Thursday, August 31, 2006

Baking Gluten Free

Baking at our house does not fall into the traditional norm. Because Brent is unable to eat gluten (which is found in wheat, rye, barley, or oats) special flours need to be used for baking. Since gluten is what holds baked goods together, baking without is sometimes a challange. Today I baked gluten free bread in mini loaves that can be used for sandwiches or as a delicious place to spread jam and nut butter. Sometimes I bake this type of bread from scratch, but this time I used a special gluten-free flour blend that I purchased. Made from rice flour, potato starch, tapioca flour, sugar, and xanthan gum, it makes a good base for the additional moist ingredients and yeast.

If you are interested in gluten free baking, here's the link for the mix I used:

A Wonderful Surprise!

A wonderful surprise arrived in my mailbox today! Nancy, a dear friend since second grade, lives in Orlando and loves her garden. This year she has been growing pineapple and keeping me posted on the progress of her plants. Was I ever surpised to open a package from her today and find one of her fresh pineapples in it! It arrived safely and our family is looking forward to eating it for dinner tonight.

Thank you, Nancy! Although we live about as far away as one can get and still live in the continental United States, our friendship has spanned time and space. Thanks for graciously sharing with us.

Smell the Roses

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Of Tea Towels and Such

Today I've been thinking of linens: tea towels, hankies, fabric napkins, aprons. Maybe it's because I've been working on the next tea towel and apron swap for the tea list exchange group. Or maybe it's because I enjoyed a fun chat on the phone last evening with my friend, Bonnie. As we talked, I could hear the hum of her sewing machine as she sewed on a quilt she was making out of vintage linens and soft creamy prints. I was regaled by stories of her cat and dog as they played with the quilt blocks while she was sewing. Whatever it is that has made me think of linens again, it's caused me to go back through some of my mother's tea towels and linens. My mother was gifted in needlework. Embroidery was only one of her many needleworking skills, but she did it well. Fast, neatly done, even stitches, all are words that describe her handiwork. As a teacher of kindergarten aged children, she would unwind at the end of a day at school by gardening, painting, or stitching. She always had a project in hand and she was not one who had a dozen projects started and none finished. There were very few projects that she did not complete before going on to her next one. My sister and I have been the fortunate recipients of all these lovely linens. Too pretty to use, but too pretty not to, they are brought out for special occasions and events, reminding us of our mother and helping us create the cozy homes that she taught us to do so well.

Doggy Tea Towels

For the past 23 years we have had one or more Schnauzers in our household. Libby, Fiddlesticks, Jetta, Razberi, Tia, and Coco have blessed our home with warm affection and plenty of barks! All of the lineage of Libby, they each have their own personality and quirks.

Although the dogs stitched on these tea towels are technically Scotties, my mother thought they were close enough to the Schnauzer look that I needed this set of tea towels. Each is bordered with a plaid or checked print. Although few are the same, they all blend together quite well and make a set that's fun to enjoy together.

Borders and Trims

Mom used borders of ric-rac and tea prints to embellish tea towels. And sometimes she used a ready-bordered weave, as in the tea towels above. Teapots and flowers were two of her favorite subjects to embroider.

These were stitched by mom, but I found the patterns for this set last winter and stitched a set of my own; seven in soft pink colors to match my Old Country Roses china and tea set. All they need now is to be trimmed and pressed, then I will post them for you to see.

Missing Friends

As we go through the flow of life, things change. And sometimes we don't like those changes. My mother passed away two years ago, and in addition to missing her, I find that I am missing her friends. Friends that lived in her community; her quilting, tea, and flower arranging friends; children who lived next door and their mother's; and her friends from her teaching days. Because I don't live in this same community, I don't see these friends very often any more. And I miss them! Like a pebble in a pond that sends waves to the shore, the effects of one loss continues to create more.

Last week I was blessed to see Hitomi, a flower arranging friend of mom's, at a restaurant in her community. It was so nice to be able to visit with her again and remember mom. Hitomi is as gentle and sweet as she looks. Gifted in the art of floral design and Japanese tea ceremony, I remember her as a friend who blessed mom by honoring her at a tea given just weeks before her death. Little blessings with arms reaching out to others with a residual effect, just like the rings from a pebble tossed into a pond; friends are God's gift.

Aprons, Aprons, Aprons

Do you remember your first apron? Mine was made by my mother, truly a work of art and heart, and was a miniature of the type she wore when she worked in the kitchen. I was very young when I received my first apron; probably about 5 or 6 years old. During those childhood years, my mother made many beautiful garments for my sister,me, and our dolls. These included aprons for our baby dolls and Barbie's. Ric-rac, binding, and colorful prints; pockets and ties that wrapped around waists. Such memories!

In later years, aprons seemed to go 'out of fashion' and were not used as frequently by the women in our family. I suppose we grew tidier as we grew older and we didn't feel them so necessary. But, during years of home economics classes in high school and college, an apron was always required when cooking in the laboratory kitchens. As a student, my very first 8th grade sewing project in home economics was a reversible apron with pocket. I labored many hours on that apron, getting each bit of top-stitching perfect and straight. Later, as the teacher of such home economics classes, my foods and nutrition students all wore white, duck-cloth aprons in the kitchen. Full length, they were one-size fits all, and were usually too large for the students they were assigned to. The wearer would wrap the ties around their waist several times to tuck the apron in and make it fit. During those years, I traded in my apron for a white laboratory jacket that I wore with pride. What wonderful pictures come to mind; of happy students working in their kitchen units, creating foods as they learned the art of healthy cooking. At the end of a lab, thirty aprons would be placed in a laundry basket for washing, drying, and folding, and thirty clean aprons would be set out for the next group of students.

Special aprons are tucked into my linen drawer: my mother's white muslin apron, embroidered with floral designs and bound in dark blue trim; a brown full-length German apron that buttons up the front that was given to me by Aunt Marcella; a beautiful printed jacket-style apron in delicate fabric from dear aunt who lived in Japan; and the tea-themed apron I made with Bonnie when we stitched matching aprons together. Years ago, before I married my husband, I stitched a full-length patchwork apron for his grandmother. It was red and embellished with embroidery. So pretty, she tucked it away as something special and I never saw her wear it. I'm sure it is still somewhere in her house, but so far hasn't been found by her daughter who lives there now. Grandma is 102 years old and unable to remember who we are, let alone where that apron might be, so asking her for help in finding that apron is a fruitless option. During college years, I was hired to sew full-length aprons for a restaurant I worked at. That sewing job paid for my very first sewing machine. The waitresses and cooks wore aprons with a colorful farm scene on them and red trim that I stitched on all edges and corners until I was weary of the task. But how cheerful everyone looked as they served french fries and soft-serve ice cream cones while wearing those aprons!

I was excited and delighted to receive the most recent issue of MaryJane's Farm magazine in the mail this week. The entire magazine is dedicated to aprons! Patterns, stories, prose, and pictures all depict the beauty and utilitarianism of the lowly apron. The art of homemaking is becoming more popular again, and aprons, frilly or plain, again have their place in the home.

Viva la apron!

Pretty apron pictures and patterns from the most recent issue of MaryJane's Farm magazine. It's the special stitchery issue and contains lots of apron lore and more! The entire issue is about aprons -- remembering MaryJane's mother and her apron-wearing tasks; stories tied to apron strings; apron pictures and patterns; and apron artists in action.

To purchase:

Monday, August 28, 2006

Orchard Apple Pie

2 cups grated apple
2 cups pineapple (unsweetened; canned okay)
1/4 cup softened and sweetened dates
3 1/2 Tbsp. tapioca

Cook the last three ingredients until clear. Stir in apples. Pour into pie shell. For variation, use crushed pineapple.

Of Wild Fires

Skies usually clear are gray and smoky as wild fires burn in our region of the state. With fire crews containing only 10% of the fire, even after fighting for nearly one week, over 103 square miles of wheat fields and forest have been destroyed. Homes have been burned and people displaced. Our beautiful, green spring created perfect conditions for a dry, brittle summer. There is lots of fuel to burn on the hillsides and mountain ranges.

Our cabin is safe, so far, thanks to some diligent fire fighters who worked hard to contain a fire that started by lightening strike near our little abode. Their camp can be seen on a corner of our property; traces of campfire and existence shown by what was left behind. Although the close fires have been extinguished, the road is closed except to local people. Yesterday, ridges that usually are visible and clear, were smoky and muted. Sounds of airplanes in the distance could be heard; fire spotters and paratrooper fire fighters and probably some curious. A DC-10, capable of dumping fire retardant in a mile long pattern made passes over the most uncontrolled portions in an effort to bring an end to the burn of field and forest. Fire fighters from Alaska, New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon, and Washington work hard to contain the fire. Their fire control center in a small town closest to the fire is set up at the fairgrounds and was buzzing with much activity as fire crews come back for food and rest before they went out for another shift of containing fires in shifting winds and dry conditions. And the action continues until containment is realized.

This morning, smoke fills the valley as well. A distance away from the action, smoke settles in for miles and creates havoc on bodies that function best on clean, fresh air! Conditions today are not great for fire control, as the weatherman says it will be near 100 degrees F.

Today I am thankful for fire fighters and those who are working so hard to protect those and their belongings in harms way. My prayers are for them as they continue their work. God bless them!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Carmelized Onion and Roasted Garlic Jelly

For the past several years I have enjoyed making Sweet Onion Jelly from a recipe my mother shared with me. It's delicious for tea or when entertaining guests. For a pretty presentation, place a block of cream cheese (soy if preferred) on a pretty plate and then pour a portion of the jar of jelly over the cream cheese. Garnish with some chive blossoms and place crackers in a basket nearby. Perfect for dipping, it's a delicious combination of savory and sweet jelly with salty, crispy crackers.

I found another recipe today for a similar jelly. It was published in the Syracuse Post Standard. This version has the addition of garlic for enhanced flavor.

The recipe:

2 large heads garlic
Olive oil
4 large onions (Walla Walla Sweet or Vidalia)
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons butter (may substitute olive oil)
1 cup white vinegar
4 cups water
6 cups sugar
1 package powdered pectin

Cut top off each garlic head and drizzle with olive oil. Roast at 275 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool completely.Caramelize onions: chop onions into small pieces (save half of 1 onion and cut into large slivers; set aside to be used later as a garnish). Place 2/3 cup sugar in a large skillet over medium heat and cook until melted; mix in butter until melted. Add onions and cook until coated by caramelizing mixture (onions should be soft and pierce easily with a fork). Caramelize large slivers and set aside.Add garlic cloves from one head and simmer 5 minutes. Add vinegar and mix while still over medium heat; mix in 4 cups water and simmer 5 more minutes. Sieve mixture through a jellybag or cheesecloth, allowing to drip until all liquid is through.Measure 5 cups of the garlic/onion liquid into a saucepan and add pectin. Bring to a full boil and add all the sugar at once. Cook at full rolling boil, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.Remove from heat and ladle mixture into hot, sterilized jars.

Garnish top of each jar with a large sliver of caramelized onion and a clove of roasted garlic.

Put lids on and process 10 minutes in boiling water bath. Store in a cool, dark place.

The Sugar in My Tea

This lap quilt from my mother's collection is tea themed and very unusual. Quirky, I call it. I don't know who made it, but it doesn't look like my mother's work, so I assume that she found it at a yard sale in her community. The quilt features embroidery, crayon, and iron-on appliques. It's all about tea! The saying shown here says "You are the sugar in my tea. . .one lump or two". It's a fun quilt that can be used as a table topper or over a chair for a casual tea party.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hospitality Blend Tisane

6 cups apple mint leaves, dried and chopped
2 cups mint leaves of choice, dried and chopped
1 cup lemon verbena leaves dried and chopped
1 cup calendula blossoms, dried
1/2 cup rosemary, dried
1/2 cup tea thyme leaves, dried
1 cup sage, dried

Mix gently and place in a large jar. To use, mix one teaspoon blend for each cup of water. Allow tisane to steep for 10 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey, stevia, or sugar if desired.

Country at Heart

My friend, RuthAnn, is a fabulous decorator! Still in love with the 'country look', she has incorporated beautiful pieces and collections into her home. Her latest treasure hunts have her searching for blue transferware. And a treasure hunter she is. She has mastered the rule #3 of decorating, as given by Emilie Barnes in her book, Designing Your Home on a Budget. That rule is that you should 'buy what you love, but never pay retail'. Her decorating style incorporates treasures of heritage; pieces that belonged to her grandmother, great-aunt, and mother. Accenting those selections are pieces of handiwork from RuthAnn's many craft projects and ideas. Her collections are rounded out by purchases from thrift and antique stores. And she has mastered the art of being a savy eBay shopper! She's created an environment filled with beauty; a real feast for the eye. An inspiration and a gifted homemaker, RuthAnn has found the 'essence of home' as exhibited by her gifted touch and loving care.

Emilie Barnes Rule #3 for decorating on a budget: The fact is that you don't have to spend a lot to get a rich, fabulous look. Before you pay retail for anything, try garage sales, flea markets, discount stores, sales and your grandmother's attic. Full price should be your last resort. Remember, a dollar saved is two dollars earned.

Transferware photos by RuthAnn

A Tea Adventure

Sometimes tea adventures materialize in some of the most unusual places. And what fun they are! On a recent trip to a pharmacy and gift shop, Bonnie and I found a lovely little table set up in the far corner of the store. It was the same corner that they featured their teaware for sale. A crock of decaf Earl Gray, served cold, with crackers and assorted jams and jellies was set on a small table by the storefront window. Pretty paper cups and rose enhanced napkins were set for customer use. We sat down to sip and enjoy a simple tea-time experience. Although not a proper tea by any means, it was just as meaningful and just as fun! Calm in the midst of a busy day, it provided us with rest and quiet before we proceeded with our other duties of the day.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Basil Tea

To make a cup of basil tea, infuse 3 teaspoons of fresh chopped basil leaves per cup of boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes, then strain and enjoy.

Basil is said to reduce nausea and is a mild sedative. It's used by herbalists for respiratory troubles. It's also known to improve blood circulation and aide the digestive system.

In addition to it's culinary uses, basil is sometimes applied externally as an insect repellent.


Courage does not always roar.
Sometimes, it is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying,
"I will try again tomorrow."

- Anonymous

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Serenity Soup

2 cups fresh or frozen strawberries
3/4 cup organic orange juice
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. grated orange rind
1 1/4 cups papaya nectar
3/4 cup ripe fresh papaya or mango pulp
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 - 8 fresh mint leaves, chopped

Combine first five ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate until ready to serve. Rinse and dry blender.

Combine remaining ingredients except mint leaves in blender; puree until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, slowly pour 1/2 cup of each fruit mixture simultaneously into opposite halves of each serving bowl. Sprinkle chopped mint in center of each bowl.


Waiting for Indian Summer

Tia enjoys a perch in the sunshine! She soaks up the sun and enjoys the summer afternoon as much as I do! The August heat is giving way to cooler temperatures, still warm, but pleasant now rather than unbearable as it has been. The beginning of Indian Summer. . .a wonderful time of year.

Children Playing

A metal cut-out of playing children bring visual action to an oak pot filled with annuals. Oxidized by spring-time showers, the burnt brown color melds nicely with the lava rock in the garden bed.

Sunshine, Freedom, and Flower

"Just living is not enough. . .
One must have sunshine,
freedom, and a little flower."

Hans Christian Anderson

Children's Garden

A wagon filled with annuals completes the children's garden theme.

"I too have a new plaything, the best I ever had, a woodlot. Too old to plant trees for my own gratification, I shall do it for my posterity."

Thomas Jefferson

Container Garden

A container garden. . .pottery of all shapes and sizes filled with flowering and creeping plants. A cafe table and chairs and a cozy folding chair create a place to sip a cup of tea or visit with a friend.

The Garden Annex

A garden is a place arranged for promenades and at the same time for the recreation of the eyes. But it is also an accessory to the house, serving it as an accompaniment, an environment, and, within certin limits, it is simply another apartment, an annex of the house. Therefore, how can the art which built and adorn the dwelling be refused the right to interfere in this exterior house?"


Good Things!

"Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wonderful works to his sons of men! For he satisfies him who is thirsty, and the hungry he fills with good things."

Psalm 107:8-9
Revised Standard Version

August: Preparing for Harvest

August is the month when harvest begins. Although the apricots, berries, and garden produce have been abundant all summer long, the fall harvest is when foods used for winter preservation are ready. Corn, pumpkins, apples, grapes, walnuts, winter squash, pears. . .wonderful fruits and vegetables that provide antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other elements for good health. Although all of these crops is not quite ready yet, they are ripening and growing, tantalizing the farmer and consumer with their lush vine and branch. Canning, freezing, and cooking in the autumn is a pleasure with the variety of fresh foods that are available.

Corn on the Cob

Corn on the cob. Need I say more? Delicious! Grandpa always grows an abundant crop and his corn is always sweet and good.


The apple trees are laden with so many apples this year. Still small, they will grow large this month and provide the family with crisp apples for eating out of hand. . .or for making applesauce, cobblers, and Dutch apple pies.

Concord Grapes

Concord grapes from a 30-something year old vine provide the family with countless pleasure in this sweet treat! Some of these green orbs are just starting to ripen; it won't be long now!


The walnuts are forming on the trees in the grove. Nutty, delicious, and filled with great nutrition --- they are one of Grandpa's specialities. He spends the early months of winter in his garage, shelling and packaging walnuts that he enjoys sharing with friends and family. Store-bought will never taste good again after eating Grandpa's home grown walnuts!

Green Tea and Grapefruit Kanten

2 large pink grapefruit, peeled and sectioned, cutting away bitter coverings
3 tablespoons agar flakes
3 cups white grape juice
1 tablespoon loose-leaf green tea
1/4 cup honey

1. Place grapefruit sections on a kitchen towel to dry, slightly. In a saucepan, combine agar flake and juice. Let stand for 15 minutes.

2. Stir in honey. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook and stir until agar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in tea and set aside to infuse for 4 minutes.

3. Using a fine mesh strainer, strain mixture into a large measuring cup with a pouring spout.

4. Arrange grapefruit sections in 6 individual ramekins (6 to 8 ounce capacity) or a large mold or square baking dish. Pour juice mixture over grapefruit and chill until set.

5. To unmold, run a paring knife around edges of mold or ramekin, and invert kanten onto serving plate(s).

Serves 6.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Carnelian Rose Tea Company

The Carnelian Rose Tea Company is a cozy looking place located in downtown Vancouver, Washington. According to their website, The Carnelian Rose Tea Company offers black, green, herbal, oolong, white tea, rooibos, honeybush and many other special items.

Tea Shop Through a Window Pane

As seems to be my pattern, I pass through communities with tea rooms on Sunday's or Monday's, and both are days that tea rooms are closed. Pictures through a window pane are about as close as I can get on far too many occasions!

Tea Shop Hours

A pretty sign with teapots and cups gives tea shop hours beside the door.

Teas and Treasures

An abundance of teas and tea-time treasures.

Giftware and Teapots

Giftware and teapots are arranged in nice displays.

Oasis of Peace

Whether it's a few minutes
or a few hours,
tea with friends
is an oasis of peace
in a busy world.

The Changing Season

The August sunshine and lack of rain has brought forth it's seasonal changes on the mountain. But each season brings forth it's own beauty. The meadow is no longer green and lush with grass. Instead, dry grasses and seeds are many. Shady pockets amongst trees of forest still show abundant green and a few vibrant flowers. Wild berries are ripening and rose hips are reaching maturity.

Quiet and peaceful days on the mountain are such a blessing! There are so many of nature's treasures to discover. It's genuinely a place of renewal. God is good!

Berry Red

Standing Guard

Fern Meadow

Puff of White

Indian Paintbrush



Bear Tracks

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Fresh Mint and Ginger Lemonade

1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh ginger
1/3 cup honey
2 cups boiling water
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups cold water (approximately)
fresh mint leaves and lemon slices, for garnish

Combine mint, ginger and honey in a medium bowl; add boiling water, and let steep 30 minutes. Strain into 4-cup glass measuring cup, pressing on solids to extract liquid. Add lemon juice and enough cold water to make 4 cups. Cover and refrigerate.Enjoy lemonade in ice-filled glasses, garnished with mint leaves and lemon slices.

Serves 4.

Fresh Mint Iced Tea

3 cups water
7 tea bags*
3 to 6 sprigs of mint
1 cup granulated sugar**
1 (6 ounce) can frozen lemonade

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Remove from the heat and drop in the tea bags and mint sprigs. Allow to steep 8 to 10 minutes. Remove and discard the tea bags and mint sprigs. Stir in the sugar and lemonade. Chill again or serve over ice cubes.

Makes about 3 cups; 1 cup per serving.

*Use your favorite tea; or Lipton Decaf works well in this recipe.
**May substitute stevia to taste.