Wednesday, September 27, 2006

vinegars and hot pepper jelly

Getting ready to put out the next issue means actually testing out some of the items to go into the magazine

There are probably 100 crafts, recipes, and ideas to use for the holidays in this issue.  We can't do them all, but we attempt a good many. 

Two of them are herbal vinegars and hot pepper jelly. I've eaten hot pepper jelly before and really do love it with cream cheese on crackers. Considering that the garden is spewing hot peppers faster than I can string them onto ristras, it seemed like there needed to be other things done with them. 

We made a dozen jars of the jelly, and had another larger jar that we'll probably serve this coming Friday night at the weekly family dinner. The Pink vinegar is a lovely opal basil vinegar with a touch of garlic and thyme. It came out beautifully, and I might need to make some more. 

The other is "Red Hot Rosemary" vinegar, suggested by Mary Ellen Wilcox. Not finished yet is "Scarborough Faire", with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. It is steeping now, and in a few days I'll bottle it and add the herb garnish. 

Here's a delicious recipe using Hot Pepper Vinegar: Garlic Chicken
2 lbs. Boneless chicken breasts
½ c hot pepper vinegar
2 T vegetable oil
2 T honey
15 (yes…15) cloves of garlic, peeled and split
1 oz. soy sauce
Wash chicken and cut in half.
Brown in vegetable oil in a heavy skillet.
Add garlic and cook a little longer, until browned.
Add remaining ingredients and cook over medium heat until chicken is done and glazed with sauce. Turn chicken several times while cooking.Delicious!

All this fun in the kitchen isn't enough to keep us from our regular chores. The still has been in regular use because frosty weather is breathing down my neck, threatening to destroy all the botanicals that need to be distilled, and Maryanne's soap business is in high gear with all of her wholesale customers starting to place orders for the holiday season. Even so, around about Saturday, I'll be seriously focused on finalizing the magazine. It is going to be the best holiday issue ever... and it will also finish up 5 whole years!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


The Fall is upon us, and there is so much more to do than I remember from years past. Lately I've been helping Maryanne catch up with her soap business. It has been growing by leaps and bounds (most likely because it is such wonderful stuff), and we went from making 2 batches a day to 4, and now 6. We work so smoothly together, and have this great work-shop to do it in that it goes very well. The picture of the workshop shows the yellow delicious apple tree that is begging me to find time to make applesauce and apple butter. There is the gourd trellis where the gourds are drying, and you can make out part of the garden.
Of course there is the still that calls me constantly too. On an evening walk, we gathered enough plantain to try tomorrow. There are all the sages, the basils, the mint, and the evergreens. Next year there will be many more things to try.
Right now I'm also making vinegars - mostly hot pepper and opal basil. The peppers also need to be made into jelly. If it seems like I'm complaining, that is not the case. I'm THRILLED! A little scared too - lol. The next magazine deadline is this coming Saturday, and it is the holiday issue AND the issue where we do lots of product/book reviews. There are a lot of little things I need to do beforehand. All fun.

Another thing we discovered during a walk the other day was this Rusty Black Haw tree. The berries have a large pit, turn black, and the one I tasted reminded me of dried plum. Not bad, a little bland, but it is always interesting to find new edible plants somewhere that you've been walking past for years and not noticing. There are so many wonderful edible plants around here. With the recent scare caused by E. Coli bacteria in cultivated spinach, I'm pleased to have and know so many wild greens. I'm thinking about sewing some spinach right quick since it might be the right weather for it now.

Lastly, while making deliveries the other day, we saw this little display outside a roadside stand. Those corn wreaths were eye catching and colorful, and the pumpkins and gourds were a sure sign that summer is officially over.

So that night I pulled the watermelon and squash vines. Just waiting for the beans to finish drying. Soon, very soon, I'll be planning next year's garden - and it is going to be a doozy!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Wooly Bears and the Weather

The Wooly Bear Caterpillars are out in force, marching from one field to the next. The first place they usually catch my eye is crossing country roads. This year I've also been seeing lots of them in my yard and garden.
Here's the thing... there isn't a bit of black banding. That would mean an extremely mild winter. In a day or so, I'll take the camera out on a wooly bear safari and see if I can capture the likenesses of a bunch of them so we can compare.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Meet my friend Laura Daniel (remember that name)

Back in the days of the Renaissance Faire, my sister and I became good friends with Laura. She moved to New York, and for years we've stayed in daily contact - thanks to the computer. I've been vicariously riding the rollercoaster of auditions, headshots, gigs, and classes right along with her.
Her most recent part is that of the Singing Nun in "The Tragic and Horrible Life of The Singing Nun".
The play is a short run, ending next Friday, but the reviews have been great. I'm hoping this one goes to Broadway, and takes Laura along.
Anyhow... I'm pretty proud of my friend. She has never, ever stopped following her dream. The day will soon arrive that she will be called an overnight success. She should have been.
Back to our regularly scheduled herb stuff :-).

Monday, September 11, 2006

Colonial Day in East Berlin

This past Saturday we spent as vendors at Colonial Day in East Berlin.
As always, vending at a show is interesting.
To begin with, we needed to be costumed. Knowing about this show since May, you'd really think that we could have had that all worked out by now, but no. We procrastinated until last week. We decided to try the costume shop at Millersville University - where they have 11,000 costumes. We went to check it out. Well... the admissions office didn't seem to know it existed until we googled it on their computer. We had to ring a doorbell to enter the building (??? at a college ???), and then the 7 or 8 people working there were WAY too busy talking to offer us any assistance. We left - but not before Molly got to try on some of the hats. She really wanted a hoop skirt. Costumes rent for about $50/week, for those who don't mind wading through thousands of costumes on racks that are out of order - without any help, of course. If I seem a tad miffed, it is because I am.
We just got out some old ren faire stuff, made a couple of aprons, and pulled it off.
The morning of the show, we woke (at 4) to some very thick fog. In fact, a few miles out we missed a turn, but realized it quickly. The trip there was a little frightening, and daybreak didn't change it much. The fog hung around until at least 9.
Although we got there a full hour before the start of the show, the streets were already filled with shoppers. That was a little weird.
We got ourselves set up, and met our neighbors - a wood-carver, and a lady that painted pots. Both very nice, btw.
The first half of the day, sales were decent and we were approached by several other festival organizers and some wholesale acct. possibilities.
By noon, the crowd started to dwindle, and it got pretty dull.
We had forgotten to bring anything to sit on, and somehow I managed to fall on some loose stones behind the booth. Every joint in my body started to stiffen up painfully, but eventually one of the organizers found us a couple of chairs (bless her!).
This festival is juried. In the last few years, the whole town has understandably started to join in the effort. But that means that there is no real meaning to the juried portion of the show. Right outside of the bounds of the juried section, a man sat on his porch selling GREEN gourds that he'd cut holes in for birdhouses. Those will be rotten in a week! There were yardsales and white tents throughout the whole town. It diluted the festival for us.
Besides that, I've got a theory about arts and crafts festivals in our area... 30 years ago, there was ONE really great show held at F&M college each spring. It was wonderful, with real art, and fabulously unique crafts. I used to take off work to attend it. Since then, there have gotten to be so many of these things - most include MLM companies like Avon and Home Interiors, etc., that on any given weekend, one could find about 20 shows. Instead of paying a few bucks to set up, it now costs in the hundreds - but the return is much less. Maybe its time to do something different.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Blending Teas

My friend Rachel at is having a contest, and it involves a blog entry about her business. She wrote the following article for the September/October '05 issue of The Essential Herbal, so.... I'm IN!!! Here is a link to her blog if you'd like to join in.

How I Blend Teas by Rachel Johnston of

Originally when my first tea blends came into creation, I was wild about making teas that were not only tasty but provide a healthy beverage for people. So many times, herbal concoctions for health and wellness just tasted bland and brittle to my palate. Today, I am still very passionate about this aspect of blending, but have expanded my repertoire. When you visit, you will find an expansive selection of green, white and black tea varieties as well as herbals (often referred to as tisanes). My process for blending teas and scents is quite simple for the most part. Once a week and sometimes daily, I sit down and do a meditation to get different ideas. This way my mind is clear and focused and I am "in the now" of what I am doing. Fabulous ideas come to me in my sleep as well. After meditation, I sit down with all of the herbs and teas in my studio and begin choosing them on instinct. I rarely pair tastes together on purpose, but rather let Spirit guide me to the perfect combination. I have coined a term in my classes for this type of blending. I call it "blind blending" where I simply close my eyes and choose at will. This is one of the primary ways tea is blended here at As the teas and herbs are added, I smell each one and give thanks to the plant for being part of the blend. I also inhale the scent of each ingredient very deeply to get a sense of the essence or personality of each botanical. My sense of this part of the process is what one might call dry aromatherapy. Different herbs will evoke powerful feelings and memories and propel me towards the next ingredient to be added. When the blend is complete, I take a moment to give thanks to Spirit for guiding me. Then the blend is mixed thoroughly and I record my notes, thoughts and recipe in my tea blending book. We then begin taste testing which is my son’s favorite part! My son is also learning to blend teas and scents. At the ripe age of 13, he is proving to be quite a creative genius in the process. He lends his own unique style and insight and is a perfect addition to our growing company. We also make custom blends and scents as well. There are many wonderful companies that provide teas in the world. We like to think we do things differently through our creative process. This process and our commitment to outstanding customer service is what makes stand apart. Choosing tea and scent are both deeply personal choices for people. We recognize this and are always here to answer questions and to offer assistance anytime. We know that our clients have a choice where they purchase products and we value them for choosing us as a source for fulfilling their needs