A New Book Coming…and I’m Writing It! What It’s About and How to Pre-Order

So, I’m writing a book.  For over a year I have been shopping a proposal to publishers.  I knew that I could self publish at any point, but I have wanted to collaborate with a publisher for many reasons, not the least of which is to tap in to a professional editor’s expertise in helping to make the book  something that will best serve my audience and that will have a viable distribution channel.   One publisher told me that the proposed book was too broad for their niche.  Another publisher told me it was too niche for their broad audience.  Fortunately, like Goldilocks, I found a match that was just right in Down East Books, headquartered in Rockport, Maine (yes, I know the image says Camden, but trust me on this), which is an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield in Maryland.

This book is both in itself, and is about, the realization of dreams.  I learned to read when I was three.  My mother always said I was two but I’m adding a year to that to make up for a possible exaggeration on her part.  I mean, maybe?  But no matter.  I started writing stories at about age five, drawing pictures to go with them.  I remember one in particular was titled, “The Foggy Frog.”  I collected frogs, the toy and figurine type, although I played with real live toads on the regular outdoors on the edge of the southern NJ Pine Barrens where I grew up.  I remember the pictures I drew.  I could recreate them even today.  By the time I was twelve I knew I wanted to publish books of my own.  I was twelve over forty years ago.  In the intervening four decades I had stopped listening to the inner me who wanted to write, make art, play music, and have a creative career.  People who meet me today think I’ve been working in the creative economy my entire life, but it’s only been since 2014 that I’ve worked in fiber art full time.  By the time my new book is published it will be 2020.  I will turn fifty-five years old in 2020.  I want you to hear something loudly and clearly in this:  it is never too late to realize a dream.

The working title of this book is,  Seasons at the Parris House: Heritage Skills for a Contemporary Life.  I have no idea at this moment whether or not that will be the title on the front of my book when it is released in 2020 but it captures the essence of what it is about.  Let me take an excerpt from my proposal to explain the vantage point from which I approach this project:

“When I was thirty five, eighteen years ago, my husband and I moved ourselves and our four then-little sons from the urban/suburban Princeton, NJ area, a region in which we had spent our entire lives, to rural Western Maine.  We went from a 1950s mid century modern cape on a suburban lot to a two hundred year old Federal home and barn in a National Historic District. Our new neighbor across the street had a cow in the backyard, much to our young sons’ amusement.   I was a stay at home mother with a degree in Business Administration/Marketing from the University of Delaware. I had, prior to becoming an at-home mom, worked in market research and in procurement and project management for a large defense contracting company on busy Route 1 in NJ.  I didn’t garden, I didn’t hook rugs, I didn’t keep chickens or bees, I had no idea how to can food. Upon arriving to the Parris House, I noticed that our apple trees looked like they needed some attention, but I had no idea what to do. Sometimes I baked. But it seemed as though almost everyone around me in my new home was proficient in at least one heritage skill, whether they were my age or old timers, and I thought, “That’s amazing.  I need to learn these things too.” That was the beginning of my journey of bringing heritage skills into my own life, without a big farm, without a lot of formal training, but rather learning them the way the people around me had learned them: the passing on of knowledge, often inter-generationally, from one human being to another.”

That was my situation upon the realization of one of my most fervent dreams to that point, which had been to move to rural Maine and raise my sons here.  What I know now is that the desire to work with my hands, create something out of nothing, grow and preserve food, keep animals and insects, and “practice heritage skills,” was not unique to me.  In the nearly two decades I have lived here in Maine and collected a new skill set, the yearning for these skills among the general population has only increased, including among people living in urban areas and people with little to no land at all to work with.  I tell people all the time that none of this is rocket science, but they often seem skeptical.  They seem to believe that heritage skills are complicated, mysterious, or beyond their reach.  They are not, and this book is for anyone who wants to make a start toward learning them.

I have always enjoyed the juxtaposition in my own life of living in a two hundred year old home in a National Historic District while always embracing the newest technology I could afford.  At the Parris House we have smart phones, smart lights, and smart thermostats.  This laptop I’m writing on right now, not to mention the fact that I use it to run a business that’s about 90% online, is a technological godsend.  We also have centuries old windows with wavy glass and completely pesticide free growing practices.   I dye wool in pots on top of a vintage gas range…and then sell that wool to anyone literally in the world who wants it via the internet.  You don’t have to live like Laura Ingalls on the prairie to embrace heritage skills, and you don’t have to completely forsake the solid methods of our ancestors to live a contemporary life.  Mix it up.  Make some dreams come true with it all.

The book will take you through the four seasons at the Parris House.  It will take a look at the historical contexts of the place, people who went before us, and lifestyle behind what we do here today.  Each season will have fiber art projects, recipes, growing tips, fun things for you to try yourself.  You do not need a farm.  You do not even need a lawn for some of these projects.   They will require no super specialized equipment, impossible to source ingredients, or secret codes to unlock. They will be simple, but not insult your intelligence.  Each featured project or recipe will result in something valuable, beautiful, and/or delicious but without unnecessary complication.  Many will be starting points or stepping stones to get you on your way to a deeper study of whatever it is you find you are most interested in.

It will have beautiful pictures, because I’m a visual person and I’m going to be taking lots of beautiful pictures for this project.

It will be a working book.   While I hope to make it visually inviting, it is not meant to sit on the coffee table or the shelf.  It is meant to be out and open on your kitchen counter or table, in your craft area, or even outside with you, as a reference and companion for the projects it contains.  Get it dirty, dog ear the pages, use the hell out of it.

For me personally, this book will be a grateful acknowledgment of Maine, of Paris Hill, and of the Parris House.  Without this setting, I would be a different person living a very different life.  That aspect will be strongest to me alone, though, because this book is really written for and focused on you in your place and in your life, be it urban or rural, east coast or west or somewhere in between, in North America or well beyond.

By the time this book is published, we will be gearing up here to offer seasonal quarterly retreats at the Parris House which will provide hands on experiences in fiber art and heritage skills, which will provide more learning opportunities for those who want to expand their making and doing.

Sound interesting?  I was brand-new-author-thrilled when I saw that Rowman & Littlefield had already put up a pre-order page for the book.  You can click on that HERE.   Please remember that publication is not scheduled until 2020.  In the meantime, I’m working hard!

If you would like to keep up to date on everything that’s planned for the next chapter (pun intended), a sign up box for our newsletter is at the bottom of every page of the website.  You will never be spammed.  In fact, the newsletter needs to publish a bit more often (as time allows…or doesn’t…).

For a glimpse of the Parris House homestead, enjoy the pics in the slideshow below.

That’s the big news from here.  Thank you for reading.  – Beth

 

Depression Era Poor Man’s Cake, Courtesy My Grandmother (and a Coupon Code For You)

My grandmother, Mary Barnard, with my niece, Rose, my son, Robert, and my husband, Bill, circa 1991, at her Little Sebago Lake cottage in Gray, Maine.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandmother lately.  I often think of her in challenging times for so many reasons.  At the moment I am realizing that I can no longer realistically run Parris House Wool Works as alone as I have been, because I am running myself ragged (no, threadbare) keeping up with all of the wonderful opportunities I’ve been given.  I have one fantastic helper, a virtual assistant, already started, and two other people waiting for me to get my act and timing together in a smart enough way to hand them some work.  So really, not catastrophic, but the overwhelm is a bit much right now.  Additionally, and more actually truly sad, the canine love of my life, Corgi Tru, was diagnosed with cancer last week and is not expected to live the summer.  She is twelve and she’s had a fantastic life, but I wasn’t ready to face letting her go so soon.

I think about my grandmother in stressful times because I loved her so much and she was such an enormous influence on who I am today.  The very best times of my childhood were spent at her summer cottage on Little Sebago Lake in Gray, Maine.  I was a stressed out child, mostly due to circumstances at home but also because, well, I seem to have been born Type A (I’m working on it). The summer cottage time in Maine with my grandmother was the antidote to that stress.  There were no crazy expectations at the cottage.  I was always good enough.  In fact, I was great, or so my grandmother told me.  We played cards, swam in the lake, climbed hills to find wild blueberries, hiked to an abandoned cellar hole and cemetery, and ate.  We ate ice cream every night at 8 o’clock on the dot.  My grandmother didn’t scoop it out like most people do.  Nope.  She took the paper wrapping off the half gallon – a true half gallon back in the ’70s – and then cut the ice cream in to perfectly even bricks.  I will never know whether she did this just to have nice equal servings or because she had been a Depression era mom and this was the most efficient way to divvy up a box of ice cream.

As I said, my grandmother had been a Depression era mother to three children, my Uncle Courtland, my Aunt Dorothy, and my mother, Elizabeth, all born between 1920 and 1928.  She knew what difficulty really meant.  She lost both of her parents before she was forty herself, and she survived the indescribable worry that must have come with having a son and son-in-law serving in combat during World War II.   As a child I never gave any of these things a thought.  I just knew that this was the sunny grandmother who made my life a dream in the summers and had introduced me to Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, Grape Nut ice cream, daily diary keeping, Canasta, and, perhaps most pivotally, Maine.

I would often awake in the summer time to the delicious aromas of whatever my grandmother was already baking in the kitchen.  Sometimes it was homemade fried donuts, or cookies, or the recipe I’m going to share with you now, Poor Man’s Cake.  Poor Man’s Cake was a Great Depression recipe and I’d bet there are variations of it, if not this same recipe, in your family too.  It may even be older because my copy of the recipe from my grandmother says, “Poor Man’s Cake, World War,” which may indicate World War I.  Her brother, my great uncle Winfield Martin, had fought in France during the Great War and nearly died.  Thankfully, he recovered in a hospital in France, came home and lived a long and good life.  You will notice that this recipe has no milk, no butter, no eggs.  But don’t be put off.  Either this cake is the most delicious and addictive old recipe ever, or…it just is to me because so many memories are attached to it.

Here it is for you to try.

1 pound raisins in 2 cups water, boiled 15 minutes

Add to the raisins…

3/4 cup shortening and mix together

2 cups sugar

1 cup cold water

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tbsp baking soda

1 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp salt

4 cups flour

1 cup chopped nuts

1/2 jar candied fruit (I don’t know what 1/2 jar measures out to, but feel free to wing it)

Mix all ingredients together.  Bake at 275 degrees for one hour in 3 greased and floured loaf pans.

I know that sounds like a very low oven temperature, but that’s what my grandmother did.  What you end up with is a very soft, very dark raisin/fruitcake, very unlike those doorstop fruitcakes often found in the supermarket during the holidays.  Sometimes she left out the candied fruit and it was more of a raisin spice cake/bread.

This week (May 22nd to May 29th) I’ll offer coupon code POORMANSCAKE in the Etsy and Shopify shops for 10% off your order of $25 or more, and let me know if you try the recipe!

Happy hooking – Beth

 

Why We Hook the Animals We Love

This is my Welsh Corgi, Tru.  (If you really want to get to know her, she has her own Facebook page here.)  As you can see, she was sunbathing this morning while I was putting the finishing touches on the first pattern for the Parris House Hookers’ Circle subscription service, shipping this week.   As I posted on our Facebook page this morning, I am painfully aware that Tru is now about twelve years old, and that most of my time with her is behind us.   I never thought I could love a dog this fiercely until she came in to our lives, but here I am, pondering a post-Tru world even though as of right now, she is still happy, active, and healthy.

For this reason, I have been thinking lately that I need to gather up all the photos I have of her (there are many!), and also sit quietly with her, make a sketch of her sweet face, and hook it.    Now, I have never hooked an animal in a detailed way, the way I want to hook Tru’s image.   I want to capture the glint in her eye that still exists even though I see the encroaching cloudiness of cataracts.  I want to hook the pretty combination of “red” and white and maybe now a little gray that defines her face.  I want to add the teeny tiny white eyelashes and delicate fur in her ears.  I think this project is going to have to be refined and textural and multimedia, but since I can see it, I know I can make it a reality.

Prior to this I have not hooked many animals.  One of the most popular patterns in the shop is “Tesla’s First Snow,” which, rather than a late-in-life portrait, is a depiction of our big orange tabby, Tesla, as a four month old kitten seeing his first snowfall out the window.  After being initially perplexed, he wanted to “catch” the snowflakes as they cascaded down.   I snapped a picture of the scene and the result was this:

As you can see, this is a very primitive rendering of Tesla.  His back is turned to us so that, frankly, I didn’t need to deal with the detail of his face, although that is still true to the photograph.  This was done in 2012.  I learned to hook in 2011.  I was simply not ready to take on the complexities of Tesla’s face!   (In case anyone is wondering, he is named for Nikola Tesla, the scientist/inventor.  This happens when you have four sons who dig science.)

I also hook animals for Beekman 1802, and it is absolutely true that I love these animals I’m depicting.   I actually met Polka Spot back in 2014 on the day Jen and I first presented our work to Josh and Brent.  They kindly sent us on a farm tour with Megan, who was then their artisan coordinator, and we were thrilled to see the baby goats, Bubby the cat, Onder the dog, and, as they say, “every living thing at Beekman farm.”   Bubby passed away since then, and Polka has also “gone to Paris,” but both of them had distinct personalities.  Polka was one of the most regal animals I’ve ever encountered, and it was clear that she took her watch over the goats seriously.  Bubby was just one giant furball of love, demanding our attention while Onder ran in and out of the barn playfully.  Here is the menagerie I hook for Beekman 1802.

Last year I had a major commission for a customer’s beloved Pharaoh Hound.  The story on that is here, and the result is below.

Why are we willing to put so much time and effort in to these portraits of our favorite pets or animals?  Or, if we aren’t artisans ourselves, willing to commission someone else to create them?   I think it’s about the innocence, unconditional love, and nobility of character we so often find in our pets.  I don’t say that to anthropomorphize animals.  As my biologist/ecologist son, James, likes to remind me, “They don’t think the way we do.”   And, of course, he’s right.  They don’t think the way we do.   In fact, it’s impossible for us, really, to get inside their heads.  They are coming from an entirely different reality, biology, instinct than we are.  And yet…it is so easy to make important connections with them, and they with us.  We want to immortalize them in art because we know – we are so painfully aware – that their lifespans are much shorter than we’d like and that our own lives are so much better with them by our sides.

Sometimes they’re exasperating.  Tesla wants to kill my knitting if I don’t put it up and out of the way.  Tru wants to be directly under my feet if I’m preparing chicken for dinner.   Tesla is incapable of having a hairball in any location except on a carpet.  Tru occasionally gets so excited over visitors she pees at their feet.  Yeah.   And the fur.  It’s everywhere.  No vacuum on this planet is its equal.

Yesterday, my oldest son, Robert, shared this picture of his and his girlfriend’s, Tracy’s, cats peering out their apartment window in much the same way Tesla peered out at his first snow about five or six years ago.   They are Valentine and Playdough, respectively, and both are well under a year old.   Just the beginning of another generation’s connection with animals.

I hope you will share pictures of your animals and also pictures of artwork you’ve done inspired by them.  Feel free to tell their stories and what they mean to you.  I look forward to learning all about them.

Happy hooking! – Beth

Tesla one-upping Tru and snagging the sunny spot.

 

Blank Linen

As I’ve been on Facebook and other social media the past week I’ve seen lots of jokes and memes about not knowing what day it is during holiday vacation.  While I can not abandon business entirely during the holiday season, there were times in the past week when I too noticed a surreal disconnection from every day life.  I’ve had family visiting, and the Parris House is the locus of much of the extended family holiday celebration as well, which means, well…a lot of work along with all the joy and never quite enough time in the day.

Today we are “de-decorating,” as my husband puts it.  The fog of festivity is clearing and we have a brand new year.  There are so many metaphors for the new year:  clean slate, blank page, and more.  As a hooker, I’m thinking of it as a bolt of blank linen.  When one of these bolts lands “thud” on my doorstep I’m never quite sure what it will turn in to.  A combination of planning and serendipity conspire to use that linen up and the next thing I know I’m ordering another.

This year I’m leaning hard toward the planning side of things with an open mind and heart for serendipity as well.  Some of the most important opportunities I’ve had in my work and in my life have come unexpectedly, so while I can not rule out the unexpected, I’m also doubling down on the planning portion for the year.  Customers and friends, online and in 3D, of Parris House Wool Works may notice some changes.  My word for the year is “bold,” and my plan is to move my skill set and my venture to a new level in 2017.   I will be learning how to do new things, offering new products and classes, and starting some large projects.  I also plan to support one major non-profit effort, which I will announce later this month.  It is more important to me than ever that I give back somehow to make the lives of others better, even if I can only do it in some small way.

This afternoon I read a discouraging post about an acquaintance’s fiber shop in upstate NY.  Her sign, and those of other business owners in the area, had been vandalized with hate symbols.  It’s no secret that these types of stories were much too prevalent in 2016, and here was another – involving someone I know and whose products I use – in the opening days of 2017.   The people of her town got together, however, and started cleaning the vandalized surfaces almost immediately.  Her sign was back to normal very soon after the attack.   The cleaning up of the town was an act by the townspeople of defiance, perseverance, and love in the face of defacement and hate.  There’s a lesson here for us in the way we look at 2017, this new year, and that is:

We have a new year, a clean slate, a blank linen.   We can persevere in love for what is right and in defiance of what is wrong until we achieve our goals and set new ones, even when we experience setbacks beyond our control.  In the achievement of a better 2017, there will always be people to help us along the way.  As Fred Rogers (my childhood hero) famously quoted his mother as saying, “Always look for the helpers.”

What are your plans for this year?  What will you use your “blank linen” for?  What achievements in 2016 are now stepping stones for an even better 2017?  I invite you to share your plans, dreams, and goals for 2017 on our social media pages and your own using the hashtag #blanklinen.  They do not have to be hooking related, or fiber art related; there is no limiting parameter for your posts and shares.   You have already achieved a great deal in your life.  What’s next?  None of us came this far to only come this far.

Have a wonderful 2017 and I hope to see #blanklinen peppering social media as you share your dearest dreams and achievements.

Happy hooking – Beth

 

 

 

The Parris House Garden, Like a Tortoise. A Pictorial Trip Through.

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A moth takes a rest on one of our green bean blossoms.

One of our Parris House hookers, Edna Olmstead, is already harvesting and pressure canning green beans for the fall and winter.  Another said yesterday at Tuesday group that her tomatoes were in.  And, of course, the local farm stands, run by professional growers and farmers, are overflowing with produce.

Here at the Parris House our garden more resembles the tortoise, from the fable, The Tortoise and the Hare.  I’m not at all saying that my tortoise is going to win the gardening race.  It’s not.  But it will, save for some unforeseen early withering frost, come through in the end.

This was my first year teaching at the Squam Art Workshops in June.  I was in a bit of a tizzy preparing for it and I could not face putting the garden in before I got back, which was the second week of June.  Additionally, I had really wanted raised beds this year, and my husband and sons had not yet built them.  When I returned from Squam, like magic, the beds were in place.  The menfolk had built them in my absence.  We took a trip to Shaker Hill Landscape & Nursery in Poland Spring, Maine for a bit more soil and compost and I was ready to roll.  Very late, even by Maine standards, but ready.

The following pictures were taken on Monday, August 3rd.  I think what they show is promise.  Itty bitty beans on the vine, harvestable salad greens (we’ve had some; they’re delicious), modestly sized basil, pumpkin and squash blossoms, and more.  I think the biggest race against time out there is the corn, which is only past knee high at this juncture, but we all need a little suspense in our gardening, don’t we?

I will be teaching at Squam again next year, but will probably be more relaxed in my preparations.  The garden will go in earlier.  Five years ago I would have been beside myself with this year’s tortoise garden.  I know better now.  A lesson learned at Squam and in a million different ways in the steady growth of Parris House Wool Works:  it’s the process that matters most, one day at a time, doing everything you know how to do with heart and commitment and as much love as you can muster.  Those are the conditions for growth, even if you’re starting late in your season.

And now, some pictures…hope you all like green!

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The Parris House garden. That thing that looks like a bomb from the Roadrunner cartoon series is actually a composter, courtesy of my friend Renee Krajci. What the Parris House hens don’t get in vegetable and kitchen scraps, goes in there.
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I can not wait for these to ripen. Organic tomatoes given to me by my friend Eric Davis.
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More tomatoes – these look more Roma style – given me by Eric Davis.
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Pinetree Garden Seeds fantabulous salad green mix.
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Beets. These will get pickled and canned.
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Peas. Yes, that’s how late this garden is.
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Fresh beans and shell beans. We have green beans and purple beans (although they turn green when you cook them), Jacob’s Cattle Beans and Vermont Cranberry Beans.
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The purple ones are my favorite.
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More tomatoes, kale, and purple cabbage. The kale and purple cabbage were rescued from Smedberg’s Crystal Spring Farm late in the season, the last of their vegetable plants still for sale. I think they’ll be just fine. The corn is our suspense builder.
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Pumpkins. Or possibly a winter squash. I’m actually not sure.
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Purple cabbage.
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Kale.
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Garden owl keeps watch. He has a little help from the electric fence.
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Basil.
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The Parris House apple trees operate on their own schedule, so they’re not behind at all. They are utterly loaded this season. There will be many days spent canning and freezing apples this fall. A million thanks to Post Carbon Designs for trimming them so beautifully last winter.
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More apples.
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The day lilies have “gone by.”
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The giant hostas, which are always a delight for the bees, have also “gone by.”

Just yesterday in the Maine studio a relatively new hooker was lamenting on how slow she is in finishing projects (actually, she isn’t…but…you know…).  Another hooker immediately came to her defense, telling her to be patient, that this was normal in the beginning, and praising the work that she had done.  I also assured her that her future work would start to go more quickly.  Sometimes, we just have to be ok with the pace of things.  So it is with our late blooming garden.

I will post another story in about six weeks on how the harvest has gone, taking pics as we pull things in.  By then my favorite time of year will be in full swing!

Happy gardening, don’t worry if you’re a tortoise, and happy hooking! – Beth

It's Hot. Make This Amazing Iced Tea using Society of Shakers Fruit Blend.

ShakerTea

It’s been uncharacteristically hot and humid here in Paris, Maine for the past several days.  Today, thanks to a cold front passing through, we have much cooler, drier conditions.  I’d enjoy the recipe I’m about to give you any day of the year, but it’s proven especially good when you’re trying to survive a dog day of summer.

I spent last weekend mostly at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village in New Gloucester, Maine.  On Saturday, my husband and I taught a beginner soap making workshop, and then on Sunday I participated in Open Farm Day, demonstrating rug hooking in the historic Shaker barn.  After our workshop on Saturday, we stopped in to the Shaker store and picked up the Society of Shakers Fruit Blend Tea.  You can purchase it HERE in the on-line Shaker store, but if you are local or anywhere near local, better yet to go visit the community and take advantage of their wonderful farm and garden tours, two beautiful shops, educational programs, and inviting and peaceful atmosphere.  Lots of things in the Shaker stores would make amazing holiday gifts, so start your shopping early.

The Fruit Blend Tea is unbelievably delicious and refreshing.  In the fall, you’ll want their mulling spices, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This is how I make iced tea with it…

  • Put three heaping teaspoons of Society of Shakers Fruit Blend Tea in a 1 quart Ball jar.  I brew mine loose and then strain it, but you can use a tea ball that will fit through the opening.  A wide mouth jar is best for this.
  • Add almost boiling water to the 3 cup marker on the side.  Let brew at least 8 – 10 minutes; you want it to be strong.
  • If you need to strain the tea, now is the time to do it, but put it in to another quart sized Ball jar.
  • Add a heaping teaspoon of local honey or to taste.  I do believe at certain times of year you can purchase Shaker honey as well.  I get mine from a self serve stand on Mount Mica Road in Paris, Maine.  See the label in the pic!  Next year, fingers crossed, we will be offering Parris House Honey from our own hives.
  • Now add ice until the tea level comes to just the bottom of the jar lid threads.
  • When the ice melts it’s ready to drink!  Pour it over ice or put it in the fridge to chill.

I have been making one of these jars every morning and just about finishing it over the course of the day.  You could add lemon or lime to it, but honestly, the flavors in this tea are so perfectly blended I have found that adding fresh citrus takes a bit away from it.   Nor does it really need fresh mint as it already has some mint incorporated.

I support the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community as a Friend of the Shakers and through teaching and volunteer work at the village.  I hope you will consider doing so as well.   The Sabbathday Lake community is the home of three living Shakers, Brother Arnold, Sister June, and Sister Frances.  There is no other Shaker site in the nation inhabited by Shakers.  You may read about them in this Downeast Magazine article, aptly titled, Unshaken.  The Shakers are very engaged with the outside world lest anyone think they are cloistered, and yet they are examples of love, faith, hard work, and devotion, qualities we could all aspire to just a little more in this world of ours.

Enjoy the tea, and happy hooking!  – Beth

Jen's Independence Day Apple Pie Recipe!

ApplePie

What goes together better than hooking and homemade apple pie!?  Here’s Jen’s recipe…

Put on your pink 1950s apron and get ready to impress your friends! It’s homemade apple pie.

Apple Pie!

For the crust:

Make ahead of time and let it cool in the refrigerator.

2 2/3 cups of all-purpose flour

¾ teaspoon of kosher salt

¾ teaspoon of sugar

½ cup of chilled butter, cut into pieces

½ cup of chilled shortening, cut in to pieces

Place the first three ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine.

Add the remaining ingredients and pulse until crumbly. Transfer to a bowl.

Working quickly, stir mixture with a fork, gradually adding ¼ to ½ cup ofvery cold water until dough begins to form. Roll into a ball and divide into two equal portions and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill at least one hour.

6 cups (1 ½ lbs) of peeled, sliced apples (I use Golden Delicious)

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

½ cup of sugar

½ firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour

½ ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 tablespoons of butter or margarine (Come on, you know you want to use real butter.)

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten (I use it sparingly)

2 teaspoons of sugar

1/8 of a teaspoon ground cinnamon

On a lightly floured surface, roll ½ of your pastry to about 1/8 inch thick and place into a 9-inch pie plate. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine apple and lemon juice. Ina seperate bowl, add 1/2 cup of sugar and next four ingredients. Mix well. Pour over apples mixture, tossing gently. Spoon the mixture evenly in pastry shell and dot with butter.

Roll the remaining pastry shell to 1/8 inch thickness and transfer to the top of pie. Form a pretty crust by pinching the edges or if you have extra pastry, use a cookie cutter to form maple leaves or other cute design and add to top of pie for decoration. Cut slits in the top of crust. Brush with beaten egg (I never use the whole egg yolk as I think it tends to brown too much).

Combine:

2 teaspoons of sugar and 1/8 of a teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle over the pie. Cover the edges of crust with foil to prevent too much browning and place in a 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 50 more minutes. I take off the foil during the last ten or fifteen minutes to brown the edges.

Don’t leave in the windowsill to cool as some pesky neighborhood child might run off with it. Sit down and enjoy with a large glass of milk!

Happy baking and happy hooking!!!

New Silhouette Pillows Exclusively Available Through Beekman 1802!

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Have you ever been in an antique home and seen an 18th or 19th century silhouette portrait?  Or maybe when you were growing up your parents had one made of you?  Well here’s a modern twist on a classic idea, and it’s a whole lot cozier than the paper variety silhouettes you may have on your walls!

You may recognize the handsome silhouettes above as those of Brent Ridge and Josh Kilmer-Purcell, the Fabulous Beekman Boys and founders of Beekman 1802.  Jen and I feel very honored to be making these pillows in celebration of Josh and Brent’s second wedding anniversary, which, by tradition, is the cotton anniversary.  These pillows are available in your image or images with a variety of colors of wool backs or backed with 100% organic cotton fabric.  Additionally, the pillows are stuffed with 100% organic cotton batting in a cotton muslin case.

The process of making these is extremely personalized.  Once your order is placed, Beth will be in touch to arrange for you to provide the photographs that will be the basis of your design artwork, and to talk about the colors you would like for your hooked background and pillow backing.  Once your artwork is sketched out, you will have the opportunity to approve it before the hooking begins.  Once approved, Beth or Jen will hand hook and sew your pillow.

This is what the artwork looks like when submitted for customer approval.

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These would make wonderful wedding or anniversary gifts, or keepsakes of growing children.

You may order exclusively through Beekman 1802 by clicking HERE.

We’d love to work on your modern heirloom!

“New” Room at the Parris House – Take a Peek!

As many of our Facebook followers know, we’ve been working on redecorating the south parlor at the Parris House, which is a classic twin parlor Federal.  Just a couple of weeks ago our Tuesday group was overflowing the north parlor aka the hooking studio.  At the time the “new” parlor was still in disarray during the painting and decluttering process.  Next time we have more hookers than seats, we’ll have the option of flowing over in to this new room.

In my quest to take the house toward ruthless simplicity, the room is spartan, although I am still looking for just the right rug (the rug maker has no rug…) and a small coffee table.   At this juncture, an object needs to be useful, be beautiful, or have a significant piece of my heart to stay in the house.

Here are some pics with captions…

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We went with a bright sunny blue, “Emily” by California Paints. If you have not used California Paints in a while, I urge you to give them another try. The new-ish primer included formulation truly gives nearly one coat coverage. I always do two, but it was barely necessary. This blue went on over a tough-to-cover primitive mustard yellow and barely needed the second coat. The whole room was done with a single gallon.
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We covered the old taupe love seat with a new cover. This room redo was done on a shoestring. There was not going to be money for a lot of new furniture. #educatingkidsemptypockets
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This locally made step back cabinet had been painted a primitive cream with distressed corners. I’m honestly all primitived out at this juncture in my life and am looking for a brighter, cleaner look for the house. I painted this in California’s basic white. I still need to put the second coat on and put the knobs back on. I wanted a place to display our heritage family photos.  Portrait of Corgi Tru by Rockland, Maine artist Mae Towers.
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This is the built in book case next to the fireplace. I wanted to be able to put a lot of our antique books in a single area. The vintage teddy bear belonged to my beloved brother, who left this world at age 31 in 1986. It is one of my most treasured possessions. The smaller teddy bear buddy is a reproduction given me by a dear friend.
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The Empire sofa was an eBay find. We went down to Rhode Island a few weeks ago to pick it up. Its scale shows us that people were a lot smaller back in the day, but I find it very comfortable. It makes you sit up straight and is perfect for reading, knitting, and…of course!…hooking. The table to the right of it is actually a 1929 Atwater Kent tube radio. Yes, it works!
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OK, so I can’t part with the Corgi pillow. The Eastlake style Victorian chair was a find from a neighbor’s yard sale. It needs new upholstery. The map over the fireplace is an 1880 map of Paris Hill and Paris, Maine.
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Writing nook. I need to find a way to get power to this corner for my laptop. It *is* the 21st century after all.  The sewing table was made in Paris, Maine by Paris Manufacturing Company.  The watercolor over the desk was done by long time family friend Joan Kell and is of Owl’s Head, Maine.  The lighthouse pen and ink was done by my son, James.  <3
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View coming in from the kitchen (which has also just been painted and decluttered, but that’s another post). Writing nook to left.

Thanks for cyber visiting the Parris House and we hope you’ll stop by in person some day!  Happy hooking.  🙂   – Beth

Parris House Savory Dill Easter Bread

We all have THAT cook book, especially if we’ve been around the kitchen for a while.  It’s the cook book with the dog ears, the stained pages, and a history.  For me, THAT cook book is the old 1980s version of the Betty Crocker Cook Book.  I received it as a gift for my bridal shower in 1987 and have used it faithfully ever since.  It has the best mac and cheese recipe ever in it, and the recipe for quiche which wins me accolades.  In fact, I served that quiche at our Maine studio opening event in 2013 and a couple of people still talk to me about that quiche.  Really.  But aside from using the recipes just as they stand, following this classic cook book also taught me a lot about cooking, and how to make my own recipes.  I even have a four leaf clover pressed in to the pages of this cook book. I think that makes it extra lucky.

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For a lot of years I used the basic bread recipe in this cook book when baking bread, but gradually over time I started diverging from the recipe, and then I started just winging bread recipes entirely.  It became like soup; you just do it.  The recipe for the Parris House Savory Easter Bread is a combo.  The basic bread recipe in this cook book was the jumping off point, but I changed it considerably.  And the traditional Italian Easter bread, which is actually a very sweet bread with lots of sugar in the dough and sprinkles on top, also inspired this bread in form and appearance.  My mother made Italian Easter Bread every year, and so I hesitated before so radically changing the recipe for our Easter dinner, but I wanted something savory with a rustic farmhouse look. Here’s what I came up with…

  • 1 package dry yeast (or 1 TBSP)
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 TSP sea salt
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3-1/2 cups bread flour (add more if you need to but be careful not to make the dough tough)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

Just before baking:

  • Six RAW eggs, colored or not (your preference)
  • 3 TBSP melted butter
  • 2 TBSP sea salt

OK!  Combine the yeast and all the wet ingredients, the sea salt, and the sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk them well. Gradually mix in the flours  until you have a wet dough, then add the chopped dill, mix some more.  Add the rest of the flour and when you have a knead-able consistency turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead it for several minutes until it starts to become nice and smooth.

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Use a little cooking spray or oil in a large bowl and plop the dough down in to it.  Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm location to rise.

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While the dough is rising, choose your decorative eggs.  I chose to use the eggs just as they are straight from the Parris House Hens.  These girls lay pretty eggs.

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However, you could certainly use any eggs you wanted, and in traditional Easter breads, dyed eggs are used.  I chose these six:

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After about an hour your dough should be at least double in size.  See the before and after pics here…

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Now it’s time to punch the dough down, and create the circular braid.  Divide the dough in to three equal sized balls, then roll them out in to equal length and width ropes.  From there it’s just like braiding hair.  Braid the dough and then form it in to a circle, molding together the two ends.  Don’t worry that the connection doesn’t look braided; you’re going to just put an egg in there.  Space the other eggs evenly tucking them in the nooks in the braid.  These eggs should be RAW because they bake in the oven as the bread bakes, so be careful about pushing on them too hard at this stage lest they break.

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Now you need to let the bread rise again, about 45 minutes.  It will again almost double in size and puff up around the eggs.

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Now it’s time to prepare the bread for baking.  Melt a little butter and brush it on to the bread, avoiding the eggs so that they do not discolor during baking.  Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on the buttered areas, again avoiding getting it on the eggs.  I actually did get a bit of sea salt on my eggs and they speckled from it.

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Heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (I’m sorry, my Canadian friends, I don’t know what that translates to in Celsius) and bake on the top rack for about 15 minutes, then move to the bottom rack for another 15 minutes.  I do this in my oven because I find that way it doesn’t get too brown on the top or the bottom.  However, I would caution you to check the bread frequently because ovens differ.  For example, the electric oven at my lake cottage will burn things like this in a heartbeat if I’m not carefully watching them.

When the bread it finished it will be golden top and bottom but not too dark.

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That’s it!  It’s a very easy bread to make and would go nicely with a variety of dishes.  The eggs are hard boiled (or really, hard baked) when the bread is finished and can be eaten along with it.

Tomorrow my husband Bill will be making his family’s homemade French vanilla ice cream recipe.  Stay tuned for that as well.

Happy Easter, happy Spring, and happy hooking! – Beth