Monday, December 31, 2007

Old Year's Day offerings

About 22 years ago, we spent "Old Year's Day" in St. Thomas. It was the year before I became pregnant and my husband had surprised me with the trip. We went on a side trip that day to Mountaintop, the highest point on the island, and there, it was explained to us that while we celebrate "New Year's Day", on St. Thomas, they celebrate "Old Year's Day" and use it as a day to reflect on the past year.

I have two sets of lentil beads, fresh from my torch/kiln this last day of 2007. The first, I call "Mirror Islands" because of the mirrored finish on these beads. The reactions I am getting from regular old Morette and Vetrofond and a little bit of silver is just knocking my sox off! This is my favorite of the two:
The second set is called "Craters of the Moon". It is probably lighter than it appears in the photo and Tina was totally enamored of this one.
I have had a number of requests for this type of bead and will be offering them unstrung or strung as the buyer wishes...

I can't wait to see what 2008 holds. My fascination with these organic beads seems to only get stronger. It's kind of amazing since when I started working with glass, I wasn't really attracted to them and wanted to only work with bright patterns and crisp lines and dots... I'm sure the tide will turn again though.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Eve

A couple of images from this Christmas Eve...I started baking this morning at 8. This is the platter I took up to Tina's tonight as my contribution to our family Christmas Eve. She had a wonderful buffet which included an assortment of sandwich fixin's along with shrimp cocktail and potato salad. The spread was rounded out with crudites and dip. It was wonderful, especially after spending the day sampling chocolate and sugar filled treats.

There are a couple of new goodies I tried out this year that will join my repertoire. I made drop sugar cookies and iced them, chocolate crinkles (a recipe I requested and received on The Essential Herbal list - thanks again, Sharon!), a delicious toffee candy that I've been reading about for a couple of years on another forum and Tina (and now Molly's) favorite, Snickerdoodles. They joined my usual chocolate chip, chocolate chip oatmeal and magic cookie bars. The kids baked the two chocolate chip varieties last night, but I made the rest of them this morning.

Later in the day I finished up the T-shirts I was making for gifts. It was fun being able to personalize them for everyone.

We decided to make handmade gifts this year and I think we should probably continue it as our tradition. Everyone put thought and love into their gifts and one of the coolest was a little box that our brother's wife, Pam, made for each of us. It was made of the wood from a cedar chest that our grandfather had made for our grandmother as a wedding present. Now we each have a little piece of that chest. She even filled it with Peppermint Patties, which were a something special our grandfather would treat us with from time to time.Something else that stood out tonight was the almost full moon outside. We had some clouds streaking through the sky and although it doesn't show well on the picture, the light of the moon formed a pinkish ring around the it. The clouds were moving so fast that the moon appeared to really be sailing across the sky. It was just beautiful!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Rambling thoughts on the Holidays

This may be somewhat disjointed and a bit more personal than usual, but... I guess I'm just having a few thoughts about the holidays.

It's been an interesting week. We didn't officially close the tree farm on the 17th, as planned, because the weather was so nasty in the preceding weeks and we wanted to be sure people who had tagged trees would have a chance to pick them up. We're closed now, though and I suspect as I type, my DH is out gathering up all the directional signs on the surrounding roads which lead people here. So, now with 2 days left, we can try to prepare for our holiday!

While I was out delivering soap on Thursday, Bob and the kids (Rob and his friend) cut a tree and had it ready for me to decorate when I returned. The wonderful aroma of the concolor fir almost knocked me over when I came in! They also cleared the dining room table, changed the tablecloth and put out a few of our treasured holiday knick knacks... At least the house is beginning to look like Christmas and I must say, it is beautiful!

We (our family) have decided to do handmade gifts this year. I thought that would make the gift-giving easier, but as Christmas eve approaches, I'm not really ready at all. I have acquired most of what I need to make the things I want to, but... time is getting short. And I've been planning to bake some goodies for days now, but there was that soap to be made (finished now) and the orders to get out - oh, and the phone to be answered, etc, etc...

I may sound like I am complaining, but I'm not. As Rob has grown, the pressure to have the "perfect Christmas" has been released and I am basically "going with the flow". What gets done, gets done. Christmas will come and it will be wonderful and full of love and laughter whether all the little details are perfect or not.

Every year, at some point I think, "well, this isn't so bad, I'm not going to gain any weight this year. I'm not baking and we don't seem to be eating so much junk." And then it begins... friends, neighbors and some of our lovely customers bring food... cookies, candy and (thank heavens this year) fruit. We begin eating.... Then our family round of birthdays start and celebratory cakes and wonderful meals become de riguer(?). Rob has been home and his friend, Julia, is staying with us for a few days and, naturally, that calls for a few delicious, but calorie laden restaurant meals. And it goes on....

I begin to feel bloated and think, "Well, Christmas is almost here and we'll be able to stop this insanity as soon as it is over." But then I remember our New Years' extravaganza which usually involves a feast of seafood and more desserts! And, of course, the pork and sauerkraut dinner we MUST eat for luck on New Year's Day.

I thought, since it was a full moon solstice, it would be fun to do something special this year - like a big bonfire up on the hill to welcome the return of the sun... Well, not only time, but Mother Nature refused to comply on that one and it was an ugly rainy night. I should have at least lit a candle!

I've always enjoyed having lots of people around. Before I became all-consumed in motherhood, our house was like Grand Central. When we flew balloons, it was the gathering place before and after flights. Lots of laughter, people, excitement. Even when Rob was young - after the initial shock of having an infant in the house passed, we were still a gathering point.

There were a number of major life changes going on here too that just somehow made us more insular and not as social or a whole lot of fun to be around. But, we were still the place where everyone came for holidays.

After a few kinda sad scattered years, we have almost all become much closer as a result of Mom's passing and now John's medical challenges. It's really interesting and fun to have sort of an open door policy around here again. I've always heard of other families that adopt other people into their circle. For some reason, the generation before ours didn't seem to warm to that idea. Holidays were for family - period. If we brought friends in, it was always a bit uncomfortable. Well, things have changed and I love it!

Rob brings friends around. They join us at our get-togethers and seem to enjoy our aging but wacky, rollicking banter. Sometimes I feel like a way station - a safe house for traveling college age kids - and that's a good thing. We need their youthful infusion and Molly, the youngest free spirit around here, needs someone who doesn't speak "60's"! Julia, whose parents live in Brazil, has been with us for a few days and is leaving today for Chicago to spend Christmas with "real" family. Sonny should be arriving soon and he will be staying with us until school starts in January.

Since John has moved up with Tina, one of his friends in particular seems to have adopted us. He joined our "workforce" one weekend during tree season and seemed to really enjoy all the hustle and bustle of the day. He showed up early that morning with cider and doughnuts and really caught the spirit of the place - putting us to shame really! In the picture you can see our brother Mark, Scott (John's friend), Sonny, Bob - and in the front, Rudy, at the ready!

He just returned from a business trip and called (from the airport I might add!) to find out what was happening on Christmas Eve. We were planning to forgo that particular event this year, but - oh well....

Monday, December 17, 2007

Triangulum Nebula

I've had a couple of requests for some beads (and a bracelet) like the one I showed a couple of weeks ago called "Moonscape". I can't seem to part with the original, so, last evening, I finally sat down and made some similar beads using a blue base rather than the brown I originally used. Next, I'll probably do them using a green (olive) base and see what happens then.

The other thing I've discovered is that it's fun playing with the backgrounds of the bead pictures! In this case, I downloaded a picture of the Triangulum Nebula and superimposed the beads over it. So that's the name of this set - "Traingulum Nebula". I think the rest of these will be part of the "Nebula Series"!

Next I'll be wiring it up into a bracelet... should be pretty.

Just thought I'd share it with you.. on my birthday!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ice Storm vs. Tree Farm!

Well, maybe we won't be closing quite so firmly this year! Today was to have been the last day we were open for the year, but there may be a few stragglers who haven't yet picked up their tagged trees. I told one caller that we will be here tomorrow if he wants to wait.

Last night we had an ice/sleet storm, all night long. It's cold enough that the trees are all frozen and the limbs are bent in unnatural poses. It's warm enough that the ground is saturated and covered with mud puddles - or should I say wallows?

A few brave souls are here getting their trees, basically because it is now or never, but what kind of fond memories will this make? On the other hand, the folks that still show up laughing in this weather are the ones who probably WILL remember the day with amusement.
As always, Rudy is prepared to carry on with his "greeting duties" and, most importantly, he'll be certain not to allow the "frogmobile" (the ATV at the left of the picture) to carry his favorite human away without being hot on its heels - err, wheels.Speaking of Rudy's favorite human, there's Bob walking toward Rudy's nemesis now!

See the lovely icy tracery on the trees? I sure hope no one shatters any branches trying to cut a fir or pine! We did lose a rather large tree out back. Luckily it fell away from the house and we didn't even hear it go. It could have been a disaster, but apparently our luck is holding - so far.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Has it been that long?

Amazing how quickly time flies sometimes! We've been having little snows every day or so and it seems to be sending everyone into a tizzy, including us!

I must say it is beautiful, but at this time of the year, and since we've been somewhat spoiled the last few years with pretty mild winters, it makes doing business and getting ready for the holidays just a bit more difficult.

But, we persevere and somehow between the flurries of snow, flurries of customers at the Christmas tree farm and flurries of health ups and downs with our brother (who seems to be well on the mend now,) we're still managing to carry on our other businesses!

Tina & I, for some unknown reason, decided to host a swap on her Yahoo list. Because of a few stragglers, and other odds and ends, the shipping of the swap coincided with the day the magazine went out - along with a few other orders.

When we bought our Rav a couple of years ago, we opted for the newer, longer model so that it would hold our tent and tables for craft/herb shows. Little did we know how handy it would be to be able to just flip those seats forward for other times when it would be packed to the gills with boxes and bags of magazines! This was one of those times. Almost all of the mailings for the day are in it and you really can't even tell how deep it is from this picture.

I believe it was a very good purchase, not only for its roominess and thrifty gas usage, but last winter when we were trapped on the other side of town at a craft show watching it snow, I discovered that its 4-wheel drive was a godsend! When we finally got packed up and out of there, it carried us safely through the slippery, unplowed snow and even helped us to rescue Tina's daughter from her school bus which was firmly stuck in a snowdrift!

So, the mailings that were hanging over our heads are all out - and what a relief! Some new orders have come in to be filled. About 12 batches of soap should bring us up to speed and we are planning to make 8 of them today, probably the other 4 over the weekend.

We have a sleet/snowfall forecast for today and a bigger storm on Saturday, so I may get some time on the torch later today or tomorrow.

And the biggest and best news of all... Our son is finishing his last week of finals at college and will be coming home with his degree this weekend! Math major, CS and Physics minors. No graduation ceremony unless he wants to return in the spring, but it is really exciting to have a college grad in the family. We are so proud of him. He's grown into such a wonderful young man!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Brrrr - Time for SOUP!

No beads today, but the weather has brought us a wintry blast.

There has been a lot of discussion on the Essential Herbal Yahoo List about soups and chili's. For our busy weekends at our Christmas tree farm, Frog Hollow Evergreens, I always make up a pot of nice hot soup to fortify everyone working here. When there's a chance to slip away into the kitchen, these are two popular versions of bean soap that we often have ready:

The first is the one I discovered years ago. The recipe was given out along with the purchase of a bag of dried mixed beans at one of our favorite butchers, Weavers Meats in East Petersburg, PA. I love the little bit of tang that the lemon imparts.

1# Pack of mixed, dried beans
Wash beans, place in a large kettle. Cover with water 2" above bean line, soak overnight. Drain in the morning.
Add 2 qt. water, 2 Ham Hocks, bring to a boil. Add 1 large onion, 2-1/2# can of tomatoes, 1 tsp. chili powder, juice of one lemon & pepper to taste.
Simmer 3 hr., or in a crock pot - 3 hr. high, 5 hr. low.
Remove meat from bone before serving

When we had the herb shop, my husband became quite interested in cooking - out of necessity - and developed this version. It seemed that it would be bland and I hesitated to trust his creation, but it was delicious and it has become a favorite around here:

Sauté chopped onion (1 medium) in a little olive oil along with 2 meaty ham hocks.
While this is cooking, chop and add about a half cup of carrots and 1 good sized potato.
Cover ham with water and add bay leaf, salt, pepper, some celery seed - to your taste.
After and hour or so, add 2 large cans of Northern Beans. Continue simmering for 1-2 more hours. Remove meat from bones and return to pot. Serve and enjoy!

A nice loaf of crusty bread and some butter helps these hit the spot and warm the tummy!

Friday, November 30, 2007

New Bracelets

I've been studying these sets for some time and in the evenings, in between crises the last few days, I figured out how to handle them.

The first one is called Frozen Rainbow:

Second is the result of a recent swap - I call it Wild Mustard:

Finally, my favorite, which I don't think will be for sale owing to the large amount of silver used in it (plus the fact that I am personally in love with it!), Moonscape:

I love all these bracelets, but Moonscape just fits my style perfectly. It's a little different for me, but I think there will be more along this vein.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New on the Website

I just added a bunch of new things to the Torchsong website, in particular on the focals page. They include pendants and necklaces:

And a bracelet.
Take a look!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Changing Seasons

We see the change very sharply here. Although a few of the maple trees are still ablaze. This one is right outside our bathroom window and so makes a lovely statement first thing in the morning as the sun's rays creep over the hill. The yellows and burgundies of fall cling determinedly to the rickety gazebo...We do, however, live on a Christmas Tree farm and see the folks flocking in like clockwork to start the preparations for their Christmas holiday.

They actually started early this year and managed to show up during our family dinner on Thursday. This is something new as usually, if our customers show up at all on Turkey Day, they make sure to do it early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Toward the end of the day yesterday, I lit the torch and was inspired to make a few Christmasy beads. Here are some of the trees in various stages of decor, plus a blurry snowman. I have to say that my Christmas trees have definitely improved over the years and the decorations on them have come a long way from blurry blobs and strands to a much better representation of actual garlands and balls! The trees are only around 1/2-3/4" high, so they will make cute charms or small pendants.

The final bead was just a barrel with a couple of greens making some interesting leaves and some red berries. I think it's a nice look and will probably make a whole bracelet using this pattern while the original bead will make a nice little necklace.

I'll probably get a shot at the torch again today and will post more later!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Don't say that again!

Well, all I have to say today is that the next time Tina says, "Looks like we have a clear weekend ahead", I'm going to smack her!

I'm going to ramble on this one, so be prepared!

We were planning a quiet weekend, with a few Christmas tree taggers and a little bit of prep for a visit to a customer for restocking on Monday. As it turned out, we spent the better part of Friday night and Saturday early morning in the hospital with our brother and I wound up spending the rest of the day and night Saturday in bed - when I wasn't worshiping the porcelain idol in the bathroom!

Brother John had apparently become dehydrated and since he is taking diuretics, it was a serious situation. Let's just say that when I saw him trying to hang his cell phone up on the chandelier, it was obvious there was something wrong. I called Tina and we hauled him in to the hospital where they hooked him up with not one, but two IV's. We were really worried because by the time we left on Saturday morning, he was unable to articulate a clear thought and had begun speaking gibberish. As it turned out, though, everything happened in the best possible way as it seems to every time something goes wrong with John, so we figure Mom is still at work watching over him.

When I called in to the hospital around 7, he was almost back to his normal self and making sense, so apparently my body took that as a signal to evacuate.

I think there is a GI bug traveling the circuit and my DH & I both had it! It was like the flu and we both took to our bed to sweat it out. Luckily the kid was home and could take care of the few people who showed up to tag trees.

Today, all is well. Brother John is sure he will be going home tomorrow, but I doubt that they are in the habit of releasing patients directly from intermediate intensive care. It's okay, he still isn't sure what month it is, so until he is..... it's best that he stay where he is. Bob and I are well on the mend and the kid is back at school.

I do have a few goodies to show. (I was planning to do this earlier, but life got in the way!)

I've been working with Dark Silver Plum, a really nice color that I have never been able to work with properly and probably didn't photograph very well either.

Anyway, the other day, something clicked and I achieved the great silver sheen that it is supposed to have. I liked the idea of a light color encasing white and then making the scrolls on top of it all.

The peach colored bead is called "Wrought Iron Peach" and the blue one is just called, "Blue Note".

You may notice I have been playing with Photoshop - mainly because the photos weren't that great. I was doing some experiments with masking and wound up with some smoky clouds around the green bead and so, I named it "Jack's Beanstalk"!

Then, I got carried away and tried some dichroic glass with this technique and wound up with "Captured Dichro", to the right.

The picture actually did pick up the flashes in the dichro layer, so at least I am pleased with that.

Finally, while I had the silver plum out, I thought about making a heart with silver rivets in it and tried to tie them together with black strings.

I wound up with "Mended Heart". I have the feeling it may lead to something really good. This one is kinda boring! I did have fun doing the background though. Photoshop is fun!

Anyhow, since Thanksgiving is on its way, it is time to count my blessings although I truly do that every day.

It's been a strange year, so many things could have gone so horribly wrong and yet we survived and flourished.

Despite everything, the business moves along, we are lucky to have the time to take care of our brother and go along with him for his check ups. The magazine is almost ready to go to the printer because for some reason, I decided to get started on it early this issue. My DH has survived his small stroke and made life style changes so that he'll be around for many more years. Our son has been accepted to the Grad school he was hoping for although it may mean we won't see him for a year or two since it is about as far away as it can get.

Just last week, I said that I didn't want to change things this year since it may be the last chance we have to all sit down together. I was thinking about our son traveling, but (not to be maudlin) as we all get older, it is becoming more and more of a possibility that each holiday may be the last we will all have to get together.

I have the feeling that we will all sit down together at the Thanksgiving table this year and be especially grateful for our many blessings.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanksgiving Turkey

When I was very young, I decided I would NEVER cook a turkey. After watching my grandmother prepare various holiday dinners, I was horrified by what seemed to be a really gross and messy job. (I suspect that in those days, the giblets weren't packed up in a nice neat bag as they are now.)

After I was married, I worried that someday, I was going to be expected cook a turkey and though I avoided it as long as I could, I realized that since I was the one who had the time, I should really be the one to make holiday dinners.

Bread stuffing, is the way we have always traditionally stuffed turkeys in our family. And the stuffing should be solid enough to be removed from the bird and sliced. I remember going up to Aunt Mary's house after Christmas and being served cold sliced filling with hot left-over gravy and thinking it was a very special treat.

As luck would have it, something like 30 years ago (which is how long ago this happened,) either Woman's Day or Family Circle magazine published an article on Thanksgiving dinner which included a chart of stuffing recipes and also instructions on how long to bake the bird.

The bread stuffing recipe looked about right and, sure enough, everything turned out perfectly.

Stuffing the turkey has become one of those weird traditions with my DH and me which I have probably discussed here before. There's something very companionable about being in the kitchen early in the morning, chopping and cooking together to prepare a wonderful meal.

We still stuff our turkeys and (after calculating the approximate cooking time) we do it early in the AM, put the turkey in to cook immediately and it is usually ready at almost the time we expect it!

I kept the original pages from the magazine, but they have become brittle and yellowed. I encased them in plastic and keep them around for old times' sake, but I have transferred the information to a computer file and today, I made it into a jpg which is shown here.
If you are interested printing it out, Just click on the picture and it should come up in a separate frame. Then choose print from the file menu above and it should printout for you in a readable size.

I've never seen an article again that laid all the information out so simply and I'd love to know that I have passed on something that has been very important to me through these many years.

11-25-07 I added a picture of our turkey this year. It was actually overcooked (as you can see the wings fell off!), but it was one of the best we ever made. I think giving it an extra half-hour will become a new tradition.

When we put it in the oven at 500 F., we didn't turn it down for maybe another half hour so that it was golden brown almost immediately. We tented it and turned it back down and it seems all the delicious juices were sealed in for the duration! Oh, and I had more gravy than ever before - it was perfect!

Monday, November 05, 2007

The Unusual Season - redux

As I was titling this entry, I realized I had written a very similar entry in March, 2006 about the unusually warm and early spring. This time, it's about summer hanging on seemingly forever.

When I was in elementary school, we did a play called, "The Unusual Season". I remember it well because I think it was my only starring role in a school production (I was the unusual season!) In it, the point was made that there is often an unusual season in between the regular, expected ones when odd weather occurs. I remember long ago, when we lived in our first house, mowing the yard on Thanksgiving and thinking how strange it was to still have grass to cut so late in the year. I think this is going to be another one of those years.

So, I'm looking outside and realize it's November.
First, I saw the Pineapple Sage. Now, that's one of the last things to bloom in the fall, so it wasn't too out of place even though it was surrounded by the fallen leaves. Next, I saw Calendula blooming away. I wonder if this one knew it was slated to be the herb of the year in 2008 and was hoping to hold on for some of the accolades. Then, I realized my lavender was STILL blooming. We were making wands with this back in May and usually by the end of summer it has faded away. Not this plant, no sirree!One lovely hydrangea bloom peeked out from the bottom of the plant. Most of the other blooms have faded to a brown and some to a beautiful burgundy/green combo.

But, strangest of all are the tomatoes... still producing high on the tops of the vines. You can see where the frost has withered the vines above them, but these tomatoes are still very good. I lost my enthusiasm for them some time ago after gorging on them for weeks, but Tina tried one of them, right off the vine and was pleasantly surprised that they must have been protected somewhat by the foliage.

And, it isn't just the plants. We've been noticing baby animals that we usually expect to be born in the spring seem to be coming along right now, as we go into winter (I think!)
This is the "Chicken House". The door is closed because my DH decided the Polish Bantam hen who is sitting on a nest of about 20 eggs should be protected until the babies hatch. I said, "Maybe we'll have to bring them inside." But, he assured me that we have heat lights that can be installed in the "Chicken House" to keep everyone comfy and healthy.

Only last Friday, as we traveled between Philadelphia and home on the PA Turnpike, in a spot where, at twilight, deer are always along the highway feeding, we saw a tiny fawn in the group and were discussing how out of season it seemed to be.

Maybe I'm just remembering things wrong, but it certainly seems that things are out of whack. Hmmm... Global warming? Could be.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Flying Spaghetti Monster!

That wasn't my original theme on this piece, but once I added the little dangles at the bottom, it was all I could think of.

The base bead is one I made some time ago and wondered how to use it. It is a large, diamond shaped bead in various subtle shades of turquoise and muted greens.

When I got started adorning it, once again, the bead took over and I couldn't stop! There are little green fishes on the sides along with iridescent stars sparkling here and there. All kinds of beads and a few nuggets of turquoise and peridot peek out from all angles. The wire is sterling, but the silver beads that trail in and out of the random design are silver colored.

My other piece for the day is one of the folk art series I have been working on since discovering the redware effect I can get with enamels.

I found that it looked perfectly natural with aged copper.

There are two styles of heart beads along with a couple of stylized folk art birds.

Hmmm... birds being the messengers of the gods sending up a wish for love. So, that will be its name, "Wish for love".

Oh, just a little heads up. I am opening an Etsy Shop and as soon as I have it completely set up, will be posting the address.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A trip into the country

So, Last Thursday, I mentioned that we had seen an eagle in our travels. I'm not sure if I also mentioned that I have never seen an eagle in the wild before....

Yesterday, again on a delivery trip, what should swoop past our car and head up to the top of a huge electrical high tension tower? You guessed it, another eagle!

This time I stopped the car and I got out to take a picture. I even used the telescopic feature on the camera. You can see it is still somewhat blurred, but it is clearly a bald eagle.

Supposedly, the eagle is a symbol of great power and also a messenger of the gods.

I'm not sure exactly what it means, but we have been feeling as if there is something in the air recently business wise, personally... who knows? Seeing two within a week after a lifetime of never seeing them certainly should mean something. Or it's a coincidence....

On a more mundane vein, we were in Amish country, as usual, and when we stopped at the Bird-in-Hand Bakeshop to drop off a few boxes, I was attracted to the "barnyard" petting zoo by this gang of sleepy goats!

They look like the "Three Billy Goats Gruff" relaxing on the bridge after dispatching the nasty old troll!

Years ago, when we had our own little herd of Pygmy goats, my DH built them a jungle gym contraption with ramps and bridges like this one. They always seemed to want to be at the highest point. Must be some of that mountain goat blood still in them!

During our final stop of the day, at an Amish roadside stand, as we were getting ready to leave, this contraption drove past in the field across the road. He is cutting alfalfa hay.

While the "rig" is being pulled by mules, there is a piece of machinery on the back that seems to be gasoline powered. My husband called it a sickle bar.

Each little group of Amish has specific rules.. and they can vary one from the other. Some are absolutely opposed to any form of gasoline engine. Some allow machinery like this, but do not allow gasoline lawn mowers. Some are the reverse.

In the past, many farms had a "phone booth" at the end of the driveway that may have been shared with other families in the area for use in emergencies. It seems that now, more and more, many Amish, especially those in business use cell phones. I wondered why this is so, but it just occurred to me that one of the things that is not allowed is to be connected to the outside world by "wires". I believe the real reason phones were forbidden was to encourage family time and if you think about how much time you spend on the phone (or watching TV), ignoring your family, you will understand the theory. The age of wireless may be their undoing.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Rosemary's & Sweet Remembrances

On Saturday, Tina & I attended a class with Rosemary Gladstar, sponsored by The Rosemary House in Mechanicsburg, PA. Rosemary is a well known herbalist and writer. When we had our shop, we sold some wonderful teas that she had designed as well as a number of her medicinal herbal books. It's interesting that even with so many "contacts", I had no real idea what to expect and was very pleasantly surprised with her lively and fascinating program.

I'm sure Tina will be blogging about her class, so I decided that someone should talk about the wonderful luncheon we were served at the tea room next door to the Rosemary House, Sweet Remembrances. Susanna Reppert Brill runs the herb shop, The Rosemary House, and her sister, Nancy Reppert runs Sweet Remembrances, next door. Whenever, there is a day long event at the Rosemary House, it includes a fabulous meal at Sweet Remembrances.

We had left home early in the pouring rain to get to the class and had no time for breakfast so we were especially happy to see the lovely hospitality spread when we arrived for the class. Nancy was smiling behind the table and so I knew, as I said to her, "When we see Nancy, we know good food is nearby." Good hot coffee and a selection of teas along with currant mini-muffins and a wonderful brown bread that made me forget I don't usually like raisins in baked goods.

We were in thrall of Rosemary as she passed on a vast amount of herbal knowledge and even though we ran well over the allotted time, when we arrived at the tea room, everything was ready for us and wonderful.

This was the table setting that awaited us, set with beautifully mismatched china teacups.

We were immediately served a piping hot pot of Forever Yours herbal tea, a longtime specialty of the Rosemary House. Each table had their own pot complete with quilted tea cozy.

I have to post a picture of Tina's teacup, just because we were so taken with it's unusual shape.

Okay - on to the meal. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of that - I was just too busy enjoying it!

First we were served a plate of little tortilla cups with salsa in a small Phyllo cup. It was delicious and just set the stage for the main course...

A wonderful quiche! That is an expression you will seldom see me type as my former experiences with quiches have been less than stellar! Others have been somewhat soggy or tasteless - this one was fabulous! I'm not sure what all Nancy put in it other than cheese and leeks, but the combination was just great. The quiche was accompanied by acorn squash rings cooked in cider and a wonderful salad of fresh greens. All the vegetables used were organically grown by a local CSA.

As if all this wasn't enough, dessert was a lovely gingerbread cake with a lemon sauce and a dollop of whipped cream.

I must say that I have eaten a few meals now at Sweet Remembrances and have always enjoyed them immensely. I suggest that if you are in our area and have any interest at all in herbs you should visit The Rosemary House (I believe they are in their 40th year) and if you can possibly do it, schedule a luncheon at Sweet Remembrances. You'll be glad you did!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

For the birds...

Another "birdie post" today.

A few weeks ago, on one of our deliveries to an Amish roadside stand, I took these pictures of birdhouses:The first one is a Martin House. I imagine they are common all over the place, but maybe not. Often these apartment houses for birds are placed high atop a pole hoping to lure a number of Martin families. Martins are said to feed on mosquitoes, so they are a welcome addition to a back yard to help keep the mosquito population down.

If you saw the movie "Witness" with Harrison Ford, you may remember seeing one of these houses in the yard of the farmer who took him in. Witness was actually filmed here in Lancaster County, PA.This second collection of houses are bird house gourds made into another apartment complex. They are hung high on a post, so I think they, too may be intended to lure the Martins. The white paint reflects the heat so they are somewhat air conditioned for their comfort!

This final picture is something I snapped today while we were out. Although you can't really tell what it is... okay, it's an eagle! As I approached some railroad tracks, I was surprised to see what I thought was a large hawk on a power line tower. I stopped and since nothing was coming, I told Tina to get out and see what she thought because by that time, I was thinking this was probably the biggest hawk I had ever seen.

She confirmed that it was an eagle and I tried to snap a picture (by pointing the camera backwards and setting it to telephoto.) Unfortunately it didn't come out too well! The poor thing looked pretty mangy and we can only assume (and hope) that it is molting.

It flew away shortly afterward, so this was the only shot I was able to get. An eagle, though is a very rare sight - especially as close to a populated area as we were.