Monday, September 28, 2009
At the lake, September was always the time to close the cottage for the winter. Overhead flocks of migrating geese would honk their way down the lake, as the grown-ups busied themselves shutting off the water and taking in the boat dock. We kids had other things on our minds. We carefully raked, and laid out the rooms of leaf houses. Later in the day, we piled the leaves into high stacks - just right for running leaps and jumps, or for playing hide and seek. When it got close to dark, my father would rake it all together and set it alight. Together we would watch as fragrant burnt leaf offerings made their way into the night sky.
In town, we kids skipped down the side walks of tree-named streets: Oak, Chestnut, Elm and Maple. Our eyes were ever on the lookout for that perfect leaf specimen, to pin onto Mrs. Collins’ bulletin board. My secret retreat in those early years was the ancient grape arbor at the back of the house. Tucked under its leafy blanket, the scent of ripening grapes foretold the coming harvest, and I would dream of carefree days of apple orchards, homemade cider and moonlit hayrides.
Many leaves later, I am still at it. Each autumn a leaf-longing overtakes me. I keep watch for the first leaves drifting to earth, always searching for that special one.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Once upon a time, long, long ago, before duvets, comforters, eiderdown, and doonas, there was “National Blanket Week.”
My undercover work has revealed the following information: National Blanket Week was a fall promotion of the Nashua Manufacturing Company, of Nashua, New Hampshire. This company which operated from 1823 to 1945, was once the largest maker of woolen blankets in the world.
Do you have a favorite blanky or blanket story?
Here is my personal list of blanket honorees:
- A baby blanket – one pink for my daughter, and one blue for my son;
- A blanket of leaves – a Technicolor gift from of Mother Nature;
- A beach blanket – packed in the car, always at the ready;
- Beach Blanket Bingo - see Annette and Frankie on this Youtube clip;
- An electric blanket – invented in 1936, comes in handy during Northern winters;
- A blanket of flowers – à la Carmel Valley style;
- A blanket for flowers – the impoverished 17th century Dutch tulip grower who covered his precious plants with his only blanket;
- A picnic blanket – ‘thee and me’ alfresco dining anytime and anywhere;
- A horse blanket – a staple of the stable on Mornington Peninsula;
- A doggie blanket – dogs need blankys too;
- A blanket of snow –a fluffy white cover;
- A pig in a blanket- retro kids’ cuisine;
- A security blanket – everyone needs one these days;
- Blanket Bay Lodge in New Zealand – in my dreams;
- A blanket fort - over the clothesline at the cottage;
- A blanket of fog – toujours in Carmel-by-the-Sea;
- A blank(et) check - nice work if you can get it;
- A tartan blanket - plaids and tartans were a specialty of a great-grandfather, who worked in the mills as a weaver;
- A Native American blanket - the Navajo blanket my grandparents received a as a gift on their wedding day and now hanging on my wall;
- A boy named Blanket – thankfully not named “Blanky.”
Never having had my own “blanky”, I have been making up for lost time. From the size of my collection, it would appear that I suffer from princess-in-the-pea – or “a gal can never have too many blankets” syndrome. It all began with blankets of the heavy woolen Scottish plaid stadium variety. My latest additions are vintage plaid woolen blankets, stacks of which I found orphaned in Australian op-shops.
The quality and pastel plaids of these lambs wool or Merino sheep blankets are similar to their Welsh cousins, and less costly at around $10 each.
I recently re-established contact with an old acquaintance from my NYC Pier Antiques Show days. Always very gracious and complimentary when she would visit my booth, Laura Fisher is one of the premier New York antique dealers specializing in exquisite antique textiles, including vintage blankets. You might have read one of her many books on quilts, or seen her on Martha. She has a new space called Fisher Heritage at 305 East 61st street, NYC. Long a blanket collector, her current stock includes antique red plaid and checkerboard patterned woolens, and homespuns. She also handles colorful and whimsical Beacon blankets. Here are a few of my favorites:
(The following three images of Beacon Blankets, Courtesy of Laura Fisher, Fisher Heritage)
Snug as a bug,
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Season after season at Earthbound they serve up a bounty of organic produce and related activities for all. This includes “chef walks”, like a recent foray through the fields lead by an Indian curry chef from near-by Quail Lodge. Regular “bug walks” find children buzzing about, and releasing helpful ladybugs into the Farm’s environment.
At the entrance: A burro pulling a tractor, or is it vice-versa?
Fifties-era metal outdoor chair with a tufted cushion of assorted grasses.
You say tomato, I say tomatoe. Either way, it’s heirloom and it’s delicious!
All the usual suspects are in the herb garden. The line-up also includes some lesser known relatives: Hi Ho Silver Thyme, PA Dutch Tea Thyme, Spanish Tarragon, Red Rubin Basil, Kentucky Colonel Mint, and too many others to mention.
Snip your own! More folksy, than Madison Avenue, the signage is simple and colorful. It tempts the palate and the eye.
A blooming business in sunflowers and artichoke florets.
Savor the seasons and protect the earth’s bounty,
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Our first stop is the fabled Big Sur Inn, the thirties-era creation of the eccentric Helmut Deetjen and his wife Helen. This historic compound of cabins and a café/restaurant is nestled in Castro Canyon. The overall rustic style is reminiscent of Deetjen’s native Norway. Both the architecture and surrounding landscape feature imaginative and funky found elements.
Welcome to the heart of Big Sur Bohemia.
This lounge chair carved from a tree trunk has a natural elegance.
“Kitty please come home!”
A psychedelic collage of jewel-like mosaic pieces on the wall of the old laundry shed.
The bleached vertebra of a whale found on a near-by beach is given new life as a garden ornament.
A literary corner in the cozy interior of the café decorated with memorabilia- vintage photographs, manuscripts and a sculpture bust, honors two contemporaries: the poet, Robinson Jeffers and Deetjen.
(To be continued...)
Sur la route,
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Ironically, I was raised in a family of good bakers. Each fall and winter, Aunt Margaret’s Vermont kitchen would be full of the scent of her homemade donuts. Grandma Goodrich was queen of the pies; and one year she taught me the tricks of the trade. The result of our first collaboration, miniature sour cherry pies, was the gourmet hit of the church Strawberry Festival. Grandpa Goodrich, on special occasions, would channel his French/Canadian ancestry, and serve up his famous crepes. Aunt Lois, a Southerner, introduced me to the delights of Sally Lunn bread and seven layer cake. However, no one in our family baked bread until along came “moi.”
Once a week, the children and I would take down the big yellow mixing bowl, flour-up, and produce four loaves of bread. The hands-on favorite was Challah or Sabbath loaf (House and Garden’s New Cookbook, p.257). My little apprentices became expert at punching down the giant yeast puffball, and braiding the three pieces of dough into exquisitely tressed creations. Sometimes, just to put a little pizzazz into our routine, we would add raisins and a topping of sugar glaze, or grated cheese. I even attempted, and mastered Julia’s French baguette recipe.
When we went to live in Europe, I hung up my apron because there was so much good local bread to be found. How could I possibly compete with the brot from the bakkerijs in Belgium, or the pain from the boulangeries in France and Switzerland! When in Paris, we would always beat a path to Poilâne on Cherche-Midi, for some of the best rustic loaves and apple tarts ever. Back home in Belgium, we discovered that the same local monasteries so praised for their beer, also made heavenly bread.
European style bread-making has even come to my hometown in Upstate New York. The new kid on the block is Dustin Cutler, whose shop, Normal Bread, is located at 111 Washington Street, Geneva, NY. Dustin apprenticed to Richard Rice at the North Head Bakery in Grand Manan, New Brunswick, and has been in his present location for two years. He uses only 100% organic flour, and almost no sugar or oils. The bread is fermented overnight, and then baked in a four deck steam tube oven.
Et voilà, out comes his crusty signature Levain de pâte and assorted other breads. (Photos courtesy of Doug Reilly/Dandelion Empire.)
Bread culture and history is celebrated around the globe. For a list of bread museums, see http://foodhistorynews.com/directory.html. (Use the search term "bread" under Food Museums.)
It’s a Wonder-ful World,