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Embroidery At It’s Best

IMG_0020_2A year ago, a couple girlfriends and I took an embroidery class at a small sewing shop, appropriately named Stitch Lab.   Embroidering was something I always wanted to pick up, but the thought of needle and thread, or any needlework craft, seemed very intimidating.  My Grandmother is incredible with a needle and thread.  She could sew anything. Her embroidery and cross stitch work, all done by hand, looked as perfect as if it were done by a machine.  I felt like I had a lot to live up to.  I realize when you are learning something new you have to be very kind to yourself.  Even thoughI know this, when I get in front of people, I immediately feel as if I have to get it right, and perfect, on the first try.  I will say, it was a humbling experience. French knots and the stem stitch were the only things standing in my way from my first timer perfection.

Immediately after taking the class, I became an embroidery fool.  Sitting and impatiently waiting at the Doctor’s office, I would bust out my needle and hoop.  Every time I send off a gift basket of jams & jellies, I would throw in a towel.  It is therapeutic and relaxing.  It forces me to slow down in a wold that is constantly go, Go, GO! The best thing I have gotten out of embroidery is the bond that has been created between my Grandmother and I.  Whenever I start a new towel, napkin, bag, etc. I always think of my Grandmother.  Would this be something she would want in her kitchen? On her table?  I have been completely in love with embroidering flour sack towels with herbs or produce.  I have gotten the Nettie Stamp of Approval.  Now, I’m not quite to her level of mastery, but I think I’m on my way!

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Better than Bread & Butter

B&B PicklesAbout few year ago, I discovered canning.  I can hear it now… you are gasping! “How could you discover canning?!” or even, “It can’t be, no!”   It is true, I truly discovered canning.  I discovered how truly amazing it is.  I had previously heard tales of canning from my grandmother or as an urban myth from Martha Stewart, not ever really believing that it ever really existed.  A bit nieve.  At the time, I thought it was something my grandmother and her sisters and mothers before did to preserve their hard-earned harvest and seasonal crops.  In a time where technology was just evolving (picture horse and buggy, dirt roads, gas lanterns, etc.) Women were born already knowing how to sew, clean, butcher a chicken, and, yes, can.

Myself, I am not a grandmother and I certainly did not know how to can from birth, but I can tell you my grandmother is an inspiration.  Nettie Imhoff.  What a woman.  Born and raised in Texas.  Really… what a woman.

I was baffled the first time she came to the Paisley’s Farmstand and asked for all of their day old pickling cucumbers.  What on earth was she going to do with 10 plus pounds of cucumbers?!  “Make Bread & Butter Pickles,” she said so matter of factly, that I didn’t dare question her.

Weeks later when I was living in a tiny, second story apartment in the heart of downtown Boston I received a package from my Nana.  Low and behold, I found what you can do with ten pounds of cucumbers.  As a foodie, at the time and even now, I am ashamed to say I didn’t like pickles.  Hated them.  If you know my grandmother, you kn0w can’t turn down her food or else lightening will strike you where you stand.  I remember squeamishly opened the jar, pop! Dipping my fingers in the vinegar, pinching a slice between my fingertips, closing my eyes, and throwing it into my mouth.  I didn’t believe it!  It was the most delectable thing I had ever had.  I requested that I receive the packages as often as she could send them, if not sooner.  I tried to make them last, but I couldn’t.  I scowered every grocery and specialty store in the city to find a pickle that could keep me satisfied between batches and seasons.  Nothing.

Years later of just settling with a store bought pickle, I still cringe at the thought, I finally asked my Nana for her secret recipe.  An email later, I began my canning endeavors.  Through trial and error, keeping my fingers crossed, a little bit more bread, and a little bit more butter and now I send my Nana her package of Nettie’s Bread & Butter Pickles.