Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Post-Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

Thanksgiving has come and gone! Despite a nasty bout of the stomach flu a few days before, I was able to throw together a meal for our guests. I had to make a little sign, too, which I set up with the desserts...one leg in the apple pie, one leg in the pecan pie.

I can't bear to take it down, even though Thanksgiving is over. I'll leave it up until it's time to put up the Christmas decorations!

This year, too, I made a few Thanksgiving cards for friends living out of town. I used a rubber stamp to decorate the plain white envelope...

...then I made a 'Happy Thanksgiving' ribbon POP by folding it at each end. I used embossing on both the ribbon and the turkey image.

It's hard to see at first, but if the card is slanted, you can see the raised image.

I used a translucent bronze ribbon under the turkey 'medallion'. On the inside of the card, I used natural-colored card stock, cut in a scalloped shape, to hide the messy ribbon ends.

The inside was a simple stamped message.

I love playing with my crafts!

Now that Thanksgiving is done, I had time to do something that I'm several weeks behind on...prepare my amaryllis for winter forcing. It's easy to do. Cut the leaves from your plant, leaving just a 1 - 2 inch stem.

I removed mine from the soil because it needed to be repotted, but it's not necessary. You can leave yours potted.

Then, leave it in a cool, dark place for 2 - 3 months. Bring them up and start watering them then...and they'll start to grow. I'm a bit late for true winter forcing, but I know, at least, I'll have lovely blooms in late February.

While the cats are resting comfortably inside...

...I've been able to gather a few remaining colorful leaves, outside.

Most of the leaves have fallen, though.

The bare branches are stark against the sky, with the distinctive round squirrel dens known as dreys appearing at regular intervals.

Dreys are just leaves and other building materials that squirrels pile up for nests, making nice, cozy dens for winter napping.

I'm in my little nest quite a bit, in this winter season, too. Our business kicks into high gear from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Our merchandise is stored in our basement, and that's where I work. Here's my official work station...

We have a full basement consisting of four large rooms, and they're all full of shelves.



...and more shelves! Roll out shelves, mostly, that can be pulled back to reveal...more shelves.

It may look like an episode of "Hoarders", but really, it's organized fairly well.

Although I shudder at the thought of all the work we'll have to do when we are finally ready to move, getting all this out of the basement!

Todd built a little T.V. shelf in the corner and season 1 of "The Office" is on continual loop.

Bosewichte comes down and keeps me company while I work, too. He loves bubble wrap even more than I do.

So between work, being sick, taking care of Todd while he's been sick, and the holidays, I haven't had time for much knitting or baking, other than a lopsided German chocolate cake for a friend a while back.

Hopefully I'll have more time soon.

Have a great week!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Kindness of Strangers

There's life in the old garden yet, even though we've torn down our annuals and cut back our perennials. Our bronze fennel and our yarrow, in particular, continues to put forth new growth.

One of my favorite plants for fall color is the oak leaf hydrangea. The leaves turn varying shades of red, from light pink to deep maroon. In the spring, too, the leaves are beautiful: light pink and pale green. This sprawling plant grows wonderfully in shade and is at the top of my list for our eventual home.

There's new life in the house, too. Chilly fall nights mean that little mice sneak in, looking for a warm place to make a nest. I've never heard or seen a mouse, or evidence thereof, but recently Bosewichte, who spends most of his time sleeping, was playing aggressively with a stuffed mouse. He was having such a high time that I stopped to take a closer look. The mouse was real. I didn't want the mouse to get hurt, or Bosewichte to get bit, so I quickly covered it with a glass.

He looked a little battered, but I couldn't see any obvious injuries. I went to get something to slide under the glass, and meanwhile, the sharks circled.

They've never had such a lively toy!

After some close inspections...

...and a few gentle taps...

...I was able to slide a piece of paper under the glass and take the little guy outside.

Another fun surprise this week...a stranger on my favorite knitting site, Ravelry, read about my desire for scrapbooking odds and ends and sent me a gigantic box full of goodies. Opening it, I had my own "double rainbow" moment (in case you missed it on youtube: Double Rainbow):

Each one of those big clear squares was chock-full of papers, ribbons, paper tags, brads, embellishments, stickers...for every occasion.

My pictures won't do them justice, since I hurriedly took shots of things stacked in piles as I was incorporating them into my craft room, but here are the stickers...piles and piles...letters, felt, cardboard...plastic...glittered...of all shapes and sizes, for all sorts of occasions.

A stack of craft paper at nearly 1 1/2 inches thick, and nice craft paper...embellished, scalloped, embossed...much nicer than I find at my local Jo Ann's.

I can never have enough craft paper.

Huge foam rubber stamps - the alphabet and numbers, plus giant flourishes for big projects...even a few rubber stamps!

And the ribbons! I love ribbons. Here are crepe paper ribbons, and felt...velvet...lace...fabric...piles and piles of ribbons in every color.

The next stack contains what my grandparents would've called geegaws: odds and ends for embellishing cards, like fabulous metal brads, pearls, rhinestones, little felt and cloth flowers, pre-cut paper tags, buttons, and many more ribbons.

Binders and cardboard books, just waiting to be decorated.

Blank storage packs, waiting for decoration...

I was totally overwhelmed by her generosity.

It made me remember one of my New Year's Resolutions from last year...to plan a Random Act of Kindness for each month. I did a few but then got sidetracked. Now I'm inspired to begin again.

I recently made an apple cinnamon coffee cake recipe that I want to share. The bread was sweet and the apples were spicy, but while eating it, I felt like it needed a little something else. I would recommend my usual...taking some cream cheese, adding some fall spices and powdered sugar, and spreading it on top of the dough before adding the apples. A glaze wouldn't hurt, either. Or, if you're trying to cut back on the sugar, try it as-is!

Apple Cinnamon Coffee Cake Ring
Joy the Baker



2 1/4 teaspoon (1 package) active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water, about 105 to 155 degrees F.

big pinch of sugar

6 tablespoons granulated sugar

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs

4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup warm whole milk, 105 to 115 degrees F


3 large apples, peeled and cut into small cubes

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

pinch of salt


1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

pinch of salt

pinch of cardamom

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

There are a few steps here, but it's worth it in the end. First, mix together your yeast, warm water, and pinch of sugar. Meanwhile, in your mixer, add the sugar, butter, cardamom, and salt. If you don't have cardamom, just use pumpkin pie spice! Beat on medium for about 3 minutes.

After it's well mixed, add your eggs and 1 cup of flour. Blend for another minute, and then add 2 more cups of flour, your yeast mixture, and your warm milk. Mix just until your flour is well incorporated. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups more flour, just until the mixture sticks lightly to the walls of your mixer, but isn't too sticky or tacky. Blend for 5 - 8 minutes.

Your dough will go in an oiled bowl. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours).

While you're waiting, mix up your apple filling! It's quick and easy...just mix together your diced apples, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon, corn starch, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.

Now it's time for the streusel! Whisk together flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cardamom (or pumpkin pie spice). Slice up your butter and, using a pastry cutter or a fork until the pieces of butter are pea-sized. Set aside.

Now you can turn your attention back to the dough. Once it's doubled in size, dump it out onto your floured work surface. Slice the dough in two, and then, using your rolling pin, roll each piece into a 10 x 14 rectangle.

If you want a sweeter dessert, go ahead and smooth your cream cheese mixture on now. If not,
just sprinkle half the streusel mixture on top, and then half the apple mixture. Starting from the longest side, roll your dough in a loose roll (1 1/2 - 2 inch folds). Make sure the seam is on the bottom.

Repeat for second ball of dough. (Yum!)

Make sure that your apples are evenly distributed in the roll and not concentrated in the middle, like mine were! Place your rolls on a greased cookie sheet or a pizza stone, pinching the ends together to form a continuous roll.

Take some kitchen shears and slice into the sides at regular intervals. Cover and let rest for 30 - 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown. Drizzle with glaze if desired.

Oh, yeah...it's that good.

I can't wait to make it with the cream cheese and glaze modifications!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. Someone I know mentioned that they don't know why we have to pay special attention to Thanksgiving day itself, when we should be thankful all year long, that it's basically too commercial, etc.

It's true that our forefathers didn't celebrate Thanksgiving on November 24th. That date for the national holiday was set during Franklin Roosevelt's presidency. There's been some controversy over the "Thanksgiving story" as well, with scholars saying that the peace that existed between the early American settlers and the Native Americans was quite temporary and that they were at each other's throats within a year or two.

But what I want to honor is the tradition and the spirit of Thanksgiving. The settlers, after escaping religious persecution and making a perilous sea voyage, settled in an incredibly inhospitable environment and suffered setback after setback: disease, starvation, and death from the elements. Half of the settlers died that first winter. The next year, though, they were blessed with good crops, and they set aside a special day--or rather, three special days--to honor God and their Native American neighbors for helping them through. Edward Winslow, colony member, said, "Our harvest being gotten in, our Governor sent for men [bird hunting] so that we might, after a special manner, rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as...served the company almost a week...Many of the Indians came amongst us...their greatest King, Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted; and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought...And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the GOODNESS OF GOD we are far from want."

By celebrating Thanksgiving on November 24nd, I join my family, friends, and nation in honoring the hard work and struggles of our forefathers, and I honor God for the many blessings He has bestowed upon our nation. In my life, every day, it is the goodness of God that keeps me from want. I am excited to honor that gift tomorrow, with a feast, surrounded by family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Craft Room Bloom

Despite our unusually warm weather recently, winter is definitely on its way. I've packaged up the final seeds for next year's garden, including this clematis seed head, which reminds me of ostrich feathers.

Our hydrangea bushes, which have been so beautiful all fall...

...are wilted and brown. The vibrant ginkgo across the street, overnight, shed all of its leaves.

I still love winter. Before the snow comes, I can still bring in pretty leaves and branches to put around the house.

The orchards around the city have been closing, though. Todd and I looked around for a nice one to visit, but it seems like we've missed the season. We found one place by a busy road, with no actual orchard in sight. Just a few forlorn boxes of ornamental gourds...


...and more gourds.

Now that Todd is finally done with school, though, we'll be able to indulge in more things that we love...including making it to several orchards when the season starts next year!

With winter coming, I'm paying more attention to my inside hobbies. In a small bedroom upstairs, I set up a little craft room for myself. I've got my long table that Todd built last year, with my yarn swift and winder attached. In the corner, a small wooden cabinet holds my sewing and embroidering supplies.

Against the wall is the bookshelf where I keep my rubber and acrylic stamps, inks, and paper punches. I don't have room for all of my rubber stamps, so Todd is building me a leaning shelf with narrow wooden ledges. The walls in this "afterthought" room are not able to hold wall shelves up, so we've got to be creative!

I have hundreds of acrylic (clear) stamps. To keep them organized, I stamp their design on plain white envelopes and store them in shoe boxes.

I can fit quite a few in one envelope!

For me, this is the best method. I'm not interested in an expensive binder system, and I don't want them flapping around in their original packaging. It's no problem to leaf through the envelopes to find the shapes or alphabets I need.

I also keep my embossing tools in this bookshelf. I've just recently discovered embossing. I'll do a tutorial later, but basically you stamp an image, pour a type of powdered resin on top, and use the heat tool on the left to melt the resin.

It makes a really detailed, raised image that I love. Here's a vintage beater I embossed with a gunmetal grey color, for a recipe card. So fun!

The craft room is L-shaped, so there's a narrow hallway that runs to the side of the main part. I keep my fabrics here.

In the back cabinet, I keep my office supplies, modeling clay, watercolor supplies, piles and piles of construction and specialty paper, ribbons, envelopes, card making supplies, and knitting books.

The basket at the top holds my stencils and light box, and related supplies. I love these! I've found lots of beautiful stencils, like this...

...and this.

Using a light box (a white plastic box with a light bulb inside), I'm able to 'dry emboss' my writing paper and envelopes.

Bosewichte loves the craft room.

So does Tabitha. I keep a few pillows by the door, and the cats take turns sleeping on them. When I'm in my craft room, working, I've always got at least one cat that slips in and stretches out on a pillow.

It's a real work in progress, but I'm absolutely thrilled to have all of my craft supplies in one place. I love my craft room, even with the mint-toothpaste paint and the weak walls!

I'd been feeling a little unsettled with my knitting lately, so I decided to put all projects away and focus on some instant gratification. I'm making these little hexagon-shaped pieces that will one day be sewn together to form a patchwork quilt-type blanket. It only takes a little bit of yarn to make one, and if I run short on one, I just knit in a new color. I was surprised at how my little pile grew and grew. I've got 45!

It gives me great pleasure to finish one little hexagon. I may work exclusively on these until the holiday season is over!

Have a great week!