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!!