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Tuesday, November 29, 2011


April of has given me an award.  Thank you so very much! It called the Liebster Blog award.  Even with my rather rudimentary grasp of the German language knows that liebe is German for love as in Ich liebe Dich (I love you).  How's that for sweet? Here's the rules:
  1. copy and paste the award on your blog
  2. thank the giver and link back to them
  3. reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog
  4. hope that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers 

 It's really impossible to choose five blogs.  Sort of like choosing your favorite child, but I must according to the rules,so here's the five blogs that I've chosen:

Dances with Yarn
...and He shall direct  my paths
Sweet Felicity
Morning Minion
Sassafras and Winterberry

Hope you'll have fun visiting those blogs.  I do! You all know of  linking problems. but you can find the links to the right.

Monday, November 28, 2011


BAh! Humbug!  Just got back from doing a bit of Christmas shopping.  I know, some of you think it's a tad bit early, but since my family is spread out all over the nation, I have to have the gifts wrapped and ready to be sent out the first week of December.  Anyway, while I was standing in line waiting for an incompetent clerk to scan the bar codes  (Heaven help us if the scanner breaks!) of the customer in front of me, my thoughts went back to Christmas shopping of my childhood.....

The day after Thanksgiving marked the official beginning of the retail shopping season.  Every little community of three-thousand or so people was self-contained in the days before Wal-Mart and Target.  There were hardware and drug stores,  jewelers, clothing shops, and butchers, mechanics, small little groceries and gift shops all owned by local citizens  that we knew and respected.  The crowning glory of the business district in my child's eyes was the five and dime, an emporium of all things wonderful. 

When the Christmas toys arrived there, my friends and I would walk downtown to give it a good study.   We examined all the dolls and debated which was the prettiest.  Looked over the new sleds and books.  Then we would walk up and down the aisles making a mental list of presents for family and friends.  Would mother like that rhinestone brooch shaped like a candy cane?  Or maybe that pretty little vase?  It looks like grandma would be getting another pair of hand knit slippers this year again.  Maybe the variegated yarn would look snazzy.  The store held everything anyone's heart could desire.  On and on we would debate and calculate how far our budget could stretch.  Such joy and anticipation in the giving! People really did seem to have goodwill towards their fellow man back then. So unlike now days when everyone seems harried and grumpy.  And the money being spent!  If you ever want proof that money cannot buy happiness, have a good look at today's Christmas shoppers.

The following week, my mother would return with me to the store and I would show her the doll that my friends and I had scoped out.  Hoping against hope that come Christmas morning she would be under the tree.  Then we would go to the fabric department and my mother would select the fabric for our Christmas dresses.  She was a master at making a pattern fit on selvedge pieces, sometimes it seemed she could make a formal gown out of a handkerchief! To this day I still remember those Christmas dresses.  After her sewing needs were met, she stopped in front of the glass cased candy department.  You have to understand that my mother was rather tight with a nickel.  So tight that we said you could hear the buffalo squeal from her pinching it so tight, so it truly did seem like a Christmas miracle to us girls that she would actually buy some sweets.  And what wonderful candy!  Little chocolate stars, nougats with candy canes on them that could be stretched into funny shapes, cream filled drops, and my favorite seafoam, which squeaked when you bit it.  

And then we'd make a trip downstate to the big department stores like J.L. Hudsons and Jacobsens (they had valet parking!).  To us country kids, they seemed like the final word in sophistication.  Just thinking about those good old days when clerks knew their stock and cared about the customers, is enough to send me into a nostalgia swoon.  Trying to explain department stores to the younger generation is impossible.  The invasion of big box and discount stores have ruined the entire shopping experience.  Sometimes progress (if that's what it is) isn't a good thing.  We even had a small department store in our little town. There were a few racks of clothing, but most things were held in boxes inside drawers.  You would ask the clerk for a slip size 34 and she would pull out lovely little tissue lined boxes containing the desired apparel.  First a cheap cotton one that would be too plain for a nun, then next a costly one festooned with crystal pleats and a silk rosebud at the top.  She knew her customers, so it usually took only a few tries for her to come up with the perfectly pleasing one.

Speaking of department stores, I remember reading advise on how to decorate  your Christmas tree from a department store window dresser ( remember the beautiful windows?) and used the tips for years.  Now I use a pre-lit tree, much to my family's happiness, since I used to drive them crazy with the lights.  Here's the tips:

How to trim a Christmas tree

Wrap the trunk in garland so the lights will reflect outward.  Beginning at the bottom of the tree, wrap the lights from the back to the tip and back again from each branch. ( It will take a lot of lights, but does it ever make the tree glow!) Place the larger ornament closest to the trunk. When placing garland do not make the loops too even, it should look like icing dripping.

I used to follow all this advice and would get lots of compliments, but now I'm too lazy.  I've even gone to a tabletop tree.  Never thought I'd become one of those people.  Always thought they were kind of Scrooge-like!

Whew!  I made it through this entire rambling post without writing a recipe!  Although I did consider writing the recipe for seafoam.  Of course that might change tomorrow, as I just received my shipment of dates from  They really do have the nicest dates, so much better than those woody, dried up ones I find in the grocery store.  Also people are starting to return their Christmas tins with hints about they'd like to see them returned filled.  So tomorrow I'll be in the kitchen baking away.

Monday, November 21, 2011


June 6, 1888:  A Michigan girl had found 2,125 four-leaf clovers and isn't married yet.  An Omaha girl who found out how to make a pumpkin pie was married in three months.

~Quote from Prairie Farmer magazine, cited in A Prairie  Kitchen: Recipes, Poems and Colorful Stories from the "Prairie Farmer" Magazine, 1841-1900 ~

Well, you didn't think I'd let November pass without posting something about pumpkins did you?  Especially since they are my favorite thing to grow in the garden.  So easy!  I just pick out promising seedlings growing  in the compost and replant them.  Of course, I do plant some the traditional way also!

Pumpkins are high in Vitamin A, which promotes healthy eyes, skin and bones.  That deep orange color is high in beta - carotene, so enjoy it!  Beside the traditional pies, breads and muffins, you can use it any way that you would a traditional winter squash.  You would have to have a pretty sophisticated palate to tell the difference!  I like to add cubed pieces to stews and soups.  Anything to add more nutrition!

To prepare fresh pumpkin:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a jelly roll baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Cut the pumpkin in half crosswise and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Place the pumpkin cut side down on the baking sheet  and bake for 1 -1 1/2 hours or until the flesh is tender.  Scoop out the flesh and mash until smooth. You could use a food processor for this, but I don't own one so I couldn't tell you how.

How to can pumpkin:
Clean pumpkins,  Remove seeds and pulp.  Cut into 1-inch cubes.  Cut off the rind.  Place in a large pot and cover with water.  Boil a few minutes to heat thoroughly.  Pack into sterilized pint jars leaving 1" headspace.  Add 1/2 tsp. salt to  jars.  Ladle the boiling cooking liquid over the cubes, leaving 1" headspace.  Wipe the rims and place a sterilized lid on top.  Screw on the ring and process for 55 minutes under 10 pounds of pressure.

Of course, I couldn't write a pumpkin post without including a recipe for pie.  Here's the one we use:

Amish Pumpkin Pie

1 C. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 C. pumpkin puree
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. flour
2 eggs, beaten
9" unbaked pie shell

Mix together the sugar, spices, salt and flour.  Stir in the pumpkin, then the eggs.  Lastly the milk.
Pour into the pie shell.  Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes or until the filling is firm.

With this recipe you'll have enough pumpkin left over in the can to make our family's favorite; pumpkin pancakes.  Here's the recipe:

Pumpkin Pancakes

2C. flour
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1 1/2 C.  milk
1/2 C. canned pumpkin
1 large egg
2 tbsp. oil
oil for the skillet

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  In a small bowl combine the milk, pumpkin, egg and oil; stir into the dry ingredients until the dry ingredients  are moistened.  The batter will be thick.  Pour  1/4 cup batter into heated, lightly oiled griddle.  Spread batter into a 4 inch circle. Cook as you would any pancakes.

Or maybe these muffins would be more up your alley:

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

1 1/4 C. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. soda
1 egg
3/4 C. brown sugar
2/3 C.  pumpkin
1/4 C. oil
1  3oz. pkg. cream cheese
3 tbsp. sugar
1/3 C. chopped nuts

Combine  the dry ingredients.  Mix the egg, brown sugar, pumpkin and oil together.  Add to the dry ingredients.  Mix until combined.  In another bowl combine the cream cheese and sugar.  In lined muffin cups spoon 1 tbsp. batter, top with 1 tsp. of the cream cheese mixture.  Spoon another 1 tbsp. of batter over top.  Spread evenly and sprinkle with the nuts.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Well!  This has certainly been a long post!  But before I go, I want to wish you all a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving.  Here's my favorite poem on the subject:

He who thanks but with the lips
Thanks but in part;
The full, the true Thanksgiving
Comes from the heart.
~J. A. Shedd~

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Sandy!  I wish you all could have won.  Guess Ill just have to keep on having giveaways until you all do!The nicest thing about this giveaway is that you all are blogging buddies, so I would have been happy no matter who won.  So if you'll e-mail me with your address, Sandy, I'll get the package out to you tomorrow AM.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Do you call the traditional Thanksgiving meal side dish dressing or stuffing? It seems to be a regional thing as is pop versus soda, mowing or cutting the grass, lunch versus dinner, etc.  Seems there's a lot of diversity in this big old country.  When I was a child, we would occasional be subjected to a young, idealist of a teacher, from one of those elite universities out east.  They always thought it would be an interesting anthropological experience to come to our northern Michigan village and teach the children of absent sailors, impoverished lumbermen, and hard scrabbled farmers, some culture and refinement.  They never lasted through one of our notoriously harsh winters, but anyway to bring me back to the stuffing/dressing debate, as I was going off on a completely  different tangent; one such teacher taught us that the word "stuffing" was vulgar.  Oh dear !  We country hicks must have been quite a challenge to her!

Well anyway, so much for that.  Now on to Frankenmuth and it's stuffing.  When I was a child, my parents took me  there.  It was as though I had stepped into one of those Grimms  Brother's storybooks, with it's Alpine buildings, twinkling lit trees, horse drawn carriages, and even a covered bridge suitable for Billy goats gruff.  I was instantly smitten.  Then we went into the castle-like fortress and ate.  My goodness!  What a wonderful meal!  I've related before, that my mother was a terrible cook, and her stuffing was probably one of her worst dishes.  It resembled and tasted like wallpaper paste with raisins.  So I was surprised when I tasted the restaurant's stuffing and loved it.  After years of experimenting, I've come up with a pretty good facsimile of the wonderful recipe I first tasted as a child.  I know that you probably have your own ideas and traditions of the perfect Thanksgiving dish, but just in case you've been using Stove Top stuffing, here's the recipe:

Frankenmuth Stuffing

1 loaf stollen ( a traditional German fruit bread, without icing of course)
1/2 C. grated onion
1/2 C. grated celery
1/4 C. oil
2 tins of chicken (found next to the canned tuna in the grocers)
3 C. chicken broth
grated rind of 1 orange and the juice of half of an orange
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. chicken seasoning (I use Zehnders)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. sage
1/4 C. chopped  fresh parsley

Cube the bread. and combine  with all the remaining  ingredients.  Place in a greased casserole (I use a souffle dish).  Refrigerate overnight.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  This stuffing inflates like a souffle, hence the use of a souffle dish.  Usually, I cube the bread, stir in the chicken, onions, celery and spices then freeze this to get a jump on the preparations.  The night before Thanksgiving, I defrost the bread, then combine the broth, oil, juice and eggs and  stir into the bread mixture.

So there you have it, Frankenmuth stuffing.  This fruity type of dressing goes well with goose or duck also.  Now, I'd like to thank you all for your positively winsome comments on the giveaway post.  There's still time to enter, in case you haven't already.  Go ahead!  Don't be shy.  I won't bite.  At least I haven't bitten anyone in over half a century!

Speaking of giveaways, our dear friend Marqueta at is having a giveaway also, for her newest Ebook.  It's a fascinating story of the births of her adorable  children.  Marqueta has so much wisdom to share, especially about the use of herbs, I know you will find her little book very interesting.

Update:  Here's the recipe that I use for Christmas Stollen.  It comes from an old recipe book put out by our Lutheran church's Ladies Aid Society (circa 1950s)

Christmas Stollen

1 pkg. dry yeast
1/4 C. warm water
1/2 C. milk, scalded
1/4 C. butter
1/4 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. mace or nutmeg (traditionally they use mace but who has that spice in their cupboard anymore?)
1/4 C. each - candied cherries, citron, golden raisins, and almonds
2 1/2 - 2 3/4 C. flour

Proof the yeast in the warm water. Combine the milk, sugar and salt.  Cool to lukewarm.  Add the egg, peel, vanilla, nutmeg and yeast mixture to the milk mixture.  Beat until smooth.  Add the fruits and nuts.  Hint:  dredge the fruit in some flour first to keep them from sticking together.  Add enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough.  Knead until smooth and elastic.  Place in a greased bowl.  Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.  Punch down dough.  Shape into a 14 X 9 inch oval.  Brush with melted bitter and fold in half lengthwise  (sometimes we braid ours).  Place on a well-greased cookie sheet.  Let rise until nearly doubled.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes.  Cool.  Frost with a thin vanilla icing and sprinkle with some almonds.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Brown paper packages tied up with string.  These are a few of my favorite things!
~ lyrics from Favorite Things by Rodgers and Hammerstein ~

Hello everyone!  The other day I received a package in the mail wrapped in brown paper.  I think I was more excited about the packaging, than the actual contents; our favorite sage cheddar from Vermont. Anyways, I wanted to share the fun  of receiving a brown paper package (though it won't be tied up with string.  I'll be suffering the wrath of the Postmistress enough with the brown paper!), so I decided to have a giveaway of some of my favorite things.  Sorry, I can't offer you a car like Oprah, but my giveaway is easier to get tickets to attend.  Just leave your name in the comments and next Sunday I'll draw a name.  So what's in the drawing?  A vintage English Brown Betty teapot made by Alcock, Lindley and Bloore. I've been collecting these adorable little teapots for decades.  What is a teapot without tea, right?  So a tin of Harney and Sons tea, which is about the only tea I can tolerate.  A pretty Royal Albert teacup and saucer (vintage of course) in the Winsome pattern.  Don't you just love the name?  I need to use the word "winsome" more often.  Stillmeadow Road by Gladys Taber, one of my favorite authors.  Who doesn't love Gladys?  A vintage Christmas apron, all freshly laundered and starched, so you won't splash any tea on your clothes when pouring the tea.  And a pretty sparkly vintage Christmas pin.  Perhaps you can spy it on the apron?  Madame the Bust is being very uncooperative in modeling the apron today.  Plus a few other little trifles that I'll let be a surprise.  So enter your name, tell your friends, the more the merrier!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


A multitude of small delights constitutes happiness.
~ Charles Baudelaire~

Purchasing a house is like finding your spouse;  you just know when it is the one.  Our little cottage was by no stretch of the imagination anyone's dream home, the fact that it was on the market for several years is testimony to that.  But the second I stepped inside, I knew it was the place for me.  It was the odd little angled nooks, the rough old horsehair plastered walls, the little open landing on the second floor, even the sturdy old-fashioned clothesline that sold me.

Lately I've been thinking about what attracts one person to something and another person  finds it ugly.  You have a lot of time to think when you are painting lots of  bumpy surfaces!  Whether it's the clothes we choose to wear, the way we decorate our homes, or even the people we are attracted to, it all harkens back to our childhoods.  At least I know it is true in my case, and it is true in most of the people I know.

For instance, I have always wanted to paint the bannister red.  Why red?  If you asked me to name my favorite color, red would not be counted among my  favorites.  Why have I always wanted a little open hallway?  Then it occurred to me, that when I was a very little girl, my grandparents had such a bannister in their farmhouse.  My grandfather died before I started kindergarten and my grandmother sold the farm soon afterward, so I have few recollections of the old place.  Couldn't even tell you what any of the interior looks like, except that upstairs in their hallway, my grandmother kept her hope chest, filled with dolls and sock monkeys that she had made.  And that is where my sisters and I spent many happy hours.

I've always felt most comfortable in small dark spaces.  I call it cozy, but I'm sure that to those that love the open beachy or the all-white shabby chic rooms, would call it something else. LOL!  Conversely, while I can see the beauty in those rooms, after a while I feel cold and uncomfortable in them.  Why do I love small dark little rabbit warrens of rooms?  Because as a child, I spent many enjoyable afternoons camped out in the den closet.  My mother stored the blankets and extra bed pillows in there.  It was the perfect place to wile away a rainy afternoon, trying to imagine myself into the cottages illustrated in the Little Golden Books, like Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Snow White. For me, small and dark, signifies happiness, safety and love.  I was always attracted to the cottages, not the palaces in my storybooks.  Guess I was thrifty even as a child!  By the way, that is why I have that rather gaudy wallpaper that you see on the walls.  It looks very much like the stenciled walls in Elizabeth Orton Jone's illustrations in Little Red Riding Hood.  That, plus the fact that I bought the Brunschwig and Fils  wallpaper for fifty cents at a thrift store. (Another story for another day!)

Once a year, I go shopping with my sister.   Recreational shopping is certainly not a thrifty thing to do!  She always asks my opinion about what purse, dress , teapot, etc.  that I prefer, then always picks the opposite!   Although we grew up in the same home, our tastes are completely different. We have different experiences.  If it has sequins, beads or something shiny, she loves it; I love tweeds, dressmaker's details, and somber colors.  Reminds me of that old proverb, "In matters of taste, there is no dispute.".  I used to come away with things I knew I would never use, after a day of shopping with her.  She can be very persuasive!   But after I learned what makes me tick, it was a lot easier to say "no" when she tried to talk me into the Barbie pink sweater or the Kathy Van Zeeland handbag.  Pretty, just not me.   Knowing who you are and why is one of the easiest ways to stay within your budget. Once you get that figured out, you won't be so influenced by fads, thus you won't have  to cringe when looking  back at old pictures and exclaim "What was I thinking?!".

What do you think? Has your childhood influenced your tastes in decor,  fashion, and relationships?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Hello everyone!  Can you believe it is already November?  Seems like just yesterday we were  anticipating the beautiful autumn leaves and now they are gone.  Some people think November is a bleak month, but I love it.  Now is the time to really study the trees.  Isn't their construction amazing?   And have you ever noticed how many different shades of gray there are?  From the steely storm clouds  to the pretty lavender tinted evening shadows, there's so much to observe.  It reminds me of this quote:

If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.
 ~Vincent Van Gogh ~

November is also the month of my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.  At Sweet Briar Cottage, Thanksgiving is truly a harvest meal  as much of the food that graces our table will have come from our own dear garden.  We do indeed have much to be thankful for and the bounty of our garden is just one of the many blessings.  I wish I could share our meal with you, but since I'm sure you will be spending that day with your family, I'll share some of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes throughout this month instead.  Today I am making cranberry chutney.  It freezes well, so I can get a jump on the preparations. A nice activity for today as I'm kind of stuck in the house while  the plumbers are here installing the new boiler.  Hurray!  So turn on some Nat King Cole (what a voice!) and simmer away. Here's the recipe:

Cranberry Chutney

4 C. fresh cranberries
2 C. sugar
1 C, apples, chopped, unpeeled
1/2 C. golden raisins
1 tbsp. vinegar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 C. orange juice
1/2 C. chopped walnuts

Combine ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer until the cranberries start to pop and mixture becomes fairly thick.  Cool.  Pour into glass jars and refrigerate or freeze until Thanksgiving.

This smells so wonderful!  I  would make it even if I didn't like cranberries just to scent the cottage.  Did you know that I tried to grow cranberries once?  It was quite a failure, but I haven't given up on them. Who knows?  Maybe one year it will be our own berries gracing the table!