Saturday, February 25, 2012

first blooms and bunnies

A hint of spring is suddenly in the air!
My little one and I took our bikes to the garden shop yesterday and the sun felt so unusually warm on our backs.
This morning we took a little walk in the forest and it was so warm that we soon were shedding our coats! The boys stopped for a while to admire a giant forest tractor and I took that quiet moment to listen to two woodpeckers knocking and tapping in a bird dialogue and the cheerful chirping of other birds in the background.
I know it's still winter but we're on our way to a warmer season. A few little purple crocuses have popped up overnight in our lawn.
I have designed and sewn up a few linen bags for children and put them in my shop - so sweet for spring and Easter.
To find out more about the Phoebe, Hannah and Olivia bags, just click on their names!

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

unmasked / winter sunshine

"Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born."
Anais Nin
The carnival season is now officially ended - better known as Mardi Gras in many parts of the world – it is a very popular event here along the Rhine river. For almost a week people dress up in colorful costumes and masks, children get several days off school, towns host long parades of humorous, satirical and candy-throwing floats. Nearly every one celebrates like crazy until the whole thing ends on Ash Wednesday when the time of fasting and sobriety has arrived.

But while it lasts the festivity in the air is contagious and especially when the sun is giving a warm glow to these barren winter days. And who can not love a four-day weekend! It makes for a great chance to have visitors and we were totally spoiled with two different families coming and spending time with us. It is amazing to see friends from college after many years and a pleasure to get to know their children who are not just babies anymore but are growing up into clever big boys and mature teens. We took our friends to a nearby city and strolled along the river promenades of Koblenz, and we meandered along the pretty cobblestone paths through the classical old city, all the time enjoying the masked and costumed figures roaming the streets and the music and drums of the parade in the background. We stopped in at a fancy cafe for child's idea of heaven and splurged on elaborate cakes and hot chocolate that was served with a mountain of whipped cream in tiny silver stands.

But if that is not enough treats for one long weekend, another dear old friend from my college days came by after the first visitors left and brought us this delicious apple-wine cake that she baked herself (hoping to get that recipe!!). I feel so grateful to have time with special people who live far away. In a few hours of much chatting it seems that illumination occurs. It is sunshine to be able to simply let down the layers of masks that seem to accumulate over time.
"But friendship is precious, not only in the shade, but in the sunshine of life, and thanks to a benevolent arrangement the greater part of life is sunshine."
 Thomas Jefferson

PS pretty Tilda angel I sewed a few years ago....

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Vanilla-Yogurt Pound Cake

 My daughter baked this for us last week and I meant to blog about it right away, but then thought I would save it for Valentine's day, since she used the heart cake pan. The recipe is from her new book "Veganomicon" that I mentioned recently. Very moist and very delicious! Can you believe this has no eggs or butter or cream? I can't! But as objectively as possible I want to point out that this girl has a special baking talent. :)

We have tried out so many recipes from this book already  - last night we had the Spinach Noodle Kugel and Lentil Salad with Sunshine Pineapple & Carrot Spice Muffins for dessert. I spent hours in the kitchen! Some days my vegan daughter has to suffer with our non-vegan meal and be happy with toast and peanut-butter. I'm not a restaurant. But I want each family member to have a chance to have something they request, even better when they are really involved with preparation. The Spinach Kugel was so delicious! My littlest son hates spinach but was able to eat a whole slice thinking it was herbs. (sigh....I admit that for good intentions I do lie to my children sometimes!) I'm sure I will bake it again. (What I really liked about it was that it was satisfying but not heavy)
I'm not really a big Valentine's Day person. I know I'm not going to get any flowers or notes from my kids or husband. It's not really celebrated in Germany and my hazy childhood memory of all classmates giving and receiving little paper Valentines is tinged with a slight feeling of insincerity. Those little boxed card sets did have a wonderful stationary scent though. I still love cutting out little paper cards and notes! 

I think in the end, it is better to simply show our love to others in sincere little gestures, acts or words. Every day. 


PS But why not bake a heart-shaped cake anyway!

Friday, February 10, 2012

nature's canvas

After so many freezing days we finally got snow here. I think we were the last little spot in all Europe to finally see something white. We did have so many days of clear skies and sun  - I'm not complaining - but the world covered in sparkling glitter is even nicer!
The first thing that must be done when the yard is transformed into a new landscape is to plow some new paths for the tractor and trailer. Especially when the snow is too dry and flaky for a snowman.
The curious kitties seem to find the snow as invigorating as the children. I think they like flaunting their trails of paw prints to give us a hint of their secret excursions.

Snow is sort of like nature's blank canvas that we quickly fill up with fleeting marks of our activity.
I love the juxtaposition of textures here - the cottony snow on a piece of rough firewood.

Beauty is where you find it and I am linking my middle photo here because I am having a lot of fun playing along with this challenge this year!  


Monday, February 6, 2012

three cookbooks

The past week has been so glorious with its clear blue skies and beautiful sun. I'm happy to trade the warm overcast days that ruled most of January for this ice-cold Siberian front (even though that bright light and cold air made me rather headache-y for a couple days) On the first day of sunshine last week I bundled up in my coat and thick turtleneck and mittens, took my one cup of hot coffee outside to the picnic table, sat there on a sheepskin fur and soaked up a few rays. The ground was slightly frozen but what did I see there shining her face on me? A tiny daisy -  basking in the sun as well.

Alas that little lawn daisy (bellis perennis, my personal little symbol of beauty and modesty and courage) has not survived the days of frigid temperatures that have followed. But I know she'll be back!

So I mentioned recently that I had cut back my coffee and since the weekend I have actually stopped altogether. I feel so great because I feel so un-addicted! And secondly, I think I was just over-doing it and feeling rather jittery. This photo is from last week and I am so excited that I captured that pretty swirl. Hope you're not tired of seeing my Ikea Christmas* napkins and polka-dot Greengate latte cup because I'm certainly not!

*actually, I think these are WINTER napkins because of the lovely Scandinavian pattern, but they are sold at Christmastime. I'm glad we haven't quite used them up yet!

On the other hand, we are looking towards spring already!

Which - thinking of new lovely green things growing - brings me to the subject of vegetables and that brings me to the topic of this post - cookbooks. My daughter's month of eating vegan is not over yet and she even used some of the Christmas money from her godfather to buy a vegan cookbook! Which it turns out I am devouring. I've even been watching internet cooking videos, which made me realize I say  "vay-gan" while the authors say "vee-gan". (How do you say it? Am i forgetting English?) I can hardly pronounce the title of my daughter's new cook book "Veganomicon". SHE thinks we should pronounce the "g" soft as in the word "vegetable". When she says "Veganomicon" she sounds like she's speaking an exotic foreign language and it also sounds very delicious!
The book is beautiful and hip and I'm fascinated by it. I truly am enjoying introducing more vegan to our family meals.

However, I have to add that after several vegan dinners we had a pizza one night that was loaded with cheese and, for the two die-hard meat-eaters in the family, plenty of salami. (Daughter was away with her school orchestra - I just would have felt kind of cruel eating that in front of her). My husband and boys were just oohing over the pizza, asking what I had added different this time. But I hadn't done anything different, it was just the few days of less dairy and meat that made us appreciate it more. So dear Gorgonzola, Mozzerella, Gouda & Gruyere (and all of your cousins)...I'm not going anywhere...absence makes the heart grow fonder!

The last cookbook I purchased was completely on another wavelength (but mothers and daughters should be that to an extent, don't you think). It was "The Farmchicks in the Kitchen"-   full of lovely pretty pictures and recipes. But not exactly high up on the scale of healthy and not really groundbreaking in ethical issues. As I can attest to, the recipe for the cinnamon rolls is perfect. Being happy is a part of being healthy, right?! My only small criticism is that one or two recipes call for ingredients that are found in American supermarkets, but for the most part, this a delightful book. It is actually much more than a cookbook, there are dozens of little uplifting stories and anecdote about the authors and their antiques business which are really fun to read. And there are lots of little kitchen craft projects too. I would not mind it if next year Santa brought me their Christmas book....
The third cookbook I thought I would mention today is actually an author that my mom discovered. This fabulous lady is Mireille Guiliano, a Frenchwoman living in New York. Since then I've purchased almost all of her books. Her French emphasis on using fresh seasonal produce is not really just French but European  - very similar to what I have learned from living in Germany. I admire her common sense attitude  - delicious healthy food, normal portions, occasional weekends or days of light eating. I consistently return to her books. She's just fun to read and has a great website, too. 
She's all about enjoying chocolate and champagne, too. I think it is funny that  there is a red wine stain on this book, which occurred in an airplane somewhere over the Rocky Mountains. Probably some dark chocolate stains somewhere too!
Somehow, I think my mom picked out the best cookbooks of all.
Hope you are inspired to make something delicious & healthy this week! 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

happy frosty things

Little things that made me happy this frosty February week:

My 6-year old looking at his breath outside in the cold and asking me, "Can you make clouds too?"

Standing in a sunny spot in the garden and feeling the sun's warmth on my back despite the subzero temperatures.

The clear blue sky and longer days.

Having a childless Sunday for just my husband and me. The house absolutely quiet except for the crackling of the fire. Walking together through the icy forest, quietly, just listening to the birds and the leaves rustling underfoot, trickling water under frozen streams, holding hands through thick mittens.

Thinking about maybe...maybe...signing up for a beginner's Italian class. Maybe.

Enjoying my friend's new blog and her frosty decorations in Finland.

While walking in the cold forest suddenly thinking about the movie we watched with our children on Christmas Eve, a wonderful tale of Santa Claus which was filmed in Lapland.  Reflecting on something I heard this morning that we can have the love and light of Christmas in our hearts all year round.

Making a couple new treasury lists on Etsy and finding new favorites in that steamy jungle of lovely things! I have not yet figured out how to post them on my blog but I have found so many pretty things. Please take a look all the gorgeous things I've found in my two latest treasuries here and here. Enjoy!

And finally, adding some new pretty patchwork tote bags to my shop.
 Happy Sunday! 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

photo challenge 4/2012

beauty is where you find it
today's theme is "TWO"
I grabbed my camera and went to my craft table
balls of yarn everywhere from the projects I am working on right now
(mobiles and garlands of course)
aren't they pretty in the morning sun?