In the midst of end-of-semester busy-ness, one recent Sunday afternoon I stole two hours to pick violet petals.

After letting them steep in water for a day, I simmered the concoction on the stove.

For my efforts, I have a stash of lovely violet jelly. The taste is subtle, but the color is anything but. I have plans for violet jelly cookies. Won’t that be the most delightful summer afternoon treat?

If, like us, you have yet to mow your lawn for the first time this spring, you may still be able to put up some violets.

What is your favorite flavor of spring?

Hats for Veterans

I was recently contacted by a representative from the Connecticut Blue Star Mothers to see if my knitting group would be interested in helping the organization reach its goal of 300 handmade (knit or crochet) hats for veterans. Several members of my SnB have committed to crafting hats, and I thought I’d share some information for anyone else interested.

Here’s information about the Hats for Veterans Project. ¬†Since the group is looking for hats appropriate for men, I’ve gathered links to some free patterns that you might consider using:

Brooklyn Tweed’s handsome Turn a Square hat

Wooly Wormhead’s Ribbed Beanie

Ever Green Knits’s Cambridge Watchcap

Fetching Knits’s Zissou (simple ribbed toque) (you may have to click on Patterns, then Zissou to find it…persist!)

Ivy Brambles’s Crochet Watchman Cap

There are loads of free hat patterns on Ravelry, so take a look to see what you might like to make. If you want to participate, drop me a note using the contact page, and I’ll let you know where to send your hat!

Thanks so much for considering this!

Sunday Streamlining

Even though my work schedule this semester has me home by 3 p.m. at the latest, I decided that if I’m to get back on my writing treadmill and continue to bike several times a week, I’m going to have to streamline dinner prep.  Usually I do my menu planning on Saturday or Sunday.  I seek Neal’s input, but he sort of fades out after telling me what meat he’s going to make for himself this week.  In a way, it’s not bad to have the menu under my direction; I get to feed my carnivore lots of veggie meals.  My planning in the past has been for the entire week, but lately I’ve been doing half a week at a time.  With so much fresh produce available, I’m finding it better to shop for meals twice a week, which allows me to use the freshest possible ingredients throughout the week instead of our eating corn that has started to get starchy by Friday.

Today I took the streamlining a step further.  In addition to my meal planning, I did a bunch of prep work.  We had gazpacho for supper today, and it will make a nice side with the tomato gratin I’ve got planned for Wednesday.  We’ve been fortunate to have generous gardeners share their bounty with us; my kitchen garden isn’t producing as much as I’d like.  Most of that bounty has been in the form of tomatoes, so while I was chopping veggies for the soup, I  roasted the small ones to be used on a pizza tomorrow. 

Since Neal likes a treat with his coffee at work, I baked some blueberry muffins.  They look pretty, but we’ll see how they taste.  We’ve set a big savings goal, and the little bibs and bobs of money we spend on treats are going to be re-directed.  Anyway, homemade is so much healthier!

I hope to refine my Sunday streamlining in the next few weeks.  What tips do you have for me?

Canning with Cae

What a fun morning!  Cae purchased a canning kit, and we used the directions that came with it to make our tomatoes.  It was much easier than I expected, and I imagine that doing this with a friend makes it more fun. 

We had a variety of tomatoes, all organic and local, which we dunked in boiling water until the skin peeled, then placed in a cold bath, making the skin easy to remove.  From there, we cored and sliced them and added them to pint jars in which we’d put 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice.  We packed in the tomatoes, then added a half teaspoon of salt.  After removing any air bubbles with a spatula, we cleaned the rims and put on the lids.  They processed in their boiling bath for 40 minutes, cooled for five minutes, and now we have to wait 12-24 hours to see if we got the lids right. 

My head is spinning with possibility for putting up more local summer goodness.  I’m afraid I might come off as a little precious to those for whom canning is a regular activity, but as I said in the last post, the relatives with whom I grew up didn’t do this.  They were city folks who were bent on finding ways to make life easier.  My dad’s mother, though, fed her large family on their farm in Ohio by canning every year.  I wish I’d grown up closer to her so I could have learned at her knee. 

I’m enjoying your stories about learning to can/preserve.  Please keep them coming, along with any tips you want to share!  Next I plan to investigate freezing corn.  Isn’t picked-today corn just the best?

A-Cannin’ I will Go

My best friend from grammar school, Cae, has agreed to let me watch, maybe even participate, as she cans tomatoes.  I’m so excited to see the process from start to finish.  I was not blessed with any relatives who lived near me who enjoyed domestic kitchen arts, hence, no elder from whom to learn them.  Luckily Cae is as fearless in the kitchen as she is with her knitting.  I’ll be back later with pictures–I plan to document the process so I may more easily replicate it on my own.

What’s your kitchen art status?  Do you can?  Freeze?  Preserve?  Tell me how you learned it.  Or blog your story and link to it in the comments.  I’m ever so curious about how we learn such things.

Satiated Sunday

Just finished cleaning up dishes from a delish Sunday lunch with good friends.  Here’s what you need to feel totally satiated on a Sunday afternoon:

A bottle of good wine.
Jerry Garcia and the Buena Vista Social Club.
Gazpacho, quinoa (with shrimp for the seafood eaters), roasted fingerlings and baby carrots with leeks.
Brie, Manchego, and crusty bread.
Hot peach crumble and fresh whipped cream.

Crisp linens, a touch of perfume, and fresh flowers add to the joy. 

I hope you have as nice a Sunday as I have!

Farmer’s Market Bounty

Img_1323_2Take a look at this bounty!  Strawbs for jam making, garlic scapes (after seeing them on Norma’s blog last year, I had to try them!), tomatoes (hot house, but soon there will be field tomatoes), chevre and goat-gurt, and a mystery veggie that looked too good to leave behind.  The woman selling them said they’re sort of like radishes, and that I can eat them over salad or saut√© them.  Anyone help me remember what they’re called?

The weather was too uncertain for me to take my Africabike to the new Simsbury Farmer’s Market.  I anticipate going back week after week, though, so I’ll have ample opportunity to ride her there.

If you’re local, this is a lovely little market with music, a fiber table, and way more yummy goodness than I brought home.