Friday, December 28, 2007

Kitchen Witchery!

For centuries, the kitchen has been the center of the home; a place of warmth and kinship, where visitors are made welcome, laughter is shared and memories are created - a place where we find nourishment for our souls as well as our bodies.

My own kitchen is no exception, and it seems wherever we live, whatever our circumstances, however large or small the house and the rooms, the kitchen is the hub of all the activity - and never moreso than over the holidays! From the simplest no-bake cookie recipe to the most elaborate Dickensian feast, it's always a big part of our celebration.....

Menus this season have included:

Cider baked butternut squash soup with a carmelized onion tart
Vegetarian chili with buttermilk cornbread
Prime rib with Yorkshire pudding and all the trimmings
Spinach and artichoke lasagne with salad and bruschetta

....And admittedly a few leftovers and one night of Chinese take-out. :)

Recipes are chosen from my collection of well over 200 cookbooks (can we say compulsive, lol?) as well as some of the most treasured recipes, hand written on 3x5 cards and tucked in a wooden box. Some of these are over 40 years old, the paper yellowed and the writing faded, but they'e so infused with happy memories and family tradition as to make the preparation feel sacred and magickal.

All of this has served as the inspiration behind the latest piece, painted just yesterday, and shown above - a double recipe box. Yet another I was tempted to keep (it's considerably larger and prettier than mine) but I'm sending it out into the world with the wish that it become a sacred part of someone's own kitchen magick!

Several other Kitchen and Hearth Witch pieces are in the works too, so stay tuned.....

In the meantime, here's that soup recipe. Enjoy.....

Cider Baked Butternut Squash Soup

2 medium sized butternut squash (at least a lb each)
1/2 c. apple cider
2 T olive oil
1 large sweet onion
2 apples (not red delicious) peeled, cored and chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 large rutebega or turnip, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carton vegetable broth
fresh sage
fresh rosemary
1 1/2 c. whole milk or half n half
Salt, pepper and fresh ground nutmeg to taste

Split squash down the middle, remove seeds and place halves (you can cut the long ends into smaller pieces) on large baking sheet. Fill the cavities with apple cider and bake at 450 until done (test with a fork). Cool, remove the squash from the peel and set aside.

In the meantime, in a large heavy bottomed kettle, sautee the onion in the olive oil until translucent, then add the apples, carrots, rutebega, celery, vegetable broth and herbs (about a Tbsp each or to taste). Cover and simmer about an hour or until vegetables are tender. Add the squash (cider included) and heat through.

Puree in batches in a food processor and return to the kettle. Add the milk and salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste, and heat through not quite to boiling. Serve garnished with herb croutons or crusty whole grain bread.

Blessings from my kitchen to yours,
~ Carolee

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day!

Sounds like some sort of pugilistic celebration, doesn't it? Or a day for discarding all the Christmas boxes and wrapping?

It's neither, but it is an official holiday in Britain and Canada. Boxing Day originated in medieval times as the day when gifts of money and durable goods were given to the servants and poorer classes (who generally had to work on Christmas Day). In Ireland it's also known as St. Stephen's Day, the feast day for the first Christian martyr, or "Wren Day", whose curious and somewhat gruesome customs I won't detail here (figuring we all know how to google). :)

But for most of us here in the U.S. it's known as "back to work" day, *sigh*....

I say this not for myself, but for my husband, who is as I write this braving turnpike traffic on his way to work. I'm actually looking forward to new projects, with so many ideas spinning around in my head I'll be lucky to complete half of them in 2008!

As we approach the New Year, look for a very large apothecary chest/pantry (absolutely bursting with potions, herbs, spices and accoutrements - and of course, a black cat!), a sign or two, and wicked cool double recipe box. There's also a new clock in the works, so stay tuned.....

In the meantime, I've listed a trio of boxes I'm going to have a very difficult time parting with....but part with them I must, and with all the blessings that inspired them. :)

Right now I'm off to grab a cup of tea and do a bit of knitting. Although the work week has resumed, we're milking the Christmas holidays for all we can around here; thoroughly enjoying Courtney's company of course, but also planning a few more dinners and gift exchanges with family and friends. And one of those gifts - a knitted scarf - is nearing completion, so I'd better get to it.

Many thanks to those who sent us Christmas cards and greetings via snail mail and email, and apologies for not reciprocating. This is the first in many, many years I just didn't pull it together in time to send anything. I'm hoping to catch up on correspondence after the first of the year, but with John's heart surgery looming I'm making no promises or resolutions....

Off to face the day now....And wishing everyone a Happy Boxing Day, or Happy Wednesday, whichever it is for you. :)

~ Carolee

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

And with Courtney home for the week, it's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

After a day spent running last minute errands, and a leisurely Mother Daughter lunch at Olive Garden, we came home and set to work - or I should say Courtney and her friend Lyndy set to work hanging the ornaments as I painted, and I finished by adding the beads and crackers. The hundred or so icicles we usually add remain lost in the attic, and will just have to stay there until next year. I think the tree looks just fine as it is. :)

I'm still knitting madly, with just one alpaca scarf to complete, and fringe to add on a shawl. Tomorrow we'll be baking cookies all day, as a kettle of vegetarian chili simmers on the stovetop, in anticipation of company arriving tomorrow evening.

Christmas Eve will find us doing a bit of last minute wrapping, tidying the house, and settling down for the proverbial long winter's nap before heading out to Midnight Mass - always my favorite part of Christmas.

I'm not sure if time will allow another update here until later in the week, so I'll take this opportunity to convey my deepest appreciation to friends, family and collectors for an incredible 2007. I wish you all a joyous Christmas, a blessed Yule, and a happy, healthy New Year!

~ Carolee

Friday, December 21, 2007

Solstice Blessings!

Wishing all those who observe it a joyous Winter Solstice, and Blessed Yule! Tonight at 10:08 pacific time (1:08 tomorrow morning for those of us here on the east coast} we mark the astronomical first day of winter; the longest night and shortest day of the year, and the re-emergence of the sun. :)

Rather than go on about the history and origin of Solstice observance, and the connection to Christmas (which anyone can google), I thought I'd share some ways to celebrate:

Light candles
Hang mistletoe in thresholds
Decorate with evergreen boughs and pinecones
Fill bird feeders and decorate outdoor trees with edible ornaments
Burn a yule log in your fireplace
Invite friends and family over for an impromptu Solstice celebration
Make donations of food and clothing to those less fortunate
Comtemplate peace and good will.

We'll be doing several of the above here tonight and into tomorrow; hanging the mistletoe and evergreens, lighting candles, and having a midwinter feast with our daughter Courtney, who's due to arrive from North Carolina this evening. I've just started a kettle of homemade cider-baked butternut squash soup, which we'll have with an onion and thyme tart this evening, as we catch up on the past year (far too long to go between visits with one's child!)

Right now I'm off to do a bit of housekeeping and decorating, and will try to post photos this weekend. In the meantime, I wish you all a warm and happy Midwinter's Eve!

~ Carolee

Monday, December 17, 2007


I've been tagged by Kristen of Kristen Beason Designs to list my twenty five favorite movies. In no particular order:

It's a Wonderful Life
Lost in Translation
Lord of the Rings
Stealing Beauty
Practical Magic
Dr Zhivago
Boys on the Side
The Wizard of Oz
The Princess Bride
The Quiet Man
Nightmare Before Christmas
Young Frankenstein
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Harold and Maude
Edward Scissorhands
The Shawshank Redemption
Best in Show
The Commitments
When Harry Met Sally
Wuthering Heights

In turn, I'll tag:


Friday, December 14, 2007

The Snow Queen....

...Has come to life here in the studio (see the sparkling sleigh here, listed on eBay now), and is also scheduled to make a personal appearance in the form of yet another winter storm, due this weekend. We were looking forward to visiting friends down near the city on Sunday, but the forecast is making travel seem more and more unlikely...So it's looking like another weekend of painting, and hopefully - finally - getting the tree up!

It's a very strange holiday season this year, and I'm usually much more on top of things, having completed all the decorating, baking, cards and gifts by now. But I suppose John Lennon was right - life is what happens while we're busy making other plans. Between John's recent health crisis, lots of errands and doctor visits, and repeated problems with the new car (four months ownership and five trips to the dealer for repairs?!), to say I've fallen behind would be an understatement.

But much as we enjoy the trimmings, what will make Christmas special for us this year is that we're together; John is home for the time being (with heart surgery likely after the first), Courtney is arriving next Friday and will spend 8 days here, and we've scheduled visits with family and friends throughout the week.

In the studio, the Witch's pantry I've been promising has been pushed back until after the holidays, but look for a wonderful new knitting box (or mitten box - not sure what I'll call it) to be listed soon, and well as a new Halloween piece. Everything will be on three day auctions until Christmas, in an effort to allow as much shipping time as possible.

Many thanks to all of you who've sent cards and emails with well wishes and inquiries about John, and kind words about my work - you've made a very stressful time much less so, and I love you all. :)

Wishing everyone a happy and blessed season!

~ Carolee

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tagged Again....

Eeeek! I've been "tagged" again, this time by Chris, for the "MeMe" game - so here goes:

8 things I am passionate about

Animal Rights
Social Justice

8 things I want to do before I die

Live a healthier lifestyle
Have a successful art career
Travel as much as possible
See my grandchildren grow up
Build and live in a "green" home
Learn to play the hammered dulcimer
Work on spirituality
Make a difference

8 Things I say often

I love you
I miss you
Gimme hugs
Do you have to go outside?
Where's your ball?
Who's a good boy/girl?! (Hey, I spend a lot of time at home with the dogs)
Can you believe this idiot?! (reading the news)
I want to move to Canada (also reading the news)

8 books I've read recently

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
The Business of Bliss, published by Victoria magazine
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs
Running With Scissors by Augusten Borroughs
Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman
Knitting for Peace by Betty Christiansen

8 songs I could listen to over and over again

Mercy Mercy Me ~ Marvin Gaye
Power of Two ~ The Indigo Girls
Unchained Melody ~ The Righteous Brothers
Smooth ~ Carlos Sanatana
I Am the Ride ~ Chris Smither
Let it Be ~ The Beatles
Music of the Night ~ Michael Crawford
Georgia ~ Ray Charles

8 things that attract me to my friends

A quick wit
A sense of ethics

8 People who should do this "MeMe"

Okay now, I'm listing them here, but have no idea how to make links and don't have the time to figure it out at this exact moment. If anyone would like to email me privately (please don't instruct me here on my blog) and clue me in, I'd be grateful. In the meantime, you can find these people's links to the right. :)


Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Hearth and Home :)

Each year, as winter weather approaches (snow showers expected today!) I find myself seriously "feathering the nest" - and this year is no exception. Even in the midst of this crazy schedule, thoughts turn to making the home and studio a place of warmth and refuge, a place of comfort, a place of welcome.

Despite the holiday disarray (there are still boxes of decorations strewn about, and more than a few wood pieces stacked up in the living room) there are touches of comfort; afhgans and down lap duvets are thrown over sofa and chairs, spicy scented candles burn, herbal teas are brewed, and meals turn to comfort food. Last night I cooked up a large kettle of homemade vegetarian chili with buttermilk cornbread, and I think the howling wind blowing outside made it taste even better than usual.

Soon the holiday baking will begin, although probably in the evenings this year, as the days will be spent painting the last creations of 2007.

The Witch's Yuletide Pantry and Snow Queen's Sleigh I've been promising are still in the works, as are a few more doggie and kitty welcome signs. Listed now is the piece shown above - one I was sorely tempted to keep - a ceramic pie plate titled "Blessings of the Hearth". I could just see the holiday mince pie coming out of the oven in this one. :)

Wishing everyone all the comfort of your own home and hearth this season!

~ Carolee