A quick note tonight to let you all know that I will be updating my On-Line Pottery Shop on Sunday morning at 9 a.m. EDT. I will have lots of new pots - pitchers, vases, mugs, platters, and more. I've been working on these pots since late spring. Here are a few that will be available.
Friday, October 09, 2020
Monday, October 05, 2020
It is "crisp season" here in western Massachusetts. Crisp as in the coming weather and the fall of the deciduous trees' leaves and crisp as in fruit crisp - that typically American dessert of fall and winter.
For years, I searched for the perfect fruit crisp recipe. Every time I made one, it wasn't quite to my liking. One evening we were invited to our friends Peggy and Clara's house and they served the absolutely most perfect apple crisp. Clara passed along her recipe and each fall I make it. It is perfect for after dinner or breakfast the next few days. I've made it with apples and peaches, and plums, and frequently throw in odds and ends of frozen raspberries, blueberries, even grapes. Here's Clara's recipe and following are two picks of mine for most favorite local fruit orchards here in the Pioneer Valley in western Massachusetts.
Clara's Fruit Crisp
For the crisp topping:
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup flour
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup walnuts or more
For the fruit:
6-8 cups of peeled fruit
juice of a half a lemon (2-3 Tablespoons)
1/4 cup white sugar
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt
1. Mix the topping ingredients together.
2. Peel and slice the fruit and place in a buttered deep pie plate or casserole dish. I use a deep pottery dish that is 10" wide. Add the remaining ingredients and still to get the cornstarch to smooth out. Sometimes the dish is really full of fruit and sometimes not. Scatter the topping over the fruit and tamp down slightly. Using a knife, put a few airholes in the topping.
3. Bake at 375 for about 45-60 minutes. Fruit should be cooked through and bubbling up on the sides. Let cool slightly. Serve with ice cream, whipped cream or just plain. Very nice for breakfast too.
And now for a couple recommendations.....
The apples are beginning to ripen here in western Mass and luckily for the fruit growing orchards, folks can socially distance and pick apples safely. There are many orchards to choose from. Here are two of my faves:
Apex Orchards in Shelburne where the view is unreal. They have recently built a new farmstore and if you don't want to pick, there are plenty of varieties of already picked fruit.
Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Deerfield is a fourth generation fruit farm that has over 100 varieties of apples, peaches and more growing on their hillsides. In the fall, they offer mixed bags of all kinds of fruit perfect for pies. Clarkdale was the orchard that my mother-in-law Betty always bought her fruit from and Julia and I have continued that tradition visiting their stand each year before Thanksgiving.
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
A heads-up that there is a great opportunity to support Charleston Farmhouse, the Sussex, England UK home of Bloomsbury Group Painters Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell. On Thursday, October 1st at 2 pm EASTERN TIME (7 pm BST), a Virtual Tour is being hosted by Artist/Decorative Painter Annie Sloan and Curator Dr. Darren Clarke.
The Bloomsbury Group began in the early 1900's and encompassed a large number of artists, authors, and intellectuals including Grant, Bell, Virginia Woolf (Vanessa's sister), Lytton Strachey, Maynard Keynes, Roger Fry and more. Charleston Farmhouse became a mecca for their large group of friends (read about them here). Over the years, the rooms were hand painted with innovative treatments which have inspired textile and other artists for years. In the 1980's after the death of Duncan Grant, the home began to be restored. For years, it has inspired visitors with its beauty and quirkiness and has been featured in many, many books and publications.
I had the good fortune to visit Charleston along with Virginia Woolf's home Monk's House which is now owned by the National Trust over 20 years ago. I look forward to seeing it again - if only virtually - on Thursday.
The talk has a sliding scale of 20, 30 or 40 British pounds and a video of the talk will be available for a week after with your paid ticket. Purchase tickets here. Hope to see you at Charleston.
Monday, September 28, 2020
Hello Blog Friends! It has been a very long time since I have written here. So long that the blog platform I use has changed its format and I am bumbling around trying to figure it out! We humans all over the world have been living (with a little luck and care) through the Pandemic. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would write such words but here we are in the Autumn of 2020. The days are long with more and more news in the news cycle. It seems to be going faster and faster - sometimes I feel like I have news whiplash. But you all know that.
I haven't written here, nor have I written any newsletters since May. I haven't felt like I have had anything to add to the world. What I have done is kept my family close. I've cooked a lot of meals - finding comfort in making and feeding my family. I've also been making a lot of pottery in my pottery shed.
And I have planted, weeded, mulched, and harvested from my veggie and flower garden. The sunflowers and flowers and veggies are pretty much over for the season but there are dribs and drabs of color as you can see in the photo below.
Like many former bloggers, I have stayed active on-line but have turned to the Instagram platform to share what I have been up to. I did a 100 Day Project (#100DaysofPottery) which kept me creating, going and photographing. You can check out my project HERE.
Most recently, I have been sharing photos of my sunflower garden which I used to share here with photos from my DSLR. I haven't picked up that camera since MAY! My phone is just too easy to use. You can see recent photos of the sunflowers on my feed HERE. I have added a couple videos on a IGTV channel which you can see HERE.
We (Farmer Mark and I) have been doing the Amherst Farmers Market since May when it started up again. The Town of Amherst moved it onto the green grass common as opposed to the parking lot. There are lots and lots of health and safety precautions in place. It has been really nice to see people and help them feed their families with our pasture raised lamb. The market continues until the middle of November. I would love to see you if you are local or up for a drive.
I've been bringing my pottery and tea towels too. It has widened our customer base because there are limited folks who will purchase lamb and so some new eyes have found my sense of color and pattern appealing. I love talking about color and pattern and the handmade and also about cooking lamb so every Saturday has been a bit of fun.
I will try to post more here on the blog this fall. I miss hearing from you all and reading your comments. I hope you are healthy and safe. Drop a note in the comments to tell me how you are faring during what is now the new normal.
XO to all of you -- my internet friends.
Friday, June 12, 2020
The year with Mahboubeh awakened my family to Persian food. I grew up eating pretty bland typical 1970's fare. Food was always important to us even if it wasn't "gourmet." One of us was always baking some kind of sweet thing. German food was about as exotic as we got due to my German Grandmother Frieda's influence. Food was the way Mahboubeh was able to bond with us and become part of the family. She had never cooked before but had obviously watched her mom. She missed the spices and meals she had always eaten and my mom gave her the opportunity to learn to cook and share her country's food with our family. In town there was a Doctor Minoui who was Iranian. His wife took Mahboubeh under her wing, sharing Persian recipes. Soon Mahboubeh was cooking stews, sweets and our very favorite Persian dish - a potato-crusted rice called Tadik. Mom began buying saffron and the exotic spices wafted through our house every weekend. Mahboubeh's cooking adventures were the secret to her learning English and becoming part of our family. By Christmas, she could speak English quite well and we all settled into a typical family routine. Dad was in love with her cooking but I don't think she was ever brave enough to look him in the eye.
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 to 2 pounds lamb shoulder – bone-in
(lamb stew meat can be used although the bones will add more flavor)
1 Tbsp tomato paste or a small can (14 oz.) Italian tomatoes
1 pound rhubarb – cut into 1 inch pieces with stringy bits removed if the skins are very thick
1/2 cup raisins (preferably golden)
2 Tbsp sugar
¼ cup minced mint or parsley or a mix of the two – whatever is easier – for garnish
In a dutch oven, brown the onion and garlic until onions are translucent in 2 Tbsp olive oil. Add the coriander, cumin, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and cook until spices begin to smell lovely. If it begins to stick, add a little bit of water to create a bit of a sauce. Set aside onion mixture.
Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to pan. Brown the lamb on all sides. Remove lamb from pan. Clean excess fat out of pan. Return the onions, spice mixture and lamb to the dutch oven. Add the tomato paste (or tomatoes), salt and pepper and add water (or lamb stock) to the pot so that it is half the way up the lamb shoulder.
Bring to a boil on top of stove. Cover with a tight fitting lid and place in a 250 degree oven and cook for 3 hours, turning the shoulder roast half way through. Alternately, cook in a slow cooker for 5 hours on low.
At the end of the three hours, remove the meat from the pot and pull the bones out of it. If the meat is not falling off the bones, return to the oven for another hour. (Save the bones for lamb stock. Store them in the freezer if you don’t have time to make the stock just yet.) With your hands, shred the meat which should be falling apart into chunks. Add the sliced rhubarb, the chunks of cooked meat, the golden raisins and the sugar back to the pot. Bring to a boil on the top of the stove and immediately return to the oven and cook another hour.
Remove from oven and taste for spices. Add more if you want a more intense flavor. If the flavor is too sour, add a touch more sugar. If the stew is too saucy, simmer with the lid off to reduce the stock.
Sunday, May 17, 2020
|Two vases - one from 2019 and one from 1997|
Thank you so much everyone for the support of my ceramics. On Thursday, I added 32 new pieces of pottery to my website and in a flash they were all sold. I was overwhelmed and definitely encouraged that folks wanted to support me and my work. I got quite a few notes from people saying they wanted to purchase but everything was sold. That is a good problem to have I admit. I wish I could make more and make faster but it's just not possible. I'm a one woman business and my time is split in many ways. My 100 Day Project has really helped to keep me focused on my ceramics. Although I haven't posted 100 Days in a row, I'm keeping it up even if I have to miss a day or two because of other commitments.
All this said, this brings me to the digital divide in rural America. Ever since people have been working from home (March 24th in Massachusetts), our internet has gotten slower and slower. I can barely stand to write a blog post or newsletter nor look for interesting things to read and share. It makes it so difficult to compete economically and socially with those who live in cities and suburbs where there is fast internet. The phone lines that bring us our internet were installed in the 1940's. These lines bring us the connectivity to the outside world.
The State of Massachusetts placed some kind of high speed 5G service at the Town Offices so I am back to sitting in my car to work again. In order to get my ceramics on-line (photos take forever to upload at our house) and to ship them via my shipping platform, I've had to go to the Town Offices. Not complaining (really) - just stating the facts.
Julia, our college student daughter has been finding it very difficult to take on-line classes since her college has gone 100% online because of the Pandemic. She frequently gets bumped off her Zoom meetings due to the slow internet speed. Julia doesn't drive so she is confined to home unless I have the hours to sit with her in the car as there is no place to sit outside at the Town Office Building. Her personality and learning style is not one which melds with on-line learning so I really don't know what she is going to do this summer or fall. I know there are so many people in the same situation. We've just got to be patient and see how everything goes and the Pandemic goes on.
I have recently enjoyed these two videos about two different designers' homes.
Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Here are some of the pieces I will be adding to the shop. I am still making and hope to have Shop Updates more than once a year.
Honestly though - I must say that I wonder if I am wasting my time making these pieces. So much time goes into each piece - especially with the hand painting of each design. Here are some of the things that go through my head as I paint......
• OMG - is anyone actually going to have any money to purchase this stuff during/after this Pandemic? Will the world go into a financial depression like the early 1900's? Will history repeat itself?
• How relevant is my art and life considering that people are sick and dying in massive numbers all over the world?
• If people aren't interested in my pottery, what am I going to do to make a living? How am I going to replace that income?
• Chances are I will not be able to have a Holiday Open House next December.
• In these days of mass-produced junk, does anyone appreciate the one-off handmade object d'art that costs way more than a $3 mug at Target that is designed by some hip young thing or even Liberty of London.
As you can see, I have lots of doubts and insecurities about my art. I think most artists do. Do you? I also think that the Pandemic is causing so many folks to reassess their lives and what they want out of them and where they will go next. This is a natural thing to do in times like these. I think back to other difficult times in our history - 9/11/2001, the financial meltdown of 2008. Those times shaped so many people's lives and futures. I worry about the young adults who are graduating college with huge student loan debt. Where will there be jobs? How will they pay back the loans they took out to make a better life? I think about all the small colleges throughout the USA - how are they going to keep their doors open if students don't enroll? Where will all those people find work who have been employed by those institutions? I worry about the different people in the USA and all over the world living in densely populated areas who can't get proper medical care. Oh gee, it all is just so much to take in and process.
I know how fortunate I am to be able to walk out my door without a mask on.... to gather eggs from my chickens and eat one for breakfast, lunch and dinner.... to be able to stack wood for a fire that will keep us warm next winter..... to have a space to plant a garden to reap food and flowers and beauty from. How fortunate am I to be living in quarantine with two people I love and enjoy their company? How lucky I am that no one in our extended family has fallen ill yet?
Through all of the thoughts, somehow, I keep making and painting the pots. Although it is not the road to riches, it is where I am now in my creativity and design life. I can spend hours lost in the colors and the patterns and the shapes and the object. I think about pots to come, patterns to come, ideas to try. It's easy for me to think about those things - it is how my brain works. It isn't as easy to think about how I am going to sell the output though.
So those are my thoughts for today. Check to see more pots tomorrow over on my website. As always, I appreciate your support of my work and life - whether financially or spiritually through your comments and through your reading.
I hope you all are well and safe and enjoying the new spring color.
Thursday, May 07, 2020
...... So today it is close to the end of April 2020. I have only posted once this month. When the whole coronavirus thing started happening, I thought I would post a whole bunch. But then something happened. Nothing bad. Noone in my family is ill - thank goodnes. But something shifted in my inner self. I wasn't aware of it until now when I sat down to write this post. All the fear of the unknown and the illness spreading got to me. I hunkered down with my little family and watched the world around us. I was obsessed with the news and that took up a lot of energy. I decided not to write on this blog and turned a bit inward. I think a lot of folks may be having the same experience. I've baked a little bit but I have been all about the cooking and taking care of the family with generous meals. Lots and lots of soups, a nice leg of lamb for Easter, and lots of eggs and comfort food. My chickens are laying like crazy and there have been popovers a couple times. I need to make a Dutch Baby - I will admit - I never have.
I feel so fortunate that I have a little family to spend the quarantine with. And lovely cats, dogs, chickens and sheep. Here's Daisy in front of the fire I built one afternoon.
The grass is slow to start growing. My Farmer has been fencing areas for the sheep to move into. It's a huge job and slow going but he is getting it done. He's doing so much better than the past few years - he's able to move around without pain and is even able to do some chainsaw work which he hasn't been up to for quite some time. For the past 3 weeks, we have been moving sheep out onto the pastures. It's nice to see some life in the fields outside our farmhouse.
The rest of the time that has passed this month, I've spent keeping in touch with family and friends. I think at times like this - not that there has ever been a time like this in my lifetime - it's normal to start thinking about old friends and family. We have figured out Zoom and have been having Sunday afternoon chats to catch up. It's not the same as being in person but it is helping us keep connected. My Mom is sequestered and is safe and healthy but she is going stir crazy not being able to see anyone. I wish she had more digital skills because that would be a good distraction for her but she doesn't and no matter how many times we show her, she doesn't get it.
I've been obsessed with my ceramics and been painting up a storm. I had a lot of leftover thrown and slab pieces that I made last year that I didn't have a chance to decorate. It has been a perfect way to spend a quarantine lost in my patterns and colors. My kiln is firing a bisque load right now and I'm hoping to get everything glazed this week and to photograph and load the pieces onto my website to sell. I'm wondering if there will be any market for my handmade pottery as so many people have lost their jobs. Is it all for naught? I don't know but it is keeping me sane so I keep painting.
The whole coronavirus thing is such a crisis for people's health and for their livelihoods. I wonder what the world and society will be like when we come out the other side. Will it be like 9/11 when so many people fled cities and changed their lives? Will the virus keep going round and round? How will people feed themselves? What will cities and small towns be like? I worry and think a lot about people I do not know who have lost their loved ones. It's all a whole bunch to take in and digest and I think we will be doing it for years.
In the evenings I sit and make crochet hexagon after crochet hexagon. It is soothing and mindless and therapeutic. I had better start sewing them together because the pile is getting enormous. I think I have enough for another large afghan. I'll call it the Corona Afghan. Maybe you have made a Corona Afghan too.
I've been selling a lot of my crewel wool and embroidery supplies. It seems people are like me and finding solace in stitching. I need to start another crewel project. Our governor has just extended the Massachusetts shutdown until May 18th. That gives me some more time to get more done.
The Farmers Market that we do has not opened and it doesn't look like it will for a while. Measures are being taken to make sure everyone is safe - both vendors and customers. On the other hand, we have been selling a whole lot of our farm-raised lamb. People have been coming by appointment to the farm and I do the mask and glove thing. We are almost out of lamb but there is more coming very soon. I keep wondering how long this interest in farm-raised meat will last.
I hope you and yours are safe and healthy. Thinking of you all.
Wednesday, April 01, 2020
I've been FaceTiming with Mom who is in her mid-80's. I've been calling her from the barn when I'm done helping out and she has loved seeing the sheep and the new babies and learning about what goes on. It went so easy with her that I decided to try an Instagram TV video. It's 4 minutes long or so and YOU CAN WATCH IT HERE if you are interested. I may try to do another one of these. You can follow me on Instagram HERE. I love this platform and I think it is a real help in these times. Lots of bloggers from the old days are starting to do Instagram TV videos so check them out if you are trying to distract yourself from the news. Here are a couple folks I have enjoyed videos from:
Food Blogger David Lebovitz has been making cocktails
Block Printer Molly Mahon has been demoing potato printing
Melissa Weiss has a making pottery series
These links go to their Instagram pages. If you are looking at a computer, you will find a small little logo above above their feed which takes you to their IGTV channel. Or you can see in their feed the same logo on each little box which will let you watch the video.
If you find any IGTV channels you think I might like, let me know.
I'm back at my ceramics. Just before the State of Massachusetts closed down, I ordered 750 pounds of clay thinking that the supplier would be closed down and I wouldn't get it til who knows when. Surprise! The supplier also has a medical supply biz so my clay arrived in 2 days which meant I had to move 750 pounds of clay TWICE - to my car and then into the living room. I was wonder if I could do it because that's a lot of weight for me to move but I did it. Now to get my throwing muscles back again!
Here are some photos of the recent decorating I have done on pieces that were already thrown. I have a lot more pieces thrown that I need to get painted.
Stacking it up on my bookcase:
Today's platter project. Each color needs to be painted three times to get nice bright colors.
The start of a big bowl decoration...... I used to just wing it and paint. Back in December, I decided to try to pre-plan each piece by sketching out what I was going to paint. The pencil lines will disappear when the piece is fired in the kiln.
Sunday, March 29, 2020
I never fully understood the psyche or beauty of cats until we adopted our first cat when we moved into our first house. Her name was Sophie and she was a beautiful brownish grey tortoiseshell cat.
Sophie wasn't particularly loving and she had a real mind of her own. She frequently stayed out all night hunting and I had to get over the fact that I couldn't control her like I could do with our dogs. Once I got used to having a cat, I wanted another who might be more friendly and sweet. One of my co-workers had a litter of kittens with double paws. Willie was a funny guy but he loved his cats more than life. I asked if I could adopt one of his kittens and he said okay. Madeline was a beautiful tuxedo cat who was actually a Mister so we called him Mr. Madeline. He was a real love and sweetheart of a big boy.
The Farmer was always a cat lover and his tales of Stubby the cat who had her own stool at the family's table was one of the things that endeared him to me in the beginning. How couldn't you like a family who let the cat sit next to them at dinner?
Since we have lived at this farm, we have had many cats. Ours are indoor outdoor cats who we count on to help with the vermin. All of them have their own personalities and quirks.
With this latest litter, I thought it would be fun to photograph each of the adoptive families with their kittens. I got as far as two families and then the virus interrupted and I forgot about the task at hand.
Our friends from Northampton have had their names on the kitten list for several months. The two little girls were so excited when Julia told them their kittens had been born. They came one day - the whole family in kitten headbands. Each girl picked out her own kitten when they were very small. There was such anticipation in their household for their new kitties. They visited once more to see the kittens in a new growth stage. The weeks went by. I think the girls thought the day would never come.
The two girls had hand drawn kitten count-down calendars in their rooms and sent us photos as the days were X-ed off. They named them Sparky and Jade. As the days counted down, I got more pictures. Here is the series. Can you see the anticipation and excitement building?
Friday, March 27, 2020
Melissa is a longtime friend of mine from New Jersey. She now lives in Maine with her husband Paul. They are both musicians. Melissa's Mom Peggy (now in her late 80's) is a dear friend of mine. For years, she knit many samples for the different leaflets and books. Here's a photo of Julia, Mom and Peggy taken here at our farm back in 2006 when this blog was rather newish.
Not many years ago, Paul taught himself to knit and he is really killing it these days. He is a pianist and I'm thinking those talented fingers were just itching to learn to knit. He sent me photos of his granddaughter wearing one of the hats he made from my Moroccan Fedora pattern. He kindly has let me share them here on the blog.
Isn't she the cutest? The yarn Paul used is Malabrigo and he said it was the worsted weight. Here is the top of the hat.
Now he is working on another project from the World Knits Collection. Can't wait to see how that turns out. Well done Paul!
If you have made any projects from the World Knits Collection, I would love to see what you have done. You can send them to me via email or facebook.
You can purchase the Moroccan Fedora Pattern here on Ravelry or on my website here. Thanks so much Paul for sharing.
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