Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Our warm little home and cozy basement;
These beautiful birds: the bald eagle who came back to the farm to roost on the dead tree in the hill field on his way South for the season and the red-tailed hawk who followed us with his eyes until we saw him and then swooped low in front of us, showing off, as we walked this morning;
My husband's good job;
Bittersweet and falling leaves;
My family, and getting to see them for the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow;
A big white dog who will sit! from fifty feet in the face of a bounding deer or a nervous mama cow, but who will go absolutely bananas ("le chien est bananes, b-a-n-a-n-e-s") with a stick in his mouth running down the driveway;
The sweet boy in my belly who kicks when I sing along to Hank Williams on the car radio.
I hope you have a great Thanksgiving tomorrow!
(Now I have to go listen to the Raffi song that inspired the title of this post or else it will be in my head all day-- we sure did listen to a lot of Raffi in the minivan when I was a kid...)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I've also been doing a little Christmas knitting. If you're expecting a gift from me, don't look too closely! Yarns from left to right, for my reference: Socks That Rock lightweight from 2007 Rockin' Sock Club (it looks a lot like Monsoon), Koigu KPPPM, STR medium XMas Rock, some more Koigu KPPPM, STR mediumweight in what could be Lapis (I'm terrible at keeping up with ball bands), and some Silkie STR, also from the 2007 sock club. I think most of the knitting for people with big feet is out of the way. It's amazing how much sock knitting you can get done in the first trimester if you can't get off the couch!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Knitting on this sweater was a way to keep my hands busy and my mind quiet during the tense and sick first trimester, which seemed to last all summer. I seem to finally have gotten the fabled second trimester energy surge, so hopefully there will be more crafting (and email responding-- I've been absolutely terrible about that all summer; sorry friends) on the horizon. I'm disappointed to be missing the hunting season (as I was telling a hunting friend on the phone this morning, there's really nothing like that feeling), but I'm happy to do it to protect my little one.
Anyway, this is Elizabeth Zimmermann's Baby Sweater on Two Needles (Ravelry link), also known as the February Baby Sweater, from her Knitting Almanac, done up in Rowan Wool Cotton that I had on hand. It was a dream to knit, neither the pattern nor the yarn could have been nicer. I still need to sew on the rest of the buttons, but I can't wait until it helps to keep a little winter-born baby warm in a few months!
Saturday, September 13, 2008
And this is M-11, Rickshaw. There was a little more lining up to do in this block, which as you can see wasn't as successful as it could have been. But I still like the finished product. This is one of the first fabrics I bought on my own as a quilter, in 2001. I find it kind of somber now.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
The summer between eighth grade and the beginning of high school (how old were we then, 13?), my friend Addie came to the farm with me to visit my grandparents, and we took this road to riding camp each morning. One morning she sighed and said, "Oh, this road is so romantic!" She always did remind me of Anne Shirley, red hair and all (although hers would probably be called a distinguished auburn).
I think the romance is part of what is so calming about this place. It is quiet, but so full of possibility. It always reminds me of that Celtic blessing that begins, "May the road rise to meet you." This road always reminds me to breathe.
PS: Corny today? Yes. But if not today, then which day?
Thursday, September 4, 2008
Today I'm making a big pot of Brunswick stew, willing it to be Fall even though I know we're still in for at least another week of hot sticky summer. With its mix of summer and storage vegetables (corn and tomatoes; potatoes and onions), Brunswick stew has always seemed a good bridge meal. The stew used to be made with whatever meat a person had around, squirrel or rabbit being the easiest to rustle up, but now it's mostly made with chicken (except, apparently in Georgia where it's apparently made with *brace yourself* beef).
In our house when I was growing up, we always called this just plain "Brunswick". It was one of the things that we could heat up all by ourselves for Saturday lunch. My grandmother who lived in Houston but was born in Richmond was delighted when my mother brought her a stock of Mrs. Fearnow's in the bright yellow cans with red writing and those old-fashioned looking pen and ink trees.
This is the stew that is often a side dish on North Carolina barbeque restaurant and church buffets, along with the cooked-to-death collard greens and the boiled potatoes. In Raleigh, I used to make it to go along with oysters done under steaming burlap on the grill. And I still remember the first time I made this in the Little House at the farm. I made the biggest mess of that no-dishwasher kitchen, and ended up giving much of the huge potful away to co-workers and my friend Karen who doesn't like lima beans but can pick around them in this stew.
Late last month, my parents (and my parents-in-law) went to a wedding on the North Carolina coast. My mother told me this story. Our childhood friend, who was getting married, is a native North Carolinian, as are her parents and grandparents. Her husband is from the North. At the rehearsal dinner, Brunswick was served as a side dish, and the Northern contingent couldn't quite figure out what it was. Too thick to be vegetable soup, too tomato-y to be meat stew. "What is this?" asked one of the Northern guests.
"Why, it's Brunswick stew," the Southerners explained.
"What's that?" the Northern guest persevered.
"Well," said a long-time Carolinian, "think of it as vegetable stew that a squirrel tripped and fell into." A clattering of spoons on soup bowls. "Although," she added slowly smiling, "now it's mostly made with chicken." Whoops and cackles from the gathered Southerners.
My stew still needs its corn and hot sauce, but then we'll have a favorite dinner. Hurry Fall!
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Also signalling the end of summer: A couple of months ago all the weed-flowers in the fields were yellow and white and then last month, some were orange. Now almost all of them are blue and purple. Fall is coming. Hopefully I'll have some more crafty content soon, when I'm spending more time indoors. Happy Labor Day!
Friday, August 29, 2008
This photo was actually taken when we were on our way out, pup leashed up and ready to load into the car. I left my camera behind in our cabin when we went hiking, but it's probably for the best. The camera can never capture the dappled sunlight through the trees quite the way I remember it.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Buttermilk batter-fried squash blossoms from a couple of weeks ago. These were phenomenal. We bought a pint of these little gals at the farmers' market for about $3, which seemed expensive at the time, but they were so delicious once I fried them up that I wish I could get them every week. I used a 1:1 buttermilk to regular flour batter and pan fried them in canola oil. A little sprinkle of kosher salt, and yum yum. Not all of them are shown here, because you have to eat them piping hot, don't you know.
And anniversary flowers from my sweet husband. This is our fourth anniversary, so fruit and flowers are the traditional gifts (or, as Wikipedia wants to call them, the "British" gifts). These are huge and beautiful and they smell wonderful. I'll share the (somewhat silly) gift I made for him here tomorrow. Happy Anniversary, Brian! I love you.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
My husband had to go to the store for me to get enough dried navy beans to fill all the bags, but I think they turned out really cute. The birthday girl seemed to enjoy pulling them out of the bag one by one.
And here's the bag to put them away when playtime is finished.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
E-3: Paddlewheels somehow took waaaay longer than it should have during a recent crafting night with a friend. Also, some of the toner from the paper-printed pattern ended up on one of the light colored triangles in the middle. I know that someone in the Dear Jane group posted (recently?) about a good way to clean blocks-- was it Murphy's oil soap, or is that just crazy? Any ideas out there?
This is E-4: Buffalo Tree Hopper, also not a current block with the group. The inset seams didn't turn out so perfectly here, but I also forgot to do any clipping before I sewed them. I'll remember that next time. I love this fabric, and the opportunity to use some gray in this quilt. I don't know what it is, but I'm still really into gray at the moment.
And BR-1: Rosemary's Rainbow (finally!) one for really catching up. Fissiett commented over on flickr that this looked like Jane was making mushroom soup, and I guess it does! If I had paid attention and remembered that this triangle would be on the bottom of the quilt, it's possible that I would have turned the mushrooms up the other way. Maybe.
I hope everyone's having a great Tuesday! I'm pretty happy today because I'm getting a new stoop out front, and the days of our house being the mailman's least favorite may soon be over.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
And "at sea":
I would show you a photo of the 82 mosquito bites on my left calf, which bites were also a detail of my day, but I don't think they're a particularly beautiful detail! I hope everyone enjoyed a great fourth.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
In fact, the birds squawked and fought while I picked, eager for me to go inside to the pitting machine so they could continue their feast. This pitcher represents about 25 minutes of picking, enough for two sour cherry pies. My grandmother thinks that this might be one of the last years for this tree, as cherry trees only live so long before they give out. I told her she'd better plant another tree right quick! The pies she makes from these cherries have been a part of my summer equation for almost as long as I can remember. Her recipe is simple (and probably originally came from the back of some long-ago box of tapioca), but oh-so-delicious with fruit you've picked yourself.
Granna's Sour Cherry Pie
- 4 cups sour cherries
- 2 2/3 Tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 2 Tablespoons kirsch
- Double pie crust
- 1 egg white, beaten
- 1 - 2 Tablespoons cold butter
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Mix cherries, tapioca, sugar and kirsch together in a large bowl. Let stand 15 minutes.
- Pierce bottom pie crust and brush with beaten egg white. Bake for five minutes to set.
- Pour cherry mixture into pie crust and dot with butter.
- Affix top crust; vent.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
And raspberries. These bushes produce even fewer berries over the season, and most of these are eaten without a thought by the barn manager. In fact, I had to call my grandmother this afternoon to remind her to go and pick the ripe ones early in the morning tomorrow before the barn manager arrives. I ate one of these today (shh!), and its flavor was tart and bright.
There are also strawberry plants at the farm, left over from a long-gone strawberry pot (imagine!) that I planted five years ago. They spilled out of the pot and took up permanent residence on the south side of the little house. These have been producing ripe fruit for about a month, but they have to be harvested a little before they're ripe or the bunnies and other rodents take little nibbles out of the sides of each berry and the ants polish the wounded berries off. I did get a good-sized handful of very sweet berries earlier this week. The taste of summer.
And finally, we have hay! So exciting to see those big golden rolls dotting the landscape (and to ride on the green lawn-like fields they leave behind).
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
I took this dark photo of baby booties in the natural light between waves of the storm. I love to have these on hand at all times. Because they're so tiny, they can be tucked into a regular stationery envelope and sent off to friends around the country at a moment's notice when we hear that a baby has been born. It's also fun to use the ends of sock yarn. With the crazy hand-dyes, they come out so cheerful! More information on flickr.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
But with the hot weather coming up, and given the fact that I would gladly wear a simple little dress each and every humid day of the summer given the choice, I decided to break out the fusible interfacing and give it another go. This is my muslin of McCall's 5620, made from some just barely acceptable medium-weight apparel cotton from the sale bin at Hancock's. (I'm not a huge fan of flutter-bys...) But there's a reason I'm not letting you see all of it. I made my regular (read: shockingly large-- really, the pattern industry and the wedding gown people...) pattern size. However... this won't really be a "wearable muslin", as it turned out ginormous. As in, "Honey, does the Volvo need a cover against the elements?"-huge. Sure, I noticed that there was a ton of ease listed on the pattern envelope, but I guess I thought that the pleats would make up for that and make it hang okay. Wrong-o.
Maybe with some heavier fabric it would hang a little closer to the body or something, but as it is, I've made myself a fancy swimsuit cover-up with pretty purple facings. Sigh. If I ever get a bee in my bonnet to make this again, it'll be at least one, maybe two sizes smaller. I mean, even the arm hole openings are huge on this thing. And my seam allowances are near-perfect, I promise...
Monday, June 2, 2008
The quilting came much easier on this one (practice makes perfect, I guess), but I think the white Kona cotton must be a little stiffer than some of the other colors. The brown and orange and blue quilt came out of the dryer feeling much softer than this one did. Has anyone else had this experience with the white Kona cotton?
This is probably the best photo of the quilt. I just threw it out on top of the tall grass (yet to be made into hay) at the farm and snapped away. Summer certainly can grow up some good photo assistants!
Sunday, June 1, 2008
This first week caught me a little off guard, as our CSA hasn't started up yet this year (next week!), so we headed over to the Arlington Farmer's Market yesterday to rustle up some local grub. The results were delicious, but a little mixed on the strictly local front. Let's just say I've found some holes in my pantry that are going to take a little more digging to fill. All distances below are from my door. Without further ado, we ate:
- Sauteed chard from Wheatland Vegetable Farms (just up the road from my natal home!) in Wheatland, VA (37.95 miles)
- A pesto-ish sauce made of garlic scapes from Wheatland Vegetable Farms (37.95 miles) and basil and parsley from the backyard (0 miles)
- Baby lamb loin chops from EcoFriendly Foods, Inc. (Emerald Family Farms) in Moneta, VA (206 miles)
And for dessert:
- Cherries, strawberries and sugar snap peas from Westmoreland Berry Farm & Orchard in Oak Grove, VA (66.07 miles)
Everything was really really yummy, so yummy that I can't pick a favorite element of the meal. But I think I may need to find another source for meat. The 206 miles to Moneta and EcoFriendly Foods is too far for the challenge-- I'm going to try to keep to the 100 mile radius rule if I can. I'll have to see if my cousin Sara has any beef left for by-the-cut orders, and I'll have to go to the Loudoun farmers' markets when I'm out that way to see what they have. That, or eat vegetarian for these meals, as we normally do anyway. This sure was a nice celebration meal to kick off the summer, though.
Local items that I need to pick up:
- Cheese. I should have bought some at the farmers' market; there was much available. It would have made that pesto tastier.
- Flour. Duh. (This is my family's business. Those of you who know me in real life are probably laughing pretty hard at me over this one...)
Items that I need to find a local source for:
- Milk, cream and butter. Anyone have any leads on these? There may have been some at the Arlington market, but if so, I missed it. Earlier this year we found a local buying club for raw milk. I'm sure it's fine and delicious, but I'm not sure I'm ready to go that far yet. I'll stick with pasteurization for the time being.
- Sugar. I don't know enough about this one, either.
I think that with those ingredients I'll be able to make some pretty spectacular things this summer. I'm looking forward to it!
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Happy Anniversary to George and Karen, five years!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
These are peonies from my grandmother's garden. The beautiful just-pink and yellow one on the left is called raspberry sundae. Isn't that beautiful? Our house is kind of small and not so well-lit, so the counter top beside the sink is the best place to display fleurs. There, I see them often.
Also, Happy Anniversary to my cousin Krista and her husband Brad!
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
The grass at the farm is very high now, so high that the pup is lost in a field, only visible as that rustling up ahead. Coyotes can get lost in this grass, too, invisible until you spot them and can't look away. Yesterday I rode alone in the only field where cows aren't allowed. We call it the hay field for obvious reasons. Josh and I made a little river in the grass-scape, parting the stalks, and Grady wove a smaller creek beside and around us. Josh loves this season, of the grass buffet, when he can bend over every few strides and strip the grasses of their crunchy heads in the middle of his workout. My friend Gillian always says it would be like walking into a field of french fries, growing wild. Taking all that pollen head on, the dog kept sneezing and scaring the horse, but we were making our way.
In the far corner of the field I saw something soft and brown rustle and stand up stock-still, looking our way. The whole ride I was thinking "coyote, coyote, coyote?" in time with my posting trot, but no, this was a fresh baby deer (what we call a "Bambi"), looking at us with huge ears and wet eyes. No bigger than a coyote. In a moment the deer turned and leap, leap, leapt over the coop at the end of the field and into the next one (the "hill field"), trailing her white tail behind her.
I think all three of us smiled. Grady ran and Joshua picked up on the dog's energy and I let him go, a steady gallop around the end and down the other long side of the field. Happy. Not a coyote but a baby deer.
On the walk back to the barn I saw my first red-winged blackbird of the year. And those are the two crystalline moments from yesterday. Today it's raining, but I hope to get outside this afternoon. I also promise there'll be some crafty content soon!
*Is it just me or does that title sound like it should be a Tony Hillerman novel? Hi, Mom.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Down by the water, all of the docks were submerged, along with these plants that are usually at least four feet up the bank. Of course the dog went swimming anyway.
The bottomland behind the house flooded, too. The cows moved upland. And finally, some Mother's Day pillowcases that I sent to my mom via my dad, who was up visiting for the weekend. There's lots of time to sew with so much rain outside. These are made from the softest off-white cotton with tiny red randomly-scattered dots. I got the fabric from superbuzzy sometime late last year. The edging was machine-executed but hand-guided (ie: my machine doesn't do scallops so there was a lot of needle-down fabric turning).
We're spending today drying out and warming up. It'll be 70 degrees here this afternoon. That feels more like May!