Saturday, November 29, 2014

“A novel to live in, learn from, and feel bereft over when the last page is turned.” ~ Booklist

"All The Light We Cannot See", by Anthony Doerr is by far the best book that I have read in recent years. The story is captivating (read my share at the end of this post), and Doerr's writing is almost like musical movement. Please watch the author talk about his inspirations.

My story - I was trying to read this book in snatches of time - frustrating because I loved it so. I was finally down to the last 50 pages or so - critical, action packed emotional pages. I was reading it while sitting in the waiting room of my eye doctor for my early morning,  annual exam. I closed the book with exasperation as I was called into my appointment; went in; promptly had eye-dilating drops placed into my eyes - and found myself unable to read print until it was time to go to bed! Oh my gosh - I was so frustrated! I wanted to find out what happened and it felt like an endless wait!

What a story, what writing - exceptional in every way. Treat yourself to an early Christmas present!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I used this old postcard of my grandparents last year to welcome Thanksgiving Day. I have decided to use it again!

We are gathering once more at the home that we rented last year. We will be missing a few this year, and your absence will be felt by us all.

While the rest of us are planning to rendezvous, winter weather is threatening some of our travels plans. Drive safely all of you - we want you there, but we want you safe!

I can't wait for us to be together again - I wish you all the happiest of Thanksgivings and hope that whether your family is far or near, they are with you in your hearts.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"The trouble with eating Italian food is that five or six days later you're hungry again." ~ George Miller

BITE member Ellen, recently returned from a cooking trip to Italy! During her stay she took part in the Toscana Saporita Cooking School. Cooking in the morning, touring in the afternoon - green with envy! Of course, Italy was the logical selection for our November dinner and Ellen treated us to dishes that she learned while there, and in some cases (Farro Salad) with ingredients brought back with her!

I am getting ahead of myself a bit however. Chris prepared our appetizer, and we were all surprised by the mixture of flavors and the sweetness! Eggplant Caponata  a "classic sweet and sour eggplant dish is rich and sweetened with caramelized onions and raisins.." Delicious with toasted baguette!

This time I really did have the side dish! Finocchio al Forno, Fennel Baked in Cream, was a lusciously decadent choice. Sure - fennel, but then cups of cream and parmesan and then topped with cubed butter before it bakes. It looked wonderful straight from the oven, but I admit that by the time it had been transported, and then waited for our pre-dinner conversation to come to an end, it looked a little curdled. It tasted wonderful, but its looks were wanting (see it on the plate several photos below).

Ellen prepared Farro Salad and Handmade Ravioli (spinach and ricotta in a sauce of butter and sage)! The recipes can be found at the end of the post - straight from Ellen's recipe cards!

Oh My!!!!

And finally, for dessert, Tierney's Tiramisu! Fabulous, and I know that the two pieces that I snagged for my folks are making their hearts sing today!

Swoon from beginning to end! 

While we were on the Cape, and I made my annual trip to Atlantic Spice, I picked up small containers (small) of saffron for each of the BITE ladies with the intention of choosing saffron as the theme when my turn rolled around. Well, December is now saffron! I have cooked with it only one time myself and I am intrigued by what will show up when we meet again!

Here are Ellen's recipes!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"I’m a big fan of small business ownership. I think it’s the backbone of American innovation. But to be successful, you first have to have the courage to go for it." ~ Bill Rancic

I recently posted to Face-Book about my sister Robin's new Etsy shop. I have made noise since I retired about opening my own shop, but three and a half years later, it's been nothing but talk. Robin has made hers a reality! I'm so proud of her and of her finely crafted, one of a kind felted goods. 

Robin's shop has been in the works for a bit, and she utilizes upcycled wool items and felting techniques for her products.

I'm going to share a few below, and then invite you to peruse her shop!

Aren't they beautiful?! Let's go shopping!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

"The only difference between an experienced knitter and new knitter is that the experienced knitter makes bigger mistakes faster. Be bold; there are no terrible consequences in knitting." ~ Stephanie Pearl-McPhee


When we headed to the Cape last month, I took along all of my recently completed knitting projects that still needed to have the ends woven in - if you are a knitter, you know that this is a tedious job - why I always leave this till the very end is just a sign of my tendency to procrastinate. I had 3-4 baby sweaters, and a shawl or two - enough to keep me busy while we were there.  I stuck the materials for a new project in my bag just in case I finished these faster than I anticipated. Honestly - they took so little time that I am yet again frustrated by my tendency to not weave the ends in as I go along.

Anyhow! I did get started on a new project - Zuzu's Petals, with the name coming from my all time favorite holiday movie, It's a Wonderful Life. The yarn that I chose for this project is in the shade of "Ice Queen" and is from the Freia Ombre collection. It is a lovely yarn to work with, but I admit to being a bit ticked when off about half way through my knitting I found that it had been knotted and tied - not what I expect from such a lovely and pricey yarn. Onward. I had not brought a printed copy of the pattern, but chose to rely on the downloaded version on my ipad. Well into it, I was ready to begin the lace portion. I knew that I had the correct number of stitches to proceed, so proceed I did. I scrolled up to what I thought was the next row. No matter how many times (many, and into the wee hours of the morning), I knit and ripped back this next row, I could not get it right. I counted and recounted; said every stitch and step aloud as I began the next row again. Each and every time I did not have the correct number of stitches to correctly complete the following row. Ugh! I checked online for errata - none. I checked to see how many successfully completed projects of Zuzu's Petals were posted to Ravelry - 3,244 - I had to concede that the problem was with the knitter - me. So, I set the project aside, emailed a few friends I hoped would be at knitting the following Monday and I could ask for help, and went to bed.

When Monday rolled around and I took all of my materials to my knitting group, and as the first person arrived, I began to tell her my tale of woe. I showed her the pattern on my ipad and suddenly, suddenly I realized that I had not scrolled all the way back up to the top of the page - I had omitted 3 entire rows of the pattern! Knitter error indeed! 

I'm rarely frustrated by my knitting, but this got to me, especially since the pattern, once resumed correctly, was a breeze to complete. One important lesson learned - print out the pattern! Anyhow - it's done and I love it. It even snowed yesterday so that I had a perfect backdrop for pictures!

Zuzu's Petals s actually a cowl, and proved interesting when it came time to block it - extra large vinegar bottle to the rescue! I have completed a different shawl since then (now blocking), but I can look back and laugh at my "knitter error" on a project that should have been a piece of cake!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

“There are four unbroken rules when it comes to Thanksgiving: there must be turkey and dressing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie.” ~ John Hadamuscin

I had intended to post on this earlier, but here it is now - Cranberry, Walnut and Orange Pound Cake (Bread) using my freshly picked Cape Cod cranberries. While on the Cape, for the second year in a row, we followed the sign saying "Fresh Cranberries" down a little country lane. There we find a cart on the side of the road with 3 lb. bags of fresh cranberries, $6.00 a bag. There is a box with a slot in the top to place your money. I do love that the honor system is still alive and well in some corners of our crazy world.

Last year I made enough cranberry sauce to sink a ship. Something different this year, I decided. I scouted out bread recipes with cranberries, but settled on the one that is actually called a pound cake. I made alterations to the original recipe, so if you click on the blue link up above, note that I did a few things differently. First, I did not make the glaze to go on top. Most importantly though, instead of the teaspoon of orange zest as called for, I used 2 tablespoons. I can't imagine that you would really taste the orange with such a small amount. Also - I admit that I used clementine zest since I had a bowl full of clementines!

I do not have enough bread pans for the loaves that I wanted to make, so I used aluminum ones from the dollar store. They were quite shallow however, so the loaves look a little odd! I made six total, and put all but one in the freezer for future use - most importantly to bring to our Thanksgiving gathering in a few weeks!

Sweet batter; crunchy walnuts, tart cranberries and fragrant orange (clementine) - this is really, really delicious. I'm sure that another loaf or two will go missing before Thanksgiving. Thank goodness I made 6!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

"To take a photograph is to participate in another person's mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time's relentless melt." ~ Susan Sontag

I mentioned in an earlier post that my parents have moved from their home of 55+ years to a very nice apartment. As with any move, there are boxes to be gone through and things to sort. Many of the boxes contain old photos - tons of photos with tons of stories to tell. There are inevitably however, photos of individuals that no one can identify; no one can tell a story about. Such is the case the album and pictures below.

Who were these people? Who took their pictures?

What did they want to be when they grew up?

Twins? Sisters? Cooks?

What did he do for a living?

What is the most mischievous thing he did as a child?

What kept him up at night?

Oh the stories they would tell, if only we could ask them........

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

"I know the look of an apple that is roasting and sizzling on the hearth on a winter's evening, and I know the comfort that comes of eating it hot....." ~ Mark Twain

Another BITE night! Happily, I was able to make this one. Tierney chose apples as our theme, and aside from a mixup on my part, it was all perfect! My mistake was that I thought that I had side-dish. Actually, I had appetizer! So - we had no appetizer and two side-dishes - no worries!

I knew that I was going to be occupied the few days before (and of) BITE, so I made a soup that could be frozen and reheated right before our dinner. I prepared Apple - Butternut Squash Soup, and it was the perfect "prepare ahead and freeze" dish. I did make a couple of modifications to the recipe. Because of my time crunch, I purchased peeled and chopped squash at the grocery store. Additionally I used apples that I had at home, and since they were small, I threw in an extra one for good measure. At the end of preparing it, I also added some dried sage. I must say that I think it was a good addition. I have had squash and apple soups before, but this one was much more savory, which really appeals to me.

Our second side-dish was prepared by Ellen. Now I confess to not being much of a brussels sprouts fan, but this was truly delicious (I suspect that the pancetta had something to do with winning me over!) Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta was delicious - and beautiful!

Tierney's main dish of Apple Stuffed Chicken Breasts was a wonderful departure from the "ho-hum" that I have come to find plain white meat. Cheese and apples - a wonderful combination!

And finally, Chris's dessert - Salted Caramel Apple Crumble - I love salted caramel - love it! And this was just wonderful!

Next month - Italy! And this time I really do have the side-dish!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

"It is not enough to know your craft - you have to have feeling. Science is all very well, but for us imagination is worth far more." ~ Edouard Manet

It is time again for the newest installment of Craft in America!

"The newest episode Service, part of the PBS veterans initiative Stories of Service and CPB initiative Veterans Coming Home, is the story of craft and the military and premieres on PBS Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 10:30pm (check local listings). From the origins of the Army Arts and Crafts Program and the G.I. Bill to contemporary soldiers and veterans, Service documents the power of the handmade to inspire, motivate and heal. Featured artists include Eugene Burks Jr., Pam DeLuco, Judas Recendez, Ehren Tool and Peter Voulkos. View the full episode here on November 3, 2014."

As I have mentioned here numerous times, this is one of my favortie series. Craft and the Military sounds so interesting, and I'm eager to see and hear how this topic unfolds. Check out the preview below, and then tune in tomorrow night to the actual program, always on PBS - check your local listings. Thank goodness, if you should miss it, tomorrow's episdoe, plus all of the previous ones, are available to view online at Craft in America.
(A reminder that if the video does not come through via email, please go right to my blog.)