Hot Chocolate

My version of a mocha: coffee with 3 scoops of hot chocolate mix.

My version of a mocha: coffee with 3 scoops of hot chocolate mix.

We interrupt the tutorial on making handwarmers to bring you a recipe for hot chocolate mix.

It was a must today.

Snow, yes S-N-O-W fell on us today at the busstop. Not just flakes either, actual snowballs. It’s still 2 days ’til Halloween!

While this isn’t unheard of here in eastern Pennsylvania, we like to keep our snowfalls around the holidays and into the New Year. We were surprised, to say the least.

So in honor of the snow I needed hot chocolate and low and behold we had none. So I whipped up 2 more batched of hot chocolate mix.

This recipe is based on Tyler Florcence’s hot cocoa and homemade marshmallow recipe. The flaws with his recipe are 1) My kids think the cinnamon makes the hot chocolate “taste funny.” That really is for the adult palate. 2) Four ounces of chopped bittersweet chocolate. Really. If there’s 4 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in bar form in my house, it’s likely in my mouth. I use chocolate chips, which end up half melted on the bottom of the cup. Bonus! At the end of the drink you eat them with a spoon.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

3/4 cup vanilla sugar* or granulated white sugar

3/4 cup powdered milk

1/2 cup best unsweetened cocoa powder you can afford

1/4-1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

Stir all ingredients together in a big bowl. Store in an airtight container.

To make the hot chocolate: heat 1 cup of milk (always use milk unless the cow ain’t givin’, then water is okay) and stir in 3 to 4 heaping teaspoons of mix.

*Vanilla sugar is plain white sugar that’s been sitting in an airtight dish with vanilla beans. It gives the sugar a nice vanilla note.

The hot chocolate mix makes a nice gift around the holidays. This winter I intend to try Tyler’s marshmallow recipe, too.

Enjoy!

When Tradition Meets Technology

When technology meets tradition, you get…

a beaded, fringed leather pouch that holds…

….an iPhone.

Not kidding.

This weekend at the powwow an elderly gentleman asked me to stitch these arrowheads on to the leather pouch. He’d found the arrowheads in Arizona 20 years ago. He never knew what to do with them.

A few weeks ago he purchased this leather bag, which hangs around his neck. He now knew what to do with the arrowheads–add them to his pouch.

Jim loading his iPhone into his newly embellished bag.

Jim loading his iPhone into his newly embellished bag.

At powwows, bags hung around people’s necks are called medicine bags. People keep their “good medicine” in there: lucky charms, special beads, a chard of pottery, a feather, a note from a loved one. I expected him to extract a handful of trinkets from his bag, but instead, he pulled out an iPhone.

For a guy 2 or 3 times my age, he has much more high-tech “medicine” than I do.

This is why I continue to demonstrate at this powwow: You never know what interesting soul you’ll meet who will tickle your funny bone or turn your convictions on their head.

In the weeks to come I will still chuckle when I think of those arrowheads, which could be hundreds, even thousands of years old, protecting, of all things, an iPhone.

Recent Projects

Some projects I’ve been working on:
I shipped this bracelet off to its owner this week. The first project completed from the recent batch of horse hair the mailman brought me.
 
This custom horse hair bracelet includes sterling silver star beads. They really make the bracelet glow.

This custom horse hair bracelet includes sterling silver star beads. They really make the bracelet glow.

 More birds! I finally got a decent picture of the bird mobile. I have about 5 more birds flying around here that I’m going to make into a mobile for me. 

The bird mobile for a baby shower last weekend.

A bird mobile for a baby shower last weekend.

In addition to the mobile, the babies (yes, babies) have some snazzy homemade bibs. The farm and bug flannels mix it up a bit.

Bibs for the babies, too.

Bibs for the babies, too.

The babies’ dad is a big Yankees fan. I cut the Yanks logo out of the main fabric then stitched around it. For the future: a Yankees baseball. 

These bibs were more for the dad than the kids!

These bibs were more for the dad than the kids!

These handwarmers should come in handy (ha!) this weekend at the powwow. The weatherman says it will barely reach the 60s. That’s going to feel cold after these last few sunny days. Next week I plan to post a tutorial on how to make these handsocks out of a felted sweater.

Stripe-edy handwarmers I whipped up this week.

Stripe-edy handwarmers I whipped up this week.

 

 Hope to see you this weekend at the powwow. I’m off to dig some warm sweaters and long johns out of the closet to supplement the handwarmers. Enjoy the fall weather!

I’ve Got Mail

A few of the packages I got this week.

A few of the packages I got this week.

I love getting mail. These past 2 weeks, my customers fueled my giddiness in opening fresh, new packages with envelopes from Nevada, Virginia, California, and Florida.

All of the envelopes contained horse hair.

In the next few weeks my fingers will be flying to make pulls, plait all sorts of pretty braids, and turn these packages of horse hair into beautiful wearable jewelry.

Roping in the Horse Hair

There are a few steps before the creation phase can begin.

First is wrangling the hair together. I tie off the horse hair at intervals using kite string. Why kite string? I have no idea. It was there in the draw one day and it works well, so I stuck with it. Tying the hair prevents tangles and makes it more manageable when I’m separating it into pulls.

This is also the step where I label all the horse hair so that Jack Frost’s owner doesn’t get Tabasco’s hair.

Bath time

A camp cookwear set I inherited serves as my horse hair cleaning set up.

A camp cookwear set I inherited serves as my horse hair cleaning set up.

Next stop: bath time. All the horse hair gets cleaned on my very low-tech system. I boil water on my grill burner, then add my secret cleaning agent (Woollite). Doing this process inside makes my whole house smell like horse. Right now, the horsepeople among you are saying, “So what.” The non-horsepeople are saying, “Eeewww.”

I don’t mind the smell, but I don’t think the family appreciates it, so I save indoor horse hair cleaning for the depths of winter.

After the dunk and a rinse in cold water, the horse hair is off to the washline to dry. My neighbors must find this amusing.

In the next few blog posts, I’ll show you how the hair goes from bundle to bracelet, but first a few other notes about getting your horse’s tail ready for a custom piece.

Harvesting Horse Hair

How much hair do I need for a custom piece? I get this question all the time. The Shopping page has more details on this, plus shipping, sizing, etc.

I recommend sending a shock of hair the width of your thumb and at least 14 inches long for a bracelet. This gives me more than enough hair to work with. The hair is usually not of uniform length. Lots of smaller hairs at the top of the bundle are too short for bracelets so that’s why I ask for such a big bundle. From that I’m able to tease out the longer hairs for a bracelet or two.

Bundles of horse hair.

Bundles of horse hair.

This photo shows many different-sized clumps of horse hair. The black bunch on the right is way too little hair. This is the only hair the owner had from her horse, and I’m hoping to eek a bracelet only because the strands are very thick and this tail is extremely long (43 inches!).

The two bunches in the middle are fine for a bracelet or two (if all the hair is the same length). There will be little if any hair left over.

The black bunch on the left could probably yield 3 to 5 bracelets, depending on the length of the hair.

Shipping the Horse Hair

When you send me the package (remember, I love getting those!), I suggest a method that includes a tracking number. This is especially true if this is the only hair you have from your horse because you no longer own it or it passed away.

I ship U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail. This method arrives in 2 to 3 days and has a delivery confirmation option, usually for free, if you ask for it. Delivery confirmation won’t tell you every stop along the way, it only tells you the date and time it arrived at its destination.  Delivery confirmation can be added to letters and other packages for a fee.

You can also use FedEx or UPS, which has tracking numbers with all of its packages.

The Horse Hair Jewelry page show you the different styles of bracelets I offer at this time. Many customers request special embellishments, so I’ve begun posting custom pieces on Flickr so you can get some ideas for other options. You’ll find it at www.flickr.com/redtaildesigns. In the future I’ll put a direct link on the home page to the Flickr site.

I’m off to start some horse hair jewelry!

Where My Sidewalk Ends…

My disassembled sidewalk.

My disassembled sidewalk.

…there is a sign.

My Halloween tombstone.

My Halloween tombstone.

It’s my bit of Halloween humor that will last until Tuesday, when the sign will be removed and my sidewalk repoured (hopefully!).

If you haven’t guessed, I’ve been doing a lot of home repair of late.

This little gem above is our attempt to get the rainwater out of our basement and into the storm drain. This month-long (and counting) project entailed ripping up a sidewalk, cutting down a tree, running a pipe through my basement wall. Before you think I’m superwoman, I didn’t do that all by myself. I had husband, neighbor, relative, arborist and plumber help.

Many standing atop my former (ex-?) tree as he cut it down.

Many standing atop my former (ex-?) tree as he cut it down.

Today I shoveled stone, chopped away some of the tree’s roots, cursed a bit, and got really dirty all in the name of getting the sidewalk ready to be formed and then repoured. Lots of red tape here, as I have to adhere to city regulations of 4 inches of stone and 5 inches of concrete. I’m bushed.

After all that, I thought it looked like a grave and had one of my little helpers make a tombstone for a bit of Halloween humor.

Tonight, I’m sitting with a glass of valpocella wine and relaxing.

A Pale Shade of Pink

Leave some of the peel in the apple sauce turns it this pretty pink color.

Leave some of the peel in the apple sauce turns it this pretty pink color.

I’m feeling like a chipmunk! These last few weeks have been a flurry of canning, freezing, drying and generally storing away as much food as I can for the winter. I forgot that summer isn’t about sitting back to enjoy the sun and margaritas, it’s about storing as one season of fresh fruit and veggies melds into the next.

Since the hurricane apple-picking, I’ve been making dried apples and applesauce. I wanted to share an ultra-fast recipe for making applesauce in the pressure cooker.

My little apple washer.

My little apple washer.

With my two tools of choice–a pressure cooker and a crank apple peeler–I can make 2 quarts of applesauce in 30 minutes.

The key to getting the pretty pink color is to leave some of the peel on the apples. The last step will grind up any peel.

This dojiggy peels and slices all with a crank of the handle.

A peeler/corer/slicer like this is "in season" at many grocery and kitchen stores right now. Or search on Amazon.com.

1. Peel, core and slice apples. Apples should be same size for even cooking.

2. Fill pressure cooker about 3/4 full of apples (there should be a line on your pressure cooker). Add 1/2 cup water.

The apples after cooking in the pressure cooker for about 10 minutes.

The apples after cooking in the pressure cooker for about 10 minutes.

3. Cook until pressure regulator begins to rock gently. Remove from heat and cool under cold water.

4. Run applesauce through food processor to smooth out the lumps.

*******Update: This process works with just about any fruit you want to make into sauce. The options I’ve tried:

  • Applesauce
  • Peach Sauce
  • Apple-plum Sauce
  • Blueberry-peach sauce
  • Rhubarb sauce
  • Peach-plum sauce
  • Strawberry-rhubarb sauce
  • Pear sauce

They’ve all been good. Anything tart, like rhubarb, plums or not quite ripe peaches, may require 1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar. *******

Upcoming Events

Fall is looking pretty busy! In addition to my sudden craze to winterize the house, I have some fall events coming up. Some places you can find me:

Oct. 12: Horse Hair Earring Class: Create a pair of horse hair earrings with me at Out of Our Hands in Emmaus, PA. Bring your own horse hair or use what I have on hand. Loads of fun.

Oct. 18-19: Museum of Indian Culture Powwow. The crispness of fall near the Little Lehigh River is delicious. I’ll be demonstrating porcupine quillwork while others are dancing, drumming, singing and flint knapping. Check it out.

Nov. 15 & 16: Lehigh Valley Crafts Guild Holiday Marketplace: Bring your Holiday shopping list and check book and purchase some fine handmade arts and crafts. Not only can you find something for everyone on your list, you’ll support many local artists. I will at the marketplace with Melody and our booth will be filled to overflowing with jewelry, bags and other accessories. Stop by and say hi! Gift Certificates will also be available if just can’t make up your mind.

If you’re thinking about having a custom horse hair piece made for a Christmas gift, get your hair to me early! After November 26 a $20 rush fee will be added to all custom orders needed by Christmas.