Thursday, December 31, 2015


In addition to the fun calendar another part of my gift from my mother was two new to me rolling pins.  they were found at a fun shop that sells antiques and repurposed items. I have a collection of rolling pins and the two new additions are specialty pins.  One is a carved wood pin that is used to make a German cookie called springerle.  To be honest I have never had an opportunity to eat springerle.  Our family has German roots as well as the Norwegian and Swedish but we have not really embraced that part of our heritage.  Yet.   

I did some research, looking for a recipe for the springerle.  The dough is mixed up and chilled and then rolled out with a standard rolling pin.  Then it is rolled again with the carved pin creating an embossed design on the dough.  The cookies are cut apart and placed on a tea towel that has been sprinkled with anise seeds.  The cookies sit uncovered overnight to dry and then are baked the next day.  The process of drying the cookies is done to maintain the embossed design during the baking. 

 I made the dough, rolled out the cookies and they are now drying on the counter. 

Tomorrow I will be baking them.  And then I will be giving my other specialty rolling pin--a ravioli pin--a test run.   

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

a new addition to my coffee spot

Although my Christmas with my kids is a couple weeks away we did do gifts with my parents and siblings on Christmas eve.  Part of my gift from my sister is this great piece that she made which I have hung over my coffee stuff.  It is a piece of weathered siding, painted with chalk paint and to which she added some cute glass knobs.  It is perfect for the spot and it holds my caffe banner.  I love that the new paint still has that chippy look.  

The knobs are reminiscent of the antique (original) doorknobs on all of the interior doors of my farmhouse.

It is a fun piece and I am thrilled to have it.  Thanks Lisa!

Over the years my mom has bought all of the family members a frame that holds a calendar and each year she selects a calendar that fits the personality of the recipient as part of their Christmas gift.  Last year, and most years, my calendar had red barns and black and white cows.

 This year my calendar has French chefs and a cooking theme.  The January page has a cute espresso design that will look adorable hung above my new board or maybe leaning against the wall on the black box below the new board.  .
  Thanks Mom!

Monday, December 21, 2015

crafty catching up

A while ago, perhaps a year ago now, my girls and I talked about opening an Etsy store.  I was looking for something that I could do from home.  My daughter had left behind her cricut and I had been teaching myself to use it.  We had done cupcake wrappers and a few other things for my niece's graduation party and making paper things to sell seemed like a natural thing to do.  We made a plan, Nikole would work with the numbers, she would order supplies and manage the spreadsheets.  Caitlin would design the website and do the photos.  I would make the goodies to fill the orders and get them in the mail.  Like many new projects we were excited at first.  We chose a name for our budding company and secured an Etsy store in that name.  We looked at potential projects and began searching for materials that could be bought in bulk.  And then we kind of dropped the ball.  We got busy, I live on the western side of the state and the girls live in the metro on the eastern part of the state.  The prototypes were at the farm and the camera and photographers were in the big city.  We did not get as far as determining how to price and bill and how to ship before we ran out of steam. 

Anyway, fast forward to a few weeks ago.  I was making gift tags and decided that if I hurried I could probably get some ready and on the Etsy site to get my feet wet in the lead up to Christmas.  I started looking at ideas and had stuff spread out over every horizontal surface on my main floor when my shoulder became an issue.  It was obvious that crafting was not going to happen for a while and three weeks later when my shoulder was doing better I was able to work on the projects that were all over my house but there would never be time  to advertise, make and ship orders that would arrive at their destinations in time for Christmas.  And we still didn't know how to handle the website and the financial transactions and the shipping.concerns. 

So Plan B was created.  Because I had made quite a few of the gift tags and was working on some other items, I decided to test the shipping aspect by creating some packaging and mailing some tags to my kids in order to see how they did in the shipping.  I packaged up the gift tags and ran to the post office where I purchased some bubble wrap envelopes.  I wrote down who got what, and sent them off.  That was Saturday.  And today, Monday, three of the recipients emailed me that their packages had arrived safely and without incident.  We now have an idea of what we can ship and what to charge for the shopping,  I also set up a DIY light box to hopefully take a better photo on my own so I have been experimenting with that.  Here are a few pictures of my gift tag projects:

oversize gingerbread tags




these hang on a bottle that is a gift

Swedish Dala horses

some attempts at packaging
 While I had the gift tags going I volunteered to look for a gnome that could be used for a tag for some gifts that my sister is giving that include a gnome in the gift.  We adapted one that was a full body to be just the face and hat for her tag.  Her gift was an assortment of homemade baked breakfast goodies intended to be for Christmas morning.  We used a menu card that I created intending to use at each place setting.  We listed her menu items in the shape of a Christmas tree and printed them in green to reinforce the tree idea.  Tomorrow she will deliver her gifts and so tonight with her baking complete she is packaging them up and they look really cute.  She shared samples of some of her menu items and her gift recipients are in for a treat.  The RumChata Bread Pudding and Cranberry scones and Cinnamon Caramel scones were exceptional.

Lisa's menu cards
This was a first draft.

I made some of the full gnomes with a holiday sign for mom to put on some large gift bags that she is giving that seem to tend to fall open so she will use these to tie the handles together.
Mom's gnome gift ties

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

back in the saddle (figuratively) and a few winter weather pictures

First the winter pictures.  We are in a winter storm advisory since yesterday and we had been missing the snowfall for the most part.  Now that has changed.  We have gotten maybe two inches of big flakes so far and it doesn't look to be quitting yet.  I think we are now predicted to get 3-6 inches when it is done.  I was outside sweeping off the glazing on the greenhouse and when I came back toward the house Elke was sitting prettily under a tree, begging for a picture to be taken.  Surprisingly when I returned with the camera she was still there.
And even more surprising Codie, who leaves whenever the camera or phone is out, let me take her picture too.
She won't look at the camera and she is covered in snow.  She loves this weather.  They all do.  Sadie is in the barn and missed out on the photo opportunity :)
As far as the 'back in the saddle' part of this post's title two weeks ago my shoulder which has been causing problems for a long time suddenly started causing bigger problems.  Showering and dressing were hard, chores were hard, typing was hard, I had been working on some craft projects and those got put on hold, no decorating for Christmas happened, some food projects were delayed all because I couldn't lift my arm without major pain.  When it wasn't better the second day I began wondering about dislocation or subluxation or even a shoulder separation.  When it started feeling a tiny bit better on day 3 I put off seeing the doc hoping it would get better with rest, ice and antiinflammatories.  That worked for a couple more days, I spent lots of time icing and really got very little else done.  I wasn't sleeping well.  Then on Thursday of last week I woke up and it was very bad again.  I made an appointment for Friday afternoon.  I had three x-rays and the bones looked to be fine.  Bursitis was the diagnosis and I was given a steroid injection (cortisone shot) and stronger pain pills. The pain pills got me through our Scandinavian baking day and by Sunday I was really starting to notice some improvement.  On Monday I was working to finish the craft projects that had been spread on my table for over a week, I added another chapter to my cookbook and watered the greenhouse.  Tuesday I transplanted several tubs of plants, did a bit more work on the craft project and added a couple of recipes to the cookbook.  Today, I feel even better.  I have not taken a pain pill today, my range of motion is improved, not perfect but nearly back to where it was this summer and tomorrow I am anticipating having the upper body strength to climb the ladder to the hayloft and roll some bales over to the opening to bed down the herd.  I usually add new straw about once a week and last time I did it I threw down some extra knowing it would be a crazy busy time of the year so they have not been neglected but it is a good time to give it a shot and see how it goes.  Climbing the ladder will be the hardest part and if it doesn't go well I will get some help.  I am avoiding shoveling snow hoping for melting and I am able to get around in the yard so that is okay. 

Today I am working on the pumpkin project and it is a good thing because I found out today I am assigned pumpkin pies for Christmas.  I am not the pie baker.  I am the cookie baker and candy maker.  But it is nice to have a challenge.  My sister is bringing her signature French silk pie which she excels at.  My brother is bringing his signature New York cheesecake which he excels at.  The competition might be significant.  I might have to work that bad shoulder thing for a little sympathy.  :)  I think the pumpkin project is the reason for my pie assignment.  My sister, bless her heart, was at the grocery store in the small town where she lives and noticed that after Thanksgiving they were giving away their remaining pie pumpkins and she asked if I wanted them and I said yes.  My pie pumpkins were nonexistent this year in my garden.  The pumpkins arrived about the same time as my sore shoulder and I have had this box of pumpkins sitting in my kitchen ever since.  Today they got cleaned and steamed and made into puree and the seeds were washed and spread to dry in order to plant next spring.  It is a good project to have done. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

scandinavian baking day

On Saturday we held our second annual Scandinavian baking day and it was a lot of fun.  The list of Scandinavian goodies produced was the same except that we eliminated the peppernuts from last year.  New this year was a fun idea suggested by Caitlin for a cute apron contest.  So far a winner has not yet been selected but she took a picture of each in their apron so we can work on it.  They were all cute.  Nearly all were homemade by the wearer or a homemade gift.  Nathan and Michelle were unexpectedly not able to come so Michelle sent a picture of her wearing her very cute apron on her phone so that even if they couldn't be here to bake that she could be a part of the contest.  Unfortunately I am not in possession of any pictures from the baking day so if the girls will share I can post some either as an update to this blogpost or a new post.  I am also not in possession of a cute apron.  I have been thinking about one for a long time and I have been on the lookout every time I am in a fabric store for a two tone pink stripe fabric that matches my background on my Bakery at Mom's Hobby Farm blog (link in the sidebar to the right).  I have so far not found a similar fabric so I may have to piece one.  My plan was to put the blog name on it.  We will see if it ever happens.  :)  But don't hold your breath. 

We did have a few other people that were missing from last year and they were missed but we had a couple of new Scandinavian bakers with us this year and we were glad to have them. 

Again this year we made lefse, kringla, rosettes, krumkake, and donuts and the bakers had an opportunity to share in the bounty.  We used my mom's house again.  I can't really say that we used her kitchen because we were all over.  The donuts and rosettes were done in the garage where the fryer was set up on a large table created by a board and saw horses.  There were lefse grills on both the dining room table and the kitchen island.  My mom has an kind of modified open concept type kitchen, living and dining room and we used all of it.  Thanks Mom and Dad for letting us take over your house for the day.

One of the things that was on the list to bake was Scandinavian almond cakes, a family favorite that we make every year.  The last couple of years we have been fighting with getting the cakes out of the pan cleanly.  Almond cakes are baked in a long, shallow, ribbed, curved bottom pan and for years we baked beautiful cakes and then starting maybe a couple of years ago we began to have trouble.  It has been really frustrating and lots of things have been attempted in an effort to solve the problem.  I have tried different methods of greasing the pan, tried baking it longer, letting it cool longer before trying to take it out of the pan and different brands of margarine.  We tried two cakes on Saturday and one had some major cracking on one end and the second one came out in several pieces.  So disappointing.

After  we were done baking and I was home I decided to search on google to see if other people were having trouble with margarine and discovered that a while back the margarines were reformulated and they now contained more water.  The article I happened upon was a group of women discussing their spritz cookie failures since the reformulation and a suggested fix was to use a bit more flour.  They suggested to start with an additional 1/8 cup, experimenting until a favorable  product was obtained.  I do all of my other baking with butter but this recipe specifically calls for margarine, not butter so even though this was not a spritz recipe I decided to give it a try.

I decided that I would go one step farther and since flour is now often listed as a weight in some recipes instead of a volume I would try to find a perfect amount of flour by weight at the same time.  My original recipe calls for 1 1/4 cup flour and after fluffing my flour with a whisk in the canister I measured 1 1/4 cups and then weighed it.  It was 6 ounces.  I added another 1/8 cup and now the flour weighed 7 ounces.

I mixed up the cake batter using the new flour amount.  I carefully prepped the pan and baked the cake for the recommended 50 minutes.  I cooled the cake in the pan for 10 minutes.  I loosened the ends and tipped the pan over and it popped out beautifully.  I was prepared to bake many cakes each with varying amounts of flour until I got one that works so I was pleasantly surprised that it worked the first time.  I have three different brands of margarine in my fridge, all with different fat contents and I am going to try a cake with each of them to see if the margarine could also be a factor or if they all work with the additional flour.  Here is a picture showing the good cake on the left and a part of the broken cake on the right.

The newly edited recipe can be found here.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Yesterday's fog makes today's magic

Yesterday it was foggy a good part of the day.  We had gotten snow on Monday and Tuesday and fog on Wednesday.  What often happens after fog is we wake up to the trees covered in a lovely white layer that lasts until the sun melts it away.  Today that layer was exceptionally deep and beautiful. 
the prettiest tree in the yard this morning

the wire of this fence panel is 1/4 or maybe 3/16 of an inch. 

look at the size of those crystals

It was already there at 3 a.m. when I was outside because our power was off and I walked down the driveway to look up the road to see if our neighbors had lights.  The sky was clear and the stars were bright.  The snow was glittery where it was caught in the beam of the flashlight.  It was a cool, crisp, gorgeous country night, one you can't really experience as fully when you live in the city.

I have never really been without power for a long period of time.  Usually a couple hours at the most.  Last night it was about 90 minutes from when I awoke and the house and yard were dark until the power was restored.  That is pretty remarkable really when you think that I didn't call right away hoping that it would come back on.  Then the power company had to call in two guys who were home sleeping and once they got to work and picked up their big yellow truck they still had to make the 15 minute drive to the farm.  They found the problem and had the power back on within about 20 minutes of their arrival.

While I was waiting for them to  arrive it was nice to sit in a quiet, dark, cooling house and have a cup of coffee.  It is times like these that I appreciate that I have a duel fuel range so I might not be able to use my electric oven but my gas burners still work to heat water for coffee.  I make coffee in a French press so no electricity needed.  A couple of candles made for nice ambiance. Now if only the biscotti jar wasn't empty.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

a little decorating for Christmas

Tonight I took down my give thanks banner.  It was the entirety of my indoor decorating for fall.  I know, it's sad. 

I have not done any Christmas decorating indoors yet but I did hang a couple more things outside and take a couple of pictures before the snow got really started.
the wreath on the barn

the swag on the chicken coop

The swag by the front door

the swag by the back door

the wreath on the gate
There was a little snow on the ground and in the air when these pictures were taken but now the ground is white and snow is predicted to continue until suppertime tomorrow.  We have already gotten a few inches but they are not calling it a blizzard, just a winter storm and the temperatures are mild, in the low 30's.  I have been hearing that we are in the part of the country that the el nino will cause warmer than normal weather for December and much of the rest of the winter.  

Monday, November 30, 2015

winter storm warning

Winter is about to arrive if the predictions can be trusted.  Our little corner of the world is supposed to get two days of snow and anywhere from 7-10 inches.  So with the kids returned to their own homes the last of the holiday weekend was spent prepping for the white stuff.  Lots of good projects were completed.  The barn got new straw, both in the pen where the herd has access and where the dogs do.  The well was covered with straw bales and the last of the garden stuff and the picnic table were put away..  The first of my Christmas decorating--the hanging of the wreath on the barn--is done.  Mom shared a fresh green swag that is hanging near the front door and two small artificial swags, one on the chicken coop door and one by the back door.  My Christmas tree is bought but so far is standing in the garage.  We always get a real tree and the past couple of years we have gotten a tabletop tree which has worked out well with the number of dogs that are here when the family is all home. 

I have a long list of indoor projects so I shouldn't be short of things to do if the snow comes.  I might even get a bit more decorating done and the Christmas dishes out.

Thanksgiving day was my son's birthday.  We went out for supper on Friday night to celebrate and my younger daughter baked the cake and served it from one of her vintage cake plates.  This cake plate has gold trim and a pressed glass design.  The cake was chocolate, three layers, with chocolate frosting and topped with ganache and fresh raspberries.  Additional chocolate shavings topped the frosting between the layers.  The cake looked pretty and tasted great.  Fun times.  

Friday, November 27, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

There is a lot to be thankful for.  My family had a quick, easy breakfast and then we split up with my kids visiting other 'sides' for lunch and then joining me at my parents for supper.  Since we were making food to take along we had a quick drive by type breakfast set up in the kitchen to eat as anyone was ready.  Two kinds of scones with flavored butters, cinnamon rolls, juice and coffee and then we were off to other places.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 23, 2015

lumberjack day

Each fall we gather together at the farm on a Saturday to cut firewood.  It is great fun, lots of good exercise and it serves a good purpose.  My dad heats his shop with firewood so a lot of the firewood after drying at the farm for a year will be used in town at his shop.  My brother has a  fireplace and some of the wood will be burned there.  My sister and I and my kids have the occasional campfire or fire pit fire and some of the wood will be used there.  But even more important, the trees are getting old and many are near the outbuildings and house and there is worry that one might fall on a building or do damage to a building.  So the last few years we have moved from us choosing a tree that we can drop safely to having a pro come in and take down the trees that are most threatening.  This year we had them cut down a tree near the garage that we use for wood storage, a tree behind the chicken coop, and several trees that were leaning on the roof of the granary.  When the pros cut down the trees they start at the top in a manlift and remove the branches and then cut the trunk into chunks and drop them on the ground.  After they are done we have our lumberjack day.  We cut the trunk pieces to length and then the ones that are a large diameter are split into narrower pieces and they are stacked to dry.  The branches are piled and after they have had a chance to dry they will be burned.

Some pictures from the day the treetrimmers were at the farm.  In the first picture you can see the trees that have grown too close to the roof at the granary. 
 This second picture is the tree trimmer in the man lift cutting the trees, starting at the top.
This picture shows the granary after the trees are down.  This building needs the roof reshingled or a  new  metal roof put on and the trees were preventing that from being done.
 the picture above is the chicken coop.  The tree at the end of the building is still there is this picture but gone in the one below. 
According to the tree trimmer their man lift can reach reach 55 feet when fully extended and it was pretty much fully extended in this picture and the one below that was taken when they were working on one behind the garage.  
A few days later we had our lumberjack day.  We had a good crowd of the two legged variety and a good crowd of the four legged variety.  We had 10 people and 8 dogs.  We cut up brush.
 We cut up logs.
We hauled and carried the logs to the splitter where we started a pile.

We played some fetch.
 We ran around.
Indiana (front) and Willow (back)
 We laid in the sun.
Greta(front) and Reese (back)

 Sadie and Codie seem to have evaded the photographer this year.

We split some wood.

And some more wood.
We stacked the split wood in the garage.

 We had a few laughs.

And at the end of the day we had a well deserved adult beverage.

I did rescue a few branches for a craft project or two...

All in all we had a great day.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect--a beautiful fall day.  We had great food at our potluck lunch. 

We had another couple of hours on Sunday but sadly no pictures were taken.  We did watch Robb blow up a huge pumpkin.  There will be one more done over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Fun stuff. 

Look at the fruits of all of our hard work.