Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Amidst Snowflakes and Sunshine

The first snow fell today, admist sunshine, clouds and more snow. The day couldn't be more bewildering. It's chilly, yet not so cold that I need the fire burning. The kiddoes and I did some schoolwork, then settled in for a lunch of crackers and peanutbutter, chocolate dipped pretzels, and cinnamon toast. The best part of our lunch, besides the company I was keeping, was home-made hot chocolate topped with fresh whipped cream. We gathered around the coffee table in the living room with a tea-pot filled with the warm chocolate. To enjoy my children like this is truly a gift... They bring joy to me always. As the enjoyment of summer is behind us, and the anticipation fall brings of the beginning of another school year wears on, this little glimpse of winter days looks just right to me: warm, cozy, and filled with the smiling faces of my beautiful children. C'mon in winter...I'm ready!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Kitchen Talk

I wanted to try to freeze pumpkins this year as I've never done it before and have heard how yummy they are. Last week I found pumpkins at a local farm and bought 13 at .75 cents each. Seemed like a good deal. So the other night I employed my husband (read heavily coaxed) to help me do the pumpkins. All truth be told, I had a consultion and left my hubby high and dry for a little over an hour and he got stuck with the brunt of the work. Well, here's what "we" did:
washed and dried the pumpkins. You can see that in the photo.
Cut pumpkins in half and scooped out the center yucky stuff (saved the seeds).
Cut the pumpkins in large pieces.
Cooked the pumpkins on the stove in a veggie basket for about 25 minutes. Here's where it took a looooong time. We had to do it over and over again. Really, a pressure cooker would have been much faster and we will do it that way next year. I hate to say, "I told ya so", but I did tell the 'boss' and he didn't listen! So it was a long night...
Next, we put them in the mixer and gave it a few whirls and packed the finished pumpkin into quart jars. I didn't even take a photo as it was nearly midnight and my hubby already put them in the freezer. At this point, I was VERY hesitant to ask him to bring them back for a pic. No... that wouldn't have been a good idea...

Here's a pic of a few of my favorite kitchen helpers: my mixer, grain mill, and yogurt maker. The two latter are pretty new but I've used them both quite a bit. I love being able to grind my own fresh flour, and I really like the yogurt maker. The yogurt is delicious and so much cheaper. It will pay for itself very soon.
Can you see the pretty Singer sewing machine table? I bought that at a tag sale a few weeks ago and it houses these things perfectly and it looks pretty, too. The tatted cloth underneath was worked by my grandma, whom I miss very much; but she's still with me everyday as I look and admire her handiwork scattered around my home.

Here is an old juice maker that my parents used when I was a kid. I don't know why they didn't want it anymore, but I was happy to take it. I've been making cordial out of it lately and we all have been enjoying it very much. I got the recipe from the Down to Earth blogspot (see side-bar) but I think it's O.K. if I share it here.
You take fresh lemons or limes, wash and cut in half. (I use 5, 6, 7, whatever is on the 'rack of shame'. (I'll explain that in a minute) Juice. On stovetop, make a syrup of one part water and one part sugar. I did 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar. Add the sugar at boiling and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat. Add in juice. I put my cordial in a mason canning jar. When ready to use, use 1/4 cordial to 4 parts water and pour over ice. This is just delicious! And frugal!
The rack of shame is what my kids have nick-named the produce rack in the back of the produce department. You know, where the 'old' stuff is... the reduced produce. That's where I buy apples for pies, bananas for the freezer for smoothies, and the lemons and limes. Now the 'shelf of shame' is where I sometimes buy donuts or rolls or other goodies that I normally wouldn't buy. That's located at the end of one of the aisles in the store on a shelf with reduced bakery items; hence the name 'shelf of shame'. We all laugh about it, but I'm having the last laugh, as now that my 16 year old son, Casey, is working part time at Stop & Shop, he sometimes visits the 'shelf' to buy himself and his sisters treats on pay day!

Here is the finished products of the yogurt (half gone) and the cordial.

Just had to share our afternoon picnic with you. The weather is just delightful with a brilliant blue sky, sunshine and crisp temperatures, but nice and warm in the sun. We set out a blanket and enjoyed hot tea, crackers and cheese for lunch. Ahhh... savoring the last bit of nice weather before winter sets in!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A Few Christmas Gifts Done

I get so stressed thinking about how much I'd like to make for Christmas gifts. I really would love to do so much more than time allows, but of course, you can only do what you can. This year, a few special people on my gift-giving list will receive one of these totes. Each have a linen bottom and cotton top. I used high-quality material and the finished product shows that. The pattern is from Simple Sewing by Lotta Jansdotter. I really love that book. The directions are clear and simple and whatever I've made from the book comes out just beautifully. You may remember from a previous post I already made one of these for my friend's birthday and it has been shipped to CA. Her birthday is on the 27th and I asked her not to open the package until then. I sure hope the receivers of these totes like them and use them.

This one is a gift but...

not this one. I originally bought this 1/2 yd cut from Australia and it was supposed to be a small wall quilt. Instead I decided to make myself a tote instead. That little spot on there is just water from the iron. That should dry up by the time I'm done with this post. Yup, I'm gonna keep this one. But the next one is....

going to go to a new home.
On to more Christmas gift-making!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Cottage Grounds in Fall

It seems preparing for winter is much like preparing for summer. There doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to do all that needs to be done, especially when husband and wife are of the hard-working sort. My husband and I, along with our children tend to be hands-on workers. We tend to do things the 'old' way, much like our grand-parents did. For some reason, it gives all of us joy to work our bodies while doing chores. No need for expensive gym memberships here!
While a few of my kiddoes are sick with colds, ear infections and fevers, the rest of us were out enjoying the sunshine and fresh, crisp air... even the sick ones were out for a little bit... Here's a little glance of what got done today after a trip to the doctor for the sickees and a trip to the pharmacy for some antibiotics...

These guys have over-stayed their welcome in the garage. Meat chickens tend to be stinky! Time for them to move...

to their new home way out back! They'll stay here, unless my husband moves them to the now vacant turkey-coop, until D-Day. Then we'll fill part of our freezer with juicy, delicious, all-natural chickens.

Laundry is another daily chore. Sadly, my out-door clothes hanging will come to an end until spring. That is one of my favorite times of day; a very peaceful time, reflecting on each member of my family as I hang their washing. Oddly enough, I pray for them many days as I hang their laundry.

Lots of leaves needed to be raked and dragged to the back,

and the garden needed cleaning...

Some stacked wood needed to be moved from the side yard...

to the front porch, where we'll enjoy toasty meals and conversation...

in the kitchen.

Misty, our kitty was sleeping on the windowsill ledge, enjoying the wood fire while the rest of us were stacking wood outside the window. Then came time to...

assemble ingredients and make dough for tonight's dinner, and make rolls for tomorrow night's dinner.

Tonight it was calzones...

It was really yummy...

These hamburger rolls are for tomorrow night's dinner: Maid-rites. If you've never had one, you've got to try one... they are delicious. I learned about them from the Wild Prarie Rose blog. Hit my side-bar to visit...she's just delightful!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Couple EBAY Finds

Fiestaware Cups and Saucers for a great price! Aren't they pretty?

A beautiful piece of hand-embroidered red-work!

You gotta love EBAY! I've been wanting to pretty-up my tea tray for morning/afternoon tea with the kiddoes. I went onto EBAY and viola! just what I was looking for. I had the teal-colored tea pot that I paid an arm and a leg for at Harney's last year, but I didn't have any complimenting cups and saucers. I found these for $18.00 including shipping. They are Fiestaware. I also have another set of four powder blue ones on their way.
I got the tea tray cover from EBAY, too. It's a vintage redwork on white linen. Very pretty and in slightly used but good shape. That little find cost me $4.00 with shipping. Can't beat it. Now tea time is made just a little bit more special.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, Kyle!

Today is Kyle's 22nd birthday! I remember the day he was born like it was yesterday. The memories of the past twenty two years have been soooo wonderful. Kyle is the most warm-hearted, caring, loving guy you'd ever want to know. He has a great sense of humor and always makes me laugh. I don't want to toot his horn so I won't, but let me just say Kyle has made me, my husband and and his siblings terribly proud. Not just because of his accomplishments, but also because he is who he is. You're an unbelievable son and an awesome brother. We love you, Kyle, more than you know...

See how relaxed he is... this is how he always appears to be!

Kyle and his girlfriend, Debbie. They've been together for over three years. She's like a daughter to me... a real sweetheart.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Kaleigh Crochets a Hat!

Kaleigh's been wanting to crochet. I'm not much of a crocheter, really, so she's on her own, mostly. Her first project is this hat. It came out quite cute, and if she'd make me one for Christmas (hint-hint) I promise I'll wear it on my walks. She used Red-Heart yarn one of her brothers got her for her birthday and found it wasn't itchy ;) The pattern came from Crochet from the Heart, another little giftee from her other brother, Casey. He bought her the book when we went to Old Sturbrige Village in celebration of one of his first pay-checks from Stop & Shop. Casey has been a cashier there for about a month now, and brings home all kinds of little goodies for his sisters. He's generous to a fault...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Fall is Busy

Turkey frying...

fall planting...

applesauce making...


and even a bit of sewing...
It's been a wonderful week so far and I'm sooo grateful!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Scenic Sunday Drive

Fall in the Berkshires is one of the most beautiful times of the year in one of the most beautiful places in the northeast. O.K., maybe I'm a little biased, I admit it, but the colors are just stunning and the scenery typical calendar material. Today we decided to take a day-trip. I am famous for waking up on a week-end morning and throwing together a picnic lunch, loading the kids in the van and directing hubby to some out-of-the-way destination.
As we traveled the backroads of Connecticut we saw many farms, animals, fields and country homes. Antique shops were everywhere, but I wanted to get to Millerton, New York to a store called Sapersteins,a by-gone department type store that you can't find anymore. I go there every year to get my kids sleepers, flannel PJ's and winter jackets. Their prices are pretty good and the merchandise is not flashy, just sensible. Perfect for nightwear. Then on to Harney Tea; a snooty tea shop complete with tasting room. I love to go there to purchase quality loose tea. After there,we went on to Kent, Connecticut, to Belgique Patisserie & Chocolatier. This place has the most DELICIOUS hot chocolate I have ever had and I travel there about an hour and a half from home several times a year just to get a cup. Now I gotta tell ya, these places are unbelievable. Harney's and Belgique are where the upper-crust of Connecticut and New York come to get their tea and hot-chocolate. And yes, we come rattling up in the 15 passenger van to join the Mercedes, Audi's and Land Rovers. You can google in Harney's Tea Room in Millerton, New York to get a peek and also Belgique Patisserie & Chocolatier in Kent, Connecticut to see the charming place there, too.
The pics above are just a bit of scenery along the way. We truly had a wonderful family day... can't wait for the next road/day trip!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Feast Day of St. Therese

Yesterday was the Feast Day of St. Therese. I belong to St. Therese's Parish and if you go to morning Mass on Friday's you're sure to say the St. Therese Novena! My husband and I signed up to participate in the '40 Days for Life', a diocese-wide effort to promote pro-life. Our parish was scheduled to have adoration for 24 hours on October 1, to pray for the end of abortion. What a beautiful, meaningful hour we spent together in quiet prayer and meditation. I came in the door quite frazzled with a busy day behind me and left totally relaxed and rejuvinated.
After our hour, I went to the rectory and gave our pastor a very special gift from our prayer shawl ministry. All the members of the ministry knit 5-10" on the shawl with many prayers knitted into each stitch. Above is a photo. I began the ministry after I learned my neighbor had breast cancer. I went to another church to get her a prayer shawl, which she tells me, brought her much comfort over the course of the year she was going through treatment. Because our church didn't have a ministry, I started one. We have also branched out a bit and we also knit burial gowns for babies. This ministry has been very meaningful to me, and has been a beautiful way for my daughter and I to work together toward helping others in their time of need.