Thursday, September 29, 2011

making, baking....

 It's so true that less is more. In this case, the less time I have to spend on obligations not in sync with our family life equals more yummy things happening in our kitchen.  
 I have been using my new-found freedom and energy to do all the baking I have missed the past year. Brownies, peanut-butter cookies (my daughter requested those), apple-walnut spice cake (too many walnuts at the moment!)
and these amazing cinnamon rolls! The recipe is from Serena's delightful cookbook.
 I have long been attempting to duplicate the best cinnamon rolls that my husband and I  ever had in a cafe a very long time ago in small town in northern Michigan. All the recipes I've tried so far have been disappointing, but this recipe comes close. As my husband bit into one, he said, "mmm, Copper Harbor!!". Big smile. The children have no idea what he meant but I sure did! The rolls were so addictive I made a second batch and then we all had to go on a bit of a diet for a few days and take a few more hikes in the forest :) The glaze of butter and cream cheese is wickedly yummy and my little 6-year old son thought I should just make the glaze for eating.  He was very helpful kneading the dough, too. That's the best part, I think!
I also have to admit to baking three batches of brownies. No photo as proof but I'm afraid it's true. However, the brownies were not for us but for special guests / school picnics / colleagues at work. Still am having trouble getting them out of the oven in time. They really are better not too well baked.

This has also been an extremely productive year for jam-making. Strawberry, red and white currants, gooseberry and apple, and cherry; those are my staples since we have moved to this house and cultivated some fruit in the garden (actually, more than enough!). My husband had been nurturing a neglected elderberry tree that came with our house and this summer it had so many berries I could make jelly for the first time. I'm not that familiar with it and the jelly is a gorgeous deep red / purple and tastes a bit grape-ish. Great source of Vitamin C. The quince are also another fruit high in C. I really thought with the elderberries, I was done with jam. But then my sweet neighbor asked if I wanted some quince, her tree branches were just laden with fruit and looked like they could barely hold them all. I didn't even really know what quince were until last week! They are very hard and have a shape reminiscent of a pear as well as a lemon.
As the juice I made from them was cooling, my 10-year old came in the kitchen and drank a glass of it, he claimed it was really delicious (he probably added a “bit” of sugar!). I added a bit of vanilla to make the jelly and it is not only quite tasty but also a beautiful shade of gold like honey.

These jars got dressed pretty to be given away as a gift. I usually just slap on a simple label and store the jars in the cellar. There is plenty down there for more gifts and for morning toast...I could possibly set up a stall at the market! I sincerely hope we are now done with jam-season and I also think we're going to take a little break with the baking now too. I think everyone would be happy if I would just get out the cookbooks for a decent dinner now....



Thursday, September 22, 2011

late summer treasures

The days are getting shorter and the evenings are crisp. We have resumed our cozy reading sessions on the sofa, which is so nice. My youngest is already a school boy now and so busy with important responsibilities, friends, homework & play, no time for mom anymore, and yet, he turns into a mama-cuddle-monster the minute we start reading. How I cherish that! His favorite book the past days has been "Look What I found" and I don't mind reading it over and over. It is a Sesame Street book in which the characters go off on a field trip in the forest and find all kinds of treasures.
So in that spirit, let me share with you what we have found recently:) To start with, many, many walnuts. Thankfully I have two helpers who have really helped with the harvest. Everyday I spread the nuts out on a sunny place to dry. Just thinking of all the brownies I will bake motivated my son to pick as many as he could! I am thinking of caramelizing them in a pan to munch on for a winter's snack.....mmmm!
 It is easy to find treasures on Etsy. The difficult part is making a choice with so many possibilities! We found this lovely artist based in Michigan and I had one pair shipped to my mom on the west coast, and one pair shipped to my daughter here with me. They look so pretty on her, she loves the romantic vintage look. I'll be back to her shop again for sure!
Summer's colorful finale in the garden has started and this rose by my front door is a miracle. I have to admit, I have some trouble with roses because I like my plants to be as self-sufficient as possible. And not only am I not a good rose-mama, but this rose was run over several times in it's first years by a child-sized tractor with a small boy on it :) Yet, it blooms in the spring, very pretty, and then in fall, no longer just pretty but absolutely stunning. The fragrance reaches you just walking by. Amazing.
 I've used the pretty rose hips from a wild rose under our apple tree to make an autumn decoration by the front door.
I usually leave garden flowers outdoors but I did have to bring a lovely dahlia in my studio....a place where I am working hard these days, I will soon show you more!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

basking in september's sun

September has been blessing us with some very lovely sunny days! We've been able to take our family swimming in our favorite lake on the first two weekends this month, the temperatures have been up and down, but fortunately, very pleasant on the Saturdays. How lucky we are! 

I know it's fall, but I am full of a kind of springtime energy: baking, cooking, cleaning, organizing, making the last of the berries into jams....and making big plans (more on that soon!). I'm full of so many ideas right now and feel very productive at carrying them out. My husband jokes that I have that pregnant nest-instinct, but it's not that. Maybe it is a result of the calm summer we had with devoting a lot of time to doing things with our children. I think it's also a result of making some important decisions, setting priorities, and saying "NO!" to several commitments I had been involved in. And some good books I've read in the last few months have been helpful: Karen Kingston's famous Feng Shui book on getting rid of clutter in your home, and just recently, "Organized Simplicity" by Tsh Oxenreider. I highly recommend both!

It's enjoying the simple things, and trying to apply my energy to one task at a time, rather than multi-tasking. (OK, I admit I'll never stop doing that completely!) Homemade pesto is such a pleasure to make when you're not in a rush to the next task. And more fun to eat, too!  

The whole family has been working together to stack the firewood for the coming winter. (My husband does all the hard work logging and splitting). So sweet when our littlest son gets up on the tractor trailer to hand us wood and the older kids are there too, making the work go much faster and also a lot more fun!

A few days ago I even painted our garage door white and it looks great! So happy I did that, why didn't I think of that sooner???! I don't have a photo of it yet, because I want to give it one final coat of paint, but here is a glimpse of what it looked like before:
 Now I can sit here at my favorite little spot in our garden and see pretty white and not old metal!

The cats are also enjoying the warmth of these last summer days.  I hope you have some sunshine in your corner on the world, too.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


Do you ever come across something and then see it again a few days later, somewhere else? It's kind of like a gentle message when that happens I think. I don't know where I saw this anymore, but I do know that I read it once this summer in German in a magazine, and then a week later or so later in English on a blog or website, and liked it so much I printed it out and hung it on my inspiration board.


People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.

Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People need help, but may attack you if you try to help them.
Help them anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

- Mother Teresa


Die Menschen sind unvernünftig, irrational und egoistisch.
Liebe diese Mensche trotzdem.

Wenn du Gutes tust, werden dich die Menschen beschuldigen, dabei selbstsüchtige Hintergedanken zu haben.
Tue trotzdem Gutes.

Wenn du erfolgreich bist, gewinnst du falsche Freunde und wahre Feinde.
Sei trotzdem erfolgreich.

Das Gute, das du heute getan hast, wird morgen schon vergessen sein.
Tue trotzdem Gutes.

Ehrlichkeit und Offenheit machen dich verwundbar.
Sei trotzdem ehrlich und offen.

Die Menschen bemitleiden Verlierer, doch sie folgen nur den Gewinnern.
Kämpfe trotzdem für ein paar von den Verlierern.

Woran du Jahre gebaut hast, das mag über Nacht zerstört werden.
Baue trotzdem weiter.

Die Menschen brauchen wirklich Hilfe, doch es kann sein, dass sie dich angreifen, wenn du ihnen hilfst.
Hilf diesen Menschen trotzdem.

Gib der Welt das Beste, was du hast, und du wirst zum Dank dafür einen Tritt erhalten.
Gib der Welt trotzdem das Beste.

Letztendlich ist dann alles eine Angelegenheit zwischen dir und Gott.
Sowieso war es nie eine Angelegenheit zwischen dir und anderen.

(Mutter Teresa)

I hope your September is off to a good start!