Friday, September 27, 2013

What's For Dinner??

Is there anyone out there who doesn't scratch their head at some point during the day and say to themselves " I am tired of thinking of another meal to cook"! "What will we have for dinner"? Now that Mr. Dude and myself are the only ones at home ( the birds have flown the nest)  I have learned to adjust my thinking. I am not as organized about meals as I was when I was out working in the world every day. I find that when I do cook, I cook the same volume, and then freeze half for another meal. I have been cooking meals for well over 50 years, it is very difficult to be innovative, and of course there are also some changes and different needs in diets. We do not ever order "take out", it is not really available to us, as it might be in other areas. We do have our share of MickyD's, Chick-fil-a, Wendys, Burger King, Steak and Shake and probably more names I am not familiar with and each one of these establishments have really worked to make their menus user friendly. We are just like everyone else we have our favorites. I happen to love and enjoy Chick-fil-A's chicken sandwich, but cooking at home is from "scratch " and  we almost always eat dinner at home.

 Yesterday was one of those days. It was not the day to be thinking of new menus. Our wonderful Technical Mr. Guru had been helping us with our new lap top, which is for Mr. Dude's domain. Consequently my day of work was falling behind schedule. Habit kicked in and I resorted to a favorite,

I am American Born, but grew up accustomed to eating certain foods that are Traditional to a Swedish family. Living in this area has been very difficult, because the things I like the most are generally not available or very expensive. When Ikea opened their large store in Tampa, I went routinely to stock up, but in the last year they have almost eliminated most foods and those they have are available to me in any grocery store.
Last night Swedish Meatballs were on the menu:
My recipe of these is what my Mother, and my Aunt Greta always used.  It is quite simple and every cook adds their own touch.  The Swedish word for Meat Balls is Köttbullar and my Father always referred to them in the Swedish. When I go to the butcher for my Angus Hamburger meat, I also ask for 1 lb of ground Pork and 1 lb of ground veal. The veal and pork are separated in 1/2 lb packages and all meats are frozen unless I am cooking that day.,  Here is my recipe for Swedish Meatballs,

                                           1 lb very good ground beef
                                           1/2 lb ground pork ( which will provide the fat moisture)
                                           1/2 lb ground veal ( this is optional if it is unavailable to you)
                                           1/2-3/4 cup dry unseasoned bread crumbs
                                            2 eggs-- if eggs are large 1 egg will be enough
                                            1/2 to 3/4 C. light cream
                                            1 1/2 tsp salt--I use Kosher salt, milder flavor
                                            3/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg ,
                                            I also add a healthy dash of cinnamon
                                            1/2 cup of warm water
                                            3 tbls grated onion--I often do not add these it is a personal taste ingredient.
                                            3-4 tbls butter
                                             Some may want to use Oleo, my preference is butter
                                             a small amount of veg. oil to add to melted butter

Mix the bread crumbs, water and cream in a separate bowl and let them sit on the side for about 5 minutes. If it looks too wet add a little more bread crumbs. You will be using this mixture with 2 lbs of meat total and that will be a judgment call.  In another bowl take all 3 meats, the onion if you are using it, and your spices and mix them thoroughly, this is not time to be "picky", we are allowed to use our hands for this. Now add the bread crumb mixture, and the egg. Blend this well. This is raw meat we are working with, it is essential we clean the work area and our hands after this part of the prep work. In a large skillet slowly heat1/2 of the butter with a little added oil. This keeps the butter from burning.  When this is hot, fry a small amount of the meat mixture and test your seasoning. You will be able to adjust to your taste at this time. Never, ever  taste a raw mixture!  When it is seasoned the way you would like, start to shape the meat mixture in small meats balls. Unlike Italian meatballs that are usually made in large portions, Swedish meatballs are much smaller. Fry in small batches and transfer to an ovenproof dish which can be kept in a warm oven until you are ready to serve.  If you don't want to fry the meatballs, you can oven bake them, this does change the moisture level somewhat. Either way you decide to do this, the "brownings" and pan residue, or the pieces  off of a tray  will be used to make the traditional brown gray that is always served with these.

If you do not want to make meat balls this same mixture can be used to make a meatloaf. Either way I freeze half of the batch,. Traditionally, Boiled "new" red potatoes are served. Americans seem to like Mashed. Lingon is the condiment--whole cranberries for Americans.  I personally like it all! Of course Crisp Bread or Knäckebröd  as it is in Swedish is always on the table.
Coffee is usually not served during dinner. Bottled Water or a 3.2 % beer. The table is cleared and coffee with something delicious, is served . This is the time for more conversation.  The  part of daily life that is so important for communication with one another. This is when we ask the children what they did today, family news, school news, and family plans. Sadly busy lives and busy schedules have made this time of leisure and breaking bread together less important in some families.  We, as parents and Grandparents are always pleased to see that our children do make a specific time for the dinner hour of sharing, Blessing the food is always the first component, and each person has their time of talking about their day. Crazy schedules in their house too, and some dinners move along quicker than others, lets be honest here, not all conversations are long ones!

I am not a professional cook, I had an entirely different career, but I was taught by two wonderful cooks. I would say I am an old fashioned cook as well. We do not spend much time eating in restaurants, and when we find one with quality food, we keep it on our list for those special nights.  I try  to serve foods that are good quality, as little additives as possible, and organically raised when it is available. We also have at least 1 vegetarian meal a week, but, and here is the but,

Potatoes, Meatballs, Lingon and Salad with Crispbread--
Potatis, Köttbullär, Lingon och sallad med knäckebröd---I don't care how you spell it or say it--that is some good eating!!!!



Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Alpaca Dream is Born !

Some time ago I wrote about my love of yarn and my local search to find shops to satisfy my own addiction.
I received a call from a close friend who asked me, "why didn't you write about this "neat and great" shop in your own town"?. What shop?  I quickly did a little homework and this is what I found.

I also found that I was a little late, others had found and talked about this shop. Bay 9 news, Largo Patch have all interviewed the owner Alicia Chivers, but the minute I walked through the door I knew this was going to be a very interesting and positive experience. My writing about this shop would be personal.  I felt as if I was going back in time. For many years I owned a very similar shop in another state, not the same but the goals and dreams were the same. Mr. Dude and I opened the door of this beautifully decorated building, which we found by turning off of 113th St onto 9th Ave S W. Immediately  a petite and attractive young woman with an engaging and animated personality met us. Then the story begins.

When Alicia Chivers left her successful business life she and her partner in life George Castro had a dream.
They started Luna Bella Alpaca Ranch on a 3 acre piece of land in this highly populated area, but as I have said in previous Blogs, this was an agricultural area before the developers began to buy up huge plots of land and the boom of migration began. This 3 acre ranch is an oasis of love. Hard work, has promoted the growth of the herd to over 24 and counting. Cria or baby alpacas are arriving every year to enrich the herd. ..

I would like to refer you to Alicia's blog so that you can see the daily life of a Alpaca farmer, and to glean from this blog, what goes into the "Field to Finish" product that the Alpaca produces with their wonderful wool.   Today I want to write about the second part of the dream.

Criativity was opened September 29, 2012.  Cria--refers to the baby Alpaca and tivity  is a reference to the birthing process with a play on the word Nativity.  This store and the ranch are 99% Green and it is obvious that everyone involved share the same Philosophy. Alicia has taken her business experience and married it beautifully with her dream.

All fiber products in this store are produced with Alpaca fibers which have been processed by Alicia and George and come from their own animals. Alpaca wool does not contain Lanolin making it naturally soft and hypo-allergenic. As my Mr. Dude walked around this very large and well appointed interior, he took some pictures which  I think will give you an idea of some of the products carried here.

I am a knitter, so for me this was a treat, the beautiful textures and hand dyed colors made my fingers itch for a new project.  I also found a great array of finely made needles, which are not always the easiest thing to find.

The products are all on the showroom floor, and then there is the studio, where is it obvious all sorts of magical things are happening. I met Lee, another delightful woman.  A friend, mentor and local artist who is one of the teachers. There are classes in knitting, jewelry, Weaving, Felting, needle felting, and NuNo felting which is a Japanese art form. One of the the students had produced a beautiful scarf, which I have attempted to show.  The picture does not do it justice, but to touch it's wispy, silky texture and see the beauty of color in person shows that a real artist has been at work. Susan Staffa is a regular in the studio and produced the beautiful Fish themed scarf in the middle. The jacket to the left was made by Alicia. A sophisticated style sense is everywhere and I can see the future of beautiful clothing being made and introduced into the product line.

Every Spring, in April, a week of shearing is done and then the work of preparing the fiber begins again. Some of the fiber goes to Texas and beautiful rugs are made from these fibers.. I remarked at the time that they made me think of the hand woven Rya Rugs of Sweden, but we are so fortunate to have these beautiful rugs made from home grown fibers, right in our town.  American Made!
If you have a desire to have beautiful products made of Alpaca, with a goal of taking weaving, felting or knitting classes, or need  a  gift, here is an array, of sweaters, socks, jackets, and more. Prices range anywhere from 1.99 to 700.00.  The holidays are coming, start your shopping now!

There is so much more to this story, but I suggest  you  visit this beautiful shop and you will understand what I found. I felt such warmth and enthusiasm and know that I will be returning. Who knows I may even take a felting class. Great parking is provided for those of us who want easy access . Soon our Winter visitors will be returning, how happy they will be to find that they do not have to send away for products that can be purchased right here in Largo Florida.
 The address of Criativity is :
                                                      720 9th Ave.S.W.
                                                      Largo, Florida
                                                      Phone:  727-584-4191

Please call for class schedules, and winter hours. You will not be disappointed and I know you will be enriched.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bingo! It is Con- Cora By Consolidated Glass

Several months ago, my recently widowed neighbor asked me to appraise some furniture pieces for her. Mr. Dude and I were very happy to do that, as we were primarily furniture dealers at one time. Our job was finished, kisses exchanged and best wishes given , we were about to go home when,

Suddenly she said" Oh, I am having a sale, everything is priced, on tables in the garage, would you like to look and perhaps buy before the sale"? Every dealer wants an invitation like that and I am no exception to that rule. I wandered around and did find several pieces of china for purchase.  Suddenly I saw a pretty, what looked like, from a distance, a milk glass vase.

" Oh No", my friend said " that was my Mother's cake dish and that is the bottom piece". Now this is always a little tricky, one has to always employ diplomacy, the belongings that once were Mother's are sacred territory! We found the top in another box and when I saw the two pieces together, that old instinctive feeling that you sometimes feel when you see something good, but you don't know what it is or anything about it. My glass knowledge is limited in certain areas. Milk glass--yes  Hand painted--yes, 2 pieces, hmmm, now I haven't seen that one before.

I tried to research this piece but never could find the correct answer to the puzzle. I finally listed it in my etsy store,

This morning I received an e-mail from another etsy dealer FrannieBee who has a beautiful shop. Hope that you will take the time to visit.

She generously shared her knowledge with me and identified the piece. and in the process sent me more areas for research. This is a 2 piece Hand Painted, the initials indicate it was probably decorated by Wally Hindle, white milk glass cake plate.
 In 1940, to celebrate the end of the "Great Depression", Consolidated Glass of Penn. introduced their Con-Cora line of milk glass, and this is part of that line. Further research by Frannie Bee, as she continued to search through her materials yielded this information. This is described by consolidated as a 2 piece footed "Spin a Cake" 13" # 5631/32 titled violets and the initials depending on how you look at it could be HM for Helen Mixer., Turn it the other way and you have WH. What a wonderful journey this has been,and in the process have gained a new friend.

Mr. Jack D, Wilson, who currently is doing tutorials on u-tube wrote in 1989 a book titled Phoenix and Consolidated Art Glass 1926-1980. If you can find it consider yourself fortunate because it is now out of print. Mr. Wilson has a wealth of knowledge on this subject and is a very sophisticated collector. He continues to educate and answer questions.

It is so important to maintain a high standard of credibility in the antique business.  We are meeting new collectors without knowledge all the time. It is up to us to have good, honest answers for them and share our knowledge. As a young dealer I was always grateful to learn from more experienced dealers. I am not so young anymore, but I am still learning every day and I am still grateful for the gift of someone's generosity of sharing.

Consolidated has a long history beginning in 1893 and at one time manufactured 60 % of all glass parts for lamps in this country, but that is another discussion for another time.

If you are out on the "Hunt" and have that old instinctive " Gut" feeling about something, but don't really know, follow your instincts. Someone else shared their knowledge with me, this started the Brain cells buzzing and I have been able to learn about another Great American company.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Yarnaholic's Quest


I have been away for a few days, sometimes Life just gets in the way of the things we enjoy doing, but today I will try to catch up a little.
 Before I begin ,  I feel compelled to say,  that this day, 9-11, must be a date and day imprinted in our personal memory bank forever. Sometimes these events, if we are not personally affected, eventually lose their power.  This terrible day in our history, will never be be in that category!  Everyone should  take a few moments, in their own way, to silently remember those who were lost that day. So many friend's and family's lives were changed forever, they deserve our respect.

Monday, of this week,  Mr. Dude and I went to visit our dearest friends, from our Jersey days. Our Friendship is a very long one, rare today. Friendships are living things and must be nurtured.. We have been nurtured and we have nurtured.   They live a distance from us and by the time we had made our way "up the road", hunger had reached a crescendo! There is a great Chinese Buffet restaurant, close by,  that has always been a favorite of ours. Off we went to sit, and eat our fill of all good things. There are the usual things you would expect to find, but there are many fish and shell fish offerings along with a small, but nice Sushi bar as well.

My friend and I are both knitters and our conversation turned to yarn shops. Since moving to Florida I have not found too many shops with quality yarns. There are the large commercial stores such as Jo-Ann's and Michael's. Yes, I have found some very good yarn in both places, and sometimes there are very good sales as well.  What I miss are the independent stores with wonderful collections and salespeople with knowledge about techniques and the new yarns on the market today.  I sensed a lack of enthusiasm on the part of the men at the table when my friend said, " I know a great shop, lets take a ride". If we had said let's take a ride to Harbor Freight or Bass Pro Sports Shops, guess we would have garnered more enthusiasm.Hmmm? They were not driving that day, she was,  so off we went. I must say, there was a little teasing, all in good fun, but not any complaints.

We drove to Odessa, Florida.  The shop, Fiber Art, was one I had already heard about, and I was very pleased to be able to see this in person.  It is located at 8727 Gun Hwy, Odessa, Florida.In a small shopping center. When you see the Tower, you know you have arrived.
We pulled into the parking lot of a very cute little center, but we suddenly had a bad feeling--where was everyone?
Of course, by now I was salivating, ready for chasing the yarn bunny down the rabbit hole and getting my :yarn Fix".! Money to spend as well. Alas, That nasty little white sign said, "Closed Monday, Summer hours" had been extended through September. They are open Tues. thru Saturday.   Drat! Not to be thwarted I took a picture through the window.

Can you just imagine what these colors look like in person!  This is just one section and I am surprised this pic came out at all.  It is a beautiful shop. I am pretty sure they sell Noro yarns. There appeared to be another room in the back, perhaps for lessons. I will definitely be making a return trip to this shop.  I have two others on my list as well, but will write on those at a later time.

I am presently working on a sweater to take on our trip North--do you  think I will finish this in time--who knows?

I wouldn't dare tell you how long ago I purchased this yarn.  It is Nomotta, Melodie, imported from Germany. Works up beautifully and is a combination of wool, nylon and acrylic.I am working on a pair of socks  at the same time. I pick these up when the green, becomes a sea of green and the eyes are looking for another color.

I have finished a number of projects this summer. It is so warm in this part of the country that I prefer to work on small projects during the "dog days".  Hard to think in terms of wool yarn, when it is over 90 degrees every day.

If you are a knitter, remember winter will come, and with it will be holiday gift giving, socks and helmet liners for our troops, mittens and scarfs  for the homeless. Preemie hats and chemo caps. If you are in the mood to sell your work, or want to purchase some beautiful hand knitted work of others, visit a wonderful selling site for handmade and vintage Keep watching, I will be back with more news on the yarn front and new stores to visit.

 By the way, the dark maroon yarn ball at the top of the page is Serenity Sock weight from Deborah Norville's collection by Premier yarns. Patons Kroy Socks in rag shades mix is the other yarn. I have worked with both and they are both excellent yarns.

Friday, September 6, 2013

The Mighty Åggkopp or as we say Egg Cup

I have been a collector of things all my life, but when we decided to downsize our home, in my naivety thought that something small to continue collecting would be a perfect solution for a smaller home. How wrong could I have been?  The joke was on me. Now, many hundreds later I can honestly say I am a Pocillovist, an egg cup collector!

Many years ago now, I walked into an antique mall and saw a single egg cup that was a souvenir cup of Jonkoping, Sweden. This was in the US, but I knew this city well and one of my Dear friends lived there. I had to have it and the 3.00 price tag, well that ended any questions of, "should I, do I need it, and where will I put it?"  Of course then you say to yourself, what will I do with one egg cup?  Those of you who have succumbed to this particular collecting are now laughing at me, because you know what happens next!
The green transfer double egg cup on the left is "Chinese Bird"

Made by Adams in England age is approx 1913-. Comes in several colors but I was lucky to find it in green.  Every collector has a favorite area of collecting, even though they may have thousands of cups, yes I did say thousands, there are always favorites. It might be certain Countries, Souvenir, Royalty, Figurals, Shapes, EAPG glass, restaurantware, and the list goes on.                             
In this grouping you have, top left to right: Two walking cups, figurals made by Cartonware, England. The first one has a handle and looks like a small coffee cup. They are fun. The yellow double shape at the end of that row is French Quimper. The middle row has a small bucket shape from Cork Ireland, A single luster souvenir  and a waisted hoop shape from a steamship lines. The third row has a heavy industrial large custard shape for a hotel. Then a child's figural cup with a chick and a "Sooty" child's cup. We are not familiar with Sooty, but believe he is an English T.V. program for children.  Standing alone is a French Limoge cup and plate combination.  These are just to show different shapes.

In this entire process, we become immersed in the academic research of each item. Who made it, where was it made, when was it made, and in some cases why and how was it made. Some of my favorites are definitely souvenir,

These are Mauchline Ware, made in a town in Scotland of the same name. There were many trades associated with the town of Mauchline, but it is the "box work" that most of us are familiar with. Small souvenir pieces made of Sycamore and decorated with transfers of a view of the place they were purchased. Tartans were also used. They were produced from 1829 -1933.

I am motivated by quality, what pleases me, and how different it is. Since my interests are in vintage things, I rarely would buy anything newly made, with the exception of Royal
I do have some rules I try to follow. I want a perfect example and will not purchase anything chipped or cracked, unless that piece is free or is so rare I think I will never find it again. That probably would not apply at my level of collecting.

Martha Stewart stimulated the egg cup collecting interest when she featured cups on the cover of her April 2002 Living Magazine. I still have that magazine,perhaps you will be able to find an issue.

Some have enlarged their collections to include accessories associated with eggs and cups. I do have some egg spoons, but have tried to stay focused, it is much too easy to stray off the beaten path, as fascinating as this would be I am already out of room. I can show you this, a very early English Egg Cozy.

In the first bloom of our collecting and our enthusiasm for "those Sweet little" goodies, we often do not discriminate, but as we learn more about the subject matter, we eventually weed out those that we no longer find interesting. It is not always about quantity, but as in most things, it is the quality!

For anyone beginning this journey, an investment in the book, "Egg Cups" by Brenda C. Blake, written in 1995 along with her 2000 supplement has a wealth of information.
I still consider my self a novice, after all these years because I still find things I haven't seen before, which sends me scurrying to find the answers to the
The history of egg cups is much too long to recant, but they were found in the ruins of Pompeii and have been traced to the 1600s in France. I hope we meet each other some day, reaching for the same piece, in a shop, a show, a flea market or thrift shop. Wherever or what ever enjoy every minute of that "mighty Little
Åggkopp search!   

Danish Ship Lines        
                                     Happy Hunting!

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Tropical Canna Lily Brings Splashes of Color!

                                                                                           Labor Day week-end is usually the start of the Fall Season in most parts of the country. Schools start once again and by this time Mothers and children are ready to get back into the routines that have been established . In some parts of the country the color changes that come with the cooler weather are significant and this season was and is still my favorite one.

As I was walking through the Botanical gardens the other day I remarked on the bright, rich colors of the Canna Lily Plant, the brilliant  orange reminding me of the color changes that soon will be coming.

These pictures are of the Canna Lillies in my own yard, that came to me by accident and I have enjoyed them, gifted them to others and still they continue to stand tall and please the eye.  The Canna lily is technically not a true lily, they are more closely related to the Ginger plant . A tropical and sub tropical plant, native to Mexico, they require full sun and love a lot of water,  can even be grown in ponds. They are grown from bulbs or Rhizomes and more plants can be grown by dividing the Rhizomes. These Rhizomes spread under ground and if not controlled, plants will spring up everywhere if the conditions are moist.  The colors are glorious!  I have seen Peach, red, yellow and bright orange. There are tall species and dwarf species.  My Canna plants are all tall and bright orange. I was told the name could be "Wyoming", but that is a guess on my part.

Please remember I am not a horticulturist or professional Gardner, I am just someone who loves color and plants.-. Of course I have favorites and this could be considered one of them. This plant can grow to 6 ft or more and has large blooms on a stalk. The large  leaves on the stalk are very similar to the banana plant leaves. Sometimes the color of the leaves is just as beautiful in their own way. Red, garnet,  purples, but the leaves, on my plants are usually different shades of green. The plant below is a young plant and by next year will be 5 to 6 feet tall. Many of the blossoms have been "deadheaded and you can see where  new blossoms are coming. Last Fall I dug up the bed because it was terribly over grown. Divided the Rhizomes and gave them to others. My bed is now starting over, and my plants are young.
Mr. Dude fertilizes with a 10-10-10 mixture and we dead head frequently. These plants can be grown in large containers, but I prefer to plant them by our white fence. The contrast of color is very pretty. In the fall, probably October this year, we start to prepare for winter. Yes we do have Winter in this part of Florida.We are not as cold as Northern Florida, but on occasion we have had temperatures in the high 30s and this means a scramble to cover all plants in the ground, and rescuing the potted plants, which are also numerous. Our preparation, whether it is right or wrong, is to cut back the plants almost to the ground. They are not so vulnerable to the cold and the Rhizome is still  protected.
There are some fascinating things about this plant.  It is not just a "Pretty Face"!  The rhizomes have been used as a food source in many parts of the world.  Achira is the name of the starchy paste that is obtained from processing the rhizomes. It still is used today and some Asian countries make noodles from the paste.

Black or brown seeds form at the base of the blossom ( plants can be propagated  from these, but much  easier with the Rhizomes and I am all about easy)  some cultures have used the seeds for jewelry making, trade, and ammunition. Since so many of our plants in this part of the country can be toxic to pets and other animals, I was very pleased to know that this is a non toxic plant. The two resident bunnies , who have adopted my yard, are frequently seen eating at the base of the Cannas. I was not worried for the safety or health.  On occasion you may find a larva  nesting , don't be alarmed--shortly you will have butterflies enjoying your plant as much as you do.

If you know someone with a Canna  Lily plant, ask and you shall receive, I am sure that they will share a rhizome with you , which you can plant in the Spring and enjoy those wonderful colorful blooms most of the year! They will put a smile on your face and you will be blessed!