Friday, November 28, 2008

Our little blooper

Earlier this week, Maryanne and I did a class on balms and salves. Unfortunately, we forgot a main ingredient. We were filming the class, and this is a tiny little portion - right when we discovered the missing item.Our audience turned out to be a very gracious group!

Thankful fun and a recipe

I'm just having a little fun today. It may be Black Friday elsewhere, but at The Essential Herbal, we don't usually have that experience. Soon it will be time to go down the hill to the shop and help people start their holidays.
I found this template that allows you to insert pictures at Ace Hardware of all places. In order to keep the picture, you have to do a print screen and then paste it into a photo editing program. Then save to your own file name. This isn't everyone. They only allowed for 6 - which coincidentally was the number of family faces that were handy. I'd love to find something outside in the snow with room to put all of the writers in. Stay tuned, we'll see. Anyway, the kids, a couple of siblings and me are here.
We had a pretty nice time. Normally the bird is done down at my sister's and I show up with some of the side dishes. One of the boys will bring dessert - but Maryanne really can't resist baking something or other. This year was different, and she did every single thing. I offered, but she said she'd do it. We just showed up to eat. And it was scrumptious!!! Beginning with the little loaves of pumpkin and nut breads and ending up with the pumpkin pie. Every morsel delicious. In fact, she picked up a jar of Harry & David's cranberry relish, and that was the perfect accompaniment.
We went around the table to talk about what makes us thankful. Some years that is harder than others. I forgot to say how thankful I am that my daughter has turned out to be such a fun person to be around, with goals and dreams - and the determination to pursue them. Mostly, we were all thankful that John (upper middle) is fighting liver disease with such humor and humility. It was unspoken, but as we lean on each other to get through this (sometimes dragging him, sometimes being dragged ourselves) we are all aware of how very glad we are to have each other.
The air here is starting to fill with the scent of pines, spruces and firs. Some of the really huge trees that lined the back of my yard have been offered up, so there will be more space for planting next spring. When I told Bob that I needed the room for gardening, he looked bewildered. There is a 1/4 acre garden he leaves unplanted so that I can put in whatever I want! But that gets plowed each spring (thankfully!). Perennials can't go there. The fruit bushes and trees that I've been gathering are nestled strategically up to the split rail fence, and there really isn't any more space.
So 2 or 3 people have gotten enormous (20' ?) trees for the same price as the 7 or 8 ' trees - $30. They will get home with their prizes, and not get in the door. I don't know who they are really, but imagine them as new dads bringing home their baby's first tree. I make up a lot of stories while watching people search for the perfect tree from this office window. That's almost the best part.

If you've read along this far, you deserve a little treat. Maryanne made up a couple of batches of the following cupcakes in the last few weeks. It is sort of a regional thing - shoofly pies - made into cupcakes. Shoofly is second only to pumpkin for me. It's a perfect blend of pie/cake/pastry/crumb topping. The cupcakes don't have the gooey bottom, but they have every bit of the flavor and some of the crumbs. There is nothing, and I mean NOTHING healthy about them.

Shoo-fly Cupcakes
Dry Ingredients:
2-1/2 C. Flour
1-1/2 C. brown sugar
1 t. baking powder
1/2 C. shortening
Wet Ingredients:
1-1/2 C. hot water
1 C. brown sugar
1 t. baking soda
Pre heat oven to 350 F. and line cupcake pan with paper cups. Mix dry ingredients until it forms "crumbs". Save out 1/2 C. of thecrumbs for topping. Mix wet ingredients and then add to the remaining dry ingredients. Mix until well blended and creamy. Fill cupcakes about 1/3-1/2 full, top with crumbs, about 1 t. per cupcake. Bake 15-20 minutes.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Radiant Artisan Festival

Yesterday was the artisan festival at Radiance. The yoga/dance studio was opened up for artists. This was not a crafter's venue. Sarah and Kara brought in artists. I was included with the magazine and books, and Maryanne participated with her torch, demonstrating lampworked beadmaking. The Lancaster newspaper was there and here is their report.
Sarah and Nikki...Maryanne getting her "hot head" torch ready for demos...Some of her finished pieces laid out for perusal......
Some of the other artists are busily setting up....Getting down to the wire.....Finally chatting with neighbors and making sure the goodies that everyone brought along to share are ready to go...It was a lot of fun. Besides being the two year anniversary for Radiance, it also kicks off the holiday shopping season nicely. We saw a lot of friends there, and it seemed like everyone was among friends. I got to meet some of the other artists who have beautiful works in the shop, and have completely fallen in love with some of the works on the walls in the yoga room.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The coolest swap ever - homegrown

This is the second year that I've participated in a swap that is just incredibly creative and inspiring. Participants are to make things with what grows either in their gardens, or around them locally. Farmers markets may also be utilized as long as the pickin's are local. Both years it has been a giant swap with about 25 participants. We all try to do something original that nobody else will do. Last year I made lavender wands and itch-away spray. This year it was jewelweed soap and lemon-berry-balm tea. Here's my loot...

So, just to give you an idea of some of the homegrown stuff that went into these items, they included, aloe, rosemary, comfrey, lavender, lemon verbena, calendula, scuppernong grapes, rose petals, wild berries, gooseberries, pears, blueberries, apples, orange blossom honey, lemons, hops, mugwort, marjoram, mint, sheep milk, popcorn, sage, goat milk, cucumber, tomato, eggs, basil, beeswax, silk, kudzu, poppies, jewelweed, lemon balm, garlic and elderberries. Those were ALL the homegrown or home raised ingredients.

Want to know what was in there? Jellies, chutney, apple butter... a dream pillow, herbal body creams and lotions, milk bath, hair conditioner, tub tea, facial lotion, lip balm, herbal tea, and 11 different kinds of soap - all luscious and made by artisans.

That was spectacular. Now if I can just fight off my daughter and get to use some of it myself!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pink Sky at Night

I can't help it. The sky and the world outside is so amazing in the fall. All weekend we've been having some wild looking clouds, but this sucked me out the front door to snap a picture.
The Bradford pear tree in the yard can't decide whether to drop her leaves or not. Many of the ones that do hit the ground look like leather, dark and supple. I'd like to preserve some and make a wreath. But in the meantime, it is many, many colors and it is beautiful.
The people in the farm across the way collect and restore old farm equipment. I've come to enjoy watching what they bring home from heaven knows where, and the progress they make. That lends an interesting bit to this scene.
But the sky! Look at that! Earlier, there had been a gleaming streak of sun that escaped a cloud, and crashed into the willow down the road, and the tips of trees along the road. That caught my eye too. This ... was actually a bit deeper than you see here. The sky was swirling and full of pinks, purples, gray and black.

We had a full day of weighing soaping fats today. My hands are sore, so this is enough typing for now.

Upcoming Events for The Essential Herbal (Twisted Sisters)

There are a couple of fun things coming up, so I wanted to post in case you are in the area and can participate.

First, on Nov. 23rd in celebration of the 2nd anniversary of the shop opening, Radiance (9 W. Grant Street, Lancaster, PA 717-290-1517) will be having an artists' reception in the afternoon. We'll be there. I will have books to sign, and Maryanne is taking a "hothead" torch to do a lampworking demo! I love to celebrate with my friends and fellow business owners as milestones pass well. You won't want to miss it!

Next, on Nov. 25th at 6 pm, we'll be here:
Address:Annville Free Library 216 East Main Street Annville, PA 17003 Phone:(717) 867-1802
For a Salves & Balms class. Each participant will learn how to make these, how to infuse oils, and will take a salve and a lip balm home with them. The class is ridiculously reasonable... I believe it is under $10! Call today and reserve a space.

After that we will mostly be found in the Shop at Frog Hollow. That is unless those wily women at Main Street Mount Joy talk us into something.... Stay tuned.
A picture off the deck. I loved the play of light on the field w-a-a-a-y over the hill behind the distant silo.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Persimmon Cake

This fall I've been searching for a few things. Every year there are always a couple new plants that have me craning my neck as we careen around the countryside. Serviceberry, autumn olive, and wild persimmon are starring in the role this year.
Well! Last week our brother went into the hospital again, but because of his status on the transplant list he went to a different hospital. We were sort of pre-occupied on the trip home on Friday, and passed our road, managing to sort of get lost.

That's how we found the persimmons.

I popped them into the freezer to be sure they were sweet, and peeled and seeded them. Today I was going to make cookies and looked over some recipes on line, printing one off.
When I cleaned the persimmons, I kept some of the seeds. Each one had one seed. A couple had 2.
There I am in the kitchen, getting started. Ok. It calls for no sugar. That's odd. Both sugar and eggs are in the instructions, but they aren't listed in the recipe.
This is where we go "off road". I figure it is probably a cup of sugar. I only have 1/2 cup - but there is some brown sugar. Since they talk about "eggs", I figure there must be at least 2.
I also don't have any nutmeg. Oh hush. Here's the recipe I came up with, and it is delicious (cake batter is ready to go into the oven below - it's sort of stiff). Moist, dense, and spicy... yum! I would probably add 1 tsp of vanilla extract next time, and maybe a ripe banana or some ginger. Walnuts would be nice. Probably a tsp of salt, too. Either way, it is really good. We might need to get lost again. Looks like he'll be in a while, maybe I should just harvest and freeze!

Persimmon Cake
1/2 cup shortening (coconut oil is good)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup persimmon pulp
1 cup all purpose flour
2 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp crushed cardamom seeds

Grease an 8" x 8" baking dish. Set oven for 350.
Cream shortening in a mixing bowl with the sugars, beating well. Add eggs and persimmon, and mix well. Add dry ingredients slowly, and the spices, and mix until well blended (I used a mixer).
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until top is firm to the touch. Cake will be a medium brown.
Ummm...ummmm..mmmmmmmmmm. That's good stuff! Maryanne thinks cream cheese frosting would be perfect, while I think a little whipped cream would be nice. It isn't bad at all "chust so".

Saturday, November 01, 2008

peace, love, and incense

Today was the handmade incense and herbal bead extravaganza at Farm at Coventry. It was my first time visiting Susan Hess' home and business, and it was really a trip. It is very unfortunate that when, during the lunch break, I snuck out and wandered the grounds, the camera was inside. Such groovy gardens! There was blooming elderberry, some late(!!!) roses, brilliant rose hips, stunning bittersweet, vibrant sage, hops, nettles, mints... sigh... it was lovely.
And if that isn't enough, the ride there and back was equally intense. That part of the state is a patchwork of farms, often worked by horses and men together. Lots of gorgeous OLD stone homes and barns, fields full of bailed hay, just the kind of autumn ride you dream of but usually don't get around to taking. The trees were on fire.
After a light repast of Susan's home made biscotti and tea, the morning began. We made incense first because it is a little more involved than the beads. Note how tidy the table looks below. Soon it would be difficult to find the surface.The plan was to make frankincense and sandalwood incense - plain and simple. But during the discussion, almost all of us decided to add some powdered patchouli or rose petals. After all, this WAS a hippie love fest. Kathi even brought a tie-dyed water bottle. As a matter of fact, she also makes the most incredible reusable sandwich sacks and snack bags. Check them out at We had lunch at noon, and it was a delicious soup served with a nice rustic bread, butter, and wonderful, garlic-y pesto. It was leisurely and fun, and someone (forgive my fried brain, the names are mostly escaping me at the moment) brought in a gluten free pan of brownies that were FAR-OUT! Susan has promised to post the recipe on her blog (check out the blog-roll to find it)

It was a fun group to work with. The talk was relaxed and entertaining. There were a few times we forgot we were teaching, and the class was not under our control conversation turned to other things, and we all talked a little about our lives and things that had nothing to do with beads or incense. I LOVE when classes turn into a bunch of friends sitting around a table talking. Those are the best. And I have a sneaking suspicion that any class at Sue's house is more like a group of friends.

So even though we had three attendees from as far away as NY City, it was a day in the country, sitting in the farm kitchen while the chickens scratched in the garden and the cat watched us through the deep windows. It was heavenly. Thank you Sue!