Saturday, December 03, 2016

Open House - Some Photos

We had a good day here at the farm for our second annual Open House. The farmhouse looked beautiful - all decorated for the holiday. We had a really nice crowd of lovely people. The "Art Hunt" was a success and I'm hoping that folks were inspired to add some color to their homes. 

This year, I improved the signage on the way. I think it was helpful. 

Kate did a herding demonstration with Mark which people seemed to enjoy. She is getting much better. 

I took some photos but it was after it was dark out so they aren't great - sorry about that. Here is some of the pottery I have for sale. I will try to list the pieces that are left on my Etsy shop but it won't be until after the photo shoot is over next Friday. 

Here are some more photos of the things we have for sale. 

books and lamps and lampshades
Tea Towels I designed and sewed

Christmas Stocking display with yarn

Gail Callahan's beautiful silks

Gail's set-up in our library

Julia's pom poms

Julia's Glitter pinecones
(There is glitter all over the kitchen FYI - I left it because it looked so pretty and sparkly.  

Deborah's Textile Bazaar on the porch - She's got an incredible collection this year!
We are open tomorrow from 10 to 4. Would love to see you. If you are running the Hot Chocolate Run in Northampton - come after the race. Go Team Webs! 

Busy Bee - Things I Am Making

Thanks so much for all the comments about Thursday's post. I hope I have opened up some more conversations within the world of hand knitting designers, yarn shops, yarn companies and the industry in general. Read the comments on the blog and on my FB page if you have a chance. 

Me - I've been right out crazy getting ready for today's Open House. We had a great day today and hope that some of you will be able to get here tomorrow. We are 2 hours from Boston and 3 1/2 hours from NYC. Would love to see you. I will post some photos in a few minutes to show you how the house looked with it all set up for visitors and the holidays.

On Thursday, I did something I hadn't done since college - I stayed up until 3:45 a.m. sewing tea towels while waiting to turn my kiln up. I have an old kiln that has manual settings and the temperature has to be raised slowly - 1 hour after starting, 2 hours after starting and 4 hours after starting. It is fine during the day but not so good on a deadline but I wanted to get the pieces done and cooled before this morning. I really am quite pooped and I hope I don't do that staying up so late anytime again soon. How did I have the energy to pull all-nighters once? 

I stink at schedules and thrive on procrastination and deadlines. So I was down to the wire. Here are a few of the vases that are done and awaiting display on Friday afternoon.

Last week, I decided that I wanted to include a tiled fireplace surround in the upcoming book Crafting A Patterned Home. I spoke with my friend Kevin and we figured out how he could help me make it happen. He came for measurements before Thanksgiving. THis morning he delivered a piece of cement board for me to apply the tiles with mastic and then grout. It will then mount it behind the woodstove with some strips of wood in case the next people to own this house want to take it down. 

These are the fired tiles. I like how they turned out. 

If you are following me on Instagram you saw the tiles in process. Now they are finished. Just how I envisioned. Really excited for next week when I get to play in the grout and get this thing done before my last book photo shoot on Thursday and Friday.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Why I'm not Designing Knitwear Right Now by Kristin Nicholas

If you are a knitter and follow my blog because you knit, you have probably noticed that I'm not publishing new knit projects right now. I've had people say things to me like - "You could be making a fortune designing knitting patterns now." and "Knitting is so hot now! There are so many possibilities for you now." 

So what is up with Kristin? I began working in the needlework/knitwear field in the 1980's. I have been a Creative Director, written a few knitting books, designed hundreds of sweaters, mittens, hats, scarves etc., travelled to many great knitting fairs and conventions, and knit and sold some very good yarns. I have even been a Knitting Expert on PBS TV for several seasons. I've had my own signature yarn - 5 times. But frankly, I am not very interested in designing handknits right now. It's not that I am done with it forever. I guess I am taking a break.
I was passionate about knitting for a very long time. And it was my job. Right now I'm not feeling the passion. I am still being creative - just not with sticks and string. 

A couple months ago, a google doc began floating around the internet about pattern sales via Ravelry in the month of August. You can look at it hereThings have changed so much in the world of hand-knitwear design. The internet happened and knitters were one of the first groups to latch onto its power. Then came Ravelry. And it changed more.

I came up through the ranks of working for a yarn company. I started working at Classic Elite Yarns as the Creative Director in 1984. I loved my job and had passion for the knitting industry, for my co-workers, for my colleagues, for the yarns and the colors, for the challenges that it all offered.  For years, I swatched new yarns at night in my off hours - like my co-workers Cathy, Linda, Lori, Pauline, and Susan (sorry if I missed someone). We would write the patterns, find knitters to make them and then have a photo shoot for the knitting patterns. This is how it worked in those days. Designing was just a small part of each of our jobs. We wore many hats. I loved it. I had many great opportunities. I saw the world. I learned Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Indesign. I learned about business and life. I learned about marketing as I went. Sometimes I miss my old life - the structure and the camaraderie. 

Once I went freelance in 2001, I began designing for myself for the books I was contracted to do. I had always dreamed of being an author and I was thrilled to be able to pursue that dream and actually get someone to print my words and ideas. The publisher would give me a small advance I would swatch, write the patterns, find someone to knit the designs I didn't have time to do myself, help with the photography, do illustrations and then the book would be in the hands of the publisher. Once it was ready to go out in the world, I would promote the book. Those books are still in print and I cannot do anything with the patterns that are in them. All those designs - and there are a lot of them - are basically stuck in books and I have no right to them until they go out of print. Twice a year, I get a teeny royalty check or a notice that I still owe the publisher my advance. Knitters aren't buying knitting books anymore if you haven't noticed.

When I wrote my last knitting book - Color By Kristin: How to Design Your Own Beautiful Knits (published by Soho/Sixth and Spring), I pretty much said all I wanted to say in the world of knitwear design. I wrote a book that gave 26 different classic and timeless projects along with scads of color work knitting charts and edgings. I gave the instructions for knitters to personalize these designs to become their own. I also instructed knitters on how to design their own color work charts. I consider that book Color By Kristin my magnum opus. Color by Kristin is still in print. Knitters have to buy the book to get the patterns. And that is too bad because knitters now want to only buy one pattern - not a book. My designs are stuck in that book and I do not have the rights to publish the patterns myself. And so - like many of my good designs that are in books or lost in the pages of knitting magazines that were recycled many years ago, my best work has become obsolete. 

I have continued piddling along putting out a pattern here and there for my website and Ravelry. When I released my latest pattern I sold a total of 36 copies of the PDF via both my website and Ravelry. That is $216. And for that $216 I knit 2 sweaters, photographed the pattern after begging my friends Will and Shalee to use their children Emme and Marlee as models (I gave them the sweaters), wrote and sized the pattern, desk top published the pattern using Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Indesign, and Acrobat. And I paid Paypal and Ravelry commission.

Available for $6.00 on my website or Ravelry
(Easy Aran Pattern - Available on my website here or Ravelry here)

Now maybe it wasn't the greatest sweater. It was a classic design and maybe too similar to others out there. But I'm not going to second guess that. I presumed that because it was very knittable and the type of design people love to make, I would make some decent money from on-line PDF pattern sales. I didn't have a sweater like it available on-line. The many classic designs that I did design are owned by the yarn company I used to work for and they get the pattern sales revenue. (Some magazines do pay the designer a small percentage of the sales of the on-line pattern sales. Yarn companies do not pay designers past the initial sale of the design). 

So I was wrong with that last PDF Kid's Easy Aran Design. Really wrong. It wasn't worth the time I put into it to do all that work. The lack of sales of that pattern made me re-think if I did want to keep writing patterns and putting them for sale on-line. Was that the way I wanted to spend my time? Was it worth it? 

The yarn biz has changed so much. I'm older and definitely not the hot young thing anymore. (That is an understatement.) I don't even know who the new designer of the moment is and I really don't care. I don't like to knit lace nor do I understand why so many people are interested in knitting lace shawls. Seriously, how many can you have? And socks? I just don't get it. I'm not interested in joining groups on Ravelry and interacting with people I don't meet in person. Boy, do I sound like a grump which I really am not. I do not think I have ever once looked at the Hot Right Now Pattern Section on Ravelry until today when I was working on this blog post. Did you know that there are now 274,008 handknitting patterns now available on Ravelry? How does anyone actually decide what to knit, or discover anyone new? I knit what I want to - not what others are knitting. I don't have the energy to become some kind of internet knitting star. I'm not interested in twittering my every stitch. I get tired of the self-promotion that is necessary to sell the knitting patterns. I find it too difficult to travel to far-off places to teach knitting because of my family and farm responsibilities. 

As I have gotten older - I have also realized that my time is getting shorter with each year. I need and want to do the things that make me happy and fulfilled as a creative person. If you are still here - I know this has been long - then you know I am still interested in designing all kinds of colorful and beautiful things, just not knitting right now. 

I am loving hand-printing fabric. 
I am loving painting pictures. I am loving embroidering fabrics. I am loving gardening. I am loving making pottery and painting it. I am loving cooking and enjoying my home and family. I am loving my family and our life here in western Massachusetts with all our animals. I don't really know what the next creative phase of my life will be once I finish the current book I am working on -- Crafting a Patterned Home -- but I can't wait to see what is next for me. I hope you all will keep reading even though I am not knitting much right now. 

I hope this post will open up some conversation within the knitting and creative world. I was spurred to write it after listening to this Crafty Planner podcast with Diane Gillead of the Craftypod blog and podcast. Listen to it if you get a chance. You can still buy my books via my website here. And my knitting patterns here or on Ravelry here. I will be grateful.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Where do you buy your knitting patterns now? Do you ever buy knitting pattern books? Do you only knit from free patterns? Do you follow the "hot knitters"? Do you follow knitters on Twitter? On Facebook? Or do you just like to knit to knit and could care less about what everyone else is doing? Are you a knitwear designer? What are you thinking about it all?

Here are some of the patterns I have designed in the past that are available from me as PDF Downloads. I will receive the money for the pattern because I published them. I appreciate every sale. I've included links to where you can buy them on my website and on Ravelry. It really doesn't matter where you buy them from - Ravelry graciously doesn't charge much of a commission so if you like keeping your patterns there - purchase through them and add them to your library. 

Description is below each photo.
Kristin's Colorful Christmas Stockings - 5 designs - one color/row - available on my website here or Ravelry here. $12.
Kristin's Creative Christmas Stockings - 6 designs, multiple variations - Available on my website here or Ravelry here.  $12.

A Dog in Sheep's Clothing - A Pattern in 8 sizes for dogs or lambs - available on my website here or Ravelry here. $6

Farmgirl's Stocking Cap - sized for kids and adults. Available on my website here and Ravelry here. $6

Quarters Cap - Sized for babies to adults. Available on my website here or Ravelry here. $5

Olympia's Felted Flowers - available on my website here or Ravelry here. $6

Heart to Heart Mittens - 2 designs, several sizes - Available on my website here or Ravelry here. $6

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Open House in Leyden Featuring My Friends Alicia, Deborah, Gail, and Debbie

Popping in tonight with some quick words. We had a great Thanksgiving holiday here at the farm. It went so quick. After that was done, I had to quickly move on to the next project - our Holiday Open House which is in only 4 days! Yikes. 

Julia and I spent the weekend making things for our Upcoming Holiday Open House this weekend - December 3/4. Julia is quite the pro at making pom poms now. She will be selling them herself. I think I have created a monster!

I've been making as much pottery as humanly possible. I fear I don't have as much as last year. Working on my new book Crafting a Patterned Home really took a crazy amount of time. I am still not done with the book work - another photo shoot next week - the last. And then lots of re-writing and improving on the first draft. 

Here are some of the unglazed pieces that I will have fired (twice!) before Saturday. I changed clay bodies and so I have been quite worried as to how it was going to work out but the first pieces were fine. 

Today, I put together a little "art hunt" for our guests. The hunt gives numbers for them to look for and then explains the different techniques I used for each project. It includes some of the new projects from the upcoming book. I think it will be fun for people to discover the different techniques and things I have made and done. It is hard for me to explain to everyone who comes everything about the house so this will help guests learn on their own. 

Besides my work - my books, patterns, some yarns, pottery, embroidery supplies, tea towels, and notecards, I have a few friends who will also be displaying their beautiful work. Across the street at her own studio will be Alicia Hunsicker. 

You can also find Alicia at the following places on the web: 

On the porch, Deborah Garner is returning with her gorgeous textiles and handmade jewelry. 

For those of you who cannot come to the Open House because of distance, you can luckily shop virtually via Deborah's (Jewelry) Etsy Shop HERE or her website HERE for her exquisite textiles.

In the library, my good friend Gail Callahan will be selling her incredible hand-dyed yarns, silk fabrics, her original Color Grid and her Wedding Color Grid. 

You can find Gail on-line at her new website  The Kangaroo Dyer

My friend and neighbor Debbie Bernard will be making wreaths and selling some of her ornaments that she makes. 

Mark will be selling our grass-fed lamb for Holiday Celebrations. Bring a cooler. 

I hope some of you will be able to make it to the Open House. All the information is on this Facebook Event Page. You can find directions on our Leyden Glen Lamb website here

Hours are 10 to 4 on both Saturday and Sunday. Bring a friend. We will have some home baked goodies too. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Review + GIveaway - Ben Pentreath's English Houses + A Story

I am so excited to share with you all today a fabulous new book called English Houses: Inspirational Interiors from City Apartments to Country Manor Houses. It is written by Ben Pentreath. The photographs are by Jan Baldwin and it is published in the US by Ryland Peters and Small. 

Ben is an architect in London and co-owns the store Pentreath and Hall. Ben is also the author of a popular blog which I look forward to every week. Gorgeous photos of the UK. Sign up for it if you don't get it already. I think you will love it. You can also see more photos of several of his interior and architecture projects on his website here.  

Ben's first book was called English Decoration and it was published in 2012. I have spent many hours with that book - looking for bits of inspiration for decorating and design projects. When I heard Ben was writing a second book, I couldn't wait for it to be published. I received my copy English Houses which I had on order when it was first published in October. As when I receive any book in the mail, it is a good day. I cracked open the book and started slowly paging through the photos. 

There are 12 houses featured. The photos, by Jan Baldwin, are fantastic. There are overall room views and small vignettes so that you get the feeling of each space. Ben has divided the book into 3 chapters - London, Country, and Country Houses.

Each house is introduced by Ben with two pages of prose which really gave me the feeling of each home. He includes the history of many of the houses and also some stories about the owners who are living in them now. Each home is shown on 14 to 18 pages. There is no copy on each page to describe the photo. At the end of each house tour, there is a two page spread which shows a small thumbnail of all the photos and highlights the features of each room. There are little stories about the house, its objects or its inhabitants in each of these captions. This is a nice feature because the large photos are not compromised with blocks of type that cover pretty details as often happens in books. You know how book designers sometimes do that - they plaster some kind of colored box on top of just the thing you wanted to see and fill it with type. 

Here are some favorite spreads from English Houses. My photos do not do it justice. 

A giant cow head above a counter is from a butcher's shop

Gorgeous yellow walls

A handmade crochet afghan on the bed at top left; gorgeous kitchen

What a bathroom! And gorgeous chinoiserie wallpaper

In the past, I have traveled to the UK many times. In my current life, I can't do that so I rely on books and the internet to get my Anglophile fix. This book did just that. I can tell I will spend many hours with English Houses - re-looking at all the details of the fabrics, the colors, the architecture, the textures..... re-reading the stories and dreaming about what happens in each home. Each house is so different from the next but they all have that irresistible English vibe. Reading a book like this is such a pleasure and so different than looking at Pinterest or a web page. I can savor every small detail in the photos and really look instead of glancing and rushing into the next clicked rabbit hole. Holding a book in my hands is satisfying and feels like an indulgence. Everyone can use a little indulgence once in a while. 

As I was paging through English Houses - savoring each page, I got to a photo that looked strangely familiar to me. I wasn't sure where I had seen the chair before. The fireplace looked familiar too.  

Perhaps it had been in a magazine feature. I turned the page and I thought to myself - I think I have been there? How could that be? I could not have been to a house that is featured in one of Ben's books. 

And then I got to this photo spread of a kitchen. 

That sealed it - I had been there. I read on...... I discovered that the house that was featured was a house that I stayed in in the 90's when I worked for the yarn company. It was in Northumberland (far northern England on the east coast) and was owned by a woman named April. We had rented the house for a photo shoot location. In order to keep the house going and to cover the expenses, April had a location business and rented her home to folks who were looking for an English aesthetic for their projects. 

That house - in Northumberland - was a huge inspiration for me when I was working on the interior design of our own farmhouse in the early 2000's. It was very old and built of stone. 

The rooms were filled with old things - things that looked like they had been there and used for more than 100 years. The curtains on the windows were old and were fraying - but they looked perfect to me. That is where I learned that not everything has to be brand spanking new and in perfect condition. I learned that things look better if they have a little age and patina. 

While we were staying at the home, we were allowed to use anything in the house as props. Each room was a perfect back-drop for any product we had. The house was packed to the brim with interesting, weird British things - like wooden hands that were perfect as a prop for handknit gloves. There was a gorgeous fireplace where we did a sock shoot - with legs and socks resting on a fireplace bench. 

There were antique children's toys - I was sure the children who played with them had passed on many years before. The garden was gorgeous - carefully tended by the April's 80 plus year old mother. I think her name was Juliet. She gardened in Wellies, slacks, cardigan sweater and pearls. I will never forget her. 

And the kitchen - that kitchen - it was so welcoming and homey with a huge wooden rustic kitchen table, large white farmhouse sink (that is where I fell in love with those sinks), un-fitted cabinets, an Aga stove. Each morning, April would have breakfast for all of us staying there. And there were a lot of us - including models, hair and makeup person, photographer, photographer's assistant, stylist, and Pat Chew and I as representatives of the yarn company. Each evening, April would cook us all a fantastic dinner as if no effort went into it at all. She was so generous and kind and hard-working. In the evenings, I got to hang out in front of the fireplace sitting on down filled cushions on ancient chairs and finish projects for the next day's shoot. 

So not only is Ben's new book beautiful but for me, it now has re-kindled some special memories of a time when I had the good fortune to stay in a gorgeous bedroom in a giant old stone house in the north of England where -- when I looked out the window -- there were sheep and cows grazing outside and beauty was everywhere I looked. 

Thank you Ben for bringing all these beautiful homes into my life and for inspiring me to continue to tweak my home. And thank you to those homeowners who have kept those old homes up and shared them with the rest of us who never will have the chance to live in something so beautiful. It helps us to dream and continue to look for beauty. 

Here is another review of English Houses on the Architectural Digest blog - along with some better photos than mine and descriptions of the rooms. And here is a blog post about the recent US book launch of English Houses. What a party. Evidently Ben is Kate Middleton's favorite designer. I never knew. 

Here's what I have for one lucky winner - a copy of Ben's English Houses donated by the American publisher Ryland Peters and Small. 

Here's how you enter. Answer the following question in the comments section of this post: Tell me about a special memory or detail from a visit to a home or a place or things that is special in your home and conjures up memories.  

As always, please leave an easy way to get a hold of you - blog, email address or Ravelry id. US addresses only. 

Contest ends Monday evening November 21st at 11:59 p.m. Good luck everyone.

Contest is over - Elizabeth won who wrote: My paternal grandparents lived in the grand home that their grandparents built in 1864 with money gained during the gold rush out west. It had a beautiful cherry staircase, high ceilings and marble fireplaces but it was the bedroom I slept in when I stayed there that brings me peace to recall. The bed was my great grandmothers, with a towering head and footboard, floral carving and the most feminine of shape. A small writing desk was next to the window which overlooked Main Street so I could see the goings on at all hours. The fireplace would be lit on cold December nights during my Christmas stay and above it was a portrait of my great-great grandmother. I look like her and it would bring a smile to my face whenever I gazed up. Despite all of the romantic beauty of that room, it is the smell that I can recall the most. It was roses mixed with age and love that I can still conjure up when I close my eyes. I miss it. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Best Friends Pullovers by Janice

I had a lovely letter from a reader/knitter named Janice in response to one of my newsletters. (Have you signed up yet? The newsletter sign-up is at the top of the right hand of this blog page.) Here is what she wrote..... 

"I made four of your marvelous child size Best Friends Sweaters for my nieces. They have created quite a stir. People call them "works of art". Thank you for selling me your fabulous book!!!!!"

Janice's 4 nieces with the Best Friends Sweaters she knit for them. 
I wrote Janice back and asked her if I could share her photos. After a bit of back and forth, she got permission from her nieces' mom to let me share them here. Here is what Janice wrote. 

"I wanted to make the sweaters as Xmas presents but was afraid the girls would out grow out of them by December. I have been having such a great time with your book Color By Kristin. I made a couple of adjustments of my own, no steeks, I just knit back and forth and I had to really weave the yarn a lot in back of the designs so the kids wouldn't put their fingers through when putting the garments on. ( I only carried for two stitches) And I made ridges for the shoulders that worked well. And I used black when you said not to as I had black and didn't have any washable brown. Anyway, I LOVE your designs and made each sweater completely different using the charts in the back of the book. THANK YOU"

Here are three of Janice's sweaters before she blocked them. 

3 of Janice's sweaters before blocking
Thank you Janice - you made my day! I love getting emails like this. 

Here is a photo of Julia and her friend Bridget. This photo was taken in 2008 when both Julia and Bridget were little. I loved this photo and the sweaters. I'm glad Janice got to make them for her nieces. What a great job she did. My original pattern is knit in the round with steeks. Janice changed it to do back and forth. 

The Best Friends Knitting Pattern is in my book Color By Kristin which is available on my website for $24.95. The book includes 26 designs and ideas for customizing the patterns. 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Announcements - Upcoming Events + Open House Here at our Leyden Glen Farm

Tomorrow I will be at Webs Yarn Store in Northampton from 1:30 to 3:30 doing a Local Author Event. Please stop by if you are in the area. I will be bringing samples of my knitting and textiles along with some of our farm raised lamb to sell. If you would like me to bring a special lamb cut, send me an email.  More info here

On December 3rd and 4th, my family and I will be hosting our Second Annual Holiday Open House. Mark your calendars for an adventure to the lovely little town of Leyden Massachusetts. You will be able to see all the colorful artwork and decorative treatments that I have done to our 1751 farmhouse which was featured in Yankee Magazine's 2015 Holiday Issue. I'll be sharing here on the blog things I am making over the next month to sell. I'm teaming up with some friends like last year so there will be other nice things to purchase too. It is a really fun day out in the country. Fingers crossed for nice weather. 

Stay tuned for more information to come. You can find the directions to the farm on our Leyden Glen Lamb Website here. Our farm is located about 2 hours from Boston, 1 hour from Hartford and 3 1/2 hours from NYC. 

If you have any questions about where to stay, please send me an email and I will answer. I do have some links on the Pages at the top of this blog for where to eat and stay. 

This Week + Comfort Food -- Jacques Pepin's Cream of Tomato Soup

It has been a busy emotional exhausting week here at the farm and all over the USA and I might say the world. Amongst all the melee, Rikki Snyder and I spent Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday taking photos of projects and rooms for my upcoming book on pattern (2018 release). It was exhausting and the house is in a shambles. You can't imagine the behind the scenes. To set up a shot, we have to move all the furniture around, clear all signs of life, set up the props and projects, stand on ladders, try to find the perfect piece of fabric I have somewhere for a backdrop, and more. 

Rikki and I have worked together for 5 years now and we have developed a rhythm to our days as we work through shot lists, ticking off each photo. It is nice to feel so comfortable around a photographer, to understand how they work and to have confidence in the images they are taking of my work. Rikki and I seem to have very similar visions as to set ups, styling and more. As I am designing and working on a project, I am thinking all the time about where it will be photographed and how it will look on the pages of the book. 

My friend Gail Callahan (aka The Kangaroo Dyer) offered to help out on Tuesday. On Wednesday, my lit agent's intern Taylor helped out (and learned a lot). Thank you Gail and Taylor! We finished up in the dark on Thursday taking photos with very long exposures. Seriously, it was dark out and we were trying to take photos of the bedroom walls. We finally had to give up and call it a day. We have one more shoot in December and then I have lots of re-writing, editing, illustrating, etc. 

If you can believe it, I still have garden tomatoes ripening. For the first time in four years, I had a bumper crop. I've been making an easy recipe from Jacques Pepin for a Creamless Cream of Tomato Soup. I've been freezing it too as it makes great pasta sauce. The Cream of Tomato Soup Recipe is below.   

Jacques Pepin's Creamless Cream of Tomato Soup

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion - 1 cup coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 pounds tomatoes - cut into 2 inch pieces
2 1/2 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 1/4 cups water
2 Tablespoons butter

Heat olive oil in soup pot. Add onion garlic, thyme, and oregano and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, salt, pepper and water. Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce the heat to low and boil gently for 15 minutes. 

Using an immersion blender, process the soup until creamy. 

Serve the soup with toasted croutons and a dab of basil pesto. It also makes a nice sauce for pasta if you cut down the water a bit. 

The recipe is from Jacques Pepin's Essential Pepin. I love this book. It has over 700 recipes - many of which I have made. Nothing is too complicated and it all is delicious. It also features many illustrations by Jacques which I think is such a nice touch. Did you know he is quite the painter? 

Julia voted in her very first election. She was beyond excited and has been talking about it for over a year. I am not the most politically minded person but I was glad to support her interest in the democratic process. Although the election did not turn out the way Julia wanted it - the whole thing was a good experience for her and me as I watched her grow as a person and a citizen. Here she is at our little Town Hall putting her ballot in the box that rings when it is cranked through the slot. Voter turnout was very high - of 572 registered voters, 502 showed up not counting absentee votes. 

I hope you all have a nice weekend and can find time to cook or bake or knit or sew or make.