Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Deerfield, NH

Here's some of my favorite views and houses in Deerfield, on the way to my sister, Judy's house, taken on Christmas day. It is always such a pleasure to round the bend, and see this farm with the mountains in the distance.

White Picket Farm at the top of the hill.

You can always see the cows (in the distance) on this farm.

I've always loved this house.

Hillcrest Farm

On Ridge Road - we're almost there.

Such a beautiful place.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Enjoying the harvest in December

I’m still using some of what I grew last summer.

For xmas dinner we’re having roast leg of lamb cooked in tomato sauce, which I canned using last summer’s plum tomatoes. It is seasoned with the garlic I grew, and rosemary which I dried.

We’re also having winter squash (Jack-Be-Little Pumpkins) roasted with butter and maple syrup, made from a friend’s trees.

We had beets this week which kept quite nicely in the refrigerator hydrator drawer. Not too long ago, we finished the last carrots.

This is a butternut squash (Waltham) that I grew a few years ago. The woodchucks ate most of them, but I got a few. I think I'll try more winter squash next year since they last well into the winter.

And for desert, rugala with homemade blueberry jam made from the blueberries I picked at my friend Donna's house this summer.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter's Here

"The snow is lying very deep.
My house is sheltered from the blast.
I hear each muffled step outside,I hear each voice go past.
But I'll not venture in the drift
Out of this bright security,
Till enough footsteps come and go
To make a path for me."- Agnes Lee

It snowed from Friday through Sunday, so I didn't make it to cookie weekend this year. Now I just have to figure out how to get some of those cookies to eat...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Will cookie weekend be snowed out?

Every year the weekend before Christmas I go to my sister, Judy's house and we bake cookies for the entire weekend. My niece, Sarah, cooks delicious meals for us, so we don't have to take time away from our baking. The cookies get packed up in Christmas tins, and given away as presents. Here's a picture from a few years ago.

But here it is Saturday afternoon, and I'm snowed in, and can't get there.

Cranberry Beef Stew

I like to make this recipe this time of year when fresh cranberries are available. The cranberry is a native plant that is also grown commercially.

Beef Stew with Cranberries

2 Tbspn Oil
3 Lbs. Stew Beef
2 Cloves Garlic
2 Medium Onions, Chopped
¾ Cup Red Wine
¾ Cup Beef Stock or Broth
2 Tbspn. Red Wine Vinegar
1 Can Tomato Paste
1 ½ Cups Fresh Cranberries
1/3 Cup Sugar (or Splenda)
Salt and Pepper

Cut Stew Beef into 1 inch cubes. Heat oil. Brown beef on all sides. Discard any remaining fat. Season meat with salt and pepper. Add the onion and minced garlic.
Add wine, stock, red wine vinegar, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until meat is tender, about 2 hours.

Chop cranberries coarsely and combine with sugar. Add to pot, stir well, and cook for 10 minutes longer.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Emily gets her first modeling job

Here is Emily's latest shoot modeling CoolStuffCheap.com's" Pets Eye View Camera. Emily still denies the rumors about her being seen partying with Benjie.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ice Storm

We made it through the ice storm with no problem. It snowed first, then sleeted, then rained and rained and rained.

I got all ready - lots of wood split and stacked by the wood stove, the bathtub filled with water, candles and flashlights put out, cell phone battery charged, and finger food cooked in advance. But, we were lucky and never lost power here for very long. Some of my friends in adjoining towns were without power all day. My friend, Shirley, who lives across the lake was without power for 24 hours. For some I hear it will be multiple days. Fortunately most people around here have wood stoves or generators.

Emily was ready to play once the sun came out.


A good plant to grow in wet areas of the garden is the native deciduous holly, winterberry (Ilex verticillata). Winterberry is native from the mid-west to the eastern US, and grows in swamps and bogs in zones 3-8 in full sun to partial shade. It tolerates dry conditions, but prefers moist or wet acidic soil, even standing water. We have it growing all along the edge of the lake.

In the summer you’ll hardly notice the plant, but in the fall the beautiful berries start out orange and then turn red, adding to the fall foliage.

Once the leaves have fallen from the plant, the bright red berries stand out. They look especially beautiful against the snow. If the birds don’t eat all the berries, you can use them for Christmas decorations. This year the plants are laden with berries since we had such a rainy summer.

If you buy winterberry from a garden center, make sure you buy a male pollinator as well as female plants to produce berries. The male should be planted within 30 feet of the females. One male plant will pollinate several female plants.

Winterberry is 6-8 feet tall, and has no serious pests or diseases.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Rugalah - Rugalach - Rugelach

However you spell it - Rugelach means "little twists" in Yiddish, and has Jewish Ashkenazic (Polish) origins. They are rolled cookies typically made for Hanukah. Everyone loves these!


2 Sticks Unsalted Butter
1 8 oz. pkg. Cream Cheese
2 Cups Flour
½ tspn. Salt


1 Stick Unsalted Butter
1 ½ Tbspn. Cinnamon
1 ½ Cups Sugar
6 Tbspn. Finely Chopped Walnuts

Make the Pastry:

Soften the butter and cream cheese to room temperature.
Beat the butter, cream cheese, and salt with an electric mixer. Mix in the flour.
Divide the dough into 4 portions. Shape each portion into a disk. Wrap and chill until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Mix cinnamon with sugar.
Roll 1 portion of dough into a circle.
Brush with Melted Butter.
Sprinkle with Cinnamon/Sugar Mix and Chopped Walnuts.
Cut the circle into 12 wedges.
Roll up from the wide edge to the point.
Place on ungreased cookie sheet, bending the dough into a crescent shape.
Bake 20 minutes until golden brown.
While still warm, brush with more melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mix.

Repeat with the remaining 3 circles.

Filling alternatives: Add a few chocolate chips or, use jam and walnuts for the filling.

Cookie Exchange

Today I went to a cookie exchange at the lovely Pressey House Bed and Breakfast in Oakland, ME. It was hosted by Lorie, for the craft group of the Waterville Area Newcomer's club. It was so cozy sitting by the fire, sipping coffee, crocheting, and tasting cookies.

The Pressey House is an octagonal shaped house that was built in the 1850's and is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Out the windows is a beautiful view looking down Messalonskee Lake.

I had to bring 4 dozen cookies, so I spent all day baking yesterday, and made a huge mess in the kitchen. I made my favorite holiday cookie, rugalah. The recipe makes 4 dozen, so of course I had to make some extra so I could try them before bringing them.

Look at how beautifully these are decorated.

Here's what I brought home!
Mmmm....now I just need someone to help me eat them!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Festival of Trees at Good Will-Hinckley School

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

Every December for the last 17 years, Hinckley School's historic Prescott Hall is set up with 24 Christmas trees each artistically decorated with a different theme by local Maine groups and crafts-people.

The Waterville Community Garden Club has decorated a tree every year for the last 15. Of course we choose a garden related theme. This year our theme was Deciduous Forest – all ornaments were made from materials from deciduous trees. (trees that lose their leaves in the winter). Members collected leaves, nuts, and seedpods and made ornaments all during the fall. Right before the festival starts we decorate the tree.

Here's what we have around the tree - a star fence made of twigs and birch reindeer.

All the trees were beautiful, but I think this one is my favorite. An old fashioned Christmas with gingerbread men, ornaments made from apples and popcorn, cranberry, and cinnamon stick garlands.

I love some of the things under the trees... Teddies in a Wagon

Cookie Baking Supplies

The Bloomfield Garden Club from Skowhegan pressed flowers during the summer and made beautiful ornaments for their tree 'Artistry with Dried Botanicals'. This is cedar painted gold.

This is artemesia with queen anne's lace in the center.

We made 25 or so centerpieces for the opening brunch buffet. They looked great on the tables.

We also helped make up these cute centerpieces.
I'm so glad I was in Maine this year for the Festival of Trees!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tea at the Blaine House

The Kennebec Valley Garden Club, has been decorating the Blaine House, the residence of the Governor of Maine, for the holidays for over 20 years. I was so excited to be invited and to be in Maine this year.

The Blaine house was built in 1833 by James Hall, a retired ship's captain. It was donated to the State of Maine for use a Governor's residence by Harriet Blaine Beale in 1919.

The decorations and the house were just beautiful.

This year's theme was "A Homespun Holiday Naturally". Dried flowers and natural materials were in abundance.

Oak Leaves and pinecones painted gold. Birch bark covered balls.

Beautiful handmade ornaments using acorn caps.

The Gingerbread house

Old flag in the spinning wheel in the children’s room.

From left to right, my friends Loyce, Jackie, Shirlene Gosline, President Garden Club Federation of Maine, and me.

What a nice way to celebrate the holidays.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hypertufa Garden Containers

Here's what I made Katie for her birthday. Hypertufa is an artificial stone that you can mold into containers for the garden. They look great planted with succulants.

I made these with my very creative garden club friend, Jackie, in her garage on a rainy day last summer. First we collected various things for molds. Our favorites are small plastic containers from take out food or the grocery store and plastic flower pots shaped as bowls. Jackie even has a mold in the shape of a boat that everyone loves.

Be sure to wear old clothes and rubber gloves as this can be quite messy. Mix equal parts of peat moss, perlite or vermiculite, and Portland cement in a large plastic container or wheel barrel. Add water slowly mixing with a stick until it is a consistency you can mold.

For this container I used a plastic container mushrooms come in. Mold the cement mixture around the outside of the container making sure the top is even. We used sticks in the bottom to make holes for drainage.

Let dry in the garage for about 2-3 weeks. The plastic container can be taken out then. Fill with soil and your favorite plants.

This is the hypertufa bowl of hen's and chick's on my deck last summer.