Saturday, April 23, 2011


This is when I will post a picture of something in my life I am grateful for.

Today I am grateful for the unending consistency of ocean waves. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011


This is when I will post a picture of something in my life I am grateful for.

Today I am grateful for homeschooling moments like this one: measuring our sister with Unifex cubes.

Red & White = Rose

At the end of March for three days ONLY, there was an amazing "happening" in New York City at the Park Avenue Armory:  651 red & white quilts made over the past 300 years all collected by one woman. And, FREE!

Joanna S. Rose was asked by her husband what she wanted for her 80th birthday and she answered, "Something I have never seen before and a gift for the city of New York."  You can read more about Mrs. Rose here.  This exhibition was the answer to those wishes.

Ok, let's be honest here.  I have four kids...the oldest is about to be six and, at the time of this show, the baby was a month old.  Sooo, even though I love quilting, I love reading about quilting, I love the history of quilting...I did not know about this show until the weekend it was happening.  And I have my wonderful Aunt Mary to thank for alerting me to it because I would have been so upset to have missed it.

Needless to say, it can be tough to come up with a babysitter on short notice.  I even tried to bribe some childless friends to come with me...I mean who doesn't want to spend the day with 4 little kids at an exhibition, right?   Well, not to be deterred, I did it on my own.  Thank God for double strollers and baby slings (and street parking a block away....oh yeah).

I have to say---even though they were the only kids there---this show was totally awesome for them to come to.  (Yes, we got LOTS of comments.  The most common was, "Are they all yours?" Followed by "Is the baby a girl? Oh good."  Followed by, "You are so brave.") It was like an incredible "I Spy".  The scale, the installation, the form, the subjects, and the textures were all so incredible that we had a great time walking around and talking about what we saw.

This applique quilt in particular was fun to pick out objects we recognized.

The one in the middle here was one of my favorites.

Henry liked this one:

Being in this football field-sized room filled with hundreds of these just stunning quilts brought up so many things that I love about quilting.  The history is so rich in terms of women's work and value, and I am so glad to see that it is finally getting its due.  Joanna Rose said that she originally began purchasing these quilts for $5 and $10!!  And to me, many of these quilts are as spectacular and simple as any mid-century Abstract painting.  The quilting community is so warm and friendly, and that was definitely in the air when we went.  I sat on a bench next to some lovely women who had come all the way from Oklahoma just for the show!

Ok, I could go on and on...and maybe at a later date I will, but now...I must pack.  Warm weather here we come!  If you want to read more, here are a few other blogs that did nice coverage (and with better pics than mine): Barbara Brackman, Manhattan Craft Room, and Pat Sloan.

The installation by Thinc Design deserves its own post...unbelievable.



Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Super Heroic Granola Bars

Here, as promised, is the recipe for my favorite granola bars.  As I mentioned, I used to bake professionally.  Mea culpa.  It took me a little while to get to this because the first time I made them at home I was halving a large commercial-sized recipe, but forgot to halve the oats.  So, the result was way drier than it should have been and I ended up with really delicious granola instead!  Again, yes, I did once bake professionally.


*These delicious gluten-free, vegan, fruit and nut-packed granola bars are a great addition to anyone’s snack list, but they are especially great on the trail!  Enjoy.

**I thought about changing the measurements in the recipe to cups since everyone doesn’t necessarily own a kitchen scale, but then I realized that most of the ingredients are either being purchased bulk or in bags already marked, so I didn’t bother. 

***All ingredients can be found at your local health food store.  The nut and seeds in the bulk aisle and brown rice syrup is usually with alternative sugars.

Yields: 48

2 lbs rolled oats (Bob’s Red Mill “Gluten-free” Oats to ensure GF quality)
½ lb sesame seeds
½ lb sunflower seeds
½ lb pumpkin seeds
½ lb masserated coconut
½ lb dried cranberries
¼ lb (app 1 cup)  dried apricot  (diced)
¼ lb dried black currants or blueberries
1 T salt
10 oz finely chopped almonds
1.5 jars brown rice syrup
2 ¼ cup canola oil
1 T vanilla extract

Preheat over to 325 degrees.

Finely chop the apricots and almonds in a food processor.  Mix all dry ingredients together.  I put them in a large soup pot, as this amount is too big for my 5 qt countertop mixer. Add brown rice syrup, oil and vanilla.  Mix well. 

Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a baking tray.  Divide the mixture between two baking trays and spread out evenly.  Lay a piece of cling-wrap on top of the mixture and roll out with a rolling pin.  The goal here is to press the mixture across the whole tray to an even thickness. Remove cling-wrap and place in oven on bottom two racks.

Before rolling on the right.  After rolling on the left.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. 

You want the whole top to brown slightly.  Don’t worry if the edges get darker, you can cut these off before slicing.  Let cool and slice into 24 pieces per tray.  Can be kept on counter, wrapped for one week.  Also may be frozen.


How did it go?  Any questions?  Let me know and enjoy!


Friday, April 8, 2011


This is when I will post a picture of something in my life I am grateful for.

Today I am grateful for a sandbox outside the door and burgeoning brotherhood.

Baking Unsticky

In a former life I owned a cafe and baked on a commercial scale.  Yes, this meant being up at 4:30 a.m. to "make the donuts," so to speak.  (Oh, and the stillness of those mornings...)  But, in my case that meant, whipping up some delicious blueberry spelt muffins.  I knew that I had a gluten intolerance and spelt is an alternative flour that you can use in place of wheat flour that is much lower in gluten.

I have subsequently realized that it is better for my overall health to be completely gluten-free.  Even though I no longer own a cafe, I still love to bake and am always experimenting at home.  I have not been happy with any of the commercially sold gluten-free flour mixes---flavor or price---so I set to work developing my own.  I also really dislike the flavor of xantham gum, which is a frequent additive to gluten-free mixes to create the "stickiness" that is lost with the gluten removal, so the mix I came up with is sticky enough on its own and doesn't require the addition of xantham gum .

What I have come up with is, I think, a tasty and healthful alternative that anyone with access to a health food store can mix up at home.  I use a variety of flours---garbanzo bean, sorghum, brown rice, millet and coconut---all sold by Bob's Red Mill.  This combination lends a sweet and nutty flavor to the mix as well as making it a great protein source. 

What I do is mix up a big batch of flour and keep it in a large container (12 qt) in my pantry.  Now, I do a good bit of baking, so I go through it fast.  If you are not going to use it within 4-6 weeks, you might want to consider doing a smaller batch or keeping it in the fridge as flours are very susceptible to pantry moths.

Now, a note about price.  This mix ends up being about double what it would cost to buy Bob's Red Mill Organic Whole Wheat Flour.  But, it is less expensive than buying smaller quantities of pre-mixed gluten free mixes.  From my health food store, all these ingredients cost $34.30.  I checked out ordering bulk from Bob's Red Mill direct, but the shipping costs would override any savings.    

Nell's Gluten-Free Flour Mix

2 x 22 oz package Garbanzo Bean Flour
2 x 22 oz package Sorghum Flour
1 x 24 oz package Brown Rice Flour
1 x 23 oz package Millet Flour
1 x 16 oz package Coconut Flour
1 x 16 oz package Arrowroot Flour

This will make a little over 12 lbs of flour.

Enjoy!!  Next pancake recipe!!

xoxo Nell

Thursday, April 7, 2011


So, I got an iPhone today.

Yes.  I did.

I am very conflicted about this decision.  It is very cool.  But, I don't necessarily want to be "on" all the time.  I like being unreachable at times.  And I am afraid of how much time this will suck out of my life when I could be making real things.  Like, for instance, now...

That said, being on the computer tonight did lead me to this article in the NYTimes. "Kindergarten Shop Class" is a notion that Ted and I have batted around for years and I am so happy to see that other people are thinking the same thing! Rarely these days do I feel part of the zeitgeist. Mostly I feel like I was born 100 years too late. However, this article which talks about the importance of teaching children to work and create with their hands, rang so true for me. It is one of the main reasons we have decided to homeschool. 

Ted has been talking about running a kids class out of his woodshop in Beacon ever since he and Henry made birdhouses together one day last year. Clearly, now is the time. Must plan a class!

If you are interested reading more about the importance of working with our hands, check out Richard Sennett's book, The Craftsman.   And Doug Stowe's blog, Wisdom of Hands, is great too.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hiking Little Stony Point

 Little Stony Point in Cold Spring, is a great Hudson Valley kid-friendly hike.  Luckily for us, it is right down the road.  This is one of my perennial favorites for all-season hiking.  The hike starts with a quick hill up to a bridge over the train tracks---another great diversion---watch the trains whoosh by underneath you!
 Once you cross the bridge, you have three options: straight ahead, left or right.  Straight ahead is what we did in these winter photos and is a great option for a cold day when you want to have an outside experience without ending up with cold, cranky kids.

A short walk up a mild incline, with a quick climb up at the end, results in a spectacular view out over the Hudson River

South Beach in Winter

If you choose the left or right option from the end of the rail bridge, the trail is basically a loop around the island with beaches on the north and south ends.  Getting down by the edge of the river leads to lots of fun discoveries and discussions: lots of water chestnuts or "devil's heads" to those who accidentally step on them barefoot; great driftwood finds and "pirate treasure"; spotting boats and paddlers (depending on the season). 

North Beach in Spring

My kids like to find interesting sticks on the trail and I am pleased to report that they find sticks that they say resemble guns and letters of the alphabet in equal measure.  I try to steer this tendency in a different way as I ask them to shoot me with "vegetable bullets"!!  We have fun with that one---by the time we are done I am covered in kale, carrots, broccoli, beets---a colorful, healthy mess. 

For those with different aged kids, like me, I am happy to report that 20 month old Emmett made it all the way around the island on his own two feet.  His favorite activity was throwing rocks.

 Big brother Jasper helped Emmett up the last hill...and I was walking backwards holding out chocolate chips from my trail mix, but he made it!  An hour and fifteen minutes total, no rushing, smelling the Spring smell in the air, exploring and creating our own adventure. 

Enjoy!! And this weekend, the 10th is Stony Kill Fun Day and clean-up for anyone interested.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Signs of Spring

 This was the first warmish weekend day here in the Hudson Valley, and we were not the only ones spending the day outside taking stock of what the winter wrought and looking for the glorious signs of spring.  Joining us in the yard were the ladies of the hive.

After a long winter inside, the honeybees were out in force gathering pollen.  The yellow balls you can see on the back of their legs is the pollen these forager bees went out and collected.  As we observed the hive, we noticed two distinctly different colors of pollen; one was a muted greenish-yellow and the other was a bright, brilliant yellow.  As the forsythia on our road are not yet in bloom, I wondered where they were collecting from.  Then as we sat outside and ate out lunch my husband pointed his finger across the field and there it was staring us in the face----an enormous willow tree, bright with yellow buds---the same color as the pollen the bees were collecting!  

We were grateful to see some buds on the apple tree we planted several years ago, since it has taken some abuse from the deer (as you can see by the chewed off branch to the right of the bud).  Luckily, this year, the deer fence is in and, hopefully, all plants in the yard will fare better!

 Radish sprouts!!

Friday, April 1, 2011


This is when I will post a picture of something in my life I am grateful for.

Today I am grateful for baby girl and baby blankets made by the hands of loving family and friends.