Saturday, February 18, 2017

a little garden start

Today I was reading that warm weather in February can mean an early spring.  We are having a mild stretch.  Yesterday and today it was 60 and I think that a few more nice days are predicted before it cools off again and there is the potential for more snow.  Our last frost date for our zone is the third week in May.  I have been slowly working into the seed starting routine.  Last year I saved some seeds and purchased larger packets of others hoping to have quite a few seed varieties that wouldn't need to be ordered new.  So before I start whole flats of different seeds I am starting small amounts of them to check on their germination potential.  Then once I know what I have that is usable I will know what I need to order.  It was good to get everything set up, the heat mat out and the lights plugged in and working.  It is a good feeling.  So far I have some baby seedlings breaking thru the soil mix surface so I am encouraged by that.

The other thing that I am doing is getting ready for my second season of maple sap collecting and syrup making.  Last year I tentatively tried tapping one of my maple trees.  To be honest, I had never considered tapping the trees until the spring before when sap was dripping from some places high in the tree where we  had had some branches cut the previous fall.  I could hear it dripping on the ground.  So I bought one tap, bucket and cover and when that worked I bought a second.  I have two large maple trees in my yard, not sugar maples but they will work for making syrup.  My trees are large enough that they are supposed to be able to handle more than one tap and so today I bought two more taps, buckets and covers so this year I will double hopefully double my yields.  There is a magic formula of certain warm daytime temperatures and certain cooler overnight temperatures that stimulate the sap to move and I am not sure if the current temperature pattern is right but if it is I will be ready. 

A picture from last year.

Farm update

The warm weather has had some definite effects that I am grateful for.  The herd's water is staying thawed and I am glad to not have to fight with that morning and evening.  My yard and especially the area that I walk to the barn has been a sheet of ice and much of that has melted so it is a little safer.

I have also not had to run the little milkhouse heaters in the winter greenhouse for over a week.  This has been kind of a disappointing season for the winter greenhouse.  The cloudy winter has really negatively impacted the growth of the greens but also the lack of sun has not helped to  warmed up the greenhouse. On a sunny day the greenhouse will warm up to over 100+ degrees and then it will cool off somewhat slowly overnight.  Most of the days this winter the greenhouse was lucky to have a daytime temp in the 60s or 70.  Then it would cool off more quickly and need supplemental heat during the night.  We have not had more than a handful of those sunny days this winter.

As an experiment we tried overwintering some potted ferns of my sister's patio and a potted ghost pepper of Cait and Robb's both of which did not make it thru a frigid spell earlier this winter when it was really cold ( I want to say -20+ for 36 straight hours but don't quote me) and the greenhouse dropped to 28 degrees and it was enough below freezing to kill them.  My other experiment, a potted strawberry plant had a lot of brown leaves but now is having some new green growth.  We will see if it flowers and produces strawberries.  My hope was that it would fruit during the winter but even if we can get earlier berries in the spring that would be great.  I think next year I will try a few more.  I have room to hang quite a few and quite a few hanging baskets so I think that I will try a few more next year.

Our deer fence took a hit.  The first snow left the poles bent in half or leaning.  The plastic mesh seems to be okay so I am hoping that we can replace those posts with wood ones and be able to rescue it.  It is a big garden so a lot of holes to dig.  At the same time it will be an opportunity to reinforce the bottom edge to keep out the rabbits who last year found their way under.  I keep hoping that the rabbits will be afraid of the big dogs that live here but so far it does not seem to be the case.  I think they guard all of the animals on the farmsite and think that the rabbits in the yard and the pheasants in the grove are to be protected as well.  And I guess that is okay.

Joining Met Monday at BNOTP here.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

a valentine table--next year

I didn't do Valentine's day.  I don't have pink or red or heart decor.  But yesterday my sister and I hit our closest Goodwill and I fell in love with and came home with some pieces that will work for next year.

I found a few pieces of a pink Fiesta.  Four dinner plates, three cereal bowls and four smaller bowls.  I have always been a fan of Fiesta but up until yesterday my only purchase was a white chop plate that a found while thrifting for $2 last year.  I have a set of my grandmother's vintage bowls that she gave to me a long time ago but I have not bought my own.  I drool over them when I see them new on display in the retail stores but this was the first that I have found this many matching ones in a thrift store. 

The square quilt was a $5 purchase at the same Goodwill.  It is beautiful and in great condition. It is greens and pinks.  The back is a green floral and there is a coordinating floral that is repeated in the borders and makes up the heart in the center.  The back has an embroidered corner stating that it was in 2001 with a couple's names and a church from across the state.  There is a casing sewn into the top edge on the back so that it can be hung on the wall.  

I am drawn to these shades of green and the pinks match the Fiesta dishes really nicely.  February 2018 I am ready. 

I am joining Tablescape Thursday at BNOTP here.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

putting Christmas away

Today I finally got the last of my Christmas down and stored.  I decided that it was time to follow up a bit on some Christmasy loose ends and then move on.

Christmas puddings

Before Christmas I shared a picture from my kitchen showing a basket of steamed pudding molds.
I had found several recipes for steamed puddings and planned to try them all, probably one each day of our celebrations and then evaluate.  In the craziness leading up to the holiday I only got one made, the figgy pudding.  It was not a great hit with our family.  My dad is the only one who is really a fan of fruitcake so he was okay with it but the rest, not so much.  I don't think that we even got a picture of it.  It worked great.  I used the center (largest) of the molds.  It is similar to a angel food tube pan in that there is a tube in the center so that when the cake is unmolded it has a hole down the center.  The mold as shown in the picture is upside down for how it is baked but then it is tipped out of the mold and rests on the plate in the same position that is it in the picture.  Figgy pudding is a cake that contains a large amount of dried figs and other dried fruits.  It also contains some liquor (brandy and rum) and when ready to serve heated brandy is poured over the cake and ignited.

Before Christmas I had purchased sufficient fruit to make two recipes and so after Christmas I used the rest of the fruit to make a different recipe for a Christmas Plum Pudding.  Unlike Figgy Pudding that actually contains figs, the plum pudding does not contain plums.  It does contain other dried fruit.  This recipe contained molasses and spices for more of a gingerbread like flavor.  Again the recipe went together well.  I again used the largest of the molds as I was not sure that the amount of cake batter that the recipe made would fit in the smaller melon shaped or round, non tube pan.  This pudding is served with a hard sauce.  Both the hard sauce and the cake contain Brandy.  I did get a picture of this cake.
It was okay.  The third pudding that I had planned to make was a chocolate one that does not contain fruit.  I still plan to make that one and I have a feeling that might be the one that ends up being the favorite.


Last week I shared a link to a post by Helen at Entertablement that included a great bar cart and shared how I had recently scored a group of decanters.  I do not yet have a bar cart but I am now on the lookout for one but in the meantime I  needed a place to display my new collection.  So right now they are on my dry sink.  This is a piece that my uncle built many years ago and until I locate a bar cart this will be a fun place for them.

I took this picture a couple of days ago.  The stockings and the wine themed tree are put away but the throw that usually hangs there is yet to be put back up.  That and the chocolate steamed pudding should happen this week.  

It  has been quite wintry here in Minnesota.  We had a cold snap, followed by an ice storm, followed by a couple of snow storms.  We have had icy roads with snow covering, blowing and drifting, and all of the travel headaches that goes along with icy roads.  Tomorrow another day of a wintry mix is forecast.  Not sure if it will be snow or rain but following that we are predicted to have several days in a row with highs in the upper 30s so hopefully it will be enough to clear the last of the ice off of the roads.  Sounds like much of the country is dealing with winter.  Stay safe.     

Joining Met Monday at BNOTP.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Thinking spring

Several things have me thinking of spring while it is the Persephone period and bitter cold in Minnesota.

The first seed catalog has arrived this week:
Two recent finds at the thrift store have a garden theme:
Set of four salad plates with an orchard theme (above) and a large pasta serving bowl with heirloom tomatoes (below).
A Christmas gift from my daughter and son-in-law will hopefully help discourage some rabbit nibbling.
We are a zone 4 so our last frost date is May 23.  A little early to begin counting down the days or starting the seedlings but not too early to start planning and dreaming.
Not even close to a tablescape but some pictures of dishes so even though it is a stretch I will join Tablescape Thursday here.

fun how things come together

This is a long story, sort of, with multiple parts.  And it is not finished yet, but it is closer.  It started over a year ago.  My daughter and then future son-in-law were planning a wedding.  They had registered for all of the usual things, fine china, flatware, crystal, stoneware and I was interested in getting them something special.  In talking with the bride she mentioned that the groom had an interest in a decanter but they hadn't found the one that they loved so it was not on their registry.  I set about searching for a vintage one, sending pictures to my daughter of the occasional one that I ran across.  None were perfect.

At the same time I had been picking up vintage glass in a pattern called Wexford.  My other daughter had bought some glasses and the pattern was pretty distinctive and I started seeing it on thrifting outings with my sister and bought the first few pieces thinking that they would supplement her collection.  I don't know if it is a midwestern thing but I started finding it everywhere, fell in love with it myself and now my collection is larger than hers.  This summer I found two of the Wexford decanters and added them to my collection.  I did break the stopper to the one decanter but it didn't fit well and it fell off when I was carrying it so I wonder now if at some point it been substituted for the correct one prior to my purchase.   

I also found this little decanter that I hoped would hold small amounts of homemade elderberry cordial that I had steeping.

Then, just recently I discovered a blog through a link party that I had not read before.  Not sure how it had evaded my radar as the archives go back several years but I am so glad to have found it. And last week Helen, the blog's author, shared a drool worthy picture of her bar cart.

Go here to check it out.

She had written about how her husband was collecting decanters.  Each of their decanters was different and I loved the look and it changed my perspective.  I no longer was only on the lookout for Wexford decanters but would instead consider any that were interesting and fun.

Now, I have to admit that the idea of a bar cart for me is probably foolish.  I live alone.  I do not entertain often.  My kids are grown and live across the state with busy lives so we get together less than I would like.  But I want one.

Then, my favorite shop, a mix of thrift store and antique store, that specializes in estates, decided to move to another town.  They were having a sale, deeply discounting their inventory.  My sister and I decided to make probably our last trip to the store before they closed.  They had lots of stuff that they were selling that had not previously made it to their sales floor.  They would box up an estate, haul it to the shop, store the boxes in the basement and unload the boxes as space allowed.  They had six decanters.  And I grabbed them up.  Some of them still had old price tags on them so I think that they were probably collected over time and then the collection ended up as part of an estate.

In the blink of an eye I was a whole bunch closer to Helen's bar cart.  Yay!

To finish up this story.  I ended up choosing a different gift as a wedding gift for the bride and groom.  I continued to share pictures of new and vintage decanters with my daughter and this fall an online catalog that I received as an email had a new decanter that they liked and purchased.  I now am going to keep my eye out for a bar cart to hold my new collection.  And plan a cocktail party next time the kids are home.


I will be joining BNOTP for Met Monday here.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

as the sun sets on 2016

Not a big celebrator of the New Years but a pretty sunset on one of the last days of the year seems kind of appropriate.  For me it  has been a challenging year and I am looking forward to a new start.  Not the whole year was a challenge, there were some really, really neat parts. 

My daughter, Nikole, got married to a really wonderful guy, Brad.  I officially became a mother-in-law and couldn't be prouder.  We had lots of opportunities to celebrate. 

There was a terrific engagement party to start things off.  My younger daughter, Caitlin, who was the maid of honor, determined the theme and decorations and both of the families helped with food.  Lots of their friends were able to join them for an evening of food and drink and visiting. It was a house party.  Her dad provided the house.  Lots of black and white and color photos in black frames and white platters and serving pieces.  The food was part Minnesota favorites and part Dominican recipes.  Great evening.   

The wedding was a destination wedding at a lovely resort in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic where we had several days of beach fun highlighted by a beautiful ceremony in April and followed immediately by cocktails and hors doerves and music during the pictures and later a outdoor candlelit dinner reception.  The bride was lovely, the groom handsome, both a little bit sunburned.  It was such a special time and I was so glad to be a part of it. 

In June there was a fun bridal shower held at my sister's house.  It was supposed to be a backyard party on her lovely patio and flower edged yard but the weather intervened and instead it was held in her cutely  decorated garage.  The extended family is quite large and it was well attended so lots of people, food, visiting and presents.  Food, visiting--I see a trend here... This time the theme was long tables filled with vintage china on gold chargers with beverages served from vintage punch bowls in matching cups.  The maid of honor's hobnail and milk glass vases were filled with hydrangeas cut from my mother's garden and lined the center of the tables.  My dad's  ambulance ride and hospitalization 90 minutes away 36 hours before the party made for a little last minute chaos and some tweaking of the plans but it ended up being a fun time.

The final event was a reception in July.  It was held in a brewery which was a fun venue.  Great appetizers and bar food set up as a buffet with a couple of different 'courses' and drinks.  The bride and groom selected a wonderful menu and did a great job with the decorations.  The decorations were floor length black tablecloths on some long banquet tables and some stand up pub height tables.  The groom built wooden boxes that held rosemary plants and those and hydrangea from their garden in vases topped the tables.  Some music and dancing.  And visiting. Such a great party. 

And since I haven't posted since Christmas

Some of my kids were home for Christmas.  Between them there were lots of invitations for celebratory meals with grandparents and the 'other side'.  We ended up having a light supper at the farm of butternut squash soup and bread sticks before heading into my folks for more food and presents there.  Here is a couple of quick pictures of the table.  We were originally planning to take the soup to town to have there and decided at literally the last minute to eat first and take only the 'planned-overs' to share.

We served the soup out of one of the soup tureens that I acquired while thrifting this summer.  My Christmas dishes are by Happy Holidays by Nikko.  Green check on the table, white candlesticks and napkins.  Gold chargers. Crystal napkin rings.  Matching Nikko stemware held ice water.  Wexford coasters held the bottles of beer that accompanied the soup.  The soup plates were filled from the tureen at the end of the table and passed.  The soup plates were a Christmas gift from Nikole and Brad last year and work great for either soup or pasta.   We gathered at the farm on the 23rd.  Nikole and Brad were missing as they have a very sick dog.  We missed them and hope that Indiana continues to improve.  Christmas Eve morning was brunch and then the rest of the day and Christmas Day I was at my parents with my siblings as my kids were with extended family. 

Happy 2017! 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Baby it's cold outside

This weekend winter arrived with a bang.  First a big snow on Friday and then bitter cold.  This morning it was -27 actual air temp, not wind chill.  Coldest day of the winter so far.  Our dogs, Codie, in the foreground and Sadie, lying and Elke, seated on the driveway--they spent the night in the house but now are loving the crisp sunny weather..  
I have finally gotten started with my decorating.  The wreath is up on the barn with a little dusting of snow on it.  It is hung on two thin ropes that are pulled from inside the hayloft through holes in the big door to raise it into place.  Usually when I hang it I have someone on the outside to tell me when it is the right height and centered.  This year I hung it by myself and it is not quite centered and it could be a little higher.  I wonder if I took the pic from a different angle if it would look better?  Or I could just adjust it when I have help. 
Our household has eight canine members when we are all together so a few years ago I switched from regular Christmas tree to a tabletop version.  We also have two cats so each year our tree becomes more pet friendly.  This year my tree is sporting only paper ornaments.  No lights, no breakable balls, just paper holly and berries that I made last year to match the tree skirt that was a gift from my sister.  This tree is real. There were only three to select from when I bought it two weeks ago.   It will look a little less Charlie Brown-like with some presents under it.  Our pets bring such happiness to our lives that I am not sad to not have a gloriously and elaborately decorated showpiece tree.  I will enjoy them at homes that I visit.  

The rest of my small trees are artificial.  This is the kitchen tree.

It is decorated with a /kitchen/food/baking theme, gingerbread boy ornaments and miniature rolling pins.

The kitchen is pretty eclectic but there is a black and white check that is found in several places and the red wall is repeated in the red accessories.  There are red lights on the garland over the stove and on the tree and red handles on all of the miniature rolling pins and spatulas.  I have used the same garland and tree for quite a few years and I enjoy the familiarity and comfort that comes with doing the same thing but I also enjoy new additions.  
I usually don't decorate the table in the center of the kitchen.  It is primarily a work surface but this year I found three steamed pudding molds when thrifting and so I am displaying them in a basket until it is time to use them.  This year I plan to make an old fashioned Christmas pudding.  I don't think that it will be a 'figgy pudding'.  I don't know that I have even seen figs for sale in our local, small town grocery store.  I did read that figgy pudding is made with figs but plum pudding does not use plums.  Funny.  I have been looking at some old recipes and hope to have a trial run sometime between now and the holiday when I plan to serve them to my family.  More decorating next post and a little about a fun recipe project that I am working on.

Sharing this at Between Naps on the Porch's Met Monday here.