Thursday, December 30, 2010


At the Blue Castle

The little deer at the front door - which I moved there to add a little something to the pot of Christmas greenery and "things".

Nothing is in focus in this picture, but it's more romantic that way. I have that right, don't I? Romance makes everything a little fuzzy?

Ta-da! We finished the Christmas decor as the family was arriving for the Christmas Eve gathering at the Blue Castle. We were a little late decorating this year.

I don't even remember what this thing is called, I just know I've had it packed away in my personal Christmas box for several years - and that I've wanted one since I was a little girl. I'm going to have to remember to buy more candles for it. It really did add something to the Christmas feel at the house and it was sad that that the candles burned so fast.

In the midst of all the chaos, I love that the Christmas decor makes things feel grounded, like home is here at last. And yet, somehow, I'm also almost ready to see them packed away again. I didn't think I'd be ready this soon. We've never decorated this late before, that I remembe), and I don't know why I'm feeling ready to move on so soon. Maybe I need to see a shrink, get to the bottom of my issues. (Finds mirror, stands in front of it, "Now why do you think you feel the way you do?" Hmmm.... )

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mini Mocha Meringue Cakes

(I don’t want to infringe on copyright in anyway, so while I altered the original recipe quite a bit as far as feel the first time I made it, I’m going to go even further and include the changes I would make if I did it again. Just being extra cautious! It's the kind of girl I am.)


2 egg whites, room temperature
Pinch cream of tartar
½ cup sugar (the recipe called for superfine, I used regular)
2 Tablespoon Dutch process, cocoa
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules, lightly rolled to crush
¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups whipped cream, sweetened with ¼ - ⅓ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla (I’m guessing a bit on this, since we did more cream than that at the time – some for the coffee!)

Fudge Sauce – this is an addition that I think would be simply smashing. I thought they needed a little something extra, if you know what I mean.

1. Put the egg whites in a large clean bowl, and whisk slowly until they become thick and frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to whisk more quickly until the whites form stiff peaks.

2. Sprinkle over half of the sugar and continue whisking until mixture is stiff and glossy. Whisk in the rest of the sugar a little at a time. Sift over the cocoa powder and add the coffee granules. Whisk in vanilla.

3. Trace 2” circles (I think I did about 36 using a cookie cutter) on parchment paper and then flip over and place on a cookie sheet. Carefully spread meringue evenly within circles, trying to make them fairly even and flat. You could also pipe it in a spiral pattern. Bake in a 250°F oven for 45 minutes. I pulled it out at this point and it cooled on the counter, however, I think you’re actually supposed to let meringue cool in the oven. In which case I would cut the baking time down a little.

4. To assemble, place one meringue disk on a plate, drizzle a tiny bit of chocolate sauce over disk, place a generous dollop of cream in center and press another “cookie”, bottom down, on top of cream. Drizzle a bit more chocolate sauce, and another dollop of cream, artistically placed, to finish it. Assemble all the meringue cakes and place on serving platter and then sift cocoa carefully over the tops. It is okay to get a little on the platter – it adds a nice touch!

Note: I’m not a meringue expert and these turned out very fragile so I lost a few in assembly. Over baked? The granulated sugar? Just as a note that you are likely not to get 18 mini cakes. I will probably cut down the baking time a bit if I do these again. 35 minutes and let them cool in the oven? Just giving you the inside scoop on my thoughts on this.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mini Lemon Curd Tartlet Cookies

Mini Lemon Curd Tartlet Cookies

2/3 cup butter, (or vegetable shortening) softened
3 – 4 T. honey
2 egg yolks
½ tsp. vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups soft white wheat flour (I suspect you could substitute all-purpose flour)

Honey Lemon Curd – see below
Sugared Lemon Zest
½ - 1 teaspoon lemon zest
Granulated sugar

Cookies: Cream together butter and honey. Beat in yolks, vanilla, lemon zest and salt. Stir in flour. Chill. In greased mini muffin tins, gently pat about 1 T. dough. Indent top of cookie deeply with thumb. Bake in 350 degree oven for 17 – 20 minutes or until lightly brown. While still warm, top with a generous dollop of Honey Lemon Curd and then garnish with Sugared Lemon Zest.

Zest: Toss lemon zest with a little granulated sugar. Sift off extra sugar and sprinkle zest on cookies.

Notes: For the cookies pictured, I didn’t have mini muffin pans available so I went for a slightly stiffer dough and I think I might have ended up using maybe another ½ cup flour? For the same shape pictured; chill the dough and then form about 1 Tablespoon dough into balls. You might have to chill the dough again briefly at this point. Then, lightly flour your fingers and carefully press balls into square “bricks,” about ½” thick. Press thumb deeply to indent center. Now, when you bake them the cookies will spread in the oven and all your hard work to make “very square cookies” will be annihilated. But, they will still be pretty square, so no worries and continue….Carefully spread the Lemon Curd in a square in the center of cookie and garnish.

Honey Lemon Curd

2 eggs
Between 1/3 – ½ cup honey (Fill honey to a little over 1/3 cup, top with water to ½ cup)
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ cup butter
½ cup lemon juice
2 Tablespoons lemon zest

Beat together eggs, honey, and salt. Stir in butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Cook on low heat, stirring briskly and constantly, making sure to whisk entire bottom of pot, until thick, about 15-20 minutes. Or cook in double boiler until thick, about 30 minutes, stirring frequently. I used the first method, because I fancy I have a lot to do so I try to be efficient. It’s really because I’m a bit impatient. I think. Cool to room temperature. (After you are finished, if you have any leftovers, store in refrigerator. This recipes makes about 3/4 cup.)

Lemon Curd made with honey is pretty tangy, which is kind of a nice compliment to the cookies since the cookies mellow the curd and the curd gives a snap to the cookies. But I’m sure any lemon curd recipe or even, gasp, store bought, would be fine.

If you think this is essentially the same recipe as the Jam Thumprint Tarts, you're right. Aha!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

French'ish Party

I wanted to do a fancy French themed pastry type party for my sisters birthday (blame the lady who was in France taking picture of pastry shop windows) but life just won't allow for things like that right now. Not willing to completely forgo the idea, my sister-in-law and I decided to pull something together that was simple, fun and tasty!

Mini Lemon Curd Tartlet Cookies

Creative Wending made Petite Fours with some help from the other sisters

Mini Mocha Meringue Cakes

Served with a pot of hot coffee and a bowl of sweetened whipped cream!

Adding Some Zest to My Life....

In the only way I know how! :)

When we buy lemons, we usually purchase them in fairly large quantities and then before we can use them all, they start going bad. It's prudence to buy them in larger quantities since they're cheaper, but letting them then rot on the counter for want of use, is not prudence. We've tried different methods and I can't recommend freezing the whole lemon to zest and juice later. It being simply said, is a painful job to try to zest a frozen lemon. Your hands get very cold, especially if you try to do more than one. So I asked, can we not do that again?

So here is what we do (I use the term loosely - I would generally be more correct. Well, I have to do something around here.) Thoroughly wash and dry lemons. Zest all of them. Freeze lemons in the zested skins. When you need the juice, thaw in the refrigerator and then juice. On to the zest...

Take a 12" wide roll of plastic wrap and pull out 4" and place on a cutting board. Divide the strip into three squares with a sharp knife. Place 1 teaspoon zest on each square as neatly as possible. Fold plastic wrap into a little envelope. The way I do this is to fold one over the top towards me, then next fold up away from you overlapping the first fold, and then on the left side fold it towards the back of the packet and then repeat on the right side. Does that make any sense?

Freeze the envelopes, preferably in a sealed container, or not. When you need zest, thaw and use. I got almost exactly 4 teaspoons zest per lemon, which I'll bear in mind if a recipe calls for the zest of 1 lemon. Wiki says one lemon equals about 3 teaspoons. Now I don't know who to believe. Both? Is such a thing possible? The lemons I had were on the larger side, so I'll bear that in mind too. I already have so many things to keep track of, I don't know why I'm adding zest to the list. Next time I can't remember something I should say, "it's the zest." I'll be in touch from the institution where I'm sure to be sent if I try that.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

63,825 Words

"I did it, I did it, I knew that I could do it and indeed I did!"

Actually, I didn't. In fact for years I have thought there was little chance that the bones of a story I have kept tucked away in the recesses of my brain, added to slowly over the years, was enough to write a story. But then suddenly, with a great deal of doubt, I decided to give it a try with a deadline of 50,ooo words in 30 days. I felt that perhaps, maybe, it might possibly have a chance with the pressure of a word count to push me on. I felt like it was something I should do and many prayers went into the story. Is it good? I wouldn't say it was stellar. I would say that it needs a lot more work. And I would also say....

Now what? Sigh. Well, I can think of a bookcase that needs serious dusting, boxes to be sorted, cooking to be done, errands to be run. And a nice cup of hot chocolate, a reward for finishing the job. That portion of the job at any rate, the starting.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Here's to Not Saying What You're Thinking

I was calling to change my address for a legal document and the guy asked me my social security number. Well, brace yourself for this, I don't have my SS# memorized. Gasp! I said "hang on a minute, let me get my wallet." He exclaimed, "what’s a matter girl, don't you know your Social Security number?"

I said, "No, I have enough trouble even remembering my phone number." It was a bitter memory (not), when I was first filing this same paperwork, I couldn't remember my telephone number! It's true. After humming and hahhing for a while the lady finally, "we don't need it." And then I remembered what it was. You know, going into it, I just knew I was going to forget it and you would have thought I'd have taken some precautions, but no. But back to the man on the telephone....

He listened and then asked, "Are you blonde?"

Can he get in trouble for saying that? I just want to know, that's all. I reassured him, "no, not really. Numbers just aren't my thing." I'm very glad I stopped from defending myself by saying, "but I could cook you a pretty good meal." It was my only redeeming quality that came to mind and I was about to make some pies for Thanksgiving. Honestly, he sounded older, sort of the grandfather type (uh, maybe I just really insulted him?), but I'm so glad that I processed that one fast enough to discarded it. Just not a good idea. Really, really not a good idea. I can laugh because I didn't say it. I would be dying if I had. Dead. Or wishing I was.

I wonder what he would have said if I'd told him, "it's not my natural hair color," Pause, "it's not my artificial hair color either."

Thursday, November 25, 2010


The wind whips across the mountainside howling, hurling the snow along with it into ever deepening drifts, it whistles against the building. I am thankful to have a roof over my head and four walls. I am thankful for the many hours friends and family (even a sister-in-law with child) have spent to help us do cleanup and build a shelter against such winter storms……

Dish soap drizzled into a large bowl, cold water and then boiling not one, but two kettles of water to make a hot soapy bath for the dishes. I rinse the clean pots and pans, plates and bowls, utensils and serving pieces, measuring cups and spoons in the frigid tap water and my hands become cold, but I am thankful for running water…….

Working in the kitchen preparing meals, my fingers numb with the chill of the air, but I am thankful for food to cook, as the day fades and darkness reigns, I am thankful for even the small light of an oil lamp…..

Grateful is what I am, for the many layers of blankets I sleep under to keep me warm, for loving parents that get up at all hours of the night to stoke the stove and keep a hot fire going all through the night…..

I am very thankful that my brother and sister-in-law live close by and are so gracious as to allow me to use their hot running water for baths….their washing machine and dryer to clean clothes….

For the good times of the family gathered close to the woodstove (that my oldest brother very lovingly restored so we would have a better heat source) sharing the warmth, a meal together, laughs, optimism and pessimism, manicures, movies…..for this season in my life I am grateful, and that it will not last forever, I am truly thankful. (Even if will look back upon it with very fond memories!)

I truly am blessed to have such a wonderful family, including married siblings and spouses, and I am very thankful for the tremendous love and serving we have shown each other this year through difficult circumstances, tests of faith and great joys, the times we laughed when we could have cried, were cheerful when things were bleak, worked together to get things done, ate salad out of the spinner together while apprehensive and yet excited over the impending birth of a new nephew. I have a lot to be thankful for and a special gold star goes to my sister-in-law Fogwood214 for her incredible graciousness and hospitality, her kindness and compassion. This year and this season of life would have been a great deal harder without her amazing generosity of attitude, time and resources. I should also give credit to my oldest brother, they have been not just family, but wonderful neighbors.

Happy Thanksgiving from TW at The Blue Castle!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Life in the Blue Castle

It's beautiful with a blanket of white snow. It is also rather cold since we tried to upgrade "Jack" and the new stove isn't starting right. Brrr. I'm just hoping something can be done about it soon or that the single digit weather doesn't come.

Life is an adventure!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Remodel Part XXIII

Day Three: Pictures taken Monday, November 8th.

On Sunday, in the pouring down rain, my oldest brother dug drainage ditches along the driveway and moved these landscape rocks from another place on the property. It was a long, cold, miserable project. Not only was it bucketing moisture most of the day, it was very chilly. He didn't warm up until the next evening (I quote).

The problem with moving all that dirt around is there is now mud. This is the mud bog that you have to cross to get in the front door now. Uh, have you ever tried doing that in the dark? I have successfully managed it several times. Fortunately, the night that the interior lights were out inside and it was really dark, I was wearing my tennis shoes and not my three inch heeled dress boots, because it didn't go so well that time. Squoosh. That gives one a very sinking feeling. Emotional and otherwise.

The Remodel Part XXIII

Day Two: Saturday, November 6th.

And today on the job we have a junior foreman. Isn't he cute?

Digging out to put down a drain pipe and foam to insulate the slab.

Placing the foam up against the slab. At least the slab won't get cold. The rest of us? Ahem, that is another story. :)

Working together.

Outside the kitchen window. It's up close and personal!

Committee meeting through the kitchen window. I poked my head in and asked, "would you like fries with that?' It's just the kind of humor I have.

The Remodel Part XXIII

Day One: Friday, November 5th (Was it really that long ago? Times is hard to keep track of these days.)

Mother was praying for good weather so it wouldn't be an absolute mess with the excavator working, and it was perfect; mild and dry! For the first two days at any rate.

Tyvecking and putting the house wrap around the windows.

The first day was spent excavating around the house to get the right grades. Partly for drainage and also for future landscaping.

Working into dusk.

You can't tell so much in the pictures, but there is now about a twelve foot level area that was built up on this side of the house. Eventually there will hopefully be a covered patio, then steps down the drop off to a landscaped area. The future. Please don't close the books on dates. Is that bookie cant? Shocking me. (Cough, for the record, I don't really know what I'm saying.)

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Tale of the Savoury Pie

(Alternate Title: Why I'm Not Married Reason #1)

We made a venison soup the other day that ended up having a lot of meat and being very thick, more like a stew, perhaps thicker than that even. So, with some of the leftovers I decided to make them into a nice British style savour pie. I thickened it with flour, added onion and a little more spice and put it into a pie shell. I was feeling efficient, since I'd done all that around writing.

Only, the flour didn't thicken the liquid, the onion didn't cook and the vinegar called for in the pie crust ended up being very pungent. Uh, at least it looked good?

See, that might be one reason I'm not married. They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach not, "it's looks pretty." What is wrong with them I ask? What is wrong with beauty? Well, okay, I can see their point.

(Raises right hand. "On my honor, it actually didn't taste that bad, it just wasn't the amazing savoury pie I had in mind.")

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Remodel Part XXII

First, today is the one year anniversary of the epic event that started this whole machine moving: our neighbors house burned down.

Last Monday it was time to build the loft that goes over the kitchen and is is also part of the girls room. That's D.C. and C.A. working on making as much sawdust as possible. Good fiber in the cooking. Actually, I think they were trying to drill a hole for some electrical wires. That was funny and scary to watch at the same time. C.A. is holding the ladder, and he moves it just wrong and D.C. nearly goes over sideways. There was a startled exclamation of fear and then he caught himself. And then a moment later he starts going down the ladder and steps on C.A.'s hand. "Ow!"

Sitting by the wood stove, waiting for the guys to clear out so I could cook lunch, I decided to take portraits of some of the work tools. This is a nail gun.

This is a saw. Do you see the saw? Did you ever see the saw saw from Arkansas? I'll stop now.

This is the guys lifting a beam into place. A beam made up of 2x12's with a wafer board sandwich. It was very heavy. I did not help lift it. You can sometimes judge how much something weighs by how much guys grunt and groan. They didn't hardly do either so you know it weighed a lot. That's my theory at any rate.

Round of applause, they did it!

The floor in the first section. And they didn't use metal hangers but another method of construction. I still don't know how it works. I worry, "is the floor going to stay up?" It looks nice, which is usually my greatest concern, but I'm supposed to sleep up there so I have cause to be worried. They say it's fine. I think I trust them. If it crashes in and I die a horrible death they can just put on my headstone, "She trusted. She died." I do believe that would give a much needed lesson to those who read it.

Monday evening, the first section completed.

From the other direction we get a different perspective. Please don't say, "duh." Thank you.

D.C. came back Tuesday to finish the last section. Surprisingly, the loft makes the house feel bigger. I thought it would close it in, but it doesn't at all.

Mother moved her shaker cabinet into place beside the doorway shown above and arranged some baskets and a vintage (?) scale.

The upstairs. Next up is railing, insulating and finish work.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Remodel Part XXI

The kitchen has really been coming together over the last couple weeks and here's a quick preview.


I love beadboard. Love it. And I'm thrilled that mother decided on it as the finished wall treatment for the kitchen. So far we only have three panels up, but we have more that is waiting to go up as soon as a few more things are done.

Installing the first panel.

Coming soon! Pictures of the loft over the kitchen!

Tree in the Fog

I love fog. It's so mysterious.


So, I decided to do the NaNoWriMo because it was such a good year and I have nothing else to do. Not. Actually, I have considered doing it in times past and decided I didn't have the time. But I'm into doing new things lately, in my own small way, and I realized this was probably one of the worst years to attempt it. Therefore I am. Which makes no sense at all, actually, but there you go.

I can't say I'm one of those organized writers that knows their entire story line and has things sketched out ahead of time. Truth be told, I have probably the least idea of all the stories I've written of what to write, so with a wing a prayer, I've been typing.

Somewhere I have the impression that the project is a contest. Maybe in some way, but I have no idea. I'm just doing it for the experience and so I can finally get it out of my system. We'll see how this project goes.

This is me, in the office area on the first day.


(Do you know how hard it is to do self portraits?)

Anyway, all that to say that I do have some more progress pictures of the Castle to post, but I'm using most of my computer time to write. However, stay tuned!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


So, I came up to the office this morning and this is what I found: the remains of a rose hip (that was in with the leaves) in complete shreds all over the keyboard. My brother told me the same thing happened yesterday too. What I wonder is this, the rose hip I can understand, but why on the keyboard? I don't get that. I mean, the keyboard?

Death to mice! (Even if they are cute.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Leaves

To give credit where credit is due, I got the idea for the leaves in the office workstation makeover from Dreamy Whites. These are also fresh leaves since the original picture. No water = not a good idea. Here's to Round Two!

The Office

I'm planning to spend a lot of time here over the next month, and I don't know if I really could have done it "as is". I suppose I could. Maybe. But how depressing.

This is another one of those areas that has a complete mish mash of things that were stuffed there when we moved. Not to mention that there are a lot of mice in here. Though I haven't seen one come poking its nose around lately, there is still evidence that they exist.

Before: Depressing, dirty, disorganized, messy, discouraging, disheartening, dismal, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. (Am I making it clear how I felt about this?)

After: I can do this.

After 2: As you can see, I removed the white circle from underneath the keyboard before taking this picture. I decided it was too much white in the wrong place.

My original plan was to put something over the "lovely" pink insulation, but time being of the essence, I decided to forgo that plan and do what I could with what I had. I'm glad all the computer equipment is black, it made life much easier. While I was at it, I decided to give my computer "desktop" a makeover too.

I think I'm going to like working here.

When I was putting the Hawthorne twigs behind the computer screen my little brother was grumbling that I was feminising the office. I glared at him and said, "You call putting branches with inch long thorns feminising!" Real story: Too pleased with myself I smiled and said, "yes!" I didn't even think of the thorns and feminising thing until later.

In other news, it is snowing today. I'm not sure how I feel about that. And I have a mild cold. I do know how I feel about that. I do not like it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Life

I had just come out of the office when the wind whipped away my task list carrying it away and dumping it onto the other side of the fence. It stayed stationary a moment and taking hope I popped my clipboard and other papers back in the door and then ran to the gate, undid the latch on the wire and went into the pasture, carefully closing the gate behind me.

You know it was the first time I have ever been through that gate? I walk by it all the time, the property down below is ours. But no, I had never crossed that boundary.

I tripped down through the rocky field, located the paper, climbed up a bank to it and after securing it I stopped to marvel at what I found on this side of the fence. Not greener pastures, but some pretty leaves. And then I tripped on a rock and fell, barely catching myself from landing backside first. So I left.

That's my life. Just one hectic adventure after another.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Remodel Part XX

An Update on the Master Bedroom:

Remember this? Specifically remember that light fixture? Well, I'm sure somebody at one point in their life loved it. Maybe two somebodies, whoever designed it and whoever bought it. If you love modern design, you might think it is lovely. I, on the other hand, will simply declare that it is not to my taste. No offense to anyone, I recognize we can't all like the same things. And actually, in the right place, or with a makeover, it might be kind of cool. But in this environment it is a sore thumb and had to go.........

More traditional, classic and understated. A much better overall look for this room. And while I recognize a picture showing the rest of the room makeover would have been nicer, remember how much sorting and rearranging we have been doing lately? Not so photo worthy at the moment. We'll get there.....

And, there are now outlet covers. Not white , which is lovely, but would have been another of those sore thumb things. Right thing, wrong place, etc.