To Amuse and Delight

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas and a lady

Isn't this rainbow tree beautiful? Such a good idea, and it looks much more amazing in real life. That lady peeking around is pretty amazing too. That's my Aunt Millie. She came to spend a couple of weeks with me and my family. I always liked her, but after spending so much time with her we found that we are kindred spirits.We stayed up each night talking and she shared many stories about her life with me. 

Like how she came to NYC from Puerto Rico as a child and how she met her husband at a dance in Brooklyn. It was just like a scene from West Side Story, he is Italian and even though they were married her father in law never knew that she was Puerto Rican! He assumed she was also Italian and the family kept the truth from him because "it would kill him". That's just one of the crazy things that I never knew. 

I also found out that Aunt Millie can do anything. She wanted a koi pond. So she built one, with a fountain. She can fix your ceiling fan or your toilet. She is an accomplished seamstress, cook, gardener and has a knack for taking in and nursing small hurt animals. She's had every type of rodent, fish, bird and cat. She once turned her son's closet into a coop for a broken pigeon, she housed an abandoned young hedgehog, she saved a baby squirrel and raised it to maturity. She is sweet, humble and always eager to give.

My girls are as smitten as I am with Aunt Millie. We knew it was a good sign when we picked her up at the train station and she had her guinea pig (Piggy-Woo) with her. She is the first person ever to see my girl's taxidermy and ask for a lesson. So, my daughter taught Aunt Millie how to skin and mount a mouse. She got a real kick out of it.  She told us, "See, you're never too old to learn something new!".

Millie is my Mom's sister so I've "known" her all my life, but I really have never known her until now. It's a shame that it took us so long, but I am thankful that we've connected and now my girls have her wonderful influence in their lives. 

This Christmas I found out that there are riches hidden right under our noses. The people in our lives are the greatest gifts we will ever be given, starting with Jesus Christ himself. 

Thank God for the people in your life and ask him to to deepen your love for them. Be deliberate about seeking out that hidden treasure that may be right under your nose.

M e r r y   C h r i s t m a s   &  G o d  B l e s s  Y o u   &  Y o u r s

Monday, November 16, 2015

Eating Acorns

The day I found those Giant Puffballs we were actually out collecting acorns. My husband was interested in learning how to make them palatable since we have so many in this area. He is into trees the way I am into healing plants. 
The White Oak is the one to collect, they are naturally less bitter.

First we froze them, that made the skins come off easier. The skin is the layer just under the shell. My husband shelled them.

Next began the process of  making acorn flour. There are different ways to do that. First the bitter tannins must be removed. Some people boil the acorns multiple times until the water runs clear. We went with a non cooked method of leaching out those tannins. 
First we ground them up in the wet Vitamix. More water was added to them in a jar and this sat for 24 hours. Each 24 hours fresh water replaced the old until the water was clear.

Once the tannins were cleared out, we dehydrated the wet acorn meal. I have an Excaliber 4 tray. It came out really nice, nutty and tasty. (I snacked on some.) The grain was quite rough still, so we ground it to flour consistency in the dry Vitamix. It is came out very smooth, with a feel and look of cocoa powder.

My first test was on some cookies. Some GF friends were dropping by for tea. I grabbed everything that I had that was GF and went to work experimenting. 
I kept it simple, much like a shortbread: butter, sugar, vanilla, with cashew meal, acorn and oat flours. They were so good! Even the smallest of humans wanted more, which is really how I judge a "healthy" cookie.

Next was a recipe from the book Acorn Pancakes, Dandelion Salad, and 38 Other Wild Recipes. A simple classic, pancakes with butter and maple syrup. The acorn is so mild and nutty. It doesn't have that extra bitter taste that many of the darker grains have.

Yesterday's yummy breakfast. I had some leftover pancake batter. I waffled it and topped it with butter and smoked salmon. Again, it came out really good. 
Acorn flour is a winner!I love the idea of eating wild foods that man has not tampered with. Everything that fed that tree is now feeding me and my family. It is nutritionally excellent and it is extremely tasty and versatile. Oh, and the acorns were free!

Saturday, October 31, 2015


Our Halloween...
There was a ghoulish girl,

a guinea pig with bat wings,

and a black pie. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Unexpected Gourds

A few weeks ago this plant popped up outside my front door. It grew very fast and started flowering profusely. Bees were always buzzing around it. They would burrow deep down into the blossoms. We could even pet them and they were so drunk on pollen the didn't even budge. I decided to let it keep growing, for the bees sake. 

And keep growing it did! Like a magic beanstalk, it grew up the house and into the rain gutter.

My home is always decorated with all kinds of nature bits: gourds, nests, pumpkins, shells, acorns, pine cones, insects, feathers, skulls, and more.
When a pumpkin or gourd gets a bit soft I display it outside, that way I can enjoy the beauty a little longer. Apparently, one of last years gourds planted itself at my front door.

Now we have all these lovely little gourds. We cut them off at different stages so we can enjoy the different shapes. They will end up back outside and hopefully the cycle will continue.

So inspired by the adorable gourds, my daughters decided to capture a couple in watercolor...

The Younger

The Older

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Foraging the Giant Puffball

It's a good time for foraging here in NY. We have been getting lots of goodies. Just last week we scored a haul of Chicken of the Woods and Puffball mushrooms as well as white oak acorns and plantain (not the banana!). I needed to get more plantain before the frost to make my healing salves. My husband was after those acorns, he is going to make acorn flour out of them. If I don't eat them all first as a snack!

This is a lovely white Puffball Mushroom. I set those two brown ones in the background to show you what not to eat. A Puffball is good when it's all white, feels firm and a bit spongy. When they are brown they are past eating and have moved on to their spore making phase. They are quite large and easy to spot. I grabbed two this size, but left a larger one for the next human or animal forager.

You can see how easy the dirty outside peels right off. You should not eat this mushroom raw. In fact it's best to not eat any raw mushrooms.

I treated the first Puff like tofu, sauteed and seasoned with cajun spices. That's my default way of cooking and it's always tasty. But since I had so much of this mushroom I decided to experiment.

 This idea came to me while I was slicing it up. The slices really held their shape, which made me think of eggplant. Puffball parmigiana was born! 

Here you can see what the inside looks like, the texture was very good this way. There is no poison lookalike for this mushroom, so feel free to forage up some yourselves.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Fall Food

Fall has hit New York. I have a fire in the fireplace, an ever brewing teapot, knitting projects in full swing, and a mind filled with the tastes, colors and smells of autumn. I recently discovered this one and have already made them four times. Sweet potato ravioli in browned butter with basil. They are so good and very addictive.  I make them when I am having company, so I don't eat too many.

I found them in Simply Ming One-Pot Meals. What makes them so easy is that you use pre-made wonton wrappers. I baked up a bunch of sweet potatoes and mashed them up in the Vitamix. I actually do a batch of sweet potato puree each week because I love my sweet potato smoothie every afternoon. When folks get that mid day coffee craving, I get a sweet potato smoothie craving.
I got that over at Sweet Potato Soul.

Super easy, I flavor the mash only with ground ginger and black pepper. You must use a little egg was to "glue" these guys together. 

When they are all assembled you brown them in salted butter, throw in lots of chopped fresh basil and there it is. Easy to make and way too easy to eat. A great appetizer or meal.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Time to Root

The bustle of “back to school” is in the air. Even for homeschoolers, there are new books to get, classes or tutors to obtain. With the excitement of new possibilities, new things to learn, new experiences, I will keep my focus on what true education is, a preparation for life. 

“In our mountain ravine, just above our swimming pool, a small tree grows on a rock in mid-stream. When the river is in flood and a roaring torrent pours over the little tree, whipping off its every leaf, it stands unmoved. Its roots grip the rock. We wanted the children to be like that. “Give them time to root,” we used to say to our advisors. “We are training them for storms and floods.”
-from Amy Charmichael’s Gold Cord

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Morning Mushroom Walk

 We are experiencing a NY heat wave, so we haven't been in the woods lately.  The heat makes us droopy and the most annoying loving bugs are out.  My family is missing the nature walks that are such a integral part of our life. This morning we set out extra early to avoid the heat and the bugs.

I didn't think that we would see so many mushrooms, the burning sun dries them up quickly. 

We were happily surprised that there were so many.

We stopped to eat our breakfast and the girls fed the fish.

Enjoying my morning tea on a nice shady rock, looking forward to autumn.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

a sucker for mushrooms

With the variety of shapes, colors and flavors, I just can't resist mushrooms. They are so clean and easy to cook.

Especially when they are packaged like this! So cute and tasty, I can't say no.

Breakfast is one of my favorite times for mushrooms, with scrambled eggs and basil...

or cabbage and fried egg.

In salad

In soup

Anywhere is right for mushrooms!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Beach Holiday

We just came back from our annual beach holiday. We have been visiting the same place for the past 8 years. Not only the same beach, but the same hotel and when we can it, even the same room.

We go on many collecting walks up and down the beach. Each of us looking for what we consider treasures.
My husband is always on the lookout for the smoothest stone he can find. It has to be the best, he will carry it in his jacket pocket all year long.

I always go for the interesting textures and colors. I usually end up trying to figure out ways that I can wear them, like my seaweed scarf. My teen's favorite part of collecting is organizing and categorizing her finds afterwards.

This is so pretty. It could be a soft lacy knitted something.

It's not easy finding healthy snacks at the beach. A lot of fried foods and ice cream. At trip to the local Mart provided fruit, veggies and Larabars in convenient 5 packs. Snob that I am, I brought my own tea. The electric kettle is my friend. 

A friend and I are reading Out of a Silent Planet by C.S Lewis together. After my younger one got super slammed by an ocean wave I offered to take her to the pool. Thinking that she could use some calmer fun and I could get in some reading time. She had a grand time but I did not catch up on my reading! 

About my bag...I picked it up at a thrift store earlier this year and saved it for the beach. Little did I know that everywhere we went this coral motif would be there. Every fancy beach shop was filled with it on towels, blouses, bags, curtains, greeting cards, etc. Our usual hotel room was redecorated this year with this pattern. The lamps were even made to look like coral with lampshades on top! I appeared to be quite fashionably "in the know" with my thrift store treasure.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Punk Nugget

Introducing the latest addition to our pig pen. The breeder called her Cream Pie, my girls dubbed her The Punk Nugget. She is sweet and sassy and, as you can see very cute.

This is what she looks like right side up.

The Nugget was quickly accepted by the other gals and has settled in quite nicely. This is our current pig crew- The Groke (formerly Molly), The Punk Nugget, May and Little. We love them all, but we will always remember our first guinea pigs, the ones who started us out on this pig loving journey.

Gone but not forgotten - Pumpkin, Penny (my 1st and all time favorite) and The Woogie. 

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Looking Glass Flowers: mAd TeA 2015

'O Tiger-lily,' said Alice, addressing herself to one that was waving gracefully about in the wind, 'I WISH you could talk!'
'We CAN talk,' said the Tiger-lily: 'when there's anybody worth talking to.'
Alice was so astonished that she could not speak for a minute: 
it quite seemed to take her breath away. 

At length, as the Tiger-lily only went on waving about, she spoke again, in a timid voice--almost in a whisper. 
'And can ALL the flowers talk?'

'As well as YOU can,' said the Tiger-lily. 'And a great deal louder.'

'How is it you can all talk so nicely?' Alice said, hoping to get it into a better temper by a compliment. 'I've been in many gardens before, but none of the flowers could talk.'

Put your hand down, and feel the ground,' said the Tiger-lily. 'Then you'll know why.'
Alice did so. 'It's very hard,' she said, 'but I don't see what that has to do with 'it.'

'In most gardens,' the Tiger-lily said, 'they make the beds too soft--so that the flowers are always asleep.'

This sounded a very good reason, and Alice was quite pleased to know it. 'I never thought of that before!' she said.

The Menu:
"It's my own  invention."
Mushroom Tarts- chickpea shortbread with mushroom and wild arugula topping
5 Layer Cake- orange cake with cranberry cream and blueberries
Flower Sandwiches- pickled beet butter on whole wheat with chopped egg centers
and of course lots and lots of TEA

The Alice Dolls: Little Pullip Alice & 1966 Madame Alexander Alice

My Mad Tea Party 2013