All Things Andrea

All Things Andrea

Monday, December 27, 2010

Book Excerpt

"Just try to remember you're in the middle of a story, not at the end of it."
- So You Don't Want to Go to Church Anymore

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Bread Baking

I'm so excited about these two cookbooks that I got for Christmas!  Peter Reinhart is the expert on bread baking, and the recipes look fabulous.  I'm especially eager to try the 100% whole wheat recipes - breads, pitas, pizza dough, focaccia, even crackers.  He introduces a totally new process that allows you to use 100% whole grains without needing to use white flour.  I had already tried the cracker recipes from the copy I had borrowed from the library, and served them for Christmas dinner.  I want to experiment a bit more, then I'll post it my results!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pomegranates Galore!

I LOVE pomegranates, so imagine my delight today when a vendor at Root's offered to sell the rest of his case of pomegranates to me for $5.00 (it was cold and windy, and he was eager to close up and go home)!  I couldn't believe my good fortune, especially since I had just paid $2.00 a piece at Giant (on special!) last week!

I never even knew what a pomegranate was before my friend Julia introduced me to them a few years ago, and I've been hooked ever since.  They're wonderful at Christmas - they're so festive and remind me of expensive jewels.  They're great alone, in salads, or even chocolate covered, as my nephew and I discovered this year.  He loves them even more than I do - it's fun sharing a love of them with him!

Pomegranates are in season October through January.  Select them by weight - the heavier the better.

If you're new to pomegranates, you'll need some instruction on how to peel them.  Watch a YouTube video, or follow my directions below:

First, slice off the crown.

Then, cut out the center core just at the top and score the sides, taking care to cut only through the rind and not into the seeds; otherwise, you'll have juice dripping out.

Immerse the pomegranate in a bowl of water, break it into sections and remove the seeds from the white pith.  Be sure to stay under the water; if not you'll end up with:

No matter how careful I am, I always end up with a few splatters!

Simply skim the white pith off the top of the water, then drain the seeds in a colander.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Golden Gourds

I always hate pitching the fall gourds and pumpkins once December rolls around.  I've even rescued them from ending up in other people's trash cans (thanks, Glo!).  It seems a shame to end their contribution to seasonal decor just because we switch color schemes and holidays, especially if they are still in good shape.  I was happy to discover that a quick spritz with gold paint transforms a fall or Thanksgiving pumpkin into a Christmas decoration.  My nephew did the spray painting for me this year.  He ended up with as much paint on his fingers as on the gourds, but we both were happy with the effect.

Notice the gourd that is transformed into a golden pear!

And, they even perk up a Christmas package!

The only downside - my pumpkins and gourds normally end up on the compost pile, but I don't like to include them once they've been painted.  So, it may not be the best use for them in the long run, but it still feels good to give them a second life!

Chocolate-Covered Pomegranate Seeds

This was my nephew's inspiration!  I thought he'd be thrilled to help me make chocolate candies this year - chocolate-covered pretzels, animal crackers, mini PB Ritz cracker sandwiches - you name it.  Nope - he wanted to do fruit instead!  We tried apples and oranges, then he suggested pomegranates.  I didn't have any on hand, but did give it a try a few days later.  Not bad!  Here's the recipe:

adapted from

2 large pomegranates
1-12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips or coating chocolate

Drain seeds in colander and lay them out on paper towel-lined cookie sheets; place in refrigerator overnight to dry completely.  (Important!  Otherwise, the moisture may cause the chocolate to seize.)
Melt chocolate in double boiler or in microwave.  Gently fold in pomegranates seeds.  Spoon small clumps onto wax paper or into paper candy cups.
Store in refrigerator no longer than a few days.

Button Christmas Ornaments

I had so much fun making these button ornaments!

Almost everyone I know has fond memories of their mother's button box, tin or jar. I do too, and have been accumulating quite a collection of buttons and vintage sewing trims over the years: some from my mother, some leftover from my days of sewing clothing for myself, some from friends as they clean out their mother and grandmother's sewing supplies, and others from the thrift shop.

I love buttons!

I first got the inspiration for button ornaments from my sister. She showed me a book on all kinds of button crafts when she was here over Thanksgiving. Then, we saw the cutest button ornaments displayed on a tree at Longwood Gardens last month; they were made by elementary students and were simply adorable. I also looked online for some more ideas. These are my creations:

The gold buttons are left over from my days of clothing sewing in the 90's - gold and pearl buttons were all the rage!  These buttons remind me of blouses, dresses and vests I made for myself and others.  :)  I simply spray painted  2" Styrofoam balls with gold paint, then hot glued the buttons.

This one was made with white buttons from my mother's sewing jar; I used pearlized pins to hold the buttons in place; a corsage pin holds a layer of four buttons on the bottom.

This reminds me of a 1950's boudoir!  I can envision these buttons on a salmon-pink quilted housecoat!  :)  These buttons came from a neighbor who was cleaning out her house before moving.  Even the rick rack is the same salmon-pink!

I scoured the thrift shop button box for these green buttons, and took every last one!  I simply strung the buttons on a green pipe cleaner, then tied on a bow. 

As much as I love these ornaments, our family buttons are too special to be hot glued on an ornament.  I want to preserve them in their special jars so we can enjoy rooting through them from time to time.  :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Quotes Worth Contemplating

"The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise."
- Jerry Sittser, as quoted in Choosing to See, by Mary Beth Chapman

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Oh Christmas Tree...

My nephew decorated my Christmas tree for me this afternoon - so special!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Quotes Worth Contemplating

"Being still and doing nothing are two very different things."
- from the movie The Karate Kid

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2010 Christmas Memory Ornaments

Isn't this a great ornament?!  I love the tree's flirty look.  My sister and I went to Longwood Gardens last Sunday evening to see their Christmas display, and I purchased this ornament in their gift shop for my collection.  It's a wonderful way to remember our day!

This is such a special ornament!  A friend's mother crafted this dear little bunny out of beeswax; it even has a teeny, tiny bow around its neck.  It's a fabulous tribute to my 2010 rabbit-relocation endeavors.  :)


I decided to use this remembrance as an ornament instead of simply allowing it to sit on my bookshelf, collecting dust.  :)

My friend Denise gave me this cute little ladybug ornament to commemorate our day at the Lady Bug Tea Room last month.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

T-shirt Quilt

I just finished this T-shirt quilt for a customer - how fun!  Her daughter had a wonderful collection of T-shirts that were perfect for this type of project. 

I found this fun fabric for the backing; it tied all the colors together nicely.

I selected the yellow buttons to coordinate with the backing fabric, then stitched them on with the "button stitch" function of my new Bernina sewing machine (I'm still learning how to use it!).  On previous T-shirt quilts, I usually hand knotted the layers together, but this time I decided to try tacking the layers together with the button stitch.  It didn't necessarily save time, but I liked the fact that there were no knots of yarn or embroidery floss to detract from the design of the quilt.

Since I had plenty of T-shirts to work with and various logo sizes, I incorporated several different block layouts:

I was pleased with the final product and almost hated to part with it! 
Finished size:  78 1/2" x 78 1/2"
(Block size: 13 x 13")

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Baker's Mission

"The baker's mission is to evoke the full potential of flavor trapped in the flour."
- Peter Reinhart, bread-baking expert and cookbook author

Maybe God is the ultimate Baker??

Birthday Wisdom

A friend sent me this great birthday card - not only were the words so appropriate for how I'm called to live my life these days, but the card itself is a limited edition by collage artist Deborah Hershey.  I plan to frame it so that I can be reminded of its truths on a daily basis!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Stitching Together: 35 Years of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

My older sister and I are making plans to attend the "Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show" in Sisters, Oregon next July.  I can't wait!!  It's an amazing event - people travel from all over the world to participate in the day.  It's a show unlike any other - over 1200 quilts on display in a beautiful outdoor setting.  In preparation for our exciting venture, we watched the DVD of the history of the show:  Stitching Together: 35 Years of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt ShowBelow are some wonderful quotes from the various contributors:

"In this day and age we don't make anything; we don't even make our beds. 
I think making things with your hands is essential to life....  We need to be doing something useful, and we need to be making something with our hands."
- Gwen Marston, Quilter, Author and Instructor

"What I find fascinating about quilting is the endless possibilities."
- Ann Richardson, Executive Director, Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

"I make quilts because it feeds my soul."
- Jean Wells Keenan, Founder, Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

"There's always a story behind it [the quilt]."
- Board Member, Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

"The story behind the quilt is what makes it really special....  It's what gives the quilt more than three layers."
- Ann Richardson, Executive Director, Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

"Somehow the quilt talks to you."
- Board Member, Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show

"When you think about the different crafts that have been around off and on for years, quilting has staying power, where a lot of them have not, and I think part of it is because it gets passed on - a lot of times in a social setting."
- Jean Wells Keenan, Founder, Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show


I was fortunate enough to be given some fresh local, organic garlic from a friend (now that's a friend, indeed!) last week; it was grown by Tom Culton - pretty special!!  I had wanted to plant some garlic this fall, but just hadn't gotten around to checking into how to do it or pursuing a source.  So, I was thrilled not only to receive some high quality bulbs, but also to discover that it wasn't too late in the season to plant it.  I planted 3 bulbs (30 cloves) this afternoon in the chilly, breezy air - BRRR!!!  I've never tried growing garlic - I so hope it works!!  If it does, I should be set for years - I can plant some cloves from next year's harvest, then keep continuing the process each year after that.

It doesn't take much to make me happy....

Saturday Evening Dinner

Pumpkin Pie with Fresh Whipped Cream
(I'm still perfecting the pie recipe...)


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Hokies

My sister Renee was in to visit from Colorado and decided we should do a Thanksgiving craft with our nephew.

(The painted toenails were Ricky's idea!)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lady Bug Tea Room

A friend introduced me to this lovely tea room in East Berlin today.

Her food was by far the best I've ever enjoyed at any of the various tea rooms I've experienced over the years.  It is definitely a labor of love for the owner, and she showered us with wonderful homemade delicacies made from local, in season foods.

 I am so inspired to do something similar the next time I host a tea!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Conversation with Michael Pollan

"The longer I'm at it, the more I'm convinced that gardening and cooking are really important activities, both at a practical level and at a spiritual or philosophical level.  Both are ways to reconnect with the earth, and all the processes that keep us alive."
- Michael Pollan in Organic Gardening magazine

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Ultimate Gift

"What he's trying to do is for your benefit, not your destruction."
- From the movie The Ultimate Gift

Cure for Cold Sores

I'm so grateful someone told me about this dosing trick for L-Lysine and cold sores.  I've struggled with cold sores for years and at one point, took Lysine on a regular basis to keep them at bay.  But, the trick is to take it only when they crop up, and to use the correct dosing.  It works like a charm (at least for me and everyone else I know that has tried it!).  Hope it's helpful for you too!

Here's the dosing:
L-Lysine, 500 mg
As soon as symptoms start (burning, redness, blisters), take 3 capsules.  Take 2 capsules the next day, then take one capsule every day thereafter until cleared.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wisdom from Organic Gardening Magazine

"...all it takes to be a good gardener is patience and an inquiring mind."
- Ethne Clarke, Editor in Chief, Organic Gardening magazine, Oct/Nov 2010

"With gardening, we harvest more than food and flowers; we harvest health and healing."
- Maria Rodale, Chairman & CEO, Rodale Inc.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pumpkin Carving

I hadn't carved a pumpkin since I was a kid, so I was excited when my brother-in-law invited me to join him and my nephew (the artsy ones in the family) for their annual creative rite.  We tried some non-traditional approaches, including a "carve-by-color" technique featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine (even though my nephew informed me that my design wasn't scary enough!):


We didn't have proper tools, so we improvised. 

Then, we decided to play with power tools:

The eyes on this pumpkin were created with a 1" drill bit.  We used an apple corer to create the nose.
It was fun, and I'm already thinking about designs for next year!

While we carved, my sister toasted the pumpkin seeds - yum!

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Century of Quilts: America In Cloth

I just watched the PBS Home Video documentary "A Century of Quilts: America in Cloth" tonight; I had picked it up at the library.   It was so good - I watched it twice!  It "celebrates the art of quilting by featuring selections from the best 100 American quilts of the 20th century, the stories behind their creation and the quilters as they work."  They featured older quilts as well as contemporary ones.  I found it to be very moving; many of the quilters they interviewed echoed my sentiments re: quilting:

"I don't sell my work; I make a quilt just for personal satisfaction, and I don't want to sell it.  It would be like selling a child; you put so much time and effort into what you are doing.
- Jinny Beyer

"Somehow quilt making is a way to work through tragedy, a way to present your soul ache publicly in an acceptable way....  Quilts aren't just decorative objects; quilts can serve as intense artistic expressions of oneself."
- Jonathan Shannon

"Every quilter knows what was going on in her life at that time [when she was making the quilt], and it documents it for her."
- Paula Nadelstern

It also helped me to better understand why so many people were moved by my quilt display last month.  I think they connected deeply with what what was being expressed by each quilt maker through their various quilts, especially the older ones.  And, there's something about an art form that is touchable.  Quilting is an amazing hobby, unlike any other creative venture I've attempted....

Happy Halloween!

Photo credits: Ricky Fitts, age 6.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Quotes Worth Contemplating

"Just about anything I've learned, I learned by reading."
- Dan Kane, CPRS employee

Monday, October 25, 2010

Quotes Worth Contemplating

"God doesn't heal us to use us; He heals us because He loves us, and then He invites us to play."
"The deepest pain asks the best questions."
- William P. Young, author of The Shack, in an interview by WITF's "The Creative Zone".

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Eating to Live...

... vs. Eating to Avoid Dying.
There's a BIG difference.
Which is it??
After wading through tons of material re: healthy eating, nutrition and cancer prevention these past few years, I felt called to eat seasonally, organically and locally this year, focusing on God's provision and the bounty of the season.  It was an amazing experience!!  I had no idea how deeply it would impact me.  Or how committed I would become to it.  Cooking became a delight vs. a drudgery.  Instead of eating foods I could acquire, I ate foods that were provided.  I found my stride.

Nutritionists recommend eating superfoods and taking supplements.
The weight loss experts say to count calories and cut your fat intake.
Vegetarians say don't eat any meat.
The raw foodies say don't cook anything, ever.
I think juicing is a drag.  Period.  Plus, it's wasteful.
Chefs think nothing of spending $30 a pound for pine nuts.

I found it could be much simpler than that.  I simply prepared whatever was available in season.  I found that seasonal foods are meant to be eaten or cooked together - they complement each other beautifully. It doesn't take fancy recipes.  So many times in the past I would spend hours cooking, work up an appetite, then be terribly disappointed with the final product.  That has rarely happened to me with seasonal produce.  I love what I cook.  What an amazing thing to be able to enjoy the whole process - the growing, harvesting, cooking and dining.  It's a way of eating that is attractive, that invites others to join me and even eat with me.  And, it truly, truly is healthy.

Maybe my body pH is off.
Maybe I don't understand glycemic indexes.
Maybe I'm not getting all the nutrients I should be getting because I roasted my veggies vs. eating them raw.
Maybe I'm not getting enough raw fiber.
Maybe I shouldn't be eating any white flour.
Maybe I don't eat a huge variety of produce on any given day.
Maybe I ate too much fruit yesterday.
Maybe it's time to detox.

But I LIVED.  Lived abundantly.
And no, I haven't eaten any mangoes, papayas, kiwi, bananas or imported grapes lately.  Certainly haven't eaten spring greens since spring.  Can't remember when I last ate an avocado.  But, I think God knows what foods my body needs; He knows where I live (Acts 17:26).  After all, He created me, and I think just maybe He put the foods I need for health, both body and soul, right under my nose.

P.S.  What's a superfood anyway??  Isn't it anything God has created and provided?  Who's to say one is better than another - after all, God doesn't have favorites!!  :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

There's nothing quite as satisfying...

... on a crisp fall evening than making an in-season supper, as I watch the moon rise out my kitchen window.

The Menu:
Baby Greens & Grape Tomatoes with Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette

Oh, so satisfying!!

Final Harvest

Frost is in the overnight forecast, so I quickly picked the last of the cold-sensitive produce from my garden.  As I pulled out the pepper, green bean and tomato stalks and tidied up the garden this afternoon, it reminded my of the death and dying process.  Yes, it was sad to see the end of a rewarding season of bounty, and seemed like a waste for the green tomatoes to end up on the compost pile; but at the same time it was very satisfying to neatly bring the garden to an end so that I can move on to other ventures and pursuits.  And best of all, for a gardener there's always next year to try again, to attempt new methods and varieties, experience better weather, to correct mistakes, and on it goes.

So, why do we always kick and fight against the idea of death, especially when there are unbelievably amazing things ahead?  Yes, there will always be unripened tomatoes and the wish for a few more weeks of warm weather so the green peppers can turn sweet and red, but the end of a life well-lived should be just as satisfying as putting to rest a productive vegetable garden. 

And so, I'm reminded to live a rich, fruitful and bounteous life so that I'm ready for that final harvest, whenever it may come!