A Spring Secret

  • Taking a Break

    P1080160After a whirlwind month, full of truffles and sweets (thanks to you!), I'm taking a much-needed break to spend time with family. This space will stay quiet for a little while.

    Thanks for your support and friendship through the year, and please have a happy, healthy, holiday season. See you in 2013!

  • An Announcement

    An update—Use coupon code CYBER12 to get 10% off in my etsy shop until tomorrow at 10 pm! http://www.etsy.com/shop/PaperCakeScissors

    After procrastinating for an embarrassing number of years, I finally have an etsy shop up and running! There is a small selection of items available now, and I will be adding on in the coming weeks. Please take a look and spread the news to your friends and family! Follow me on facebook (Paper Cake Scissors) or twitter (@Emilypapercake) to get the latest on a Cyber Monday coupon code that I'll be revealing soon.

    If you're in the southern VT/northern Berkshires/eastern NY area, you can find me at two more holiday markets. They're at the First Baptist Church in Bennington, VT on December 1st and 15th from 10am to 2pm.

    Thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Trying to Relax

    Some people are naturals when it comes to relaxing. Some can find a quiet moment, pick up a book, and get lost in it for an afternoon. Others require a few days and maybe a beach to get in the proper zone. Usually, I'm not in either of these camps. Relaxing for me can take days away from my house and even then it's not a sure thing. So, when I recently relinquished a couple of my volunteer duties, I was surprised at how quickly I felt the stress peeling off of my shoulders. And it was noticeable—two friends remarked on separate occasions how relaxed I looked. Generally, I am all in favor of helping out when things are tough. But this shouldn't happen at the expense of caring for yourself.

    I know this may seem like a harsh and confusing message when so many in NY and NJ still need help after the hurricane. But there has to be a point in life when you put your needs first. While I still have miles to go in my lessons of relaxation, I feel like I might be getting just a little bit closer.

  • Process

    I'm not good at recording what I do when I'm in the kitchen. I have tried to correct this quirk, especially with my preserving recipes so I can replicate it (or not) the following year. Usually my best strategy is to have a little notebook next to me, preferably one which can lie flat open and is just the right size to stay in one place while I'm writing. This notebook is used expressly for in-process recipes because it winds up too close to my projects and picks up spills, or at the very least, water spots from my hands all over the pages. Luckily, the recipe I want to talk about here doesn't need directions. It's a simple, one-ingredient wonder with a history.

    We planted St. Croix variety wine grapes several years ago from a friend's pruned cuttings. My husband built a lovely structure (Geneva double curtain) for them to grow into and has been vigilantly pruning and caring for them. Every year they produce slightly more fruit, and we are always at a bit of a loss as to what to do with the crop. Last year, I made grape jam and jelly, and I wasn't really thrilled with either. I happened to catch a tweet from Mario Batali giving advice on what to do with excess Concord grapes—he recommended making mosto cotto (also called saba and vin cotto). I checked out a few recipes and decided that it was a perfect use for the grapes and maybe a perfect condiment for us. It is also a traditional "slow food" which is not made very often anymore, even in Italy. After convincing my husband that we did not have enough grapes to make wine this year, we harvested them and I got to work. About 25 pounds of grapes were destemmed, crushed, strained, and cooked down for two hours to make about a quart of mosto cotto. It's good—sweet yet balanced with tart acidity, an unctuous texture, and amazing color.

    Not only did I create something useful and a product that will last well into the dark days of winter, I felt my husband's grandmother peering over my shoulder, remembering the process from when she was a little girl, growing up in the south of Italy. It's a food with a sense of history and a strong sense of place.

    **If you're interested and want to read more about mosto cotto, see the NY Times archived article here for recipes and sources.

  • Summer Lovin'

    I love the summer. I always have. When I was a little girl, I thought I was super lucky to have a summer birthday—I pitied the kids who had birthdays during the school year. They didn’t get to have a big outdoor party, complete with games like the peanut scramble, and mint chocolate chip ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins. Daylilies started to bloom right around my early July birthday, and I thought they were meant exclusively for me. When I got a little older, summers were long stretches of endless books to read….and then a summer job….and then a break from college. They always felt, well, summer-like until I had a regular job.

    These days, summer is my busy time. The farmers’ markets are in full swing and people are getting married and having parties, and they need sweets. Fruit is local and bountiful and finite, and needs to be put in jars as fast as I can keep up. Coincidentally, my husband is a teacher, so summers are his big break from work. This leaves me where I was last week, alone in the hot house, with lots to do. My husband was at the beach. Sometimes I long to be six again.

  • Finding the Sweet Spot

    If you know me well, you know that I can talk sweets with the best of them. I love what I do with flour and sugar. But sometimes I need a break. With another foodie deadline looming, this morning I went for a walk and worked in my garden. Most importantly, I didn't feel guilty about not being in the kitchen. I knew that I needed a little break, that the line between work and play is often precarious if you work from home. I know that since I officially started my little business, I want to do well, be profitable and productive. And that today, being productive needed to be something other than making sweets. I got back to work this afternoon with a little extra kick in my step. Soon, I'll have more than a few hours for myself. But for now, I'll look for the small moments in the day that I can claim as mine.

  • Market Update

    You can still find Paper Cake Scissors at the Walloomsac Farmers' Market at Bennington Station on Saturdays from 10am to 1pm. In addition, I'm at the Manchester, VT market on Thursdays, from 3pm to 6pm at Adams Park. I will be regularly updating my facebook page with what I'll have and when I am not able to be at a market—so , I'll see you over there!Image

  • Blur

    This is what life feels like lately. Days fly by in a cloud of flour and sugar, or words, or dirt (it's garden time, too). Life grows ever busier as we get closer to the summer. The days don't wait for me. They charge forward, second by second, willing me to keep up. I am forever counting the hours, adding and subtracting them like a bank account I could manage with the right budget. I want more, but instead moments must fit into what I have.

  • Summer Season

    The market is starting up for the season on May 5th! Please come visit me at the Walloomsac Farmers' Market on Saturdays at the riverwalk at Bennington Station from 10am to 1pm. I can't wait to see everyone again!

  • April Break

    PCS will not be at the upcoming farmers' market this Saturday, April 21st. I will be back for the Walloomsac market's summer season starting May 5th! As soon as I know, I'll let you know where else to find me this summer. Thanks for your support!

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A Spring Secret

Even in Vermont, daffodils are blooming, herbs are rising from their winter slumber, and roads are (finally) being graded. Sometimes I could do without the winter, but then I wonder if the spring would be as sweet. If I lived somewhere that had pleasant weather for most of the year, would I be as excited about spring’s glorious arrival?

My husband and I have created a tradition that is all about spring–we ride the mighty Hoosic River in our trusty canoe. This is our third year doing the run, and it’s certainly not for the faint-of-heart. While “mighty” Hoosic is a bit of an exaggeration, the river runs fast at this time of year from the snow melt running down the mountains and early spring’s inclination to dump massive amounts of rain.

The first year we did it we waited until May to ride. This trip was a languid three-hour tour, with ample time to eat a picnic lunch, tiny sections of quick water, and numerous squeezes through narrow, rock-filled streams of water, involving us getting out and walking in the icy water and rendering our brand-new-used canoe heavily scarred. Last year, we took advantage of a freakishly warm 70 degree day in early April to really ride the river, quickly, in half the time it took the previous year. Having never attempted such a raging river in anything other than a raft, complete with experienced guide, it was an exhilarating (and scary) experience. So you don’t think that we were totally out of our minds (as several passer-bys did while we were launching the canoe), my husband is a champion Boy Scout merit-badged canoer, and he does the steering…and we were both securely strapped into life jackets just in case.

This year, the verdict was that it was fast, but less so than last year. The weather was amazing: clear blue blue skies and sparkling full sun. We spotted lots of waterfowl, including a couple of red-headed ducks that I had never seen and couldn’t identify (and I’m from MD’s Eastern Shore–we know our waterfowl!). We were the only canoers out there on that beautiful Saturday. We’re considering telling friends about it to plan a river party next year, but on the other hand, it’s the perfect spring secret.