Monday, October 11, 2010

Apple Season

Here in the Northeast the air is turning cool, which signals apple harvest time. Like any dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, this is my favorite time of year. I much prefer my fall/winter cooking and baking recipes over my spring/summer barbecue fare. Two weeks ago my husband and I went apple picking to get some apples for eating as well as for making delicious apple recipes. We traveled an hour to Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury specifically for their fabulous apple cider donuts. You can watch them being made, and then snatch them while they are still warm and sugary!

This one didn't even make it out of the parking lot.

They have a beautiful property all decked out with the season's bounty.

We walked up the hill to pick Honey Crisp and Macintosh.

They have a small petting zoo with farm animals like goats,

and a big tom turkey

We brought home two enormous bags of apples and a dozen eleven apple cider donuts. I planned on making some kind of dessert with some of the apples the following weekend....

Later on that week,  I was walking my dog in the neighborhood, when I saw a couple of boxes sitting by the curb. Of course my inner dialogue said "there could be something I could use in an art project over there", so I walked over to check it out. In the first box I saw a bunch of empty glass spice jars. I rationalized that these could either be used for storage or could be part of a mixed media project.  I gathered as many as I could and stuffed them in every pocket I had. In the last box, I found three cast iron skillets. There were two small ones and a larger skillet that all looked like they were in fairly good condition but entirely too heavy to carry home with the spice jars and a dog on a leash. I quickly finished my walk with the dog so I could take my car back over there to retrieve the skillets. 

I knew they just needed a little cleaning, but being cast iron I thought it was a good idea to find out how to clean them. Whenever I need to learn something, I immediately turn to my new favorite instructional guide: You Tube. Sure enough, I found quite a few videos on how to clean and season rusty cast iron cookware. I followed the instructions to wash in soapy water (after all they were living outside), scrub them with a warm oil and salt mixture, and finally season them by buffing in a little oil. After about 1 1/2 hours of elbow grease later, I had three velvety black skillets.

I passed on the two smaller skillets to my sons, and kept the large one for myself. The great thing about cast iron cookware is that it is the original "non-stick" cookware and using it regularly actually supplements your daily iron intake! It cooks as well on top of the stove as it does in the oven, and it's practically indestructible. I say "practically" because my mother, who was know in my family as the "destructor-bot" broke the handle off of her large black iron skillet.

For my first foray into cast iron cooking, I found a Skillet Apple Cobbler recipe on the blog "The Other Side Of  Fifty". I made it as shown with the exception of the boiled cider and as I always do, I substituted half of the white flour with half wheat flour. It filled the house with the sweet scent of cinnamon and it was delicious with a little vanilla bean ice cream on the side. 

So if you have a cast iron skillet in the back recesses of your kitchen cabinet, get it out and try this recipe with some of this season's bounty.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Studio Tour

I thought I would show you my happy place: my home studio. My husband and I redecorated our son's bedroom when he moved out to his own place. Before then, I had always worked wherever I could find a place to temporarily spread out. When we lived in apartments, I would use the kitchen table as my craft lab. When we bought our house, there wasn't any room for my stuff, so I took over a small part of the dining room. Problem was our dining room is a pass-through to the rest of the house and my piles of fabric; I was a quilter at the time, was expanding with no where to go. 
When my son went to college I asked him if it would be alright to use one wall of  his room. After all it was completely empty on one side and I really could use the space. He graciously agreed. Little did he know that over the course of his four years away at school,  my art stuff would grow like one of those giant pumpkins you see at the county fair. I had not only started art school myself, but I discovered the wonderful world of Altered Books, Collage, Sculpture and Mixed Media.  When he came home to visit, he literally was sleeping inside of a craft closet!
Today I have a beautiful room all to myself. I painted the walls a sunshiny yellow, which was inspired by the quilt artist Freddy Moran and her beautiful quilt studio. I saw an interview on television with her and I always remembered her saying that her yellow studio was bright and sunny even on the grayest of rainy days. I feel instantly happy when I open my studio door. The woodwork was painted with a hint of yellow mixed into the paint, and I painted the ceiling a light sky blue. 

This is my cutting counter that I bought for $25.00! It was a discontinued floor sample. I keep my altered books, unfinished projects, a sewing machine and drill press behind the doors.

These mannequins were made by members of my Altered Arts Group.

This is my chandelier with a little friend perched on it. It really is more useful than decorative.

I do most of  my work on this drafting table that I got for $15.00. Notice the beautiful quilt on my chair which was a Christmas present from my friend Peggy.

This inspirational fortune is taped to my swing arm task lamp for me to ponder every day.

This is my main ink pad storage and little drawers for tiny bits and bobs.

Plenty of tools to color and paint with in pots on the counter.

This is my favorite storage piece. It is a Closet Maid drawer system which holds tools in the two top drawers and the other deep drawers hold adhesives, paints, glitters, embossing powders and punches.

Did I mention I have a few jars of paint?

Another drawer holds Colorbox chalk and Fresco ink pads.

This is my sweet baby Singer Featherweight.

Sometimes I like to type out some text for collaging on this old Royal typewriter.

My collection of art & craft books sits on a long shelf over my work area. I also display little works of art from friends here too.

This is my itty bitty, extremely awkward closet. I have it packed to the max with raw materials and magazines, magazines, magazines!

This is the latest addition to my studio, this fabulous storage unit from Ikea. It holds so much stuff.

More paint - Golden Glazes.

These old metal lunch boxes makes great storage for all sorts of things.

This is my new rubber stamp storage. I used to have my wood stamps stored in 2 six drawer rolling carts and my unmounted stamps stored in four over sized plastic shoe boxes up high on a shelf. Now everything lives together organized and labeled in these Stampendous "Thickers" storage containers. Each one holds a single layer of stamps so you can easily see and get to your collection. 

This is my BIG storage cabinet for fabric. I got this for $25.00 too!

The shelves can barely hold up from the weight of the expansive fabric stash. Each basket holds a different color. On the top shelf is my ribbon storage in Snapware containers.

On the back of the studio door is my large art paper storage. I used five curtain rods to hold over 75 sheets of paper organized by color. When I want a sheet, I just unhook the curtain rod, get what I want, then clip it back on the fixture. Underneath are a few tote bags and to the right,  a step stool.

Home Sweet Home Studio