...sometimes even a single feather is enough to fly. (Robert Maclean)


a foray into Zombie territory

Remember the Zombies? 

I wish I did. 
They were technically before my time, like most great music was.
Fortunately with all this technology I find it's easier and easier
to expose myself to sounds and lyrics worth listening to.

So, the Zombies:
Their most popular songs like 'Time of the Season' and 'She's Not There' are great,
but the band has some really lovely hidden gems that I'll share a few of here.

'When My Boat Comes In'
Probably my favorite Zombies song.  It's on the 'New World' album.
I desperately wish I could find the sheet music for it   
so Bootsy could play it on the piano....

I've got summer on the brain.
This version of 'summer time' really resonates.
My teenage self would have chosen Janis Joplin's version
but my adult self goes for this one.

'Lula Lula' -
also from the 'New World' album -
Not an album that I really love all that much but I do love Lula Lula.
This is the newer version but there's also a fabulous 1978 demo of 'Hold My Hand aka Lula Lula'
More tender, soulful, and soft than this one, but I couldn't find any videos of it online.
This one is still quite nice.

Much  more like the typical 1960's Zombies that most are familiar with.
Can't get this one out of my head. 


Anja's amazing fruit tart

Ask and ye shall receive. 

Some people ask for world peace.
I ask for dessert.

Okay, okay -- how about world peace AND dessert?

So, the other day Anja was in a baking mood. 
I hinted at a fruit tart, and she smiled and set right to work.

(I am lucky in oh so many ways!)

Here's a beautiful photographic log of her efforts, and the delicious outcome.

The best tart pie dough recipe, from Michel Roux's Pastry: Savory and Sweet

flour, egg, butter, sugar, salt
how I love what you do together.

work it, girl.

oh beautiful.
oh dough.

oh, luminous orb of delicious things to come.

love pokes from the fork.

and then, silly me, I forgot to take pictures for awhile.

here's what's missing:

- the fiasco with blind-baking the crust
(the missing pie weights, and a last minute substitute of all of Bootsy's change) 

- the absolutely sublime, ethereal vanilla pastry cream.  (Also Michel Roux's recipe)
From splitting the bean and harvesting each little fleck of flavor to the steam rising from gorgeous milk...  Pastry cream is possibly my favorite thing in the world.  Luscious, velvety, yet light.  Mouth feel like nobody's business.  I could go on and on with sensual superlatives.  Pastry cream paired with fruit is practically cause for a fainting couch.  I will most certainly swoon.

Thankfully Anja remembered the camera for some final shots:

oh, to be glazed over in a good way...
(not that oh-I-can't-sit-through-another-meeting kind of way...)

and le grand finale.

Dessert that makes me say Alleluia.

Be still my heart.

A bit about the fruit:
 The fruit is a medley of strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and plums --
all local, harvested and preserved this past summer. 
(This is one very, very good reason to freeze fruit.)

A big 'Thank You' to Anja!

We keep telling her she should start a blog.  I hope she does.
If she does, I'll let you know all about it.

Either way, I'm nominating her to be in charge of my birthday dessert this year!

a plug for EWG's 'Skin Deep' database

No, this is not poo. 

Well, it's HAIR poo. 
Actually, it's hair 'mud'. 
Specifically, it's bentonite clay blended with aloe vera and herbal infusions.  
It's organic to the max.  

Counterintuitive to put mud in your hair to clean it? 
But effective? 

If you want some, this marvelous muddy concoction is made by Terressentials. 
Check them and their hair mud out here
 I've been using it for over a year now and can't imagine life without it. 

But why would anyone switch to hair mud, you might ask? 

Well, one look at the ingredient list of various other shampoos, including supposed 'natural' ones
(unfortunately there's no regulation of the term natural) -
will show you just how full of chemicals almost all available products are. 

This stuff is the real deal. 
You could eat it if you were so inclined.

I looked up the old shampoo and other products I was using
at the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database, and that really sealed the deal for me.

The database is so helpful because it lets you know the level of toxicity and risk
associated with each ingredients in your product, and it gives the product an overall rating.

I encourage you to look up the stuff you put on your body. 
Shampoos, lotions, deodorant, make-up, toothpaste, etc.

You will be surprised.

 But you might also be alarmed, freaked out, and overwhelmed. 
If you think this might be the case for you (as it was for me),
and you're not ready for the change
or can't afford to totally pitch everything you use and start over again,

I recommend taking it one product at a time. 
Restrain yourself from looking everything up at once.

The database is a knowledge-is-power tool. 
You can decide how much risk you're willing to take. 

Considering our skin is our largest organ
and that it literally 'eats' and absorbs whatever we put onto it,
it's worth being educated about what we're feeding our skin. 


splashes of color amidst the snow

While in Vermont this past summer we stumbled upon Jonathan Hart's photography: Great Photographic Art of Vermont.  I fell in love with several of his photographs, but what really inspired me was this photo of the birdhouses of South Hero. 

Click here if you'd like to buy one: South Hero Birdhouses

Right away we knew we wanted to replicate it somehow at home. 
These lively birdhouses definitely add a fun splash of color in these snowy winter months. 

Alas, so far they're vacant, but hopefully one of these days
some birds with an inclination towards the funky
will take up residence in our little village...



I love how they glisten and shine when they're done...
little jewels!

I wish I could make a necklace out of them!

& just for fun, here's our
'heart-boiled' egg:

So, lesson be learned:  the only downside
about having such an abundance of fresh eggs is that
the finest, freshest eggs don't hard-boil well... 

They're a nightmare to peel.  In the process,
 precious egg gets wasted because it sticks like super glue to the shell.

The moral of the story is:
if you have farm or backyard fresh eggs,
use your freshest eggs for frying, cooking and baking
and set aside some eggs to age for at least 2 weeks to hard boil.

Here are some directions I found for how to make a great hard boiled egg
and how to avoid that greenish ring that can come around the yolk:

1. Place eggs in a saucepan with enough COLD tap water to cover completely by 1 inch. Bring to a ROLLING boil over HIGH heat. Once the water is brought to a rolling boil, PROMPTLY reduce heat to a lower medium boil and cook an additional 10 minutes for a “hard boiled” egg.

2. Remove from heat and IMMEDIATELY place eggs under ice cold water or in a bowl of ICED water to chill promptly to help yolks stay bright yellow. Chill for a few minutes in the cold water until the egg is completely cooled. This is an extremely important step which prevents the greenish “ring” from forming on the surface of the yolk over time. If the egg is not chilled immediately after cooking an unsightly dark greenish ring will eventually appear on the outside of the yolk.

3. To peel...crack on all sides, roll egg between hands to loosen shell, and remove shell. Enjoy, with a light sprinkling of salt if desired.
Refrigeration is necessary for hard boiled eggs if the eggs are not to be consumed within a few hours.
Refrigerated boiled eggs, kept in the shell, can be kept for up to 1 week.
p.s. We also like to dip our whole hard-boiled eggs in aioli, miso, or tahini
We also sprinkle them in salad, on top of soup (especially borscht) --
add slices of them to BLTs, make endless variations of egg salad and deviled eggs...

They're so versatile, you're only limited by your imagination!


a cure for the winter blues

Okay, so we actually don't have much to complain about in terms of winter weather (yet!)... 
but alas, I still have a case of the January blues.

I know I have a case because almost every time I catch myself daydreaming
I realize I'm dreaming of things summer:
the gardens, the hammock, and all things lush and leisurely...

To help cope with the doldrums and all of the gray, we prepared months ago.
We canned, jammed, chutneyed, dehydrated and froze up a whole rainbow to sink our teeth into.

Well, when I say "we" I should say Bootsy, with me as a helper.
By helping I mean I just did whatever she told me to do. 
We picked in the fields together, and I helped prep fruit, got jars and made labels,
but the bulk of the hot steamy work is all on her,
and oh how very much we appreciate her loving labor!

This cobbler just TASTES like late August sunshine...
loaded with local peaches picked at their prime.

Once you make one cobbler, what the heck, you may as well make a few more!
Cobblers are super easy to freeze in the recyclable aluminum tins,
and they slide right into a gallon size ziploc freezer bag. 
They reheat quite well, too.    

The closest approximation to the recipe is in the book Rustic Fruit Desserts - adapted from the 'sour cherry cobbler' recipe on p. 23.  Bootsy always takes some creative license and has fun making her own cobbler shapes, as you can see here.  I highly recommend the book.  If you've ever wondered what the heck a brown betty or pandowdy is, or about the difference between a crumble and a slump -- look no further! 


for Lesley Jane, wherever this may find her...

a perfect little hobbit hole

The remnants of a tree in the Sapsucker woods...
a craggy wooden Stonehenge.

Top ring, courtesy of L.J., from Jose's, Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts...

Thanks L.J.!!!!  Happy New Year!  We love you!!!


Behold, the 'chicken cam!'

In case you had any doubts about just how chicken crazy we are around here...
Let me confirm it once and for all with the chicken cam!

Technically, it's a 'baby monitor' with video and voice capabilities. 
It works like a charm, as you can see here: my sweet little Dominique is getting her wings tucked in and ready for her beauty rest.

We ran a reallllly long extension cord out to the coop and plugged the camera in, which is able to span wide enough to capture everything we care to see:  the perch where the girls roost at night, their nesting boxes, and the little chicken door where they walk in and out of the coop. 

We're not *so* crazy that we have it on all the time, but we do check periodically to see who's in which nesting box.  That is the secret to how we've managed to figure out which eggs belong to which little lady.

Mostly I keep the camera by my bedside so that if we hear foxes or coyotes howling at night we can activate the camera to make sure the ladies are resting peacefully, and then we sleep better ourselves.  In the summer we used to bolt out of bed and run outside in a panic when we heard the coyotes, hearts racing...  we knew we wouldn't want to do that in the winter months, and it just makes it easier overall. 

But my favorite thing about the chicken camera is being able to hear the girls coo at night.
Their coos are the loveliest little sounds, almost like a gentle singing purr. 
Most likely we never would have gotten to hear their sweet sounds otherwise. 

Once in awhile we jokingly immitate the Waltons goodnight calls:
'Goodnight Dommy, Goodnight Buffy, Goodnight Jersey...
Goodnight Brahmy, Goodnight Commy, Goodnight Lorpy, Goodnight Specky!!!'

(Crazy chicken mamas!)


a perfect day in the coop looks like this:

from the 12:00 position going clockwise:  buff orpington, australorp, dominique, brahma, golden comet, jersey giant, 
and americauna in the center. 

This is the first time this has ever happened for us new chicken mamas! 
A complete set of eggs!

And the even more amazing thing is that this perfect laying day
just happened two days ago, which in Ithaca was the coldest day of the winter season so far.

This is amazing because:
- without at least 15 hours of daylight,
hens are supposed to have signficantly reduced production,
(and we don't light our coop to 'trick' them into laying.) 
- cold weather further reduces production...

With just about 9 hours of daylight and temperatures hovering in the single digits,
we had everything working against us.
Yet, look at those 7 beautiful eggs from our 7 sweet hens! 

Anthropomorphizing is one of my favorite past-times,
so I think the girls got together and each decided to lay an egg
because they want us to still believe in miracles.

And in my book, this is nothing short of a miracle
of the gallus gallus domesticus variety.

Thanks, girls!!!


chickens everywhere

The chickens are invading the house!

If we keep going at this rate, there might be signs of the chickens
in every nook and cranny of our lives.

Here are some knitting needles I got for my sweetie...
Hand-painted birch needles, with chickens, of course!

The white hen looks like our Brahma, who is definitely our loudest squawker --
seen above with beak wide open, as we often find her in the yard, squawking about her egg.
(She has the right to boast, since she is our double-yolk layer, after all!)

If you fancy these awesome needles as much as we do,
you can get them from Twin Birch Products
 Scroll almost down to the bottom of their page and you'll find them. 


a fun fix for worn-out mittens

I have a tendency to wear through the thumb area on my mittens...
So my little lady came up with a funky, easy fix for my mitties...

Of course there are the 'traditional' ways to repair mittens,
but let's face it...  not much that she does is traditional!

She decided to give my thumbs a padding patch job of sorts...
I guess you could call them thumb hats,
or maybe more appropriately thumb scarves or 'gators'
 but no matter what you call them, they're fun and silly
and make me smile every time I put them on. 

Plus she surprised me with some other lovely additions,
like the heart stitched in the middle and the little red stitching around the cuff. 
Every time I give them to her for repairs, they come back funkier and funkier. 
I can only imagine what they will look like in a few more years. 

The good news is now I can wear my favorite mittens longer and longer!

The blueish purple makes me think of the little Jack Horner rhyme...
It looks like I've stuck my thumb in a blueberry or plum pie,
something that I could definitely do when no one is looking. 

If you'd like to try a similar patch job at home
all you have to do is knit a little strip
as wide and long enough as you need to wrap around your mitten thumb. 
Then simply sew the strip onto your mitten. 


all of our eggs in one basket

I love this antique basket that Sasha and Anja gave us recently. 
The wings go up and look like they're flying while also serving as a handle,
and when you spread/open the wings,
the basket entry opens up to put the precious eggs in... 

Despite the cold weather and short winter days,
(and our decision to not put artificial lighting in our coop),
we've still been getting an average of 4-5 eggs per day from our 7 hens!

For those of you wondering about egg storage, we follow the European custom:
We do not wash our eggs, nor do we refrigerate them.

The chickens leave a naturally protective coating on their eggs,
 a thin membrance called 'bloom.'
The bloom seals the porous egg shell, ingeniously keeping out bacteria, etc.
Washing eggs destroys the bloom. 
Over-handling can also wear away the bloom,
but if you handle your eggs minimally,
the bloom should stay intact. 

Some people leave their eggs unwashed (i.e. bloom intact)
but place their eggs in the refrigerator for extra peace of mind...

We love to look at our beautiful eggs all the time,
so we leave them out on the counter.

We've never ever gotten sick from our eggs,
even after eating raw eggs in cookie dough and other batters.

(Yes, we are wild women...
We are living on the edge!)

Eggs from any American store have been washed
and are generally coated with mineral oil (i.e. petroleum derivative, ewww!!!!)
to 're-seal' the shell. 

We figure, why mess with nature's perfect system? 
Seems to me salmonella is far more likely to infect an egg
that has been made vulnerable by washing and re-coating.

A cracked egg is a different story, of course, and should be used immediately. 
We tend to give these rare cracked eggs to our dogs, who lop them up with glee! 


a little breakfast story

oh me oh my!
holy @#$% egg!!!

Well I do declare,
I bet there's a double yolker in there!!!

Did this egg come forth from the heavens?

We reveled in wonderment and awe

It was the biggest egg we ever saw!


A splendid egg,


A work of art,
we agreed.


How, oh how
 could we eat such a thing?

An egg is so incredible
but it's also very edible


We looked and we looked.
We hemmed and we hawed
and at long last
our heads we did nod.


With a tap and a crack
a plop and a sizzle
the biggest, most beautiful egg
 went into the hot griddle


You gave a yelp
and out I called!

Well shucks! and gosh darn it!
There WAS a double yolker in there after all!!!