impossibleway: (Movingthe Soul with Color)
Cake Pie

Cake Pie

Inspired by Martin and Sylvia from Sparkle Stories, I present cake pie.  I baked it in a heart pan and the children thought it was great fun. 
impossibleway: (God Jul)
Forgive me, just a little bit, for multiple dessert pictures.  Travel back in time, instead, and recall my mother's glorious Christmas parties (really!) where she would order a Yule log cake from a local Swiss restaurant.  What happy memories those are, and so tasty!  Just over ten years ago, I tried my own Bûche de Noël, and it was a mess.  I laugh a little to see that I used hand beaters on the sponge cake.  This is certainly an occasion for an electric mixer!  Parchment paper is also a must.  I didn't have that last time.

Buche de Noel

Here's the recipe that I used, five recipes, really.  Mine is not exactly like the photos, but I like it better.

Buche End

I think the meringue mushrooms must have been the best part for the children.  It is, admittedly, a rich dessert, so I invited over Becky and Katherine to share the occasion with us.  A cake like this is its own occasion.  We revived the Christmas dishes and I continued playing Winter music from Windham Hill.  Mike did the photo shoot.

Meringue Mushroom

I do think it was worth the wait, or the ten years it took for me to build up the courage to do it. I'd make this recipe again, for sure, though I'd probably beat the ganache a little less. And bake the cake at the right temperature. Everything has to have one little mistake, right? No one minded a bit.
impossibleway: (A Winter's Solstice)
Snow Cookies

Now. Now, it can snow. Right? My optimism could really use a boost right now.
impossibleway: (God Jul)
Star Boy

Lucia Morning

Little Lucia

Lucia Crown

Take Two

Ahh, the elusive Lusekatter recipe.  I made beautiful buns early in the morning that were rather bland, and then I made an over-risen extremely tasty Lucia crown in the afternoon.  The children were pleased, both ways, and were especially happy to test out the second recipe (with saffron!) at 4:30 in the afternoon.  I think, if you are looking for buns, that you should add saffron to the first recipe and another egg.  It's hard to choose buns or a crown, but those candles early in the morning would be quite the sight!  Can I celebrate St. Lucia day even after the children are gone and it's just Mike and me? 
impossibleway: (Berries)

Come celebrate with joy and with spirit
Come celebrate this land
We have ploughed the fields and have planted grain, we’ll reap a mighty harvest
For the warmth of sunshine, for the summer rain
For the bounty of the earth, raise your voice and sing!

~Enki Festival Songs


Thanksgiving


We had a sort of family thanksgiving meal last night, made up of foods that we have put together over the Summer and Fall.  We had such a good year in the garden, and I spent a godo part of yesterday roasting and pureeing pumpkins for the freezer.

We all worked on our feast together, sort of like Little House Day from Martin and Sylvia.  We had the October beans that we grew in the garden annex, seasoned with bacon and onions.  I made biscuits with buttermilk I made and Carrie's lard she rendered.  Speaking of buttermilk--I made butter this week using local raw milk, two gallons.  If anyone ever tells you to churn raw milk without separating the cream first, run away.  Or say a prayer over your blender and set to work.  This was not a job for the beautiful Dazey hand cranked churn I got recently.  Anyway, I got the job done and we do have some nice butter.

There was raspberry and peach jam for the biscuits, with homegrown raspberries and peaches from the orchard.  I made blackberry cobbler from more of the buttermilk and the annex blackberries.  The cornbread was also made with the buttermilk.  You get the idea--buttermilk and quick breads and beans.  The food was largely free--the raw milk, the berries, the beans, the lard.  All that was paid was with our time and a few seeds.  It was the perfect meal for the big shift in weather that we seem to be having lately.  It was thirty-nine degrees this morning and I think our first frost is not far off.  We've got a wind advisory for today, just right for making the Molasses Festival a chilly affair.  Well, we won't be caught without hats, mittens, and coats today!

Biscuits and Jam

impossibleway: (Autumn Fern)
It's been four months since I've rounded up my links!  What a Summer it has been and now, it's just about gone.  Our little world is covered in a dense fog this morning and it is good to see the humidity return.  We had heavy rain yesterday morning (and the night before!) and we are all so thankful.  I had this lovely picture of the nature table and it just called for some clicks to go beside it.
Mike told me this weekend how much he loves the nature table.  Me, too.  I think way, way back to the early days and feel so glad for this quiet place of reflection.
impossibleway: (Mike Panorama)
We were all grumpy when we took our Victoria sponge up to Whitetop, but just being there lifted spirits.  Weekends are so difficult for us--so much to do and expect.

Victoria Sponge

Purple Blooms

Harvestman with Crumb

Soakin in the Pool

The Gardener

Cloudview

If you look closely, you can see the harvestman (or Grandad spider, as the children call them) carrying off a crumb of the cake. The fog only got heavier while we were there and it rained all the way home. Our moods were lifted only a moment, it seemed, but it was still nice up there.
impossibleway: (Goldenrod Trailhead)
Thursday topped out at 74° F in the heat of the day.  It was cloudy and misty and breezy, with fog on the mountains--just like Autumn.  I suppose this was our first taste and it was so lovely.  After temperatures in the mid-nineties the week before, this was Reward Weather at its finest.  I should have mowed the other half of the yard back home, but I really just wanted to get away and see signs of Fall.  I was not disappointed.

Cherry Leaves

Cherry trees are one of the first to start shedding their leaves, along with the buckeyes, walnuts, and locusts.  The one at my grandmother's house was really lovely.  Roan was still scanning it for cherries, but I  was really happy to see the frenzy of Summer start to fade a little.  It was cool enough to wear my new Fall Blueberry dress!

Swing Place

We went over the mountain from there, headed to the Swing Place.  It was 66° F on the way and the children asked me to put up the windows.  There were buckeyes all along the road with their red leaves and waiting nuts.  Roan got out and said he was cold, but we acclimated soon enough and Laurel was terribly sad to leave.  I made up a couple verses to "She'll be coming round the mountain" that might involve "shedding tears just like a fountain."  No transitional songs would help her with this one (and she wanted to go so high on the swing!), but a package of gum helped a little.

Yellow Fringed Orchid

On our way down, we found this yellow fringed orchid laying in the road, as if someone had picked it and thrown it down.  I took it home and put it in water.  The Turk's cap lily was blooming all down the mountainside, along with the first goldenrod (though I did see one plant last month).  You can see the green goldenrod just waiting all over.  The Summer flowers are shifting to the yellows of Fall.

Apples!

I think I'm going to start calling myself a Property Manager, seriously.  If you're on vacation or getting on in years or have crossed the great divide, I'm your girl.  In addition to the Roland Estate and my bus-travelling grandmother, I've been asked to feed a cat out in the country.  The cat belongs to my grandmother's second husband's brother, yes.  He's got some nice fruit trees and a good-looking woodpile.  These apples look especially optimistic.  I think I canned some of these a couple years ago.  There is so much fruit around just waiting for someone to take it; so much goes to waste.

Pesto Pizza

Here's something that's not going to waste. ;-)  The last of last year's pesto, the roasted tomato sauce, and plenty of fresh tomatoes from the garden.  This was so good.  I should have made three pizzas!  The children gobbled up most of theirs, which just had pesto.  I put the pesto on with a piping bag after the pizzas came out of the oven.  I expect to pick more tomatoes today, so there may be more sauce in the works.  Every day has some big kitchen project.  Maybe I'll take a day off and go look at those apples again.
impossibleway: (Berries)
The hot weather has calmed down and we've had a few days of upper seventies!  Last night, though there was no rain, there was a cool breeze blowing.  It was mercy, in its purest form.  Mowing half the yard was almost pleasurable and the mosquitoes were away for a little while.  I was also able to get the kitchen tidied up from all the food preservation that has been going on lately.  It is so easy, really, to squander all this good and nearly free food.  I know that I have done my share in the past, but this year--I'm on a roll.  I hope.

Carrots and Tomatoes

I had the children pull most of the carrots yesterday.  They are not winners for size, as Dick Proenneke would say, but they made Roan so proud.  His carrots, his cherry tomatoes.  We've picked that many (half a gallon) twice before.  I made a roasted tomato sauce with them and ran it through the food mill to take out the peels.  They I heated it up later and put in some parmesan cheese, just the most basic kind.  It was so good!  I seldom use gourmet ingredients here--it's store brand basics for us.  I did splurge on one block of fresh mozzarella, as it is obvious we have a fair amount of tomatoes to eat.  As is common with a two year old, there are green ones in the mix (and some I cut off by mistake!).

Preservation

I think I've only got two empty jelly jars left now.  I've been busy filling them with anything I can think of.  On the left is currant-pomegranate jelly.  Pomegranate because my jelly bag fell and splattered everywhere.  Now my freshly-painted wall have faint drip stains on them. :-(  But, the jelly is good and I am becoming more adventurous and experimental.  I think there is more room with that with the No Sugar SureJell, as opposed to the regular version.  I know there's Pomona's, but I go with what is readily available nearby.  I've also given up the name brand lids in favor of plain ones that are about half the cost.  You can see my kitchen is a thrify one, but we are not suffering.  I get rather perturbed when people says that eating healthy or well is expensive.

Let's see.  The other jars have pesto in them, of course, for the freezer.  I've been doing this for awhile and everyone loves it when I pull out a jar.  My favorite way is to put it on a pizza after it comes out of the oven.  I love pesto with tomatoes.  I don't use pine nuts, to save on cost and because they can taste funny.  I know someone who would put in English walnuts.  There's a jar of banana pepper pickles, too, from a batch I made with peppers from The Annex.  No one was picking them, so we did.  Mike loves banana peppers and he was so pleased to see them.  In the pint is dried mint.  The Roland Estates is overrun with mint, so we've been picking a basketfull and bringing it home to dehydrate.  We all love mint tea (I never thought I would say that), so this is a big savings and the house smells lovely.

The onions, pumpkins, butternut squash, October beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, swiss chard (whatever will I do with that?) and a few other things remain.  I'm hoping to get in a batch of bread and butter pickles for Mike.  He really loves them.  I really don't, but I want to make him happy and I know that will do the trick.  When I told the children that harvest time began with Lammas, it was no joke!  I feel like my kitchen has been in constant upheaval and various stages of production all week.  I carried the canner downstairs yesterday, only to carry it right back up.

Today, we're going to look for peaches and pick the blackberries.  And wash the sheets and mow the yard.  And, is it Fall yet?  Can I get a frost?
impossibleway: (Children of the Forest)
We celebrated bread and the beginning of harvest time yesterday.  Really, August is the month for food preservation around here.  The tomatoes have been filtering in for awhile, but now things will get serious.  I might find some very serious cucumbers today, in fact.  I'm up to my ears in cherry tomatoes and the calendula needs some attention.  And there's rain in the forecast--I better get on it after breakfast!

Corn Dolly

Anyway, Lammas.  I like the idea of this festival for the celebration of harvest time.  Thanksgiving in its present place in the year makes very little sense to me.  Pumpkins will be done growing by the end of this month.  Dry beans will be ready to pick not long after.  Tomatoes quit before the first frost.  You get the idea.  To celebrate harvest in August, to bolster us as we prepare to be inundated with garden work and kitchen work, seems very fitting.

Soaking Straw

The children and I got a bale of straw and we had been waiting to cut it open and try out straw plaiting.  It's a little hard to do with straw from grain that has been mechanically threshed--there are many short and shredded pieces.  These would have been left in the field after the grain was cut and then cut down at a later date.  Nonetheless, there is nothing so thrilling as a big pile of straw on the front porch.  I can see why Laura and Mary loved it so in On the Banks of Plum Creek.

Wheat Sheaf

We made wheat sheaf bread, too, using flour we milled.  White wheat, so it does look like white bread.  This is the recipe from Festivals, Family, and Food.  The yeast amount was high, really, but the bread tasted good.  I think I would make it with honey next time, and add a rise to give softer dough.  Children tend to be heavy-handed with flour when shaping. ;-)

Harvest Mouse

Laurel loved the opportunity to play with dough, as usual, and the children enjoyed making the little mice trying to get at the grain.  We read the story "Robert's Harvest Loaf" from All Year Round and enjoyed some butternut navy bean soup with the very last butternut squash from 2015.

Wheat Heads

The recipe recommended sprinkling grain on the wheat heads, but these turned out much too hard for eating (though the children tried!).  It may be that the authors intended folks would have fresh grain for this.  We gathered them and put them out for our resident squirrel.

I think it was a lovely start to our easing into the school year.  September 5th is our first official day, as far as I am concerned, but we are working to get back into our school rhythm gently.  Tomatoes and all the other things follow no schedule but their own and it is often decided with very little notice that things must be canned or frozen right this minute.

I'll call this my crafting post for the week--making bread and braiding straw.  For more crafting, visit Frontier Dreams.
impossibleway: (Mike Panorama)
Three out of fve Nichols are asleep on a Sunday afternoon, so it's time to catch up on things.  I can feel the days speeding up as we get near our first day of school on September 5th.  It's time to get all those things done that were Summer Dreams and to work on making the most of what the good Earth is giving us right now.

Settlers Quilt

Wednesday, I think, we went to the Southwest Virginia Settler's Museum.
It's an old farm that's on National Forest land, cared for by volunteers.
I hadn't been since Willow was a baby.

Corn Husk Dolls

The place needs work and people, as most small volunteer projects do,
but it has a lot of potential and there have been numerous improvements in the past seven years.
I really loved these little corn husk dolls--they remind me of the ones at the Asheville Folk Art Center.

Jam and Relish

I did some canning Friday: sweet relish and blackberry jam.
I'm rather nervous that my relish will taste like Aunt Bea's pickles, but Mike is optimistic.
Blackberry jam, on the other hand, never lets me down.

Sentimental Knits

In other news, I spent several HOURS yesterday going through our clothing stockpile for Fall and Winter.
It is early, yes, but school will be in session when the cold weather comes and there is no time like the present.
I'm struggling to find spare time, as it is!
What a trip down memory lane this was--there's Grandad's old hat that I made him and a lot of wee sweaters and hats.
Who were those babies?  Where did they go?

Blackberry Pie

I suppose the crown jewel in our weekend was the blackberry pie/cobbler.
Mike has been after me for years to make a cobbler with a pie crust, as that's what he was used to.
Well, I made a pie crust and pie filling and put it in a square pan.  Haha.

Blackberry Pie

It was absolutely delightful, really. Practically perfect in every way, and with ice cream!  The Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook seldom steers me wrong!
impossibleway: (Peachy Pie)
Blueberry Banana Pies

Banana Muffins

Everyone loves tiny versions of baked goods, right?  I don't know why I've not done much of this before.  Maybe it was the Tiny Cupcake Debacle of 2007. . . Well, anyway, the children have been helping me with Banana Bonanza, as we call it.  There were peanut butter and banana sandwiches for Nature School.  Please pardon our skimpy whipped cream on the pies.  We supplemented later on.  The muffins are Martha Stewart's recipe and they are truly good.  She is hit or miss, sometimes.  I think our grand finale will be milkshakes later today.  I accidentally overbought bananas.
impossibleway: (The Flower Picker)
It's a dark and cloudy morning, with just a hint of rain in the air.  I'm hoping for a real shower to get my gardens jump-started.  There are still squash, pumpkins, watermelons, and beans to sprout.  Here are some clicks for this quiet morning when everyone(!) is at home and in bed.
Now, it's time to get started.  I hear the rumble of little feet!
impossibleway: (Peachy Pie)
Children do still need to learn how to do things and how to care for things.  When the parent is aware that the child needs instruction to learn about the world, that all things must be learned, then practiced, then done independently, he will see that the child has the opportunity to learn a variety of skills to help her gain a feeling of self-dependence in the world.  The more we know about the things around us, how to care for them, how to fix them, and how to make them, the more we feel at home in the world.

It will be a very different experience for the child, if our approach to her comes from our helping her to learn about the world, to learn skills, and to learn how to work together.


~Dotty Turner Coplen :: Parenting a Path Through Childhood

Butter!

Laurel and I made butter yesterday and we were really quiet pleased with ourselves.  I still am--I almost believed it wouldn't work!  We've watched Ruth Goodman make butter so many times, and there really is that moment when everything shifts.  I thought it was going to be whipped cream forever and then it turned all grainy and golden and there was the buttermilk!  I used a pint of Duchess cream and we got a good amount, more than a usual stick, of butter.  We put in a sprinkle of salt as I was pressing it.  You can see our rather simple (and free!) butter hands.  It was the children who determined their use months ago.  They are just wood shims that I washed well.  They did the job just fine.  The butter came out firm and dense and just lovely.  I know my butter isn't nicely shaped, but we were expecting someone to drop by and I had to get it into the refrigerator so I could greet them.  Next time!

Hand Food Processor

We used this hand-cranked food processor that we got from Tupperware when Mike and I were first married.  It was a warranty claim to replace a quite new food chopper and, boy, did we hit the jackpot!  They are still available at a fairly hefty price, and our is useful in so many ways.  I know you can make butter in a blender, but that seems so. . . violent.  I really love tools for the home with children that have hand cranks on them, so I try to use them as much as possible.  There is so much in our natural world that is circular and cyclical, that I feel it's very important for children to feel those connections.

Kindergarten Buns

Here it is on the lovely Kindergarten Buns from the Waldorf Book of Breads.  This is a wonderful recipe if you want children to see you make a sponge and to look on as it grows.  It's fairly quick, which can be helpful, too, and makes lovely rolls.  I have taken to keeping my little iron skillet in the oven to put half a cup of water in--this makes the oven steamy and helps with rising.  I read it in the King Arthur Whole Grain Cookbook.  The rolls were so soft and the butter so tasty.  Sigh.

Tasting the Results

And here is my intrepid helper, tasting the results of her efforts (and probably enjoying the strawberries and whipped cream a little more). 
impossibleway: (Berries)
March Nature TableThe dark before the dawn, here we are.  Today, we'll make our hot cross buns and give them to family and friends.  Here are some links to visit, whether Easter is coming right up or five weeks away.
impossibleway: (Peachy Pie)
Chocolate Croissant

I've been elevated to Platinum status at the library.  Really, I've just been changed to being a teacher since I'm homeschooling, and that means I can keep books 6 weeks.  One of those books that really deserves a longer run is the King Arthur Whole Grain Cookbook.  I've taken it out before, but I've really enjoyed it this time.  Our flour mill has really inspired me.  I've made the hot cross buns, cinnamon rolls, Irish oatmeal shortbread, oatmeal sandwich and toasting bread, 100% whole wheat loaf (our regular favorite), and the puff pastry.

It is clear that I like to make bread.  A lot.  The puff pastry must be my biggest achievement, though.  I wanted to make chocolate croissants for Mike and it worked!  Roan and Laurel loved the chocolate part, and Willow loved the pastry.  Mike's family is now expecting a repeat performance at their next visit.  It wasn't too hard, oddly, so I think I can manage it.  It's mainly a lot of folding, rolling out, and refrigerating.  Butter is at a great price right now, too, which is good for a recipe that takes at least half a pound a batch!

Chocolate Croissant 2
impossibleway: (Wilson Bentley)
We have seen a fair amount of snow and cold weather.  My December fears for a mild Winter have been relieved.  We've had quite enough!  Packages and mail have been delayed.  Public school children have missed school.  The sidewalks have become dangerous and parking is an adventure.  Yes, enough.  There are times that this little house has felt very, very little, but I can say that the children are getting good mileage from their play.  It also makes me think that I really could put away most of the toys in Summer and be just fine.

Four Friends Puppet Show

Quite times are changing as I work out ways to get things done with fewer distractions.
Willow did a puppet show of the math processes story, "Four Friends," last week.

Nutella Orange Babka

I made this very tasty bread for Valentine's Day.  It was a quiet affair this year.
We had a nice family meal Friday and then tea with Carrie on Saturday.
We only did one or two Valentine cards, which was just fine with me.

Grinding Grain

We got our grain mill, at long last!
This is our time of year to stock up on things, pay big bills, and have a little fun.
I tell myself that this mill is serious business, but it is also fun.
It makes some very nice flour and we had a lovely loaf of bread last night.

Handwriting Practice

More handwriting practice for Willow and me.
I really like the handwriting paper she has.
Those are her letters from last Fall.
She was amazed when she looked back through just a few pages.
The sleep process for learning really works.
I also taught her about making borders.
Now, she'll be bona fide. ;-)

Icing on the Cake

And lastly, a proper icing-on-the-cake snow.  This was yesterday morning.  It was enough to cover up the old melting snow and make the world enchanting again.  I think school was cancelled yesterday, too, though I'm not sure.  We ran errands downtown, so we took a day off.  I love snow like this, when it sticks to everything.  Just magical.  I am dreaming of a few years from now when we can all get out into the woods and properly enjoy it.  It was pretty nice from the car, even so.

I have just a bit of time before the children wake up.  I'm going to go read. Happy Thursday!
impossibleway: (Winter Fields)
ReadingMore snow came over the weekend and is still falling.  Its' drifting around and rattling the windows.  I'm not sure when Mike will travel this week--maybe today, after all.  We had him home for four days in a row!  Everyone is snuggled peacefully in their beds for now, so here are some links for these snowy days.
And, with that, Mike is awake and the children will soon follow.  It is hard to believe the forecast is for fifties this weekend when it's fifteen right now!
impossibleway: (Mike Panorama)
When it's possible, our weekend starts on Friday after lunch, not that we are out living it up.  We are in doing that, of course.  This weekend, Mike brough home the long-awaited Colossus pizza.  They say it's 28" in diameter, but that is way off.  I would say that it is probably 34" wide.  Thank goodness, our tiny house has an extra-wide front door (so wide we had to order a custom storm door!).

Colossus Pizza

Mike forgot something and had to go back out, but we started on the pizza without him.  Without him, I couldn't get it through the kitchen doorway.  I had to store it on the couch.  We are still eating the leftovers, after three meals.

Pizza Eaters

Willow and Roan have been using the chalkboards again.  I am thinking this might be a good part of our weekly rhythm, maybe Fridays.  It would be helpful for form drawing, which I have sadly fallen behind on.

Chalboard Work

Sunday is back as Baking Day.
Laurel really enjoyed kneading a tiny piece of dough, over and over.

Kneading

Roan and Willow took ove the bulk of the kneading.
We are getting a hand-cranked grain mill, at Mike's suggestion.
I have wanted one for years and I think it will be great for the children.

Willow Kneads

And now, everyone is awake and it is time to get started on another week.  Happy Monday!
impossibleway: (Peachy Pie)
Cranberry Swirl Bread

This is a wonderful recipe that turns out well every time.  It aims to impress and tastes really good leftover.  The site it came from is defunct and the other place I found the recipe is, too.  And it's not on the Wayback Machine, so here it is.  I've made a few modifications and added a second rise.  I find it harder to shape dough right after kneading, so a little break is helpful after the cranberries go in.

Grease a 11 1/2" cake pan (a big one). Oven temperature is 375° F.

1/2 cup each: warm water, warm milk, sugar, softened butter
1 tablespoon yeast
1 egg
3 1/2 cups plain flour (or bread)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Stir yeast into the wet ingredients. Add flour, salt and butter and knead well. Let rise in a warm place until doubled. Knead in berries and nuts. Let rise half an hour or so (to let the dough relax) and roll out into a large rectangle.

Across the surface, spread the following:
1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Cut into one-inch strips. Roll one into a traditional cinnamon roll. Places the others around the perimeter over and over. Brush with an egg wash (one egg and a little water or milk) and let rise about half an hour (more or less).  Sprinkle top with turbinado sugar, if desired.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until pleasantly browned.  Cool ten minutes, loosen around edges, and turn out on a plate.  Cut into wedges and enjoy.

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