Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Must-Try for Next Holiday Season

The tradition of Christmas cake has long faded into the shadows with holiday ghost stories and Twelfth Night parties. The beauty and delicacy of an old-fashioned cake recipe, however, can't be beaten by even the most tempting of gingerbread men.

This is melt-in-your-mouth Marmalade Cake is a queen among elaborate home recipes and holiday desserts. Its preparation time and list of ingredients (not to mention minor expense) limits it to special occasions, but a slice from its chilled layers well repays the effort involved.
Three layers of orange cake sandwiched together with maramalade glaze, topped with whipped cream instead of icing. The recipe is taken from Jan Karon's Mitford cookbook (which includes other temptations as well). See a standard version of this Mitford delicacy HERE and add this sweet treat to your recipe books.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Few of Our Favorite Things: Martha Stewart's Cookbooks

This is a MUST for kitchen lovers, culinary amateurs, and cooks everywhere (especially those who are kindred spirits with arts and crafts). Even if you never make a dish from its vast resources, simply reading about them will make your mouth water ...

The Christmas edition is a standard in our house, but the all-year-round edition is fast becoming a new favorite. Venture outside the generic menu with item-specific cookbooks from Martha Media, including the cupcakes volume and the classic pies and tarts (don't skimp -- order both the new and the old edition, which contains both rustic and elaborate desserts made from simple ingredients).

Friday, January 21, 2011


This January, the cabin lost one of its most-familiar furry friends. Rowdy, whose picture graced the newsletter button and various posts, passed away shortly after the New Year from chronic feline asthma. Despite treatment, both age and underlying conditions made any recovery difficult.

An artist with a keen eye for paint and paper mache, Rowdy became an enthusiastic outdoorsman later in life. He preferred curling up in the garden and sunning himself, as well as hunting grasshoppers and moths. An avid critic of gardening, he freely participated in watching others weed flower beds and sow seeds. Despite less-than-perfect health, this spry Siamese mix still managed moments of kittenish play, bounding through the house and chasing his beloved ping-pong ball and feather toy ... not to mention his favorite cabin kitty and mother-figure Sabrina.

He will be much missed by family, his house companions George and Ginger, and his arch-enemy from the outdoors, Poppy the Cat -- with whom he spent many an hour on the lookout for unknown cats sneaking in by the back garden fence. Alas, his last goal of catching his own bird remained to the last.

Farewell, old friend.

Monday, January 17, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

We've got a short list of ideas on what the next year holds for the Cabin in terms of homestead improvements ... of course, the challenge is actually carrying them out (especially in these tough economic times). Drum roll, please ....

1) The Greenhouse: yes, we've wanted this in the past ... and got as far as revamping the potting shed. But now we're talking an actual structure of glass, capable of wintertime flowers, small exotic trees, and veggies for the off-season. We've got the glass, now all we need is time and willpower. We want at least a sketch and a piece of property selected, if not an actual frame in the works...

2) The Smokehouse: we've been talking about this one for years, too. The ability to cure hams, make bacon, and even experiment with beef or venison using the techniques of our ancestors (and some modern food safety measures made since the good ol' days). For the pride of doing it ourselves, as well as some tasty results.

3) The Drying House: The little stone building and wood-burning stove are just waiting for a few finishing steps to be a haven for drying flowers, fruit, and other small items. Right now, it just serves as a stone wall for propping up chicory stalks. But soon, maybe it will actually get a little tin roof and an actual drying space framed up.

4) The Orchard: Fruit and nut trees desperately need replanted after the harsh ice storm of a few years ago. Now that the ground has been cleared of stumps, we're ready for the new trees to be installed. From cherry and apple to pear and plum, we're weighing all the different kinds of fruit and nut trees that promise long-term harvests.

5) Tree Lots: We've been meaning to clear a little space for cultivating some trees, especially light, fast-growing woods meant for crafts, like basswood. Plus some ornamental favorites, like maples and Osage orange shrubs for landscaping and whimsy.

6) The Junk Pile: Everybody has one, but ours includes a small outdoor lot which houses leftover fencing and scrap metal. It was originally meant as a temporary storage site full of odds and ends with useful or creative appeal ... but it's time to weed out some of the less useful items and store the others for future use.

That's it for now -- although I'm sure we'll think of other things to add by the first of the year. Hopefully, we'll have some actual progress to report before the next round of New Year's Resolution are made.