Winter in the Pacific Northwest is distinctively dark. Here in our old farmhouse I like to imagine all the quiet fireside chats that have been shared here over the past 120 years while our home’s residents settled into the rhythm of “getting through” these long, dark winter days.
One of my favorite parts of winter days are the quiet nights. We build a fire, light candles, and eat family style at our big kitchen island. The kids read while Brian carves beautiful spoons by our woodstove. The calm, idyllic sound of him creating beautiful, functional utensils from pieces of wood gathered in our yard will, I think, be a backdrop for many of our winter nights for years to come. I love using his spoons in the kitchen, and he enjoys giving them away to family and treasured friends.
After a busy holiday season of cooking, traveling, and recovering, I’ve been really loving my quiet times in the kitchen, turning out lots of simple soups, homemade breads, cookies, and healthy comfort foods. The thing I love the most right now? The amazing flavor of our deep freezer-preserved tomatoes, apples and blackberries. I can’t believe how fresh they taste. I cut and froze a ton of apples from our trees last year, dressed them in lemon juice and sugar, or nothing at all, and froze them. Their distinctively home-grown flavor is impossible to beat. You can easily freeze your own apples if they are starting to turn, or do this with any apples you find on sale at the store and want to preserve for easy meals in the future: Just peel, cut, season, and freeze; adding lemon/sugar/cinnamon is optional, but it does make it awfully easy to create a dessert in minutes by just dumping the bag in the dish and heating a bit, then breaking up the pieces and covering them with your favorite topping before baking till golden.
And if you love fruit-filled desserts as much as we do, there are a million and one ways to bake them. You can browse through your favorite cookbooks and google away for fun ideas, or you can just do what I do, which is so easy I’m not even sure it’s called baking: Peel and cut some apples (or pull them out of the freezer), toss them with a big handful of brown sugar and a pinch of salt, and place them in a baking dish. Dot with frozen berries, if you have them, and bits of butter. To make the cobbler topping, toss about 3 cups of oats with about 1 cup of flour (regular or gluten-free), a bit of almond meal if you have some about the house, a pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda, about 3/4 of a cup to a full cup of maple syrup, a few shakes of cinnamon, a dash of vanilla, and then hand grate two cubes of butter just as you would a block of cheese. Optional: Add a good handful of chopped pecans or coarsely cut almonds. Toss everything to combine, pressing between your hands to create an oatmeal cookie texture. Taste and add more salt or sweetener if you prefer. Pile the topping on your apples and bake at 375 for about 45 minutes, or until the apples are cooked and the topping is golden brown. Serve with ice cream. Swoon.
Our 14 chickens are producing mightily through the winter months, giving us dozens of eggs that grace nearly every breakfast and sometimes dinner, too. Our latest winter meal obsession are these crazy-good Cabbage Cups, which we sometimes just pile with rice, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil, a buttery fried egg, herbs, pickles, and sauces. They are so easy and in-season, and so forgiving–you can pile on a ton of ingredients and the leaves don’t fall apart like lettuce leaves do.
Today, we awoke to a new kind of light: The days are getting longer again. It doesn’t feel like the end of the day is the end of all things. We’re in the midst of a warm cycle again; this afternoon, I wandered below clear blue skies and gathered baby kale for kale chips, pulled old cabbages for the chickens, trimmed flowers off of the broccoli plants, and felt like I was seeing signs of Spring all around me. The arugula is coming in strong, along with all the mustards and baby winter greens. I can picture the garden coming to life again.
Inside our wonderful old farmhouse, I want to tackle some of the bigger interior spaces and get the main floor completely finished up–the kitchen stove all finished, the lighting sorted out, the final sand and finish of the wood floors. Below, in our thousand-square-foot unfinished basement, I want to figure out how to finish it ala Wonder Handywoman before the end of Spring. Ha! Do you think I can?! If I can, I’ll post a lot of photos and videos so you can follow along with me, if you happen to like those things as much as I do!
I want the whole house to sing with comfortable, warm, worn, cozy nooks that call to you to stay awhile.
In the meantime, I’m doing small, comforting things like taking pictures of this old door to our root cellar and imagining where these muted blues and greys and warm neutrals could come to life in our house:
Petting this sweet dog:
And enjoying fun projects like possibly recovering these fun old chairs that we found at a yard sale more than ten years ago:
Here’s wishing you all warm, wonderful nights ahead. Drop me a line and tell me what you’re up to these days!