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Pickle me Pink! (plus one of my favorite recipes)

The definition of pickled is, "preserved:preserved in vinegar, brine or another liquid." But it is actually a lot more complicated than that! I find pickling an extremely satisfying and beautiful food craft.  Not only is it a way to stretch your fresh garden veggies into the winter months, but the pickling jars are a gorgeous thing to have in your kitchen, layers of color and flavor--what could be better!

There are all sorts of tiny cottage businesses that have sprung up around the pickle thing, McClure's in Detroit (home of famed Vlasic pickle) which you can only buy by the case.  Sechler's has 39 varieties of Pickle, as well as a pickled "apple cinnamon chunk" --yum! Pickling is an ancient craft that is believed to have been used by the Mesopotamians all the way back in 2400 BC.  Queen Elizabeth had a fondness for pickles, as well as the great Thomas Jefferson, and Shakespeare makes mention of the pickle throughout his plays.  Pickling really got going here in the States around 1606, when Virginia began to produce and sell a commercial brand of pickle.

People can pickle the strangest things, although I tend to believe recipes trickle down through families and into their culinary repertoire without a thought--these recipes are a heritage, and, really who can argue with someone who is OK with eating Pickled Pigs Lips??  Pigs Feet are also common pickled items, as well as Eggs and Cabbage. The Smithsonian actually has a pickled Mammoth! The pictures are less than delectable, so I will spare you and instead show you a product of particular interest: Pickled Walnuts!

The 2012 Good Food Awards include in their Pickle Winners,  Cuisine en Locale's  for their  Pickled peaches, and Farmhouse Culture for their Smoked Jalapeno Sauerkraut. A recent article in the New York Times hailed this Kimchi ( a traditional spicey pickled cabbage from Korea) as the best. And what son-in-law would dare to argue?


I am also, an avid pickler, and have included a recipe below that will certainly delight an pickler's heart!

From my Aunt Bella 

6-8 Cubanelle Peppers sliced into thin long strips.
2 cups of water
2 cups of white vinegar
2 cups of sugar
6 cloves of garlic
4-6 hot peppers (could be dried)
Place the sliced peppers in an air tight jar.  I use this type.  Mix all the ingredients and pour on the peppers.  Top with a dash of olive oil.  Seal and place on a window ledge or any place with some sunlight.  After 2 days, move to refrigerator. 

Really great with sandwiches, as a side with chicken or just out of the jar.

Enjoy and thank you Aunt Bella!


Tweet This!

The thing about birds.....is this a craze? There are birds everywhere, from the patches on kids clothes to the sheets on our beds. It is such a craze that the recent sketch comedy, "Portlandia", did a skit around the immortal words: "Put a Bird On it!" And Put a Bird on it we do--these winged little fellows are everywhere, you can't spend a day out of the house, or in the house, on the web, and not see a bird somewhere! Actually, here are a few now....

Bird on A Pillow

A Bird round Your Neck

A Rainbow of birds
An embroidered Bird..

Birds of Felt

Tell me you have noticed this too??!! Is it just me?  I did a series of needlepoint birds a few years back, and suddenly the urge to do another round...should I do another set? I feel a flutter in my design hand.....

and my bird.


Summer Plans

The options for kids and their Summer Entertainment are endless! There are Japanese Culture Camps, and Learning to make a Film Camps, there are Writing Camps, and Bug Camps, Robot Making camps, and Swim Camps. After sorting through all the options with Nina, we came up with three very different camps this summer, one for each month.

The first is almost the most exciting because it includes a week long stay with big sister Shiri in Brooklyn NY! My little girl is heading to the big city, today!!  How many 10, (well, practically 11),  year olds can say that?? In Brooklyn there is an arts day camp and Nina picked--warm a mother's heart-- weaving! Yup, fiber art, following in my footsteps! Check out the Textile Art Center.

Later in the summer there is tennis camp.  Nina has really taken to tennis. I loved when she was a skater, but it's Tennis she really excels at.  I think that she will probably be wowing us with her backhand after all the practice she is going to get in this camp.

The last of the camps is the most traditional. Like the summer camps from the movies: teams, colored t-shirts, lots of volleyball, softball and hiking through the woods!

Now, none of these are sleep over camps, Nina still won't go for that, but I really feel like this summer is going to be a great one for my girl-- new kids, new places, and maybe next year we can start the sleep over stuff. A step at a time!

The camp Nina will be going to!  I want to go there for vacation... 

PS - The amount of paperwork for these camps, forms to fill out, is CRAZY!



I spend a lot of time looking for new places to put needlepoint, new ways to utiize our designs which we spend so much time working on. It's tough: we don't want it to get dirty, dusty, or roughed up. But when your walls are full, and you still want to stitch--what's a girl to do?

Well, I have just come across the work of Lithuanian artist Severija Incirauskaite-Kriauneviciene. This is truly one cool approach to cross stitch! Objects, no matter the material, are beautifully worked: a car door, an old rusty pail, a frying pan. Take a look:

She refers to her work as extractions of the "banal and simple" and puts it into a "syrupy" kitsch context: our everday objects transformed.

I don't know about all that, but I do know it makes me think that I have not yet tapped the boundaries of what we do. I wonder if Reid would mind if I "transformed" our SUV.....


What the Hungarian Stitch can do for a child...

 "Nina, you did a beautiful job!  Really, for a first time, reading a chart, counting and stitching, it is spectacular.  Let's take a picture."

 "COOL! Now a photo with you holding your piece up to your face..."

"Hey Nina, show us how you really feel about your accomplishment!"

Ladies and Gentlemen, the wonders of the Hungarian Stitch!

** Nina is working on my sampler book design called "SWEET!".  It's a Thread Gathering for children


Summer Solstice Grab Bag Sale

Today is the day, daylight lovers. The summer solstice!

Here in PA it is still bright past 9:00 PM! 
Did you know? Ancient Celts burned an oak Yule Log, (normally associated with the colder months),  and crowned the Oak King. In ancient Gaul, the midsummer feast is called the Feast of Epona, and Germanic and Slavic tribes celebrated with huge bonfires around which they would dance. Old Sweden had a Midsummer Tree that they decorated while the women bathed in the town river.

Here we just enjoy the extra minutes, and comment on how it can't be 6 months now since the shortest day of the year!


Oh, and one more thing we do on this day... give you lots more grab bags!  HERE

$10 a bag, lots of silks and overdyes and no shipping charges!  Quick before it goes dark.


At the Castle... a wedding tale

Well who gets to get married at a castle??!! I did! It's Genevieve here, officially a Mrs! That part is so weird... however, the wedding was awesome. We had it at Fonthill Castle in Doylestown, PA. Originally the home of the famed eccentric Henry Mercer, it is a fully poured cement castle, entirely encrusted on it's interiors with thousands of tiles from everywhere in the world.

This is the room we held our ceremony in, we did a Quaker ceremony, which is a really beautiful Pennsylvania alternative to the old Justice of the Peace! Basically it's self uniting, so we each sign, our witnesses sign, and then people are free to stand up and tell stories or give blessings, or whatever they are feeling. It's very special and sweet and friendly. 

A Mint Green cake you say? Why yes, it is a Mint Green cake! 

The Bride

The devastatingly handsome Groom and his wonderful Dad

The Bride and Groom could not stop laughing through the ceremony...class act all the way....
We really did it our own way, I made all the bright fringy tablecloths, Sammy made all the vases (he is a great glassblower), I made my own goat cheese for the cheese plate, the food was Potluck, everyone brought something, and we had no photographer--all our photos are trickling in from our friends and family. It was probably a lot more work than it should have been, but as dorky as it sounds, I am presently 100 times more in love than I was for the first 4 years we have been together--and I think that's a great sign!

Thanks Orna for letting me share!


How do you know when...?

How do you know when you are a Jewish mother, not only to your kids but even to your dog?

1. When you are away and your wonderful doggie sitter texts you that doggie has a little bit of an upset stomach, no big deal, which in turn keeps you from sleeping all night!
2. When you wake up in the morning and immediately tell your husband that you didn't sleep all night because doggie, back home, has a little bit of an upset stomach.
3. When you feel your husband hasn't properly been devastated by the news and you accuse him of not loving your doggie enough.
4.  When you can't wait to get home to smother your doggie with "poor baby"isms etc.
5. When the vet tells you that doggie is fine, just a couple of ear drops and you feel the weight of the world just lifted off your shoulders.
6. When you hear yourself say to the vet: "that doggie will send me to an early grave!"


Celebrating Wedding Bells and Hanging Gardens

This upcoming week is a very special time for us at the studio.  It's a wedding week.  Genevieve, my assistant, is getting married.  I know you join me in wishing her a wonderful day, with much love,  laughter, and enjoyment.  Hey Gen, we are expecting photos galore!

*     *     *

On another note, I'm happy to present a glimpse of the new colorway for HANGING GARDENS.  I will be offering this colorway in the new cyberclass session which will begin at the end of this month.  If you'd like to get in for early registration, send a note my way, I'll be sure to send you notice when class registration begins.

Tomorrow we are going away for a fun weekend in Brooklyn with Shiri, Orin and best of all, Nomi.  I plan on stitching as much as I can in the evenings when the little one goes to sleep.  I hope to have something new to show you when I get back.

Have a great weekend!!


Design Seeds

the other side
Jessica's first Design Seed Post--it kind of matches my blog!

I don't need to tell you about my color obsession, right?  You know how passionate I am about color.  Well, it turns out I'm not the only one!  It seems that Jessica Colaluca is just as obsessed.   Design Seeds is her baby.  She has a very clever site where she breaks down a photo into a palette, much as you have seen me break down a photo into threads. I have been fascinated to see what she comes up with in her daily color cards. She also has a blog where she talks about trending colors and puts together color ideas through photos.

macaron tints

Jessica's impressive in that she has worked as a color forecaster, and colorist, for 17 years. Her blog even has a section where you can see her old journals from when she worked in the color and trim department at Ford! It's so interesting to see her process, and her amazing eye for color.

Very Cool, Jessica!

 Colors that seem so natural in a photo are sometime hard to analyze and flatten out into  a single color. Sometimes a shade up or down tells the story better than a shade right on the money.

Visit her and see what fun you'll have!


Congratulations to Orin!! WOW!

We are so proud of you, Orin.  You are a wonderful husband to our daughter, a wonderful father to our granddaughter and a Tony Award Winning Producer!  Congratulations!

"ONCE" won 8 Tony awards tonight!  What a night!



Cute, right? Well you can't believe what a little Drama Queen this one can be. Try to figure her out, but you won't be able to! The things that send her over the edge, are wide and varied.

The Mighty Vac

So first off is the vacuum.  That's not that weird right? Lots of dogs go into barking fits, chasing the housekeeper when the vacuum goes on?

Ok, but this one is a little weird----

---Saint John. Nice old Saint John from the church down the street. Kind to all the little children. Can't walk by there without Esther going into a barking fit...

Skateboards, scooters, blenders and can openers.

Cute but strange little Esther.
We love you.



Last week Bong Mee, a painter from PAFA, (Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts), began interning here with us at the studio.  She has a penchant for organization. What a stroke of luck! Look at what she did to my Kreinik drawer:

For the first time it is in perfect order, colors, types of thread, just perfect!

She is now working on my metal beads and findings, see...

I even went to town on my own, organizing my pearls, crystals and beads. I found that using these small plastic containers, and flipping them upside down allows me to easily see what I have, and the lids stay on tight, so no more spills, or endless amount of embellishments rolling around in the drawers. Now I can see what I have, and what I need.
Now, at least 3 times a day, I will open my precious drawers and just stare.  Then smile. The gently shut them till the next time.

Bong Mee is, as I mentioned, a painter, however she has asked to learn about fibers and stitches and how to put them together.  Yesterday we did our first study period and it was fun to see her interest.  I sent her home with canvas, stretcher bars, a book on stitches and threads of her choice.  I can't wait to see what she will come up with.


It's in the Stars!

Tonight at 4:30, that little planet of beauty and love, Venus, will use all her feminine wiles to do something she rarely does: upstage the sun! That's right, it's the Venus eclipse tonight, and it only happens twice, one right after the other, every 100 or so years. Venus is a tiny thing, and cannot actually block out the sun, so her eclipse is more of a silhouetted dance across the face of the sun!

If you are planning to watch, be sure you take the proper precautions--never ever look directly at an eclipse, or use any magnification lenses such as binoculars or a telescope. SO how can you see the show? A pin hole camera! This age old (think Leonardo D'Vinci), rather simple science allows you to watch a projection of the event, with the use of a camera obscura. There are directions all over the internet for making them and in my search I came across some creative versions of these fantastic cameras.

Corbis pinhole
This beauty at RetroThing by Corbis Readymech
Well-Read Pinhole Camera
 Book Cameras from Anthropologie
Pinned Image

Recycled paper camera via NotCot
Recycled Paper Pulp Cameras at CameraTalk

A cardboard Collapsable Camera from the 1800's

Are you headed out to see Venus do her dance? If so email pictures to me!


About This Blog

©Orna Willis
All images, text, and content on this site are the sole property of Orna Willis and may not be used, copied or transmitted without the express consent of Orna Willis. Any other inquiries please email me at orna@ornadesign.com

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