Sunday, January 31, 2010

An exceptional batch of biscuits

The secret to a very good biscuit, versus a good biscuit, is to cook them on a high temperature. It makes them slightly crusty on the outside and deliciously moist on the inside.

However, there are some other things that make a batch of biscuits rise to higher levels of excellence in taste and texture.

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon butter, cut into pieces
1 cup buttermilk

Preheat to 500 degrees.

Whisk dry ingredients and cut cold butter into the flour. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add all the buttermilk at once. Now here's another trick, do not over mix the dough, just stir until incorporated, the dough should be sticky. ( If not add more buttermilk, 1 tablespoon at a time). Pour onto floured surface, knead briskly but gently about 8 times then roll with floured roller to 3/4 inch thickness. Prick the dough with fork tine and cut. Place on baking sheet and bake in hot oven for 8 to 10 minutes.

The bottoms should be brown, but we like our biscuits with the slightest touch of golden glow on top. ( I bake mine 8 minutes).

I fed yesterday morning's leftover biscuits to the neighborhood kids when they came in to get warm from the cold weather. They gobbled them up, absolutely no jelly, honey or butter was necessary!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Purple Toile T- Cozy

Marvelous purple toile waiting for the perfect day to be made into a tea cozy.

I only wished I could have finished it before nightfall and then I would have set it amidst the beautiful snow for photographs.

Something called gimp cord, made by Mettler, was used to create almost a shirr with a strip of fabric; I must say this gives this tea cozy a more formal look in my eyes.

I am dancing a merry step very much like that woman on the right. My family is cozy, and now due to this perfect snowy Saturday, so is my teapot.

The variants in the shades of purple are manual versus automatic focus. The lighting outside would have been so much prettier.

Friday, January 29, 2010

the positive force of making lemonade

"Accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative;
Latch on to the affirmative..."

And so the song goes, and I can not but help being reminded of the 1980's TV show" Laverne and Shirley". Do any of the rest of you remember these crazy gals singing this song?

My children have been querulous these days.
I am attempting to grab their focus to do as the song says.

Hopefully, we will be serving tasty lemonade very soon.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Alan's Room

Alan left to head back to college last week after a month long visit at home.Yes, I am aware that appears as an oxymoron, but it seemed like only a visit since he is spending more time away at school than here at home these days.

The instructions for him were to strip his bed the morning of his departure. I finally remade his bed this week and replaced the empty towel racks with clean blue towels in his bathroom. His room will be waiting when he comes for a "visit" in the near future.

Two years ago, in January actually, I started crocheting this afghan. A gift wrapped up and given as a birthday gift to Alan in early April. I was pleased with its log cabin type of pattern and masculine colors.

On one wall are pewter plates the boys received from showing their sheep at the state fair from 1994 to 1998. Fills a blank wall to say the least and what else, may I ask, can one do with these sort of plates?

Boondoggling on the sidelines.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Candlelight Hot Pot

My husband called this evening to inform me he was detained in a business meeting and would be arriving home later. I put Charlotte in the bathtub, fed the girls something quick, but nutritional, and planned a special meal for just the two of us to be eaten by candlelight.

There happens to be a restaurant, a favorite of ours to dine out, that has on the menu a delicious soup called Hot Pot. A soup I honestly believe my husband dreams about in between visits to this restaurant.

I set out to make my own version of hot pot for him tonight. Some key ingredients were not available and I did not make a trip out to the market, but I thought I could still get a very tasty and perhaps pleasing dish with the ingredients that were on the pantry shelves and in the refrigerator:
Shrimp, asparagus, tomatoes, garlic, chicken broth, coconut milk, cremini mushrooms, and some very hot thai sauce.
He was not disappointed to say the least.

Frank sang his classics for us while the candle's glow created a soothing mood, something very needed in my hard working husband's life. How fulfilling it is to be able to offer that to him.

And we discussed the upcoming wedding, and our plans for the rehearsal dinner we will be hosting in May,

as we nibbled chocolate and sipped our coffee.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Classical Homeschooling

The phone rang about 9:15 last night, at the time that I am thinking it is time to be letting the day's activities slow down to a steady drip, yet here was a request made out of desperation. Would I be willing to tutor the Classical Conversations first grade class tomorrow morning?

Maybe I should give a bit of explanation here. I signed Charlotte up for Classical Conversations as a part of her homeschooling this year. We go every Tuesday morning from 9-12 where a tutor gives instruction in history, grammar, science, Latin, math, geography, music and art. Also included is the Veritas time line cards and science experiments. The child's parent is required to attend with the child and is responsible how the material will be used at home as part of homeschooling. I have found this curriculum to be rich in the material offered and I personally love the freedom of using the program in whatever manner I decide.

Weekly presentations are given by each child regarding the material of the past week. Charlotte's presentation today was on Latin noun endings, first declension.

As it turned out, the tutor showed up and I did not have to teach.
So volcanoes, the area of a circle and the rivers in Africa were some of today's lessons addressed by someone other than me, and due to the limited time I had to prepare, that was a very good thing.
I do so love the process of learning and relearning which homeschooling provides.

And after lunch and playground, friends came home with us to play for several hours.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


"I am very sorry to hear, Miss Fairfax, of your being out this morning in the rain. Young ladies should take care of themselves. Young ladies are delicate plants. They should take care of their health and their complexion. My dear, did you change your stockings?"

All this concerned solicitude from an older gentleman, Mr. Woodhouse, in Jane Austen's Emma. I could not but help feel ambivalent and mildly amused upon reading this recently in the book, yet I love what it says! Enough to share it with you anyway. The 2009 version of Emma broadcasts in our area beginning tonight. Rose and I have waited with great anticipation to see this newest version since Ribbons of Light first posted of it coming to television last fall.

So I will keep my mind on tonight's study from the book of Colossians while at church. But upon arrival at home we will all get snugly and comfortable in our nightwear, pop a large skillet of popcorn and situate ourselves in front of the television. Even if it is a school night( another wonderful benefit of homeschooling).

Two posts in a row...and I use a form of snug in both of them! It must be this cool rainy weather.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

steady socking

I have been knitting a brown sock this winter, squeezed in between everything else in life that is good, or even those things that are not so good. It's my ongoing project to carry along life's highways and byways.

Steadfastly I continue knitting this pumpernickel patterned sock while its mate waits patiently as a ball of yarn in a woven basket. Hand-knitted socks seem extravagant to some considering the price of wool yarn and the time devoted to the tiny stitches, yet I can't help but benefit from the thoughts of snugness that comes from knitting woolen socks that keep one's footsies warm and toasty.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A morning at my house

"The sun was not yet visible but the whole morning sky behind the eastern hill of spruces was rose-hued, with gossamer clouds of pale gold strewn over it."

The Road to Yesterday
Lucy Maud Montgomery

It was only the slightest of whispers that escaped me as I slipped out the back door, braving the cold, to capture the beauty of the morning sky. So many things can never be described in words or pictures...but I tried.

A hearty breakfast awaited us as the sun hit its full power.

Doesn't porridge sound so much more appetizing than oatmeal? I like to think it does and the tasty additions of butter, maple syrup, maple candy and cinnamon made our porridge so good! I even enticed Charlotte to eat hers, in a pretty porringer, nonetheless.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chalk Art

Bare feet, chalk and a cement driveway contributed to great fun this afternoon. The weather embraces warmth and sunshine allowing the girls to squeeze a portion of time creating chalk art.

Water is blended with the chalk's bright colors and smudged with nimble palms.

I rather fancy thinking that a renaissance of sorts has begun in our souls, as well as on our driveway.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


In the pantry hanging by a cotton string, a bunch of dried oregano garnered in the peak of June's herbal bounty; mid morning snippings, while the bees danced and drank of the pinkish purple flower's nectar, these are the memories that are aroused during my search of culinary flavor.

Tonight my spaghetti sauce was in need of just a pinch.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Knitting Hats

In passing these days it never ceases to come up in conversation, "I'll be glad when this cold spell is over and warmer weather returns." I listen and remain silent for the most part. Because frankly, I am enjoying this cold spell immensely. Rather strange for me to admit , but it certainly is the truth. Soon, very soon, these cold temperatures will dissolve into breezes blowing gentle winds and we will awake to a world of colorful crocuses and sunshiny daffodils. I will enjoy those things to the uttermost too.Yet now it pleases me to knit woolen hats that keep my children toasty on these winter days.

Here are some of the hats worn from this past week's chilling afternoon walks.

I knitted this hat last year during when I was sick in bed with the flu of sorts. It is Charlotte's favorite winter hat.

Upon cleaning Charlotte's closet last week, which was spilling over into every inch of her room, I found this felted hat on the top shelf. It was made for Rose when she was six years old and she hated it because it was too itchy! Knitted from the wool of my sheep, felted and dyed this beautiful shade of charcoal, I think it is the cat's meow.

Embellished with two golden bows on its front rim, to add extra attraction.

In those days prior to Christmas when everything is a bustling and there is hardly any time to even think straight, I find sitting down for a spell to knit to be the most calming of pursuits to undertake. I visited my local yarn shop and knitted up several toboggans from this yarn of merino wool, silk and cashmere. One of the hats, different pattern, same yarn, different color,was given as a gift so I do not have a photo of it.

But this one, Rose wants to claim. I am not convinced yet that it shall be hers. The pattern for this hat is found here.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Simmering Smells

Aromatherapy was created for people like me in mind.

Being highly sensitive in the olfactory sense seems to be either a blessing or a detriment depending on how you look at it. So many images are conjured up with smells wafting by and, oh the places I may go are simply amazing with just a whiff of certain pleasant smells.

Therefore, good natural aromas are the ideal when I set out to make my home smell marvelous. One of my favorite at this time of year, especially since orange peels are abundant and throwing them in the garbage pail seems such a waste, is a pot of water filled with:
orange peels or slices of orange,
cinnamon sticks,
whole allspice,
and whole cloves
placed on the stove top over low heat. Apple peels may also be added to the pot.

You must remember to continue adding liquid throughout the day. Another advantage to this simmering pot is the humidifying affects to your winter home. I am being doubly blessed as I enjoy my simmering pot of fruit and spices today.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Taste of Warmer Days

Strawberry freezer jam is an all-time winner and just happens to be the most requested of jams at my house at any given time, when jam is a must. I am thinking scratch biscuits here or maybe a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

It reminds one of the warm delightful days of May and eating fresh strawberries in the strawberry fields while juice rolls down your chin and stains the old clothes you know you must wear in the course of berry picking. But I won't go there quite yet, I am satisfied to be in winter's gusty weather, wearing wool fingerless mitts around my house to keep my hands warm, and donning hand knitted socks while sipping hot tea with a bit of juice added.

But I can appreciate and immensely enjoy a taste of springtime on these January days. So good, if I may say so myself!

Monday, January 4, 2010

on to the daily living routine

Back to the school lessons this morning, but on this afternoon there emerged several delights of another matter altogether. For me, the sewing machine was settled on the end of my dining room table once again so I could sew on a silk dress for Rose, while Charlotte took a position on the other side to try her hands at something new, cross stitch.

This book was a wonderful bargain, picked up from the book bins of Tuesday Morning. There are so many fun and simple ideas for even the youngest of embroiderers in the family to create.

Charlotte is learning how to cross stitch on gingham fabric. She dreams of what the end project will be, a pillow is the present plan.

In an attempt to get the blood flowing through our veins and make healthy activity for us all, we bundled up in scarves, gloves, and woolen coats and took a walk through the woods. We forded streams and walked on ice patches. The bright sunshine mustn't fool you, this wintry blast of cold weather has us all shivering more these days

But we knew tea time was waiting back home. A loaf of strawberry bread made back in late summer was rescued from the freezer to be enjoyed by the glow of a wee candle.

The horse creamer took his place on the afternoon tea table to add a bit of whimsical fun.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Wives and Daughters

Sometimes I choose my own gifts and this year I believe I chose wisely, the DVD entitled "Wives and Daughters". We began watching it last night. I dreamed of sewing an entire wardrobe of clothes just like those worn in this movie.

Friday, January 1, 2010


I reluctantly put away all the Christmas cheer throughout the day. I am not ready to stop hearing and singing Christmas songs and saying Merry Christmas. I am not ready to stop finding Christmas cards in my mailbox, and I am definitely not ready to get back to the routine of school. Yet, today the Christmas tree was stripped of its lights and ornaments and tossed away, just as the boxes of Christmas decorations and wreaths were packed and rendered to the lonely attic. And lastly, the Christmas music was sadly stored in the Christmas box in the stereo cabinet until next year.

A walk around the block where the sound of Mr. Putter's nails on the pavement reminded me of the typewriters of my youth. The children were riding their bikes and we were walking a rapid pace to keep up.

Home to jigsaw puzzles and coffee, the making of yeast rolls and the putting a pot of black-eyed peas to boil.

Alan set the table tonight. I can always tell, his glass of iced tea is placed where it should be for him, on the left side.

However, I was insistent that the lights in my kitchen window will remain through these days of January, a beacon of welcome to shine in the dark of winter's night.

Happy New Year!

reading and knitting with "small things"

I was pleased to discover Ginny had brought back her knitting and reading yarn along, because frankly I do find myself enjoying  the ...