Thursday, December 31, 2009

Here's to The New Year!

May it bring more joy and success
And less grief & regret.
To our dreams...
May we never stop believing in them
And taking the actions that will make them a reality.
To our friends and loved ones,
May we take the time to let them know
How much it means to us
To have them in our lives.
Let us encourage more and criticize less,
Give more and need less.
And whenever we can,
Let us create harmony and peace.
To new beginnings...
Let us start fresh, right now,
To make this the very best year ever.
A very Happy New Year to all of us!
by Joanna Fuchs

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A New Hampshire Mystery

In the hills surrounding Littleton, New Hampshire, this piece of local history sat in a sad state of disrepair on the verge of foreclosure for back taxes.

As I set about the LONG process of saving this beauty I became intrigued with its history. During countless trips North I began researched the deeds to this property. Imagine my surprise to discover the "1820" over the front door was the date of the "modernization" of this old beauty & that the original structure dated back to (approx ) 1789!

Armed with names from old deeds, the 1905 texts : The History of Littleton, Old Gazetteers & maps, I essentially did the 'genealogy" of the house. There were many local stories about the house and I was anxious to uncover the facts. After extensive research, talks with local historians, treks through ancient cemeteries I finally had what I believed to be an accurate history of the house.

"James Williams, a brother-in-law of Ebinezer Pingree, became a citizen of Littleton in 1789. He bought the Pingree property at North Littleton and established a tavern, over which he presided until his death in 1822. Mr Williams was a man of great enterprise, and soon had several acres under cultivation and before the close of the year a large & commodious log house built in which many a weary traveler in after years found rest & refreshment."
History of Littleton NH Annals Vol 1

One of the large upstairs rooms had primitive murals painted over plaster & lathe that had never been painted or papered over and were unsigned. Another mystery!
While researching folk art & mural painting in the 1800's I stumbled across Rufus Porter.

"Rufus Porter, an artist and inventor who lived from 1792 - 1884 and spent his boyhood years in the Bridgton, Maine area, helped to create an American culture. In his early years Porter painted small watercolor portraits from Maine to Virginia, then later moved on to landscape painting on walls of private homes throughout New England. His use of local landscapes with a vivid palette and broad, open brushstrokes was a departure from the styles and content of classical European wallpaper. Because most of his murals were unsigned, it was not until the mid 1930s that his body of work was authenticated through the publications of Jean Lipman. Today he is recognized as an icon of American art, inventor, and founder of the Scientific American magazine."

Similar, but not quite right.
After contacting the Smithsonian, Colonial Williams burg, The Museum of American Folk Art, and a painter familiar with the works & style of Rufus Porter, I still had no answers.

Fast forward 13 years: I receive an email with a picture attached inquiring: Is this your house? Ive been looking for you!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas-that magic blanket that wraps itself about us,
that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance.
It may weave a spell of nostalgia.

Christmas may be a day of feasting,
or of prayer,
but always it will be a day of remembrance-
a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.
Augusta E. Rundel

Wishing you Joy & Love this Holiday Season!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bayberry Candle Making Day

Steeped in American history, bayberry candles have been given as gifts of prosperity and friendship for centuries. While the main significance of the bayberry candle is its historical tie to good wishes for the new year, bayberry candles have religious and cultural significance as well.

Colonial women discovered that boiling the berries of the bayberry bush resulted in a sweet smelling wax with a clean burn. Legend has it that the group of women who discovered bayberry wax started the colonial tradition of giving bayberry candles as Christmas Gifts.

According to colonial folklore, sweethearts who are separated at Christmas should light bayberry candles to be united by the candle's gentle aroma. In addition, burning a gifted bayberry candle down to the end on Christmas Eve will bring luck and good fortune for the following year.

"A bayberry candle burned to the socket, brings joy to the heart and gold to the pocket.'"

Many Christians believe that the light of the bayberry candle on Christmas Eve will welcome the Christ child into their homes. Legend states that the Bay Tree sheltered the holy family during a storm and as a result lightning will never strike it. Neo-pagans burn the bayberry candle for prosperity and happiness on Yule or the Winter Solstice.

For the settlers, bayberry candles signified the special pleasures of Christmastime and they still do today. One pound of bayberry wax requires 15 pounds of bayberries. In addition, the process of extracting the wax is time consuming and difficult. Bayberry wax is made by boiling the berries then repeatedly skimming the wax from the top. Because of this tedious process, bayberry candles were only burned on special occasions during colonial times. They were valued for their delicate scent, but also for their rarity.

My whole house is filled with the traditional scent of the holidays as I pour these candles.
While I offer a small number of these for sale in my shop, they're mostly made for special friends & family.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Cookie Walk & Handmade for the Holidays

Annual Cookie Walk
"Handmade for the Holidays"
Gift Event
To Benefit the Town of Crawford Library
Saturday, December 12 from 9-1

Delicious Homemade Cookies by the Pound
One of a kind gifts from local artists

We'll be there with eco friendly Soy Candles.
Pure Bees Wax Tapers &
Real Bayberry Candles

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Anise Biscotti

Anytime I make these delicious Italian Cookies, my son turns the house upside down looking for where Ive hidden them. These are also a handsdown favorite of the Arty Tea Party Ladies and are very simple to make. They can be made ahead of time and stored in a tin for several weeks. (if the cookie monsters in YOUR house don't sniff out your hiding place!)

Biscotti are a traditional Italian cookie that are baked twice & keep for a long time!

2 Cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter(softened)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup annisette
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup Pine Nuts
1 Tbsp anise seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Combine ingredients & form a log aprox 12 inches long & 2 inches wide.
Bake on parchment paper covered cookie sheet for 30 minutes.
Allow to cool slightly
With a serrated knife: slice 3/4 in thick & bake an additional 30 minutes ( turning after 15 minutes)
Of course you will feel compelled to eat any that don't come out just right! Make sure you have the coffee ready! Happy Baking!!