Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Tradition of Trees

Christmas crafting goes meta. When these are hung there will be trees on trees on trees.

We made these for the first-time Christmas tree households in the family.

All things come around. It's been years since we  received ornaments made of Popsicle sticks, peanuts, or pipe cleaners. 

Now we make our own and pass them back in the other direction.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Elf Off the Shelf

This little fellow, who usually sits on the kitchen shelf minding his own business and keeping his mouth shut, must have thought it was time to send a message.

Who can blame a guy? As of two days before Christmas no cookies have been baked, no pretzels dipped, no taffy pulled, heck, the powdered sugar hasn't even come out of the cupboard yet.
And to make matters worse for a poor little sugar-lovin' elf and probably cause him to lose all hope of proper Christmas confections, we were in full-scale granola production mode for an entire evening.

Elves do not do whole grains.

So he slipped into our market bag and tagged along to the grocery store where he chose the bakery section to stage a sit-in until we agreed to heed his silent plea for help.

No worries little dude. Today is the day the baking begins. You probably didn't notice that we were making lists and checking them twice to make sure we had all kinds of sugar and spice. Chewy chocolate mint, crinkly ginger molasses, and frosted cut-out sugar cookies will all be cooling on the table in a very short while and your world will be right again.

Here's hoping your holiday season is happier than an elf hepped up on hydrogenated fats and highly refined sugar.

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year to you!

Monday, December 22, 2014

It's Not All About the List

Look what we saw on a newspaper paper vending machine downtown last week.

And again under random windshield wiper blades up and down the street.

Someone's trying to do something nice.

And we have to believe it is out of the goodness of their heart, 
rather than as part of a late-in-the-game campaign to have Santa reverse his check from the Naughty to Nice column. 

Inspired by the anonymous Christmas Kindster we picked up this label sans candy cane that was laying in the gutter and discarded it properly. 

And then this nail from the grocery store parking lot. It wasn't a grand gesture, but perhaps it saved someone from some unneeded holiday hassle.

If you want to read about some truly kind, but hardly random acts that will extend well beyond December 25 check out this lovely story and this breaking news from a town that knows and actively strives for nice.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Penguin Prezzies

John Lewis Christmas adverts bring us to tears annually. And by  "us" we mean anyone who has ever seen one.

This year is no exception.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Soup Saves Christmas

There's shopping to do, gifts to make and wrap, carols to be sung, cookies to bake, a tree to decorate, plus parties, parades, and concerts to attend. 

And don't forget you'll need time to visit Santa, sew costumes for the Christmas pageant, and come up with thoughtful gifts for teachers, garbage men, mail deliverers, and hostesses. 

Where will you ever find time to make a potluck dish for the Garden Club Christmas Party that will make all the guests ooh and aah, and beg you for your recipe?

Canned soup to the rescue!

Makes 8 servings (more with additional ingredients)
Cooking spray
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry 
4 cups of cooked and chopped chicken breast 
(Optional additional ingredients - ½ can of quartered artichoke hearts, 
sautéed leeks with the specified wine used to deglaze the pan, 
 a cup of small roasted and frozen summer tomatoes. 
Any of these can be added to the pan or folded into the mix.) 
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) reduced-fat, reduced-sodium cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) reduced-fat, reduced-sodium cream of chicken soup, undiluted
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/2 cup light or fat free sour cream 
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese 
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
 ¼ - ½ cup purchased breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat 8 x 8 inch casserole dish with cooking spray. 
(9 x 13 inch with added ingredients)
To assemble: layer spinach and chicken. 
In medium bowl, whisk together soups, mayonnaise, sour cream, cheddar cheese, lemon juice,
 curry powder, wine and salt and pepper to taste. 
Pour mixture over spinach and chicken. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. 
 Bake uncovered for 30 minutes or until bubbly. 

* This is a lightened up version of a classic recipe. To go even lighter, or at least additive-free make a nice white sauce to use as a substitute for the canned soups.  But be advised that without the time saving use of convenience food products you may have to cross something else off  your to-do list. Yes, something's gotta give so don't get your hopes up for making it to Taste of Tilden this year.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Beautiful - Check, Useful - Check

Not since this wonderful find have we seen such an intriguing heart-shaped antique artifact.

Everything about it is charming.

The shape of the bowl with hand etched design reminiscent of  a heart monitor reading.

The stamped handle with twist pattern below.

More, vaguely Scandinavian hand etching on the back, but no maker's mark.

So pretty.

Again we quote the sage William Morris - "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

Both is best.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Blossom Blizzard

Wistful for our preferred blanket of white.

 Seems much farther in the past than just six months ago.

Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Scenic Mountie

Here he is. The cutest little mountie ever, found at an estate sale, liberated from a doll collection display case and put back into service "defending the law" wherever needed. 

In the foothills. 

In the forests.

And in the mountains.

Of this educational book.

Not that he would ever sleep on the job, but should he ever need to play dead - to fool an adversary for example, his baby blue peepers close when he reclines.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Labelize Me

Remember when we messed around with a great website called Jam Labelizer to make labels for our granola last year?

Well this year we actually used it to label jam. Jelly rather.

And since last year the good people at jam Labelizer have added Beer Labelizer.

Which works just as well for another grain product. Wild rice.

Now what else can we make so we can labelize it?

Friday, November 7, 2014

One Button at a Time

Our clever friend Jerisew(s) taught us to make leather wrap bracelets. 

You may have seen a similar jewelry design around.   Robert Redford's Sundance catalog features some by artist Chan Luu. They are lovely. 

But one thing ours have over hers which use a trademark, tasteful, little silver button as a clasp on each and every one 
is a unique, antique button on each and every one. 

We are happy to add this to our list of the many ways to beautify the world, one button at a time.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Girly Meets Boy

  So what happens after the detritus of boys is packed up and shipped off with them or sent to deep storage under the attic eaves? And you have a deadline for creating a guest room suitable for college pals? And you want to do it on a dime?

Apparently long-repressed girlyness and its accouterments come out of the closets and take over.

But never fear, with the removal of a few flowery accents we are still 100% boy friendly around here. Just give us fifteen minutes. 
With just a little more advance notice we can have a full cookie jar on the counter and milk in the frig too.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Happy Halloween!

This great image of a harmless, little, black kitty is a detail from how to draw cats found at the Graphics Fairy.

It is bad luck to have a black cat cross your path. However, if you are a mouse the opposite is true.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Never Say Never Jelly

So, thirty years ago a woman who was thrilled to see Mountain Ash trees in our yard gave us a recipe for rowan berry jelly. Long after we had moved from the rental house where those trees grew we came upon this lovely fruit and decided it was time to finally make that jelly.

We went looking for the recipe handwritten by our friend who had fond memories of rowan berry jelly from her native Norway.

We could picture the card in the recipe box, but where was it? Oh yes, we remembered, in a mini-fit of clearing-out we decided that we would NEVER make rowan berry jelly and threw it away. Isn't that how it always goes? And isn't that why we seldom can part with a thing?

Well thank goodness for the giant virtual recipe box that is the internet. Most of the recipes were from the UK where they enjoy this jelly with everything from wild game to scones and can only begin to compare it in taste to grapefruit as it is quite unique. 

In the process of making 16 jars of this beautiful jelly we were never going to make we learned:

Rowan berries can make one ill unless they have been frozen first on the tree, or in the freezer. 

An imperial pint is approximately equal to 1 1/4 US liquid pint.

Paint straining bags make great jelly straining bags. (We already knew this, but wanted you to know it too.)

It is possible to make jelly without purchased pectin if you follow the recipe faithfully and have a little faith in the power of natural pectin. 

Jelly is so very good because it is simply fruity sugar!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Meaning of Friends and Flowers

The last blossoms from the last bouquet from the last farmers' market before the big frost.

Dedicated to our first neighborhood friend who is moving, retiring, having a big birthday, and who has always had a big, no, make that huge enough to nurture an entire community, heart.

The meaning of flowers tells us that dahlia brings the meaningful messages and blessings of enduring grace as well as symbolizing inner strength, creativity, and standing strong in sacred values. 

This describes our dear friend perfectly. 

All best wishes to her and congratulations to her new neighbors. Our loss is their gain.

We may just have to go on a road trip to make sure they are suitably appreciative. In any case that is the excuse we will use when we announce we are heading her way. Not that our bags are packed already or anything.

Love, love, love to you and yours until we meet again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Soup Season

The rice arrived. Isn't it beautiful?

First, we will try some cooked plain. Perhaps a bit of butter and salt will be added, but we would like to see what "real" wild rice tastes like.

Second, soup will be made. Extensive research conducted in cooperation with the daughter-in-law found that wild rice soup recipes seldom, if ever, call for any seasoning other than a bit of S and P. The rice gives the soup its flavor. 

And actually, a recipe is hardly needed. Cooked rice and a good chicken or vegetable stock are the basics. Add to that any combination of additional ingredients including, but not limited to onion, celery, carrot, potato, cream, and perhaps a bit of sherry if you are feeling fancy, and you have a wonderful pot of steamy wild rice goodness.

Some recipes call for canned soup as a base. And we are not above that occasional shortcut, but we can assure you that this wonderful hand-harvested delicacy will not be desecrated in that fashion.

The promise of really good soup is almost enough to make us wish for winter weather, but not quite. We are perfectly happy to enjoy it in the many mild autumn days we hope are still ahead before the big freeze.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gratefully Gathering

It was possibly the most beautiful September day ever.

When we received a gracious invitation to go wild rice harvesting. 

Our capable and very patient host acted as outfitter and guide.

He smoothly steered us through the tall plants as we carefully bent them over the canoe and knocked the long, ripe grains into the boat bottom. 

Some fell into the water to become next year's plants.

Many went into the canoe. As well as into our hair, shoes, and decolletage.

Several hours were spent gliding over the water, rhythmically moving heirloom cedar sticks across gunnels,  bounty gently showering down into a pile at our feet. 

We will be pleased if, after cleaning, our day's harvest provides enough rice for a Thanksgiving potluck offering.

And we feel very fortunate to have experienced an important tradition of the Ojibwe people and Northwoods culture

In good company, in good health, under a beautiful blue sky on clear blue water. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Family Cheese

Our family name translates as "cheese village" so it is no wonder that our fondness for kase is so strong and undeniable. Perhaps that urge is responsible for our gravitation to Wisconsin and why we have not strayed from it for 29 years.

And although we have not been able to suss out how the maternal and paternal grandparents got together perhaps it was the also draw of the cheese. Grandma's family was a family of bakers you see. Not the bakerei kind who make sturdy loaves and curly pretzels. The conditorei type who make the strudels and kuchens.

Here is the family recipe for kasekuchen written out by our cousin, a fourth generation baker who grew up and learned the craft in the same house in which our grandmother was born and raised.

On a visit to his home a few years ago he graciously gave us a lesson and tolerated us photographing each step of the process to turn out a heavenly heritage cheesecake.

The springform pan was greased (with real butter of course).

The previously prepared pastry was rolled out, 

fit into the pan,

trimmed to fit.

Filling ingredients were assembled and weighed.

The Kitchenaid was employed for mixing.

The eggs, quark, pudding, vanilla sugar, milk and cream came together as a satiny smooth batter.

The final step. A generous sprinkle of zimt and then, into the oven it went.

We waited.

In comfortable and colorful surroundings.

In good company.

Still not done, we strolled outdoors to wait some more,

while enjoying flaura we don't typically get to hang out with in our zone.

Back indoors the smells were becoming as alluring as the decor.

The glowing oven magically transformed high quality raw ingredients into a rich and lovely labor of cheesy love.


The only way to keep from immediately digging into the hot delicacy was to leave the house while it cooled.

We distracted ourselves very well with a visit to the Germanisches Nationalmuseum.

The applied arts wing was a highlight.

Back at our home away from home....time to cut the cake.

Worth the wait?

Ja. Das is richtig!

Wunderbar! Schmeckt gut!