Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Life on a Christmas Tree Farm

When we moved here in 1986, I had no idea how living on a Christmas tree farm would change our lives and how we celebrate Christmas.

As I recall, our life was pretty "normal" before we moved. We had lived quite close to civilization and a trip to the grocery store or shopping mall was only a few minutes away. Our son had been born in February of that year, so he was not quite a year old. I was still adjusting to being a mother and suddenly a trip to the grocery store involved logistics I had never dealt with before - forget the mall!

We had moved in the week before Thanksgiving and, as I had for the past few years, I made Thanksgiving dinner for a large bunch including the three of us, my mother and 4 siblings plus spouses and a couple of kids.

At that time, the way the tree farm worked was that customers would come to tag their trees and specify when they would pick them up. My husband would go up early in the day and search through acres of trees to find the ones that were tagged for that weekend, cut them and bring them down to bag and have ready for pick up. As we sat down to eat that year, the doorbell rang. People started arriving to pick up their Christmas trees!

It just went on like that and we thought it was a pretty interesting thing to happen, to move into a new house and have people coming from all over to give you money!

That year my Christmas shopping was done from an LL Bean catalog and a quick trip to a general store nearby. I remember the guys got stuff like mustache wax and key-chain compasses along with hooded sweatshirts. I don't even remember what the women got, but I'm sure their gifts were equally odd and useful!

Really, once Thanksgiving hits, there is no time for shopping, or the leisurely baking and candy making I once felt was a major part of the holidays.

This is our yard during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Actually, this year, for the first time, we seem to have a system in place for people to find safe places to park their cars... in the past it has been a nightmare and heaven forbid someone decides to bring a trailer along for their tree...

Of course, you probably think our tree would be the most beautiful of the lot. Well, no... Back in the beginning, the selection here wasn't as great as it is now and we usually waited til everything was picked out to cut our own tree.

This is my husband and son choosing our tree last year. You can probably see all the clear area around them from the trees that had already been cut.

We have learned that - for us - a tree with a few holes in it or an odd top can be just as beautiful as the most perfect one as long as the family decorations are finally put on it (which for us usually means a week before Christmas.)

The other thing that has happened is that (I think) our son has really come to like working on the farm over the holidays.

When he was small, he minded us being so busy for that month, even though we still managed to pull it all together on Christmas day, it was stressful for a little guy.

As he got older, he gradually learned how to find his own place in the business and this year, I think for the first time, he is at school and has had to miss one of our busiest weekends. He'll be back this week and while complaining, he'll probably be loving it.

The best part about a Christmas Farm is that our customers are almost always in a wonderful mood. I know I get to wish hundreds of people a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday during these few weeks.

The things that we may have lost by having a business at this busy time have been replaced with other wonderful traditions. We see customers who have become friends over the years. We see their children returning with their own and enjoy meeting them all... We feel we are surrounded by friends and are a part of their own holiday fun.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Custom Soaps

We do a few custom soaps for people using their materials or their special formulae. It is fun and gives us a little break from our usual "production" work.

Last evening, we made these 6 soaps (for 3 different customers,) the soaps on the top left are actually a replacement for a vanilla batch that seized when I forgot how persnickety vanilla fragrance oil is in soap! The one's directly to the right are the unsaleable ones that we will happily use ourselves, or maybe add to our women's shelter box.
I "posed" them in front of the fireplace in the shop. Usually it is blocked by shelves, but this week, my husband found us some reasonably prices dollies that we put underneath our shelves so that we can change the arrangement any time we like.

The moosehead is something I made from paper mache years ago as a gift for my oldest brother, John. I inherited it back last winter and it has a happy home now over the fireplace - which was built by my next oldest brother, Tom, a number of years ago when he got a "Merry Christmas" brick from a supplier. That brick is the one that is in the center of the arch and was the reason for the whole thing!

If you follow my blog long enough, I suspect you will eventually see the entire shop!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fall Inspirations

I've suddenly become entranced by acorns. Maybe it's because I've been seeing so many types and forms of them on sale in the shops we visit to deliver our soaps. In the past week or so, I have purchased an antiqued silver acorn ornament, a brass acorn bell and a ceramic acorn trinket jar. Last evening, I was talking to my sister and suddenly it occurred to me that I could make a glass acorn ornament!

To the torch, and this was the result:
I want to electroform the tops - in other words, I want to cover them with a thin coating of copper. Maybe I'll add a stem and electroform that too - or a small oak leaf, if I can find just the right one...

But, while I was torching, I pulled out some transparent ink blue glass and tried what I call my "nebula" technique on it. I remembered to prepare all my stringers and have the foil and wire at the ready so these are just covered with lots of silver.

They reminded me of a cloudy fall sky, so I had a little fun with Photoshop adding a background.
I hope I can get to the torch more often now .. I seem to be gradually getting my mojo back!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A Bittersweet Morning

Over the past year, on our jaunts, we pass a nearby stand of bittersweet. All year long, we watch to see how it is faring and recently, I noticed that it was getting ready to be cut. I called Tina and she was agreeable to take a break to go harvest some of the berries.

After checking the bridge I mentioned yesterday (no, it appears that there will NOT be a reproduction covered bridge to take its place - it's just taking them a very long time to get it finished,) we headed over to the bittersweet stand.

We had both taken clippers, but the vines were up a very steep climb and Tina, being the younger and more nimble of the two of us (also a Capricorn/Mountain goat,) managed to reach the vines, cut them and threw them down to me. Here's our "take."

Oriental Staff Vine (Celastrus orbiculatus) is a woody vine native to East Asia of the Celastraceae family. It is also commonly called Oriental Bittersweet, Japanese Bittersweet or Asiatic Bittersweet. Oriental staff vine was introduced into North America in 1879, and is considered to be an invasive species in eastern North America. It closely resembles the native North American species, Celastrus scandens, with which it will readily hybridize.

You can see here how the little bright red berries pop out of their orange/yellow shells as well as the twisty nature of the vines..

I'm not sure why we feel drawn to this plant and really don't know why I wanted it, but I'm sure it will appear as a decorative feature somewhere around the shop - maybe on a wreath.

There is a print circulating of a basket of bittersweet that has a very homey, warm feeling to it and I guess that quality is what makes it so attractive. It reminds me, as we head into colder weather, of a fire in winter.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Risser's Mill Covered Bridge

When we moved here almost 25 years ago, this quaint covered bridge was part of the short cut to the only grocery store at the time, in Mount Joy. We used it to get to the grocery store, to our doctor's office and to the store in Elizabethtown. It was also the shortest route to get to the main road to Harrisburg and points west.

In 2002, an arsonist destroyed the bridge and while it was "cleaned up" almost immediately, the scar remained but the bridge, because it was at the intersection of 3 municipalities and a historic site, was not rebuilt because all the factions could not come to an agreement about how it should be replaced.

Meanwhile, all the above trips became much more inconvenient as we had to travel a pretty circuitous route to get to all those places.

In the year preceding her death in 2005, our mother decided to take up the cause of the bridge and made it her mission to nag our state representative - probably monthly. Nothing happened, and after she died, the years passed and it looked like the bridge would never be replaced.

This summer, there seemed to be some activity on the little road that was basically closed to through traffic. My husband and son decided to go take a look and lo and behold, the bridge was finally being rebuilt. This has been going on for months (it's just a little creek!) One day they told me they had actually crossed the new bridge on their scooters and I drove down the road a day or two later to take a better look. Barricades were up so far from the bridge that I could hardly see, but, yep, there was a bridge there.

This morning, I passed the road on my way to the local hardware store (which was also a much shorter trip with the bridge) and saw an electric sign, next to the now-familiar "Bridge Out" signs. What could it be? Really? I moved to an angle where I could read the sign, "New bridge will open Nov. 18"!!!!

How exciting! The new bridge - apparently a covered bridge replica has been rebuilt there (though I'm not sure and haven't see it) - will be available again! Mom would be so happy! (Editing later to say: The replacement bridge was NOT a covered bridge. In fact, it is a very simple bridge - similar to one we have considered building ourselves in the dark of night. I have no idea what ever took so long!)

This event caused us to think about Mom and the things she dreamed of around here... of course, the bridge, but also a "Dollar Tree" which was just built this summer, and a new beautiful "Giant" grocery store full of a great selection of foods. Mom would have been so happy about these things.

We're thinking we should do something special in her honor when the new bridge opens - our own little ceremony. And since my sister moved here, she has never used any of those routes, so she'll have to relearn her way around. I bet she'll be thrilled because it'll take her past the wild persimmon tree we found a few years ago!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Organic Exercise

It seems that I haven't been at the torch for months. Although I made the little jogs in the last post not all that long ago, I was sorting through my jewelry and beads the other day and it seemed there was nothing new.

Last evening (being back on EST it seems as if it was the middle of the night!) I lit the torch, determined to make some new sets that I could put together into bracelets. Working with organic designs seems to be a good way to ease my way back into the process.

First, I did a combination I am relatively comfortable with... base bead, roll in silver foil, apply wire and voila... what I call my nebula beads. I had forgotten how to prepare for beads like this, so was frantically trying to cut silver foil and wire as I tried to keep the bead evenly warm in the flame.

I've made a number of bracelets with this basic combination and they remain one of my favorites.

I am usually wearing one of those bracelets. Since the weather is changing, I wanted to have a more autumnal combination and used a nice olive for the base of this set, rather than the blues I often wear.

Then I decided it was time to go for something different and picked up an ochre rod to use as a base, pulled some silver plum and iris blue stringers and just went for it.
This set needed a bit of etching to bring out the colors, so it is more satiny than shiny.

This was a good exercise and as things start to calm down a bit with the soap for the winter (famous last words!) I will try to get back to the torch more regularly and will remember to prepare a bit more completely before I get the glass melted onto the mandrel!

Both will be fun to combine with other bits and pieces or beads and wire into a finished bracelet and will round out what I already have in stock.

It's a start and it served to awaken my "torch love."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Something new!

What a surprise! I took a break and sat down at the torch.

I was inspired by the photographs we took for Tina's new book, The Essential Herbal - By the Hearth. We visited the oldest home and meeting house in Lancaster County and took pictures of their walk-in fireplace.

We had a salt-glazed jug on the table and I started thinking about making a vessel in that shape.

This what I wound up with:I was pretty pleased with the results. They aren't perfect, but for a first effort, they actually looked a lot like what I had envisioned.

There is a special offer going on right now on the sale of the book - 20% off and an entry into a drawing for a number of prizes.

As of now, the item I have made for the drawing is a bracelet I call "Winter White."
It is a big favorite of mine as I have made this type of bead in different shapes over the past couple of years. I love it because it is so neutral and "classy."

The other bracelet choice I offered her is called "Snow & Ice:"
It reminds me of a snowy night under a full moon. Tina chose the Winter White, so I will have to put Snow and Ice up on my website.

Here's the cover that inspired me:
If you have any interest in herbs, this is a great book! I did the layout and really enjoyed reading through all the articles, even though I have seen them all before. It supplies so much information to keep your family happy, healthy and well fed and so many ideas for projects to take you through the fall and winter while you are enjoying the snuggly feeling of being "By the Hearth."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Magic Garden

We went to visit a friend last evening, and one of the things we did was to tour her garden by candle light. I wish my camera would have been set properly and that I would have taken more pictures because it was truly enchanted, but I can show you a few of the whimsical sights we saw.

Many parts of the garden were lit by candles in hurricane chimneys and it was lovely. Everywhere we turned, we saw another inviting vignette. This spot was lit by little blue fairy lights....
This is an old clawfoot tub in the middle of her garden, it has been converted into a fountain and the trickling of the water added yet another dimension. It looks as if it has almost been overtaken by the Virginia Creeper.
What a fun evening. It is easy to see the love and creativity she puts into her gardening, with a birdhouse tree and her herb garden, much of it in varying shades of gray shimmering in the candle and moon light.

She is a bit south of us and in a slightly warmer mini-climate, so she has drifts of blooming rosemary on the southern wall of her home. It is an unusual sight for us because our winters are just a bit too cold to successfully over-winter the tender perennial and hers grew to an unusually large size...

She always seems to have a wonderful spread of delicacies to entice the palate and during this part of the evening, we enjoyed our choice of two wonderful cakes and hot wassail in her screened-in porch while the garden sparkled outside under the hunters' moon... The whole effect was magical.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

A September to Remember!

The last month will be the September to remember - not that there haven't been other memorable Septembers, but this one was a doozey!

It seemed we were working feverishly to play catch up all month. Apparently for all the bad economy news, the tourist season is in full swing and that is our bread and butter. We sell to a lot of tourist stops and they were ordering like crazy.

We had started the month with full shelves... plenty of soap that would have lasted us well over a month in normal times.

Even though we tried to keep up with the demand, replacing the soap weekly (it seemed) we were having a hard time finding properly aged soap to send out!

The very last weekend of the month was one of our rare outside events.. a master gardeners' symposium that we always enjoy, whether we sell a lot or not and the following Monday and Tuesday was our only wholesale show of the year.
Somehow we got everything done and appeared somewhat collected for both shows.

We returned home on Wednesday, pulled the orders from the show that were for immediate delivery. When we surveyed the shop, we were shocked to find the soap shelves practically bare!

While we were busy at the shows, my dear husband made us 10 new soap molds. Now we were no longer limited by our original 8 molds. So, we got busy and prepared for our most ambitious soap day ever.

On Wednesday, we prepared. We weighed the fats, set up all the extra ingredients and prepared the lye for 8 batches.

On Thursday morning, we made 8 batches and I immediately put on lye for an additional 8 and we again set up the batches we had planned. Around 4 in the afternoon, we made the other 8 batches.

In Friday, we cut 16 batches of soap and are well on our way to having everything completely restocked! One more good soap day and we should be set - famous last words!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Beautiful Morning, Beautiful Day

Yesterday, we started out bright and early for a day as vendors in Lebanon at a Master Gardeners' symposium. The sky was like a painting by Maxfield Parrish - all pinks and golds and blues...

The moon had not yet set, and the sun was coming up in a blaze of red... It was gorgeous and certainly put me in a fabulous mood to begin the day.

We had set up the night before, so all we had to do was make the short drive to the venue, walk in and wait for the customers to get there.

I had brought both my soaps and my jewelry. We even added a special soap we had been making for one of the gardeners. We met him at this event last year and he has some great ideas for a unique additive and we've been trying it out in various soaps for him.

I brought all my jewelry and it sold nicely along with the soaps and body products.

This is a close up of my current vessels and teapots. I think almost all I have at the moment are in this tray.

I really enjoyed going back to this event. Getting to know the people who run the show has been a fun experience and we enjoy seeing everyone there.

Today is a day of rest (!) and preparation for our 2 day wholesale show tomorrow and Tuesday.

Then it'll be back to the regular day-to-day with no more shows on the horizon for a long time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Through the County

A pictorial today - of some of the things we see while on our soap deliveries through Amish country in Lancaster County.

We were waiting at a customer's roadside stand while two huge bus loads of people (one of them from Germany) enjoyed their visit and left. While we waited we saw some of the sights through a tourist's eye.

Fist, down the road came the clop clop of a horse-drawn buggy.So picturesque as they drove along in front of the corn drying in the fields before it is cut to fill the silos in the background.

After it passed, I looked and noticed it was a "pick-up buggy."There was a big old express wagon in the back. Sometimes they are connected to the back of buggies and used as trailers.

I turned to the garden of our customer and noticed as always it is neat as a pin - and now cleared and waiting for spring planting.And as I turned to the left, I noticed the row of various types of martin houses - or apartments - natural mosquito deterrents since mosquitoes are a favorite food of the birds.Such a beautiful county we live in.... full of wonders we often times overlook.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

To Market, To Market

Our son is home from grad school for the weekend and it seems that we have developed a tradition of going in to Saturday's Central Market in Lancaster whenever he is home. We usually get yummy bread and some scones along with whatever fruit is in season. His big purchase is a burrito from Senorita Burrito.

The market is undergoing some massive renovations so, today, as we wound our way through the torturous aisles, we came upon a woman holding a bunch of a plant that was completely new to me. It turned out to be "Oscar Milkweed." I'll have to do some research to find out exactly what this is, but for now, the common name will do!

I was captivated by the large globes hanging on the branches. The woman directed me to the stand where she had purchased her treasure and I swiftly lined up to buy the next to last bunch available.

From what I understand, these will dry beautifully, although I forgot to ask whether they should be hung or if they will just dry in a vase like hydrangeas. I'll give it a shot just like they are. They sure look better than the three year old dried sea oats that sorely needed to be replaced!

One of my main plans is to dry them, hoping to get a few seeds to scatter around our pond next spring!

If it all works out, I should have plenty for years to come!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Birth of a New Soap

Some of our soaps will be perennially popular. Lavender, for example is a constant best seller.

We are always refining our line of soaps - testing new fragrances trying to find new and exciting varieties to add while dropping some of the older, less popular types. Taste in soap fragrance and look apparently ebbs and flows just like with any other product.

This spring, we made four sample batches with some new fragrances we thought had potential. We gave the scents time to mature in the soap to see how well they "stick" and also to make sure the fragrance stays true with time. We had friends and relatives weigh in with their reactions and then finally we made our decision.

My sister and I tend to favor very different fragrances and when we agree on one, it must be very special. This year, the fragrance that knocked our socks off was "Bamboo & Champaca" and we decided it was a winner.

The fragrance is very "fresh" with an undertone of tropical flowers. It would be considered a spa-type fragrance and I must say that the one in my own shower makes me feel quite pampered. It reminds me of a vacation we took years ago to St. Thomas where the shower was open to the outdoors and a flowering vine tumbled into the stall with me!

As with all our soaps, the base is moisturizing to the skin and makes mounds of fragrant bubbles.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Soap Day

When we have a "soap day" around here, it really means a good 24 hours of time. First we decide which soaps are needed and we prepare the lye and allow it to cool for a few hours while we assemble all the individual additives and special ingredients for each soap.

Everything is laid out for each batch and the molds are lined.

After the lye has cooled, we go to town making the soap itself. With everything prepared ahead of time, we can usually get through 8 batches in about 2 hours.

Yesterday afternoon, we made 8 batches of soap. Here, you can see the molds for seven of them full and ready to be tucked away for the night. We usually throw a towel over them to hold in the heat and encourage them to "gel." The eighth batch was goatsmilk soap and it needs to spend it's overnight in the refrigerator to avoid over heating.This morning, bright and early, we turned the soaps out of the molds and here they are on the table, waiting to be cut.First, the slabs are cut into logs.Then the (short) logs are cut into separate bars.
The feeling of satisfaction when the shelves are reasonably well stocked is great. They will stay there for at least two weeks to continue their cure.
Of course, by the time these soaps are ready to be sent out, we will have already begun restocking those that they have replaced...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jewelweed for Happy Wanderer

And the harvest goes on. Many of our soaps are "just for pretty", but some of our soaps are more practical.

Happy Wanderer is one of those. We add jewelweed and plantain, both of which are said to help with the itch and misery of poison ivy or mosquito bites.

We harvest both the plantain and the jewelweed and process them with olive oil. We freeze this "glop" in batch sized quantities so we will be able to make the soap all through the winter and early spring. We add this mush to our soap, along with lavender essential oil and tea tree oil. Both of these oils are helpful in preventing infection and the lavender is soothing as well.

The herbs are only available to us in summer, but people can be exposed to poison ivy all year 'round. I probably got my worst case of poison ivy when we were cutting brush and small trees in the early spring and I carried logs covered with (unbeknownst to me) dried vines. Mosquitoes are active very early in the spring as well.
This is a picture of jewelweed in the late summer, early fall, when it is in bloom. We try to get it a little earlier when the stems are still thin and not woody. The stems are full of a gel-like substance that helps with bites and itches. When sunlight shines through the stems and refracts on the water droplets that form on the leaves and especially when the plants are in bloom with their orange-yellow flowers, it just sparkles and I understand where the name Jewelweed comes from.

I learned about jewelweed many, many years ago when, as a Girl Scout, I was camping in a "primitive" camp site (built in a swamp-like area) and became covered with bites. Jewelweed grows in the same conditions where mosquitoes breed and we were told to pick it and rub it on our bites. It helped quite a bit.

Any good "real" soap will help somewhat with poison ivy. First, it will help with prevention because it can dissolve and wash the oils of the plant away.

If you haven't caught it before the reaction sets in, lather it on and let it dry. Then wash off and it will still help to dry the rash.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Harvesting for Soap

Along with all the vegetables loading our harvesting baskets this time of year, there are some special ingredients we need to stock up on for the year of soap making ahead.

Right now, bayberries are ready for gathering. We render them down for the wax that coats the seeds and add a bit of it to each batch of our bayberry soap.

My husband planted a few of the bushes about 4 years ago and they are finally starting to produce, but meanwhile, we have a spot where we gather them every year. We have found that we need to get there early because if we don't there are birds who love bayberries and one quick visit by a flock will strip the plants completely.

We do a pretty good job ourselves as we pick our way into the bushes, defying spiders, avoiding grasping branches - all the while trying not to drop any of the precious little balls of wax. The berries cling in clumps along the main branches and we have to hold the basket right below as we coax them from their perch.

We're not sure why (heat, drought, birds?) but this year, it seemed that someone may have beaten us to "our" berries although we still got enough to probably last us. Each year we seem to sell more and more of the soap that we once thought would be seasonal. Now find our customers want it all year around. Bayberry has a certain historic quality to it and the museums we supply are finding it popular as well.

On the way home from yesterday's exploits, we were contemplating the lush growth of bayberries along the Delaware shores and thinking of taking a quick trip to collect a goodly amount.

Dreams of bushels of bayberries with enough wax left over to make a candle or two is enough to probably push us over the edge!

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Cucumber Blog Party!

While we're at it, cucumbers seem to be producing at an all time rate around here and I'm running out of ways to use them!

I asked my friends to join me in a blog party to collect some new recipes. See the bottom of this post for a whole list of blogs with a great variety of recipes for all those cucumbers.

My contribution is this tasty, recently rediscovered side dish that I used to make years ago:

Creamy Cucumber Salad
2 medium to large cucumbers
1 small (2" diameter) onion
1 C Sour Cream (or 1/2 C. Sour Cream, 1/2 C. Mayonnaise)
2 T. vinegar
2 T. sugar
Peel, core and thinly slice cucumbers. Spread out on a shallow dish and sprinkle with salt. Leave slices on platter for about 20 minutes to draw excess juice out.
Drain and place in medium bowl.
Add thinly sliced onion.
Mix together the sour cream, vinegar and sugar.
Pour mixture over cucumbers and onion and mix well.
Chill and allow flavors to develop.

This usually makes about a quart of the salad. It can be used as a side dish like cole slaw. My husband just loves it and can sit and eat most of a batch at one sitting! Okay, two.

I would think that this is a PA Dutch recipe because of the sweet sour flavors, but I think the first time I ever ate it was in Ohio and it was an old family recipe.

More Cucumber Recipes:

Becky's Cucumber Cocktails

Tina's Cucumber Lime Salsa

Cindy's Tzatziki

Janiece's Tomato Cucumber Salad

Nancy's Chilled Cucumber Soup

Karen's Cucumber Dill Sauce

Beth's Cucumber/Watermelon Salad

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Zucchini & Orzo Salad w/Basil

If you're growing them, you're trying to find something to do with them or you will be soon.
If you aren't, you may start finding them on your porch in the morning....

I'll admit, I've never felt the need to grow zucchini, but I've often been gifted with them and found ways to use them. This salad is probably one of my favorites.

I'm not sure if I had even tried zucchini before, but many years ago we were participating in the Landis Valley Herb & Garden Fair.

It was in the early days of the fair and Fridays were a by invitation only affair for the press and special friends of the museum. On Friday night, May wine was served along with a various little canapes.

On Saturday, lunch was catered and as (some of the few) vendors, lunch was free to us as a little something extra (for our $35 table fee!) One year, this salad was the main course and I loved it. I tried in vain to find the recipe and actually picked up a few other good ones along the way, but for some reason, the original was finally published in our newspaper and I was sure to copy it down. I hope you will enjoy it too!

Zucchini & Orzo Salad w/Basil

4 Med. Zucchini, coarsely grated
2 T. Salt
2 C. (packed) fresh basil
½ C. Olive Oil
3 med. garlic cloves
8 C. chicken broth
1# Orzo
¼ C. fresh lemon juice & zest
ground black pepper
1 C. imported Kalamata olives
Basil sprigs

Drain Zucchini in colander. Sprinkle with 1 T. salt. Let drain 30 min. Stir or shake twice. Squeeze dry. Transfer to large bowl. Fluff with hands to separate.
Place basil & olive oil in processor 1 minute, drop garlic in and blend.
Add Zucchini to basil mix.
Bring chicken broth to boil in medium saucepan. Stir in 1 T. salt and orzo, return to boil. Simmer 10-15 min. ‘til orzo is tender. Drain.
Stir all together and cool to room temp.
Just before serving, stir in lemon juice and zest (if desired) Season with pepper. Garnish with olives and basil sprigs.

For more zucchini recipes, visit my friends:

Becky - Zucchini Fritters
Tina - Zucchini Bread Recipes
Patricia – Stuffed Zucchini

Karen – Zucchini Pizza
Cindy – Calabacitas
Beth – Zucchini Brownies

Next, Cucumber!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A String of Blue Beads

So, I said I'd show you what I did on the torch last week when the weather was so temperate.

I made a few other things, but this set is my favorite.

The base is a very pale transparent aqua and the flowers and vines are a pale sky blue. They're pretty right out of the kiln, but I etched them so the design shows up more clearly and they appear to glow from within.

I can see them made into a bracelet to be worn on a tan wrist. Perfect for the summer.

Where did I get the name? One year for Christmas, when I was about 7 or 8, one of my gifts from my parents was a book called A String of Blue Beads. I think the theme was something like The Gift of the Magi. I always remember that gift because for some reason it made me feel very special. It may well have been the last Christmas our parents were together and it was a nice memory.

Monday, July 05, 2010

A Stinky Post!

Look what I harvested today!

Last fall one week, we played hooky from "our" market and visited another nearby market. Lo and behold, one of our fellow vendors was set up there too. He had some lovely garlic bulbs and I asked about growing them. He explained the process and so I took them home and planted them, really expecting nothing.

When the snows melted this spring, I went out to see what was happening around the yard and - there they were! Green shoots where we had planted the single cloves.

I cut the scapes and used them when they "bloomed" and waited. When I was out weeding and tying the tomatoes the other day I noticed that the foliage was looking yellowish and wondered if this was the cue to harvest.

I checked with Tina's Yahoo list and was told they are ready when the first few sets of leaves were dried up. Then, I was given instructions to dig, not pull, them and then to hang them in an airy place where they could cure.

I waited until the heat returned today(!) and decided it was time to dig them. I couldn't wait to see how they had fared.

You can see my harvest above. What a thrill! No more garlic in a jar for us.

The tomatoes will be ready soon, basil is producing profusely, now we have our own garlic. We'll be eating a lot of Pasta Fresca this summer. (Recipe from "Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home") Heck, I might even have to make my own mozzarella!

I have them bunched and hanging in the shop. They may have to be moved outside. Don't want the soap to pick up their "scent."

I actually did manage to get to the torch during our brief spell of gorgeous temperate heat and low humidity weather and I will post the results soon.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

PA Dutch/Mexican Beads!

This should be from Cinco de Mayo, but these beads only appeared in the past few days, so ... better late than never!

I started out with an idea... bright colors on a black background, inspired by a set of beads in a gallery online.

At first, looking at this "set" of beads, I thought, PA Dutch. But, as I looked at the a little longer, I was reminded of the beautifully embroidered Mexican blouses. Usually, the designs are on unbleached muslin, but sometimes on black... So, these are my PA Dutch/Mexican beads! It made me think of my lampworking friend, Rachel, who is of Mexican descent and how when we get together (me being PA Dutch), fun and pretty things result.

One of the beads that came out of this effort was a cone bead. I plan to string it as a pendant with a cascade of other beads of the same colors coming out the bottom. This may give you an idea of my plan.

The entire "set" shows the cone bead along with a couple of multicolored florals, then a leaves and hearts bead. The last five beads on the strand are leaves with flowers - in pinks and turquoises.

Click on the picture for a better look.

I have a pretty good idea of what I will do with the turquoise flowered beads. They remind me of Forget-me-nots and I want to make them into a bracelet along with a stamped link...

I'll have to do a follow-up post when these are finished.

The last few times I torched, it was really for a swap I am involved in, but these beads are somewhat different from what I have been doing lately and they have inspired these differet ideas that I will have to keep at least the ones I talked about using.

Something else sort of different came out of the kiln too...

Thee are some nice round beads with silvered ivory, intense black, murinis and contrasting random dots.

I think these will be part of my swap project.

I'm liking them too and would like to make some actual sets like this... maybe all in one color!

Sets do seem to be escaping me lately. I'm just having fun experimenting and one thing seems to lead to another rather than just copying the same thing over and over.