Tuesday, November 24, 2015

leaf cookie template

I've been wanting to make these cookies; I have no leaf-shaped cookie cutter. I do have a pumpkin shape and I may use it, but I really like these as leaves.

I went outside and took the first flat-ish leaf I saw, which wasn't so simple because they're mostly dried up and curling. But this one - which was softer and flatter when I brought it in - got traced and lines drawn on it, and I hope to use it whenever I can get to it. The dough is made, and waiting.

Monday, November 23, 2015

a very long rise

I once heard Claus Meyer say - talking about bread - that you should let it rise for twenty four hours if you had to. I'm glad he said it and even gladder that it stuck with me.

Saturday I mixed up some dough for oat bread from Kneadlessly Simple. It was already afternoon, and without thinking, I used cold water which is what I usually do, but the night before. The dough, which contained just one teaspoon of yeast for two medium sized loaves, wasn't going anywhere. I knew I didn't want to end up having to bake it in the middle of the night, so into the fridge it went. I removed it before bed - between nine and ten o'clock, but in the morning it was still just like a lump. The thought came to me to toss it, but I said No! I had the three days off in a row - it had to rise sometime! I would just wait. Consequently, that first rise took all Sat. night and most of Sunday to happen. I then deflated it and put it in two loaf pans for the overnight.

This picture was taken maybe midday today. And I still waited a couple of hours more before baking. The total rising time for this bread not counting refrigerator time, was a day and a half!

In the midst of all this waiting and checking I realized the house was two degrees cooler than I thought, so I turned up the heat. So there were several factors involved there.

Meanwhile, I was so busy cleaning, etc., that I actually forgot I was baking bread and when the oven timer went off the loaves looked almost burnt. But I will tell you: they aren't burnt, and what with all that slow rising, so much flavor developed that it. is. truly. delicious.  And these are the things I find so fascinating about baking bread.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

just a funny story

"If you read all the signs", said Dick at breakfast, which is the time we always take for leisurely conversation, "you realize they work the caretaker with rigid discipline."

Did he mean church, cattle, or children? We had been discussing all three. I waited while he drank the milk out of his glass, poured cream and then coffee into the glass.

"They don't want a lot of loud talk and conversation. They won't tolerate changes. They don't want to be driven; they just want to be served." The church, I decided.

"You try to get them in, and they'll stand in the doorway, blockin' the way...." Yes, the church certainly. His words exactly described the Maple Grove congregation pausing between the old stone wall and the front steps to talk plowing, tractors, crops, and beef prices, reluctant to break it up even when the old upright piano starts clanging: Bring them in, bring them inStill, it might be the children; sometimes it's hard to get them in to meals.

"And if one of 'em has horns, she's got things her way. Now horses will go right in and kick the slats out of everything they don't like, but a cow will just stand there, lookin'..."

It was a relief, finally to know.

                                                        -   Rural Free, by Rachel Peden

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

artisan bulb dibber

Yesterday was so unexpectedly mild - I ran outside to finally plant my crocus bulbs in the front bed, around the rhododendron. I know I should have done it two months ago - they're the earliest-blooming - I hope they'll have enough time underground. It's been so much warmer than usual, that I didn't know if they'd start growing under there before their time. We'll see.

My brother had been going to Agway when I yelled out, Get me a bulb dibber! Do you know, they didn't have one?  He brought me back a thing which will take a chunk of dirt up - you stick it in the ground and twist - and make a place for your plantings. But it's not a bulb dibber. I had to go online, and when I saw this on etsy, that was it!  A real beauty.

Monday, November 16, 2015

fresh dill

Debra gave me some of her dill plant a few months ago. I stuck it in the ground, but it didn't seem to go anywhere. Till recently, that is. And after a couple of hard frosts, too!  Spread over a good portion in one of the gardens, low to the ground and lush, like it must be springtime.

I decided if it wants to take over that much space, I'm not going to thwart it.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

rest in peace

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord
Let perpetual light shine upon them,
May they rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, November 13, 2015

a simple button

Right before the warm weather arrived, I finished the Lily Linen dress pattern from Tessuti Fabrics. I made it in a light corduroy and so was only able to wear it once, until it recently got cool again.

It has a wide neckline and I have narrow shoulders, so it gaped and I didn't like it. I looked through my online pins, and saw this (the third photo). I love it. At first glance, you think she is wearing something way too big for her, and just found this overlarge safety pin which happens to make it all look fabulous. But the bottom seems to fit, so I guess it was made that way. It's terrific anyhow. And I wouldn't mind trying that idea out on a very large knit top of some kind, maybe. But, my dress. This kind of thing could work there! - but something more permanent than a pin.

I thought of tacking it down with an embroidery stitch or two, but the truth is, I'm not much at embroidery. A button!  Suddenly, it came to me. I dug around and found the one I had which looked best, but nothing special. And, voila!  I really like it.

excuse the clumsy selfie

I wore it today and no more gaping. And even though it's not in the center, nothing seemed lopsided. Yes!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

affirmation for Val

I just was reading Val's post here, and then picked up my book, Rural Free by Rachel Peden.

"Do the winter fields look pretty to you? asked Dick (her husband) as we stood at the front window watching the children get on the school bus.  I thought the view of bare trees and snowy fields, through John Fielder's living room window, was just simply beautiful. John's window looks out on a faded red barn, a nice-sized creek, and a stony hillside with two dead elms at the foot of it. Actually, if the rain's not running down your neck, and your feet aren't cold, any winter day on the farm is beautiful, he added. "

This book was written in sixty-one, and was recently withdrawn from our library collection. Well, we have to buy new things, and we have to make room for them! But, I love these kinds of writings. This woman was no Gladys Taber, but any journal type book of farming or country life - from the past, especially - is so appealing.

[About Dick]: "A year at the Purdue University did not change his farm way of talking, any more than a comb could take the curl out of his dark hair. But a man can be poetic by nature and yet express himself in the handy, accurate language of farmers. 
He has prejudices and strong personal opinions. He is left-handed, tall, slightly stooped, and now wears bifocal glasses. He likes to read; prefers the sophisticated New Yorker magazine...to the farm magazines, which he finds depressing. "

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


The Pity of the Leaves

Vengeful across the cold November moors,
Loud with ancestral shame there came the bleak
Sad wind that shrieked, and answered with a shriek
Reverberant through lonely corridors.
The old man heard it; and he heard, perforce,
Words out of lips that were no more to speak -
Words of the past that shook the old man's cheek
Like dead, remembered footsteps on old floors.

And then there were the leaves that plagued him so!
The brown, thin leaves that on the stones outside
Skipped with a freezing whisper. Now and then
They stopped - and stayed there - just to let him know
How dead they were, but if the old man cried,
They fluttered off like withered souls of men.

-  Edwin Arlington Robinson

Here in the U.S. it's a day to honor veterans, but today I've been thinking about the first world war, and the armistice which is being remembered abroad.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

more bread ruminations

I have spoken here about the bread-making method I usually use, but there's another. My usual  method is to mix up the yeast, water and some of the flour the night before, which is some kind of preferment, and then finish it up the next day. Of course, I'm doing this on my day off. But sometimes on my days off I can't seem to get to it - and I confess that I don't really want to eat store bought bread anymore.

Way back when, I tried the five minute artisan method, but it wasn't for me. I didn't want dough in the fridge all the time; I certainly didn't need to make one loaf per day; I did not really want all my bread to be similar, from the same base recipe. I did want to experiment with different bread recipes.
After poking through the bread books on Amazon, I settled on Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett. Yes, this was it!

She has many recipes included - it is a cookbook, after all - and all the ones I've tried are very good tasting. (although I will say that her amounts of water seem like too much - I always end up adding much more flour; either that, or I just start out with half of her suggested water amounts.) But it's also a method, and at the end she explains how to adapt your other bread recipes to this method of hers.

Very basically, you are roughly mixing up her ingredients - and she uses a very small amount of yeast - with ice water, and then refrigerating the dough for three to ten hours. It's then put out at room temp for at least twelve hours, and maybe up to twenty four.  You then shape it, and let it rise the second time, which is usually two hours; then bake it.

This is very convenient if you're working. Yesterday afternoon I mixed up my dough, and it was in the fridge from 4:45 until ten-ish. Out on a kitchen shelf all night, and until I came home today after five. I immediately reshaped it into a loaf, and let it rise. It's very helpful to have different ways of baking your bread according to your schedule! Not to mention that the long rise in the cold is what develops the flavor. If you're interested in bread, check out this book.

Monday, November 9, 2015

a surprise of fresh air

Even though the pillowcase had dried nicely on the line the other day, I decided to iron it anyway. When I touched the hot iron to the cotton, the fresh air scent wafted right out!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Blessed through all eternity

I am like the pathetic sheep...
which strayed into inaccessible hills
and wandered in a daze among beastly demons
and fierce idols, without the slightest chance of
returning to the fold. Although my tongue was lost
for words to tell my anguish, and my hands
lacked the agility to communicate like the mute,
still you found me, you who alone
are praised from beginning to end
throughout the generations.

You found me, a sinner, lost in darkness
crying like the psalmist in prayer,
and because of your willing care
you were called Shepherd, for not only
did you care, but you sought,
not only did you find, O worker of miracles,
but with the goodness of your love,
a love that defies description,
you rescued me,
lifting me upon your shoulders,
to set down alongside your heavenly army,
the heirs to your fatherly legacy....

And forgiving my stubborn defiance,
O long-suffering, merciful, blessed one,
be truly generous and forgive me all at once,
wiping out my unrepayable debts
and the crushing interest which has accrued,
for you have no wrath in your heart, nor vexation,
nor deceit, nor traces of darkness,
for you wish only life and light....

So deliver me with your mercy,
O fount of loving kindness,
who alone are blessed through all eternity,

                                                                    -  Saint Gregory of Narek  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

crummy work

I've been whizzing cookies and crackers in the blender to make crumb crusts for cheesecakes. Thursday I made the low-fat cheesecake with graham cracker crust; today it was a pumpkin ginger cheesecake pie, from Gourmet magazine, nine years ago; it has a gingersnap crust.

My brother is the cheesecake lover and I will often make it for his birthday, coming up soon. So, the first one is now sliced up, wrapped in foil, and neatly in the freezer downstairs. He will be allowed to eat it all himself. The other is for tomorrow's dessert.  I was very happy a couple of years ago when I learned that mason jars will fit on the blender!  There are plenty of those here - the above is a jelly jar, which was closest to hand. I think making crumbs works better with smaller jars, but I will try it with a larger, since I did have to keep emptying and filling.

Tomorrow's menu:

  • Chicken Tenders with Lemon
  • Green Beans Gremolata
  • cabbage or tossed salad (haven't decided yet)
  • white and wild rice
  • Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake Pie

Thursday, November 5, 2015

running stitch for decoration

I'm making my favorite dress pattern for the fourth time, and this image caught my attention.

borrowed from internet

So, this is my version:  a print dress with a wide, matching band at the bottom, with running stitches.

I'm content with mine, but can really appreciate the steady hand of whoever stitched the other one. Or should I say, steady eye!

The neck edge is next, then the sleeves. They're short, but I'm hoping I can make extensions on the sleeves with the gold fabric, and maybe more stitching.

Monday, November 2, 2015

thanks to Linda

Linda brought a big bag of chunky carrots to work - I guess she'd had all she could deal with from the garden. I took a few, and waited. Almost a week later, they were still in the fridge. Just as I expected. I grabbed 'em.  Tonight, carrot soup and BLTs.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

the swamp maple

"In the evening,...we stopped to admire the swamp maple in the springlot. It is an old tree; its top is as big as the farmhouse. In spring it was bright satin. This fall it has colored earlier and more richly than the adjacent soft maples. Standing high against the bright blue evening sky, with the western sunlight full upon it, the swamp maple was genuinely spectacular. If there had been nothing else of beauty or goodness on the whole hundred acres, that one tree would have been enough."

                                      - Rural Free, a Farmwife's Almanac of Country Living,  by Rachel Peden


Saturday, October 31, 2015


give or take a couple -

and I was starting to think we'd run out.

Friday, October 30, 2015

eggs on Friday

very often, and I've gotten pretty good at making an omelet.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

more about vinegar

It's always fun to see what new books our library director has bought, and you will never guess what I saw behind my desk yesterday!  No, you won't.

Imagine, I just posted about vinegar the other day!  I put my name on it, but meanwhile I did some peeking inside:

I'll have to get some more Bragg cider vinegar - it's supposed to have a mother in it. Then we'll see what we will see.

Monday, October 26, 2015

the vinegar that never happened

That's wine in the jar. It has to be close to a year ago when I thought I'd just let a bottle of red wine go sour, thereby making red wine vinegar, right?  I started by leaving the top off when I thought of it. That didn't do anything, so then I just left it off completely. For weeks and weeks. Bugs may have fallen in; I didn't check - the bottle was painted black. But it still smelled like wine after all that time. I got an idea that maybe sunlight would make it happen, so I poured it into a clear jar. That was quite a while ago and it still smells like wine. Today I found this which seems to say it's not that simple.  So, I give up. I could swear that during my youth, there was once some wine in our house that went bad.

Maybe they're making it differently now; kind of like the ultra-pasteurized cream that two months after you bought it is still (miraculously) good.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

ah, the wisdom of Bertie Wooster

"I have often wondered, when I read about fellows getting horsewhipped on the steps of their club, why they didn't just go up the steps and into the club, knowing that the chap behind the horsewhip wasn't a member and wouldn't have a chance of getting past the hall porter."

                                                   -  The Cat-Nappers, by P. G. Wodehouse

Thursday, October 22, 2015

{pretty, happy, funny, real} with Leila

Today was one of those balmy October days I can't resist - so I stayed out as long as I could. I cut back the hydrangea and brought several dried blooms inside with me. Leila's mention of her brown ones made me think of it, but ours weren't entirely dried; I thought some were pretty enough to bring in.

Some are also on top of the corner cabinet in a small crock I found downstairs last week, but it's too dark up there to photograph.

I strained the raw milk yogurt from the other day. This was after four hours; it's still got that lumpy-ish quality, but I'm happy with the experience and it does seem to have a bit of tang after all.

I picked up a P. G. Wodehouse from the library which I knew would be funny. Bertie Wooster is so ridiculous. I remember a radio series on a local NPR station many years ago with Richard Briers as Bertie and Michael Hordern as Jeeves - I loved it. Who doesn't enjoy a good laugh? Anyway, I've been poking through Leila's Library Project suggestions, and recently finished Gentian Hill. It would be hard to describe that book - it was like no other, is all I can say. But now it's time to laugh with Bertie.

Because I was outside a lot today, I did not finish washing the windows as I'd intended. That's the real, but I don't have a photo of it. Everyone knows what that looks like, anyway.  :D

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

raw milk yogurt

Debra and I went to lunch at a local place we love, and then stopped at a health food store because I've been wanting to try kombucha. Afterward, we were back in the car sitting and talking, and Deb saw the sign in the store window - Raw Milk. Back into the store we went.

The dairy case was empty but we still wanted information, and when we asked, the girl went to the back and returned with two bottles! The last two.

I wanted to make yogurt with it, and having made it once has of course made me an expert. But the method I used that other time is not what you're supposed to use with raw milk, I discovered. (The internet is wonderful, but you end up with so much information and so many "sure methods" - then you have to take a plunge and decide which way you're going to do it.)

It seems that raw milk tends to make a thinner result than pasteurized. It may be more fussy about incubation temps than pasteurized. And it may take longer than even ten hours to thicken up. I really didn't want runny yogurt, but it seemed that we (Deb was going to make some, too) might have no choice.

Meanwhile, she got the idea to get one of the West ladies' DVDs  from the library - the dairy one. They make yogurt, from raw milk, and it's thick!  I'm not sure why theirs alone came out thick but they were putting in one cup of yogurt per half gallon of milk, so I wondered if maybe that was it. Anyway,  I heated it to 110, mixed some of it with one cup of store-bought, and whisked it all together carefully.  I then used the same method as for the regular yogurt, incubating it in the crockpot with warm water.

After six hours I checked it - it was more like buttermilk than anything. Now, the West ladies had used a smallish cooler and they poured boiling water over their jars into the cooler. Theirs was thick in six hours. I turned on the crockpot again, but it was taking too long to heat up - so I boiled some water and poured that in and decided to leave it all night.

It was much thicker in the morning! I really wanted to boil more water and leave it all day while I was at work, but I wasn't sure if I should do that. But I think next time I will. I'm not going to splurge on this stuff regularly, but I mainly wanted to learn.

You know, some people insisted that all you have to do for raw milk yogurt is stir some yogurt into it and leave it out on the counter for forty eight hours.  I'm really tempted to try that, too.

The taste?  If you've ever tried Fage, that's what this reminds me of. Fage is more like a luxurious pudding, and not tart at all. So, it's okay taste-wise, but I'm in this more for the experience. And the bacteria.

Monday, October 19, 2015

a close call

I have two feet left of yarn - just enough to thread the needle and gather up the remaining stitches on the knitted hat. Wow! 

And to think that when I was unwinding the hank some of it got tangled and knotted and I had to chuck it. Wow again!  

Too bad I'd ended up getting another - I was getting worried and thought I'd better. So much for using up my stash; I suppose I'll have to make a matching something-or-other. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015


"Blessed be the Lord for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, for the deep that coucheth beneath. And for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon."

                                                              Elizabeth Goudge,  Gentian Hill