Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Baptismal Towels

 My dear friend Melissa is making plans to baptize her daughter and I volunteered to make the baptismal towel.  My mother made up this pattern for the towel and the embroidery motif.  She used to make all the baptismal towels for our church and when I was in Jr. and Sr. high school, I made them as part of my community involvement for 4-H and NHS. 
 I hadn't done hardanger in a coon's age and I can tell my eyes are changing!  Holy cow!  Hardanger is not difficult, but you need to be able to SEE where you are stitching!  My mother has all but retired from hardanger (she does beautiful work) due to eyesight and gave me a banker's box full of hardanger fabric.  I've made a couple of these and am listing them in my Etsy shop.
And I don't think I've formally introduced you...this is Zak.  He is my brother's 3 legged beagle we are fostering for a year or so until they build a house and get out of their townhouse in Duluth.  He is a sweet dog and we've all made the transition from 1 dog to 2 fairly well.  Fortunately, we are kind of halfway between Duluth and the rest of the family so he sees his old family quite a lot.  Here he is watching them drive away out of the front dog window.  Unlike Lopi, who would just try to lick and play with an intruder, Zak is a watch dog.  Any unusual sound or people walking on the sidewalk across the street or activity outside and he is loudly baying.  He keeps a close eye on things which is nice when you're home alone.


 I am really enjoying my herbs again this summer.  They did well last season but I kept them in the downstairs screened in porch and the slugs would get after them.  This year I'm keeping them up on the deck.  They are getting great sunlight so I have to water them every day but they're doing great.  This location is great for cooking because I can just pop out onto the deck instead of running downstairs for them.
My basil is doing AWESOME now that I know how to pick it properly.  Last year I didn't know what I was doing and picked it all wrong so it never bushed out and I had almost a dozen spindly little basil plants.  This year I'm having to make an effort to use it in things because it is doing so well.  I hope I can keep some through the winter.
I love love love the combination of fresh mozzarella, tomato and basil leaves.  The greatest and simplest panini you'll ever eat contains all three.  When skewered onto a toothpick together, they are a great snack and an elegant appetizer.  I salt and pepper my tomato pieces, assemble them and then drizzle some garlic oil over them.  Num NUM.  These are store bought cherry tomatoes and I can't wait for garden fresh. 
I tried my hand at our first 2 quarts of spicy garlicky pickles yesterday.  Brenda would always send these home with us and I'd have to hide them from Dave for 2 weeks so they'd have time to actually pickle in the jars.  I used the same brine as the pickled green beans.  Each jar has 4 cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and 1 small sprig of dill weed from the garden.  Brenda used sliced jalapenos and never used dill so we'll see how they turn out.  These cucumbers are from our garden too.
Dave drove me to the Axman so I could look for some glass bottles and that store didn't disappoint.  I think these are blank Heinz ketchup bottles but they're just perfect.  I made some flavored vinegar with white wine vinegar and rosemary sprigs from the deck.  The herbs have been in there a little more than 24 hours and you can smell the rosemary.  I'd like to try dill or maybe a garlic variety.  These bottles would work well for infusing olive oil with garlic too I think.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015


 When my parents were here, we all attended the 11:00 service at Mindekirken.  It also happens to be the service conducted in Norwegian.  I haven't seen my dad that excited since we drove to Decorah to see Kong Olav in 1987. 
The church itself is not far off I-94 so I think even I could drive myself with my Garmin.  I haven't seen that much rosemaling, hardanger, klostersomm or photos of the Norwegian royal family in one place for a long time.  It was utterly refreshing to hear Norwegian candidly spoken throughout the church.  We met the pastor before services and visited with several parishioners, many of whom were native speakers.  We enjoyed the service which included music from Grieg and Scott Joplin.  We stayed for coffee afterwards and visited with more churchgoers and some visiting native Norwegians.  In Iowa it is guaranteed the reigning King will always visit Luther College and the Vesterheim, but in Minnesota, he will always visit Mindekirken.
 After services and lunch, we ventured over to Norway House which is a new cultural center on the same block as Mindekirken.  The traveling exhibit is festdrakter-not to be confused with bunads-by Lise Skjak Braek.
 These are not bunads.  Let there be no mistake about that.  They are beautiful dresses based on bunad design but are not in fact folkedrakt.
 I was excited to see the exhibit because I bought a book of hers years ago on Ebay, "Brud I Tiden". 
The exhibit also featured paintings by Anne Langsholt Apaydinli.  They also featured dresses based on bunads and were colorful and surreal.
All the dresses were available for sale.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Garden Goodies

 My parents stayed with us over the 4th and Dad is always so helpful with garden and yard work.  He is quite the gardener himself so his input is always welcome.  It was ungodly muggy and hot on the 4th and I went out to pick peas for our lunch.  I wasn't even exerting myself.  I sat on a 5 gallon bucket to pick them and had sweat RUNNING off me and my glasses fogged up.  I hate this weather!
 We picked enough for a dish full for lunch.  I sauteed a chopped onion with some cubed ham in butter and then steamed the peas with them in the same pan.  Dee-lish.  We only really had enough for a large serving that one time.  Since then I've picked the fat pea pods as they develop and we just open them and eat them raw.  This year I put in dowels with wire running between them for the peas to climb but they just fell over and we had lumps of pea plants.  Next year I'm going to set up some metal edging fence when I plant so they are held up.  I was recently watching a BBC Tudor special and learned that before the potato was introduced to Europe, they would plant fields of peas and that was their main starch.  I don't know how they survived after our fussy crop of peas!  I love those BBC recreation shows by the way.
 Beans!  Pickled dilly beans!  I have been dying to make these for months!  My childhood best friend was Alitza Rueber and she and I were 4-Hers together.  One year she took dilly beans to the fair.  I can remember eating them for lunch when I'd stay over and I liked them but they were a little too dilly for me.  In the last few years, my dear friend Brenda has been fooling around with canning and she inspired me to start dabbling in it myself.  She makes AWESOME spicy garlicky homemade pickles.  Why couldn't I try the same with green beans for a hot version of dilly beans?  I used this recipe and hastily canned my first single pint of them.  It seemed like a waste firing up the canner for a single pint jar but I was working all the next week and wouldn't otherwise have time.  I picked all the viable beans so they wouldn't develop into monsters by the time I had days off and canned my first jar. 
I had enough for a pint but not enough to completely pack the jar which was OK.  My sister sent me a packet of dill seeds for my birthday and I'm growing it in containers on my deck.  I used the tiniest sprig for my first attempt.  The heat comes from dried red pepper flakes but Brenda uses sliced jalapenos.  The recipe calls for a full teaspoon of pepper flakes per jar but I used 1/2.  It also says to wait a full week, preferably two, before opening the jar.  We opened it 6 days later when the John's were here because I couldn't wait but also because I wanted to test the recipe.
They were delicious and even with half the red pepper flakes, they were still plenty ha-cha-cha!  Dave's parents sent over a bunch of beans from their garden and I picked all the new viable beans in the garden and canned 3 pints before my weekend night shift nap. 
Here is my awesome niece Annika trimming the beans for me.  She helped me with a lot of baking last week while they were here.
I love the view from the top of the jar.  The dill looks like seaweed.
And raspberries!  Beautiful plump ripe raspberries! 
 We've been going out and picking the ripe berries every day and storing them in the freezer.  Let me rephrase that:  I pick and store the berries but Dave EATS them!  ;)  We already have 1 1/2 pints in the freezer and tons more still developing!  The Ramsey County Fair starts on Wednesday and tomorrow I'm taking all my knitting and sewing and Wednesday morning I have to get up early to bake and then take that to the fair.  I am taking those raspberry hand pies in the "other" lot of the pie category.  I'm gambling on that because it will either be a refreshing unique pie entry...or it will be disqualified!  We'll see!