hello…welcome back!

Where to start? I've had another hiatus from this blog. A very, very long hiatus as the dated entries show. I've been tempted to remove Fiddlesticks&Nonsense from the blog-sphere once and for all, but couldn't bring myself to do it, thanks to little nudges and encouragement from family and friends.

The intent was to take a small break, work on a new layout and find a "focus" for the blog. I believed if I could find that focus or point of view, then creating and sharing content would be easier and simpler. Plus, the blogs I find the most compelling are those with a (mostly) singular focus: food, beauty, health, style.

The cold hard reality…I'm not a focused gal! I'm way too curious to buckle-down and think about a single topic. I love to learn new skills and crafts, design and create experiences, and explore the outdoors with my family. Fiddlesticks&Nonsense is the sweet spot, the nexus, my happy-place, of all these things I love and enjoy.

So, instead of a refresh, this is "welcome back!"

I made this banner for our friends who have been living abroad for the last several years and just returned to the Bay Area. 

Simple to make. Silhouette Cameo to cut letters and embroidery floss to string them together. Once I had the desired spacing and drape of the message, I knotted the strands of floss and crocheted a chain to finish it off.

Hugs & Kisses!                                         F&N

crafty things…hot coco kits

Christmas is just around the corner! I thought I'd share our version of hot coco kits as Christmas gifts: a hand drawn mug, marshmallows, candy canes, and ohh so yummy hot coco mix. 

D was responsible for drawing on the mugs, and I knew he would love the job. I aslo knew he could easily spend 30 minutes to an hour per mug. Since we needed to make quite a few of these, we needed some simple, quick inspiration. Ed Emberley to the rescue! D grabbed his favorite Ed Emberley books off the shelf and got to work. I think the results are perfect! I hope his cousins and friends enjoy them.

While he was drawing, I was making labels and packaging up the ingredients. Doc packaged them up in shipping boxes and braved the Post Office lines. Phew…pretty good teamwork. 

The Pebeo Porcelaine 150 Paint Marker is easy and fun to use. The possibilities are endless. Here is some Pinterest inspiration.

Merry Crafting & Happy Holidays!

F&N

 

crafty things…advent calendar

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I hope your holidays are off to good start and that the stress that can come along during this time of year is not getting the best of you. For me, our Advent calendar has been a source of stress the past few Christmases. As D got older, I found it challenging to find small gifts that generated enthusiasm each morning leading up to December 25th. The forgotten toys and trinkets became accumulated junk, a reminder of an unsuccessful advent calendar.

Now that D is older, we've switched our Advent focus from "getting things" to "doing things" where the activities are inclusive and all of us can participate and enjoy. This year's calendar consists of little cards with envelopes, courtesy of my Silhouette machine, hung from a branch. Doc or I handwrite the day's activity in the dark morning hours while D is asleep. 

With a little planning,  24 activities aren't as challenging as you might think. Here are some activities in our line-up:

  • "A Christmas Story" movie night with popcorn and eggnog 
  • Writing Christmas cards to our soldiers
  • Ice skating and burgers
  • Make hot chocolate kits for cousins
  • Gifts from the kitchen
  • Decorate Christmas tree and house
  • Dinner around the tree
  • Donate new toys and books

So far it's been a success, and watching D's excitement each morning as he locates the day's envelope has been so fun.

Happy Holidays,

F&N

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family…almost a pet

This beauty has taken up residence outside our kitchen door. I like to think of her as our guardian and bringer of good luck. Every morning, I check on her and the state of her web. She is meticulous  about keeping her web in tip-top shape, making repairs as necessary. We think she is garden spider.

It's hard to tell scale in the photo, but she is approximitely 2" and her web is probably 20" in diameter. We'll all be sad when she leaves.

Best,

F&N

around town…Bodie ghost town

Every summer (it's been 15 years now!) we head to the Eastern Sierras to our favorite place on Earth, Hot Creek Ranch, for some family and fishing time. I love this area beyond words. The giant, expansive, as far as your eye can see, vistas are beautiful, and I find them to be calming and relaxing. Besides fishing, we spend a few days exploring the town of Mammoth and the Mono County Lake area. 

In our rotation of sites-to-see is Bodie, a mining ghost town and California State Historic Park. It's described as a "town frozen in time" and in a "state of arrested decay". By all accounts, it was a rootin'-tootin', tough-as-nails place to live. If violence or illness didn't strike, the inhospitable climate and weather would surely find you. The wind alone would drive to me to distraction, up to 80 mph, and the winters are unimaginable. 

Driving into Bodie is quite an experience. It's a bit like waiting in line for rides at Disneyland. You travel along thirteen miles of winding road enjoying the scenery and wondering what's around each corner. Abruptly, you are met with four miles of unpaved and very rough road. Winds kick up the dust impacting visibility so much, you are forced to stop (take a look at the collage photo in the slideshow). Once the dust settles, in front of you is Bodie - or the remains of Bodie. It's an interesting, if unintended, clearing your mind for the experience ahead experience.

Once you're out and about you'll encounter huge pieces of mining equipment are strewn about the landscape, buildings still standing on their own accord, and a beautiful church waiting to hold a Sunday mass. Venture a bit off the beaten path, you'll find a cemetery where the hard living conditions of Bodie is evident. 

What strikes me most while wandering through the streets is the variety of decaying and weathered textures and the beautiful colors and patterns they create. I easily get separated from Doc and D while they move along and I'm photographing odd details.

IF YOU GO: You'll only find bathrooms and a few garbage bins near the parking lot. That's all this park has for ammenities. So, be prepared and bring food, snacks and water. It's also windy as all get-out here, bring jackets and sunglasses. Sunscreen and camera highly advised!

Happy Exploring!                                                                                                                                    

F&N

around town…ollaileberry picking

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Have you ever had an ollalieberry? Unless you live on the California or Oregon Coast, chances are slim you have savored this marvelous hybrid berry. My first taste taste of ollalieberries was many moons ago [20 or so years] at Duarte's Tavern in Pescadero. One slice of their world famous ollalieberry pie and I was hooked. Yummy indeed.

These berries are not something you find in the market or even at the farmer's market [at least the ones I frequent]. I just assumed all these years that Duarte's had cornered the ollalieberry production. [I did read they freeze 30,000 pounds each year to keep up with their demand for pie year round. 30,00 pounds!]

Imagine my surprise when I discovered u-pick berry farms just an hour south of San Francisco. I believe I was reading about Pescadero in Via or Sunset magazine and they listed Phipps Country Store as a picking location. After some on-line research, I opted to head a bit further south to Swanton Berry Farms. Not only could we pick our own supply of ollalieberries, but we could also pick blackberries! 

I have to admit, D was not overjoyed when I announced our Sunday activity. He just could not conceive how driving an hour down HWY 1 on a cold, cloudy and wet day could be fun. [Cold and dreary summers are the price we pay for warm Februarys.] Even the prospect of homemade ollalieberry pie was no comfort. 

By the time we arrived to the farm, the fog had cleared and sunny blue skies warmed us while we made our way down the aisle of berry vines. D came to life at when he saw row after row of berries just waiting to plucked. Seeing this city boy eating fruit  from the vines and exclaiming "this is so fun!" and "these berries are heavenly" made me so happy…and relieved.

Fortunately, ollaileberries and cultivated blackberries are not thorny, so we only suffered purple stained fingers and hauled in nine pounds of berries between the three of us. I'm sure D consumed a pound taste-testing along the way. With the fruits of our labor, I was able to make a batch of ollalieberry jam which yielded seven half-pint jars and a most delicious tart. The remaining berries, we froze for Thanksgiving pies…if we can wait that long.

IF YOU GO: Make sure to check their "hot line" to see if berries are available. Ollailiberries are done for the season, but blackberries are still waiting. It's prime time I think, so get there ASAP. Swanton also has a u-pick strawberry farm just south of the berry farm. It supposed to open with strawberries available until October.

Dress in layers. The farm is on the coast and can be quite chilly and windy. 

Pack a picnic. They have a small picnic table or bring a blanket and eat in the berry aisle. If you can bring a wagon, do it. They do supply wagons, but there aren't many. It's great to pull the kiddos around or gives the kiddos something to do.

TIP: I read to freeze berries on a baking sheet in a single layer. Once frozen, transfer to ziploc bags. This methods provides you with individual berries as opposed to a block of frozen, mushy berries.

I used this recipe for the tart, substituting the ollaileberries for the blueberries and ommiting the lemon.

Please let me know if you go and what you did with your berries! So many exciting jam recipes to try.

Enjoy!

F&N

family…mother's day picnic

I've been itchin' to throw a picnic for sometime. The unpredictable San Francisco weather and my want-to-create-an-experience behavior work against each other. Determined to host a picnic for my mom this year, I moved our gathering approximately an hour south of SF where the weather is predictable and cooperative and went into full prep mode all week.

I'll give more details about the menu and recipes in a follow-up post, but the food was great. Doc made his version of fried chicken, and I prepared some tried-and-true dishes and experimented with a few new ones too.  

The best part about the picnic was making individual baskets for us. It gave me the opportunity to use some fabulous reversible fabric that has been in my stash forever to sew napkins, a basket liner and a basket wrap. I was so happy with the results, I had to share. 

The "basket wrap", as I called it, is really a Japanese Azuma bag. They are so versatile and easy to sew. If you want to make your own, Coco Stitch has a great tutorial. I use a serger because I'm lazy, but it does add a bit of detail.

Ambatalia has some great Azuma style bags for sale if you don't sew. 

I hope you had an enjoyable Mother's Day. May all your summers picnics be filled with good times and good food!

Best,

F&N

 

tasty things…baked pears

Just writing this post about baked pears makes my mouth water. This is such an easy treat to make, and it's a great dessert alternative to cakes, cookies or ice cream. Plus, you can use any leftovers for a topping with oatmeal or pancakes. This recipe is adapted from Pure Simple Cooking

Ingredients

Bosc Pears, halved & cored
1 1/4 cup Marsala wine [or Moscato, Moscatel, Sherry] AND 1/4 cup water
Juice of 1 lemon
4 TBSP. brown sugar
1/2 CUP tart dried cherries [the original recipe calls for raisins, but I love the tartness of the cherries and the flavor pairs nicely with the pears]
Greek yogurt for garnish

 

 

 

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400º

2. Place pears, cut-side up, in baking dish and evenly distribute cherries throughout. 

3. Pour Marsala, water and lemon juice in dish. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over cut pears. Bake in oven until tender. Flip pears occasionally to brown cut-sides. Depending on how many pears you have, baking time can be 45 minutes or longer.

Bon Apetit!

F&N