New Designs

Gold and silver beads are braided into the horse hair.

Aren’t fall leaves just the best background for photos?

The neighbors probably thought I was nutty the other morning. After dropping my husband off at work, I stopped the car numerous times to pick up leaves. Who drives to pick up leaves? I was in a time crunch, folks.

The horse hair bracelet at top left is a new adjustable version.

The horse hair bracelet at top left is a new adjustable version.

The leaves made for great props in my photos. Above are some new designs I’ve been working on. The adjustable bracelet was inspired by a recent request. I loved making these delicate bracelets with the tiny beads woven with the horse hair.

Two bracelets with engraved nameplates and adjustable bracelet.

Two bracelets with engraved nameplates and an adjustable bracelet.

All of these designs will be available for purchase next weekend at the Lehigh Valley Crafter’s Guild show at Swain School in Allentown, PA. Click here for more info and $1 off admission to the show. Stop on by to see us and bring your horse hair if you need a custom piece done.

I also snapped some quick pics of the custom horse hair jewelry I’d just finished. By now, these bracelets are on the arms of some very happy horsepeople.

Honoring Jack Frost

Honoring Jack Frost

Just a reminder: Horse hair for custom Christmas gifts needs to be in my hands before November 26 to avoid rush fees.

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!

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. *******

Time Keeps on Ticking

Cooling their heels: Moccasins dry on fence posts, readying for another day of dancing.

Cooling their heels: Moccasins dry on fence posts, readying for another day of dancing.

Is it really Friday already? Nearly 11 p.m.? Where did this week go?

Fancy shawl dancers having showing off their steps and regalia in the circle.

Fancy shawl dancers.

I’ve been meaning to post photos from last weekend’s Powwow all week and this is the first moment I had. I’ll keep it short on words, long on photos.

I will say it was a gorgeous weekend. Usually during the August Festival we’re sweating our feathers off but it was sunny, breezy and downright September-like on a wonderful August day.

Susan from Heart to Hearth explains the Roasting Corn Festival traditions.

Susan from Heart to Hearth explains the Roasting Corn Festival traditions.

Dennis scraps a deer hide, readying it for brain tanning.

Dennis scraps a deer hide, readying it for brain tanning.

The Bounty of 10 Local Dollars

Strawberry Picking!

Strawberries are in!

Strawberry Picking 5And so are the daisies and rhubarb. This is our pull from a morning’s work…2 buckets of strawberries, a bundle of rhubarb and a bucket of wildflowers all for $10. Can it get any better?

The kids and I packed up enough Strawberry Picking 6snacks for 3 days and headed to the strawberry patch for an hour and a half.

The snacks and the tractors on the farm kept my youngest occupied and off the strawberry plants. The camera–and photos below–plus the myriad weeds/wildflowers kept my oldest occupied.

The farm where we pick doesn’t spray any chemicals. So that field of weeds with the farm in the distance is actually the strawberry patch. It’s fun hunting for the berries among daisies and wheat. Plus, when the kids get bored of picking strawberries, they pick the flowers.

Strawberry Picking 4

Strawberry Picking 9Strawberry Picking 2Strawberry Picking 7Strawberry Picking 8

Blueberries for SalConicindentally we read Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey this week, a sweet little storybook about a girl who puts more blueberries in her mouth than in the bucket. That was our theme, too. But we did come away with enough for eating and freezing, and I have big plans to return so I can get more for jam and strawberry cordial (more on that to come in later days).

Enough procrastinating on the dish-washing and strawberry-hulling. And if you hear an explosion, that’s my making-rhubarb-sauce-in-the-pressure-cooker experiment gone awry. Wish me luck!

I Love Spring!

Baseball artist book

As I type this, I am sitting outside, precariously balancing my laptop upon my knees with the sun shining in my face. I love spring. And it has finally come to eastern Pennsylvania.

Today will mark the third day in a row I’ve spent all day digging in the dirt. I love spring. And I love digging in the dirt.

Something about it renews me, makes me feel better after a long winter of being cold and shut in without only grays and whites outside. My husband begs for these days to come by mid-February, because apparently I’m much easier to deal with after I’ve had my hands in the dirt.

True, indeed. Everything is okay in the spring. It doesn’t matter than my 5-year-old just dumped my coffee all over the table because we’re outside and I love spring. It doesn’t matter that my 1-year-old had jelly all down the front of his shirt after wrestling a PB&J sandwich. He went on to play in the yard until he covered the jelly with dirt. That’s okay because it’s spring and you’re supposed to get dirty.

As kids we used to measure a day by how much dirt we got in the folds of our necks. A good day equaled lots of dirt in creases you didn’t even know you had.

I’ll be digging my new veggie patch today and planting some lettuce, spinach and Swiss chard. Nothing is as beautiful as a patch of freshly dug and then raked soil. It’s so even and perfect. Okay, so maybe the little curly heads of peas popping through the soil are even better, but I won’t see that loveliness for another 7 to 10 days, weather permitting, according to package directions.

Off I go to dig in the dirt like a happy little mole, but I leave you with these pictures of the artist book gifts I made for last weekend’s birthday parties. The little artists loved the books and I think they turned out well.

The owner of the green and orange book with cat pockets likes the Lyra Ferby pencils, which are short and fat, so I made two rows of pencil pockets. The are great colored pencils, by the way, if you haven’t tried them.

Cat artist book

The outside of this book.

Cat artist book outside

I never located any Red Sox or Phillies fabric for the pockets on the baseball artist book, but I like the way the ticking looks like an old-time baseball uniform. I’m sure that’s lost of its 5-year-old owner.

Of course, an hour before I left for the party I realized it really needed a baseball team patch on the front. A thought for the next project, and the project after, that I’ll be pondering as I dig in the dirt.

Baseball artist book outside

I love spring.

A Toast To Spring

Toast To Spring Opener

Raise your glass to spring! The first day of spring was on Thursday and now it’s Easter (already!). Time to look forward to planting seeds and being outside 15 hours a day.

To help you with your toast, I have a wonderful Peach Wine recipe that’ll give you a taste of the summer to come.

Recipe:Toast To Spring Wine Making

Add 15 to 20 ounces peaches in simple syrup to any white wine. Refrigerate for 24 to 48 hours. Drink. Yum!

In summer I freeze peaches in simple syrup (sugar boiled with water). Adding the peaches to the wine gives it a sweetness and a reminder of all the good fruits and veggies to come. If you don’t have frozen peaches in your fridge, I’m sure canned peaches in light syrup will work just as well.

Toast to Spring CookiesEnjoy the day!