Thursday, June 28, 2007

Lavender Baskets

Lavender baskets are fragrant, pretty, and easy to make. This one took me about an hour to create. After it dries, the flowers will retain their lavender appearance and will make a pretty addition to home decor throughout the winter months.

Gather together a bundle of lavender on long stems. You will need about 20 stems. Cut the stem ends of evenly and remove any leaves that may be growing on them. It's best to cut your lavender a day ahead and allow it to 'sit' overnight before starting this project, as the stems are easier to work with if they 'wilt' a little while.

Arrange your lavender bouquet as desired, placing shorter flowers clusters around the outside edges and longer stems in the center. Determine where you want the base of your basket to be. At that point, tape or tie a piece of ribbon around stems to hold them in place. Gently fold each stem back onto the other stems. They should 'break' but not 'break off'.

Arrange the stems evenly around the circumference of the floral bundle. If possible, they should fold back individually without stacking on top of one another.

Tape or tie a piece of ribbon on the inside, base of your lavender bundle, right next to the crease line of the stems. I usually keep the ribbon on the roll for ease in weaving.

Weave the ribbon through stems, alternating rows to create a basket weave. For this basket I used a one-stem pattern. For others I sometimes include two or three stems in each weave.

Continue weaving, tightening the ribbon with each layer as you progress.

Select the height desired to complete weaving.

Wrap ribbon around stems and tie in a knot. Cut end of ribbon. Trim the stems that are not needed (instructions to follow).

Cut all the stems off except for two or three at opposite sides of the lavender bouquet.

Work the stems gently, forming an arch. Tuck the raw stem ends into the opposite side of the lavender bouquet. For this basket, I saved three stems per side, but it's common for one or two to break. After the stems were bent, I selected the best two on each side and trimmed off the extra.

Tie the ribbon onto the base of one side of handle. Wrap it around the stems, going back and forth from one side to the other. This will require some patience, as all the ribbon needs to be pulled through each time. At this point, I abandoned the roll and used loose ribbon that was loosely bunched.

Wrap until the handle is completely enclosed and then tie off the end and trim. Wrap additional ribbon around top of basket and attach with a dot of craft glue.

Tie a ribbon with streamers at top of handle and at top basket edge. Place your basket in a place where it can dry without disturbance. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It's Summer Time!

It's summer time! The end of June marks the official beginning of summer and hot weather! Life is always busy in the summer, as the pace of school and work changes for our family. Brandon and Rylan are working for Brent this summer. So far, so good --- as having "Dad" as the boss can sometimes be intricate. But, other summers have passed peacefully this way, so the same is expected for this one as well. They are pleased to have a break from their studies.

As spring passes and we await mid-summer, the wheat fields are turning from vibrant green to a lovely amber color. It won't be long and the combines will be harvesting and trucks will be hauling to nearby grain elevators. It's all a part of the passage of the seasons --- each year becomes somewhat predictable as common sights and actions are incorporated into the flow of daily life.

Nothing Fancy

There's nothing fancy around here this time of year. The focus is on enjoying the abundance of summer and going with the flow of life. This week we were blessed with blueberries and raspberries. Levi, our eight-year-old, several-times-removed cousin, picked the blueberries for us. We were happy to pay him for his efforts and to participate in helping his parents develop his 'work ethic' as he learns how to reap the benefits of hard work and managing money. It wasn't too many years past that his parents were doing it for our boys. It doesn't seem all that long ago that they were buying produce from them or hiring them to work on a computer project. Those years flew by quickly!

Drying Lavender

As I said, there's not much fancy going on at our house right now. The living room has turned into a drying parlor for lavender! It's in full production right now, with some varieties blooming a littler sooner than others. It's warm enough to dry the lavender outside, but the sun fades the color, so it's best dried under cover. I've spread cotton sheets out on the floor and bundles of lavender are spread in groupings on the floor. They are drying well and the fragrance is fantastic! The more they dry, the more fragrant the room becomes!

Simple Living

And, of course summer time means spending relaxing time at the cabin. It's 'off the grid', so blogging and email responses get set aside for a time later when back at home. Of course then I get behind, but that's life. Living without simply becomes a time of quality conversations, relaxation, serenity, and an opportunity for centering. There's something very soothing about being a 'pioneer woman' when at the cabin. Although there are fewer kitchen tools, every things done by hand, water needs hauled in containers from home, and there is no instant electricity --- it's quite heavenly! I enjoy the breaks from the realities and busy flow of life in the valley. It's simple living at it's best!

Fern Triangle

We have a spot on the mountain that is near our front gate. I've started calling it "Fern Triangle" and for some reason the name has stuck. In early spring, this area is a brown and barren triangle of bleakness. But, as summer approaches, small shoots of beautiful ferns start sprouting. Each week we notice more growth. Right now the ferns are just starting to develop and are nearly waist high. They'll grow a few more feet and will fill in as tall, abundant foliage. It's a pretty site. I love this area, as it brings a sense of calm and peace with it.

What to Do with Wild Baby's Breath

Last week I promised to show you what I did with the wild baby's breath. Here are the anticipated results. The flowers on wild baby's breath are quite tiny, but when clumped together have a pretty, cloud-like effect. So, I gathered my tools and set about making a car trunk load of flowers into a smaller, but more usable bouquet. I've decided to use this bunch of baby's breath in a wreath. I have 'no plan', so this is an 'invent as I go' project. I think I'll mix it with several colors of lavender and see what happens.

Floral Picks & Flowers

Each bundle includes a bunch of baby's breath and a floral pick.

Winding Wire

Wind the wire (attached to the pick) around the stems.

Floral Tape

Use floral tape to wrap the wire and pick.

Completed Pick

A completed pick, ready for drying and use in a wreath. By the way, if you decide to do this, be sure to wrap the flowers when they are still fresh and dry them on the picks. If you dry them first, they could crack and break or the tiny flowers could fall off. Fresh is best for this project.

Baby's Breath Mound

An entire trunk full of wild baby's breath has been reduced to this mound-in-a-tray! It's been set to dry --- and is ready to be used in floral projects.

Please check back again!
Next I'll be demonstrating how to
make lavender baskets.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Earth Laughs

"Earth laughs in flowers."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Wild Baby's Breath

Nearby fields and roadsides in our community burst into bloom with wild baby's breath every June. The mounds of this frilly white plant looks like puffs of clouds in the otherwise bleak, dry fields and roadside berms. It always amazes me how the baby's breath thrives under these conditions. Tiny little white flowers daintily grace the high-shrub steppe landscape.

While on a drive recently, we stopped by the roadside to pick a few bundles of this plant. Keeping a watchful eye for snakes, I cut enough stems of baby's breath to fill up the entire trunk of the car. The flowers are now home, but tiny blossoms have fallen from stem and are sprinkled in the car. Since it was Rylan's car, he has a comment or two about that fact. He says that it seems like baby's breath should smell good, but it doesn't. Instead it rather smells like puppy breath --- which only smells good when holding a tiny pup!
Can you see all the mounds of baby's breath? They remind me of puffy clouds. The dry grasses and green weeds look out of place in the field. Imagine green grass instead of weeds --- and mounds of white baby's breath. Wouldn't it be a perfect place for a wedding? As you can tell, my imagination is getting the best of me!
The baby's breath grew most abundantly along the irrigation canal, but it was running swift and deep --- soon to sweep into an underground culvert and out of sight. I thought it best to keep away from it's edges and chose to gather from the fields instead.
Tomorrow I will tell you about the craft project I'm working on, using baby's breath, of course!

Well-Watered Garden

" 'The Lord will guide you always. . .
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.' "

Isaiah 58:11

Karleen's garden is one I always enjoy visiting. It's so nice to have her as a neighbor and friend. Her garden always inspires me and fills me with feelings of tranquility and old-fashioned sweetness. It's a riot of color this time of year, and as always, so well tended. I really enjoy her cottage style of gardening so much, as her garden reminds me of the one my mother always kept.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Quietness in the Woods

How do you describe about quietness? It's not easy --- but a picture says a thousand words. Our mountain retreat provided respite from a busy week. Brent's very best "Father's Day" choice was a trip to the cabin. . .so off we went. Yesterday Brent installed a steel door in the woodshed and storage building that he is working on. The changes that take place from week to week on the mountain are interesting to observe. The meadow is abloom in different flowers than it was earlier this spring. The predominant colors are red, white, and yellow right now. The maidenhair ferns are growing in "Fern Triangle" --- and the meadow is starting to show touches of beige as the days warm up and the grasses dry. Our road shows signs of much rain washing through ruts and edges last week. We discovered that our mountain next-door-neighbors have been busy logging the woods next to ours, leaving branches and ruts in their wake. A walk through the our woods was a time of searching for signs of bear, coyote, deer, and elk. And deer were seen in abundance as we drove home; they grazed the pea fields that are in full blossom and thriving green! Hmmmm, it seems words did come, as I focused on memories of yesterday and the quietness it brought to my heart and soul. God is good!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Lavande Luxe

Please bear with me as I talk about one of my favorite subjects -- again! Lavender. Today while grocery shopping at the health food store I picked up a flier that told about a new lavender farm on the outskirts of town. How interesting! I dropped off the groceries at home and asked Rylan if he'd like to go fo a ride with me to this farm. He said he'd enjoy going, and off we went.
Our adventure started to get confusing when we discovered that we were on the wrong freeway (going north instead of west), but after examining a map we made our own way and soon came to a narrow gravel road out in farm country. Set among corn, potato, and alfalfa fields we found Lavande Luxe --- a small, family operated lavender farm that's open to the public from now until July.
The shop is a work in progress. It's an old garage near the farm house that has been gutted to expose the naturally aged rafters and wood that provide structure and shell for the building. This simple background provides an excellent background for product displays. Inside were tables of lavender product, a table of beautiful topiaries for sale, and of course abundant lavender. A little dog and a sweet child greeted us until Mr. Farmer came out to show us the lavender fields.
Mrs. Farmer came home from visiting the neighbors while we were there. The hustle and bustle of children, dogs, and guests created a homey feeling as Rylan and walked through the lavender field.
Rylan finds a comfortable place to rest while I take pictures of lavender.
Mr. Farmer and the Farmer's Daughter gave us each a delightful glass of iced lavender lemonade when we arrived. It was gentle hospitality. I was most impressed when I saw Mr. Farmer adding a sprig of fresh lavender to each glass. The lavender lemonade was served from a large, clear glass jar with a stemware goblet next to it, filled with lavender sprigs for garnishing.
Their method of charging for any lavender cut was interesting and one I hadn't seen before. Usually it's sold by handful or bundles, but this farm family sells their lavender by basket. Lined up along the shop wall were baskets of all sizes. The smallest (pictured) had a tag that said $3.00. Others went from there to $40.00. The customer selects the basket for the amount they would like and are given a cutter. From there they are free to go into the field and cut the amount and type of lavender they desire. Although we have lots of lavender at home, we purchased a small basket for the fun of it (and out of courtesy).
Rylan walks between the Melissa (pink) lavender plants and the Royal Velvet (hybrid, dark purple) lavender plants. What a fragrant walk!
On this lavender farm, customers are offered a variety of choices. From left to right are Grosso, Melissa, Royal Velvet, and Alba. As you can see, lavender comes in a variety of colors. Their choices include gray-lavender, pink, dark purple, and white.
This is the preferred tool for harvesting lavender. The method is to grasp a handful of lavender stems in your right hand and cut them just above the leaf line with your left hand. It works quite well. The scythe we use at home for our lavender does not have little 'teeth' on the blade, but this one did and I think it works a little more effectively than ours.
Our bundle of pink Melissa and dark purple Royal Velvet lavenders was packaged in a pretty bag. Even a small bundle like this one can fill your car or a room with much fragrance! Our trip to the lavender farm was a pleasant surprise on a busy afternoon. Sometimes you just have to let the housework go. . .and do something for the joy of it! What a treat!

Lavender Tableclothes

This is the season of lavender --- and I couldn't resist posting a picture of these beautiful, handmade table clothes. In lovely floral prints, the color purple is featured with elements of neutrals that creates a shabby chic feel. I love the broad, striped borders. Have I inspired you to get your sewing machine out and try making one? It's on my 'to do' list --- which is very long, of course!

Enjoy a lovely day!
Photo: a lavender shop in Sequim

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Swiss Cherry Soup

Swiss Cherry Soup

3 cups unflitered apple juice
6 thin lemon slices
6 thin orange slices
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/4 cup water
2 cups pitted cherries
2 cups sliced peaches

Simmer first 5 ingredients together for 10 minutes in covered saucepan.Meanwhile, dissolve cornstarch in water. Add to saucepan, stirring briskly.Return mixture to a boil and continue to boil 1 minute over medium-high heator until clear, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add cherries and peaches. Serve chilled.

Serves: 4

*Add the sweet herb, stevia, if you would like a sweeter version of this recipe.

English Trifle

English Trifle

Berry Filling:

1 cup water
6 oz. white grape/raspberry (frozen 100% juice concentrate)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 cups fresh blueberries

Combine 1 cup water, juice concentrate and vanilla and bring mixture to a boil. Combine 1/2 cup water and cornstarch and stir until dissolved. Stirringconstantly, add cornstarch-water to the boiling juice and continue stirringuntil mixture thickens and 'clears'. Add the berries and remove from heat. Set aside to cool.

Cream Filling:

10.5 oz. box Mori-Nu tofu, firm
1/4 cup fructose
1 cup Better Than Milk, lite
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup Instant
Clear Jel

In a blender, combine tofu, fructose, milk, vanilla and salt and process untilsmooth. Turn blender speed down to lowest setting, remove the lid and addInstant Clear Jel food thickener. Replace lid, increase speed to highestsetting and process briefly until mixture is thick.

Crunchy Filling:

2 cups gluten free granola or gluten free cookies, crumbled

Procedure: Layer above ingredients into parfait glasses in the following order:

1. Granola or cookie crumbles
2. Berry filling
3. Cream filling
4. Repeat. End top layer with granola or cookie crumbs and a dollop of berry filling or vegan whipped cream.

Adapted from Tastefully Vegan

A Walk Around the Block

Each evening Brent and I have been taking a walk around the block. The weather has been pleasant --- warm but with gentle, cool breezes. There's always something interesting to observe, whether it be animal, bird, or foliage. This evening we enjoyed observing the beautiful organic fruits that will be available soon. The cherries are ripe and seem to have been saved from splitting due to recent rains. And the blueberries, oh-la-la, they are plump, ripe, and abundant on the bush. The Fuji apples are growing and starting to take on a gentle blush. Grape vines are a study in green with tiny clusters of grapes growing in the shadow of their leaves.

Tomorrow the blueberry harvest starts. The field will be filled with pickers and you'll be able to hear their cheerful chatter and singing as they work. Our neighbor just branched out into the blueberry business three or four years ago, starting with a patch on our block. It's done well, so well in fact, that this early spring he planted another 100 acres of blueberries across the highway. They also built a large steel-building for their processing plant and the first of their stainless steel machinery has arrived and is ready to go --- starting tomorrow. Cherry harvest has been in full swing for several days --- it's time to hit the Farmer's Market!

Neighborhood Critters

Some of the friendly neighborhood critters that greeted us on our walk around the block. It seems like every other house has a big dog or two as well, but their photos will have to wait for another day.