Friday, August 31, 2007

I'm Sorry, Mr. Clancy.

Please accept my most humble apologies for what I have done. I am certain that you would think this a travesty, but I have altered your pound cake recipe. Just a tidge.
I have deleted the two tablespoons of brandy (as we have none in our pantry and why would you add it anyway?) and increased the vanilla by a dash or two. Gone also is the mace, replaced by freshly grated nutmeg, its sister spice. A crunchy sugar topping, with the tiniest bit of nutmeg mixed in, is sprinkled on the top to make it sparkle in the sunlight from the kitchen window.
The result is a lovely cake, soft and delicate, that allows the subtle flavorings of organic vanilla and fresh nutmeg to sing through the pleasant mellowness of butter and eggs.
It is delightful, delicious, and just darn good, if I do say so myself.
It has become the favorite cake at our house. The one most requested by my daughter, who is very selective about what she eats, and is generally consumed on the day it is made.
Please close your eyes, as I am about to share the altered recipe here. Now. Quick, close them!
~~~~~~~
My Interpretation of John Clancy's Pound Cake
2 cups sifted, organic all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg*
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) organic butter, room temperature
1 2/3 cups organic sugar
1 tsp. plus a dash or two of organic vanilla*
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. sugar with a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and lightly flour a 9x5-inch loaf pan.
Sift together flour, cream of tartar, nutmeg and salt.
beat butter until is is creamy and add sugar gradually, beating until light and fluffy.
Mix in vanilla.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each one.
Add flour mixture to the butter mixture gradually, mixing just until blended after each addition.
Pour batter into pan and smooth the top.
Sprinkle with sugar and nutmeg mixture.
Bake for 1 hour 20-30 minutes, depending on your oven. When a toothpick, inserted in the center, comes out clean, it is done.
Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Turn out cake and continute to cool on rack.
If you by chance have cake left at the end of the day, you will want to store it in an airtight container of some sort. Just make sure it is one that is noislessly accessible when you wake up for a midnight snack, so as not to awaken the rest of the household. :)





*- The original John Clancy recipe ( as found in Victoria's Sweet Baking book,1997) calls for 1/4 tsp. ground mace and the addition of 2 T brandy. Reduce vanilla to 1 tsp. if you choose to make it this way.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Perfect

What exactly is that?
I went for a stress test today. With my family's propensity for heart problems, and my entry into my sixth decade in the not too distant future, my doctor thought it would be a good idea.
I did not have to fast, thank goodness. It was just a tread mill test. Just.
I woke up this morning with a headache that remained with me all day long. I am certain that is the result of taking my dad to the VA hospital yesterday. As I mentioned to a friend in an e-mail, there is nothing more stressful than taking your father to the doctor to discuss his hemmoroid problems. I mean really.
The entire way there I had to listen to the whole long saga of his problem with his derriere. Why? Do I look like I care? Do I really need to know about this? I don't think so.
So I nodded my head and made vague little "uh-huhs" in response to his diatribe.
Sitting in the waiting room, hoping beyond all hope that he would be called quickly, I was exposed to yet more discussion of ailments from every corner of the room. And yes, my father is not the only one with problems in the back end. And no, there are certain procedures that you absolutely do not want to have done if you know what's good for you. Perfect.
I messed up two Sudoku puzzles trying to block out the never-ending tales of woe.
Finally they called Dad, and I wheeled him to the exam room where the doctor promptly shut me in there with him. What?! Oh my gosh.
I will spare you the details of the discussion, but suffice it to say, that when the doctor left the room, leaving me there with my dad and a poster of The Prostate and How to Keep It Healthy in living color, I nearly lost it. I do believe that the room was actually spinning.
Back came the doctor, and I (in a very weak voice) asked if there was someplace where I could wait for Dad. I was led back to the waiting room where, yes, the discussions of ailments large and small were still the topic of discussion.
I am throwing away my Sudoku book.
Had they done my stress test yesterday, I am sure that the results would have been markedly different. But today was a new day, and despite my headache, I took the test and passed. Perfectly, the doctor said. Well, what a relief that is.
Ten minutes on a tread mill, with Madame deFarge* revving up the speed every two minutes just to "get that heart rate up" was nothing compared to yesterday's events.
I am still trying to shake the vision from my mind.


* Actually, she was a very nice woman and we had a lovely conversation. Until her son's teacher called to inform her that he was not doing his homework because he was, and I quote, "Turning 18 in a few weeks and will be leaving school anyway."
I should have hooked her up to the machine. Bless her heart.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Well, lunch actually.
Last May, MaryJane Butters, (organic farmer, author, craftswoman, pioneer, purveyor of yummy pre-packaged organic foods, mother of the Farmgirl Connection), held a contest in conjunction with the release of her new book. Titled MaryJane's Stitching Room, it is full of wonderful, homely projects that touch the farmgirl in all of us and make us want to create something with our own two hands.
The contest was to create a pinkeep- from anything; a bucket, a vase, a book, a thimble- anything.
I was at my sister's house in Cincinnati when I found out about the contest. On a whim, I said I would have to see what I could come up with. You have to understand that farmgirls are some of the most lovely, imaginative, creative women out there, and the thought of making something to rival them is very intimidating.
I took a little jaunt to the local Smith and Hawken shop nearby and purchased a size 1/2 rose pot. I also journeyed to Sur la Table and Pier 1 for little items that could be turned into pinkeeps.
I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. None.
I sat and I thought and thought and thought. I started small, making a pinkeep in a thimble. Easy-peasy. Then a wooden spoon, a wooden spool of thread and a tiny tart tin.
Then came my bright idea!
Grabbing things from various boxes, I began creating this:




The leaves and bulb are made from hand-painted silk ribbon. Hand-painted because it was all the same color- the taupey-pink of the petals.
The pot is filled with flax seed for weight, sealed and then filled with a wad of pure wool from a friend in Washington state. The bulb is stuffed with wool as well.
The stem is a double-pointed knitting needle that had warped over time. A little snap helped it bend a bit more. It is wrapped in green silk ribbon and topped with a tiny glass bottle that I use for dollhouse miniatures.
The petals are wrapped around the bottle and tiny seed beads have been glued in the center.
All of the edges of the leaves and petals are hand-rolled. No wire, just a lot of glue and patience.
All of the ribbon pieces are hand-stitched because I was afraid my sewing machine would shred it to bits.
A little ruched chocolate brown grosgrain ribbon for dirt and -VOILA!! A fantasy flower pinkeeper.
Are you bored yet?
Throwing caution to the wind, I entered this one in the contest. And waited and watched as creative, fabulous pinkeepers popped up in the gallery along with mine.
The day of the announcement came and went with no news from the farm. They were still deciding and having a very difficult time of it. (I could understand. I was very glad I did not have to choose!)
And then, at last! The list of winners was posted. I could not wait to see which of our farmgirls had won! I was on pins and needles. ha ha.
I was at my other sister's house when the winners were announced. (I have wonderful sisters who let me come visit them and invade their territory every now-and-then.)
At the very top, listed under Best of Show was me. I could not speak. Or write or breathe. Holy cow!!! Thank you very much.
So, MaryJane is coming to my house for lunch and a day of crafting with her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. I have so much to do to get ready for them. Cleaning, organizing, planning a menu, and I do not have very long in which to accomplish all I want to have done.
But, I don't think I really need to worry. MaryJane is not one of those people who would want you to make a fuss over her. She is lovely and sweet and humble. And just having her here, eating a nice lunch, chatting with my friends and creating things together is more than I could have ever asked for.
Still- MARYJANE IS COMING TO MY HOUSE!! hee hee hee.

Stop by and visit the Farmgirl Connection at http://www.maryjanesfarm.com/ . The pinkeeper gallery is still up so you can view all of the entries and be awed by the talent this wonderful group of women possess.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Say What?!!!

I am mad. No, not at you. But at the "powers that be" who have decided to tax the young man who caught Barry Bonds 756th homerun ball.
Why? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? (just kidding.)
GREED, pure and simple. That's why.
How many balls have been happily caught at baseball games, brought home and sat upon a shelf and become the stuff that legends are made of? Where it is "the thing" around which fathers and sons and grandsons gather, slap each other on the back and tell the tale of the Who, the When and the Where. Hundreds I am sure. Or maybe thousands. Who really knows.
Were they taxed? I don't think so.
What makes this ball so different from any other? Potential profit. That's what.
Someone, somewhere for some selfish reason does not want that young man to have that ball. And all because of what it could possibly be worth. So now, he is forced to sell it. Of course he is.
Do they care that he went to a game, a baseball game, to watch and cheer for his team, hoping to see a miracle and to possibly be a part of it, and by some small intersection of fate, did just that?
Did they feel the excitement rise as his hand reached out and wrapped around the ball, setting his place as "the one" who caught history?
No. They just sat back watching dollar signs float in and out of their heads, deciding just how quickly they could go about taking the wind out of his sails.
Logical? Sure. Clever? You bet. Fair? Oh, heck no.
No one cares about this little fella. It is all about what they can get and how fast they can get it. No matter what the cost to anyone else.
If I were that young man, I would box up that ball, hop on a plane and present it to Barry Bonds himself, the man who made that moment in history. It is his legend after all.
Tax that.
And I don't even like baseball.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Channeling Harriet

I made myself a tomato sandwich for dinner tonight.
It was delicious, as all tomato sandwiches are.

Light on the mayonnaise, heavy on the tomato and pepper, it is pure summer bliss. And each time I eat one, I am immediately transported back to the summer when I was eleven and I discovered Harriet the Spy for the very first time.


The adventures of Harriet, Janie and Sport consumed my every waking moment. I wanted an Ole Golly just for me. Someone clever and wise who would teach me and treat me like I was someone important.
I wanted to live in a place where I could walk to the grocer and the library and the school.
I read it over and over again. Not only did I read Harriet, I became Harriet.
Armed with a black composition book, I spied on everyone and everything. I wish that I still had it. What stories it would tell.
My brothers provided ample fodder for surveillance. At one year and five years younger than me, they were the perfect victims.
Their bedroom was right next to mine, separated by a door and very old, thin walls. They were at constant odds with each other- one could not stand the sound of the other's breathing and the other just wanted to pummel his younger brother into oblivion. Boys.
By the end of the summer, I thought I had enough ammunition to blackmail them into doing anything I wanted them to do. I never did though. What a wimp.
Across the field and two dirt lanes from our house, lived Captain and Mrs. Miller.
An aged couple, their house was hidden by a tall wooden fence that ran along the lane that led to the Mounce's house. It was always calling me to it.
With my book in hand and a very stubby pencil stuffed into my pocket, I would walk over to the lane, climb up a small stone wall and peer over the fence.
I had to stand on tip-toes to see over the top. Inside was the most beautiful garden. Mrs. Miller was from England and her garden was a traditional knot garden,
like those found in English country estates.
I studied every plant it contained, herbs and flowers the likes of which I had not seen before, all lavishly planted and beautifully kept.
I could picture her tiny frame, bent with age tending to the needs of each one.
I was always afraid that I would get caught, so I never stayed long. I would jump down after only a few minutes, walk home and fill my book with words and drawings of what I had seen.
I would walk down to the Brown's house and sit and visit with Mrs. Brown's mother, Gram Milner. A small, frail woman with wisps of pure white hair, she would tell me stories about her youth. While her body was failing, her mind was sharp and her recollection perfect.
As a treat for listening and sitting with her, I would be given a pink Canada mint
from a glass candy jar. Just one.
I cannot remember her stories. They are lost with my book.
For weeks on end, my black composition book was my best friend. Everywhere I went, it went with me, capturing the observations of a young girl and her vivid imagination.
Unlike Harriet, my book was never discovered. And if it had been, there was really nothing in there that would cause anyone any concern.
Unless you count one brother calling the other a "piss-head" unforgivable.
I am still a keen observer of people and things. In a good way, of course. I think it gives me better insight and understanding into who they are.
I just don't record my observations in my black composition book.
Or do I?


Friday, August 17, 2007

Rose Numéro Deux

With all of your lovely comments, I have been bolstered in confidence and created another rose. Ta da!
And no, this is not a rose bush. It's a Loropetalum. My rose bush died.



Maybe if I make enough of these, I can glue them to the twigs that are left and fool my neighbors. :)
Perhaps I need to have a rose making party at my house! Wouldn't that be fun?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A Rose is a Rose?

I was perusing the Martha Stewart website a few days ago and found a video of a woman named Cassie Chappell making roses with Martha. Not just any roses. Beautiful, full, lush, very realistic roses. From coffee filters! They are amazing. So, I thought- "Hmmmm. She makes this look awfully easy. How hard are they to make?" ha. Famous last words.
Off to Costco I went to purchase my 400 coffee filters for $3.49. What a deal! Roses by the dozens floated through my head.
My first attempt is pictured below. I did just fine cutting out the pattern pieces. Taping them up was fairly uncomlicated. It wasn't until I had to pull the petals apart and start painting them with watercolors that I discovered that my blossom was too loose. Rats. I had a bunch of floppy, sticking-together petals and hands covered in watercolor paint. Perfect. So, I tightened them up a bit, braved my way on and came up with a rose. Not a beautiful, lush, realistic rose, but a rose none the less.




A closer look:





Will I make more? You bet. I have 392 more coffee filters to use up!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Too Taken with Things Teeny-Tiny

Over the past few weeks I have been working on a collection of tiny aprons for a swap at MaryJanes Farmgirl Connection. Mine are very, very late. But they should be arriving at our Swap Mom's house soon and be dispersed to the swap gals. Sorry, everyone. I have resolved to not do any more swaps until things get back on track here. Which may be a while as I will be taking my mom to dr. appointments and cardiac therapy as soon as they give her the all-clear and taking my son to his work training program
so that he will one day find a job that suits him and prevents him from spending endless hours watching Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel.
I loved making these tiny treasures. But I found that it was taking as long to make a small one as it does to make a large one. Why? Because I cannot seem to cut corners, that's why. (Although I did finally have to resort to doing just that on the last few.)
Cutting, folding, pressing, etc. The steps are all the same, only in miniature. You would think it would be easier to do things small. Not for me. Apparently I am not wired thusly.
If anyone can complicate something, it will be me. And boy howdy do I!!
Here are the sixteen tiny aprons destined to adorn the window tops or doorways of my farmgirl sisters. They are bigger than they were supposed to be (and I suggested the size!) but they are finished. Fini, acabado, terminado, finito, avsluttet. However you say it, they are done. Ta da!

Now that the aprons were done, I felt lost. I needed another project. Sooo, taking a vintage baby bib, I made a pattern and began sewing. Again. In miniature. But they are sweet- all tiny and cute, trimmed in handmade bias tape, vintage trim and this lovely stuff called Chenille-It that is my new best friend!


I am calling them Sweet Bambinos- because bebé dolce, while lyrical, was just too macabre. I am going to make these in my "spare", (nee "spartan"), time and put them on Etsy.


It will be a while though. They take me forever. :)

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Heart of the Matter

This week I took my mother to the hospital for a routine heart cath.
She is still there due to a strange twist of fate.
This is the face I remember most. Even when I look at her today, I picture this face.
I'm not sure why. It has been hidden under years of neglect.
This is the woman that would read me a story, wash and brush my hair, paint my nails
knit me a dress, make my sandwiches and kiss me goodnight.
She is the one that would dress in simple, tailored clothes and look like a movie star-
Tall, elegant and stunningly beautiful.
She was the quintessential hostess. Every year at Christmastime saw her busily preparing tray after tray of delectable delights for an open house that was the party to end all parties.
My favorite? Stuffed mushrooms. Julia Child's recipe.
They are the gold standard of hors d'oeuvres. I make them today, but they never taste the same as they did then. I think the magic is gone.
Chocolate cups, hand made by her, filled with vanilla ice cream and drizzled with crème de menthe were the envy of every woman in attendance. "How does she do that?"
I knew. With melted Hershey bars and foil muffin cups.
She is why I love books, of every type. Every Christmas morning found a new book under the tree. I was seven when I received Heidi, ten when The Count of Monte Cristo was added to my shelf. Anna Sewell, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mark Twain, Louisa Mae Alcott and other authors were added, filling my shelves with new and exciting adventures.
They were also my best friends.
I look at this face and see in it my two sisters. They missed this version of our mother.
I'm not sure when she began disappearing. It happened little by little, layer upon layer.
Hiding away from things, whether by an inability or refusal to cope, has consumed the woman she once was. It is becoming more and more difficult to see her.
She will come home today and embark on yet a new chapter in her life. I hope that as she is writing it, she looks to the past as a reference. That is where the lesson is, the one she will learn from. It is the springboard to her future, not the anchor she believes it to be.
She has a lot to look forward to.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Ain't You Sweet

*Edit- Well, I am doubly blessed!
My friend, Jenny, (http://www.auntjennysworld.blogspot.com/) has nominated me for a Nice Matters Award. Thank you, Jenny. There must have been a failure in communication between the fly on my dad's wall and yours last night when I unceremoniously declared to him that, "No. I cannot help you with a shower. I have a very distinct aversion to wrinkled old men's bottoms. Especially my father's wrinkled old man bottom!" Ew. (I sent my son up in my stead.) See how awful I really am?
I have not had the opportunity to meet Jenny. Yet. But I love her like she is my sister. Sweet, hard working, loving mom, owner of Mona- the most adorable Jersey cow ever, and a smile that lights up any web page that it happens to be on. I mentioned to her the other day that she is at the top of my list of women I would like to meet one day. I hope I do.
In response, I am now to choose five women whom I would like to nominate. What a terribly difficult thing to have to do!! How do you choose? It is a nearly impossible task.
But apparently choose I must. (Also trying to nominate someone who has not been previously nominated is somewhat akin to finding the needle in a haystack.) So, here goes:
I hereby nominate for the Nice Matters Award the following wonderful women-

Amy of http://www.buraellen.blogspot.com/- A sweet little blog from a fellow Georgia Peach. Read the post about her grandfather. Fabulous.

Jen of http://www.thefabledneedle.blogspot.com/- Loveliness everywhere. Her take on vintage clothing is fab. And no, she does not look like a lunch lady!

Angela of http://www.norththreads.blogspot.com/- The Thrifting Queen and our neighbor to the north. Eh? Super sweet, happiness jumps from her blog.

Gayle at http://www.braniacsdaughter.blogspot.com/- And not because she is my sister!! Her writing is superb- deep, electric and moving. She has her finger on the pulse of the deepest of feelings in a way I could never express them. Braniac is our dad.

Elizabeth at http://www.elizabethholcombe.typepad.com/- This fabulously talented woman hosts the best giveaways! Please look closely at her pinkeeps and bags- A-mazing!

Well, there you are. My five choices. I wish I could give one to everyone.
Have fun making your own choices, ladies. It is not as easy as it looks!
* (My thanks as well to photographer extraordinaire, Tina from http://thegardengoose.blogspot.com/ !
She is my hero by virtue of the fact that she is brave enough to home school her children. I would be in the bathroom beating my head against the wall.)
See what I mean about my being positively horrible?

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Lotus Position

There are times when you encounter something of such
exquisite beauty that it defies description.
When any word that comes to mind pales in comparison
and falls away with a whimper.
This is one of them:
The Lotus Pond on Minnow Road, Rex, GA.





Photos taken at 9:30 am, 7 August, 2007 by madrekarin.

Monday, August 6, 2007

If You Had Seen It Before.........

I am sure that you would have run away screaming. That's how bad my craft room had become. Things piled up on the floor, projects for swaps tucked up underneath things, a closet full of things my son left waiting for a yard sale, you name it, it was in there causing me
great stress and quite a few headaches.
So I decided that before I could finish or embark on any new projects, I had to clean.
And clean, and clean and clean.
This would be the result of my labors- a shiny clean room that will now allow my mind to burst forth with ideas. Well, maybe not that extreme, but I should get a lot of work done!
I do not know why I allow such mess to build up around me. It is as though what is happening in my life manifests itself in the unlikeliest of places. When things are frantic and crazy, you can bet that somewhere in my house will be a room that looks just like it.
And yet, the things that I crave- peace and calm- are always there for me to find. I just have to work a bit for them. They are the reward at the end of the race. Why do I forget that?
So, I will enjoy these companions for as long as they will tarry.
And I will commit to work harder at keeping them with me.
And enjoy this delightfully fresh, sweet, clean space.
(Just don't look at the rest of my house!)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Fresh, New Look

I decided to change my template today, and boy am I glad I did! It's so much brighter and makes me wonder if I will write things of a more cheerful nature. Hmmm. Not sure, but it's worth a shot. The new picture in my header is one I took in England last year. It is a crinkle-crankle wall somewhere in Suffolk. (I went to so many villages, my mind is still spinning!) I was able to spend three weeks there with my friend "Lucy",who was born in Ipswich. It was the trip of my lifetime. I hope I can return one day.
I will leave you with a few photos for your viewing pleasure.

The fish and chips man in Ipswich. Mrs. Fish and Chips was not happy I took this picture. Oops.

A farm in Melton. There were many lovely farms to be seen.

The beach at Aldeburgh, where you get the best fish and chips. Eat them sitting on the sea wall, but watch out for the seagulls! Then take a trip up the road to Thorpeness and stop for an ice cream cone.

The ruins at Leiston Abbey, built in 1182.

Friday, August 3, 2007

What Boredom Looks Like at My House

Take one thrifted set of shelves, one 1951 McCall's Dressmaking book and a few vintage bits and bobs from your stash (and from Elizabeth Holcombe & mima) and Voila! Boredom banished. :)




My craft room is going to look sweet!!