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!