Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas 2008

Nea tries on her new work gear.

Gifts wrapped ala Rachel Ashwell inspiration at Shabby Chic and a good use of fabric scraps!

Cheese knife and fork from Siam via Metal and Thread!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day and holiday melancholia...

It's Boxing Day and I don't really feel like going back to work yet...though I have lots of soap to make.

We had a lovely time with Sarah and Eric last night. We missed Jess who is in Atlanta and couldn't make it home. I'll have photos of Christmas later. Sarah, Eric and Nea took off for Brooklyn early this afternoon.

I often have trouble getting back in the swing of things after a holiday. There is a certain amount of melancholy associated with the holidays. Especially when you get a bit 'older' Thinking about Christmases past, large family gatherings, young kids in the family and those who are no longer with us.

So, I spent the day relaxing. For me that meant knitting on my 'sock' project (more about that later) and enjoying time by a warm fire.

And for Pentti it was watching old 8 mm movies from the 50s.

So tomorrow, I'll get up, go for a walk, make soap and be back to my old self. It's a good thing.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to all

I've been losing things lately.
Sometimes I come upon them unexpectedly..

Today I was in the attic getting the tree stand and lights down. Sometimes we only put white lights on our tree. And lo and behold, I found the glass ornaments from my mom. I thought they were gone.

They are Shiny Brite glass ornaments from Max Eckardt & Sons, Inc.
So I had fun going through them and adding them to the lighted tree.

So, here's wishing you all love and happiness now and in the New Year!

Wine shopping today?

If you're buying your holiday libation today, be sure to look for bottles with real corks....not those sissy screw off caps. The cork oak forests of the Mediterranean will thank you!

Update:  for more about cork...check out Wicanders.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Snow Day!

Church is cancelled. We're snowed in again! I haven't been out of the house since Thurs. AM
Today's a day to read by the fire...or make soap. NOT soup...I'm done with soup for awhile.

I'm thinking about a new SOAP instead. Something springy.....lime and spearmint maybe.

So, it became a pancake morning. Blueberry pancakes to be exact...made with barley flour and buttermilk. My own recipe...I've used for years. I'll share if anyone is interested.

On the table in my mother's pancake server, one of my favorite heirlooms....and served with real maple syrup that Pentti's dad made in Canada. Is maple syrup like honey from the pyramids? Because my father-in-law has been gone for more than 10 years...but his syrup lives on!

And on top of it all...I got a book in the mail yesterday that I ordered from

Octavia Butler's Fledgling. I loved Kindred. (Her book about time travel and slavery.)
This one is about Vampires.......a favorite topic of mine.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

and for my next soup....

When it looks like this outside....

and you have an overabundance of celery....
it's time for more soup.

I started with this recipe from Epicurious...and adapted. I added a large parsnip and a yukon gold potato. (I had no celery root)

Ground some celery seed and tellicherry pepper together for spice. And I don't puree....I like a chunky soup. Sometimes I mash it a bit with my potato masher.

Oh, and when I finish it, I won't be using heavy cream...maybe a bit of half and half.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A new soup....

I've been craving a new soup. Something different from the old standbys I make.
When I saw this on Last Night's Dinner, I had a starting place.

Here's what I did.
Drained a 28 oz. can of dice, organic, fire roasted tomatoes. Saved the juice and poured the tomatoes into a large glass baking dish. Studded the tomatoes with 4 large garlic cloves and drizzled with olive oil. Roasted at 450 for about 20-30 minutes.
Meanwhile I sautéed 3 minced shallots in a little olive oil and added some dried basil. Then added 1/2 cup rinsed barley and a large carton of organic chicken broth. When the tomatoes are done, add them to the pot. Simmer until barley is done. You might need to thin with a bit more chicken broth. ( I did have 2 chicken sausages that were defrosted, so I cut those in small cubes and added them, too, but they weren't necessary.)

This was hearty and so good...almost buttery tasting. And what better to serve it with than a grilled cheese sandwich!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

fantasy dinner

I grew up with a large extended family. 16 1st cousins. Many relatives who lived nearby.
My dad had 2 sisters, mom had 2 brothers and 2 sisters. They all had children.

I miss traditional Sunday dinners. We used to have them when I was a kid. After church...a roast in the oven...relatives often visiting to share dinner.

Sometimes we get close to that again.
Sarah and Eric came up on Sunday night after they closed the store. She brought the lovely centerpiece. We had a wonderful time. New Rules. NO TALK OF WORK.

The Menu:
Pork Tenderloin w/ Sage Corn Bread Crust
Corn frozen from the summer
Smashed red potatoes
Radicchio, Fennel, and Arugula Salad with Roquefort and Walnuts
Linzer cookies and Cherry Hazelnut Biscotti

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cooking results

Biscotti after the first bake, cut and ready for second baking.
After the second bake, they get turned for a third bake and then they're done.
Sometimes you have to eat the broken ones.

Granola baked and ready for storage.

Cornbread ready to mix and bake.

Didn't get to the Linzer cookies yet. Maybe tomorrow.

Its December, it must be almost Christmas...

I'm taking the day off from soapmaking today to cook!

I'm always in a rush...making dinner ( and breakfast and lunch since we work at home)

I like to cook, but not under pressure. So today I'll make:

  • Maple Pecan Granola from What Geeks Eat.....thanks to Vanessa this has become my standard granola. Alas, Vanessa has taken a hiatus from her blog, but you can still browse it for some fantastic recipes.
  • cornbread for tonight's dinner with chili and leftovers for the pork tenderloin I'm making tomorrow.
  • my first batch of cherry/hazelnut biscotti for the holidays
  • prep the vegetables for tomorrow's salad
  • oh, and if I have time....a roasted tomato barley soup that I will adapt from Last Night's Dinner.
I try not to get crazy with the holidays. I've cut way back on gifts and addition to the biscotti, Linzer cookies are a must but I forgot to get raspberry jam when I was out this AM. All that jam making this summer and I didn't make raspberry!

What little gift shopping I do is almost done and last Sat. I bought a wreath at the Christmas sale I visited. It came complete with the hanger, so I came home, hung it on my gate, and I'm DONE! Well almost. I just need a new bow for it.


this used to be 'senior cut day' when I was a high school teacher....don't know if that holds true any longer, but it was a weird day in the soap workshop.

While I was fielding calls from stores who want more soap ASAP and trying to make soap for next year's orders.....I got calls all day for the 700 Club.

I thought maybe their 800 number was similar to I finally asked one caller what number she was calling. It was 1-800-716-SMART.
Mine ends in SOAP....hmmmm....they're the same numbers.

The last one came at 3AM this morning....the person called 3 times....just to be sure.

I thought maybe I should offer to take their contribution and pray for them.

Monday, December 8, 2008

home for the holidays??

I should be working but I've been taking photos / playing with my Buddy all morning...he showed up this morning outside of the office window. Haven't seen him for months!!

He looks great, except for that funny ear. Don't know what that's all about.

And this time he came right in and wanted to snuggle my slippers. I think its the old Buddy....back again.

Welcome Home, Bud!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

first snow

Just a light dusting yesterday, but it is the first snow of the season.

I'm exhausted from soapmaking this week and I've been thinking of some of the things I know or don't know about soapmaking, especially after my lye volcano this week.

  1. Getting one (just 1) crystal of lye under your thumbnail while measuring sodium hydroxide without gloves is one of the MOST irritating and painful things.
  2. No matter how many times you make the same batch of soap with the same recipe, there are so many variables...that something can still go wrong. Too much heat, too little heat, etc......
  3. You don't need to wear a fragrance when you make soap. People always think you smell good. The bank teller says my deposits smell good...
  4. I really DO love making soap!

But right now...I'd rather be back on the ship with one of these!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


soap and other kinds...

this lovely volcano that we saw in Nicaragua last week is nothing compared to the one I created in my workshop yesterday. Did I forget how to make soap after a 10 day respite??

I've been making coffee soap since the beginning of my soapmaking career....12 years ago.

I always use cold coffee. I was in a hurry and didn't cool the coffee. Bottom line you can't put lye into a hot liquid. Well, you can...but what you get is a volcano.

Seriously, this is a dangerous thing to do. And luckily I wasn't hurt. But hot lye/coffee water gushed up from the bucket and went all over the counter and floor.

1st I check to make sure that I'm OK...then the clean up begins. This is the WORST part..... the liquid is caustic and a pain to clean up. Everything is slippery from the lye.

About an hour was back to the drawing board and chilling a new batch of coffee with ice!!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

from Guatemala! (Day 8)

Doesn't seem like Thanksgiving. No cooking for me today.

Hoping for lots of turkey and great side dishes for everyone....and fun with family and friends.

I'll be with my best friend today.

And here's what I'm most thankful for today......that we don't have this to look forward to in our White House!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Day 7

Yellow coconuts, active volcanoes and a confession from Pentti

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A pelican in brief....

Costa Rica. Day 6.

Pentti is a photographer. It’s what he does on vacation.
On our trip to Bryce, Zion and the Grand Canyon he took 4500 photos.
Thank God for digital.

But today he got one amazing ‘catch’

He didn’t even know he’d caught the fish until he zoomed in on the photo after he took it.

If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can even see the look on the fishes [face?] that what you call it??

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Rescue at sea.

This morning the captain announced that we would be changing course to help a sailboat with a crew member who was ill.

The sailboat, Illusion was small compared to our ship….

Lowering the rescue boat.

Taking off for the distressed sailboat.

Linking up with the sailboat to retrieve the ill crew member. There were some pretty heavy swells, so this part of operation took the better part of an hour. Not as easy as it looks in this photograph!

Coming back to the Coral Princess with the rescued man on board.
If you click on the photo you'll see him in the bottom of the boat.

Otherwise it’s another day at sea….hot, humid, but very relaxing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

at sea

Sailed past the coast of Cuba most of the day. It's still cool, but tonight as we near Jamaica, it's getting warm and humid. We are relaxing! napping, reading, walking on deck and I'm doing a bit of gambling.

We'll be traversing the Panama Canal on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


they're important to me and that's why I love Marriotts....we're at the Courtyard in Ft. Lauderdale.

I like:
  • a complimentary shuttle from the airport
  • in-room coffee
  • a hairdryer
  • free internet access
  • comp. shuttle to the cruise port

Pentti likes:
  • a big screen TV

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

touch down in

Fort Lauderdale at 5PM this afternoon.

When they called rows 20-25 for our flight out of White Plains this afternoon...NO ONE lined up. Pentti and I were the only ones in the back of the plane and he was in the rest room with our boarding passes. I've never been on a flight with so many empty seats. We literally had the back of the plane to ourselves.

So....I figured I'm on vacation....relax.

Tomorrow we set sail for the Panama Canal!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Warming Trends?

A trip to Brooklyn to deliver soap and have brunch at Tini with Sarah.
Making a last few batches of soap before our vacation.
And this iris in full bloom in November. I cut it from my garden 2 days ago.

Still have lots of laundry and packing to do.
All kinds of paperwork to finish up before we leave.

So much to do. By the time I leave for vacation, I really need one!

We're off to cruise through the Panama Canal. I'll be blogging from the high seas if I can.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tagged by the Memes??

Sarah tapped me to do this Seven Random things Meme. What is that anyway? I had to look it up.

But here are a few tidbits....

1. I know I’m a control freak…I just can’t control myself.
Go with the flow, I tell myself.

2. I play favorites with my cats and sometimes I feel guilty about it.

3. Sometimes when I’m alone, I like to repeat words aloud like reconnoiter or cippolini because I like the way they sound.

4. I hate it when someone sends me a forward where you're supposed to make a wish or say a prayer and send it on to 10 people so your prayer will be answered or your wish granted. I always delete those emails. What the h*ll....haven't they figured it out yet, that their wishes aren't granted??

5. In high school, I was in the senior play. That's what we called it then. No musical for my class of 54 students. I had the role of Mrs. Savage whose family was trying to commit her to an asylum.

6. I am fascinated by vampire novels…..I loved Rice’s “Interview with a Vampire”..and just recently I read the young adult novel "Twilight."
It was OK.

7. My secret desire it to sing kareoke to "build me up buttercup" I love that song!

New beginnings...

Finally back after an exciting election week.

This morning I received an email from a friend living in Paris:

" Dear Susan,

I hope all's going well. How refreshing to have this significant change coming with Barack Obama as our President Elect! I would like to be there right now to see the faces and feel the shift of energy on my home turf. However, here in Paris people are also sooo very happy... all over people feel a sigh of relief and the strength of hope."

An as a sign of hope, this appeared in my garden this week....

can you believe it?? its a white iris I had Pentti cut it and bring it in because I'm afraid it will freeze. It is middle of November, after all. We'll see if it opens!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day 2008

Vote early and vote often!

Who said that?? I really thought it was Richard Daly.....

What do you think?

Obama '08

Sunday, November 2, 2008

another glorious fall day and the 'good/bad' breakfast

This is the best time of year for the Japanese Maple.
Here it is this morning in all of it's glory!

I made the biscuits from Vanessa's site: What Geeks Eat.
I love her technique for making them in the food processor and then making a tube and cutting the rounds. I add one more thing...I cut them with a piece of quilting thread. Put a 12 inch piece of thread under the tube where you want to make the first cut. Bring it over the top and crisscross the ends. Pull and you've got your first slice without smushing....

then I browned the sausage....yummm...
and made the milk gravy.

and finally and egg on top and Voila! Cholesterol Heaven!

Saturday, November 1, 2008


As we move into the last 3 days I watched this again.

I'm voting for hope. I'm not as subtle as my daughter.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Bah, Halloween

I forgot that it was Halloween until I went out this afternoon to the bank and saw the local high school kids all dressed up at the shopping center.

Frankly, I hate Halloween. It's right up there with New Year's Eve as one of my most disliked holidays. Not that I'm a grinch, just don't like all the hoopla.

I live in a neighborhood where we no longer get kids trick or treating. Kind of nice. I don't need to buy candy. Just keep some quarters by the door on the off chance that someone will come by.

But....I got sucked in to buying candy when one of my daughters told me I could send any leftovers to her. So, here it is......Divide and conquer!

It's almost 7PM and no one's been here yet!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

What's for dinner?

Back from Atlanta...and not really feeling like cooking. But Pentti does deserve a real dinner tonight. So this is a bowl of some odds and ends of veggies from the fridge:
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 red skinned potatoes
  • 1 broccoli head
  • 1 red onion
Cut up and tossed with 2 T of garlic olive oil. Roast for 45 min.

I had taken a Halibut steak from the freezer this morning and found an easy recipe for Parmesan Baked Halibut.

Voila! An easy and delicious dinner!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Off to Atlanta....

to see Jessica who has moved into a new apartment and has a new job.

Flew down here Saturday morning and rented a car to get into the downtown area and Jess' new apartment. We had reservations for dinner at the French American Brasserie....otherwise know as FAB. Jessica worked in the office at FAB for a year and we were treated to some pretty fine service. In addition..the food was great.

Here's what they brought out for my birthday.

Just in case you couldn't decide on ONE dessert! (profiteroles with pistachio ice cream and bittersweet chocolate sauce - valhrona chocolate souffle cake, with hazelnut tuile and vanilla ice cream - meyer lemon crepe with pomegranate syrup and tapioca pearls) A bit over the top after the meal we had....but lovely!!

I'll be away until Tuesday night and then home to recuperate. We shopped all day today and will likely do the same tomorrow. Whew!!

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

We celebrated my 60th birthday with Pentti, Sarah and Eric at Blue Hill at Stone Barns on Thursday night.

What an experience. First of all, the grounds are magnificent. I only have one photo and it doesn't do the place justice at all. This is the court yard surrounded by the stone barns. We entered through the passage way you see here.

There are better photos at the link above.

To celebrate fall they have suspended the traditional menu and are offering multi course tasting menus. They just kept bringing out one incredible dish after another. I couldn't tell you what they all were....just that everything was delicious. Oh there was an appetizer with salsify and pancetta and sesame seeds that was incredible. I haven't had salsify since I was a kid.

It was a wonderful evening!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Soup

That's 'new soup' not 'new soap'! Although I'm always looking to make a new soap, too!

Fran suggested a new soup recipe that she likes. Kathie Jenkins Wild Rice Soup. She was going to bring me a copy but I found it on the internet by googling the title.

I finally made it yesterday and is it DELICIOUS.
It was hearty, satisfying soup with ingredients like slivered almonds, mushrooms, dill, carrots, celery, 3 kinds of onions and wild rice.
I did make a few changes as noted here:
  • made 1/2 the recipe. it makes a really big batch.
  • used fresh sauteed garlic in with the onions. i don't use garlic salt
  • substituted brown basmati rice for the white rice
  • sauteed the mushrooms in a little butter before adding them to soup

Always looking for a new / unusual soup....I love soup this time of year.

Any suggestions??