Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Quilt of Life

When sorting through a box of my mother's quilt patterns, I found some newsletters from a quilting guild that she belonged to years ago. One had a story that should be shared. It is called "The Quilt of Life" by Doyle Loving. Parts are poignant and sad, but hope shines through on life's stage. It appears that he wrote this at a time when his wife was facing difficulty in life.

It's the oddest looking quilt you have ever seen, unfinished and worn, there are even some places where the blocks have been torn. The lack of design will make your eyebrows raise in surprise, and some of the colors used will assault your eyes. I will raise no excuse for the look of my quilt; much of it was constructed in pain and great guilt. I am the author of the blocks both the big and the small, and they reflect life lived both the short and the tall.

The block in the center is all yellow with age, and is where the quilt started, it's like the first page. The block seems so odd with the pink of new life, but quickly turns red with the skilled surgeons knife. It took me twelve years to finish this part; it's surrounded with the dark colors of a not so good start. The work of a child is the obvious conclusion, stitched together while shivering in fear and confusion.

The blocks surrounding the center are wild indeed, the color of anger and overwhelming need. There is the maroon block, for innocence lost, and the color of betrayal covers it all like a frost. The colors that are missing leap out from this section, where are the bright colors of education? The bright colors of childhood are yet to be seen, for the colors of work have a more ominous sheen.

I surveyed the quilt after sixteen years of labor, I wanted to stop quilting for life had no savor. It was there I met a companion that refused to depart, my nemesis depression moved into my heart. You see that black swatch that's biggest of all, it almost took over my quilt and predestined my fall.

In a flash of wonder the colors turn brighter! I met the light of my life and she made me a fighter. She told me although our quilts had no brightness so far, if we quilted together our quilt would be bright as the stars. So we both joined our quilts with a very strong thread, and vowed that our future would be filled with laughter in steed. Our quilt became one and it was almost all dark, most everyone though our future as quilters was stark. But the thread that joined our quilts was strong and bright and the most beautiful quilt was begun on that night.

Now our quilt has yellows and blues, look there are our children's blocks with their wonderful hues. The pinks are surrounded by bright colors all round, and dark colors on their blocks are not to be found.

We started to sash the quilt when we met, the bright red of commitment now looks like a net. There were many colors we didn't even know existed, we stitched those in and the dark we resisted. Oh there are a few spots on our quilt that are dark, but the colors around them make them look no so stark. And as for our kids, they have quilt of their own, and the center of their quilts have a much brighter tone. Our quilt has grown large, making the center look smaller, and quilting together makes our blocks a lot taller.

Each block tells its story of sunshine and rain, and somehow the laughter has taken over the pain. The quilt is so odd with its color and design, it is the quilt of our life and the story of our time. The quilt keeps us warm when the storms outside rage, and keep us reminded of the plays on life's stage. We wouldn't trade our quilt, though many others are so nice, our quilt has come to us at a very high price. It is dark in the middle and still unfinished, but our love for the quilters is still undiminished.

If your quilt has some dark, and I know all quilts do, then let me express this hope for you. May the bright colors of life overtake your quilt, and may not a block you sew be done with guilt. May it keep you warm when the rain should appear, and give you direction when toward the good times you steer. These quilts we all sew some with dark, some with bright, and they keep us warm when we just don't want to fight. So fight on, my dear wife, and remember this too: nobody can make a quilt like you!

~ If you were to write a story about the quilt of your life, what would it look like?

Friday, November 18, 2011

To Have a Friend

A blessed thing it is for any man or woman to have a friend; one human soul whom we can trust utterly; who knows the best and the worst of us, and who loves us in spite of all our faults; who will speak the honest truth to us, while the world flatters us to our face, and laughs at us behind our back.
Charles Kingsley

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Crunchy Brown Rice and Garbanzo Salad

Winter months call for hearty salads. I love rice salads that contain legumes, something crunchy like nuts and seeds, and fresh, flavorful herbs. Flavor, crunch, and color work together in this salad to make a delicious dish for the holiday season.

1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cups cooked brown rice
15 oz. can garbanzos, with broth
1/4 cup chopped parsley, fresh 
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 1/2 tsp. all-purpose seasoning
1/4 tsp. sweet basil
1/4 tsp. oregano

Simmer celery and onion in garbanzo broth, until tender. Combine with remaining ingredients and mix together well. Press into prepared, two quart casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees F for 35 - 45 minutes, uncovered.

Serves: 5

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crockpot Squash

Each season presents its own delicious foods. Autumn is no exception. I'm sure you've been enjoying squash, new potatoes, kale, and other delicious vegetables. I know I have! Today I tried a new method of cooking squash, and it was so easy and so delicious that I just have to share with you. This is the easiest way to prepare squash ever! I tried this with butternut squash, but it works just as well with acorn squash, spaghetti squash, and more.
1. Wash the squash very well. Leave on the skin, but break off the stem if you need space in your crockpot.
2. Place whole, cleaned squash in crockpot.  Do not add water. Do not poke with fork or knife.
3. Place lid on crockpot. If the lid does not fit, fashion one out of foil to use instead.
4. Place temperature setting on "high".
5. Go do something fun! Or laundry or housework, if you must. 
6. After 4 - 6 hours, check squash for doneness.  Should be tender and easy to slip a knife into.
7. Remove from crockpot and place on cutting board or platter. Slice in half lengthwise. Remove seeds. Spoon squash out of skin and place in bowl. Or cut into serving-size pieces.

8. Serve and enjoy! SO delicious!
If you have a squash with a very tough skin, you may want to add 1/4 cup water to the crockpot. For most squash, additional water is not necessary, as there is enough moisture in the squash.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Taking Two Cups of Tea


"And quite a family it is to make tea for, 
and wot a happiness to do it! 
The privileges of the side-table included the small
prerogatives of siting next to the toast, 

and taking two cups of tea
to other people's one."

Charles Dickens

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Tea at Five O'Clock

When the tea is brought at five o'clock and all the neat curtains are drawn with care, the little black cat with bright green eyes is suddenly purring there.

- - - -Harold Monro "Milk for the Cat"

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fizzy Fizzy Bath Balls

Fuzzy bath balls are so much fun! They can be purchased in large or small sizes in the toiletries section of your local drug store, but they are so simple to make. Imagine a fragrant fizz-fizz as you prepare a steaming hot bath. . .pure luxury! Great for YOU, but fun for kids and to be used as gifts as well.

Fizzy Fizzy Bath Balls

4 Tbsp. citric acid
4 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 tsp. essential oil (fragrance of choice)
6 - 12 drops of food color
6 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Stir the citric acid, cornstarch, and baking soda together in a mixing bowl. Set aside. In a small bowl or cup, mix together the vegetable oil, essential oils, and food coloring. Then, slowly add the oil mixture to the dry ingredients, mixing well. Place 1 - 2 Tbsp. of mixture into hand and form into a small ball. Continue, placing balls on a sheet of waxed paper. Allow to dry for 2 - 3 hours for semi-hard stage. They will need to dry for 2 - 4 days to be fully dry and suitable for storage in a clear glass canister or large Mason canning jar (seal to keep from moisture). To use, fill a bath tub with hot water and add 2 or 3 fizzy bath bombs right before getting into tub.

These make great gifts too! Package them in a pretty jar or place in individual candy cups and box (like chocolates!).

*Regular vegetable oils will work, but for more luxury, use coconut oil, avocado oil, apricot kernel oil, or sweet almond oil.

** Instead of balls, children might enjoy forming into different shapes: hearts, animals, crescent moons, etc.

*** Be sure to use pure, essential oils (food grade). Fragrance oils available for home decor may not be pure and are harmful to skin.

****Choose from a wide variety of essential oils: lavender, jasmine, chamomile, geranium, rose, ylang-ylang, clary sage, rosemary, pine, eucalyptus, sandalwood, cedarwood, angelica, etc.

Posted at 11:11 AM on 11/11/11

Bath Salts

Salts added to baths have therapeutic benefits.  Salts help to mineralize the water and to add buoyancy.   Recently Kelly Rippa shared her simple recipe for a therapeutic bath that she claims helps eliminate symptoms of a cold.  She fills a tub with hot water and adds 2 cups of Epsom salts and 1 bottle of hydrogen peroxide. Although she didn't mention it, adding 8 - 10 drops of eucalyptus oil would make it even better! Having a cupboard filled with these raw ingredients makes taking a mineral salt bath simple, but sometimes it's nice to have a pre-measured container of salts in a pretty container nearby. Here's a simple recipe for homemade bath salts:

4 cups of sea salt
2 tsp. vegetable oil
10 - 14 drops of essential oil of your choice
food coloring (I prefer to use dry, powdered food coloring because it doesn't add moisture)

Place all the ingredients in a gallon zip-lock bag and shake well. Then pour into a pretty glass jar and lid. Add a scoop and enjoy in a hot bath!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Free Pattern

If you have a moment or two to spare, please stop by Fay's blog today. She's designed a beautiful autumn-themed pattern for embroidery or paint that she's giving away for free. All you have to do is download. And while you're there, leave her a comment and tell her I sent you.

Happy Thankfulness Month!

Selecting Herbs for Tea

Herbs for bath TEA can be found in many places. Check your kitchen cupboard, your garden, or the shelf at your local health food store. Here are some examples of herbs that can be added to your bath TEA.

Basil, Chamomile, Lavender, Peppermint, Strawberry Leaves, Sage, Catnip, Comfrey, Spearmint, Chervil, Rose, Rosemary, Calendula, Savory, Horsetail, Thyme, Lemon Balm, Parsley, Marjoram, Jasmine, Orange Peel, Lemon Verbena, Eucalyptus, Violets, Bay Leaf, Hops, Valerian Root

If you don't have time to make an infusion or decoction, simple place your choice of herbs into a heat-sealable tea bag or a draw-string muslin bag and float in a tub of hot water.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Bath Tea

With cooler temperatures, soaking in a hot bath can be warming and relaxing. Make it into a bath TEA and the essence of luxury is achieved! Not only are they therapeutic for the skin, but they are soothing for the soul. Add a pot filled with hot tea beside your favorite teacup at tubs edge, and you'll feel like you are living in the lap of luxury!

The first ingredient for a bath TEA is water. Just as water for tea (the beverage) is to be treated just so (pure and heated to exactly 212 degrees F), water for a bath TEA is just as particular. It should be at 97 - 98 degrees F., a temperature that closely matches that of the human body. This allows for a bath that promotes circulation and healthy detoxification.

Once the water has been drawn and is at the proper temperature, it is time to add the TEA herbs. There are two methods by which to do this. They are infusion and decoction.

To make an infusion bath TEA:  boil a teakettle of water, then pour over selected herbs.  Steep for 10 - 15 minutes, then strain through a cheesecloth. Gently pour the infused tea into hot bath water. Infusions work very well for herbal leaves, flowers, and buds.

To make a decoction bath TEA:  fill a saucepan with water and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer. Add herbs and simmer for 30 minutes. Then, strain thorugh a cheesecloth. Gently pour the infused tea into hot bath water.  Decoctions work especially well for roots and bark.

All parts of herbal plants can be used to create a bath TEA. Try making a decoction of roots and bark, then pour the decoction over a selection of fragrant leaves and flowers. Let this steep for 15 minutes and then pour into a hot bath. 

Immerse yourself in luxury! Allow the herbal essences to ease away aches and pains, to moisturize your skin, aid your circulation, and renew your spirit.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Ginger Honey

Home baked bread tastes SO good with a sweet topping like jam or honey. Adding a warming spice to jam or honey is welcome during the cold winter months. While summer's speak to cooling minty flavors, warming spices like ginger and cinnamon warm you from the inside out during the winter months. Here's a recipe for a warming winter honey that you might enjoy with toast and tea.

Ginger Honey

2 cups local honey
1/4 cup candied ginger, chopped

Place the honey in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it has warmed through, stir in the ginger chunks. Then pour into a pint jar. Cover and let mixture cool to room temperature. Serve and enjoy!

*Candied ginger can also be added to a cup of hot tea to spice it up as well!

Spices and Herbs

Spices and herbs add wonderful flavor to the food we eat.  Have you ever wondered what the difference is between the two? How would you describe the difference between an herb and a spice?  It's really quite simple once you figure it out. Herbs are the leaf of a plant that is used in cooking. Cooks refer to them as culinary herbs. Spice also comes from plants, but they come from other the other parts of the plant. A spice can come from the plant buds (cloves), bark (as in cinnamon), roots (like ginger), berries (as in peppercorns), aromatic seeds (cumin) or a flower stigma (saffron). Holiday cooking and baking nears with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up in the next few weeks. How many of these different plant parts will you use in your holiday meal preparation? A bit of trivia, perhaps, but interesting, don't you think?

Monday, November 07, 2011

Feasting on Focaccia

Here's another easy recipe for holiday gatherings. Although simple and delicious, your guests will think you've been working for hours to prepare this tasty treat.

Olive Focaccia

1 package bread-stick dough
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, oil-packed, drained, and chopped
4 Tbsp. sliced calamata olives (or your favorite)
1 Tbsp. rosemary, fresh
1/2 tsp. salt
Olive oil
1/4 cup green onions, sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Divide the bread-dough stick into 8 sections. Place each section, flattened, onto a baking stone. Brush each section with olive oil. Then sprinkle with sun-dried tomatoes and olive slices. Sprinkle with salt and rosemary. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven, top with green onions, and serve.

*If packaged bread-stick dough is not available, use premade frozen bread loaf instead (or make your own).

Holiday Finger-Foods

Have you checked your calendar recently? The holidays are near!  They are a time when families or friends gather to celebrate and share quality time together. From family dinners to holiday events, food usually takes center stage. Although some enjoy spending time preparing complicated recipes, it's helpful to have a stash of quick and easy recipes at your fingertips for informal gatherings with loved ones. A finger-food feast can be just as rewarding as a full-course dinner. . .and a little less stressful on the host! Here are some ideas for such a feast.

Start with a supply of bruschetta toasts, pita bread, chips, crackers, tea sandwich breads, or fresh, raw veggies. These serve as a good base for the topping recipes that follow:

White Bean Spread

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic,  minced
1 pinch red peppers, crushed
1 - 15 oz. can white beans, drained (save liquid)
1/2 tsp. rosemary, fresh and chopped
2 Tbsp. parsley, fresh and chopped
Salt to taste

Place olive oil, garlic, and crushed red pepper in a medium skillet. Saute' for one minute. Then, stir in the white beans and 5 Tbsp. of the reserved liquid. While heating, mash beans with a wooden spoon against the sides of the pan until a chunky puree forms.  Stir in the rosemary, parsley, and salt. If needed, add more bean liquid. 

To serve, spread 1 tablespoon, heaping, onto toast, chips, or veggie bites.  Makes 12.

Artichoke Topping

1 - 14 oz. can artichokes, water-packed
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. green-olive tapenade
1 tsp. light brown sugar
Salt to taste

Drain the artichokes and place them in a food processor. Add olive oil, lemon juice, tapenade, brown sugar, and salt. Blend until mixture is smooth.  

To serve, spread 1 tablespoon, heaping, onto toast or veggie bites.  Makes 12.

Red Pepper Topping

1 jar roasted red peppers, water-packed and drained
1 clove garlic, minced
4 Tbsp. bread crumbs, fresh
3 Tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes
Salt to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. If needed, add a small amount of the oil that the sun-dried tomatoes were packed in. 

To serve, spread 1 tablespoon, heaping, onto toast, chips, or veggie bites.  Makes 12.

Pinto Bean Hummus

1 - 15 oz. can pinto beans, drained
1/2 cup salsa
1 Tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp. olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. cumin, ground
1/2 cup cilantro, fresh
Avocado slices (optional)

Place beans, salsa, lime juice, olive oil, garlic, and cumin in food processor. Blend until smooth. Place mixture into a bowl and stir in cilantro. Use immediately or refrigerate and chill.

To serve, spread 1 tablespoon, heaping, onto toast, chips, or veggie bites. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Verses for Autumn

 Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them —
The summer flowers depart —
Sit still — as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.
Stanley Horowitz

It was one of those perfect English autumnal days which occur more frequently in memory than in life.  

P.D. James

A woodland in full color is awesome as a forest fire, in magnitude at least, but a single tree is like a dancing tongue of flame to warm the heart.  

Hal Borland

There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!  

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Autumn's Joy

I wish I were a poet, because verse and rhyme seems the most apt way to express pieces of autumn's beauty and the joy it brings. Since I am not, I will try to capture bits of autumn through the camera's eye.

Sunshine, clouds, and a balmy day in autumn worked together to create beauty in such simple ways.  A large and mighty river winding through the shrub-steppe landscape seems even mightier from a bluff above it.

Beautiful sunflowers and bachelor buttons refuse to give up their bloom just because summer is past. Although the landscape around them is dry and beige, their vibrant faces smile upwards and speak to my heart.

Little bits of trivia add a dash of romance to the day. An island on the river contains a cabin and a boat landing. The only privately owned island on the river seems so appealing from afar.

Oak trees in all stages of colorful change dot the volcanic ridden soil, mixing black with copper for a pretty effect.

Autumn is passing quickly. Snow is predicted for this week-end. Winter approaches and autumn's colorful glory will be missed. I'm enjoying it while I can. I hope you are too!

Fabric of Friendship

Constant use will not wear ragged the fabric of friendship.

Dorothy Parker 

*If you like buttons, check out the book called "Button Ware" by Amy Barickman on Amazon. It is filled with great ideas for making things with buttons!