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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Some Miscellaneous Christmas Memories

I' ve had a perfect day! I cleaned my house and classroom while I talked on the phone to a friend. I finished threshing my Love-Lies-Bleeding amaranth and my Elephant Head amaranth. I planted a large planter of Mammoth Basil. I went snowshoeing with Mr. Blueberry Eyes. I found a lost crusty bread recipe! What a good day!

In a few minutes, The Wood Artist will be home from an all day snowshoe adventure on a mountain with Brother Schnickelfritz. It has snowed all day, so I'm sure there will be great stories to hear.

I'm still glowing from talking to my best friend lastnight for probably an hour or more! We had a blast discussing projects and scheming a month together. It will be something crazy to pull off, seeing that she lives rather near the North Pole! But, who's afraid of a "little" driving?! We schemed some projects to work on, too! I was so excited, I didn't sleep for a long time!

So, here are some of my favorite pictures from Christmas.
Laughing Water is achieving the next level of a game by doing a dare - she let me draw this face on her. The middle picture is Christmas dinner just before it was consumed with relish. Then, Brother M.P. and Brother Schnicklefritz share a light moment in a game. I'm sad I didn't get a good picture of Brother Medic.

Tomorrow friends will come to celebrate the New Year. They will spend a couple of nights. We will cook and eat and talk.

Happy New Year, to one and all! - Nanette

Monday, December 28, 2009

My Best Friend's Blog

Yayyyyy! I've tried more than once to get my best friend's blog, HomeSweetYukon, on my sidebar, but to no avail. Tonight, I tried again and voila! There it is! I don't know if I'm just more computer savvy or what, but, whatever happened, you really should check out her blog. She is the most amazing, creative person I've EVER known! I want to be like her when I grow up! - Nanette

Threshing time

It takes me by surprise each year. Somewhere in the middle of Christmas celebrations I start longing for my garden. Strange. Especially because by the time the harvest is pulled in each fall, I'm so tired that I'm not at all sure I should garden another year. It is something like giving birth. After a few months, you can consider the joys once more, while the painful memories fade slightly.
So, this year, when the catalogs started arriving, I was, once again, infected with the gardening virus. When playing games with my family got a little tiresome, I pulled out the bean and pea pods that I'd picked last fall for seed-saving. I'd stored them in my garage in old #10 cans to dry. Granny Flash and I spent an evening shelling the seeds and labeling them. I saved most of what I will need for snow peas, green peas, green, yellow and purple beans, and some of what I will need for dry beans.
I'm just starting this seed-saving adventure and I like it. It will save a lot of money, come ordering time, and it gives a sense of independence - something I enjoy quite a lot. Not only that, I feel a little more in control of the safety of my seed!
The first and last pictures are of Jacob's cattle bean, which I grew last year. Unfortunately, cut worms destroyed much of the crop. So, we didn't get to taste them. We just saved the seed to try again.
I'm eager to try more dry beans. I want to see if homegrown, fresh dry beans are more digestible for Laughing Water, who is quite intolerant of legumes in general.
I haven't been receiving many comments lately and I'm worried that people are having trouble posting them. I'm not sure if that is the problem. If you are reading this, I'd love to hear from you. If a lot of people post, then I will know that the posting system is working.
So here is a question to post about: I usually plant my garlic in the fall, but didn't this year. Can I still plant in the spring and have a harvest?
TTFN - Nanette

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Handiwork of The Wood Artist

I have long intended to show some of the work The Wood Artist does. It is far past time. I don't have room to feature anywhere near the work he has done in these few posts, but I thought that I would share what he has done since November. This is a candleholder that was my Christmas present this year. It is the first in a set of 3 floor candleholders that I have requested. It is a sentimental piece because the wood came from a windbreak on my grandmother's ranch in North Dakota. My mother had to weed the trees in that windbreak when she was young. The wood is an aromatic juniper and boasts a sensational burgundy color that we have not found in any other wood. The Wood Artist used an oil-based sealer and was pleased that it preserved the rich color. This is a spalted birch piece that I got for my birthday.
The following posts feature other pieces that he made for other family members. He turns them on a wood lathe. He has never sold any of his pieces, but I think he could. The wood has to go through a long drying process so that is doesn't split. He makes a plan for each piece, but it often takes on a different pattern than he planned. Perhaps a pithy part needs to be taken out, or a fabulous color or fungus pattern preserved. It is as if each piece tells him what it wants to be.

More of The Wood Artist's work

This is the piece he made for my parents. He used a water base sealer on this and it made the red turn more mauve. This was his gift to Laughing Water.
Here are all of the Christmas gifts together with the globe.

Globe base

The latest addition to our wood collection is a juniper base for our globe. We had an old globe with a bent base. It was loose and wiggly and had a hard time standing up. So, The Wood Artist fashioned this lovely base. I told him that it completely upstages the globe! Now we need a globe worthy of the base! - Nanette

Dried Fruit Bread

Use bread recipe below, but add 3 or more cups of dried fruit toward the end of the kneading process. Form into loaves and follow baking directions.

I like to use raisins, dried apples, and dried apricots. I soak these in water for a time before adding them. I also like dried pears, but have learned that these mash easily and should not be soaked and should be added at the very end.

I do use a Bosch bread mixer for these recipes, but have used hand-kneading with great results!

Enjoy! And, I'd love comments about what you try.

Recipe for Cinnamon Swirl Bread

People have asked me recently for my recipes for cinnamon swirl bread and dried fruit bread, so here they are.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

4 c. warm water
3 T. dry yeast

Dissolve yeast in water.

1/2 c. brown sugar
2 T salt
1/2 oil (or more)
4-5 T. Do Pep (gluten flour)

Add to the above and mix.

6 cups whole wheat flour
6 cups white flour

Alternating white and whole wheat flour, mix to
make a dough. (Add slowly and stop adding when you reach desired consistency.) Knead for 10-15 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and cover with a towel. Place in a warm place and allow to raise until doubled in size. (I'm experimenting with leaving this step out. Let me know what you try and how you like it.)

Divide into 4 equal parts (or 8 if using small pans). For each piece, roll into a rectangle and spread with butter, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Roll up and pinch the seams to seal the loaf. Place in greased pans and let raise. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

When bread has "doubled" in size, place in oven and bake for 5 min. Turn oven temp to 350 degrees and bake until browned on top (about 25 minutes.)

We love this toasted with butter!

Friday, December 25, 2009

And to all a good night!

I know my posting has been scarce lately. I have plenty to say, but have been completely caught up with the season and family issues - some good, some very difficult. But, I promised I would try to keep my blog positive and save my downers for my journal!
It is Christmas night as I post this and I'm curled up on my couch with Laughing Water sitting beside me, smelling of freshly shampooed hair. We've had quite a holiday so far.
It all started last Saturday with a wonderful time with friends where we took this picture. That night was our annual pilgrimage to our local Christmas play. It was a delightful rendition of "A Christmas Carol". I made it only part way through, though, and spent much of the rest of the night in the E.R. with a loved one. (There's the "not-so-good" part.)
The next day, I snuck away from my household duties to try to get to the matinee performance with my Brother M.P. who had also missed the performance. It was fabulous!
The rest of the week was filled to brim with Christmas preparations. Lastnight found my family trickling in. Most of them actually spent the night with us, which was so fun! We had our traditional hot dogs and sauerkraut (homemade this time) and biscuits and gravy and lots of goodies. I tried a yummy brussel sprouts with candied, spiced pecans dish that I will definitely repeat! Then we gathered around the Christmas tree while The Wood Artist read the Christmas story to us. Then we opened presents. Brother Shnicklefritz spoiled us dreadfully! He gave so many gifts I'm afraid my children will be ruined! My Mom surprised us with snowshoes! Boy, are we excited to hit the woods! Alas! We have to wait for snow! The Wood Artist made some amazing works of art that I will feature soon.
This morning we had a Christmas brunch with my grandmother's buttermilk pancake recipe. My mom and I tried a low-calorie option that was amazing! We shredded an apple and mixed it with some cinnamon and Splenda fresh grated nutmeg. (I would have used stevia, but I was fresh out.) Then we put it in halves on the griddle with about three tablespoons of pancake batter on each half and cooked it until done. Then we topped with cinnamon and some whipped cream. SO, SO yummy!!!!! I will repeat that again, too!
After brunch, Brother Medic left for awhile. The rest of us played a game my Dad got for Christmas called "Would You Rather..." It is highly recommended. I will treasure the memories of watching my family hooting and screeching with laughter and groaning over the ridiculously impossible scenarios. A highlight was watching Granny Flash slow dance with a mop just to achieve the next level of the game! Delicious!
In the afternoon Brother M.P. and Brother Shnicklefritz helped Mr. Blueberry Eyes put together a rocket that was supposed to shoot 11oo feet into the air. Shortly before dark, we all trapsed out for the grand launching. It certainly didn't disappoint us. As the rocket shot into the stratosphere, so did my son's opinion of his Uncles!
Then came our traditional vegetarian Christmas dinner. Yummy! Now we are tired and in various states of retirement. My dad and The Wood Artist are discussing religion and I hear quiet murmuring from Mr. Blueberry Eyes' room where Granny is also retiring.
It will take me a week to recover, but we did have a great Christmas! I hope you did, too! - Nanette

Monday, December 21, 2009

Heeee Haawwww! (In the night)

I was trying to sleep around 2 a.m. the other night, but kept being awakened by strange noises. Thunk, bump. I thought maybe it was the Red Shafted Flicker that has decided to remove the insulation from our house. Clump, Boof. Oh, no. I left the vegetarian suet on the deck railing, waiting for The Wood Artist to put it in the feeder. Maybe it is a creature trying to feast on it. Bump, Clump.

I finally awoke The Wood Artist and asked him what on earth that noise was. He groggily said he didn't know. Flump, plump, bump, klump. "Maybe it is the water pipes," he said.

I decided to use the throne room as long as I was up. Kaboom, kabang! "Honey, those water pipes are coming through the floor to get me!" (O.k., a little storytellers prerogative here.)

I settled into bed again. Wood Artist says, "Maybe I should check the hot water heater down in our landlords garage." (We live above our landlords' garage.)

As I drifted into the twilight zone, I heard this horrendous, animal-like roar/groan. My first thought was that it sounded very much like a bear. But I quickly dismissed it, thinking that the bears are now in hibernation (and what would a bear be doing in the garage, anyway?) My next thought was that that hot water heater must really be in distress! Since The Mighty Hunting hound was sleeping soundly at my back ( and was very cozy, too), I decided to let The Wood Artist handle this boogie man on his own.

Turns out, it was a mule. Our landlady has a mule that turned sick. He had some sort of blockage and they weren't at all sure Fox would survive. He was groaning loudly, poor thing. And that perfectly explained the clop, clop sounds!

In the end, Fox did get better. Mr. Blueberry Eyes had a great time helping care for him. He has returned to the pasture.

In other news, we have been swept up into the busyness of the season. I'm happy to have my camera working again and will post more pictures soon.

TTFN - Nanette

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fall Birthday Trip

Every fall I go on a trip with three other friends. It is a girls' weekend away that started as a birthday celebration. We chose Seattle this year. What an amazing amount of fun we had!

We stayed at a hotel near the Space Needle and walked everywhere. I loved Pike Place Market because it reminded me of the markets I shopped at regularly when The Wood Artist and I were first married and living in Hong Kong. There were gorgeous flowering kale boquets that captured my imagination.

We pampered ourselves with a pedicure and ate at the Sky City Restaurant and a lovely East Indian restaurant.

We took a ferry to Bainbridge Island and wandered along beautiful streets. One of the girls bought matching p.j.s for all of us and we amused ourselves taking goofy pictures.

Most of all, we talked and talked and laughed and bonded.
I got the picture c.d. today from one of the girls and I'm having fun going through the memories. It is fun remembering back. I thought I'd share. Thanks, girls! You are wonderful!

Tonight I made Chai Almond cookies rolled in powdered sugar. They are yummy! I love Christmas cookies!

An arctic blast has hit our area. Wind chills of 20-40 degrees below zero will be here tomorrow and Tuesday. Our house heater doesn't always keep up during these cold snaps, so we have to run the oven a bit. Our classroom has a wood stove, though, so we keep toasty in there.

We had friends over lastnight and gathered around
the Christmas tree and woodstove and visited until after midnight. Fun times!

TTFN- Nanette

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Tree Is Up

I'm sitting in my quiet home after everyone has gone to bed. I love these peaceful moments. Whino, one of our cats is sitting behind me, purring.
I'm missing Laughing Water tonight. She is staying with her grandparents for a few days. I'm delighted that she can have some bonding time with them. Even so, I miss her.
I wish I had had my camera today. The Wood Artist, Mr. Blueberry Eyes and I went tree hunting. After stopping at the local National Forest Headquarters for a permit and suggestions of where to go, we set out to find "the perfect" tree. The weather was frightfully cold, but we were dressed for it - mostly. My fingers let me know that they didn't think much of the gloves I'd provided for them!
We searched for some time and then found a truly lovely fir tree. I was slightly worried that it wouldn't look as full once we got it indoors. But, to my delight, it actually looked better! It is full and just delightful. I figure that if we could have found one that big, it would have cost $50-75. Not bad for a $5 permit! That is sustainable! (And, no I don't feel guilty about cutting down the forest. When I was young, my family and planted over 1 million trees. I've paid my dues!)
We set it up in our tutoring classroom that is separate from our house. It looks amazing. Mr. Blueberry Eyes and I decorated it after warming him up with hot cocoa and putting his favorite Christman music on. I did learn that it takes a long time to decorate a BIG tree!
The picture for this post is one of my favorites of my two handsome guys. It was taken this summer on a hike. TTFN - Nanette