Sugar Cookie Memories

The new year always gets me thinking about past years and how far I’ve come. This year I got thinking about my Memere, who passed away from Alzheimers in 2006 a few months before I graduated college. She was an amazing woman who spoke English and French. Maine French, not Parisian French, and it was her first language. She often said things in double though not a stutter, and with an adorable accent. She was an incredible seamstress, a gardener, a stay at home mother to four boys, conservatively dressed but funny as heck, a cribbage player, a baker, a cook, an amazing wife for over 50 years who walked 3 miles every single morning with my Pepere, a loving mother, a spitfire, a “show your love with food” kind of lady, subtly sassy, a believer in God more than anything else, and a confidence builder. We grew up about 5 hours away from her, but I always looked forward to visiting her. My cousin Lisa and I would hide under her sewing table in our “cave” play with her buttons and read books together while the wood-stove was roaring. Stories have it that after she passed away and my Pepere stopped his daily walking routine people’s schedule all over town got messed up. They knew when they saw D&L it meant it was time to get the kids up, get the coffee on, get in the shower, get to work, or whatever it was that needed to be done at the precise minute they went by everyday.

One of my favorite memories was walking in to the smell of freshly baked warm sugar cookies. These weren’t just any sugar cookies, they were huge, and fluffy as all get out, chewy but still with a nice crisp on the outside.

In other words, they were absolutely fantastic. To this day I, and no one else I know of, has ever made them the same. It’s one of my life goals to find a way to recreate them so my kids and grand-kids can experience them too. Her cookies were at least double the size of the ones below, and about twice to three times as high. My mouth waters and I still smile when I think of them, even though I haven’t eaten them in almost 8 years.

I’m going to keep on trying to recreate these.  Once I do, I’ll share the recipe with you.

Until then, I’ll keep making them like this—from the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, but subbing half to a quarter of the butter for vegetable oil. I do it because it helps keep them soft long after they cool.

Also, until then I’ll keep eating them like this. Okay, I might even eat them like this long after I get the recipe right.

I bet Memere would have approved.

I miss her a lot, I think we all do. She’s was a strong bond in the family. I’d like to think if we could sit down and talk now as two women I would find out we were a lot alike. She taught me a lot, more in the last 6 months of her life than she will ever know. She also called that I would marry Andy. We got engaged years later while I was wearing her sweater and in the parking lot of the mill she had worked at as a teenager. I didn’t know this until after it happened. She will always have my heart.

Here’s to keeping family traditions alive and the stories they bring with them,  no matter how long it takes to get it right.

Much Love,

Heather

 

Drool Worthy Home Decor

This is pretty much how I feel when I find new online stores for home decor to look at. I’m likely the easiest person ever in the history of ever-ness to buy for. So when I googled “stores like One Kings Lane” and a site came up showing me similar stores to One Kings Lane and I went nuts over it.  Why I was googling “stores like One Kings Lane” was because I was trying to remember the name of a similar type store. For the record what I had been looking for originally was The Foundry. At this point that’s neither here nor there.

For whatever reason, I opened any and all stores that looked like glory to me and went to town. I now have three new stores to thoroughly examine and get giddy excited about—and that was only a couple pages in, when I made myself stop. My husband now has three more risks that I am going to buy something entirely un-needed.

None of these stores have any idea I’ve written about them, or am loving everything from their site design to their product selection. I needed to share these with you though, like yesterday

Bouf

First, this is just fun to say out loud. “Bouf”. Second, this site has adorable home decor and attire for the entire family. I’m a fan of the one stop shops. I’m especially a fan of the fact that these show up in the lingere section of the women’s site. This just touches a Mainers heart. Practical lingerie. Hey, even if the top is a little number you gotta keep your feet warm!

Also, this sugar jar made my night. I would actually spent $23.51 for this. Why? Because it’s the most random price I have ever seen at an online store. Also,  it’s made from porcelain. This is an object that is the trifecta of design I love – rustic chic/quirky/anykindofceramics. I may need to add this to my collection of fantastic useless items. Nay, I refuse to call it useless. It holds sugar.  That makes it entirely reasonable to buy.

 

Three Potato Four

This store is adorable. What caught me first was the website design. It was like they said, “Oh lets make this for Heather.” and I was like “Hey Janet and Stu, good job.” and they were all like, “Our plan worked” and then I didn’t respond because I was too busy staring with googly heart eyes at all the house goodness.

Also, I don’t know Janet and Stu personally. I did read their “about” page though so we’re pretty much best friends now.

One of my favorite items from this store are these ceramic ruler pitchers for $16.00.

But then again, there are these old skeleton keys, 3 for $12.00.  I have approximately negative 12,520 ideas of what I would do with these keys besides make ornaments for the tree, frame one, put it somewhere clever to make something else look old, attach a house key to it if my best friend came to visit; so I really don’t need them. I want them.

Didn’t you know that’s what an adult is? “Adult: Someone who knows the difference between need and want.” Okay, maybe it’s not the definition, but it sure seems to be a part of it. The ants in the pants party need to settle down because my debit card is remaining firmly in my wallet.

Or until I find a reason to need a set of those keys.

Can someone make me a safe that specifically has to open with one of these? I will continue to brainstorm asinine reasons I need these until I can convince myself it’s true.

I could go on forever about all the different items there that make me smile. I must move on though.

The Brook Farm General Store

Great googly moogly indeed! I don’t care if you’re currently closed. I will be loving you from afar and once you open back up, you cute little Brook Farm General Store, I will buy from you. I officially make it a 2012 resolution to buy one thing from them. There, now I have to. I resolved to do so.

First. Bathroom items. I refuse to choose one thing. I would like to note I could use a book on housekeeping in general though, not just green ways.

Scratch that. I could use a housekeeper. Just a few times a month. Problem solved.

I also wish I could explain to you why their collection of brushes make me grin like a 7th grade boy at a dance who just got asked by the most awesome girl ever and now he’s dancing at an arms length apart to Boys II Men and considers it the best night of his life. How’s that for an analogy *polishes knuckles off*. To be honest, I think I just love the layout. If this was a print I would have it hung in my mudroom. The one that doesn’t exist yet. Until then it is firmly in my brain, and this non-existent print is a part of it. That hedgehog gets me every single time.

Here are a variety of other little doo-dads that made me smile. Mind you this is my version of window shopping, so I’m totally ignoring prices.

 

1. Postal Co. Notebooks   2.Gum Eraser   3. Square Notes  4.  Ebbtide Day Blanket  5. Steel Straws  6.  Ice Cube Tray  7.  Set of Four Clips  8. Breakfast, Lunch, Tea  9.  Light Cotton Shawl10. Weekender Bag 11. Braun Alarm Clock 12.  Woven Hamper  13. Wire Locker Basket 14.  Hammamm Towel 15. {hilarious} Organic Blue Goose

Oh unexpected google searches and online window shopping, how I love you. What are some of your favorite online shops you’ve come across?

xo,

Heather

DIY Firewood French Rolling Pin

It’s 15 degrees out and I got covered in sawdust today. I am a happy woman.

After getting our lathe set up last night I was thinking about what I could make. I knew the project had to be easy, since I had never used one before and I’m most definitely a novice in any woodworking. Even though the lathe has chucks to turn wood bowls it would be too difficult for a first project. A light bulb went off this morning and I told Andy I wanted to try making a french rolling pin. About two seconds later he was headed to the workshop. I love that he got excited too.

We needed a 2×2 by 20 to 24 inch piece of wood. Unfortunately we didn’t have any so Andy found the longest piece of firewood he could and used the bandsaw & tablesaw to cut it to size. This piece happened to be maple.

Next he showed me how to find the center of each end with a square edge, and align the edges into each chuck on the lathe. Then he told me how to tighten it all down, line up the guide and a quick lesson in how to use the lathe & tools. Here’s some tips Andy gave me (in my words). Do not use these tips as “good enough” guidance. Lathes are extremely dangerous and I don’t condone using them unless you are already skilled with them, or have someone who is skilled with you.

  • Never use chisels as lathe tools. Ever. In a million years. Ever.
  • Don’t use a lathe without professional guidance – it’s way dangerous.
  • Wear a full face shield.
  • Take your time. Go slow. Pay attention. You simply cannot be rushed, or distracted, when using one. You will get hurt.
  • You have to have control over the tools – but you have to respect the how sharp it is.
  • If you tip your lathe tool too low, it can get pulled under the piece – along with your hand and arm.
  • If you tip your lathe tool too high, it can fling back and up into your neck/face.
  • Knocking the corners off right when you start is the most dangerous part, you pretty much want to barely touch the wood but have a very firm grip – it takes a while.
  • Baggy clothing plus spinning wood is a super bad idea. I wore a fitted shirt with my sleeve pushed up the entire time.

You’ll get used to the best grip for you. As the photo below indicates, I had a death grip on the tool right at the beginning while knocking off the edges. As I kept working with it, and different tools, my grip and style definitely changed.

It turns out I am left handed on the lathe. Your dominant hand is suppose to be on the bottom of the handle but it just didn’t work for me. I can definitely work with my right hand (as I did above) but it felt far more natural using my left hand.

It took a while to knock off the edges, but I finally started getting somewhere and getting more comfortable.

Near the end Andy helped me from wanting to briefly throw the rolling pin in the wood-stove. I just couldn’t get the ends the exact the same size and taper. Thankfully my husband is the shit. Andy showed me where it needed work, but stepped back and let me do it. It was awesome to have someone come over and give tips throughout and then leave me to it. Finally, Andy showed me how to sand the piece and he cut off the ends where the chucks were.

Total cost to make? $0.00.

Here’s it is close up. The final piece is about 18″ long. It’s a little short for a french rolling pin and you can tell it’s not totally even, but I love it. For the first piece I ever made and without calipers to make sure I was entirely accurate it’s not bad. Andy would have had me shave some more but I decided it was good enough. I am looking forward to trying my hand at another one.

Andy’s brother suggested I “whisker” the piece. Even though I haven’t yet, it’s a great idea. Per my brother in law, this entails taking a slightly damp cloth and gently rubbing it over the piece. Then you hold it in front of the wood-stove with high heat to raise the grain or “whiskers”. Once the grain raises you take a piece of 600-1000 grit sandpaper and wipe only in the same direction as the grain to sheer the “whiskers” off. This makes for a smoother piece and keeps it from whiskering out after the first wash—which can end up in your food. Once this is done, a little rub of mineral oil and it’s set for use!

It’s kind of awesome to know this was a piece of firewood just hanging out in our basement.

I have to admit something. This is one of the most relaxing  and satisfying things I have ever done. You literally cannot think about anything else except the present. For someone who thinks a lot, this is welcome. I also welcome the fact it was free.

Now to decide what else I can create. Maybe a set of wooden cooking utensils?

Much Love,

Heather

Woodshop Upgrades

Do you remember last January when I posted about my love of a lathe, and how I wanted Andy to update his shop a little?

I knew you did. You’re so good like that.

It’s been almost a year, so I thought I would update you on the four new pieces we’ve acquired. Soon after the lathe blog post last January, we picked up our Shop Fox band-saw and jointer from an industrial wood-shop supply place here in Maine.

Our next piece, our planer, was found through some interesting Craigslist selling & buying. We sold an old fridge, and our oil hot water heater. Andy ended up getting another call about the fridge—and per what he told me, only went online and searched our town name to see if it was still listed for some reason. He swears he removed the listing—and that he wasn’t specifically looking for tools or a sawmill.

I’ve decided to believe him, with a little eye squintiness and smirk going on because I’m not 100% sold.

The search turned up a Jet planer. Even though he wasn’t the first one to call he was the first one over there with a pickup truck, and cash to pay for it. He got it for about 1/4 of what it’s worth. A little sharpening of the planer blades brought it back to near mint condition.

Finally—are you ready?

No really. Are you? Because this is exciting.

We have a lathe. Not a 30 year old piece of junk lathe but a nice lathe. I’m not sure how the conversation started between Andy and our coworker, but I do know it turns out he was upgrading from his Jet lathe. We ended up buying it, with bowl chucks, for about 1/2 of it’s retail cost not including the chucks. I might be just a little excited.

To be clear, I’m still slightly intimidated by my scroll saw so I’m ogling the lathe from a slight distance at this point.

It’s just so wonderful. Andy got all the adjustments done he needed, and then cut a piece of firewood on the bandsaw and decided to turn a “woodworking mallet”.

There’s just something so wonderful about wood shavings all over strong hands from woodworking.

I think the finished product looks like a solid oak replica of an old corked bottle. I can just picture it white washed with a beautiful hand-painted label on it.

Even though it’s meant for woodworking, or so I’m told (I am admittedly very gullible in some aspects) I still love that this was turned from a piece of firewood.

That my friends, is why I love lathes.

Happy Woodworking,

Heather