Thursday, December 11, 2008

the Humble Hermit

Sadly the picture doesn't do these delicious, chewy, spicy morsels justice. They've truly become the "house cookie" around here. Very simple to make and as our electrician observed when I was baking some a few weeks back..."man, your house smells just like Christmas!" Pretty high praise! They also pack really well for care-packages. Historically, sailors wives made these goodies to pack off with their guys when they went to sea. The molasses kept the cookies moist and they held up well for travel.

My recipe is a modified (health-ified) version of the chewy hermit recipe from an old spiral-bound cookbook of my mothers. Here's my version...

Chewy Whole Wheat Hermits
makes 24
3 Cups flour (this recipe works great with white whole wheat or even stoneground whole wheat)
1 1/4 Cups sugar (we use organic turbinado or brown sugar)
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 Cup raisins or mixed dried fruit
1 egg
1/2 Cup vegetable oil (we use organic cold-pressed sunflower oil)
1/4 Cup molasses
6 Tbsp. water

Grease 13" x 9" pan. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Combine first eight ingredients in a large bowl. Mix and set aside.

In a medium bowl combine next four ingredients. Whisk together and pour into dry ingredients. Dough will be very thick and hard to handle. Use dampened hands to mix if necessary.

Spread dough in pan. Press down firmly. Bake 20-25 minutes until firm. Cool on wire rack. Original recipe said it makes 40 bars!!! We make 24 and they seem the perfect size. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On a simple life in this crazy world

As things start to heat up for the holidays with the frenzied shoppers and crazed schedules, and messages about the economic crisis become more and more dismal, I'm finding relief and words of hope and sanity in welcome spots and hidden corners.

Thankfully not everyone has embraced the MORE mentality and many are looking for connection and peace instead of just another flimsy piece of something that won't last, that they don't need, that was made far away by people who were badly paid or ill-treated and that will land sooner than later in the landfill.

Grace writes a powerful and extremely timely and eloquent post about her feelings in her post titled "Bear with me", which many, MANY people share. Take a moment to read it if you can.

We made a conscious choice to celebrate Buy Nothing Day last Friday. We've been moving for some time to a simpler lifestyle where we buy much less, so avoiding malls and stores on Friday truly wasn't that difficult. But hearing the buzz all around me from people gearing up for their shopping and planning their strategies for hitting as many stores as possible did bring the message home more deeply than ever for me.

A few friends have expressed curiousity (and some frustration) about how to truly make a difference and get started living a simpler life. And I read a wonderful post titled small steps which speaks to this more eloquently than I can. Rhonda Jean lives in Australia and writes many inspiring posts. I hope you'll enjoy discovering her.

These two are only a little sampling of the many, many people around us who are choosing to think about what they do, how they live, what they consume and what they really want. So, the next time the latest news from Wall Street smacks you in the head or you hear someone on the train panicking over how few shopping days there are left before Christmas...remember there are other ways to celebrate and enjoy the true meaning of whatever holidays you choose to celebrate at this time of year.

And since I don't want to leave you with dreary page of text...

Here is Kate

a little knitted critter I made for a friend's baby shower. Welcome to the world little Kylan!


An update and some knitted goodness

Well, I'm sorry to see that it has been so long since I last posted here. Lots going on in our world and in fact in the big wide world as well.

We've officially completed our Home Study and have the papers to prove it. Which is a nice but slightly surreal feeling because now it's just down to the waiting...and waiting. And I know we haven't even waited that long yet!

So, for me that means assembling fabric and thread and patterns for some baby clothes, that you'll hopefully be seeing in posts in the coming weeks. And more time spent with my knitting.

My wonderful Mother-in-law, Nancy, saw a beautiful skein of sock yarn while she was shopping in Western, MA one day and she bought it for me. It is a skein of Dumbledore from the Harry Potter line by Opal, and it makes a lovely little tulip hat for the wee one.

The photo doesn't really do justice to the rich color-way and I'd hoped to show you a better view of the shape and construction of this little chapeau but neither Farley nor Zeke was a willing model. The pattern is from here the Drops site is FULL to bursting with projects I can't wait to try. Right now I'm half way through this bunting for the baby in a soft gray blue color with cocoa blanket stitch trim. And I recently whipped up this little number with some alpaca/silk blend that I had in my stash. It looks a little big for a newbie, but we'll soon see...the pattern is a free one I found here at Ravelry for those of you who are hooked into that mighty world of online knitters.

For now, I'm off to answer the call of the bamboo needles and that bunting.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Last of the Peach Cobbler

I'm so sad to see the last of the fresh peaches and nectarines at the farmer's market. Now, don't get me wrong, I surely love me some apples...but, this was the year of the nectarine and peach cobbler. The year I discovered that four juicy pieces of fruit, and less than ten minutes of prep made for a delicious and dreamy warm cobbler dessert. True confession, we went for it MANY times this season. And, OH, so good!

I'm not much on mixes of any kind. Since we don't eat anything overly processed or containing white sugar or flour. Well, Maryjane Butters has the most wonderful organic, whole wheat basic budget biscuit mix. And I'm so glad I found it!

No, I don't have any affiliation, and sorry if I sound like an ad, but, in a household where convenience/fast foods aren't allowed and cooking and dishes are always on the schedule. This stuff has really come in handy when time and tempers are short. The ingredients are few, simple and of the whole foods variety. Plus I'm supporting a small organic farm with every purchase. So, even though they are making this stuff in Idaho, and shipping it to me. It is not refrigerated, I buy in bulk and I'm supporting a good thing. So, if you haven't checked it out...wander on over to MaryJane's Farm and poke around. We also stock up on her organic black bean flakes, felafel mix and a few other pantry staples that keep this kitchen running when things get tough. The recipes in her magazines are excellent, and that's where I learned to make cobbler!

So, anyway, here's to the last pan . It was mighty delicious.

Hmm, now what to do with the lovely sugar snap apples and red pears I just picked up at the farmer's market...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Birthday Happy Feet and other knitting goodness

I finished the birthday socks for Michael in the nick of time (read 2 hours holed-up in the bedroom knitting fiercely to get these puppies off the needles and ends woven in. The pattern is Thuja. They knit up quickly to make a nice cushy, chunky sock, great for hanging around the house in slippers or clogs, not necessarily scrunched into work shoes. I knit them in a silk/alpaca blend and they are yummy! Michael loved them and wore them immediately. (Thankfully, the cold snap in the air that morning made it all that much more appealing.)

We celebrated the day with an official "Do Nothing Day" followed by a delicious and decadent dinner at the awesome Lumiere Restaurant. Well worth the price for locally and sustainably procured deliciousness. We left happily sated from corn fritters, fabulous mesclun salad, grass-fed steak and an incredible chocolate torte. Wonderful! And a fitting way to celebrate an auspicious birthday event for the most awesome and inspiring man I know. (Sorry, for the gushing, but I can't hide the fact. I adore him) Happy birthday, Michael. You are da bomb!

In other knitting news, meet Tito, the elefantito that I just finished for my little friend Mariana who just turned two. He is a spanish elephant (a very unusual breed) knit from this Safari Friends pattern. He is unaccustomed to this strange New England weather, and immediately requested a scarf. I hope Mariana will approve. The pattern is from Knitting at Knoon which has great patterns and wonderful tutorials. This is a perfect pattern to use for gifts for little ones.

And a little something for me...

No, despite the slightly sinister look. This is the first of a pair of Maine Morning Mitts (scroll down to the bottom of the link to download the free pattern), knit it Noro Kureyon. Now if only the cold snap would return, I'd have a chance to give the completed pair a run.

And in non-knitting news, we had our first Home Study visit today. We scurried around all weekend, madly organizing, and bringing the house to a new level of order and cleanliness, not seen since we moved in last year. Neither of us had a great night of sleep, what with the stress of not knowing exactly what sort of meeting lay in store today. Happily, all went well and our social worker really put us at ease. She did leave us with homework (a letter to write to the Expectant Mother and a photo album to assemble). After today and 3 more scheduled meetings, she'll write up the home study report and we'll become "waiting parents" gulp... Another check on the adoption to-do-list and on we go!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Singin' in the Rain

Well it has been awhile since August 16th. I guess time has gotten away from me a little bit lately. Or more accurately, time has got me firmly in it's vice-like grip. And it is hard to wrestle myself away from it. Between taking a little trip to New Jersey to visit my mother, and much time spent working on tracking down adoption paperwork, I haven't had much time for writing.

So, that is my reasoning for taking so long to post about our latest festival. Michael and I are a folk duo, singing in and around the Boston area whenever we get the chance. And we were booked to sing at the Annual Peach Festival for the Church of Our Saviour of Milford, NH a few weeks back. Never ones to turn up our noses at singing old-timey music on a truck bed stage, we jumped at the chance. We were excited and ready for some sun, some good songs and the fruits of the harvest. What we weren't quite expecting was the rain. Or to be more precise, the thunder, lightening and rain. Not my favorite combination when standing on a damp floor (truck bed) surrounded by electric sound equipment.

When we arrived the skies had opened up and it was pouring and crashing down thunder. We left the guitars and CDs in the car and ran to the tents to get the lay of the land and wait for instructions. It was hard to miss the very damp and slightly forlorn looking performers sitting on the stage waiting for the rain to stop. I feared that did not bode well for our stint on the stage. We met with the organizer, Lisa, standing soggy but cheerful under a tent, who pointed towards the couple I'd already seen, and said "I think you guys are next"

So, we grabbed our gear (no roadies in this outfit) and headed over to the little damp square of tent behind the truck bed that made for the "green room." Where the musicians get themselves prepped and ready to go on. I was awfully glad I'd chosen to wear boots with my outfit for the day. Much easier to slog through the puddles. But, I'm afraid that my straw cowboy hat may have seen it's last gig.

Anyway, the show must go on as they say. And it did, and we did. These shots were taken during quick gaps in the rain.

Sadly our audience was mostly deterred by the torrential showers and electrical storms that kept sweeping through. Don't know if you can see the puddles on the empty seats. But, the folks munching away on BBQ and peach cobbler under the dining tent did give us much praise and appreciation when it was all over.

We sang and glanced nervously over at the sound man, Dan and his son and assistant Adam, every time the lightening got close. But, they just kept cheerfully giving us the thumbs up! So, we sang on.

We did get a few brief moments at the end of our set. Just in time to see my cousin Maryanne, and her husband Dave, showing up to cheer us on.

We were fed BBQ and sent on our way with delicious peach pies and peach preserves, with many thanks and the hopes for a sunnier festival next year. This and the telling, are all that remain of our set at the 2008 Peach Festival Fund Raiser. Everything was delish!

Friday, August 29, 2008

They might be giants

Well, the garden is in high season, literally as this picture will attest. Michael is 6' tall and surrounded here by Benary Giant zinnias and Russian Giant sunflowers. This part of the garden is making a little bit of a spectacle for the neighbors. People stroll down our street in the evening and often stop to observe the giants and the wild array in the garden. Its fun to be sitting in the house and hearing their observations, amazement over the height, glee over the squash growing in the chainlink fence, interest in the giant spider-web bean poles.

We have never grown corn before and are anxiously awaiting the first picking, probably this weekend, as our corn went in a bit later than most local corn. But, our three sisters planting of corn, beans and squash/pumpkins has been a success and there are many ears ripening on the stalks!

We're managing to keep up with the kale by making lots of wilted kale salad, sesame greens with rice, yum! from Feeding the Whole Family, Cynthia Lair's great whole foods cookbook, which we use regularly and by making Colcannon, an irish dish mixing mashed potatoes with kale and onions and sometimes cabbage. This recipe is great when there's a little cool snap in the air. And the leftovers can be reheated as patties in olive oil for really delicious savory potato pancakes.

We have about 6 weeks to the frost date here and are excited to see how much wonderful food keeps growing steps from the front door. Here's what I picked when I came home from work the other night...

Happy Harvest!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Papa's got a brand new (old) car and the latest look at the garden

Well after a couple of weeks of very frustrating, demoralizing searching, Michael found a new (used) car to replace the one he totaled. His mission was a pretty tough one. He needed to find a reliable, safe set of wheels that didn't cost any more than the insurance company paid him for his old one (not much!) and we were hoping that he could find something that got better mileage than his Mercury Sable.

After many discouraging hours looking at over-priced piles of s.......tuff, being baited and switched, and rudely brushed off by opportunistic used car dealers...hmm is that redundant? We were just at that point when you really begin to think that people suck, when Craigslist came through! We met a very nice man who was selling his older and much loved Honda Civic because he was upgrading to a slightly newer vehicle that his friend was selling him at a good price. Our Honda guy wasn't looking to make a big profit, or rip anyone off. He was completely forthcoming, giving us repair history and even telling us of the next big work that will likely need doing in a year or two. And when we went to sign the papers, he gave us the roof rack and bicycle rack as well as a clean car with a full tank of gas. Our faith in humanity was renewed!

This was all accomplished under the budget that we needed to stay under, and with more than enough money banked for the big repair next year.

Since we also went and met with the adoption agency the other night and found out about the whopping large sum that will need to be found to pay for agency fees, legal fees, medical expenses, etc. , coming in under-budget here was a real big deal. Hoorah!

And I'll leave you with the latest pictures from our burgeoning garden. Hope things are ripening and flourishing around you!

Our weekly bread

Since last January, we've moved away from eating anything packaged, overly processed, made with white sugar, white flour, trans-fats, additives, etc. Basically we've gone to pretty much a whole foods diet. So far, it has meant the loss of some unwanted extra weight (and more to come), 100 points on my cholesterol reading (I can't remember how much Michael's dropped but it too was significant), better (more consistent) energy, less trash (far fewer food packages) and less consumer guilt.

It has also meant a serious restructuring of the pantry, much more time spent together in the kitchen cooking, more advanced planning on meals and a much better understanding of what we put in our bodies for fuel and where it comes from.

We try to get about 90% of our fuel from plant-based substances, leaves, fruits, grains and allow ourselves one serving per day of organic, wild or humanely raised animal-based food...butter on your toast, milk in your coffee, a piece of meat (swim, fly or amble), cheese, egg, or what have you.

I've always enjoyed baking bread, and now, with the way we eat, I bake all of our bread. At this point that means two loaves of sourdough whole wheat bread a week. And possibly a baked goodie somewhere in there a few times a month. The above picture is fresh from the oven and ready for slicing up for sandwiches or toast for the week. I have many wonderful bread recipes, but my standby for the sourdough weekly bread is Everyday Sourdough Bread from Richard Packham. I use the measures at the end of the recipe for individual loaves, make enough dough for 3 by his calculations, and make two large loaves that fit in the big loaf pans I inherited from my mother. Very nice!

I don't use the powdered milk. When I have fresh milk, I scald it and cool it to room temperature and use that instead of the water and the powdered milk. Just use the same amount of scalded milk as he calls for water. But, if I don't have milk, I just skip it. The bread is not quite as tender but still comes out quite nicely.

Since I always keep a sourdough starter going in my fridge, I just take it out the night before, refresh it with equal parts flour and water and let it sit over night to bubble away. Then I start from there with his recipe. It is a staple around here!

I also make all of our pizza dough from scratch. I find that with my starter, this dough usually does rise to double in size and I cut it into two balls. This works great to freeze and take out in the morning if you feel like a fresh homemade pizza that night.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Another project for the lil' goober

Finished my first Baby Surprise Jacket designed by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I used a nice bright colorway in Plymouth Yarn Outback Wool. It feels like it'll be nice and comfy and the wool has a great hand to work on. A fun project once you decode it! Now I'm on the hunt for some appropriate buttons.

Some stress, some relief and some serious gratitude!

Stress is getting a call from your husband in the middle of the afternoon, telling you he's been in an accident, driven off the road, into a ditch, that he's fine but shaken and to please leave work immediately to rescue him from the side of the road. Low level freak-out in prairie-dog land. I've never shut down the computer, locked everything up, notified the boss and raced for the car so fast!

When I arrived at the scene that Michael had directed me to, I saw a crowd gathered, no husband, and a tow truck straining to haul something out of a deep culvert. Gulp! Luckily, then I saw Michael, leaning against the side of a building, off in a quiet corner, looking rattled and pale.

Relief is seeing for myself that he's relatively unscathed. A troubling back twinge which showed up about an hour after the accident, (soon to be checked out medically) but none of the gruesome possibilities that flooded my brain as they hauled his wrecked car out of the big deep hole. Relief also that the woman who was entirely at fault for the accident did eventually admit her responsibility and was cited with a traffic violation. His poor car even made the front page of the local paper.

Gratitude is looking at this wonderful man who I married ten short months ago, and thanking my lucky stars for every minute of time I have with him safely tucked in our little corner of this big planet. I am truly blessed.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Baby Steps

Today we made an appointment with the agency that we hope to have handle our domestic infant adoption. This is big—SUPER BIG. And I'm kind of alternating between giddy hyper-excitement and stomach-flipping overwhelm.

Because knitting generally has a calming effect on me, when we really got down to making this step I picked up my needles and cast on a first pair of booties for the lil' goober. Christine's Stay-on Baby Booties from Fuzzy Galore is an incredibly fun and easy way to use up odd bits of yarn. I can't wait until there is a little one to wear them.

Now that they're off the needles, I've cast on a Baby Surprise Jacket which I'll photograph once it looks like more than a hodgepodge of stitches. I realize that there are a zillion more hurdles to jump through before we are actual, official parents. But we have made that first step and we are on our way. Whoohoo!

Monday, July 28, 2008

New projects in the wings

I've got a serious knitting jones. I've slowly been working on a lovely green hoodie that I'll show once I've gotten it completed. But it seems like old news and what with the weather, and the fussy part I'm knitting right now it has sadly sat languishing in my knitting basket for over a month. But I've been picking up knitting vibes for new projects from all over the creative world, and I succumbed to the siren's song for more yarn. And I did also recommit myself to finishing the hoodie before the first cold snap this fall.

I've picked up some lovely skeins from Webs in Northhampton, MA and Fabric Place in Woburn, MA. Here's a sneak preview of some of the variegated and solid loveliness. All on sale! Which somehow helps me justify the expenditure. I'll give more details as I take it out to actually begin knitting. For now, some flashes of the stash...

Another "Aha" moment

For any of you who (like me) have been spending lots of time individually clicking on all or your favorite blogs, or typing in URLS every time, to see if they've been updated, and on and on. Well, today I found what is likely old-hat to many and totally new to me, an explanation of blog readers, feeds, subscriptions etc. Since I can't possibly make it as clear as simplemom does...

Go here, check it out, simplify your blogreading!

I've now allowed subscriptions to this blog which should simplify things, and I established my blogreader account so that I too can streamline my online time. Hope you find this useful.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Who Knew?

After coming home to yet another big bunch of radishes ready to pull in the garden, it was time to branch out. Until now I've always thought of radishes as those strong flavored things you only need a few of, sliced up thin and put on your salads. But, now that I use so many in my companion plantings (they are good deterrents to many pests) I need to use up a whole lot more of them. And throwing out all those green tops always seemed like such a waste!

Well, after much searching and reviewing different recipes and recommendations, I discovered that the greens can be used too. Who knew! Cuz' I sure didn't! Well then, I decided to cook them the way I cook chard. I snipped off the radish tail and the top stem and sliced the root into quarter-inch segments and tossed them in a saute pan with a little olive oil to begin heating on med high. Then I cut the lower part of the stem off the leaves, washed them thoroughly and gave them a rough chop. They are a bit fuzzy/prickly which can be a little off-putting but, fear not. The fuzzy/prickles seemed to disappear when cooked. Then I threw the roughly chopped (still damp) greens on top of the roots which were now hissing a little in the pan. I sauted the whole lot until the greens were wilted and the radish roots had become a little translucent. Then I drizzled in a little balsamic vinegar, tossed in a few dried cranberries and called it done. The roots had mellowed and no longer had that strong flavor but held up well to the balsamic and the sweet tartness of the cranberries. All in all a delicious way to serve radishes and we're looking forward to having more for lunch tomorrow.


Well, I've been doing a lot of reading, seeking, reaching for hope lately. Getting hyper focused on the "news" from media outlets, overhearing too many mindless, soul-less conversations, and even looking closely at the sides of the road on my way to work, all leave me in a dark place. I know it is important to be aware of these realities, if only to push against them and strive for better (for humanity, for the environment, for the future). But it is a tricky balance. And often my eyes and ears are almost desperately casting about for something bright and good to land on.

In a Mind Body Workshop I recently attended, we were encouraged to spend a little bit of dedicated time everyday to appreciating, noting, listing things that brought us joy, gave us hope and positively influenced our day.

Here are a few of mine:

• One bright orange giant zinnia blooming/blazing in a mass of green after a torrential thunderstorm

• A very elderly gent on his daily walk down the soggy morning street in a hot pink t-shirt

• Ten minutes of lovely morning quiet to sip my coffee and read

Greg Greenway's song "Standing on the Side of Love" with the soul-tugging strains of Pat Wictor's slide guitar...the best kind of music for a morning commute!

• The man with the shiny bald head and twirly mustache who kindly held the door for me this morning

• The discovery of another amazing family making a change at Path to Freedom

What's bringing you hope today?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Growing things...

Well, our garden is in full swing! Which is pretty exciting since it was all just a big patch of scrubby grass a few months ago. Last summer when we bought the house, I was so excited with the potential for a large-scale garden. And had hoped to get it planned and framed as soon as we moved in. Well, breaking my leg on the day of the closing (whooops), and the subsequent surgery, complications and healing, left all my plans on hold until this spring.

Thankfully, my leg has healed well, and I have a wonderful, supportive husband, Michael, who has done yeoman's duty helping to make my garden plans come to life.

Here he is back in May framing out some beds... (Thanks to brother-in-law Allen and the surprise gift of a power drill. Whoohoo! That sure sped up the process.)

And then we went the lasagna gardening route, using newspaper/packing paper laid over the grass, then kitchen scraps and compost or grass-clippings and then topsoil. And then the planting. My notebook was brimming with sketches, lists and seed catalogs!

Now, here are those same beds, in mid-July. The one that Michael was building is the one on the far side, taller than the chain link fence. It and the one to the right are filled with a "three-sisters" planting. A symbiotic companion planting of corn, pole beans and squash or pumpkins. They are going like crazy! The beds in the foreground were planted later, but have things like broccoli, kale, radishes, carrots, melons and lots of beans. The cobwebby trellis is one I put together for the red runner beans, and inspired by Green Kitchen.

And lastly, here is a close-up of the strange hoopy chicken-wire structure I built for the cucumbers to climb over and shield the mesclun that I've planted inside. We've named it the "cukastoga wagon."

Hope everything in your world is growing and reaching for the light. I'm off to harvest another bunch of lettuce.

Quiet Beginnings

So, I'm wondering if I should have done something momentous for my first post. But, I've been reading posts (lurking) and commenting (rarely) when I have something to contribute for so long...seemed like I just flowed right into it.

Discovering the world of amazing blogging crafters, and artists, and simple-living folks has really helped me feel connected and hopeful. Which may sound a little odd that the Internet is doing what interactions in my real physical world aren't doing. But, my work world and local neighborhood certainly don't offer the inspiration, creativity, political and social views that I have found on so many relevant, wonderful blogs. That's why I decided it was time to wade in.

I intend this to be a place to document and share my experiments, creations and thoughts. So welcome!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Farmers Market

Yeah, just got to my first farmers market of the season. I had hoped I'd have enough growing in our own garden to circumvent too much produce shopping, but, although we have loads of lettuce and peas, It'll be a while before we see the likes of the beautiful corn, beans, chard, tomatoes and blueberries I picked up today.

I finally had time to organize a chart of all of the farmers markets that are close to home or work and reasonable to get to at lunch or on my commute. This market, in Newton, MA, took me 15 minutes to get to from the office. I took a friend along to do her shopping as well, so it was a great adventure. Nice! There were three farms represented, a fishmonger, a gelato stand and some information booths. Small but good stuff.

Here's to a delicious summer supper tonight!