Functional Arts and Crafts- Making a Mirror

Easy as 1-2-3-

First I took a plate of clear picture framing glass and rubbed it down with alcohol to thoroughly remove any grime or oils. The glass’ surface must be  scrupulously clean- if it is not you’ll have issues with  peeling later on.

Then I drew up a little design for some corner ornaments on a post it note. I placed that under each corner and carefully dabbed on a thick coating of contact gilding adhesive. I used Pebeo’s Gedeo Mixtion Relief which comes in an easy-to-use tube with a fine-tip applicator. The adhesive is white when wet but dries clear. Remember you are reverse gilding/silvering- so you will be working in reverse on the inside surface of the soon to be mirror.

After the adhesive dried I cut up a sheet of 23 kt transfer gold leaf. I then carefully pressed the leaf (gold side down) into the adhesive. The parchment backing of the leaf was peeled back leaving the gold thoroughly stuck in place on the ornaments.

After the gilding size has cured for a few days I dusted off the excess gold leaf and sealed up the ornaments with a layer of raw sienna acrylic paint- which gives the overlying layer of gold a richer color and renders the ornaments opaque-

Next I turn the glass into a mirror with some handy-dandy Looking Glass Silver spray paint from Krylon-

The Looking Glass paint is easy to use- just make sure to apply it in multiple thin coats or the mirror with develop a blotchy appearance. Do this outside. Yeah note the weird reflections around the mirror-in-progress above- I did this in the parking lot against my car using a sheet of old plexiglass as a shield- hence the hubcap visible in the upper left.

After the spraypaint has dried (which only takes a few minutes) it needs to be top coated with something to protect it- I find Rust-Oleum’s Matte Clear Enamel works wonderfully. The enamel coating seals up the looking glass coating and it’s matte appearance makes the reflective finish more pronounced and brighter.

After the enamel has cured for a bit the mirror is ready to be framed. I placed this mirror in a cassetta-style frame I made a few years ago. The gilt ornaments beautifully complement this simple but classic molding profile.

A slightly closer view-

The Looking Glass paint gives a softer reflective effect than commercially made mirrors. It also has a slight texture to it (due to the droplets of paint) and with a dark board placed behind it takes on the appearance of an antique mirror.

Mulled Wine Recipes

Here are three easy recipes for mulled wine- and you can find all of the ingredients to make them here at The Virginia Farmhouse- well except for the brandy-

*Honey or a pinch of stevia extract can be used in place of the sugar in these recipes.

For Classic Mulled Wine:

* A smooth, fruity and light-bodied red wine is best for this recipe. A Merlot or Gamay is ideal. You do not want something tannic. Cognac or orange brandy works nicely to in this recipe.

For White Mulled Wine:

* A smooth and/or fruity white wine is best for this recipe- lightly oaked Chardonnays, Traminettes or clean and citrusy Sauvignon Blancs are ideal. You do not want something grassy or with a lot of minerality.

Spicy and Savory Mulled Wine Recipe

* A smooth, spicy and meaty red wine is best for this recipe- Pinot Noirs, Red Zinfandels and Chambourcins are ideal. You do not want something tannic though.

And to make the mulled wine:

1. In a small sauce pot heat water over medium high heat. When it comes to a boil add the sugar and when it is dissolved add the wine.

2. Reduce heat to low, add the spices and cover. Let stew over low heat for at least an hour, stirring occasionally. The longer the wine is mulled the stronger the flavor will be.

3. Strain and serve hot with a splash of brandy.

New Additions- December 2018

We’ve been quite busy over the past month and we have big news for the upcoming New Year!

First and foremost: We will be moving during the month of January to our new location–just across the street to the former location of The Woodstock Gallery and Frame Shop. We will begin moving mid-January and will be completely set up in our new location by February 1st. During January we will be open by appointment, so give us a call first.

And from now until December 24th we will be Open every day of the week for your shopping convenience. We will be closed on Christmas Day and the day after (Mike’s Birthday!).

We have a few new additions as well:

  • Wired By ALP Essential Oil Bracelets- These hand beaded bracelets have lava stones that act as a reservoir for essential oils. Simply dab your favorite oil or blend onto the lava stone and it will slowly diffuse into the air around you all day.
  • Sainte Victoire, Cotes de Provence, Rose- A light, crisp rose with lots of melon, a hint of almonds and a balanced acidity
  • Chateau Bonnet, Bourdeaux Blanc- A mellow blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle with notes of apple, pear, tropical fruits and a very clean finish.
  • Sassafras bark- Cut and sifted- great for making root beer or a spicy tea. Product of the USA. It smells Heavenly.
  • Summer Savory- Dried, whole leaf
  • Gumbo File Powder- A blend of sassafras leaf and thyme that is an essential component of Creole Cooking
  • Culinary Sage- Dried, whole leaf and Locally Grown!
  • Makrut (Kaffir) Lime Leaves- Dried, whole–an essential herb for authentic Thai cuisine–makes an interesting ingredient in gin–goes great with green tea too.
  • Tejpatta- Indian Bay Leaf- Dried, whole leaf- essential in Indian cuisine.
  • Thai Chilies- Whole, dried–great for making red curry paste, in stirfries and giving some kick to really anything you are cooking
  • Szechuan (Sichuan) Peppercorns- An essential ingredient in Authentic Chinese Cuisine especially from Szechuan Province. These are nothing like black peppercorns. Szechuan pepper are the fruit of a tree related to oranges and lemons–they are tart and cause an interesting numbing/buzzing sensation in the mouth.
  • Stevia Herb- Powdered stevia acts as a completely natural sweetener.
  • Vegetarian Gel Capsules- size 0 empty gel capsules are great for making your own supplements.

And we also have a fresh batch of functional ceramics from local potter Barbarah Robertson, including our custom- made Woodstock, VA mugs. These large, heavy-duty (and surprisingly lightweight) coffee mugs have a bright, sky-blue glaze along the upper 2/3 portions and “WOODSTOCK, VA” embossed along the bottom. We have some of Barbarah’s fluted mugs with a honey/caramel glaze, Virginia-shaped ornaments  and several platters in different finishes.

Back in stock:

  • “Betwixt” and “Cider Maker’s Barrel” hard ciders from Old Hill Cidery
  • Bluestone Vineyard’s 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc
  • Big Hawk Premium Sake–A light, crisp Ginjo sake

Home Brews – Anisette

Three recipes for making anise flavored liqueurs-

Anise flavored liquors and liqueurs are popular in Europe and around the Mediterranean. Often served before or after a meal they are thought of as a digestive aid. I personally can’t vouch for that but they are tasty unless you don’t like licorice- in which case you probably won’t like these.

Anise flavored liquors (like Ouzo) and Liqueurs (like Anisette) turn cloudy when diluted with water. This is called “the Ouzo effect”. This is due to chemical compounds- mainly trans-anethole- imparted by the anise seed and star anise coming out of suspension as water dilutes the drink and lowers the alcohol content. You can see this in the two pictures below of a glass of Mastika with ice melting into it-

On that note: never store anise-flavored spirits in the fridge or freezer as this will cause a similar effect due to the drop in temperature. Once the anethole comes out of suspension it will eventually turn to sediment and will negatively effect the flavor of the brew. Honestly you shouldn’t be keeping liquors or liqueurs in the freezer anyway.

Liqueur Recipes- Simple and Easy Anisette

*This liqueur tastes remarkably complex for how few ingredients there are. The scent and flavor is very similar to Marie Brizzard Anisette. Unlike commercially produced anisette though it is a greenish-gold color -not clear- as this brew is not distilled afterwards.  It makes an interesting ingredient in cocktails and it’s wonderful on the rocks.

* For an herbaceous, green anisette that looks and tastes similar to a pastis or absinthe add a tbsp or two of mashed fresh fennel greens and fresh parsley to the brew a full 24 hours before straining.

  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. Coarsely crush the spices in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and add to the jar.
  3. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar in a cool dark location for at least 5 days (preferably a week or two), shaking daily.
  4. After the spices have infused check the brew. The liqueur should have an intense and intoxicating anise scent balanced with underlying spicy and citrusy notes. Add a tbsp of honey and let it dissolve then taste and see if it has the desired level of sweetness. If not add more honey (it should be semi-dry and very smooth). Seal the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Let stew for another 8 to 12 hours, shaking every so often.
  5. Decant and strain the liqueur -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a beautiful translucent, greenish gold. It should not be cloudy. Place liqueur in a bottle or jar (preferably dark glass) and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

Liqueur Recipes- Complex and Spicy Anisette

*This liqueur tastes (and smells) similar to Ouzo although it is smoother, spicier and sweeter. It can be served like brandy, in cocktails that use anise based liqueurs or on the rocks. If served with ice or cool water this translucent liqueur will turn cloudy like ouzo.

  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder coarsely crush/grind the spices and add them to the jar.
  3. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar in a cool, dark location and let stew for week, shaking daily.
  4. Dissolve a tbsp of the honey to the jar and taste it to see if has the desired sweetness. If not add more honey. Then seal it back up. Shake the jar vigorously for a minute or so. Return the jar to a cool, dark location and let stew for a few more days to a week, shaking daily.
  5. Open the jar and smell the brew- it should smell intensely of anise with an underlying backbone of cinnamon and cloves with floral notes. Taste the liqueur again to see if it has the desired level of sweetness. It should have a little bite from the alcohol but it should not burn like moonshine. This liqueur should have a brandy-like mouth feel so if the alcohol is to strong add a little more honey. It should be semi-sweet, complex, spicy and smooth
  6. Decant and strain the liqueur -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a beautiful, translucent earthy red- like a fine China black tea tea. It should not be cloudy. Place liqueur in a bottle or jar and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

Liqueur Recipes- Mastika

*Mastika (or Mastica) is an anise-based liqueur flavored with gum mastic that is popular in Greece and surrounding countries. Gum mastic or mastic of Chios is a resin obtained from a tree related to pistachios native the Aegean basin. Gum mastic has a slightly bitter, piney, bay-leaf like scent and flavor. This liqueur tastes (and smells) similar to Ouzo. It can be served like Ouzo in cocktails in or on the rocks. If served with ice or cool water this translucent liqueur will turn cloudy like ouzo.

  1. Pour the vodka into a mason jar (preferably wide mouth).
  2. In a mortar and pestle crush the gum mastic and add it to the jar. Let it dissolve (this may take a few hours).
  3. In a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder coarsely crush/grind the other spices and add them to the jar.
  4. Tightly seal up the jar and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Then place the jar in a cool, dark location and let stew for week, shaking daily.
  5. Dissolve a tbsp of the honey into the brew then taste it to see if it has the desired level of sweetness. This liqueur should be semi-dry with some a bitter, piney notes imparted by the gum mastic. Seal the jar back up and shake vigorously for a minute or so. Return the jar to a cool, dark location and let stew for another day or two, shaking occasionally.
  6. Decant and strain the liqueur -preferably twice- through coffee filters or cotton plugs or both. The strained liquid should be a translucent reddish-brown – like tea. It should not be cloudy. Place liqueur in a bottle or jar and keep tightly sealed. You can drink it straight away but I think it actually improves for weeks after straining. If kept in a tightly stoppered bottle at normal room temperature it should keep for months.

Three Easy Stir Fry Recipes with Napa Cabbage

Napa or Chinese cabbage seems to be at it’s best this time of the year so here are three very quick and easy stir fry recipes that make use of it-

Spices for making Chinese five spice powder-

Napa cabbage is very different from the red and green cabbage you normally find at the grocery store. It is much more tender and mellow. It’s flavor is more like a mild celery than cabbage with nutty undertones and it doesn’t develop that sulfurous stench when cooked. It also keeps well once chopped and does not develop those black moldy looking spots as long as it is refrigerated.

*These recipes are loosely based on recipes from Elaine Luo’s cooking blog- www.chinasichuanfood.com – if you would like to find more authentic Chinese recipes check it out.

*The actual cooking process for this recipe is very quick- so it’s much easier to have everything prepped and ready to go.

*Chinese black vinegar, or chinkiang vinegar, is a dark, malty vinegar made from rice and wheat. It tastes very similar to a Flemish sour red ale without the bubbles.  If Chinese black vinegar is unavailable a mixture of regular rice vinegar and a balsamic vinegar, or Flemish sour or smoky brown ale is a pretty close substitute.

*Bok Choy can be used in place of Napa Cabbage. Whichever Chinese cabbage you are using the greens will cook much faster than the white rib portions- so to keep them from getting mushy they should be added just before removing from heat.

 

Vegetables:  Szechuan-Style Cabbage Stir fry

*Doubanjiang is a paste made from fermented fava beans (broad beans), hot chilies, salt and spices. There is really nothing quite like a quality Doubanjiang but a mixture of Sichuan Chili Oil and regular Chinese Black Bean Paste will make an effective substitute.

  • 1 tbsp each Chinese Black Vinegar, Chinese Cooking Wine and light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp each sugar (opt) and starch
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • 3-4 green onions, sliced thin on the bias
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 3-5 slices of fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp Doubanjiang (fermented broad bean and chili paste)- pref from Pu Xian region
  • ½ tsp Chinese Five Spice powder (or to taste)
  • 1-3 dried Thai red chilies crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • Vegetable oil (pref sesame oil) as needed for coating pan
  • 1 head Napa Cabbage, sliced thin with white portions separated from the greens
  • Additional light soy sauce, ground Szechuan Pepper and thinly slices green onions to garnish

 

  1. In a small bowl mix vinegar, wine, soy sauce, sugar (if using), starch, sesame oil and sea salt. Sauce should be about the color of lightly creamed coffee. Set aside.
  2. In a second bowl crush the white portions of green onions as well as the garlic and ginger slices to a paste and mix thoroughly. Set aside.
  3. In a mortar and pestle mash up the Doubanjiang and stir in the Five Spice powder and Thai chilies. Set aside.
  4. In a wok or deep sauté or frying pan heat oil over medium. When nice and hot add the onion/garlic/ginger paste and sauté 30 sec or so until the raw garlic smell goes away. Add Doubanjiang/chili/ Five Spice mixture and sauté for another minute or until the reddish oil begins to separate from the pastes.
  5. Add the sliced up white portions of the cabbage, turn heat up to medium-high, stir for a minute and then add the sauce.  Continue cooking  for a minute or two until sauce thickens and turns translucent. Stir in green portions of cabbage and remove from heat.
  6. Serve hot with steamed rice and garnish with remaining green onion slices and a drizzle of soy sauce.

 

Pasta:  Chili Sesame Noodles

*If alkaline noodles are unavailable vermicelli or thin spaghetti will work. Tahini paste will work as sesame paste.

 

  1. Cook noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain, toss with a tsp of sesame oil (so they don’t glue themselves together) and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl stir remaining sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauces and water one by one into the sesame paste until it is thick and creamy. Add the salt and five spice powder and set aside.
  3. In a large wok, deep sauté or frying pan heat cooking and chili oils oil over medium. When nice and hot add the garlic paste and sauté 30 sec or so until the raw garlic smell goes away.
  4. Add the sliced up white portions of the cabbage, turn heat up to medium-high, stir for a minute then push the cabbage to the sides of the pan. Add the sesame sauce, cook for a minute then stir in the noodles.
  5. Mix everything together and cook for a minute or so until the noodles are nice and hot. Stir in green portions of cabbage and remove from heat.
  6. Serve hot garnished with fried soybeans or toasted peanuts, a drizzle of soy sauce and green onions.

 

Pasta:  Egg Fried Noodles In Black Bean Sauce

*Douchi are salted, fermented and spiced black soybeans. Douchi smells strangely chocolate-like with a very salty, savory flavor. There is really nothing quite like them but if you mix up some regular canned black beans with ginger, Chinese five spice powder, a lot of salt and cocoa powder it actually smells and tastes roughly similar.

*If alkaline noodles are unavailable plain ramen noodles, vermicelli or thin spaghetti will work. You can also use quinoa pasta- but you will want to rinse the noodles off after cooking as they tend to glue themselves together after draining.

  • ½ lb alkaline noodles
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil – or as needed
  • 1 tbsp Douchi (fermented and spiced black soybeans)
  • 1 tbsp each Chinese black vinegar, light soy sauce and dark soy sauce.
  • ½ tsp Chinese five spice powder (or to taste)
  • 1-2 Thai chilies, broken coarsely (opt)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed to a paste
  • 1-2 slices ginger root, mashed to a paste
  • 1 lb shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 3-5 leaves Napa Cabbage, sliced thin with white portions separated from the greens
  • ¼ tsp sea salt (or to taste)
  • Additional light soy sauce and thinly sliced green onions to garnish

 

  1. Cook noodles in salted water until al dente. Drain, toss with a tsp of sesame oil (so they don’t glue themselves together) and set aside.
  2. In a mortar and pestle mash up the douchi. Add a tsp of sesame oil, the vinegar, soy sauces and spices and mix everything together into a thin paste. Set aside.
  3. In a large wok, deep sauté or frying pan heat a tbsp of sesame oil over medium. When nice and hot pour the beaten eggs into the pan. Let them sit for a minute until they begin to set up then break them up with a spoon and fry until just cooked.
  4. Push eggs pieces to the sides of the pan and pour another tbsp or so of oil into the center of the pan. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté 30 sec or so until the raw garlic smell goes away.
  5. Add the mushrooms and white portions of the cabbage, turn heat up to medium-high, stir for a minute or so then push the cabbage to the sides of the pan.
  6. Add the black bean sauce, cook for a minute then stir in the noodles.
  7. Mix everything together and cook for a minute or so until the noodles are nice and hot. Stir in green portions of cabbage and remove from heat.
  8. Serve hot garnished with a drizzle of soy sauce and green onions.

Recipes- Updated Hamburger Stroganoff

Since summer is now technically over and it’s quite cool and clammy (in these parts anyway) here is a fresh take on a savory comfort food from childhood-

Hamburger Recipes:  Updated Hamburger Stroganoff

*This is a tangier and more complex take on the classic Americana recipe. The wine and vinegar reduction brings some natural sweetness and acidity to this traditionally very heavy (and fatty) dish that complements the sour cream. The generous amount of herbs gives it some added depth.

*A Chablis, Bourgogne Blanc or Viognier work best in this recipe. TVP or Faux ground beef work well if you want a veggie version of this- and they don’t need to be browned beforehand- simply add them to the pan after the mushrooms are nice and tender.  We have Pot Pie Squares from The Little Barn of PA here in the store which work well to in place of regular egg noodles.

 

  1. Melt 1 tbsp of butter in a large pan over medium heat. Add the raw hamburger and sauté until nicely browned and no pink shows. Remove from pan and keep warm.

2. Add the remaining butter to the pan and melt over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until onion is soft and begins to caramelize. Crush garlic into pan and sauté until fragrant and beginning to turn golden- do not brown/burn the garlic- about 30 seconds.

3. Add the porcini mushrooms, herbs, spices, wine and vinegar and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer, uncovered, until the liquid begins to condense a little- probably 10 minutes or so.

4. Add mushrooms and sauté until they start to give off their juices. Then stir in the water or broth, the flour mixture, a little salt and the ground beef and let simmer, uncovered, for a few minutes.

5. When the gravy begins to thicken remove from heat and stir in the sour cream and parsley.

6. Serve hot over egg noodles dusted with pepper and paprika and garnish with green onion or chives.

Fresh out of the kiln 5/03/18

My first batch of pottery made with brown stoneware clay have finally been glazed and fired-

For this batch I applied an underglaze of Amaco’s Satin-Matte White and top coated that with their Satin-Matte Clear Glaze. Upon firing the white and clear glazes melded beautifully creating a creamy, grayish-white hue. The underlying khaki color of the brown stoneware clay really gives a wonderful depth to the finish. My favorites from this batch are these vaguely sea sponge-like luminaries which all miraculously survived.

Unfortunately only one of the bivalve-shaped napkin holders survived, and it shrank so much I think it works better as a sponge holder. The pieces I specifically intended to be sponge holders turned out nicely though.

All of the soap dishes survived- and I especially like how the clam shell-shaped ones turned out with the creamy white glaze.

A couple of serving bowls. The lip of these bowls undulates which gives them built in spoon rests.

Some oyster shell shaped spoon rests- the glaze looks perfect on these.

A cluster of miniature flower bud vases.

Some larger vases-

While these may seem purely decorative and very delicate these ceramics are both functional and quite sturdy.

Finally framed

My first batch of winter landscape studies are finally framed and up on the walls-

“Winter Forest Late Afternoon”- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 8″ x 10″. C. 2018-

 

 

For this piece I went with a distressed, dark pine frame I made from raw boards. The texture I gouged into the edges of the moulding compliment the expressive brushstrokes and texture in the paint surface.

“Snowbound Forest at Sunset- 1/15/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 13 1/2″ x 10 1/4”. C. 2018

For this painting I went with a walnut frame that I parcel gilt with composition leaf on the front surface. The bright gilt surface of the frame really makes the golden hues pop in this piece.

A clean, elegant walnut frame joined with keys and parcel gilt with composition leaf.

“Winter Forest at Morning- 1/15/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 8″ x 10”. C. 2018

 

The warm metallic gray of the silver leaf in this frame warms up the highlights in the painting and helps to tone down the blues of the shadow areas.

 

The rich dark brown of this frame helps to warm up this piece and compliment the purplish gray ground. The texture of the olivewood veneer blends in nicely with painterly tree trunks. This is the only frame in this bunch that I did not make myself.

“Winter Forest in a Snowstorm- 1/15/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board. 14″ x 10 1/4”. C. 2018

 

“Snowbound Forest- 1/16/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 10″ x 14 3/4”. C. 2018

 

For this piece I went with a simple, “bump” profile moulding. The grain of the oak plays off the movement of the snow covered trees and winding grape vines. The rich, golden color of the finish cools down up the warm gray hues in the painting.

 

“Snowy Winter Forest- 1/19/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 7″ x 10”. C. 2018

For the last two paintings I went with a very clean museum profile that was painted black and gilt on the top surface with aluminum leaf. The cool silver tones of the aluminum leaf make the cool whites of the painting seem warm by comparison. The depth of the moulding and the contrast between the flat black of the sides of the frame and the gilt front surface really makes these pieces pop off the wall.

 

“Snowy Winter Forest- 1/16/18″- Original painting by MJ Seal. Acrylic on board, 10″ x 7”. C. 2018