To Amuse and Delight

Monday, December 28, 2009

Special Gifts

I have been blessed with a husband who is attracted to and appreciates the same things that I do. So, it is no surprise that I am head over heels for the gifts he picked for me. My birthday is very close to Christmas so I received not one, but two wonderful pieces of hand made pottery from Bauman Stoneware. This photo of the pumpkin teapot and acorn casserole speak for themselves of their amazingly gifted creator. All I can say is that they are beautiful and magical as everything concerning Christmas should be.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas baking

The snow is piled up outside. The tree is trimmed with favorite ornaments. Fairies, mushrooms, nesting birds and woodland critters adorn it's branches. Oh, and the red lights are twinkling, I do love my red lights. The Christmas music is playing. It's time to get baking. As a child of the 70's (not the healthy hippie 70's) I was raised on a lot of packaged food. Potatoes and cakes came from boxes and vegetables came out of cans. But, come Christmas time my mom would bake cookies from scratch and she did it very well. As far back as I can remember Christmas we had the green acorn cookies. Mom would make the dough with the big wooden spoon, no mixers here. Then she molded each little acorn by hand. After baked and cooled she dipped each one in melted chocolate to make the acorn cap. They are buttery, kind of like shortbread, but flavored with almond extract. When I got married I started making them our tradition too. This year I also made a batch of sugar cookies that we have yet to decorate. They are from my late Grandma Jean's 1963 "Cooky Book". They are called wonderland cookies and we cut them out in fun animal shapes: pigs, owls, chicks, rabbits plus hearts and diamonds. It's just not Christmas though without the green acorn cookies. That big, gorgeous brown glass acorn ornament is a new gift from a special friend who really knows what I like.

Each Christmas I make a birthday cake for Jesus. I also like to make a buche de noel. It's a french roll cake filled with whipped cream. It's a less sweet alternative to the buttercream iced birthday cake. I decorate it with merengue mushrooms and strawberries. Of course I take any excuse to put cute little mushrooms on my table!

When serving this cake to company, one friend was notably disgusted to be eating mushrooms with his cake! I took this as a mighty big compliment at the realism of the little shrooms.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Storybook Home

It is bitter cold today. The perfect day to snuggle down with the latest issue of The Storybookhome Journal, which arrived in my mailbox just yesterday. It is a rare treat to anticipate and receive something of worth in the mail these days (not email!). The Storybookhome Journal is put together by the artist Al Young and his gifted family. It is a bimonthly publication centered around wonderful classic literature. Each issue spotlights one book or author. Various aspects of the book are brought to life in whimsical yet practical ways so that you can “live out” the book in your own home. In each fabulous issue you will encounter delicious recipes, home decor and handiwork projects, music pieces, gardening ideas and much more. Each idea is pulled directly from the book and personalized by this highly talented, very imaginative family. Each issue is a work of art in itself. There is beauty and inspiration at every turn. I find myself refering back to certain issues again and again.

If you are searching for something special to give this holiday season for mother, sister, or friend, a yearly subscription to The Storybookhome Journal is perfect. It is very reasonably priced for the ongoing gift of delight that it will bring. Individual issues can also be purchased. Here are just a very few past issues that will whet your appetite: Heidi, Litttle Women, Silas Marner, The Wind in the Willows, Bleak House, Persuasion, Little House in the Big Woods, Understood Betsy and Treasure Island.

Five years ago I was asked if I might contribute to the ‘Old Christmas’ issue which focused on the author Washington Irving. I was more than happy to oblige, it is very exciting to be a part of such a wonderful and worthwhile endeavor.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Being Thankful

This Thanksgiving was by far the best I’ve ever had. I cooked, family visited and we had a relaxed, fun time being together. Everything went off without a hitch. Now that it is over I realize what made it so special. The very things that I am most thankful for, the intangibles. The intangibles can’t be seen in these pictures. They are not the food or the stuff, they are invisible. They are faith, love, joy, health and many other things that without them the tangible things in life are meaningless. What good is a well cooked bird if it shares the table with pain or discontent? You will be amazed at how thankful you will become when you begin to count your intangible blessings.

I am thankful for my place at the table. I am thankful for the cleverness of a daughter who figured out where everyone should sit, made place cards, and set about to make it all look nice.

I am thankful for a husband’s thoughtfulness. When passing by a yard sale, he grabbed the squirrel/nut dish because he knew I would be crazy about it. I love that he gave them money for it even though it was in the box marked “free”.

I am thankful that the people who really know me love me anyway.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hold on to your head!

I finally finished up my Queen of Hearts for the Go Ask Alice show and she is just about ready to start chopping off some heads! My goal was that she would have a stiffness to her, very unemotional since she is after all a playing card. I wanted her to be royal and no nonsense, that’s why I opted for no hair. Hair to me adds too much softness. She had to be very hard and unmerciful. She has a tightly laced black suede corset and long pointed golden boots. Despite her attitude she’s still pretty. Even if I wanted to, I have a hard time making ugly.

If you’d like to see more of her, check out my Flickr.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Socks and Bones

As a child I collected deer jawbones. I kept them in a box like treasure. I would take one out from time to time and comb my long, dark hair with it. All the while imagining myself a beautiful Native American princess. When my daughter came home with these two jawbones I thought it was pretty cool. Her story is that her and her friends came upon a deer skeleton in the woods and claimed it as property of "the fort". The bones were gathered and arranged artistically in the fort along with a lot of other broken, sharp and dangerous treasures that I'd probably rather not know about. My girl tells me she was allowed to take what she wanted home because I'm the only mom who happily allows "dirty bones" into the house. About the sock- I started this blog with my spring sock so I thought I'd show off my fall sock. It's taking a long time what with all the doll making going on around here but it's coming along.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Go Ask Alice poster

I am furiously working to finish up my 2nd doll for the Go Ask Alice Doll and Plush Art Show with opens on Dec. 5th. Here is the very cool promotional poster which is sure to drum up interest with all those lovely images. There's my long necked gal peeking in at the side there. If you are in the Santa Barbara area join them for a Mad Tea Party reception, I'm sure it will be a grand time.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

acorn caps

I’m always looking for different ways to bring bits of nature into my home. I am especially fond of acorn caps. The little hats fit snugly on many things since they come in different sizes. Here are a couple glued onto the corks of little glass bottles. One holds tiny glass seed beads. The other is filled with an ancient red dye, a powdered pigment made from the crushed cochineal insect. In the foreground you can see one of my many beaded acorn pincushions.

Monday, November 2, 2009

food ruts

When I find myself in a food rut I use the internet to get some inspiration. I’m not talking about a recipe search. What I’m looking for is an idea, a pretty picture that will spark me. Many times I come across an old favorite that I haven’t made in a while because I just forgot about it. That’s what the rut does, makes me forget about great dishes that I may even have all the ingredients for. It’s wierd, but the rut seems to creep back little by little. Soon I’m rotating the same 3 or 4 dishes. I’m not talking about buying fancy new foods for the sake of variety. I’m talking about buying your usual, seasonal, fresh and affordable foods and just rearranging them a bit. To liven up your senses while sticking to your budget, that’s the aim here. What seems to be mundane can become quite exraordinary with just a few tweaks. So here I am posting a few recent successful meals of ours that you may want to try. If you have any favorite fall meals or cookbooks I’d love to hear about them.

*All meals pictured here are just as tasty without the meats. I just happen to have 50lbs of organic, grass fed beef in my freezer at the moment and need to use it.

Chili with plantains. I like lots of raw veg toppings. For company I would add on some corn muffins.

A stew of potatoes, carrots, white beans, corn and green beans all flavored with oregano, can tomato and a sprinke of feta cheese. One chicken breast goes a long way when you've got all those other tasty things.

Beef and mushrooms with cumin and cinnamon served with coconut rice. A little bit of good quality something goes a long way to enhance a dish. In this case it was chopped tomato and plain (full fat) yogurt.

This is my current favorite sauce. It is coconut-tomato with basil from Molly Katzen's book The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without. What can I say? She is the Queen. I made it here with wide noodles and veggies.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Goat

Lord, let me live as I will!
I need a little wild freedom.
a little giddiness of heart,
the strange taste of unknown flowers.
For whom else are your mountains?
Your snow wind? These springs?
The sheep do not understand.
They graze and graze,
all of them, and always in the same direction,
and then eternally
chew the cud of their insipid routine.
But I- I love to bound to the heart of all
your marvels, leap your chasms,
and, my mouth stuffed with intoxicating grasses,
quiver with an adventurer’s delight
on the summit of the world!

from Prayers from the Ark by Carmen Bernos Gasztold

The photo is of a fancy gentleman we met on our last Bronx Zoo excursion.

Monday, October 19, 2009

keeping warm

We have been experiencing some frigid days over here. Overcast, grey, it even snowed last week! That was actually pretty fun, since we were having a “home day" anyway. To combat the cold and bring a bit of sunshine to the table and to the belly there were fresh buns, peach preserves, a bit of cheese. Also in attendence was the happy mouse cheese plate, a well used thrift store treasure.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Monster Mushroom

While enjoying an autumn stroll around a favorite local haunt this past sunday the girls discovered this crazy huge mushroom. We didn’t pick it, it was already plucked and lying on the ground. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I dig mushrooms and I am always on the prowl for new specimens. I have never seen this type this large before, so it was quite a big deal. It immediatly brought to my mind the following quote from the book The Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon.

“And the mushroom? Ah! It is proof of creation ex nihilo, the paradigm of the marvelously solid unnecessariness of the world. How anything so nearly nothing could at the same time be so emphatically something- how the Spirit brooding upon the face of the waters could have brought forth this... well, words fail, and mystery reigns. “

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Go Ask Alice

I will be participating in a group show of doll and plush toy artists based on Alice in Wonderland. A nice person named Cimmi of the Dollhead blog is putting it all together at her gallery in Santa Barbara. So now I am immersing myself in Alice, gearing up to make the best dolls I can in about one month’s time. There are so many great characters to consider, the many faces of Alice, The White Rabbit, The Hatter, all of the unconventional little time.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gettin' cozy

The weather here in NY is quite chilly, perfect for getting cozy with a cup of hot tea. The matryoshka tea cozy from my etsy store went off to it’s new home in Australia this week. I wonder if the weather is as brisk there today as it is here. This year I am going to make myself a tea cozy. I have been saying that for years, but you know the old saying about the shoemaker’s kids going without shoes. The maker of tea cozies drinks tepid tea. It’s pretty lame but I usually wrap a kitchen towel around my pot to keep it piping. I am determined to make myself a cozy, let’s see if it happens.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Recycled Tablecloth

I’ve had this thrifted vintage tablecloth for many years. Rosebuds with bits of metallic gold tendrils, very sweet. I made these pants for my daughter out of it. The coolest thing is that the lace was already attatched to the cloth.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Back to school

As you know the back to school season is here. As homeschoolers, “back to school” conjures up different images than the ones presented to us in the media or in the mall. It is refreshing that a new season of learning is upon us, new ideas to be introduced, new loves to be discovered. I recently read the book Laddie by Gene Stratton-Porter and I couldn’t agree more with this bit.

“Schoolhouses are made wrong. If they must be, they should be built in a woods pasture beside a stream, where you could wade, swim, and be comfortable in summer, and slide and skate in winter. The windows should be cut to the floor, and stand wide open, so the birds and butterflies could pass through. You ought to learn your geography by climbing a hill, walking through a valley, wading creeks, making islands in them, and promontories, capes, and peninsulas along the bank. You should do your arithmetic sitting under trees adding hickorynuts, subtracting walnuts, multiplying butternuts, and dividing hazelnuts. You could spell everything in sight and this would teach you the words that are really used in the world.”

Friday, September 11, 2009

Let Freedom Ring

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
       and a season for every activity under heaven:
  a time to be born and a time to die,
       a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
       a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
       a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
       a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
       a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
       a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
       a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

I was at a women’s prayer meeting, praying for our children, our country, when someone ran in with the news. A plane had crashed into one of the towers. We listened to the radio reporting the surreal information, we prayed, we listened and we prayed some more. Our husbands were down there, in the city. We would have no contanct with them for the next several hours. The city was “locked down”, which means no one can get in or get out. The train that my husband left on that morning could not return.

We each went home to be near our phones in case a husband should call. The phone lines were so jammed up no calls could get through to us. I waited. I prayed. I listened to the radio for updates. I appeared calm so my small daughter would not worry. The words from that REM song played over in my mind “it’s the end of the world as we know it”, but I was not feeling fine. I waited and waited and made a big pot of lentil soup. If my husband did come home he would be hungry and he may be bringing with him people who no longer had a home. Finally he did come home to us, Thank God. But so many others did not. As the days went by the communter parking lot became an eerie monument. Whenever we drove by it you could see all those cars whose drivers would never return to them. For each car a family was waiting. I have the same sick feeling in my stomach today as I remember those cars. So many cars. As more bodies were unearthed another image of cars was burned into my memory. Funeral processions, lines of cars everywhere, for weeks.

I recall also an unspoken bond with everyone I came into contact with, a bond of seeing this happen and still being alive. On that sept. 12th I was on line in a grocery store. The woman behind me had clearly just finally made her way back from the city. She was disheveled, she had on a rumpled business suit from the day before. She had a glazed faraway look in her eyes. As I was leaving I was taken aback by her small purchase, a bottle of water and an American flag.

(please note there is no meaning behind the drawing of the flag being backward. My 5 year old drew it today and she thinks it’s perfect)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tea and Memories

Each weekday that we are at home everything stops at 3:30 for a tea break. We sit down with a pot of tea and a little something to nibble on. I read from whatever book we happen to be into or something about the current season, poetry or nature study. It’s our time to decompress and settle down. After we may disperse to our own activities, but many times we linger to play a game, read or work on a craft. On days when we are not able to have our tea break I find everyone tends to get cranky and disagreeable around 4:30, I call it “the witching hour”. The combination of resting and appeasing our blood sugar levels seems to do the trick. On tea days the tone is set for the rest of the evening and it usually goes smoothly. You can’t allow activity to continue to escalate without giving the mind (and body) some downtime to recharge.

With my grandma’s recent passing I decided to have our tea in her honor. I sifted through her “Cooky Book” from 1963 for something to make. Grandma Jean had marked off many recipes that she used but I noticed an extra big checkmark on the Scottish Shortbread recipe, so we made them. The table was set with one of grandma’s hand embroidered tablecloths. She gifted me with this one last June. She said it was “for the children” because of the childlike, whimsical motifs all around it. She would have loved to see her things being used and so enjoyed. She had a long life well lived. So instead of mourning, today we celebrate her life. We raise our little pink cups “To Granny Jean!”.

“the oil of gladness, instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

(taken from Isaiah 63:3)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Grandma Jean

My grandmother was buried today. She passed on over the weekend at 91 yrs old. The more I think about her, the more I want to share her life with others. She was a second mother to me. Hers was the first home I lived in when I was born and the home I left on my wedding day. It wasn’t until I had children of my own that I realized how patient, tireless and creative she was.

Jean was born to Polish immigrants in Brooklyn in 1918. At 14 yrs old she became a “career girl” to help support the family when her father was out of work. She loved to tell me the story of how her mother had her keep a little of her earnings to buy herself a new hat every week. She always had that twinkle in her eye when she talked about those hats! She married my Hungarian grandfather when she was 27. They saved their money and bought the house in Queens that she would live out the rest of her life in. They bought the house in cash, no mortgage. Grandma Jean nurtured and fed every person and animal that crossed her doorstep. Every Christmas she would gift the local nuns with hand knit shawls “because it gets chilly where they live and they don’t have much money”. She was always entertaining someone, there was a never ending spread of polish or american food on her table. Her garden was bursting with life. She exchanged twigs with her neighbors and ended up with the most beautiful collection of roses growing alongside her pears, cherries and vegetables. Each year she canned her bounty of tomatoes. She knew what it was like to have nothing, so to have this abundance was not work, but joy.

Grandma Jean’s hands were never idle. If there was ever a moment when she was sitting still she would be knitting, crocheting or embroidering. She made jewellery, ceramics and every conceivable home decoration. When I was a child my books, toys and crafts were strewn all over her house. Grandma never fussed, but instead joined in the fun. When I got older and began bringing home my “colorful” friends Grandma didn’t bat an eye, she entertained like they were her friends. She would run out with her cart on wheels to the market and return with all the snacks we could possibly consume. I recall once when some friends needed a place to stay for the night . The friends happened to be a heavy metal band, all boys. She put out the food, laughed and told stories and played cards with them. They all slept on the living room floor with her cozy crocheted blankets. When it was time for them to leave the very big, very loud singer, Moose (who also had a penchant for spitting fire onstage) couldn’t stop praising and hugging his new “grandma”. Jean gave and I took. I am ashamed to admit that I never lifted a finger to help her. She didn’t complain, she was just happy to have me with her.

In recent years when I would go on and on about the great things she did she would shoo me away with a “Come on, I enjoyed it!”. It wasn’t until I had a family of my own to look after that I realized the strength it took to live that kind of life. A simple life of serving others.

The photo is of my grandparents around the time they got married. When my grandfather (who was equally resourceful, creative and amazing) was stationed in Hawaii during WW2 he picked up mother of pearl shells on the beach and carved crosses and hearts for his new bride back home.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Happy Birthday Cutie!

Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday, she is now a whopping 10 years old. To make the day even more memorable she experienced her first ever movie in a theater. Yep, it took a whole decade to find something worthy enough to actually go out to see. We happen to be loyal fans of Hayao Miyazaki’s films so when Ponyo came out this weekend it was perfect timing. After all that restaurant/vacation food of last week my girl’s birthday meal request was a home cooked favorite, chicken paprikash. Coffee ice cream for dessert, she doesn’t care for birthday cake. We were all grateful for the “home food”. The day was made even more special when we picked up our guinea pig, Pumpkin who seems to have made a complete recovery. We are all very very happy to be home.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Goodbye Bloggy Friends...

Tomorrow we are off for our annual beach vacation. Normally I would be elated. But, instead I am a ball of nerves. One of our guinea pigs, Pumpkin, is very ill. This morning the Vet hydrated her and gave her an antibiotic shot. She will be needing antibiotics and special food given to her 4x a day for the next few days or she won’t survive. We leave tomorrow for RI and a hotel that doesn’t take animals. ARGHHH. You see my dilemma. I am leaving her with a very responsible friend, but still I am nervous about Pumpkin and uncomfortable putting my friend in this position. I will actually have to force myself to relax and have a good time at the beach.

The photo is of Pumpkin the day I brought her home 2 years ago, she was soooo tiny.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Summer Food

There are certain dishes I make constantly in the summer. Right now we are in the throes of "summer food". By the time September rolls around we will probably be sick of them, but for now we are loving it!
Tomato/basil salad
Any summer fruit or veg ends up in a crepe!
Cold peanut noodle, yum!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Cool 2-in-1 Bag

I Have been saving this fabric for a rainy day and boy is it raining! I used a pattern from the July issue of Cotton Time, an excellent japanese sewing book. I am taking this very cool bag on vacation with me in a couple of weeks. By day it's a big tote carry-all. For evening it transforms into a cute little purse. Very nice. It's also very nice to have a fetching friend at the ready for some impromptu modeling, thanks D!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Alice in Wonderland Clock

If you have to look at something multiple times a day or it is a permanent fixture in your home why not make it attractive and amusing, right? I found myself in need of a portable alarm clock. Not satisfied with any, I settled for a cheap little drugstore number that I could work with. I embellished it with images from Wonderland. I save my expired calendars because they are always beautiful and useful. I cut these images from a 2007 Alice calendar illustrated by Iassen Ghiuselev and glued them in place. With minimal effort and no cost I have instant transformation.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

rain rain go away

I actually really like rain, except when it is relentless and destroys my tomatoes. We’ve been having an awful lot of rain lately. Maybe that is why these little umbrellas are popping up all over the lawn.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Feather Display

We have an ever growing seasonal nature shelf where we display our found treasures. I used to keep feathers in a glass vase, but they always ended up in a clump. Well, I just found a beautiful way to keep them apart while avoiding man made objects. Using a bee's nest each individual feather can be shown off. To stabilize it I sat it in a seashell. I think it looks great.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

That sort of bear...

My 9 yr old daughter will often ask "can I do some sewing?".  She disappears for hours. Behind closed doors while listening to audio books, she sews. I am not allowed to peek or to help. A couple of days ago she emerged with this bear! It's so great, such personality, I begged to have it. I had to save him from ending up at the bottom of some toy box. So, he is mine and I love him.

Friday, July 3, 2009

My Mushrooms

For the last couple of years I have been devoting much of my time in nature seeking out mushrooms. I have taken countless pictures of them. I can't always keep track of labeling who they are because they are too numerous. So many shapes , colors, sizes, textures. It's never boring and each time we come across a new one it's special. Here are a couple of beauties from our most recent walk. The jelly one looked like amber with the sun behind it and the two tiny guys in that amazing moss forest were each as small as a fingernail.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I used to make dolls.....

Twelve years ago I started making dolls. Ten years ago I got pregnant and stopped making dolls. It's not that I decided to stop, actually I just forgot about it. I'm a very attached kind of mom. I was way to busy enjoying my little ones to think of sewing. Once the girls got a bit older I found pockets of time appearing in my day and I began sewing again. It has only been about 1 1/2 years that I've been back at it. I started the etsy shop and started making cute things to put in it. Even though that continues to be really fun I am now getting the urge to pick up where I left off ten years ago. Not always cute, but definitely interesting. I'm itching to see what is going to come out of my head. I hope you will stick around to see what comes next.

The doll shown here is named Var. She was auctioned off at a benefit for Love, an great organization dedicated to stopping child sex trafficking abroad and here in the US. Please, go to their site, get educated and if you can, get involved.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Butterflies are born!

When we were at the butterfly farm we took four caterpillars home to watch "hatch". Well, today was the day. They are painted ladies and there are two of them. We have two pupae to go. We have a little butterfly garden so hopefully they will stick around.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

zoo day

Since our Bronx Zoo membership is about to expire, I figured it was time for one last hurrah until we renew in the fall. I was also looking for some creative inspiration and I wasn't disappointed.

I had to be very sneaky to get this close.

Yes, a black swan.

Awesome bug carousel.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Thanks Julie

My Octo-bag is among the featured etsy pieces on this lovely blog, check it out!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rainbow's End

Yesterday we went to Rainbow's End Butterfly Farm. If you are anywhere in the area you should definitely check it out. In any case go to their site and see what you can do to make a butterfly habitat. My husband, who is a very very talented illustrator always gets annoyed when people refer to him as an artist. He believes he is a technician. As he always says "an artist puts a piece of his soul into his work". Well, if this is true then I saw a bit of God's soul at the butterfly farm and it is beautiful.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


We are busy doing a whole lot of this before the weather gets too hot.