Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hints of Spring & a 'Mother' Develops

Hairy Woodpecker
Some of the first hints of spring are arriving on Gracewood, catkins on the pussy willows, thrushes at our birdfeeders and the suet feeding birds aren't devouring the cakes quite as fast as they did when it was freezing all day.

winter retreating in the forest

I just finished my ornament and sent it off for the 2015 Christmas Ornament edition of the Just Cross Stitch magazine.  It is amazing how far ahead magazines have to plan.  My vintage textile design, 'Seville', is going to be featured in an upcoming issue and it seems like I've mainly been designing and stitching for publications for many months now. 

'Alsace' has had to be put on hold twice in order to meet deadlines but I hope to finish it soon and I don't plan on taking any more magazine projects for awhile so I can focus on getting more designs accomplished. 

And I'm happy to say that our attempt at making our own pear vinegar have been very successful!

Pear Vinegar
In order to make a true 'vinegar' a 'mother' has to form and thankfully our experiment in turning all of the pear peelings and cores into gourmet pear vinegar has been very successful.  In the above photo you can see a milky white line that is this jar of vinegar's 'mother' that I caught as it was sliding from the top of the jar to the bottom.  This is the sign that it has reached the appropriate stage of development. 

Next you strain the vinegar through cheesecloth and you are left with this alien looking thing at the bottom of the jar that is the mother and you can either add some of it to jars that haven't formed a mother yet or you can freeze it until you are ready to start new vinegar and add a tablespoon to a new batch to ensure you'll develop a good mother.

'vinegar mother'
I've already used almost a quart of pear vinegar in various recipes, it is great for making a sauce with drippings from roasts or added to salad dressings and stir fries.  The pear flavor and aroma make the dishes so delicious.  I hope you'll give the process a try, it has turned out to be a lot of fun to make our own vinegars.

Now back to 'Alsace', hope you're enjoying spring in your neck of the woods, or fall if you are south of the equator :)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Progress, Pickles & a Serious Delight

Still snowy on Gracewoods.

Snow off of porch few feet higher than porch!

Alsace's stitching is progressing though not as fast as I would like and since Just Cross Stitch magazine has kindly invited me to participate in their 2015 special Christmas Ornament edition I'm having to take a stitching break to design and stitch the ornament. 

Alsace ticking fabric design

When the typically heavier fare of winter gets us down we make some quick pickles to keep in the fridge and what a blast of the garden greets us when we go to these jars, which is frequently!  So easy to make if you can get some good cucumbers and since Terry had to make a trip to Colville last week, he was able to go to a much larger store than we have near Gracewoods and he brought home the 'treasure' of several beautiful cucumbers and some daikon radish for pickles.

Cucumbers in their pickle brine

So easy to make, just slice the cucumbers and daikon into the thickness you like (a mandolin really helps) then follow this simple recipe.

·       1 cup rice wine vinegar
·       1 cup water
·       3/4 cup sugar
·       1 tablespoon Kosher salt
·       4 cups thinly sliced Japanese or English cucumbers (about 3 Japanese or 1 English)
.        Optional - 1 tablespoon pepper flakes (we use gochugaru flakes we buy through Amazon)
Combine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat. Add cucumber slices and stir. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or a double layer of heavy duty paper towels, pressing down until towel is saturated with liquid and in direct contact with the cucumbers. Let rest 10 minutes, then transfer cucumbers to a sealable container. Top up with liquid and discard the rest. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

And can you imagine a dog that loves pickles????  Well here he is, Jasper waits patiently to see if his clumsy Mom will drop one he can nab.

Jasper waiting for a pickle

Now for a Serious Delight we came across - which is definitely a higher level than a Passing Fancy - it is a Japanese series we've been streaming that is a real treasure.  Originally a manga that has run for more than 17 years,  Kodoku no Gurume (Solitary Gourmet) is four seasons of a series of half hour episodes that tells the story of Goro-San, a salesman whose job takes him all over Tokyo's precincts which gives him the opportunity to explore the many little restaurants that populate them.

Kodoku no Gurume

Solitary Gourmet

Each episode has its own story with Goro-San having interesting and usually funny encounters with customers for his business and then his search for just the right day's 'food for his tummy'.  If you are interested in sharing  our Serious Delight you can view it online for free at http://www.dramagalaxy.com/kodoku-no-gurume  but WARNING do NOT watch this series if you are hungry it is torture!!!!!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Alsace Stitching & January Colors

The new year has begun and it is looking a lot like winter on Gracewood.

Looking east towards the mountains you can see the well house and how much snow we've gotten and we are under a winter storm warning for another 10+ inches from tonight through Monday.  Anyone who knows me know this is a 'good thing', lol 

Definitely stitching weather, and 'Alsace' is proving a pretty fast and fun stitch.   I do have a fondness for red and white patterns and that was part of why I chose to do the ticking fabric for the Vintage Textile collection using the red ticking that the Alsace region is known for.  Hopefully, I'll get more done during the coming snowstorm!


We have some more beautiful 'red' on Gracewood at our bird feeding station.  We've never had them before but this year we have had several White Winged Crossbills.


We know they migrate in our area but had never had any come to the feeders.  It is so pretty to see them alongside our gorgeous blue Stellar Jays.  The bird feeders are in a sheltered area and with the approaching storm it is a very busy area at the moment.  Terry stocked it up with suet and seed early this morning and as usual, the birds know when a storm is coming and are frantically 'filling up' before retreating under the snow covered boughs.

And an update on our pear vinegar making. 

Here are a few half gallon jars with varying stages of vinegar development.  We've strained out the fruit peelings after several days of bubbling away and these are now getting darker and stronger as the 'mother' develops.

Vinegar 'Mother' Developing
I wish I could send along how fabulous they smell!  We're looking forward to using the vinegar in everything from salads to sauces.

Hoping your New Year will be a blessed one!  Feel free to post comments about what is going on in your 'neck of the woods' :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Know When to Fold 'Em & New Free Pattern


What is true in life is true in design, when something isn't working it pays to know, as the old song says,  'when to fold 'em'!  I had put 'Violette' on hold while I stitched the model of Seville for Just Cross Stitch's May/June 2015 edition and when I went back to stitching it I kept seeing things that I thought could have been better done.

This is why I like stitching my own models.  I get a feel as I stitch if the design is achieving the vision I had for it.  With Violette I kept seeing places I thought would be better tweaked a bit so at a little over the halfway point I couldn't ignore that voice in my head and I stopped stitching, went back to the design software and redid the pattern.  I'm much happier with the changes I made which included reducing its size, adjusting some motif placement and also added more highlights and shading. 

And because I don't have the time to begin the model again, too many new designs to accomplish, I've decided to put it up as a free pattern.  So please help yourself if you'd like to stitch the new and improved art nouveau panel inspired pattern, 'Violette'.

Click Here to Download Violette

I've begun stitching the fourth design in the Vintage Textile collection, Alsace and the happy red colors are definitely helping the Holiday feeling.

I'm sending my hope from Gracewood that this be a blessed Christmas and very Happy New Year for you all!  May it be a stitch full year for us all :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

New Design amid Pears, Pears & More Pears!

It has been longer than I like between posts, but I gave myself a bit of a break after the marathon session of stitching Seville for Just Cross Stitch magazine.  It is also a busy time on Gracewood since the buckets of pears we harvested (one Taylor's Gold Comice tree and one Conference tree) have been in cold storage for a month and we can bring them out a batch at a time to ripen and do something with.  A break was also needed after tubs of oven baked apple butter we made.

In the midst of it all I just had to sit down and bring a design to fruition that just wouldn't let me alone till it came out :)  After the 'Twilight' ornament for the magazine I have had one rolling around my brain that would reflect my other favorite time of day, so here is 'Daybreak'.

On cold frosty mornings it is especially rewarding to be up early to see the sky just before the sun appears on the horizon.  Suffused in shades of pearly grey, lavender and mauvey pinks and looking at it through frosted windows gives an impression of a fragile beauty that will soon disappear.  I hope you like it. 

I haven't finished stitching Violette but hope to complete it soon and begin stitching Daybreak.  It will be smaller than some I've done lately, about 8 1/2" x 8 1/2".

Back to recent activities, I LOVE pears and I don't think there is much you can do with them I wouldn't like so we've done everything from making pear vinegar, pickled pears, and all kinds of recipes from pear pudding and deep dish pies to something completely wonderful and decadent, Roasted Pear & Chocolate Scones!  Recipe below!

Here are a few photos of some of the pear activity -

Half gallon jars of pear vinegar


Pickled Pears

The Roasted Pear & Chocolate Scone recipe is from smittenkitchen.com though I found their recipe might be incorrect in the amount of flour used.  It calls for 1 1/2 cup, but I had to add so much flour to the board to shape them I'll make it 2 1/2 cups for the initial recipe next time - which will probably be made tomorrow since they are so great and freeze so well.

The photo is also from smittenkitchen since they went so fast here I didn't even get a photo of them, but they looked exactly like this -

Roasted Pear & Chocolate Chunk Scones
Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones
Makes 6 generous scones; you can absolutely make these a bit smaller and reduce their baking time accordingly
3 firmish pears (about 1 pound or 455 grams)
2 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated or coarse for sprinkling
1 1/2 teaspoons (8 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (3 grams) table salt plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons (85 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy cream
1/4 cup (3 ounces or 85 grams) semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (or chips)
2 large eggs, 1 for dough, 1 for glaze

Heat oven to 375°F. Peel and core pears. Cut into 1-inch chunks. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Arrange pear chunks on parchment and roast until they feel dry to the touch and look a little browned underneath, about 20 minutes. Slide parchment paper with pear chunks onto a cooling rack (or onto a plate in the fridge or freezer to speed this up) and cool to lukewarm. Leave oven on. Line baking sheet with another piece of parchment.

Whisk flour, baking powder, 1/4 cup sugar and salt together in the bowl of an electric mixer. Toss in cooled pear chunks, bits of butter, heavy cream and 1 egg. With the paddle attachment, mix the dough on low speed until it just comes together. Don’t overmix. Add the chocolate chunks and mix for 5 seconds more.

On a very well floured counter, pat out dough into a 6-inch round. Cut into 6 generous wedges and transfer to baking sheet at least two inches apart (do as I say, not as I did here!). Whisk remaining egg in a small dish with 1 teaspoon of water and a pinch of salt. Brush each scone with egg wash and sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar.

Bake scones until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve, and pat yourself on the back for your excellent host skills.
Waiting for a pear!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

'Seville' Done! & More Magazine Mentions


It took seven weeks but Seville's model is stitched and in Just Cross Stitch magazine's hands.  They are going to make it into a pillow and it is scheduled for the June edition.  It is Assisi technique so only the background is stitched and it really was a fun and relatively easy stitch.

And this is the mention of the Vintage Textile collection that appeared in the September edition of the UK magazine 'New Stitches'

And finally, here is part of the Gracewood Stitches piece in the special Christmas Ornament 2014 edition of Just Cross Stitch Magazine
Another UK magazine features Log Cabin~Winter among their 'must have' winter patterns, but I haven't gotten a copy of that one yet.  I'm grateful for all the mentions :)

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Winner is Drawn! & Fabulous Fall!

Congratulations, Lorene Frischknecht, you have won the draw and if you'll send me an address I'll get the magazine off to you as soon as possible.  Thanks everyone who left a comment, I'll have another giveaway soon.

Ellison's Orange Apples

 Fall is arriving in all its glory here on Gracewood.  This is the first picking of our Ellison's Orange apples.  They are described as having an 'intense, rich, aromatic flavor with a taste of aniseed.  The flesh is crisp, yet soft and juicy'.  Now it is time for apple crisp, apple pancakes, apple kuchen, apple... fill in the blank!
A pair of twin fawns are getting big and will lose those spots soon as all of the deer are getting their darker thicker winter coats right now.  They just finished some of the windfall apples in one tray and are having a good lick at the mineral/salt block afterward.
Jasper loves deer too!
Jasper loves the deer for another reason, look what he brought home from a walk in the woods recently.  This is why I have a washable sofa!


And I am working as hard and fast as I can trying to complete the model of  'Seville' to get it to Just Cross Stitch magazine by the October 15th deadline.  What do you think?  It is going to be made into a pillow.
I've been notified that another magazine in the UK is going to feature Log Cabin~Winter in their next issue.
I hope everybody is enjoying whatever stitching project you are working on right now, it is that time of year when it becomes even more enjoyable to pick up a needle whenever time permits.