A Year of Picnics


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Monthly Archives: December 2011

Sweet Surrender

Oh, my. These past few days have been a flurry of dinner party-noshing, birthday party merry-making, cookie-baking, gift-packaging and baby-chasing. We’re finally starting to wind down, looking forward to a quiet, slow solstice walk in our forest tomorrow (if the rain stays away) and then a hearty Christmas dinner with friends and family on Sunday.

We’re doing things on a small scale, holiday-wise, around here. That’s typically the route I take during the holidays. Not that there’s necessarily anything wrong with buying ipads and Kindles and chocolate diamonds, if that’s what the season is about for you. For Hubs and I, though, it’s about drawing inwards, to cook, to bake, to sip, and to savor the quiet days and nights of winter. It’s about feeling so very thankful for the life we have been given, the almost staggering love we feel for each other and for Huxley, and for the phenomenal community of friends and family we get to share this journey with.

We packed up several boxes for loved ones today, all of which included a smattering of homemade items from our kitchen, gardens, and creatures we share the cove with. Hubs titled the honey-colored tan cubes above “Mishaps,” as they were born out of a recipe for honey fudge gone awry. We discovered long ago that some of our best creations occur when we set about fixing a project that failed in its execution. In the case of the “Mishaps,” the fudge was too thin and set in a strange way. To mend that issue, Hubs had the genius idea to sandwich peanut butter between two layers of fudge squares. The result is as good as it sounds-sweet, salty, toothsome. Delicious.

I wanted to share photos of some stollen I made last week. I pine for stollen all year, longing for it come Christmastime just like I clamor for pumpkin ale in autumn and drum my fingers waiting for the wineberries to ripen in summer. This year, I was determined to make my own loaf. First, I candied some orange peel, then baked it into the stollen the next day, using the recipe from this book. It’s been pure heaven nibbling on a warm slice served alongside hot cardamom coffee this past week. I might just have to make another batch before the month is over. The recipe called for a mere 1/4 cup, so I had a good bit of candied peel left. Those strips were given the chocolate treatment, with a hearty dunk into melted chocolate for gift-giving.

My sweet tooth has been more than placated these past few weeks. From the cookie exchange onward, we’ve been sugarin’ it up around here. Which suits me just fine. A bit of decadence every now and again only serves to make the sour times in life that much more manageable!

What about you? Got a sweet story to share? I’d love to know what sugary bliss you’ve been busy with, too!

What I’m Digging

Happy Friday, friends! It’s grey and overcast here, which suits this wet weather-loving lady just fine. Hubs and I are cuddled up with homemade stollen and cardamom coffee, with plans to make batches of spiced apple butter later. Tonight we’re headed over to Lynne‘s for dinner, followed by a trip to Rene and Billy’s tomorrow for their sweet daughter Trumie Rose’s first birthday. Should be a great weekend! 
Here’s what got me thinking, inspired my curiosity and tantalized my taste buds this week:
*Canadian Kevin Kossowan is my kind of food guy.

*This will be mine.
*Wouldn’t it be wonderful to go visit Melanie here?
*This article on the “new domesticity” is captivating.
*Jen’s biscotti are perfect for making and sharing.
*I love when animals and man make peace with each other.
*I couldn’t agree any stronger with this article (homemade is better!).
*Great homemade gift ideas from the fine folks at Saveur.
*Lavender hot chocolate (via Anthology)!!!
*Stunning photography, styling, and recipes (and it’s all grain- & sugar-free, for those on such diets finding themselves in need of a bit of inspiration).

Wherever you go this weekend, whatever you do, may it be grand!

*What I’m Digging is always heralded by an image of Huxley because, along with his Papa, he’s truly what I dig the most.

The Glove Connection

A few posts back, I mentioned that I was sporting fashionable yet chilly fingerless alpaca gloves. Ever the sweet soul, Cat over at Neo-Homesteading tipped off her buddy John of DR Power about my glove plight. A stranger to me, John, in an act of extreme generosity, then shipped me a complementary pair of Elkskin gloves from his company, DR Power Equipment. Made by a small company in Oregon, the gloves are super soft, yet durable. They’re also perfect for outdoor cold weather tasks, as the gloves are lined inside with Thinsulate.  

I wasn’t familiar with DR Power. Now that I am, I wanted to tip you off to them, as well. Here’s a description of his company that John sent me: 
At DR Power Equipment, we care deeply for the places and the properties we call home. When we leave our offices or the manufacturing floor, we head home to feed the chickens, mow the lawn, or split some firewood. Our connection to our community and the land here in Vermont is part of the reason we build machines the way American manufacturers used to. Quality is non-negotiable here. 

John sent along a catalogue with the gloves and there are some seriously nice offerings included in its pages (I’ve got my eye on their greenhouse!). While there are many bigger ticket items like mowers, trimmers and weeders, there’s also a host of offerings in the lower price range. 

I’d also highly encourage you to check out this e-book on winterizing your property put out by DR Power. It’s loaded with helpful tips for maximizing your energy usage during the colder months and for keeping your house and property as fortified against Jack Frost as possible. While you’re reading up on winterizing, I invite you to check out this Design Sponge post I made on the subject two years ago, after a sudden, intense snowfall rendered us out of power and short on supplies (some serious lessons were learned then, I’m telling ya!). 

Thanks Cat and John for your kindness! Winter (and my fingers) will be all the better for it!!! 

An (Almost) Winter’s Day

Huxley and I took a walk down to the mailbox today. I gave the UPS guy permission when he dropped off a package last week to just give me a call with future deliveries and leave them on the mailbox. Our driveway is insanely bad right now (more of a ‘challenge’ than a driveway, really), so driving a big, brown parcel truck up this craggy canyon of a drive is no one’s idea of a good time. When resources allow, it’s the first thing we intend to repair. 
The walk was a splendid one. We live in what’s called Hominy Valley, and our driveway begins on Hominy Creek. The Hominy Valley Wildlife Club greets all of our guests on the road to the house and boasts gun shots every Thursday night when the dudes of the valley (I’ve yet to seen any ladies there) get together for chatting and target practice. 
I love walking the property this time of year. There are all of these wild, magnificent berries and the dried flora of summer & autumn provide graphic landscapes of whites and greys. It’s also the best time of year to view the creek crossed when you reach the “English 98” sign on our road, as well as the most ideal time to make out the mountain ridge line behind the house. 
Huxley dug it, and so did I. Small pleasures. 
*If you want to see more from our jaunt (including me looking innocently off camera in my new specs), go here.

Suzie’s Sourdough Circus

I love all of the small world overlaps that occur when blogging. My editor was super close friends with Anna growing up, whose blog I just adore. Sara is friends with Grace, which I discovered on Twitter. And Katy, whose blog is gaining increasing renown, went to college with Hubs. Small world, indeed.
A few weeks back, Katy sent Huxley a package for his birthday. The package contained an adorable craft paper envelope (drawn by Katy) inside of which was an autographed copy of the equally darling Suzie’s Sourdough Circus by Kathy Sager. The book depicts (via Eliska Liska’s captivating illustrations) a day in the life of Suzie, a child who, after playing outdoors, comes inside to create a batch of sourdough bread.

Teeming with wild and wacky sourdough cultures, Suzie’s Sourdough Circus tells in rhyming prose the life and times of these cultures. The book concludes with several recipes, including: Six Tips for Happy Sourdough, Suzie’s Sourdough Bread, Sourdough Flapjacks, Sourdough Bannock (sort of like a pancake), and Chocolate-Vanilla Marble Sourdough Cake.

When I asked Katy what motivated her to send Huxley the book, here’s what she had to say:
The book is written by the best friend of my little sister Sara (although she did name the character “Suzie” after her mother.) Our father started making the family bread using sourdough starting way back in the early 70’s, and has never stopped. And although I sinfully buy store-bought bread, my sister makes hers using our father’s recipe. 
I thought this book was a perfect fit for your family, as it depicts a cozy making-everything-from-scratch family, complete with sleeping dog (who, incidentally is based on my sister’s dog Ramira!). Also, I think the publisher did a fantastic job with design, (as did Lark books [with mine]) And the illustrations could not be cuter. 
Agreed. This book is stellar. Thank you so much for your generosity, Katy, and to Kathy for signing Huxley’s copy.  I can’t wait for when Huxley is old enough to read it and make some sourdough together. If you’ve got wee ones of your own, or even just in your life, I can’t recommend Suzie’s Sourdough Circus enough. It would make a GREAT holiday gift!