Sunday, February 28, 2016

A new farm project

We have a couple of huge old maple trees in our yard, not sugar maple but another variety of maple and last year I started thinking that it would be fun to try making homemade maple syrup.  A couple of nights ago when I was shopping with my sister we were in a store that carries the equipment for tapping trees and collecting sap.  I bought a sap bucket, tap and cover along with a book to guide me through the process.  When we were driving back to my sister's house she mentioned that the family down the street collects sap and makes syrup and I asked her to let me know when she noticed that they had put out their buckets and lo and behold, driving past their house we noticed that their buckets were hanging on the trees in their yard.  My sister assures me that they were not there that morning. According to my new book the sap starts to run when the temperatures are warmer during the day but still cool at night.  I decided that I would hang my bucket and tap my tree the very next day.

The process is not too bad, you drill a hole with the drill and then use a hammer to tap the tapper into the tree.  There is a hook that goes on the tapper that holds the bucket below the tap and a cover that attaches to the top of the tapper and all you do is hang the bucket and the sap drips into the bucket.  It was fun to check the progress of the sap collection.  My book suggested that the buckets be emptied daily and the sap strained and stored until it is boiled to evaporate the water and concentrate the syrup.

Today it was warm out and my sap collecting went a little faster.  Tonight when I emptied the bucket there was enough to fill a gallon milk jug and a second container that was probably another half gallon.  The book suggested boiling the sap at least once a week but I am not really prepared to store large quantities of sap and to cook those same large quantities.  In typical setups the sap boils for hours usually outdoors and often over a wood fire.  I will plan to boil my syrup in small batches and if it goes really well perhaps next year have a bigger setup for making the syrup.  My trees are large enough according to the book to use three taps per tree and that would greatly increase the amount of sap that could be collected.  My understanding is that it takes about 40 parts of sap to get one part of syrup.
my lone bucket on the tree

shared at Met Monday

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

a party!

I have a daughter, Nikole, getting married in early April.  On Saturday evening there was a party honoring her and Brad, her groom. Her sister, Caitlin, who is her maid of honor planned the party and it was part couples shower and part engagement party.  It was a lot of fun, both the preparation and the party itself.  The wedding, just a few weeks away, is a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic and so some of the food was traditional Minnesota party fare and some was Dominican food, from recipes found on the internet.  The groom's parents, and the bride's family divvied up the food preparation.  Cait wanted to use only white serving pieces so  the majority of my collection made the trip across the state to the site of the party.  Between she and I we had sufficient pieces.  I am a little embarrassed to admit that although Cait was taking pictures I did not take a single picture.  I am hoping that she will share.

Cait's menu plan was appetizers, snacks and dessert.  It was a cocktail type party, guests milling about, eating and drinking and visiting.  It was a large crowd so lots of visiting. The appetizers and snacks were put out first with dessert served in the last hour of the party. My contribution was my usual--deviled eggs but I also did the research into the Dominican foods.  I found a few possibilities that I thought looked interesting and that fit the categories on Cait's plan.  But most important was that the foods could be sourced locally.   I sent my possibilities to Caitlin who sent back her list of the ones that jumped out at her and my part of the menu was set.  

For my part, I provided more Minnesota deviled eggs and bacon wrapped little smokies..  I also brought some Dominican offerings.  For the desserts, a coconut rum raisin ice cream, individual Dominican creme caramels (flan) and a second flan that was made with RumChata.  For the appetizers and snacks I brought a pineapple cheese ball, some pineapple wrapped in bacon and two versions of pastelitos (a fried empanada) one beef and one veggie. Not all of our food was eaten so I have been having leftover pastelitos for breakfast and left over flan at least once a day.  Three family members commented on the fact that they just couldn't get past the texture of the flan which had never occurred to me. 

Others also provided food so we had the more traditional cheese dip and chips, a fruit plate with fruit dip, cupcakes, two kinds of bars, hummus with pita chips and veggies, guacamole and chips, a pepper jelly with cream cheese and crackers.  Wine and beer were the more traditional beverages but there were also pitchers of margaritas and mojitos which provided the island/Latin America feel.  All in all it was great fun.  

Monday, February 22, 2016

Taking inspiration where you find it.

Before I started Blogging in 2013 I had been an avid reader of blogs for several years and one of the first blogs that I read religiously was a blog called Between Naps on the Porch or BNOTP written by Susan, the blog's author.  It was and is among other things a (mostly) decorating blog with two longstanding weekly link parties.  It was through those linky parties that I found more interesting blogs to read and follow and through my very infrequent participation that I found a few new readers of my blogs and some new blog friends.  The number of talented people out there writing about interesting topics is astounding but that could be its own post.

I want to share what inspired me from Susan's blog last week.  Early in the week she shared a picture of a professionally decorated room that was a favorite of hers with a list of 25 things that she learned about decorating from that one picture.  That post is here.  A few days later her post for the Tablescape Thursday link party showcased her Blue Willow dishes. That post is here.

Those two posts inspired me to share some photos of my Blue Willow and provide a list of things that I learned about tablescaping from her two posts.

I also have some Blue Willow pieces that were collected by and loved by my grandmother and are temporarily mine to enjoy until they make their way to my youngest daughter who loves them just as much and has requested that they be hers someday.

Grandma was not a picky collector.  She lived in a town of around 600 people that had one antique dealer.  I don't know for sure but I am pretty confident that Grandma bought every single piece of Blue Willow that came through that little antique store.  She didn't have place settings.  She had pieces.  Blue Willow was made by many companies and in different countries and she was not a purist so her pieces span much of what is out there.  She also didn't appear to care if a piece was in mint condition.  Many of her pieces have been well used  and have the cracks and crazing to show for it. I think that most of her collection was amassed as a younger or middle aged woman with not many pieces added in the decade before her death.

A few of Grandma's pieces that are favorites of mine or ones that I find interesting:
my corner cupboard


coffee or tea pot, two cups and creamer.  Missing sugar bowl.

three different sets of salts and peppers.

gravy boat

two bowls

Three coffee mugs
 And then a list.  Susan had a single photo of a table in her earlier post and then on many photos of a different table in her second post.  The first showed a beautiful crocheted set of table linens made by her mother while she was pregnant with the author and two patterns of pink china used together.  The china was vintage and very feminine.  The second featured multiple photos of the traditional blue and white Blue Willow china in a matched place setting with a single piece of a second pattern in green and very nontraditional green silverware.  Both were absolutely lovely.  Her tablescapes always are.  She is one of the best.

Here is my list in no particular order.

1.  Mixed patterns of china, when well paired, provide interest on the table.

2.  China and flatware patterns that are not obvious choices for use together, when paired, can often create a very different feel than if either were used separately.

3.  Even flatware sets can be combined for a different look.

4. Using parts of two sets allows you to stretch your collection.  In the Blue Willow post Susan's striped and dotted flatware set did not contain a salad fork and using the salads from a similarly colored but very differently styled set works.

5.  Vintage pieces like the crystal salt cellars are still fun to use and add a little extravagance to a table.

6. Vintage linens like the exquisite set made by Susan's mother have a timeless appeal and should be treasured.  Anyone who crafts can imagine the time investment in making such an intricate and flawless set.

7. A tablecloth is not always used.

8. Layering two napkins is a great look and may provide a way to include a heirloom or special napkin with less risk of it becoming stained from actual use.

9. There are lots of options for under the plate.  The crocheted placemat is a very different look that the white ceramic charger used under the Blue Willow.

10. The charger or placemat can be used to bring out a certain aspect of the china.  In the pink table the linens were ecru with pink and green crocheted flowers.  Each of the china patterns had pink as a predominant color.  Each of the china patterns had a floral component.  The pink banded china pattern had a gardenia in the center and the other pattern had an border of flowers on the rim.  The gardenia from the banded pattern was repeated in the centerpiece.  In the blue table the white is repeated in the charger and both china patterns and the green of the silverware and the smallest plate is repeated in the centerpiece and the stemware and the napkin rings.

11. Your china can be beautiful without costing a fortune.  Susan told how her Blue Willow was purchased piece by piece at a grocery store as a promotion where purchasing an certain dollar amount of groceries allowed a person to purchase the dishes inexpensively. 

And speaking of inspiration, Susan was the person who blogged back in June of 2011 about this new internet community called Pinterest and offered to 'invite' anyone who wanted to join.  At that time you could request to join but if invited by someone who was already a member it was much quicker.  Since then their policy has changed and you no longer needed an invitation to join.  I am not sure how many people Susan 'invited' but I was one of them and glad that I was.

Sharing with Met Monday at BNOTP