Wow. Another year in the books. Our weekend with our family happened the weekend before Christmas and we had a great time - good food, sleepovers, runs in the woods searching for signs of deer, good food again, lots of cookies, no one was sick. Here in chronological order starting Friday the 20th and ending Christmas eve.
The quilts were a hit with the girls, and I am getting word that lots of snuggling is going on at home.
Gone are the days when they used to tuck the babies in - now it's their turn for happy naps.
Adelaide takes part in the children's Christmas Eve choir at church.
My brother, sister and I at my brother's house on Christmas Eve, along with nieces, nephews, etc. We take this shot - and this pose - every year and someone always makes a joke just before we snap the picture. Of course, now everyone has their phones out and captures the moment.
You had to be there.
He is testing out the chapstick.
OK, from this, a whole week later, it seems like a long time ago! But PH and I are still sharing moments and memories.
'Tis the season where we gather around food with friends and we are no exception. The baking, cooking and passing out of goodies - well, sometimes I need to press the pause button and just be the guest.
That's what made lunch with Friend Laurie so relaxing. We took ourselves to a nice little spot in town and had something delicious for lunch and talked and talked.
After lunch I showed off our new walking bridge that spans the river that runs through town and connects two parks, one brand new. This is the new jewel in Lowell's crown. On one side we have a new interpretive log cabin highlighting the fur trading that put Lowell on the map, new pickle ball courts, playground and concession building. Just about all you can ask for until you walk this gorgeous pedestrian bridge across the river and find another park for soccer and ball games.
The Lowell Museum was gifted a beautiful doll house over 20 years in the making.
And sure enough, the room I liked best was the kitchen. There are cookies in the oven, doughnuts on the butcher block table, aprons and cakes.
You could almost step into this house and make yourself comfortable.
Last night along the riverfront, what I often refer to as Lowell's front porch, the city again hosted an evening with Santa. For several years our daughter and son-in-law roasted chestnuts and sold paper cones of them. I wish you could smell them.
This year the weather was perfect. No rain, snow, freezing temperatures. It was a perfect evening to come, meander, take your kids to see Santa, have a free hot dog, cookie and hot chocolate and enjoy what the city has to offer. There is always something going on here and it's always just nice.
The kids could hardly take a break from the chestnut crowd. They barely had time to look up, and couldn't even offer samples to the people in line to see Santa. They cooked and sold and I'll bet they came home smelling pretty good!
Look at this crowd! These people are all waiting to see Santa. This riverfront walk is, as I said, Lowell's front porch. This is where things happen, where people come together. Next year the new Showboat will once again be the backdrop.
It isn't always about food. Sometimes it's about school programs. Our Adelaide was part of the high school's musical revue. Two days earlier Elizabeth's orchestra performed their concert.
And this little kitty is a gift from Friend Laurie. She is into making itsy bitsy critters. She didn't know what I would do with it, but I think this is a pretty good spot for her. She has a beautiful red velvet heart. Maybe she will be a pin some days.
I hope your December days are just as much fun and delicious as they can be.
Wow. Time sure flies when you're having fun. Last post was leading up to Thanksgiving and now we're a couple of weeks gone. It's the time of year for just about everything to come to a head in three short weeks. Shopping, baking, wrapping, school concerts, Santa visits and parades, family gatherings with people we might see just once a year, and sadly, for some good friends, hospital vigils.
Today, though, I took some time to make butter. Why, you ask? Well, Elizabeth came home from school last week and told me she made butter in science class. You know, something in one form changes to another sort of lesson. She said it took about an hour to shake that cream in a jar. Then, I indulged in some couch time and watched Alton Brown. He was making clotted cream. Pretty close to butter if you don't agitate it. So I was intrigued and decided to try it because how often does the same idea come to you in a couple of days?
I thought using the stand mixer would be better than shaking a jar but I was wrong. It took forever and never did clot. Forever. And ever.
So yesterday when the kids were here for dinner I told my tale of mixer woe and Elizabeth said I had to use a jar and just shake it till my arms fell off and eventually you will feel and hear that it "changed."
I bought a pint of heavy whipping cream and started shaking while watching the impeachment proceedings. This was good. I didn't need to even think about how hard to agitate the jar. It just kind of happened by happenstance.
And sure enough, after about 25 minutes, certainly not the hour Elizabeth said it would, it changed into a clump of curds.
I rinsed and rinsed till the water ran clear,
put it in a bowl, added a pinch of salt and squooshed it together and
voila! Creaminess, smooth, tasty butter. I wish I had bread in the house. Oh, wait!
I remember we have a loaf of homemade Latvian bread in the freezer, a gift from friends Aina and Terry. Now this is good, folks. Fresh, creamy light butter on toasted home made bread. For very little effort. The possibilities are endless.
I don't know about you but when this time of year rolls around my memories are settled right in my taste buds. While growing up I took for granted that the traditional food we had only at holiday time would always be there because it WAS always there. Until it wasn't. There was a mad dash of phone calls and letters to relatives and siblings, "Do you remember how Busia made the placzek?" "Did anyone get Peg's brownie recipe?" "How about her spaghetti sauce?" "Do you know how to make Aunt Marcella's ketchup?" "Did you get Aunt Marcella's chocolate cake recipe??" "Who knows how to make Louie's noodles?" Anyone? Anyone??? No sense asking the non-cooks in the family, they were no help. Sometimes we were lucky and someone did have the recipe but sometimes it was a journey. Old cookbooks, trial and error, things finally came together. When you are dealing with Old World cooks you didn't get measurements, you got hands full and tea cups and pinches and "feels like" and cook it till it's "thick thin."
One thing PH's family always had on the table for holidays and get togethers was home made noodles. Like religion and spaghetti sauce, the noodles came with their own personal interpretation and depending on which family you grew up in, now their interpretation became yours.
From the left, PH's mother in stripes, then Aunt Celeste and Aunt Marcella. These women were born and bred German, can you tell by looking at those hands? Many a noodle passed through those hands and as each woman plonked her pot on the potluck table, everyone knew whose was whose just by looking at them. The matriarchs are gone now, but the noodles live on. Aunt Marcella's grandson is in charge of his family getting her noodles, and my daughter is in charge of PH's mother's noodles.
Elizabeth and Adelaide are now pros. Mom doesn't even have to be in the room or even in the house anymore. From the time Elizabeth was 7 months old she sat at the table and watched. Now mixing the dough, getting "the feel" and taking the procedure to completion is second nature to the girls.
While PH's mother rolled her noodles out by hand (ugh!) the noodle press has greatly simplified the hard work.
This year I even got in on the process. Can you believe I've never made them? But I never had to. The torch was passed from grandma to granddaughter and now great granddaughters.
We made two double batches. Twenty four eggs, countless cups of flour. There is now enough for Thanksgiving, leftovers for PH and Christmas. The thing is, the grands love eating them raw, dried but not cooked. By the bowlful! Of all things - they don't eat them once they are cooked. So the ones you see lying on the table are for them.
Raw eggs you say? Alton Brown says, "get over it."
Today we said good-bye to our Friend Vicky. We said good-bye to our friend, a fellow quilter, a good and giving soul.
I met Vicky when she joined our retreat group. How surprised was I to learn today that she had only been quilting for about 6 years! She was a sewer but became a quilter when she retired. Immediately upon discovering quilting she became a quilter and found a community. But that's what it's like to say "I'm a quilter."
One of the communities Vicky discovered and became devoted to is called Love
Sews. These people make quilts for people who badly need a quilt
hug. Vicky, being a good and giving soul found her niche here.
When it was Vicky's turn to need a hug this group gathered themselves in their grief and made this part of saying goodbye easier for her husband and daughter. This is their work space and for today they lined the walls with some of her quilts and transformed their sewing space into Vicky's space.
Walking in here took our breath away, we could point to many of the quilts we saw while under construction, we could attach little notes to the quilts (with baby clothespins) and share our memory of that quilt, we looked at the pictures of her life spread out on more of her quilts (table to the left),
we could fill a plate with the abundant lunch and visit with a room full of friends.
You couldn't help but keep looking up!
We could go into this quiet curtained corner and say our final good-bye to her. Her remains were in a box decorated with a quilt pattern.
Vicky didn't want a sad funeral, she wanted people to be happy in their memories of her and while we are all still shaking our heads that she got sick and left us so quickly, today we let her have it her way.
If you change a recipe so much the original owner of it doesn't recognize it, is the recipe still theirs or is it just inspiration?
A few years ago a chef told me I am an old world cook. Recipes are just suggestions. I tend to open the cupboard doors and refrigerator and think, "hmmm....this might be good in there" and stir it in. I've written down on napkins ingredients for an appetizer I had in a restaurant and then come home and replicate it. A friend once asked, "how do you know how much to put in?" and I said, "you add it till you can taste it." That's when the chef I was talking to said I was an old world cook.
The other day I made a gingerbread cake. The recipe didn't call for the golden raisins, orange peel, candied ginger, dates( all soaked in rum,) pecans and apricots I put into it, but I did.
Cranberries are showing up by the truckload in grocery stores and I love, love, love the tart little things. While wandering around Pinterest one evening I found a recipe someone said was from her 95 year old Grandmother from Germany. I love recipes from 95 year old little old ladies so I printed it out and today I made a double batch. Some for Thanksgiving and some for us.
I changed it mightily. She said to cut the cranberries in half. Really? I asked PH if he thought this was something he could see me do, "can you see me cutting all of these little buggers in half?" He said no. I dumped them in the pan with the orange peel, the cut up oranges, the water and almost a cup of raisins. I've found that if you use golden raisins you might be able to hide them better in things you make for people who would rather die than eat a raisin. I've hidden golden raisins in oatmeal cookies and they never knew. Golden raisins give a chewy texture without the raisin taste.
So. Her recipe calls for 2 1/2 cups of sugar for a bag of cranberries. Well. That's not going to happen, either. I want the tart, not the sweet. I want to taste the berry not the sugar. So for one batch I used 1/2 cup sugar and it's just right. There's enough sweet to be there but the tart is perfect.
Here's the original recipe:
4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries, halved.
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2 oranges peeled, sliced, chopped
1 cup raisins
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup chopped pecans
2 1/2 cups sugar
Cook the berries, zest, oranges, raisins, water till the cranberries are soft. Add the sugar and pecans and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Cool. Store.
OK, here's what I did:
4 cups fresh berries,
the zest of a large orange
2 oranges peeled and ground up in my mini-food processor
1 cup raisins
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar (yes, just one half cup)
Cooked per instructions.
For the second batch I didn't add raisins but did add the 1/2 cup sugar so the total for the double batch was 1 cup sugar. I combined the two cooked batches in a bowl so there are some raisins not a lot of them.
No pecans because nobody would eat it on Thanksgiving if there are nuts in it. Nobody but me.
So, I think 95 year old grandmother's recipe was inspiration. My moms is just as delicious but very different. I love it!
My mom's cranberry relish:
Grind together in a hand cranked meat grinder (I use a food processor)
1 whole orange including the peel - just dump it in
1 whole apple
1 bag fresh cranberries
Done! No cooking.
Checking in with projects. I'm determined beyond all determination to use the fabric I have. A trip to the quilt store is on an absolute needs only basis. Like for batting. So, with that in mind, I decided to stop hoarding the embroidery squares I had my mom work when she still had the eyesight to do it. I think I've had these stored for about 10 years. I'm starting to get to the age when I say to myself, "What are you saving that for?? The estate sale after you die???"
So. These three quilts are for the grand girls at Christmas. My mom did the embroidered squares and I put the quilts together for the girls. A little bit of Grandma love. They are simple for two reasons: I had to finish hand quilting three of them by Christmas (or well before) and I wanted the embroidery to be the focus.
This one is for Ceci. When she was born I enlarged a Sunbonnet Sue for her baby quilt so these Sues were a natural choice for her.
The green one is for Elizabeth. She likes quieter colors. The embroidered pieces are tea pots and tea cups. Theirs is a tea drinking family.
This one is Adelaide's. She likes brighter colors. Again, the tea pots and tea cups. She is a huge tea lover.
And, there are MORE embroidered squares in other designs to use in other projects.
Have you ever noticed when you are trying to use up scraps that they never really go away? Using scraps doesn't diminish your stash either, does it? Using scraps sounds like a good idea but in reality, I can't see much depletion of the reserve.
These strings were sewn onto batting when I didn't know any better, again, at least 8 years ago. Because I used batting for a foundation, I had a hard time trying to come to terms with backing them, quilting them and making a real quilt out of them. Friend Dodie showed me how to do quilt-as-you-go but it's just been on the back burner so I've been moving these squares from one place to another, either in house moves or room moves. I'm finally tired of moving them so last week I sat down with a pile of bigger scraps for backing and sewed (with the machine...ugh) a backing onto each of them and added a binding. Now they're coasters or pot holders for a tea pot or a place to put that hot teapot down or whatever. At least they are going to be used instead of moved. I plan to hand them out to people everywhere I go.
There are certainly enough of them! I am turning the bindings while watching British mysteries in the evening. We're hooked on those.
Sheepbunnies. While on retreat and at a quilt shop (I know, I know...no shopping anymore) I was telling Friends Barb and Sally that I would consider a border fabric for the sheep squares I was working on. When I described them to Friend Marilyn and I got to the part about their ears I realized they are bunnies, not sheep. I knew that. Really.
Again, these are from scraps, big and small and blue. Some still need their little sheepbunny tails stitched on.
Still with me? Recently I sent to Friend Susan in Australia an envelope with maybe 300 or so yo-yos. I had done a project with some 300 more and after realizing I was moving them from one storage place to another, from tote to jar to box I remembered Susan expressed an interest. So, into an envelope they went, I walked it down to the post office and sent them on their way. She was surprised (I do love surprises) and excited and happy with her windfall.
A couple of weeks later she threw down the gauntlet and challenged me to take on something that SHE had been staring at and moving from place to place in her sewing room. Here is my challenge from her. I'm still thinking but ideas are starting to percolate.