Saturday, December 31, 2011

a milestone of sorts

After being home with just one child, we drove to join the others on Thursday, and then my husband and I had an opportunity to get away for a couple of nights to celebrate our anniversary.  We stayed at the beautiful, dog-friendly Blue Goose Inn  which is sandwiched between Sunapee Mountain ski area and Sunapee Lake.  Wednesday night we went for a pub dinner and watched the movie Avalon afterwards.  It wasn't a great one, but we both enjoyed it, and boy, was Elijah Wood cute at age nine!

Thursday morning we woke to a light snowfall and a scrumptious breakfast.  Then it was time to head into the woods.  We had hoped for enough snow to do some cross country skiing, but it wasn't to be.  Instead we followed some snowmobile trails that lead us into the quietest part of the woods.

The fresh snow and the dim light added their own magic to the day.  As we were headed out of the woods, we found someone's food storage and dining room:

Pantry underneath the log, dining room on top, garbage disposal on the other side.  Clearly someone had been quite hungry.

That night, we treated ourselves to an exquisite dinner at the Inn at Pleasant Lake to celebrate our anniversary.  It was a truly memorable meal starting with a duck appetizer, followed by Potage Lyonaise which was so good my husband had seconds:

This was followed by a salad and a compote of tart cherries as a palate cleanser.  The main course was amazing:

Tuna with Dill Beurre Blanc for my husband and the most tender Beef tenderloin I have ever tasted in my life.  To finish, there was cheesecake with ganache and raspberry sauce.  Isn't it pretty?

We have lived in the Northeast for almost 18 months now, and there are so many beautiful and lovely places to discover.  I'm very much hoping that we will have lots of time to explore in 2012.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

hello from the quiet

I love this unstructured time between Christmas and the New Year.  Just being in the moment, everyone in their own corner of the house or snuggling with the dog in front of the fireplace and breathing in the quiet that follows the fun busyness of preparation, making, shopping, wrapping, cooking and celebrating.  While my husband and the youngest child are away visiting with relatives, the two of us left are enjoying two more days of quiet reading and pursuing our own projects before we join them all tomorrow for a few days.  Blessed quietness. Here are some of my favorite memories of the season:

Shopping with one child at a time.  They both need very little help with suggestions these days, so I get to hang back and watch what they come up with, in the store or at home with their many projects. This year, the nine year old made a scarf, a mug warmer and many little dolls like these, which she filled with candy. The twelve year old specialized in chocolates and shortbread cookies.

When we lived in the suburbs, our decorations all came from the local garden center.  This year, I grabbed some clippers and floral wire and went outside to see what I could find.  Luckily, our yard grows everything you need for a perfect decoration or three.  Just add the bow.  How lucky are we?

Of course, there is always a gingerbread house to be made and decorated (or two or three, depending on secret santa obligations) and candles to be restocked for the Solstice, when we don't turn on the lights after dark.  Our new house has a very large mantle, so I added this little snowman to our decorations.

Now I don't know about you, but I find myself often pulled into all kinds of new crafty directions the six weeks or so before Christmas.  You would think I'd have learned to save time and stick with what I know long ago, but apparently I am unable to do that.  And frankly, seeing the joy on the faces of loved one, or noticing on Wednesday that your child has yet to take off that tricky reverse applique project, makes it all oh, so worth it, don't you think?

Well, and when all the cooking and decorating and making were done, we poured some wine, sat in a comfortable spot by the woodstove, lit the candles on the tree and let the joy of giving and the peace of dark evenings wash over us.  And really, we are so greatful for everything we have from the roof over our heads to the people in our lives, and to those of you who venture to this space.  Blessings to all of you this holiday season!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

where I have been

Oh my, how could so much time pass so quickly?  There have been a few trips out of town and such, but in one word, what has kept me so busy is the makings of the season:

At the moment I'm in love with upcycled cotton shirts.  As a pattern for a simple skirt, I just cut out widening strips of different fabric and then sewed ten of them together into a tube.  For the waistband, I added an adult mock turtleneck, and after cutting the length, I went around the bottom with a zigzag stitch.

(Dear Santa, I could really use a serger to finish the seams more nicely).

A doll for a child in the making.

This felt dragon comes from the latest issue of Living Crafts magazine and will become a sweet stuffed animal for our youngest cousin.

The beginnings of the "Men's Rustic Scarf" from Last- Minute Knitted Gifts.  Instead of chunky wool I used this luscious Plymouth Yarn Mushishi in worsted weight, which knits up very nicely and is super soft.  There are some beautiful colorways in this, but I stuck with a basic black/white/gray for this project. 

And of course we have been baking.  I forgot to take out the camera for the many cookies we have made, but yesterday my dear husband baked some yummy lussekatter (saffron buns) for the Santa Lucia celebration at school.  They are beautiful and light and slightly sweet, just perfect with a cup of hot cocoa.

But I have not been the only one making things around here.  A few nights ago I came into my bedroom to find these sweet little people on my pillow.  Chances are that if you come to our house and are deemed worthy a present by the resident nine-year old, you may be presented with one of these.  And if you are extra lucky, they may even contain a treat or two.

Many more gifts are taking shape as the house is covered in bits of paper, wool, thread and all manner of other craft supplies.  There is lots of whispering, urgent trips into town and feverish preparations of secret Santa gifts.  This may just be my very favorite time of the year!

And what have you been making?  Please share in the comments!  And above all, Happy Crafting!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Somehow this year I have lived into an alternate rhythm of crafting and "arting."  While I spent much of 2011 obsessed with socks (I really should post a picture one of these days) and a cardigan, lately I've been drawn back to my paints and gel medium.  Here are a couple of the results:

I've had a hard time taking a picture that brought out the true colors, so here is a closeup:

It's a gessoed 2'x2' panel with collage papers, stickers and written words.  Then I painted a Sun Mandala and the crow on top. It reflects my mood of autumn, on one hand bursting with color, on the other going inward to a place of dreaminess for a while... hope you like it!

This piece contrasts nicely with the one I created towards the end of summer:

Here, I collaged and painted papers onto an oval canvas.  I then sculpted the tree trunk, roots and branches out of gel medium before adding leaves and writing.  It is called "Our Family Tree."  In the photo, the tree trunk appears very shiny or speckled with white.  Without the reflection of the light, it is a shiny brown color.

It was a lot of fun making these, though I am now tending towards smaller pieces.  I have one more in the works, then it will be back to crafting until after the holidays.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Veteran's Day

I have never posted for Veteran's Day before.  My grandfather served in WWII for Hitler's army (though he was a lifelong member of the opposition Social Democratic Party) and died of the consequences of his injuries sustained at the Russian front after many years of suffering.  My other grandfather worked in the steelmills and was excused from  military service to keep the war machine going.  As you can imagine, the veterans of the Second World War were not exactly welcomed home as heroes.  Instead, in Germany on this day we commemmorate the end of the First World War, at 11:11 am.

Coming to the USA after having grown up with an awareness of how destructive military might can be in the wrong hands, I understandably have always had an uneasy relationship with any military matters.  But over time I have learned how important the military has been to this country and the world.  I have met veterans in families dear to me, and though I have never supported the wars the government is fighting in the Middle East, I have nothing but admiration for those who would enter this line of work willingly to defend this country and/or its ideals.

Today I was listening to State of the Reunion on the radio and heard the story of Archie's Acres Farm in California.  I was moved by the work that is done there in providing marines with a learning experience in sustainable agriculture.  With so many vets returning home with PTSD, physical injuries, lack of employment and often lack of services or even a home, it was truly heartening to hear about the Veterans for Sustainable Agriculture (VSAT) program.  The training program prepares these men and women to move into their own farming careers with confidence.

I think this is something we can all celebrate.

Friday, November 4, 2011


I can remember a handful of times in my life when I have eaten something so perfect, or perfectly prepared, that I still remember the flavor, texture and aroma to this day.  Most of these memories involve dishes (okay, desserts!), but there is one that stands out because it involves a single leaf of arugula.

I was getting out of the car to pick up my first CSA share when my friend Ali handed me this leaf to taste.  There was bitterness, firmness and a nice kick of spice, as you would expect.

But there was more. 

Underneath all these flavors and textures, there was an energy I had never experienced in food before.  It was like eating life itself. I felt as if my body was streaming with life forces.  All from one. single. bite!  This was how I first came to meet biodynamics.

Biodynamics is a form of agriculture inspired by the work of Rudolf Steiner.  Back in the 1920's, a group of farmers came to Steiner, concerned about the changes they were seeing in the fields:  the lower yields, the decreasing nutritional value of crops, the diseases etc.  So Steiner gave a series of lectures on agriculture out of which the biodynamic agricultural methods were born.

The basic premise of biodynamics is to treat the entire farm as one living organism and as such to strengthen it and treat it homeopathically.  There are biodynamic initiatives all over the world and an international association and certification program.

Since tasting that first leaf of arugula (and many more biodynamic meals since then), I've had an ongoing interest in its workings, and once I moved into this house with its gardens and fruit trees, I knew it was time to sign up for a course.  I'm currently enrolled in training through the Pfeiffer Center, though there are numerous other trainings available.  Over the next weeks and months I will share with you some of what I am encountering there. 

Whether you adore Steiner or think he's a hoax, I do believe that the biodynamic approach to agriculture has a lot to add to the debate over food we're facing in the western world today.  I hope this is of some interest.

making a biodynamic preparation

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

a visit from the neighbors

The almost two feet of snow we received over the weekend has brought down some of my neighbor's fences.  Two of her lovely horses came to pay a visit (again) yesterday:  that's Havana on the left and Callie on the right.  In fact, it's usually these two that come to cut our lawn and provide us with manure for the compost.  Yesterday they grazed for several hours, pawing at the ground to move the snow out of the way.  It is so lovely to look out of the living room window at these two coming by to remind us that we're not living in the suburbs anymore.  I returned the favor by mucking out their stalls.  Life is good in the country.

Monday, October 31, 2011

thoughts on a monday

I read an article by Charles Eisenstein in Ode Magazine this morning in which the author points out that the gods used to be in nature, and then became elevated above it, moving into the heavens.  The same has happened with our relationship to "spirit":  where once it was seen as an integral part of all that surrounds us, now we see it as separate as well.

This is where mindfulness comes in:  experiencing how that infinite part of ourselves is connecting to the world through this human body of ours.

Every time I am being mindful, I bring my spirit center into myself, rather than seeking a spiritual experience outside myself, outside the ordinary.

Every time I am truly present in my life, in my body, my spiritual aspect is learning and transforming at the same time, integrating my experience.

At the same time, every time I am present, the most spiritual part of myself can also come to expression, truly transforming the mundane into the extraordinary, the holy.

One day, I would love to have the courage to meet people, in the moment, mindfully, in a spiritually intimate way.  To let that part of me penetrate my thoughts and actions where it is open to everyone.  I do think we all carry the responsibility to choose and engage in this way, to the best of our abilitiel.  One day, but maybe not yet today.

Today I will simply try to stay mindful of my consumption.

And you?  What are your thoughts on this?

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

sometimes you are greatful for the things that did not happen

We almost had a bit of a situation yesterday.

taken through the bathroom window screen

I was sitting in my studio when my husband came in and asked if I was okay.  The smell of burning plastic hit me immediately, and half the house was filled with smoke.  But we could find no fire anywhere, and with the windows thrown open the smoke soon dissipated.  We looked in every room, closet, appliance and corner we could think of, and - nothing.  So finally we decided to call the fire department.  It turns out that if you want someone to pick up the phone, you really do have to call 911.

From the time the call was made, it took exactly 5 minutes to this:

intentional blur!

Eventually the culprit was found:

baseboard heater with a burned-out motor

Luckily, the electricity switched off right away and no bigger fire ensued.  So slowly, the driveway emptied and all was quiet again.

Except my heart.  That overflowed with gratitude for all the blessings we receive all the time, and which we're often too busy to notice.  It beat, first fast, then slower:  thank you....Thank You...THANK YOU.

P.S.: the Windex bottle is filled with vinegar, water and dishsoap, just in case you were wondering.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


Just over a week ago, I bought about 25 lb of tomatos on sale, added them to the ones from our CSA shares, and spent two days cooking and canning tomato sauce.

Plum tomatoes fresh from the farmstand

First, I washed and quartered the tomatoes, then I cooked them in a stockpot for about 2 hours until they were completely soft and at least a third of the liquid had evaporated.

I then pureed the tomatoes with a food mill like this one, though there are much better models out there (note to self:  stop ogling things on the Lehman's site!).  Next, I sterilized quart canning jars in the dishwasher and the lids and rings in a pot on the stovetop (leaving them in boiling water for about 10 mins).  Finally, the jars were filled with tomato sauce and two tablespoons of lemon juice before I canned them in a hot water bath.  The lemon adds acidity to the tomatoes, which the internet tells me helps prevent the tomatoes from going off.

yummy tomato sauce!

the first four quarts of a total nine

The biggest challenge in this process was getting pictures that weren't a garish orange color. I don't think our kitchen light favors the tomato... and I didn't want to use a flash.

Bonus artsy shot - lets pretend it wasn't just totally out of focus!

I am debating whether to get another box of tomatoes (assuming the cold nights haven't killed them all already) this week.  If I do, I will probably can one batch more and freeze the rest.  In years past I have only frozen sauce, but this year we seem to be short on freezer space.  Also, I love opening the pantry door and looking at all that beautiful food... a little splash of red may be just what I need to look at come February, oh yes, I think so!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

summer into autumn

In the last week New England has shifted from late summer into early fall.  A week ago, autumn colors arrived in this latitude, but they stayed mostly north of the Mass Pike.  This week, we are rushing to bring in the last of the harvest before our first frost.  Here are some pictures from our late summer bike ride, may they help us hold on to that warmth for a little while longer!

the southern tip of a large nearby lake

Yellow the bracken...

the last of this year's berries

late summer light

first colored foliage

old barn

Friday, September 2, 2011


"If I knew that the world should end tomorrow, I would plant an apple tree today."

                                                                               -Martin Luther

Our house came with four apple trees.  I love the cheerful red among the green leaves.  We don't know what variety apple they bear (red ones, slightly sweet and a bit tart, small to medium size), and they are not nearly as attractive to look at as the ones you find in the supermarket.  But they speak of promises.  They whisper of delightful things in our future - apple crisp, apple sauce, apple butter and maybe even apple strudel.  And those are some of the nicest words we will be thinking about in the next two weeks or so.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

summer highlights

I was hoping to update much this summer, but time just got away from me.  Since I've last written, we've moved into our new house, spent several weeks traveling in Europe and have been busy catching up with friends, unpacking boxes and exploring the area.

Some of our favorite parts included
* spending time with friends at a local lake;
* walking through beautiful medieval cities in Germany;
* counting castles (we got up to 23, I think);
* going for walks in the woods and in the Alps;
* sampling sausages, beer and chocolate;
* picking berries;
* knitting (notes to come on Ravelry).


Cologne cathedral

Aachen Cathedral (with Charlemagne's chapel)


Looking down on Garmisch-Patenkirchen

Neuschwanstein Castle - not medieval but an incredible setting.

Bacharach - Rhine valley

I finished 2 pairs of socks and a cardigan

So here we are at the end of August, our house is beginning to feel like a home, the children are back in school, and we are all looking forward to getting back into a routine.  I hope that I will have more time for my own projects in the weeks to come, I wil update more on that soon.

It feels good to be back in this space.  How was your summer?