Saturday, January 23, 2016

Far From the Madding Crowd

Far from  the Madding Crowd Umbrella

We are officially snowed in.  And actually when you still have your electricity it’s kind of an opportunity to catch up all the little things that have been nagging at you that you have wanted to get done around the house.  Day one of Winter Storm Jonas (which was yesterday… a Friday….and an unscheduled day off  from work) : ), was spent spending way too much time on Pinterest and Facebook, cleaning out my closet and creating a nice large bag of clothes to take to Goodwill when we thaw out, TV channel surfing between the weather channel and whatever else I could find, making a giant pot of Southwest Chicken Soup, and I hate  to admit it but  finishing up the de-Christmas-ing of the house.  

I read a few chapters in my new book “ My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry”, by Fredrik Backman.  So far it’s delightful but more on that in a forthcoming post.

far from the madding crowd DVD     Book My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She is Sorry

And then I wrapped up under a blanket and watched Far From the Madding Crowd.  Click to watch the move trailer on IMDB.  I believe that it was the one and only movie I actually saw in a movie theater last year….wait, I lied.  I also saw Train Wreck with Amy Shummer.  Talk about films on the opposite ends of the spectrum! 

 

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I loved Far From the Madding Crowd so much that I picked up a copy for myself and as a Christmas gift for my friend Carrie who is and expert at Sheep Shearing.  I’ve mentioned her before I think.  She works as an Interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg, dresses the part and is a walking wealth of knowledge when it comes to sheep breeds and hand shearing.  Many of the scenes include shots of the sheep on the farming estate that Carrie Mulligan’s character Bathsheba Everdeen  inherits and oversees as an independent woman back in the late 1800’s.   Hey…two Carrie’s in the same paragraph.  : )

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The movie is just lovely especially if you love watching period movies set in beautiful idyllic settings and the costumes were absolutely stunning in my ever so humble opinion.  It’s a love store of course but it also about how few options women really had back then. 

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                  Carrie Mulligan with her co-stars Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge and Matthias Schoenaerts.

She was unique because she became a woman of means and was able to forge an independent life and who had to choice to marry or not. 

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  She had three suitors.  One offered respect and additional stability, another offered passion but ultimately no respect, and the third offered both passion,respect, and a deep friendship.  He understoon her  and loved her all the more for it.    The movie tells the story of how she comes to the realization of who she is, what she is capable  of and who she really wants to share her life with. 

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Beautiful costumes from a classic Thomas Hardy novel.  I can’t say that I ever read any Thomas Hardy novels not even way back when in my school days so it is extra fun for me to discover them now when I am sure I am to better appreciate them than I did back then. 

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Today is Day Two Of Winter Storm Jonas.  So far I’ve drank and obscene amount of Café l’orange topped with whipped cream….ate two pieces of carb forbidden toast with lots of butter.  And I savored every single bite.  I actually have the time to blog today and will probably do some baking and a bit more movie watching and book reading.  Making the best of it!

How about you?  Did winter storm Jonas put a kink in your weekend too?

 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

How to Make Limoncello

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So the lemons are now 4 bottles of Limoncello! 

They’ve all been given away for Christmas gifts after keeping one for myself and I have to say they were a  BIG SUCCESS!!

Limoncello Two Glasses

And look at how cute and perfect these little Limoncello glasses are. 

For my Christmas gifts I paired up a bottle of my Limoncello with a set of Limoncello glasses that I picked up made by Bormioli in Italy through Amazon.  Very inexpensive and so cute with the green stems.  The perfect mini size for sipping and a bargain I think at only $14.99 for a set of six!  This made an extremely nice and affordable gift this year.  

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The original recipe that I was inspired by was from TheKitchn.com. 

Following this recipe with a few tweaks of my own, I was able to make a little more than  four 8.5 ounce flask sized bottles. 

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I used my Microplane Grater to get all the yellow zest off of my lemons.  Many of the recipes showed the lemons getting peeled with a vegetable peeler warning to be careful not to get too much of the white layer just underneath the bright yellow zest.  The white part can be bitter and all of the color and the lemon oils for the flavor are in that yellow zest so it just made sense to me to zest it with the Microplane Grater.  This is how I plan to do it every time.  I had a hard time trying to peel the lemons with the vegetable peeler.  I also only had to steep my lemon zest in the vodka for one week and it was plenty of time.  The larger recipes that used the larger peels suggested steeping for up to a month which I can see as being necessary with the larger pieces of peel to extract the lemon oils and flavor.

No thanks, my method was much faster and produced wonderful results.

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Some of the other recipes online also called for Everclear instead of vodka.   I’ve never had Everclear but I believe it is a grain alcohol made from corn and it’s powerful stuff.  A lot like Moonshine and a lot like drinking lighter fluid I’ve been told : )

Again, no thanks. 

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The vodka I decided to use was Smirnoff.  I picked it  mostly because I liked the price.  I didn’t want to spend too much on my first attempt at making it but really I should have had more faith.  It was awesome! 

  I’ve had store bought Limoncello from the liquor store and I have to say it was hard for me to drink and enjoy.  It was rather harsh.  My batch from the recipe I used was VERY drinkable. 

I think the sugar syrup to the lemon flavored vodka ratio that I used made for a not too sweet but not so strong that it makes you wince, close your eyes, shake your head and shiver.  I hate when that happens!

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Here is how I made it!!

Limoncello

Ingredients:

10 organically grown lemons, washed.  You don’t want lemons that have a pesticide residue so I suggest organic.

1 fifth  (750ml)  of vodka.  I used Smirnoff

3 cups water

3 cups sugar

Tools: 

MicroPlane Grater or vegetable peeler

Large glass container with a lid that the lemon peels and vodka can steep in.    I used a very large half gallon sized wide mouth Ball Canning Jar that  holds 8 cups.

fine mesh strainer fit over a bowl.

coffee filters

Measuring Cup

Small Funnel

Five  8.5oz reusable bottles with stoppers.

Labels (I used Avery #22816 square labels and found a template I liked for free on their Avery.com website.)

Directions: 

Zest all of the lemons   And be careful to get only the bright yellow part and not the white underneath. 

  • Place all of the zest in your glass jar.

  • Pour the pint of vodka into the jar over all of the lemon zest.  Place the lid on top and shake it well.

  • Leave the lemon zest and vodka in the jar and let steep for at least one week occasionally giving it a shake and opening the lid to let any gasses out and letting it breath for a minute before placing the lid back on.

  • After your lemon zest and vodka has steep for a week you are ready strain it.

  • Now you will need to strain out the lemon zest and so you will need to do this with a fine metal mesh strainer suspended over a bowl.  Pour the content of the jar slowly into the strainer.  This takes a while to strain out all of the zest.  You will need to stir to allow the liquid to strain through into the bowl below. 

  •   I strained a second time through some coffee filters to make sure I got all of the zest and the result was a beautiful clear yellow. 

Make the Simple Syrup and Combine with the Lemon Vodka

  • Take the 3 cups of sugar and 3 cups of water  and combine them in a pot on your stove over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Stir to make sure all of the sugar dissolves in the water.  It will thicken up a bit as it comes to a boil.  Do this slowly. 

  • Let the simple syrup cool for a bit and then using a  one cup measure, add three cups of the simple syrup to the jar of lemon zest and vodka.  I had a lot of simple syrup left over after taking 3 cups, one at a time, and adding them to the lemon flavored vodka.  I didn’t want  the final result to be too sweet.  But definately taste and add more it you think it needs it. 

  • Add syrup and taste as you go.  You can always add more simple syrup if you like but I found the 3 cup mark was just perfect for mine.  I don’t like things that are too sweet and this seemed perfect to me. 

Place a small funnel into the mouth of your  washed bottle and with a measuring cup pour your limoncello into your bottles. 

Secure the stoppers and there you are.   Delicious and perfect for gift giving!

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I love the flask sized bottles that I got from Sur La Table. I think I paid $4.95 for each bottle but I think they are well worth it especially if you are giving them away as gifts. 

I also found some great reusable bottles with the attached stoppers at Hobby Lobby that were normally $2.99 each but lucky me they were 50% off so a bargain at $1.50 each.  They also have the same bottles with a chalkboard label.  

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Time to label your bottles.  I used Avery #22816 square labels and found a template I liked for free on their Avery.com website.

Limoncello Glasses

I will be increasing my production substantially for the holidays next year.

But in the meantime, it was seriously so good that I am going to try to keep a bottle in my freezer at all times.  I can see spreading the Limoncello cheer around the bonfire in the summertime as well in the colder months.   That means I’ll be shopping for more organic lemons very soon.

Bottoms Up!!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Making Limoncello

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It’s time to harvest the lemons.  And more importantly, it’s time to make the Limoncello!

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The lemon peels are steeping as we speak!

And the lemony smell is the promise of very good things to come. 

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I harvested 6 lemons off of my tree this year.

Last year I only got one lemon so I am increasing my yield.  : )

Wlimoncello

The recipe I used was from TheKitchn.com

Fabulous website with step by step easy and clear instructions on how to make your own Limoncello.

Look at how cute those chalkboard labels are.  I am on the hunt.

If you want to get a jumpstart on making your own for the holidays, check out The Kitchn’s website and recipe. 

My limoncello is steeping and I hope to bottle it up in the next couple of weeks for gift giving.  I’ll be back with an update for sure.

Can’t wait for the lemon sipping goodness!!

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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Photo Christmas Ornament Bulbs

Ornaments for Grace

‘Tis the season to make Christmas Ornaments and my favorites to make and give are photo ornaments.  I love the look of delight on someone’s face when I give them such a personal gift. 

This year I made some ornaments for my cousin’s sweet daughter.  It’s a photo of her with her girlfriends dressed in their Halloween costumes. 

A few years ago I was all about a product you could get at Michael’s craft supply store called Magic Bubble.  It was a solution that you would pour into a glass Christmas bulb and it would allow you to adhere a photo to the inside of a Christmas bulb.  Well sadly, Magic Bubble has fallen off the face of the earth. I couldn’t find it anywhere at the local craft stores and a search online pulled up other’s like me trying to find the stuff.    But happily, I still had a bottle of the solution and some of the beautiful iridescent glitter that gives the bulbs their sparkle. 

The idea came to me when I was looking around on Pinterest and came across a link to someone who was making photo ornament bulbs just like these only instead of using the Magic Bubble product she was using clear floor wax.   Makes sense! 

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Here is how I made mine and what you will need.

*Clear glass or plastic ornament bulbs.

*Laser copies of your favorite photo sized to fit inside the ornament bulb.  Make several copies in case you make a mistake.  Believe me the more the better till you get the hang of this!  I learned this the hard way after making several trips to Fed Ex to make additional copies.

*Magic Bubble solution if you can find it or a clear floor wax such as Pledge. 

*Glitter

*A soft long and think paint brush.

*Paper Towel

*Ribbon

*Decorative Christmas tree hook.  ( I love the fancy hooks you can get at Hobby Lobby.)

*Scissors

The first thing you are going to need is a photo copy of a photograph that you want to showcase inside your bulb.  Your photo copies need to be make from a laser printer.  The ink from an inkjet with dissolve and run when it touches the solution.  So what I did was either take the original photos or inkjet copies from my home computer and I photocopied them on the fancy laser printer at my local Fed Ex Office Store.  Size your photo properly so that you know it will fit inside your ornament bulb.

If you want to include some words or maybe the year inside your bulb, print out the words in the size and font you like and print it out to also be photocopied by a laser printer.  Print out several of the same words to allow for mistakes. Again….I learned the hard way.

And speaking of ornament bulbs…..I’ve used both the clear glass bulbs and plastic.  Both work equally well.  The photo of the bulbs above are plastic.  And This time I use the the “flat” bulbs.  These are much easier to work with and the shape is unique. 

Directions: 

1.  Cut out your photo to the size you would like to see inside your bulb.  If you use a traditional round bulb, your photo may need small slash marks around the outside of the photo copy to help it mold correctly to the inside of your bulb. 

2.  Carefully remove the cap from your bulb.  Pour in a teaspoon or two of the floor wax or Magic Bubble product and swirl it around the inside of your bulb to coat the entire inside of the bulb.

3.  Roll up your photo copy small and tight enough to fit it through the opening in your bulb.

4.  Using your paint brush, gently maneuver the photo so that it opens up and press it against the wall of your bulb so that you can see the photo from the outside.  Take your time and gently use the paint brush to position your photo inside the bulb where you would like it.  Gently press out any air bubbles and smooth out any creases. 

5.  Gently swirl the solution to make sure all surfaces inside the bulb are coated and then carefully pour out the excess solution. 

6.  Pour in glitter and gently rotate the ornament bulb so that the glitter completely covers the inside of the bulb.  Turn the bulb upside down and empty it of any excess glitter. 

7.  Let your bulbs dry.  When the insides are dry. Replace the cap on the ornament. 

8. Decorated the cap by tying on a decorative ribbon in a bow. I like the wired ribbon for the best shaped bows. 

9.  Add a decorative hook. 

I like to put them in the decorative boxes you  can pick up at the dollar store for gift giving.  I place the bulb in the boxes wrapped in tissue paper including the decorative ornament hook.  Then I like to tie the box off with some ribbon. 

If you make a mistake this is a very forgiving project.  Just pour water into your bulb to flush it out and start again with a new photo copy. 

Have fun with these.  These are a real people pleasing gift.  Fun to make and fun to receive!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Summerfield Farms

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Summerfield Farms is that hidden gem that everyone wishes they lived close to.  And much to my surprise I do live quite near and only recently discovered it!  It’s located just outside of Greensboro in the beautiful North Carolina countryside in Summerfield N.C.  It’s a picturesque  working farm dedicated to raising grass fed beef, growing seasonal and sustainable organic vegetables and flowers, and has a market where you can buy these products along with a wide variety of fresh, local, artisanal goods, unique gifts, products made in North Carolina and other goodies. Every item in their  store has been hand-selected.   And it’s incredibly charming. 

Summerfield Farms Market bldg

The market is housed in a renovated barn and the windows can be rolled up like a garage door.  I love that concept of being able to roll up the windows and letting the outdoors in. 

 Summerfield Farm Market

This is a “Farm to Fork” market offering the grass fed beef raised right there on the farm and the sustainably raised vegetables grown in their garden.  In addition to this they carry certified organics including grass fed milk and other certified organic dairy products, eggs and they partner with other farms with the same philosophy.  The vegetables are grown with out any herbicides or pesticides and the beef and poultry and eggs are raised without antibiotics and no added hormones. 

And let me share with you one of my favorite parts of the décor in the Market building itself.

The light fixtures! 

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My eye was immediately drawn up to the ceiling when I walked into the Market building.  Old farm buckets turned into light fixture and  turned upside down hanging from the ceiling provides much of the lighting along with some skylights and a gigantic oversized fan also hangs from the ceiling in the middle. 

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After my first visit there, I went home with a pound of grass fed ground beef and  a dozen organic eggs.

Summerfield Farm Eggs

I made a batch of Mexican Beef Nachos with the beef and I used the eggs to make a Boursin and Spinach Quiche.  It tasted delicious.   If you are looking for a quiche that is more than delicious and has great eye appeal this one might be your ticket.   Get the organic eggs.  They really do make a difference. 

Summerfield Farm Cow

So why grass fed beef?

 Summerfield Farms Cows

Well, to start it’s so much healthier for you and it tastes great too.    The cows raised there are eating what nature intended them to eat.  GRASS. Not genetically modified corn and wheat which is so difficult for them to digest,  but GRASS.

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I was surprised but happy to learn that grass fed beef is considered Nutrient Dense with a perfect balance of essential fatty acids. Omega 6 : Omega 3 proportion mirrors the health benefits of wild salmon!  The cattle are pasture raised and the farm uses sustainable grazing practices that keeps both the cows and the land healthy and happy.  And because their cattle are raised on a natural grass, they are healthier and less susceptible to disease so there is no need for antibiotics.  Makes for happy cows if you ask me.

“We consider our beef to be beyond organic, as our cattle are raised without added hormones, antibiotics, or steroids.  We would never dream of feeding them animal by-products; they are raised on mother’s milk and grasses alone- no grain ever!”

And Summerfield farms considers themselves to be “Certified Transparent” which means they welcome any and all questions about how their beef is raised  and invite you to come take a look if you so desire. 

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The Market is filled with carefully selected and when possible,  locally sourced products.

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“Seasonal vegetables are sustainably raised on the farm and offered for sale within The Market.  The produce offering is also supplemented from local partner suppliers using the same or similar production methods.”

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And ALL produce in their Market is grown without pesticides or herbicides.

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 And look at the baking mixes I spotted from The Old Mill of Guilford.   I can personally recommend the Corn Bread Muffin mix.   Add some cheddar cheese and minced up jalapeno peppers….Delicious!   They are so good this time of year with a bowl of soup or chili.  I’ve visited this nearby mill.   You will feel like you took a step back in time if you stop for a visit.   It’s a fully operational and historic 18th century water powered grist mill in Oak Ridge, NC.   Very happy to see their products here at the Summerfield Farms Market.      

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The Market considers itself a lifestyle food market offering quality products sourced locally whenever possible.  If you are concerned about what you and your family are eating this is a great source for the best and most wholesome food you can find.

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              Red Clay Gourmet Pimento Cheese                              Two Chicks Farm Sauerkraut

 

And of course you know I have to mention some of the  local and artisanally-made cheeses they carry like cheeses from Ashe County Cheese in West Jefferson, Holly Grove Goat Cheese made in Mt. Olive, NC, and  Red Clay Gourmet Pimento Cheese from Winston-Salem, NC (Got a very good report on the Red Clay Pimento Cheese.  Haven’t tried it myself but was told and I could see by looking in the container that it was very cheesy and not too much mayonnaise.  Just enough to hold it all together.)

I also have to mention that I took home a jar of the Two Chicks Farm Sauerkraut made in Hillsborough N.C and it is truly the best sauerkraut I’ve ever had.  Honestly!  Really tasty.  Fermented foods are very good for you and your digestion! 

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And if there is a wedding or another special event in your future and you are looking for a venue to have it, consider Summerfield Farms. 

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It’s the perfect Carolina country setting and they have everything you need for a big celebration, a company event, or a smaller party.

Summerfield Market Barn 2

So there you go.  I simply cannot say enough good things about The Market at Summerfield Farms.  We are so lucky to have this in our area and I wish them great success.  Next summer I hope to buy their organic cucumbers for my summer batch of pickles.  

The Market is open Monday – Friday 11:00am – 6:00pm and Saturdays 9:00am – 6:00pm.

And you can even get Pickles (sauerkraut) and Cheese there.  Makes me happy.