Some Cooking, Some Crafting

Posted by mrssmythe on January 10, 2017 in Cooking, Crafting, On the Home Front, Week in Review |

This photo sums up our weather so far this winter.

A little rain, a little snow…We’ve had a little bit of everything. We’ve had balmy, spring-like days in the middle of December, and now it feels like we’re in a deep freeze. By Thursday, it should be back in the mid-fifties. Up and down we go.

Looking for some stability and some well-earned quiet after all of the holiday merriment, we chose to stay close to home this past week, burying ourselves in happy domesticity.

Pepper made “Ribollita” – a Tuscan soup we discovered through her Everyday Gourmet cooking course.

Does it sound exotic? It’s not. The name roughly means “recooked” and it’s basically leftover soup with old bread thrown in.

But, oh my, it’s delicious – and just the thing for a frigid evening.

We used leftover minestrone, some two-day-old sourdough, and topped it off with olive oil and parmesan. Outstanding! I highly recommend it.

My two craft projects continue. The Fireside Throw has reached three loops around the central hexagon, which puts my total for hexagonal motifs at 37. (If you enjoy math, you might find this Wikipedia entry on centered hexagonal numbers interesting).

This calendar page with the Madonna and Child is one example of the artwork I’m using to inspire my color choices. For that particular painting, I made a hexagon using blue, red, and cream colored yarn. This project is giving me a great excuse to go back through the calendar’s beautiful artwork and and really look at the paintings. Interestingly, I’m finding that the artists – no matter what century or style – seem to use a lot of reds and yellows.

On the knitting front, I’m nearly finished with my first sock from the Crazy Zauberball Ginger gave me for Christmas.

The color is “Fliederduft” which, I think, means “scent of lilac” in German.

Anyway – that brings you up to date. I resisted photographing the laundry, which occupied some of my time this week too.

From the dining room table, with the timer on the washing machine buzzing to remind me not all of the laundry is finished,

Mrs. Smythe

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A Very Pleasant Week – and a Birthday!

Posted by mrssmythe on January 3, 2017 in Crafting, Critters, Museums, Pepper's Lens, Science & Technology, Week in Review |

Things slowed waaaay down for us this past week. Most of the kids’ activities were on hold. School paused, and, with the holidays confining themselves to the weekends, we had a nice stretch of days where all we did was sit around the house. For me, this meant a lot of reading, crafting, and dog walking, but also time to plan meals and catch up a bit on housework that had been neglected.

I did pause each day for mince pie.

I love mince pie, but no one else in the house does, so when I saw these individual pies at the local grocery store, I decided this would be a good way to get my annual mince ration. They’re delicious warmed in the oven and are just the right amount for an afternoon snack.

The slower pace also gave me time to try some new recipes. One of my favorites was Cincinnati Chili. Have you ever had that?

It’s basically just chili served over spaghetti, but the cookbook I used listed ways to “dress it up” with things like chopped onions, red beans, and cheddar, and it made for a really fun – and tasty – meal.

I worked quite a bit on my Fireside Throw.

For color inspiration, I’ve turned to last year’s page-a-day art calendar and am using the paintings to guide my yarn choices for each hexagon. It’s been a lot of fun to spend more time with the artwork, and I think this method will improve the overall look of the afghan as well.

I finished Ginger’s impossible-to-photograph raspberry hat.

She loves it and has already worn it quite a bit. The stitch used to produce the raspberry “texture” wasn’t a hard one, but it did take some time in certain rows, much as a cable pattern would. Overall, it was pleasant to knit, and I’d certainly make another if she asked.

The big New England snowstorm largely missed us. The chickens were still able to walk through the yard afterward. Here they are in the garden.

They much prefer the area around the woodpile, though, which stays relatively snow-free thanks to the sheltering of some very large pine trees.

And, finally, Pepper celebrated her fifteenth birthday! She’s very interested in rocks and minerals right now, so we spent part of the day at the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge.

Our first stop, of course, was the Earth & Planetary Sciences gallery to see the mineral and gem collection.

Definitely lots to see there.

But I think we had just as much fun in the rest of the museum. The girls were fascinated by all the arthropods floating in glass jars, the dinosaur bones, and the plentiful taxidermy.

Here’s Ginger in front of a hummingbird display. (Yes, all of those birds are hummingbirds!)

Normally, I don’t think of taxidermy as a museum highlight, but this museum has such a variety of animals preserved and has them displayed so accessibly, you can’t help but learn a lot just by looking at them. You see things much more closely than you would in a zoo or an aviary, and often a skeleton is displayed alongside the animal, giving you a fascinating look at what’s going on under the skin. We laughed a lot, because some of the animals look very funny, but we definitely learned a lot too.

Finally, one last photo of Memorial Hall taken by Pepper as we left Harvard. This was just one of many beautiful buildings on campus.

Even if we hadn’t stopped in at the museum, the university itself, would have been worth a visit.

From the dining room table, hoping to get the tree taken down this afternoon,

Mrs. Smythe

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Post-Holiday Update

Posted by mrssmythe on December 26, 2016 in Baking, Celebrations, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Garden, Seasons, Week in Review |

I hope you had a lovely holiday. Ours was packed with fun, food, and good friends – just the way a holiday should be.

The past two weeks were equally full and festive. We enjoyed a performance of “The Nutcracker” at The Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke. Here you see one of the lions who guards the front gate.


It was a particularly frigid day, and I remember that by the time I got to my car after pausing to snap this photo, my ears were so numb they actually hurt when they began to “thaw” out. Of course I had a hat I could have popped on my head at any time, but I did not. I didn’t want to muss my hair. So, I froze my ears instead. Such vanity.

Snow followed the next day. Here you see my Christmas pine, buried.


And the patio chairs were filled.


Driving was perilous, but I do love a good snow, so I didn’t mind.

I’m not sure this cactus shared my enthusiasm, though.


The nursery said that it should be able to withstand our winter temps, though, so I’m hoping for the best. I’ve gotten rather attached to this particular plant.

The chickens continue to soldier on. Only one of them is laying right now, but that’s to be expected with the decrease in daylight.


Here’s a particularly nice photo of our Ameraucana, “Mabel”.


Because of the lowered egg production, I had to actually buy eggs for the first time in months! I used them in the Christmas cake I made – a “Red Velvet” version, chosen for its festive color.


I used a recipe from the Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook. The Cook’s Country recipes are so thorough and detailed, it’s hard to go wrong. I find I go back to them again and again. This cake was a definite hit!

And, finally, the crafts.

I finished that red, sparkly scarf I was working on last time I posted – I finished it just in time for Christmas Eve services, but then I got side-tracked and didn’t have time to weave in the loose ends, so I couldn’t wear it after all. Never mind. A sparkly red scarf should be suitable through at least February, so it will get worn.

In the meantime, I have an assortment of other projects to keep me busy now that our schedule has relaxed a bit.

There’s the “Fireside Throw” I’m putting together using acrylic leftovers.


This is just the beginning. When finished, it should be approx. 62″ x 56″.

And Ginger requested a “Raspberry Hat” from one of the cute “Fruits and Veggies” kits we found at our local yarn store.


The color is so bright it defies photography, but here’s what I have finished, shown in black and white so you can see the texture.


For the color, think of the brightest pink you can imagine, and you’ll have it.

Once that hat is finished, I’m on to a pair of socks, using this yarn Ginger gave me for Christmas.


I’m excited to see how it will knit up. You can’t go wrong with a “Crazy Zauberball“.

So that brings you up to date! I hope you’re enjoying some restful moments, too, after the bustle of the holidays. Bonus points if you’re enjoying good music, good food, and a cozy fire.

From the dining room table (where I’m one for three on the above),

Mrs. Smythe

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Holiday Odds and Ends

Posted by mrssmythe on December 13, 2016 in Baking, Celebrations, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Seasons, Shopping, Week in Review |

Our holiday traditions have been scaled back this year in an attempt to manage Christmas production rehearsals, athletic events, school schedules, and just life in general. I’m calling it “Holiday Lite”.

For starters, I toned the baking way down and am employing my good friend, the Sprinkle, to make simple things, like these Vanilla Wafer Cookies, look festive.


These are great to make if you’re short on time and/or ingredients. Sprinkles are optional. You can find the recipe HERE.

In the fruitcake department, I didn’t even bother to bake. I just bought one of those blocks-of-fruitcake at the grocery store and called it good.


Ginger saw me eating my daily ration the other day and asked what the “green things” were. I told her they were cherries. “Cherries aren’t supposed to be green,” she told me. She’s right, of course.

We managed to get the tree up this past week. And then it sat for three days before we got around to decorating it.


We told ourselves we were giving it time to “unfold”.

In a few years, maybe we’ll just decorate the sequoias CPT A is growing.


He has two he started from seeds he bought at Yosemite. Both are home for the holidays to ensure they get the care they need while he’s in and out of the office.

Gift-buying took me to Home Goods over the weekend where I saw these on the Clearance rack.


If you don’t mind a headless cookie jar or teapot, they are probably still there – only $29.99.

I also managed a bit of holiday shopping at the grocery store. I found Twister games in the candy aisle and grabbed one for Ginger, who had been wanting one of her own for months… then, I forgot I had bought it and had her help me unload the groceries.

Of course she found it.


Never mind, though. The kids had a good time anyway.

I’m not knitting or crocheting any gifts this year, but Pepper is. She put together this loom-knit hat in an afternoon. It’s destined for a friend in Maine.


What I am currently working on is a scarf. A red, sparkly scarf (though you can’t really see the sparkles in this photo). I started it on Sunday and am hoping to finish it by Christmas Eve. We’ll see….


If I miss my deadline, I can always say it’s for Valentine’s Day. If you’re interested, it’s the Elegant Scarf pattern from Caron.

And, finally – the chickens.


The chickens have been champs this week, braving snow and freezing temperatures and still managing to lay eggs. They are marvels, those chickens. Amazing.

From the dining room table, wanting you to know that I’m the current reigning Twister champion in the house right now,

Mrs. Smythe


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Christmas Preparations, a Fish Food-Eating Dog, Hats, and Chickens

Posted by mrssmythe on December 5, 2016 in Celebrations, Chickens, Crafting, Critters, Ginger's Snaps, Week in Review with Comments closed |

Ginger decided it was time to set up the creche this week.


She has four boxes of figures now, and her display spans three small tables. This is definitely one of her favorite things to do each December.

What Ginger does not like is the way the cats get involved with the scenery.


Shadow really should find another place to take her bath.

Other pets have been misbehaving too.


Manny developed a taste for fish food this week. We ended up buying three tubs of the stuff before we finally remembered to put it out of his reach.

And, I suppose if we are going to dwell on misbehavior, I should admit that I bought a box of chocolate-covered cherries for my mother on Saturday (I was getting a jump on my Christmas shopping), and broke into them before they’d even been in the house an hour.


(I’m sorry, Mom. I’ll be sure to get you another box before Christmas.)

Having finished last week’s sweater, I moved on to hats. Simple, small, wonderful hats. (It was such a relief after the many details and decision-making required for a sweater). The first hat I made used the “Comfy Ribbed Hat” pattern in Kris Percival’s book, Knitting Pretty.


I used Isaac Mizrahi Craft Skyscraper yarn in “Woolworth” (on clearance now at Michaels, see HERE), but any bulky yarn will do.

The second hat was the Daydream Hat by Red Heart, knit using Lion Brand Heartland in “Olympic”.


These are both soft, comfortable hats. Not incredibly warm (I’ll still be using my camel/alpaca blend beanie for dog walks), but suitable for errands and things of that sort.

The chickens are managing the cold so far.


But, this morning, we woke to snow, and they were a bit wary. They haven’t left their run yet, in fact, but I’m sure they’ll adjust. In the meantime, we’re looking for ways to give them some more protected (from the elements) space.


And, finally, returning to the topic of Christmas, I appreciate all of the holiday decorating local businesses have done this year. Maybe oven more so because I haven’t managed to do that much around my own house yet. This tableaux was in a nearby McDonalds:


And, as I admired it, I realized that, although you don’t necessarily need a Christmas tree at the drink station, it’s awfully nice to see one there.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for more fun seasonal decor in the coming weeks.

From the dining room table, thinking it’s about time we got to work putting up a tree of our own,

Mrs. Smythe

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