Saturday, September 11, 2010


The autumn always makes me nostalgic, but it's also a time of renewal and fresh energy!  The light has a different quality to it - there's a freshness in the air...  Crisp fall evenings crunching with leaves underfoot remind me that a new school year has begun, many new classes and events are being scheduled, and our guilds, which have been left behind for the summer are meeting once again...  A new round of programs and entertainments is beginning, and I never want to miss a minute!

There are many wonderful new things happening this fall in the sampler world...  We've not had much in the past few years, due to the economy, but now we can see that things are changing, slowly, and there are several sampler and needlework events scheduled for this fall...  You'll want to mark your calendars!

We will be headed soon, with some friends, to attend a few - The Connecticut Historical Society in Hartford, Connecticut will be hosting a one-day seminar during their sampler exhibit, on Saturday, October 30th.  The Exhibit is called Connecticut Needlework: Women, Art, and Family, 1740- 1840 and runs from October 5, 2010 - March 26, 2011.  The one-day conference is of the same name, and features speakers such as:  Susan P. Schoelwer, Curator, George Washington’s Mount Vernon (formerly, Director of Museum Collections at CHS); Linda Baumgarten, Curator of Textiles and Costumes at Colonial Williamsburg Foundation;  Glee Krueger, author and needlework scholar; Deirdre Windsor, Windsor Conservation, Dover, MA;  and Linda Eaton, Director of Collections and Senior Curator of Textiles at the Winterthur Museum .

Speaking of Linda Eaton at Winterthur, she has just announced a date to save for their exhibit featuring the Plimoth Jacket and other topics - October 21 and 22, 2011.  So next fall will be fun, too!

I have a couple of recipes to share with you.  The crisp fall weather always makes me think of rustic soups.  I've been making bread a lot this year, and any of these would be great with a loaf of freshly-baked bread and a salad, for a complete and satisfying meal.

Pumpkin Soup

6 cups fat free chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons salt 
4 cups pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream (I usually substitute fat free half and half)
5 whole black peppercorns

Heat stock, salt, pumpkin, onion, thyme, garlic, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.  Puree the soup in small batches (1 cup at a time) using a food processor or blender. Return to pan, and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for another 30 minutes, uncovered. Stir in heavy cream. Pour into soup bowls and garnish with fresh parsley.

Lightened Up Zuppa Toscana 

(This is one of my favorite soups - I've done my best to lighten it up for a less caloric but still satisfying soup.)

1 lb. spicy Italian sausage – crumbled (Jennie O Spicy Italian Turkey Sausage)
1/2t liquid smoke
2Tbsp. bacon bits (use real bacon bits)
1 qt. water
(2) 14.5 oz. cans fat free chicken broth
2 lg. russet potatoes - cubed
2 garlic cloves - crushed
1 med. onion - chopped
2 cups chopped kale OR Swiss chard
1 cup fat free half and half
salt and pepper - to taste
In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage, breaking into small pieces as you cook it; drain thoroughly, set aside. 
Place water, broth, potatoes, garlic, and onion in a pot; simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender.

Add sausage, bacon and liquid smoke to pot; simmer for 10 minutes. 
Add kale and cream to pot; season with salt and pepper; heat through.


School has begun, we talked of horn-books and alphabets and the start of school last week and this week we continue with our favorites of the fall season.  Usually we get a beautiful Indian Summer here in the Northwest. This year we seem to have had a very short summer, skipped that Indian Summer and are into a very wet fall. I am hoping for a change, but the forecasts look bleak.

When I think of Fall, I seem to go straight to food, wonderful spices and warm things! I have so many favorite recipes and many seem to be treats: Quick breads, muffins and cookies, hot cider, to name a few. Julie and I will be sharing a few of our favorite Fall recipes with you now and will continue to share others as we travel through the season to the holidays.

Fall is one of my favorite seasons, though as I get older I crave the sun more and more. But I love the crisp mornings with the sunny afternoons that many Fall days bring. As I walk down our lane on those crisp mornings I find beautiful lace hanging in the dew of the bushes with the sun starting to shimmer through. The patterns of these spider webs are amazing and to think how quickly they created them!

This summer I had a treat in seeing the beautiful spider silk woven piece at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.  To see this and to know that it is created from the silk of spiders is so amazing.  

THE SPIDER'S WEB is a symbol of industry, patience and flexibility. It is associated with Arachne, the famed weaver and spinner who challenged the goddess Minerva to a contest of prowess.  Minerva turned Arachne into a spider,and her silken web is a product of the beauty and talent of her spinning.

Apples and Pears are two of the fruits of fall that are so often depicted in our samplers.  The apple symbolizes temptation and the Latin word for apple, Malum, means evil. The apple is, of course, associated with Adam and Eve.

In the book Sampler Motifs and Symbolism by Patricia Andrle and Lesley Rudnicki, they tell that the apple in a serpent's mouth symbolizes Original Sin. An apple tree with seven apples symbolizes the seven deadly sins.

An apple as a gift is a declaration of love. An apple held by the Virgin with the Child Jesus symbolizes the triumph over evil.

We have all heard  the saying, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away". When did that saying begin? It is said to be first found as a Welsh folk proverb(1866):  'Eat an apple on going to bed,/ And you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread.'

The pear is thought by some to be the forbidden fruit of Eden, not the apple. It is often found on German samplers.  The ancient Chinese believed that the pear was a symbol of immortality. (Pear trees live for a long time.) In Chinese the word "li" means both "pear" and "separation," and for this reason, tradition says that to avoid a separation, friends and lovers should not divide pears between themselves.

If I listed all my favorite fall recipes here, we would have a complete book, so I chose two. The first is from my Grandma Shaff's   collection:

Cry Baby Cookies
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 egg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup warm water
 2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup raisins ground
1/2 cup nuts 
5 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder

Cream shortening and sugar together and add the egg.  Beat until smooth. Add molasses alternately with warm water. Mix thoroughly. Add baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Sift flower and baking powder and salt together. Add this to the creamed mixture. Add nuts and raisins and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Frost with powdered sugar frosting.  The wonderful spices in these cookies are just right for fall.

All American Beef Stew
From a 1986 Woman's Day magazine, but I tweak it a bit.

3 lbs well trimmed beef round cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup seasoned flour (flour seasoned with fresh ground pepper and salt, this is used to coat the meat before browning)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 large onions (I usually only use one and cut it into small pieces) (But Becky doesn't like onions, so you can use more if you do like them - Julie)
4 medium carrots cut into 1 inch lengths
1 1/4 pounds small red-skinned potatoes quartered
3 ribs celery cut into 1 inch lengths
I add some rutabaga,  turnips, parsnips or other seasonal vegetables that we enjoy and are readily available when I am creating this dish.
About 4 cups beef broth (usually I add more than this depending on how many other things I have added to the pot)
1 small can tomato paste
4+ tablespoons mustard
4+ tablespoons ketchup
Fresh ground pepper and salt to taste.

Coat meat with seasoned flour and brown in hot oil. Reduce heat to medium low.  Set browned meat aside. Drain off all but 1 tablespoon pan drippings. Add onions, carrots, potatoes, and celery to pot. Cook about 5 minutes stirring once or twice. Add broth, tomato paste, mustard and ketchup, stirring to scrape up browned bits. Bring to a boil. Return browned meat to the pan. Reduce heat. Cover and simmer 1 hour. Stirring once. Taste add additional broth and seasonings if needed. Cover and simmer another hour, stirring once or twice until meat is tender. Sometimes I simmer it longer depending on my day.  A few minutes before serving add frozen peas to the mixture and allow to heat until peas are heated. Of course this is even better the second day!

Hint: a few drops of lemon juice or red-wine vinegar added during the last 15 minutes of cooking perks up the flavor of the stew.

One of my favorite pear items is a bread made at a local bakery that has hazelnuts and figs in it as well. I wait for this seasonal bread that is so yummy toasted in the morning.

Another favorite sandwich is one that Julie and I discovered while having tea at a special spot in Snohomish Washington a few years ago. We miss Mrs. Pennycooks Tea House very much.  This open-faced sandwich is delicious, with layers of turkey, spinach, thin slices of apples (but pears work very well too) and topped with havarti cheese.   The sandwich is toasted and the lovely crunch of the apples and warm cheese is just delightful.

Now I wait for the first Honeycrisp apples to arrive at that market! If you haven't tried this variety of apple, do so. They are just like their name sweet and crisp, no need for caramel to enjoy these!


1 comment:

  1. Sorry, I'm not much of a cook.
    But I do love autumn. The colours the soft golden sunshine. I love all seasons, each has its own charm but autumn is best.
    And of course, it is also the sign for more embroidery time. Long evenings near the fireplace.
    But on this sundayafternoon, it is only rain we get. A little depressing. But your blog (and a hot cocoa) does cheer me up. Thanks and have a nice week.


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