26 January 2014

painted hearts + pancakes

Painted hearts, pancakes . . . plus some chicken enchiladas! The end of January always has me kicking into creative high gear, because my birthday's lurking just around the corner. And it's not just my birthday - it's my sister's birthday and her daughter's birthday - a big celebration for us. So that means I'll head up north to the farm this upcoming weekend and we'll all just hang out with each other - make some good food, devour some cake. We don't really exchange big gifts, we mainly just give each other little things that we've made or pass on good books that the other person has "just got to read right now."

Valentine's Day is just around the corner as well. I really like the holiday when I keep myself shielded from all the marketing that surrounds it. When I keep it to homemade, simple valentines and buy my chocolate at least a week before - and avoid the panic of the romantics who forgot their sweethearts until the day of - well, it's a lot more fun that way.

The cat has figured out where all of my creative energy is "roosting" these days - she's keeping a close eye on all of my stuff is a nice way of putting it - as long as she keeps her paws out of my paints!

I found a great pancake recipe here. I followed it exactly, but subbed coconut milk for buttermilk and added a teaspoon each of cinnamon and vanilla. And I highly recommend this enchilada recipe, it was easy to put together and something different from our usual evening dinners.

24 January 2014

winter garden

I went for a walk and found a stand of Queen Anne's Lace and the flowers looked like they could be accessories for a fairy queen - lacy scepters holding crystals of ice. I was completely enchanted and I took at least a dozen photos. The one at the top of this post is my favorite.

I like to imagine how it was formed: the snow fell and filled the lacy cup of the dried flower head, then the wind blew and spun it into a icy sphere. And there is was - waiting for me - on my next walk through the neighborhood. I wanted to pick it and take it home, but it would have melted if I had brought it inside.

I'm working on a lace baby sweater - a pattern that I've knit a dozen times, but this is the first time that I've used my mother's wool and kid mohair yarn. It's going to be super soft and warm.

Happy Friday, everyone!


18 January 2014

warm + cozy

We woke to a layer of crisp, clean snow this morning and Garrett got up and shoveled while I fussed around with the quilt I'm working on, before finally moving into the kitchen to tidy up after another busy work week. I came home last night and made a pot of ginger beef and vegetable soup. I thought I was coming down with something (I had a bit of a sore throat) so I wanted to eat something that would make me feel good.

I used some of the beef from my parent's farm and the jar of vegetable broth that we got from my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas. The final verdict is I love this soup, I wish I would have made more. It has a ton of flavor and the sweet zip of the ginger goes well with the beef and carrots. I guess I'll take the time to type out the recipe, because I took a lot of liberties with the recipes I based it off.

Ginger Beef and Vegetable Soup (with Barley)

1 medium onion - diced
3 celery stalks - diced
5 medium carrots - diced
1T. olive oil or butter
3 garlic cloves - crushed
1/2 lb. beef stew meat - cut into small chunks
1 t. ground ginger
1 T. dried rosemary - I crush it between my fingers before I toss it in the pot
1 quart vegetable broth
3 to 4 cups water
1/4 cup barley
1 cup frozen peas
salt & pepper to taste

In a large pot saute the onion and celery in the olive oil, add the beef, garlic cloves, carrots, ginger and rosemary and let these ingredients cook together until the onions become transparent. Add the vegetable broth, plus 3 to 4 cups water, add barley. Allow these ingredients to simmer for an hour or so, until the meat, veggies and barley are done. Add the frozen peas at the last minute - no one likes over-cooked peas!

Serve with warm, crusty bread. A fantastic cold-weather meal.

** UPDATE - the image of the cute house in the snow above was taken on a walk around the neighborhood. I love it's red door and the wood accent above the front step.

13 January 2014

snowmen kissing

It feels so good to have a Monday morning off from work. I've been up since before Garrett had to leave - brewing coffee, pulling on a warm pair of handknit socks - and as soon as he slipped out the front door I snuggled into the sofa with my computer to post a blog and catch up with all the things I'd missed over the last week.

The first thing we both missed (due to our crazy work schedules and Garrett starting up grad school again) was our second anniversary. This was agreed upon. We postponed celebrating until this week, when we both had some breathing room to enjoy a dinner out. (My mom drew us that cute snowmen kissing card - I tacked it to the fridge right away. It sorta sets the tone for a sub-zero winter wedding anniversary - which is what we experienced last week.)

Brrrr! We're coming out of a deep freeze here. I spent the weekend quilting, reading and plotting my next knitting project. You can see my progress on the quilt above. I love how it's coming together. Now I need to figure out the trim and the backing and quilt it on my machine - without breaking my sewing machine. I think it's finally time I learned the tension settings - i.e. maybe I better read the instruction book that came with the machine.

Good Books - The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-Mi Hwang. Wow! Just wow - I'm serious. I saw this book at the bookstore at around Christmas time and we decided not to buy it because it was just a slender volume and why not check it out at the library? (which is how I got it) but now I know I want to own it. This book is an allegory for all women who dream about "hatching their own eggs" and becoming a mother - no matter what type of little chick hops out of the egg. I bawled at the ending. It was good for me.

The little watercolor of the quilt above is inspiration for my next quilting project - a keeper for us. It's going to be a challenge, but I'm up for it. 

Happy Monday to you all!

06 January 2014

below zero

You can readily see the difference between in-doors and out around here. The Minerra Amaryllis my sister gave me for Christmas is blooming with huge pink sail-like blossoms in my studio, while the little shurbs outside my window have become puffs of frozen seedpods in the below zero temperatures. I can't decide which one I like more or for what reason. I appreciate the bulb that's blooming on my desk, it adds color in an otherwise dreary season, but there is something exciting about taking my camera out into this cold world and trying to find something of interest. What will the winter landscape reveal?

When color flashes in a landscape such as this you can't help but notice it. The sunset was a warm glow in the western horizon tonight - it's so cold out even it's colors were subdued. Nothing flashy, just an edge of pale amber. We stayed in all weekend long, watching movies, being lazy. I picked up another Jane Austen novel to reread - again. (Dearest, Emma.)

I had to venture out to work, but since only one of our vehicles started this morning, I also had to leave work early in order to catch a ride with my husband. The early evening has slowly unraveled before me. There's been some picture-taking, some puzzling over quilt blocks and a little bit of baking preparation. (I set some bananas to thaw in front of a heat vent about an hour ago.) I have a craving for some banana bread.

I believe the layout for the quilt I'm making is called "Flying Geese." I was inspired by this project here, and if I can find all of the pieces that the cat has carried off and hidden away in her hidey-holes, I may be able to pull it off. Our cat has decided she has a vendetta against quilting this week. I have to make sure to shut the door of my studio each night or else she'll slip in there and tear into everything - like most of the cats I know.

Wherever you are I hope you're cozy and warm.


01 January 2014

winter days


We got out on the snowshoes last week while visiting the farm. The snow was pristine - white and fluffy. The woods were quiet and filled with animal tracks. The sheep lined up near the fence to watch us tromp by, then something scared them and they all spun and darted away, which made me laugh.

I have mixed feelings about the new year, part of me is frightened that it will be filled with the repeating disappointments of last year, but I do sense a ribbon of hope flashing on the horizon. Our plan for adoption is in process. We have completed our homestudy and we're up and running on our facilitator's website. All we have to do is wait and hope that we are chosen by a birthmother.

Wait and hope. Hope and wait.

My hope this year is different than last year. This year I'm protecting it and not leaving it exposed and in the open. I do believe that hope is like a phoenix that can be reborn again and again with renewed strength, but each little death of a hope is painful and draining. You're not the same person you were when you were living with your first hopes - but second, third and one-hundreth hopes have the strength of experience. They have also been tested by disappointments. Will you give up now? How important is this to you?

It's become very clear to me what things are important and what things are not, and my life has actually become more simple.  What about you? What are your hopes and resolutions for 2014?

Blessings to you this new year!

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