Friday, October 30, 2009



The perfect pasta

After working to perfect homemade pasta for many years I think I finally got it! I experimented, took classes everywhere possible, including Italy, and tried many different kinds of pasta machines. The one I found to be the best is a simple hand roller type. You can adjust the rollers starting at 0 or 1 and work your way gradually up to 7. This gives you a thin even thickness pasta.

Pasta machine

I use 00 Farina flour. I’m not able to find it locally but a friend brought me some from an Italian grocery store in Maine. I use one cup of the farina and two cups of semolina flour to make one and a half pounds of pasta.

00 farina flour

The eggs must have a deep yellow yolk and be placed in a well in the center of the flour. I use a large wooden pasta board to knead the dough on. It is perfect for this job. It also is just the right width to accommodate the pasta machine’s locking device.

Oops! One egg got away

The sauces I use vary each time I make my pasta. So far, my favorite sauce is a simple one that I learned to make in Italy. It is just a matter of sautéing butter and adding sage leaves to it. It is ladled over the cooked and drained pasta. If I have a truffle on hand, which I usually don’t, I will slice it and sprinkle over the pasta.

Gorgonzola cream sauce

The sauce I made for last night’s pasta was a gorgonzola. It is just as simply made. I placed about 6 oz. of crumbled gorgonzola into about 2 cups of whipping cream and sautéed until the cheese melted.

Gourmet salts

Sometimes the pasta and sauce still seem a bit bland to me. I have come upon a wonderful solution for that. Recently, while shopping at Provisions Kitchen Store here in Roanoke, I found a beautiful display of gourmet salts. In a later post I will be visiting the store and show you the salts as well as their remarkable salt blocks. I added Himalayan Pink Rock Salt to the pasta and “ La pasta perfetta.” I was back in Italy.

Here is my recipe:

Egg Pasta:

1 cup 00 Farina flour
2 cups semolina flour
1 t. salt
4 eggs
2 T. water and 1 T. olive oil

l. Combine flours and salt on a work surface.
2. Make a well in the center of flour and add eggs
3. Work flours into the eggs with hands to form dough and add water and olive oil.
4. Dust work surface with flour and knead for 10-12 minutes or until satiny.
5. Place dough in refrigerator for about 30 min – 1 hour
6. Break off a handful of dough, roll smooth with rolling pin
7. Run dough through the pasta machine starting with 0 on the dial and ending with 7.
8. Continue with the rest of the dough.
9. Let dough dry on counter for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, boil water with about 1 t.salt
10. Cut pasta according to what you are making, I cut mine in wide ribbons
11. Boil for about 2 minutes
12. Pop in a bowl of cold water and then put in strainer
13. Place pasta in bowls and add sauce of choice
14. Sprinkle with a gourmet salt

Homemade pasta! Yum!

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009



Marilee Williamson and Susan Davis, two of three owners of Yarn Explosion

Yarn purchased from Yarn Explosion

Look at this beautiful bundle of woven yarn! I purchased it two weeks ago from Yarn Explosion, a unique yarn shop located at 5227 Airport road here in Roanoke. I took it to the market, where I sell my sculpture, and worked on it in-between sales. It was extremely cold last weekend so I popped into the outback clothing shop adjacent from my booth and bought a cute knitted hat to match…or sort of match.

Here I am, working on my purple scarf

I had been searching for a yarn shop that carried high quality yarn of an artistic nature. I had no idea one existed in Roanoke. While swimming at Carter Atheletic Club, several members of my water aerobic group mentioned that they had been to Yarn Explosion and that it definitely would have the artsy yarn I was looking for. One of the swimmers, Pamela, said that she was told she could work on her project in their classroom. A throw she had for many years had a small hole in it, She said that when she arrived with all her knitting gear, everyone was sure she had moved in for good. They were very helpful to her. She was shown exactly how to repair the hole.

I was sold. Off I went that very afternoon and was so glad I did. One of the owners, Jane Jones, was ever so cooperative in helping me find exactly what I was looking for, even though I wasn’t sure of that myself. With so many choices, it was hard to make a decision as to what to purchase. I wanted everything!

The store is brimming with unusual artsy yarns

Jane wound the large skeins of yarn I purchased into balls so that I could manage them better. She then showed me a terrific trick. She said that whenever I use a thin or silky yarn, the best way to handle it is to place it into a bag and cut a small hole in the end of the bag and pull the yarn through. I did what she said and my yarn stayed smooth and did not tangle for the entire project.

Bag with hole cut to keep yarn from tangling

Large assortment of buttons

Needlepoint display

My kind of yarn!

Racks of knitting needles and equipment

I have to admit that even though I know how to knit, I do not use needles. Last year I came across a very unique tool called, The Knifty Knitter. It definitely works. As you use it, you feel as though you are weaving rather than knitting. You wind the yarn in and around the pegs and pull the bottom layers over the top to secure. It probably takes the same amount of time but you do not need to worry about dropping a stitch.

Knifty Knitter

It’s good to know that I no longer have to rely on internet shopping for my yarn. I love the visual and tactile experience of seeing and touching the yarn before purchasing. I think my scarf turned out pretty knifty ( if you'll excuse the pun) and I’m happy to have such a luxurious item for my winter wardrobe. I think I’ll make a lime green one next.

Finished art scarf

Yarn Explosion offers many exciting classes and can be found at 5227 Airport Road in Roanoke Virginia. Their phone number is (540) 206-2638 Website is

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Sunday, October 25, 2009



My beautiful four year old ovens

Most people probably wouldn’t be as upset as I am about having their oven go on the blink. BUT I LOVE TO COOK AND BAKE AND THE HOLIDAYS ARE ON THE WAY! The repairman looked at the blueprint, I guess you call them that, of my beautiful, only four years old, stainless steel double ovens.

This certainly is easy enough to read. Right!

He told me that there are two relay circuit panels, one for each oven. Since the top oven went out four months ago, (I’ve been working with one, just like I did for most of my life prior to four years ago) that means it is not the electrical wire because if it were, they both would have gone out at the same time. He said that it is not the coils. That definitely leaves the circuit relay panels and those cost a bundle. He also said that most ovens of this brand have only one circuit panel but mine has two! If I had only one, repairs would be a lot cheaper.

I was given the horrendous number of about $1,000. to repair my ovens. This of course really threw me into shock. Repairing these ovens seems like a mistake at this point. I could get a second opinion. To purchase the same brand again would be a mistake. Purchasing another electronic oven could bring the same problem a few years from now. There just doesn’t seem to be a good solution.

The previous oven I owned, which lasted over 25 years, was not electronic. It was easy to use and the few times I had to have it calibrated for temperature, it was a breeze to repair. Most of my appliances are electronic now. My friend, Trish, asked me why it is that everyone who enters my kitchen begins to talk to my refrigerator when they want a glass of ice water. Of course, they are trying to figure out the control panel.

Ice? Water? Purified? Crushed? Cubes?

There are small appliances that I must say, have saved me tremendous time in the kitchen. I do not know what I would do without my hand blender. I used to drag a large pot of soup over to my food processor and ladle potatoes and other ingredients from the pot to the processor and back and forth. Now, I simply use the hand held blender, and before I know it, all the contents in the pot are pureed instantly.

Hand blender

Vegetable and fruit washer

I also love my ozone vegetable and fruit washer. No longer do I need to worry about what pesticides or toxins might be lingering in my fruits and vegetables. In about 10 minutes this machine will completely sterilize and disinfect them by ozone. While my vegetables are being purified, the air has the refreshing smell of an electrical storm. Just look at how clean and beautiful these leeks look. Not a drop of soil left in them.

Purified leeks

Now, back to the ovens. I am sure there is a lesson here somewhere. Perhaps I should just accept the fact that if I am going to rely on technology, then I must be willing to pay the price….literally. I think that often times we bring possessions into our homes and then become slaves to those very items. I am so dependent on many of them. And that brings up the computer. What will I do if my computer ever goes on the blink?

My precious computer

Ahhh, life in the age of technology!

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009



Antique photo of treasured old wine

Several of my readers have asked me where I shop in Roanoke. They are interested in seeing what our little mountain city has to offer. While we don’t boast a lot of slick, super-sized malls, we do have a number of excellent specialty shops that I know I can depend on for great products. When wine is on my shopping list, one of my favorite stops is The Wine Gourmet on Franklin Road.

Pam West, Aaron Layman and Kimberly Eaken with a bottle of Villa Pozzi

Owner Kim Eaken and the rest of the staff always make me feel at home there. I love the knowledgeable, patient guidance I get when I’m trying to find a wine for a particular purpose. And I’m pretty sure that every customer is treated just as grandly. One recent find the Wine Gourmet staff guided me to is Villa Pozzi, a red Italian wine. It is mellow and delicious and reasonably priced. Kim and her family have been involved with wine in one way or another for more than twenty years. Her parents started Blue Ridge Vineyard in 1985.

Kim also spent several years helping customers at Lee and Edwards Wine Shop before she decided to open her own business. She is one of 1700 Certified Specialists of Wine in the United States. She opened Wine Gourmet in 2002 and has since devoted her time to providing customers with excellent wines and superb service.

Amarone wine

Another wine I discovered through the guidance of the folks at Wine Gourmet is Amarone. A friend told me that Amarone is made by picking grapes late in the season and then laying them on straw mats to shrivel up to the size of raisins before mashing. The end result is a rich, complex wine with a high alcohol content and a flavor often (but not always) vaguely reminiscent of cream sherry. He said he was purring happily to himself after finishing the better part of a bottle.

The shelves are chock-full of intriguing looking bottles

A few years ago I took a wine and food pairing class from Kim which was given at Foodies Gourmet Cooking School. (I’ll be posting more about Foodie’s school in the future.) What a wonderful evening! Kim amazed me with her encyclopedic knowledge of how to pair wine and food to bring out the best of both.

You will be delighted if you go to Wine Gourmet’s website and blog page. There are great ideas and recipes for pairing some of your favorite fall dishes such as Chili polo blanc du Wine Gourmet. “The recommended wine for this dish is a light to medium-bodied red with some zing. A grenacha, if it’s from Spain, such as Las Rocas Vinas Viejas (Old Vine), @ $18.99/btl. It has flavors of black raspberry, black cherry, and black pepper with enough body to stand up to the chili but not so much body it overwhelms it.”

It's not all about wine-if you like beer, they've got that too!

Wine Gourmet may not be able to duplicate the wines seen in the antique picture at the top of this post, but I have a feeling if you ask Kim to try, she’ll find something equally elegant and tasty! Visit them at or or

The Wine Gourmet!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009




I saw the cutest contemporary doll in one of the doll books. Tracey Stillwell shows how to create a little doll she named, Clarity. Usually I create everything from scratch with no patterns, but this doll is so endearing, that I had to try to make her. I changed her, of course, into my own style.

Pattern with woven cloth backing

Sewing front to back

I carefully machine embroidered the front and attached it to a woven back.

Embellishments and front of doll

I sculpted the face and attached wires to the top of the head.

She lost her little ear but I can glue it back on

Next I painted the face, stuffed the body and attached the hands and head.

Various hands to choose from

I chose the spiral hands

Suddenly! She came alive!

Felicity having fun

Should I attach one of my favorite sayings to the back side of my little doll like I do to my Philosophy dolls?

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

I think she would look great hanging from a window or wherever? Maybe I will use a monofilament wire and attach it to her body. She probably should have some friends to join her. I can see I will be very busy with my little dolls over the next week. I wonder what I should call this new series of dolls?

"Mimsy," from fairy series, just went home to a new family a few weeks ago

As with any of my series, I usually have to create several before a name seems appropriate. I’m naming this one in particular, Felicity. I like the way she turned out but, as I always say, “Play it till it Sings” This dolly is cute and almost adorable, but she is not quite singing to me yet. More work, more thinking. The creative spark just hasn’t hit the mark yet. Back to the drawing board, or should I say, studio.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009



Gruyere Herb Bread

How would you feel about cutting into a large ring mold size bread and seeing the cheese melting and bubbling before your eyes? Can you imagine the aroma of the herbs and cheese combined? Nothing short of celestial.

During my long association with herbs, I came up with this delectable bread. You can substitute or even do without the savory or chervil if it is not available.

Serves: Many


1/3 Cup butter
½ t. basil, savory, chervil, tarragon, pepper ¼ t. thyme
2 Cups very warm water
1 T. and ½ t. salt
5 oz. swiss gruyere cheese, grated
2 t. olive oil
1 pkg dried yeast
2 T. sugar

5 Cups flour

1 egg white, beaten

l. Brush an 11 cup ring mold generously with butter. Place in the freezer for 5 minutes. Brush with butter again. Refrigerate the mold.

2. Combine oil, basil, savory, chervil, tarragon, pepper and thyme in a small bowl. Let stand for one hour.

3. Dissolve yeast in very warm water in a large bowl. Add sugar, salt and herb mixture; stir until sugar dissolves. Stir in enough of the flour to make a soft dough. Knead on a lightly floured surface, adding enough of the remaining flour to prevent sticking, about 10 minutes. Shape into a ball. Let rise in a greased bowl, covered with plastic wrap, at room temperature until doubled-about 1 ½ hours.

4. Punch down dough, roll on lightly floured surface into 10” circle. Sprinkle with cheese. Fold edges in toward the center to form ball; let rest, covered for 8 minutes. Roll dough into 24x10” rectangle; roll up tightly, starting at long edge; pinch seam to seal. Place in prepared mold, seam side down. Let rise, covered with waxed paper, at room temperature till doubled, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

5. Heat oven to 425. Brush loaf with egg white, holding scizzors at 45 degree angle, snip surface of dough at 2” intervals. Bake on center oven rack till bread sounds hollow when tapped, 35-40 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack.
Note: I find that 400 degrees works better in some ovens. The top is susceptible to burning. Be careful.

Bread rising


I sent this picture to a friend and he said he said, “Thank all I have to do is figure out how to get my teeth marks out of my monitor.” AND, the bread tastes as good as it looks!!!

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Sunday, October 4, 2009



“ Grass Monkey” band

A huge crowd helped to celebrate Roanoke’s fall festival which was held on the Farmer’s Market on Saturday, October 3rd. Tractors could be seen in all shapes and sizes.

"A Country Girl's Dream"

Trailer full of small tractors

There was plenty of good music, but in my opinion, the “Grass Monkey Jambilly Folk Rock Band” was one of the foremost highlights of the festival. The band was led by guitarist and vocalist Spencer McKenna. McKenna, who also played his harmonica, moved the audience, by his performance, to jump up from the hay mounds in which they were sitting, and dance all over the square.

Spencer McKenna

The group played in tight harmony, as though they had been together for countless years. Many people sang along to the lively music and I was surprised and delighted to hear the band play some of the Beatles songs.

For more information about the band go to Phone number is 703-801-1331

Quiet audience sitting on hay mounds soon jumped up and started dancing

Jesse from Riverside Nursery

Mum’s and winter pansys were being sold by Jesse from Riverside Nursery. Riverside has a large nursery located at 2306 W. Riverside Drive, Salem Va. 387-4020. They offer professional landscaping, consultations and garden advice. They stock hundreds of shrubs, fruit trees, ground covers, and even bonsai. .

Dogs or angels?

Dogs of all shapes and sizes were seen as well. Many pet owners decided to dress their pets up for the occasion.

Ben Crooks, left, with helper Gary shown with 260 million year old "Elvis"

Almost everyone who has been down to the market knows Ben Crooks. You may not know him by name but you have seen his large display of fossils. On Saturday he decided to display his Ichsaurous he named “Elvis.” Elvis is 260 million years old and was found in a phosphate mine in North Carolina.

When I asked Ben why he named the Ichsaurous Elvis, in the joking manner that suits him well, he said, “ Because he’s an ancestor of an alligator, and you know, Elvis used to sing “You ain’t nothin but a hound dog, ‘crockin all the time.’ It fits!

Chef Jay from Virginia Cooperative Extension

Virginia Cooperative Extension was there offering a delicious pumpkin soup. The soup, which contained a pumpkin seed in each sampling, was created by chef Jay.

Here is the recipe:

More pictures were taken of my art car, b-dazle, than ever before on the market. I saw visitors placing themselves in-between b-dazle and the “Country Girls Dream” tractor for the ‘best shot’

B-dazle in background next to "Country Girl's Dream" tractor

As to be expected, pumpkins, abounded

Visitors from surrounding areas told me that they were amazed that we had such a beautiful festival once a year. Some asked if that was the only time we were all on the market I was pleased to tell them that we are actually there every day, not just for festivals. The market is especially bustling on Saturdays with activity from farmers, bands, artists, craftsmen, bakers, cheese makers. The list goes on and on. AND, this goes on twelve months a year. Roanoke is the place to be!

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