This is the solstice, the still point of the sun, its cusp and midnight, the year’s threshold and unlocking, where the past lets go of and becomes the future; the place of caught breath, the door of a vanished house left ajar. - Margaret Atwood ”Shapechangers in Winter”
The trees around town have been breathtaking this week. Any window in my house looks out on another spectacular explosion of color...
This is why I adore fall. Well that and the cooler temperatures and of course, apple butter!
Yes indeed I made apple butter this week...LOTS of apple butter...and as I talked on Twitter about the amazing way the smell of baking apples permeated my house, several folks asked me to post my recipe...so here it is!
The recipe I use does make quite a lot...about 4 quarts...but feel free to cut it in half because I've done that in the past and it works fine. It is also usually a 2 day process so give yourself plenty of time. The first stage requires about 2 hours but the second takes all day...you'll only need to be stirring the butter occasionally though so it's not as bad as it sounds.
To start you'll need about 12 pounds of good apples, ones that are crisp and more toward the tart side but not sour. I like Winesaps, Arkansas Blacks, Cortlands, or Macintosh...but use whatever is available locally...and since you won't be peeling these, you'll need to get organic or wash your apples REALLY well with some kind of veggie soap.
Okay you now take your clean apples and core and quarter them and throw them in a big pot. I usually have to use two pots for this part as it's so many apples.
Next add some water to the cut up apples...fill the pot(s) about half way...bring this to a boil and then cover and simmer gently for 1 1/2 hours. Your apples will be nice and soft and your house will start to smell wonderful. You'll need to puree the apples, either in batches in your food processor, CAREFULLY because they are very hot, or use an immersion blender...one of the most useful kitchen gadgets I own. When you're done they'll look like this...
Now you add the yummy extras, for each cup of pulp you'll add 1/4 cup of brown sugar. Stir that all in and then to the whole batch add :
the grated rind and juice of 2 large or 3 small lemons
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cardamon seed (do this fresh if you can, it makes Such a difference)
1 cup port wine (yep, this is the secret ingredient shhhh)
...I know it sounds like the spice amounts are too small but trust me on this...
Now set this aside to cool.
The next day place 3/4 of the puree in a large oven proof pot and place it in a cold oven. Set to 325F degrees and bring the puree to a simmer. You'll want the pot to simmer all day and as the butter shrinks down you'll add more puree by the cup and stir it well. You may have to adjust the temperature up or down as the day goes by, you don't want a hard boil but you do want it to be evaporating the liquid out and turning into yummy apple butter. It will take time. This batch took about 6 hours, but I did all sorts of other things while it cooked merrily away and my house smelled incredible. One thing you need to do while this is cooking is get your jars, lids, and boiling water bath ready...so do that.
Once you've used up all the puree and it's cooked down to a nice thick consistency (if you're wooden spoon will stand up unsupported it's done!) then it's time to put it into clean sterile jars. Process your jars in a boiling water bath for 10 mins....and you'll have this...
...plus probably some extra to put in the fridge. A nice stash to remember Autumn all year...and enough to give as gifts too.
And since no post of mine should be without a doll, here's my latest Fall fairy with more of those gorgeous trees!
“...At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled
in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to
the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more
honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing
depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
Today welcomes Autumn, my favorite time of year. I think I simply exist through Summer, as may be noted by my lack of posts here, I hibernate away from the heat and humidity waiting for the crisp, tangy air of Fall.
Not that I've been completely slack lately, I actually did just post 10 small dolls and 2 pins to my Etsy shop. Once again vintage lace has found it's way onto a couple of the new ones. Like this little Goldilocks...
Here's Mary with her little Lamb, only my second attempt at needlefelting.
Of course with Halloween right around the corner I have to make some witches. I have a big one on the table and here's the first of the tinies...
And in honor of our "girls", who have been hard at work making us honey this summer, I made a couple of Bee Pixies.
So now that Autumn is here I expect to be back posting more regularly once more...see you again soon!
When last we met I gave you a sneak peek at the doll I was working on. It was another Little Red Riding Hood and here she is...
Red is already on her way to her new home, a fact which I have to admit makes me a tiny bit sad, I was so happy with how she turned out. But there's always a new doll on the table and I have a commission Snow White this size in the works so stay tuned to see how that turns out.
Let me introduce you to my newest Fae, Josephine the coffee fairy.
I've had coffee on my mind a lot lately. I've had to cut back to a very small cup (in my opinion anyway) due to stomach issues and it's been ridiculously hard! As one of my favorite authors says, "The voodoo priest and all his powders were as nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself." ~Mark Helprin, Memoir from Antproof Case, 1995
So you can see that of course it's not an easy task. ;)But Joe with her cuppa will have to do the coffee drinking for now. Doesn't she look comfortable hanging out, sipping some cafe in her favorite tree?
The other day I was talking to my sister on the phone and she said ”fabric speaks to you”. That really caught my attention; my first thought was, well that sounds kind of crazy..and my second was, but it’s absolutely true! That started me thinking about how I choose the fabrics for my dolls and I thought you might be interested in the process.
When I go fabric shopping I’m always on the lookout for the piece that seems to just call my name...one that I can not leave the store without buying. Sometimes the fabric will immediately inspire a doll to me...when I saw this piece I knew exactly what doll I was going to create with it.
It just shouts summer pixie, right?
Other times I will find one that I know I need but I just won’t “see” the doll for it yet. Eventually though it will be exactly what’s called for. I’ve had this little piece for ages, I loved it but never quite saw who it was for.
Then recently I came across it in my stash...while looking for something else...and knew right away that it was destined for an Alice. I mean look at those Wonderland-esque tea cups!
It’s not always as easy as those two examples though. Most of the time finding the perfect fabrics for a doll I have in my head is one of the hardest parts of the process. I’m actually kind of fanatical about it, it’s one of the only times I have to have complete quiet. I’ll start by just pulling out the boxes with the colors I think I’ll be using , but before long they’re all out and the room is covered in fabrics. Eventually, after trying many different permutations of color, I’ll come up with a few fabric groups that I think will work. Then I sit down and I guess “listen” to which ones really seem to speak for that doll. I know, kind of crazy, right? But it works for me! So how do you choose your materials?
And last I'll leave you with a bit of comic relief. This doesn't look like a comfy place to sleep to me...but of course it's right in the middle of all the action!
As a child Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales were not my favorites, I was much more drawn to the simplicities of Grimm and Perrault, but as an adult I found his strange complex tales much more interesting. Of course my appreciation for his lovely writing was engaged as well...
“Far out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very, very deep; so deep, indeed, that no cable could fathom it: many church steeples, piled one upon another, would not reach from the ground beneath to the surface of the water above. There dwell the Sea King and his subjects. We must not imagine that there is nothing at the bottom of the sea but bare yellow sand. No, indeed; the most singular flowers and plants grow there; the leaves and stems of which are so pliant, that the slightest agitation of the water causes them to stir as if they had life. Fishes, both large and small, glide between the branches, as birds fly among the trees here upon land. In the deepest spot of all, stands the castle of the Sea King. Its walls are built of coral, and the long, gothic windows are of the clearest amber. The roof is formed of shells, that open and close as the water flows over them. Their appearance is very beautiful, for in each lies a glittering pearl, which would be fit for the diadem of a queen.” - "The Little Mermaid" I've just added a couple of little mer-children to my Etsy shop...fresh from the briny deep via Mr. Andersen and me!
I want to say a big thank you to everyone for their support of my last post. I'm looking into some ways to make my tutorials into PDF files and to improve them so I can eventually make them available in my shop. A silver lining perhaps to the whole episode. Thanks to all my amazing readers here and at Facebook ...you all rock!
Today I had to make a decision that makes me very unhappy. I found a seller on Etsy who was selling dolls made from my dollhouse doll tutorials and even copying my individual designs. After I got over the shock, I realized I had to remove the tutorials from my blog. This was a really hard decision for me since I had originally put up these lessons for folks who couldn't afford to buy dolls, they were intended to be for personal use only. I thought that people would understand and abide by that but unfortunately it seems that I was naive. I can't tell you how sad this makes me since I love sharing my art, perhaps one day I'll find a way to do it again.
I've added something a little different to the shop this week...Postcards! For years now I've been making cards of some of my doll photos to send to friends and family and they've been telling me I should think about selling them, so I took a tiny step in that direction. I had a couple of sets of postcards professionally printed and I have to say I think they look gorgeous...but I may be a bit biased. There's a garden fairy set ...
and a set with storybook characters.
But we'll have to see how these do before I commit to having more made. In the meanwhile there's also a new bunny hanging out here at the Nest. She likes to have tea parties with the wooden bunnies...
and she loves the garden...which is lovely this time of year.
So at the end of April our bees (or "the girls" as we like to call them) arrived. They were in a Nuc box, 5 frames full of buzzing activity!
We let the box sit on top of the hive for two days so the girls could get orientated to their new home and by the afternoon of the second day they were already coming home loaded with pollen.
Then came the moment of reckoning..we had to open the box and move the frames into their new home. I think getting the smoker going correctly was probably the hardest part. In fact the darn thing never did seem to work right until we had actually finished. Obviously this is a skill we need to work on...
Overall it went really well and putting my hands into all that buzzing activity was quite a rush! Sorry there are no pictures of the actual transfer...I was having too much fun! Here you see a few stragglers that didn't want to abandon the box...but they all made it into the hive overnight.
Skip ahead to one week later and we're ready to open the hive and see how things are progressing. Once again the smoker was an issue...yeah it doesn't LOOK hard does it? But getting smoke with no fire is harder then it appears. The girls had obviously been working like gangbusters! The five empty frames were completely filled up and they had pulled out so much comb that we could barely get the frames out of the box to inspect them! Note the drips of honey...yes we're amateurs and yes we did taste it...
...also note the hands without gloves? Not mine I might add. The little buggers have stung me twice already so I'm wearing every piece of protective clothing I can find!
Luckily we had a super ready to go so that the girls have more room to do their thing. This weekend our experienced beekeeping friend is coming over to give us some much needed advice on things like..."how to spot the blasted queen in the milling throng" "what to do about nasty hive beetles" and "how many supers do they really need?" ...important stuff, I'll let you know how it goes!