On Memorial Day

Posted May 29th, 2017 by Ellen and filed in Holidays, Personal

Today is Memorial Day, the day we remember and honor those who lost their lives in service to this country.  When I was a little kid, my father came home wearing a paper poppy pin, a symbol of remembrance being sold to honor the war dead on the street of my small home town.  I loved the poppy and asked to have it.  It’s with me still, flattened in an old scrap book around here somewhere.    On Memorial Day, I remember the war dead, the paper poppies and this poignant poem:


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Written by Major John McCrae,  May, 1915


Posted January 5th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Christmas, Family, Holidays, Recipes

A beautiful Moravian Star is reflected in the church window.

Photo credit:  Bill Guerrant

Each time I write about baking sugar cakes, I get requests for the recipe.  Here is the one I use.  It came from DH’s grandmother:

Sugar cake ready to bake

Grandmother’s Moravian Sugar Cake

This is from my DH’s grandmother whose family has been Moravian for generations. Grandmother’s home in Old Salem (NC) stood until recently when it caught fire during renovation.

Note: Sugar cake is a sweet, light yeast dough topped with brown sugar, cinnamon and butter.  It is not really a cake.

1 C. hot mashed russet potatoes*

1 package yeast

1 C. sugar

1/2 C. shortening

4 T. butter

1 tsp. salt

2 eggs

4 C. flour**


2 C. brown sugar

Butter, about 1/2 C. melted and cooled

Cinnamon to taste***

Mix sugar, butter, shortening, salt and potatoes. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 C. warm water and add to potato mixture. Set this aside and allow to rise until spongy. Add slightly beaten eggs. Add flour to form soft dough. Put dough in clean, greased bowl, cover bowl with saran and allow to rise overnight .  (I let it rise for 12 hours.)  Spread out evenly on flat, greased pans after stirring slightly. When dough is light, make depressions in it for butter and brown sugar. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Bake in 350-375 oven about 20 minutes. Makes three Baker’s Secret pie pans. Note: I use a 360 degree oven.   Do not over bake.  You do not want a dry cake.  To reheat by the slice, use a microwave for 30 seconds at 30%.  You can then heat in oven for a minute or so if desired.

I use a Kitchenaid mixer when making this, with the regular wire beaters for the first step. Switch to the dough paddle when adding the flour.

*I use an old-fashioned potato ricer rather than a masher

**I get a much softer, moister product with a soft flour such as White Lily. Gold Medal is too heavy.

***I like to mix the cinnamon in with the brown sugar before sprinkling it on the dough. Drizzle butter which has been melted and cooled somewhat over the cinnamon/sugar.

Dough during its overnight rise.

Dough sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon. After depressions have been finger pressed

into the dough’s surface, melted butter will be liberally applied.

Moravian Sugar Cake.  There’s nothing like it!



Posted January 4th, 2013 by Ellen and filed in Christmas, Family, Holidays, My collections, My Work

Our house.

Photo credit:  Bill Guerrant

It seems Thanksgiving was just yesterday.  Christmas came and went too quickly, and now we’re four days into 2013.  Oh my.

Christmas cleanup today was swift and early.  We don’t usually take everything down until Epiphany.  But today seemed like a good day to undecorate, such as it was.    For the third year in a row, we had a tree trimmed only with lights.  I used to be the “queen” of Christmas, but other things seem more important now.  Our little Fraser fir sat on top of a a cloth-draped card table in front of the fireplace sporting two new strings of LED colored mini lights and topped with a small Moravian star.  Our only other “festoons” were window candles and a tiny artificial tree in the sunroom, seen above.  We weren’t home Christmas day, and did no entertaining, so this was fine with us.  NEXT year, I plan to have a big tree.  It will be nice to see my collection of vintage ornaments once again.

I spent lots of time baking, something I hadn’t done in quite some time.  It was such fun making and giving away my favorite cookies and treats:  Molasses Crinkle Tops, Alaskan Logs, Cheese Straws, Arkansas Hot Spiced Pecans, Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods, Peanut Butter Cookies, Chocolate Wonderfuls, Cranberry Nut and Banana breads as well as Moravian Sugar Cakes using DH’s grandmother’s recipe.  DH’s Mother grew up in Old Salem in a Moravian family which can be traced back for generations.  It wouldn’t be Christmas withot sugar cake.

Thankfully, the house is in fairly good shape. I did some sewing for Christmas gifts, making about a dozen of my own version of  “mug rugs.”  They’re glorified coasters, large enough for a mug and a snack.  These little pieces of art were great fun and kept me creating over the holidays.

Finishing a baby quilt for Ira, our grandson born last September, tops my priority list.   Progress was interrupted when I decided the piece needed 35 blocks instead of 20.  When I put the blocks up on the design wall, I might change my mind again.  But for now, I plan to keep sewing.

Below are a couple of photos showing part of my process.  Our DIL asked me to use fabrics left over from the wedding quilt I created in making the baby quilts.  Sorting through scraps is always step one.  I like to get a general feel for how the quilt will look before design and cutting can begin.  As you can see, the fabrics are happy and bright.  I won’t disclose the design until after the quilt is delivered to Ira.

Wishing you all a creative and productive New Year!

Making Do

Posted December 13th, 2012 by Ellen and filed in Dyeing Tips, Holidays, My Work, Quilting Tips, Vintage

Vintage textiles and sewing goods have always been loves of mine.  I’ve  collected them for decades.  Amongst my stash of wares is a box full of cording, twill tape, rayon spools, rick rack and bias binding. This year, I’m making a few small Christmas gifts, but wasn’t pleased with my fabrics at hand for finishing.  Admittedly, I really didn’t want to search for and make binding from scratch either, thinking it would take too much time.  My solution?  Sacrifice a couple packages from my vintage collection and paint them with a wash.  I’m very pleased with the results!  Back in the day, Wright’s binding was made from a very nice cotton with a crisp hand.  It turned out exactly as I’d imagined.

My method:

1.  Moisten bias binding* and wring out.  Wrinkles are desirable.

2.  Shake out binding slightly and place in small plastic bag.

3.  Add a small amount of watered down fabric paint.  I used one made for silk.

4.  Squeeze bag, making sure paint gets on all areas of the binding.  Light areas are fine, as is an uneven tie-dye look.

5.  Lay slightly wrinkled binding on plastic or waxed paper to dry.  Press prior to use.

*I used vintage, 100%  white cotton.

Have fun!


Posted November 22nd, 2012 by Ellen and filed in Family, Holidays, Personal

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Blessings be.

My heart is full this Thanksgiving day.  We have been so blessed.  There are now TWO grandbabies, born to our son and his wife.

Before, we had only our wonderful Matthew.  Now, our lives have been so enriched by Suzie, darling Leven and sweet boy Ira.

Giving thanks over and over again.