October 1, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wishing you all a lovely weekend!

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low tide

September 17, 2010

While he sleeps...

I've been making small batches of preserves, just a few jars here and there to preserve summer's bounty. Small batches because I have a small kitchen and only short bursts of time without a curious toddler clinging to my legs (not a good position to be in when dealing with boiling hot sugary substances.) But three jars here and four there have added up into a pretty, happy abundance of jams, jellies, and fruit butters from blackberries, plums, pears, and apples, all grown right here on our land.

2010 fruit preserves

And just in time as I woke up a few days ago to a blustery day with that distinct golden light that signals autumn has arrived. What a simple pleasure to spoon sweet spiced apple butter into the morning's oatmeal, a cozy and sweetly scented way to enjoy the turning of the seasons. And it couldn't be easier -- really! -- just throw some apples in a pot, cook them down, blend and add sugar and spices.

autumn still life

pot o' apples

A few notes on the following recipe: Fruit butters do not contain any butter -- they are simply fruit purees cooked until some of the liquid evaporates and the flavors concentrate. They do not use added pectin so they do not set up as much as jams or jellies but also do not require as much sugar. They are delicious as a spread on toast, stirred into yogurt or hot cereals, or as a filling in bar cookies. And of course they can be used in baking to replace some of the oil or butter in your favorite quick bread or bar cookie recipes.

Spiced Apple Butter
I wanted a simple and quick method of making this butter so I didn't peel or core the apples. Since the peels and cores have most of the apples' naturally-occurring pectin, this has the added benefit of creating a firmer jell. You will need a pretty high-powered blender to break down the peels and cores, a food processor is just not going to cut it. I use my immersion blender, it's scary powerful. If you don't have a worthy blender or you are just turned off by the idea of seeds in your apple butter, you're going to want to at least core the apples and probably peel them as well.
I've canned the apple butter, but you could also just put it in a jar in the fridge (for up to three weeks) or in the freezer (for longer.)

4 pounds mixed apples, stem and blossom ends cut off
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
2 cups sugar (adjust to taste)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1.) Put apples, vinegar, and water in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Bring to a boil and cover. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until apples are soft and breaking apart, 20 to 30 minutes.
2.) Blend apples with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender. Return to pot and stir in sugar and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until thick (15-30 minutes,) stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot regularly to prevent sticking or burning. I do this part while cooking dinner -- I'm in the kitchen already and can just reach over and give the pot a stir from time to time.
3.) To refrigerate or freeze: put in jars and cool.
To can: your grandmother probably just put her fruit butters in sterilized jars and screwed on the lids, but current safe canning practices recommend canning in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Lots of good information and instructions can be found here and here.

cooked apples

half way there

Finished apple butter

jars of apple butter

September 10, 2010

{this moment}

Inspired by the (always inspiring) SouleMama:


{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

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Helping Hands

September 3, 2010


Finn and I have gotten to spend a little extra time with his big kid cousins while their parents are off at burning man (if you're there, say hello to my brother Satya and his wife Tiana, they're the ones wearing clothes.) So while their parents are at The Playa, my mom and I decided to take the kids on an adventure of our own at a playa -- and it was a perfect fall day on the northern California coast, sunny and warm and an unusually calm Pacific ocean.
IMG_9795 copy
Wishing you and yours a happy adventure on this holiday weekend!

August 5, 2010


Foggy Summer

It's been a foggy cool summer here in northern California but our family garden is growing riotously in spite of the weather.

Pole Beans and Cosmos

I share the garden with my sister-in-law Tiana, my mom, and my sister Leandra. Tiana and I usually like a structured, well-kempt sort of garden with mostly veggies, but this year we've given in to chaos and flowers and it's really beautiful! Plus the bees are loving all the blooms and we've had plenty of cut flowers (which came in handy for the flower arch at Leandra's wedding.)

It's been such a pleasure to get into the garden lately, always some hidden little treat to discover.

Summer Squash

Ripening Tomatoes

The cool weather has slowed the ripening of the tomatoes, but we've finally got some yellow cherries.

Cherry Tomato

Eating Tomatoes

The cucumbers are finally (after three failed plantings!) coming along.

Cucumber Curls

And of course we've got more lavender than we can possibly harvest. Good old lavender, dependable no matter what the weather brings. Tiana's been making lavender hydrosol and I've been stuffing little sewn toys.

Lavender Harvest

We dug some shiny new potatoes. Finn thinks they're delicious raw.

New Potatoes

Finn's finally able to hang out in the garden without needing all my attention. He still likes to put things in his mouth, but now it's usually tomatoes or peas rather than rocks. And only once was it a snail! Of course kid-friendly play areas help.

Bean Teepee

And it's a good thing he's washable!

Dirty Helper

July 26, 2010

Time flies

Finn's First Birthday
This little boy turned one last week. And not content with becoming a toddler in age only, he has since learned to walk and said his first word: "dog" (or his first word besides "uh-oh" and "wow" which don't seem to count.)
He's brought so much joy to my life and it's hard to remember the person I was just 12 short months ago. I've learned so much -- about patience and gratitude and flexibility. And I feel so lucky to know this happy, cuddly, outgoing, energetic, jolly, funny little person.
Happy Birthday, sweet boy. Many blessings and endless love.

May 9, 2010

Okay, I know I promised you a cocktail, but this procrastinator has to finish her mother's day presents, so drinking is going to have to wait. But don't worry, here's a nice easy project in case you (like me) waited until the last minute -- it won't take long, and afterward we'll get back to that cocktail!

almost walking

Freezer Paper Stencil Silhouette

I'm not going to go into too much detail here about either the freezer paper stenciling because there are lots of other great tutorials out there on those subjects. I referenced this one and this one.

First, gather your materials: freezer paper, pencil, craft knife or small sharp scissors, iron, fabric paint, a digital or print photo of your subject in profile, and something fabric to print onto. I'm making reversible tote bags with Skip to my Lou's tutorial.

Because I'm a bit too lazy, I didn't want to print out my photo so I chose the easy way: I opened my photo in photoshop, cropped it and zoomed in until it was the size I wanted -- about 4" high. Then, using the Pioneer Woman's free photoshop actions, I hit "define and sharpen" a few times until I had a nice distinct profile.

PS screenshot

Next I cut a square of freezer paper a few inches larger than my image, held it up to the screen, and very carefully and very lightly traced it in pencil. Hey, presto, you've got a light box! If you try this lazy woman's method, please don't press too hard with your pencil or you'll damage your screen.

tracing profile

Now clean up your tracing lines: simplify the hairdo, add details (eyelashes, hair bows, etc), and make a nice curved line below the neck.


Carefully cut out your design. I've found it's easier to move the paper rather than the knife when cutting curved lines and fine details. If you cut carefully, you'll be able to use both the positive and the negative pieces as stencils.

finished stencil

Next iron your stencils onto your fabric. It's also a good idea to iron a piece of freezer paper onto the back of the fabric to keep the paint from bleeding. Make sure your iron is set to a dry setting, but high heat is okay.

Paint using fabric paint. I like the Jacquard brand; I get it from my local art store but it's also available all over online. If you're painting on a dark background, it's worth searching out Jacquard's Neopaque line. Use a foam brush or sponge and dab the paint on. Now test your patience and let the paint dry to touch, recoat, and allow to dry completely overnight before peeling off the stencil.

positive image
here's the positive image...

negative image
and the negative image

After a bit of sewing, you've got a beautiful homemade gift, perfect for those doting grandmothers to show off at the market. Now if I could just figure out how to get one to Finn's Oma in the Netherlands today...

finished bags

May 2, 2010

We're Getting Bees!

We had our first class yesterday and my head is spinning a bit with all the information.

outlaw beekeeper
Our teacher, the "Outlaw Beekeeper" of Sonoma County

bee frame

By the end of the season, we could have 80 pounds of honey. To get that honey, the worker bees will have flown 4,400,000 miles (that's more than nine round-trip visits to the moon) and visited 160,000,000 flowers! Whew!

worker bees

Our queen and her brood should be ready to come home with us next week.
Do you see the queen?

queen bee

We all held one of the bee-covered frames; it's surprising how calm the bees on the frame are, but with other bees flying all around, it was still exhilarating and a little terrifying.

beekeeper tiana
Tiana and Leandra hold bees for the very first time

Have any of you kept bees? Any advice for us novices?

April 23, 2010

Fabric Flower Garlands

My beautiful little sister Leandra is getting married here in June so there's been a lot of gardening, crafting, building, and cement pouring happening these last few weeks. We had a little party for her over the weekend; all the girls got together to help her get a start on some of the decorations. It was really just an excuse to try out potential "signature cocktails" but we also got a little (easy!) crafting done. I wanted to feature one of the projects here: these little fabric flower garlands. They're super simple to make, require almost no sewing and (just like my sweet sister) are so pretty and joyful. So grab a bit of fabric, some ribbon, and a needle and thread and let's get started.

First: cut a strip of fabric as wide as you want your flowers to be. Fold it up, lay something round on top (a jar lid or drinking glass works great) and trace a circle.

tracing circles

Cut 8 to 12 circles out, don't worry about being precise here.

cutting circles

Grab one circle and fold it into quarters so that it makes a little point.

folding circles

Run your threaded needle through the point of the folded circle. Don't worry if you don't have matching thread, it won't really show.

sewing circles

Keep adding folded circles, just like stringing beads on a necklace, until you've got 10 or 12 circles together.

stringing circles

Tie off your string, fluff up the circles, and like magic you've got a flower! Now make a couple more flowers in lots of beautiful colors.

finished flowers

Attach the flowers to ribbon with a little "x" of two stitches.

attaching flowers

Now hang it up and get ready to party!

flower garland

Stay tuned for a recipe for the chosen cocktail...