The freshly picked pile of textiles sitting on my dining room table. I'm making a dress from the first fabric. I've been looking for some basic patterns that I can add to and take away and I was over joyed when I discovered this book at the book store the other day. I love each and every pattern in this book and can't wait to begin making an assortment of outfits. I've always been fond of Japanese design. The excitement grows as I ponder textile choices for the different outfits. The rose bud fabric is going to be used to make new sleeping shorts and Saturday pants. Solid pale pink cotton, soap wraps, and red gingham, lavender heart sachets. Oh yeah, the white cluster of blossoms. Too cool! I'm thinking of plucking each blossom and creating a applique. The trims would be really cute applied to t-shirts.
The little stamp that says, "I love you." How could I resist? Working on Bittersweet Valentine's. I also completed a new logo for 2013.
Also pondering design idees for an upcoming soap line. Some new flavors will be added to our soap menu. I'm really excited about one in particular.
Let the creating begin! The studio is filled with a winter glow from the fresh new idees being sprouted.
There are very few soups that equal the delectable taste of cream of mushroom soup from scratch. At least those are my feelings. I've been on a mushroom kick lately. Ever since Lennis and I ordered mushroom quesadilla from this favorite little market. I made the quesadilla at home, but they just weren't the same. They were missing a spice or possibly I used the wrong kind of cheese. Anyway, I know you'd love a warm tasty soup to go with the homemade crusty bread. Most cream of mushroom soups are basic and similar. They're also quite easy to whip up. Some call for white wine. I prefer not to add the wine, but you can add a half of cup or so if you wish. It's just as good without the wine, I believe. You can use a variety of mushrooms. Oh my how tasty would morels be in this soup? My mouth is watering! You may wish to double this recipe as it only serves two. Not to mention you will want a second bowl! Without further adieu, the recipe. Drum roll please...
Homemade Mushroom Soup Serves 2
Ingredients: 300g or 2 cups fresh mushrooms - cleaned and chopped finely (I used a mix of swiss brown and white button) 1 tbsp olive oil 3 cloves garlic - chopped 1 tbsp butter 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme 1 - 2 bay leaf 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock 1 tbsp flour dissolved in 1 tbsp water Salt to taste 1/2 cup heavy cream 1/2 cup milk Dash of nutmeg Freshly ground black pepper to taste Fresh parsley or thyme for garnish
Method: 1. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Add butter and lightly sauté garlic on medium heat. 2. Add in mushrooms, thyme, bay leaf and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the moisture from the mushrooms disappears. 3. Add in chicken broth. Stir occasionally until broth boils, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. 4 Add diluted flour in, and stir constantly (while simmering) until the mixture thickens. Season with salt and nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasoning. 5. Finally, add milk and heavy cream, and bring to a simmer. Turn heat off. 6. Serve hot in your soup bowl. Add freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley or thyme.
I popped in the fabric store yesterday and gathered some pretty textiles to make new Saturday Lounge Pants and Sleeping Shorts. I'll share some of those idees with you later.
We had a beautiful Christmas. Lennis lined luminaries around our home. A Christmas Eve tradition with our family. The paper lanterns flickered through the night into the early morning hours. The glowing candle lanterns warmed my soul and my heart as I glanced through our frosty windows throughout the night. I love the story connected with luminaries. I've touched on the history in a past post. The arctic blast of Canadian air that blew in a couple of days ago didn't seem so bad. No worries. The cold reminds me of the Midwest winters we had when I was growing up. I refer to them ice skating winters. The consecutive number of really frigid days required to freeze the lakes and ponds enough for safe skating. Two words, EXTRA LAYERS!
The bread... I have this thing for round loafs of bread. In fact I have this thing for the shape of round. Tables, cookies, ever wonder why a cookie is round? I've touched on this topic before. Round versus square tables. H'm, some folks feel quite strongly just as I do about their table preference shape. Chatting about table shapes could be a great ROUND table conversation, I believe! You may want to fastidiously choose whom you strike up the discussion with. Otherwise the lend me an ear topic may bore the recipient.
All round versus square chit-chat kidding aside, back to the topic of homemade bread.
I use several recipes when making round loafs of bread. Two of the receipts are my favorite though.
The first recipe:
Rosemary Olive Oil Bread
INGREDIENTS 1 cup warm water (100-110 F) 1 Tbsp. organic cane sugar 2 tsp. active dry yeast 1 tsp. salt 2 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped (or 2 tsp. dried) 1/4 tsp. Italian seasoning (or pinch of each ground garlic, dried oregano, and dried basil) 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour 1/2 cup bread flour + extra for kneading 1 egg, whisked + 1 Tbsp. water, for egg wash dried rosemary, for sprinkling
DIRECTIONS 1. In a large bowl, combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit 10 minutes to proof.
2. Stir in the salt, rosemary, seasonings, olive oil, and whole wheat flour. Add the bread flour and stir until the dough forms a ball. Knead on a lightly floured surface for about 5 minutes, adding more flour as necessary to prevent sticking, until smooth.
3. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl; cover; and let rise until doubled in size, about1 hour.
4. Punch down the dough and form it into a round loaf. Place in a round pie pan or dutch oven cornmeal dusted; cover; and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, preheat oven (and pizza stone) to 400 F. Once the dough has risen, gently brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with dried rosemary.
6. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Makes 1 round loaf.
Hawaiian Bread (full recipe: makes 2, 8-in pans: 8-12 servings)
3/4 c. pineapple juice 2 1/4 tsp yeast 3 c. flour 1/2 c. milk, warmed 2 eggs, beaten 1/2 c. granulated sugar 4 Tablespoons butter, melted 1/2 tsp salt
Place pineapple juice into a small bowl and microwave until warm (about 100 degrees). Add yeast, stir and let sit for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm the milk and melt the butter in the microwave. Combine, and add sugar. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, pour juice and yeast mixture. Add 1 cup of flour and stir to combine. Add warm milk, eggs, sugar, melted butter and salt and stir to combine. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour and stir to combine. Dough will be very soft and sticky. Beat on medium-low speed for 2 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and lightly spray with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap and let raise in a warm place for 1 hour.
Spray two 8-inch round cake pans with cooking spray and dust with a little flour. Pour dough into pan, cover and let raise for 45 minutes (or until doubled in size). With about 15 minutes left, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Best if eaten warm from the oven!
NOTE: If you have some of this bread left over, which by the way, you probably won't, it makes the BEST FRENCH TOAST ever! Since it's a somewhat sweet bread it the perfect bread for dipping in egg. Make sure you top it with real maple syrup. Can you say YUM! YUM! YUM!
This time of year I always begin to ponder thoughts of new bittersweets. This season is no exception. Plans are spinning and lists are in the works for new soap flavors. Soap names like, Wild Poppy and Rosy Sandalwood come to mind. Oh and by the way... Patchouli soap will be back just in time for Valentine's Day!
Hoping you had a glorious Christmas! The small blessings are sometimes the most rewarding of all, aren't they?
We had a snow morning yesterday. This was the first time Elle has seen or been in the snow. I took her to the vacant lot next to our home. She ran through the snow drifts kicking up snow dust as she danced about. We went to visit her two pup friends down the street and the three of them ran back and forth. We were the only kids outside playing in the snow. Probably because the wind was blowing fiercely blizzard like out of the north. I made one pass down our hill and my hands were freezing by the time I arrived to the top.
We headed inside and warmed and nourished our bodies with waffles and saffron tea. I am in love with this tea.
Today is my birthday! My friend Julie is hosting a little dinner party for the occasion. We're also dropping by Ted and Dawns for a winter solstice event. You may remember me posting stories about their summer solstice party.
I'm getting so excited about Christmas! The goods to make Christmas Eve dinner are sitting in the pantry and the presents are wrapped. I still have rum cakes to deliver and cocoa and toffee. My family loves the toffee. It doesn't last long.
My dad just called to wish me a happy birthday. I'm blessed to have such a wonderful father. He means the world to me. Lennis left a birthday gift sitting next to my pc before he headed out to work. My good friend Debbie made a surprise visit on Wednesday and delivered a birthday present. I'm opening it this morning.
The wonderful friends and family in my life are truly what makes my life lovely. My life is trimmed with love. Thank you God for connecting me with such generous kind and considerate souls. I love each and every one of you. You are so very dear to my heart. Far-away friends too.
I awoke this morning and looked out the dining room to see the snow that had fallen overnight. Along with the snow a buzzing blizzard like north wind. The first snow brings with her a tradition with our family. Well, actually the tradition does not include my entire family. It only includes me.
When I was growing up my winters were spent outdoors almost as much as indoors. As a kid, winter just wasn't winter without sledding and ice skating. I remember staying outside sledding beyond the daylight hours. I'd come in occasionally to warm up and allow my wet clothes to dry next to the heat vents. I'd anxiously await them to dry so that I could head back out and play in the snow. There were igloos to build and snowmen to create not to mention the sled riding. I could hear the kids down the street laughing and playing as I waited for my snow gear to dry.
When it got really, really cold, below freezing my dad would ask if I wanted to go ice skating. I'd call a friend, and we'd pick her up and head outside of town. We had a membership to a local rural lake community that had several large lakes. One lake was the perfect size for skating. I remember like yesterday how my dad would be the first to walk on the glassy surface. He immediately headed to the middle of the lake, ax in hand. He chipped away the ice to determine it was thick enough to skate on. Once he yelled the okay we'd put on our skates and head out on the icy lake. My dad was an expert ice skater. I remember watching in awe as he skated gracefully backwards to and fro. I could never skate backwards. The sounds of the popping ice echoed through the countryside as we skated along.
I guess those sweet memories helped create my tradition.
For the past 24 years or so and since we've lived atop the hill and when the first snow falls. I dig out my sled from under the porch and take a few swipes down our Walnut hill. Here's the really cool part about this story. I have my original sled that Santa brought be when I was a little girl. I must have been around 6 or so when I got the sled. It's been through a many sled rides. Back then the hill was named Truman. Lennis has had to make repairs on the sled, but the bones are still very much in sledding form.
That picture is from a couple of years ago. Lily went sledding with me that snowy winter day. I really miss that little girl! Now we have a new pups, Elle. I'm anxious to see how she reacts to the racing sled. Lily used to chase me all the way to the bottom of the hill. Did I tell you I wax my sled blades?
I believe the wind is calming. There's a spitting snow falling outside my kitchen window. I'm getting my insides warm with a hot cup of coffee. Wondering how many layers I'll need to stay warm enough for two or three rides.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!
Be careful out there and enjoy a caring and sharing holiday season.
I finished the last of the sweet treats last night. The little vintage chip-wood crates came from my stash. I'm always on the look-out for old-time containers when I'm out and about at antique shops. You can usually pick them up for next to nothing. The petite crates are filled with small cello bags of homemade cocoa and tucked under the cocoa, a sampling of chocolate almond toffee. Both cocoa and toffee recipes are posted on Bittersweet blog. You can use the key word box to search for the recipes. They should come right up in your search.
I also have a bounty of cinnamon sticks in the shop. I purchased the sticks long, around 18 inches or so. I simply broke them into smaller pieces and placed them under the ribbon. They are intended to be used as a stir stick for the cocoa. You may be familiar with the aromatic infused cinnamon stick already. I had no idea they grew so large. The breaking of the earthy stick sends their distinct scent directly to my nose. Ahhhh.
The Rum Cakes...
This story may make you laugh.
I taste tested the first batch of rum cakes that I made. In fact I found myself needing further tasting samples. Patrick happened to walk through the kitchen around the time I was taking my last bite. He says, wow mom it smells strongly of alcohol. I reply, yes, I'm making rum cakes for Christmas. The one I just ate has me a bit tipsy! Patrick, mom you know you're suppose to cook the alcohol down in the sauce, don't you? Me, Ummmmm, I don't believe that I did that so much. The rum cakes will be exclusive to my adult friends and neighbors. Cocoa and toffee for the wee ones.
Yesterday afternoon I delivered some of the cakes and cocoa to friends and neighbors. It feels good to care and share.
I'll be celebrating a birthday on Friday. Yes, my birthday falls on the last day on earth! Who knew?
All kidding aside. A birthday dinner and winter solstice celebration are planned with friends and family. I'm beginning to feel excitement for both events.
The Christmas Eve menu is planned and my grocery list is tucked inside one of my cookbooks. I dropped by the market yesterday afternoon and it was crazy busy. I'm not a fan of crazy busy in the grocery store. Thinking if I go before the snow comes it will be more pleasurable. YES SNOW!!!!!
We're suppose to get a few inches. Which by the way I've learned over the years, when the weather forecasters call for a few inches of snow in my neck of the woods, you can usually double, triple their estimated figure. No matter to me. I love snow! Thinking we will enjoy a WHITE CHRISTMAS!
Time to get my sled out and wax the blades! I'm anxious to take Elle on her first sleigh chasing adventure! Two words. Winter Fun!
Delivering gifts to a special elderly friend tonight and thinking happy Christmas thoughts.
I'm trying to resume a balance of peace and normal within my psyche. Overwhelming grief has been with me since Friday. Making sense of what happened is far, far away and will never be understood.
What is normally a happy time of the year has turned into a sad disappointing time for everyone.
Yesterday I made the Christmas treats for my neighbors and friends. I was hoping some holiday baking would help my mind travel away from the sadness. It helped some. I can no longer watch the news. It makes me cry each time I watch.
Even though I'm sad I also feel it's important to carry on and celebrate the blessing of Christmas.
I'm praying for the family's every day. I will especially pray on Christmas. I'm praying specific prayers. Praying they will find comfort and peace and that God will share the spirit of love and mercy with each.
It's been almost 6 years since Bittersweet moved the shop from my downtown district to my home. I've never looked back. The decision to move my shop in my home was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Having said that. I would not have attempted it had I not opened the location on Main street. The five years downtown allowed me to build a customer base. The customers I had 10-11 years ago, now shop on Saturdays at the shop in my home.
The shop is located in the lower part of our home. Hand crafted artisan soaps, apothecary and sundries now fill the same space where the Model T once parked. That's what I've been told by my neighbors.
The perks of having a shop in your home are abundant. For me the attraction was simple. To have the freedoms and flexibility that regular shop ownership doesn't offer.
I believe times are changing in the world of retail. Hand-made shopping has taken the biggest turn. More and more artisans are selling their wares on-line. Where once their options to sell items were limited to consignment,wholesale or shows now the sky is the limit and the opportunities are endless.
People that make things to sell for a living are also becoming photographers, marketing directors, sales reps and computer guru's.
It's the current temperature and the future wave.
It wasn't that way say 10 years ago.
If you're thinking of opening a shop in your home there are certain things to consider.
The biggest concern is if you have a large enough customer base to which you have customers shopping the days you are open. Even though you have low overhead you still want it to be worth your time. Your main objective should always be making money from selling your wares. Zero days should be limited to one - two days a year. Preferably none. Depending on your location, weather and holidays factor in and help determine those numbers.
Other important thoughts when considering a home shop. Studying your city's ordinance and codes. City license, sign restrictions, insurance, etc. Having a shop in your home requires the same shop compliance issues as having one downtown. It's important to get off on the right track. If you don't know, ask.
Keeping consistent hours is also important. If you say you're open on Saturdays from 10 - 2 then you should be. If something happens and you're not able to fulfil your obligation you should always get the word out and have a sign on your door to let your customers know.
The points I mentioned are ones that I've encountered over the years. They are intended to aid you in your home shop endeavors.
I tend to tell it like it is when discussing the topic. There really isn't any other way. If you take shortcuts, they'll come back to bite. A business plan whether it be a rough draft or written in stone is a must have if you want your business to be successful.
Having explained some of the not so pretty aspects of a shop in your home. I'd have to say, it's completely worth the work involved. Completely....