at least in my corner of the world) even if I don't get around to posting pictures of everything I'm working on.  This summer & fall I'm going to focus on my local farm products & am back in jam-making mode.  I had requests this year to go back to making jam.  Unfortunately - my sweet husband didn't grow up eating jam & has no interest.  I'm forced to find takers for my jam.  So far this year I've made:  strawberry rhubarb jam, strawberry jam & red currant onion chutney.  As the season goes on I hope to make some of my favorites, but I haven't seen damson plums in years & they are one of the most delicious & beautiful jams that I ever made. 
We had friends over on Saturday to go boating & David asked me to make a Georgia Special Cake.  If you haven't tried this delicious cake, just google it & make it.  You'll win rave reviews. 
Today I worked on the 1st of 2 travel journals that I'm making for a friend in California.  I love putting them together & figuring out how I can add little extra surprises without it becoming my journal. 
It's warm in Massachusetts & I'm looking forward to a short week at work.  With the holiday on Wednesday I took Thursday off, too.  It's going to be wonderful to spend a few days on the lake.  We try to spend as much time outside as we can.  David's busy catching bass & I relax with either a book or my Kindle.  Life is good.
I hope to get some tatting done this week.  I'd like to work on a pattern that I have for a bookmark that I think would be perfect as a headband.  I need to focus on how to add more thread without having to weave it in after the project is finished.  I'll have to pull out my tatting book.
Enjoying Pandora as I blog.  It feels like having a dj in the room saying, "so - you like this artist --> have you heard this one" .... love it.
So - stay tuned.  I'm going to try to make this part of a routine.  Alternately - look for me on Pinterest.  I've got lots of treasures pinned.
Bunny Bunny ~

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

January Tea & Valentine Card Swaps

Finally - time for me to come back to blog & let you know bits & pieces of what I've been up to.  I've been playing with paper & this is the card I made for the monthly Tea Swap that Fran hosts.  I love this swap not only for the tea that arrives, but for the challenge of making 1 card for 1 person.  This month's theme was "Celebrations" & we were invited to use blue & silver.  I love how this card turned out & included 2 English Breakfast tea bags for Becky in Indiana.  I never sign my cards since I hope that they'll get to move along to someone else that might  enjoy the visual gift that I'm trying to send.

I've also been working on a couple of swaps at Life on the {Scrap} Beach.  The most recent one was a Valentine Card Swap.  This card was completely inspired by the vintage image that I found online.  I had to make 6 identical cards to send out to Belinda in Oregon & I'll get 6 different ones in return.  This isn't one of the ones I sent, so it's not exactly the same, but it still relays the emotion that I was trying to capture & includes several of the elements.

We've been playing lots of Five Crowns.  Our new friends, Sandy & Bob in California, introduced us to this game while we were all crossing the Atlantic Ocean together.  Every afternoon we played from 1 - 4.  When we got home Santa gave a deck to us & now we've introduced it to the girls.  It's been so much fun. 

I'm hoping to move my scraproom upstairs this month.  Monday is a holiday & I've got some ideas that need to be put into action.  We'll see how long it actually takes.

I'd love to blog more often, but can't make any promises.  I don't have any trouble with the meandering thoughts.  It's more the uploading of photos.  I still don't have all of the ins & outs of our scanner figured out (evidenced by the extra white space around the cards above) ;-)

Happy New Year -- I'm certainly looking forward to 2012!