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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sleigh Bells

An old-fashioned style Christmas in our circle of friends this year.... delightful!   We joined neighbors, their children and grandchildren on a sleigh ride through the snowy woods.  The horses were simply amazing taking us up and down hills to eventually stop at a warming cabin complete with hot chocolate and a sizzling fire in the wood stove.  The view was fantastic overlooking Lake Michigan and N. and S. Manitou Islands off the shore of Leelanau County. 

Christmas Eve found us at the charming home of friends where we shared a potluck supper and went to a candlelight service with traditional holiday music and carols.  

At home I set our dining table with my husband's Aunt Martha's etched clear and red fruit bowl and candle holders.   Always brings back fond memories of her.
Hope your holiday has been happy!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice

And tomorrow the days will begin to grow a wee bit longer.... day by day.  In the meantime, I am loving all the beautiful lights of the season.   One of the greatest pleasures of this season for me is putting on some good CDs and baking cookies all day!  Yesterday I made mincemeat bars, 7-layer bars, almond shortbread, gingersnaps, Russian tea cookies and two kinds of fudge.  We immediately wrapped and boxed them and today they are on their way to my husband's customers, to friends and family.  Enjoy your celebration of this beautiful season!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Vintage Sleigh Project

Here is the darling wood sleigh we have been enjoying making this season.  Found a homemade antique sleigh, refurbished and restored it, made a pattern from it and gave it a couple coats of paint.  Trimmed the hemlock tree and tramped in the swamp for some cedar boughs, tied them up in vintage velvet ribbon, and..... voila!   We have made several reproductions now and expect there will be more in the future.  It looks darling on the front porch.  One lady bought one from us to display her Victorian dolls!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Kitchen Window Panorama

Winter's First Blizzard

For those in the south who don't like to hear whining about the weather and wonder why some of us spend our winter's in the north.... I will post mostly pictures here today.  For those in the north who understand, I hope you will enjoy knowing you are not alone.  Although we spend time shoveling, we also spend time playing.   Our house is at the bottom of a steep hill near the lakeshore.... wonderful in the summer.... challenging in the winter.  The garage, cars, mailbox, newspaper, etc. are all at the top of the hill!  

Here's a shot of me bringing a package from the mailman down to the house on my plastic sled.
And also the gorgeous panoramic view from my kitchen windows! 

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Upcycled Vintage

My booth sales were fantastic at my favorite annual Holly Berry Arts & Crafts Fair in Frankfort, Michigan.  Frankfort is a friendly and welcoming small Lake Michigan village.... delightful to visit
during any season.  It has art galleries, funky shops and a variety of good restaurants. 

Back to my booth.... the catnip fish sold out - wish I could make hundreds, but there isn't enough time in a day.  Vintage wool, velvet and corduroy made popular quilted pillows.  Hard to find that great wool, however.  Perhaps my favorite upcycling involves odds and ends of vintage furniture which my husband restores and I paint.... often with snowmen and winter scenes.   Nearly every item found a new home this year.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Catnip Fish

While preparing items for my booth in the one craft fair I participate in each fall, I like to make a basket full of Catnip Fish!  They are both my "loss leader" and something little kids can afford.   I always place the basket of fish at a 5 yr. old's level.  If the child doesn't have a kitty of his/her own, then surely his grandma or auntie has a kitty. I keep the price extremely low and have been known to negotiate down or suddenly have a 2 for 1 sale.  It's fun to see the children find something they can purchase which they know is the perfect gift!

At my house the act of stuffing these fishies with fresh catnip is quite the trick with my two cats hovering.  I store the completed fish in the refrigerator until the craft fair and always save a couple for my own kittens.  I like the batik fabrics for this purpose.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Short Getaway to "The Island"

We have had such a cool and rainy autumn this year. Yet the trees have turned fabulous colors.
My husband and I decided that regardless of the weather, we would go to Mackinac Island for an overnight getaway at the Cloghaun B & B. As luck would have it, we were there the only two sunny days in a stretch of gloom. It was a delightful visit. The afternoon "tea" and the breakfast fare was above and beyond anything we'd ever had before at B & Bs. Highly recommended!

Mackinac Island is situated in the Straits of Mackinac where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron "meet" or join, if you will. In 1670 a Jesuit priest wintered on the island. The British in 1781 made it a center of their military and fur-trade activity. The island was occupied by the Americans in 1796. Held by the British during the War of 1812, it became the hub of Astor's fur empire after 1817. Mackinac Island was already becoming a popular resort when fur trading declined during the 1830's. The Michigan governor's summer retreat is here.

Arriving by ferry, one immediately realizes no motorized vehicles are allowed on the island which makes for a very peaceful vacation. Bikes are for rent. Carriage rides and horseback-riding are offered. It's a beautiful escape to another era. I've included photos of the Grand Hotel, a retired Coast Guard ice-cutter which is now a museum & the Cloghaun B & B.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Typical Market Day

While in France we visited the Saturday market in the lovely town of Uzes which is about 20 miles north of Nimes. Besides the typical fresh produce one finds at farmers markets in the U.S., French markets also offer linens, clothing, soaps, meats, fish and street performers. People come from all over, make a day of it and stay for lunch after the vendors pack up. The cafes fill up quickly so it is wise to make reservations. Last picture is a sweet one of the children watching the mime/clown.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Storybook Villages in France

While hiking through and around the small villages and hamlets in the Ardeche region of France mid-September, I was amazed at the age of the buildings and remarkable way they are maintained for generations. I am posting just a few of many photos. The first is of the village of Banne - simply charming. It is situated in the foothills of the Cevennes Mountains just below the ruins of a Knights Templar Chateau built around the early 1200's.

Second is the very small walled village of Lussan where the well-known ceramic guinea hens are made. It is perched high on a hill for easy defense.

Within the smaller hamlets I found many archways connecting homes one to another. They are not large enough for even small cars to pass through but just right for a donkey with wagon.

Last photo is the farmhouse where I stayed for a week. Portions of it date back to the 1300's with the majority of the visible structure dating to the 17 - 1800's when it was a silkworm farm.
It has been lovingly restored with all modern conveniences and an indescribable view.

Monday, October 5, 2009

French Plum Crumble

Mid-September I took a much awaited trip to France. I traveled with a couple of friends to Paris where we caught the TGV (high-speed train) to Nimes. We picked up a rental car and drove an hour to a small village/hamlet in the Ardeche region where we stayed at a renovated French farmhouse, parts of which date back to the 1300's. This is an area where chestnuts have been the main crop since the Greeks brought them in 700 A.D. More recently the silkworm industry has been important in the area. Oh, and don't forget grapes and French wine!

Our hostess at the farmhouse is an artist/friend who also happens to be a marvelous cook.
Here are pics of the Plum Crumble she made one evening. She cut cold butter in chunks into the
flour/sugar/oatmeal topping mixture and mixed it all by hand. Dark brown sugar as well as white sugar over the plums. Baked long and slowly. Served with a dollop of creme fraiche.

First Frost

Back to the CSA next summer! I just have to face it.... my little garden spot does not get enough hours of sunshine to grow veggies. Most herbs do well and semi-shade loving flowers do well.
Between the chipmunks, squirrels, shade and insects..... not much to harvest. I did pick a half quart of green beans. The green peppers were there one day and vanished the next! Here is a photo of the full tomato and potato harvest at frost time!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Summer's Bounty

Other people's gardens are bountiful. Not mine!! We had a cool, rainy summer and I have to face it.... I don't get enough sun for veggies. My two rows of green beans yielded 1/2 qt. I have yet to harvest a tomato. The nice fence my husband put up to keep out the deer and bunnies worked just fine. However, the squirrels and chipmunks are stealing the green tomatoes like crazy. They leave them half-eaten all over the yard. The bonus? the flowers are doing very well.... best ever! So, I learned something. I will return to my CSA next summer.

In the meantime, our "honor system" fruit and vegetable stands thrive throughout the region. Most allow you to make your own change! I have included pics of my favorite nearby stand. Also pics of a tart cherry cobbler and early apple pie I made recently.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ooops! It's August already!

Where does the time go? Summer has been a whirlwind. My sweet little granddaughter, Emily, visited with her parents for a whole month. I was in heaven. So was my little girl corgi whose mothering instincts took over. What a joy to watch little Emi grow and change day by day. Cannot wait to see her again, but when families are spread out across the country one must be patient.

We have had a cool summer in the 70's mostly and plentiful rain. Not much heat to make the garden grow. The fence, however, has kept most of the critters out and there may be a small veggie harvest if frost does not come early.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

June Garden.... Ooops! It's July already!

Time flies! Will post the photos of my June garden planting following the late frosts even though the beans are now up.... one row anyway. The second variety didn't take. Planted a nice amount of marigolds to ward off insects, but the marigolds have been eaten!! Who eats marigolds???

In the meantime, sweet cherries are ripe just in time for the National Cherry Festival all this week!
My sweet granddaughter is visiting with her parents. What joy!! So we are busy, busy, busy!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lilacs and Rhubarb Pie

End of May.... Already!

The month of May went so quickly. My intentions to blog more frequently just aren't coming to fruition... but I will keep trying. It is lilac time here, and time to bake anything with rhubarb. Our annual neighborhood Memorial Day picnic is traditionally held at our house and this year was no different.... great fun with a group of long-time friends on a beautiful day ... not too hot, no rain and just enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes at bay! I will post some photos today of strawberry rhubarb pie-baking and lilacs, of course.... they are so fragrant!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Granddaughter, Emily

Here we are, Emi and Nonna! Three weeks old and already she is growing out of her
0-3 mo. onesies and sleepers! What a thrill to spend a few days with her in Arizona.
Parents are doing well and baby is sleeping in good long stretches. What a precious
blessing she is!

I am back home thinking Holy Jet Lag! and preparing for Emi's visit later in the summer
when it is way too hot in the desert.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Crisp Sunny Mother's Day

Talked on the phone with my kids who are far, far away.... will see them soon along with that darling new granddaughter. In the meantime, the cherry blossoms are beginning to pop. I will get some pictures posted soon. Spent a little art time this afternoon making these collages. Hope all mothers had a peaceful, happy day today.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day & Plane Tickets

It was a glorious first day of May here today with only a light jacket needed! Sunny, crisp and beautiful. Remember the custom of leaving a May basket of flowers on a neighbors' doorknob anonymously? When my dogs barked this afternoon, I went to investigate and there was this lovely basket of pansies and a note "Happy May Day!" Thank you, Mary Ann, my mystery friend.

On another happy note, I purchased airline tickets (yes, reasonably priced - surprise!) to go visit my wee newborn granddaughter soon!