Monday, January 17, 2011

Happy in the kitchen - rolling pin rack


Ages ago I saw an old timey spice rack with curved wood hooks at the bottom to hold a rolling pin. I loved the idea and was determined to make my own. As I have both a marble and a wooden french pastry rolling pin, I decided a flat shelf on the top would best suit my needs. 

Now I can keep my counters clear, use up harder to reach space in the corner and enjoy the beauty of these tools while keeping them close at hand.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Fixing up my studio - fun with power tools


So we all know I like to make things with hand tools. More recently, I have challenged myself to use some bigger and scarier things - like my dear husband's new table saw.

Since we moved in, I have VERY slowly been turning my upstairs studio space into something usable. Paint went on the walls quickly but it took me a long time to get through the mountains of junk and general detritus from past lives. More recently, with my uber-purge skills still fresh, I tackled my studio.

  I've daydreamed about putting built-in cubbys into one of the unused walls under the eaves. And that may still happen someday.

I was so excited when I saw these vegetable bins, because I knew that I could make them myself!

Of course, I didn't actually follow the recipe, ehem, I mean plans, and added my own touches.

My yarn stash is now happily tucked under my newly revamped desk, instead of hidden away out of sight in boxes and bags.

I'm so proud of my first major building project and other than a table-saw lesson, built entirely by yours truly.

 Above my desk my dear husband put up a beautiful shelf.

I've had these small apple crates for years. While sorting and organizing (and downsizing) my craft supplies, these boxes were a life saver. Rope handles, fabric lining, and photo corners with new labels make these bins a joy to use.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Meringues - what to do with all those egg whites


 So, you've made eggnog or custard or flan or any other of the delicious egg-yolk heavy recipes I'll hopefully get around to posting this sometime this year.

You now have a bunch of egg whites.

Meringues are a simple, easy, and taste like the most-delicious-air-that-just-melts-in-your mouth treat!

The basic recipe is very simple. Beat egg whites with a teeny bit of vanilla, a little (dry) sweetener and an optional tiny bit of cream of tartar which helps the egg white bubbles from dissolving back to liquid.

I used six egg whites,
1/4tsp of vanilla,
4Tbsps of powdered maple sugar and
1/4Tbsp of cream of tartar.

I have a copper round-bottom bowl that is wonderful for beating eggs and cream and as I'd just purged my hand-held electric mixer (I hadn't used it in well over three years and have a stand-mixer) I chose to whisk the whites by hand. It took far less time and effort than I'd imagined and I will, with pleasure, make these by hand in the future.

When peaks form (even if the droop over) in the egg whites, spoon them in generous amounts onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at a low temperature (I set our oven to 200, although I know it's not accurate) until the outside of the meringues are golden and hard. Try tapping on them with a knuckle and if they give they're not ready. I baked mine for about an hour and a half.

When firm, turn the oven off and leave them in there with the door shut for another hour (or two).

My grandmother used to make a similar meringue cookie that she called "Nighty-nights" where you bake them, turn the oven off and go to bed. In the morning you pull out perfectly crisp and airily delicious meringue cookies.

A NOTE about fresh eggs: Egg shells are porous and moisture naturally evaporates over time. Store-bought eggs are normally, at the very least,  a couple of weeks old. Fresh eggs whites still have too much moisture to properly stiffen. You can experiment with the age of the eggs but I would recommend waiting at least a few weeks from the chicken to meringues.


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lighting the darkness - ice lanterns


Shorter days and longer nights make me long for sunshine. On precious sunny days I find myself rotating with the sunny spots to take advantage of the warmth and light.

In the evenings we have candle-lit suppers and softly-lit quiet evenings, when we are blessed to have time at home. We are finding our own rhythm and it is wonderful to get to be together.

Many cultures have solstice celebrations and festivals of light, mirroring the internal light I can feel brightening within myself.  I want to insulate myself from the world, curl up within and prepare for new beginnings to come.

 Inspired by another blogger, on Christmas eve-eve we made our own ice lanterns.

These simple creations were a joy to make and were overwhelmingly beautiful. This year I have been craving traditions of our own. I hope that these will become a yearly source of joy and beauty to help us light our way through the darkness.