Welcome to A Tranquil Nook Blog

We welcome you to follow along on our crafty adventures. Frank is a farmer by day, jewelry and hand braided cord-maker by night. Jane simply fiddles with fabric and fiber any time she can. We share things about what we make, how we make it, where you can get it.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Waldorf Inspired Needle Felt Wall Hangings

 Wall Hanging Dec 2011
Wall Hanging Dec 2011

 Sometimes life takes unexpected twists and turns.  One of those turns in the road for me has been creating needle felt items in Waldorf style.

When a long time friend, Dacia Dauner, decided to open Apple Blossom Child Care Center  drawing upon concepts of Waldorf Early Childhood Education  she turned to me for needle felting support. Thus began an exploration of Waldorf style and learning about Rudolf Steiner which has lead to some new work in needle felting.

photo by Apple Blossom Child Care Center  

While at a Waldorf Workshop at Rudolf Steiner College, one of Apple Blossom’s teachers,Genevieve Radniecki-Hayle saw this wall hanging. 
photo by Genevieve Radniecki-Hayle

Inspired by the design and theme, Dacia and Genevieve asked to have two derivative works made for their classrooms.

Needle Felt Wall Hangings
And so these wall hangings came to be.  An interesting twist in my felty path.  Thanks to friends old and new, Dacia and Gen, for setting me in this direction.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Bowls: Functional, Edible, and Fanciful. An Art Show

This year, to bring greater awareness to the handmade art and craft component of farmers markets in Minnesota, Bemidji's Natural Choice Farmers Market put together a group member show.  The theme was bowls.  Bowls get filled with bounty from harvest, help keep things organized, are functional, practical, and often beautiful.  They can be created in a variety of ways and mediums. 
The show opened on Saturday Dec 3, 2011.

Here is a closer look at a few of the pieces.

 Autumn Bowl or The Girl in the Gourd
a collaboration by Gail Rixen & Jane Carlstrom

Gourd bowl cut, scraped and bleached by Gail with needlefelted Girl, acorns and cut felt leaves by Jane

 Fluted Felt Bowl
by Jane Carlstrom

Hand needle felted from dyed wool batt and roving

Rolling in the Leaves
by Jeana Johnson

Coiled, Shaped, Stitched Fabric

 Spring Time Reflected
 by Jeana Johnson

Coiled, Shaped, Stitched Fabric
 Wasp Nest Bowl
by Gail Rixen

Working with woodland findings

 I'll try and capture a few more detail photos next week.

If you are in or near the Bemidji area, you are most welcome to come out to Winter Market to view the show up close and personal.  Next available time to see it is on Sat. Dec 10 from 11am to 3p.  In the Old Burger King Bldg on Paul Bunyan Drive.  Near the New Subway and katty corner from Paul and Babe Statue.

 Thanks for reading,

Friday, November 25, 2011

Winter Market at Old Burger King Bldg

Last Saturday was the beginning of Winter Market for Bemidji's Natural Choice Farmers Market.  Not so many fresh vegetables in a winter market in northern Minnesota.  Still lots of good things from the garden and woods have been preserved as pickles, sauces, jams, syrups.  Wonderful Honey and honey related products too. 

Baking is big, Art is awesome, Craft is creative.

This week Frank has baked a few Gluten Free treats.

Almond Pound Cake 


Birch Ginger Snap Cookies

You see them here cooling on racks.  The cake will be get a light drizzle of frosting.  Both made with eggs from our hens.  The birch cookies have birch syrup.

What, what that, you say.  Birch syrup?  Ah Yep.  After the sap run is over for Maple trees, the birch sap run begins.  So every few years, Frank taps a few birch trees and boils up some birch syrup.  It is not a sweet eating syrup, it is more of a black strap molassas type syrup.  He uses it much like molassas in gingerbread and other baked goods. 

We really enjoy using the birch syrup and the zip it gives to cookies and cakes.

If you are in Bemidji tomorrow, stop into Winter Market in the Old Burger King Building (Paul Bunyan Drive and 2nd St).  We always have a few for sampling as well as more for sale.  11am to 3p. Sat Nov 26, 2011

Market will continue on Saturdays through Dec 17, 2011.  However this is the last week Frank will be doing Gluten Free Baking for this year.  He keeps a strict wheat free kitchen when doing Gluten free baking.  After this week he is putting away the Gluten Free flours and utensils and pulling out the wheat flour and wheat utensils, getting ready to bake up his favorite traditional holiday treats. Stollen, sugar cookies and more.  Gluten Free goods will return in the spring of 2012.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

High Tunnel Time

Extending the growing season in northern climates.  A good thing we think.  High Tunnels are one way to go.   A way we are embracing.  We really enjoyed produce found at farmers market this summer that came early and hung on late into the growing season. So this fall Frank went to a tour and workshop about high tunnels and hey there, hi there, hoe there, studied up, found the funds and ordered one.  The lure of gardening in early spring through late fall has the man in a strong grip.

Thanks to help from many wonderful friends A High Tunnel now stands on our garden spot.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My stops on November's First Friday Art Walk in Bemidji

First Fridays in Bemidji, a time of art show openings and receptions.  So many to choose from to enjoy a gawk and graze about town.  Most of the receptions offer not only visual inspiration but tasty food treats as well.  For me the challenge is to map out a visit plan, about 4 openings is the max for me.  More than that and I go on brain and social overload.  This time, I though to try more and scheduled 7 stops.  Hit my limit at 5 and came on home.  Hope to get to the other two shows on the list later this month, alas will miss the artists though will be able to see their shows.

Let me Tell You a Story
Image used with permission

The highlight for me this month was the show at Rail River Folk School, "Let Me Tell You a Story: Interconnected Art Exhibit" by Wesley May. Powerful and thought provoking, read the artist statement and about the show.  A visual look into people, beliefs, relationships.


On the lighter side was Shannon Lucas-Westrum's show as November Artist of the Month at the Cabin Coffee House.  Vera really brought out a big smile.

At the Wild Hare another fun and interesting exhibit by Alice Blessing a cool juxtaposition of cats and birds in Alice's unique and interesting style.

It was also lovely to take in a beautifully framed show of reprints of original work by Jane Freeman along with 3 small original oils.  The light, the detail the artistry in Jane's work delights one's soul.
 image used with permission

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cucumbers and Onions - Just like Moms

Do you find there are certain foods that must be fixed "just like Mom's" or they won't be eaten? While Frank is generally open to new food experiences, there are a couple of dishes that just won't do unless they meet the "just like Mom's" criteria.

Cucumbers are # 1

and are also one of the few foods for which she had not left a recipe. YIKES.

Simple, plain vinegary cucs and onions - how could that be so hard?
Somehow it was and took years.

Finding "A Little Scandinavian Cookbook" by Janet Laurence (ISBN 0877017433) brought success.

Thank you Janet! The ingredient I kept missing was SUGAR --- ah, ah, ah.. I should have known.

pages 18 & 19

Still - had to leave out the parsley, the pepper AND for sure cut off the rind, plus add onion rings, lots and lots of sweet onion.

The proportions of white vinegar, water and sugar however were absolutely on target for "the man."

Cucumber season is ON, so the first photo above shows the glass bowl of vinegared cucs and onions now going; stored in the refrigerator. Started with 3 cucs, peeled, sliced, brined for 12 hours; then two large sweet onions - 1 cup water, 1 cup white distilled vinegar, aprox 1/2 c sugar. Keep adding brined cucs, fresh onion rings as each runs out. When the vinegar solution gets too weak - pour it out and refresh with a new solution.

A great summer salad alone or with other salads. I often add some sprigs of dill or basil to mine; Frank still prefers his plain so plain it stays. :D


*reprinted article from my previous blog "glorious hats"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Freezing Fresh Picked Strawberries

Strawberries in season, picked that day are delightful, still one can only eat so many (very many, true) but only so many berries in one day. Is there a way to save and savor some of that goodness over the long Minnesota winter? Oh YES! and it is really not too hard.
*** If I do it with food, rest assured it is not very difficult.***

Lin of Abbie's Acres at market July 9, 2011
at Bemidji's Natural Choice Farmers Market

First, let me admit, I do not pick or grow strawberries. I look to Abbie's Acres for all our berry needs. The story that follows is what happened with the flat of berries Frank purchased Saturday.

Keep the berries as fresh as can be by putting the flat into a refreshing cold box. During the summer, we keep a cooler in the car, along with reusable totes for groceries, etc. Even a short time in a hot car can be hard on fruits, veggies, eggs.

Once home, pop them into the refrigerator. I was way to tired Saturday evening to deal with even just 1 flat of berries.
However next morning at the crack of dawn, while Mr was still fast asleep, the berries got a cold bath. Popped off the green with a pointy grapefruit spoon. A few minutes of draining in colander. Then onto a metal jelly roll pan, with space between each berry.
Berries that are extremely ripe, or a bit bruised go into the "to eat now" tub, all the rest on trays to freeze.
I work one tray at a time. Cleaning a little over a quart, arrange on tray, and into the freezer they go. In not very long, there were 5 filled trays in the freezer.Leave the berries on the trays for 12 to 24 hours. You want the berries to be frozen solid, like hard marbles. Then package them in bags of appropriate size for your family. Squeeze as much air out of the bags as possible before sealing. One flat made 7 very full pint bags of frozen summer. I mean frozen strawberries.

Tray freezing works well at our house. I started out years ago using 2 jelly roll pans and various other pans, cake pans, cookie sheets - you know, what was available. Over the years we acquired more jelly roll pans because they are so convenient for tray freezing. That little edge is a marvel at keeping fruit/vegetables from sliding off, and the size fits perfectly in our side-by-side refrigerator-freezer. We also got some rubber coated stands, cut the legs shorter to make risers between trays. Allows for great air flow and fast freezing with no smushing or touching. Do rinse the trays off as you take frozen berries off, then wash and dry all trays when done. Otherwise, you might develop rusty trays.

During summer one shelf of the freezer is reserved for tray freezing. I like this method for most all the fruits and veggies we freeze. The food freezes thoroughly, and when coming out of the packages, if you want just a bit, say 3 to 4 berries, they come easily. Because each was frozen individually they do not meld into one huge mass of berries.

So when you want a sweet treat, and candy is calling, taking out one frozen berry, may curb that lust and keep you on a healthier track. You can also put a few berries in yogurt or add into a bowl of mixed fruit.

We like mixed fruit for salad or for desert. Start with home canned peaches, put about 1 pint of peaches and juice in a bowl, slice in a couple of fresh oranges, perhaps an apple, maybe some home canned pears; add the tray frozen fruit cherries, raspberries, strawberries, last but not least some sliced banana. Actually, whatever fruit combinations you prefer and what is available fresh or from your shelves or freezer. To tie it all together, the piece de resistance is to stir in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of homemade jelly. Orange marmalade is great. Citrus jams, high bush cranberry jelly or jam, and current jelly are all delicious and enhance a fruit mix.

So simple and easy, preparation and storage; plus simple and easy to get out and use. Good tasting, actually delicious. YEP! that all works at Tranquility Pastures. Maybe it will work for you too.

Thanks for reading,


Monday, July 4, 2011

The Spirit

Enjoying our freedoms today and also thinking of John Kennedy's "“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” Let us each find and make ways, large or small, to promote respect, peace, happiness, safety and well being for all. Living together, sharing the load, sharing the joys.

Bringing you some memories from childhood of watching Kate Smith on one of the evening music shows. Was it Author Godfrey? She still sounds good to me.

How did kids such as I go from this to anti-war protests, believing in social justice, human rights and so much more? Well, this actually inspired it. Believing that we do live in a grand and wonderful place, and that we each participate in making it better, healthier, friendlier. Thanks to Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr, Joan Baez, "Hair", and many others; even our parents and the "establishment" who provided us the time, the schooling, the belief in ourselves to go out and make changes.

We did a lot. We need to do more. Little by little, lot by lot.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Lady Slipper Celebration in Blackduck, MN

The Lady Slipper Celebration takes place in Blackduck, Minnesota today, June 25, 2011. Celebrating the shows slipper orchids that grow wild in the forests and near sloughs in the damp Minnesota northland. There are both the more common yellow moccasin and the showy pink and white lady slipper, which is also the Minnesota State Flower. There is even a scenic byway with attractions from start to finish.

This year some members of the Blackduck community got together and put together the first Lady Slipper Celebration in Blackduck. There will be lots of music, guided tours to view and learn about showy lady slippers, and art shows all through the town. Most stores are hosting artists of some form or other.

Anderson Factory Outlet has not 1, not 2, but 4 fiber artists. Ranging from a fiber fiddle (Me) to quilters to Cavandoli Macrame. Dawn Standera and I have the honor of our works being shown in the windows framing the entryway.
Cavandoli Macrame by Dawn Standera

Fabric and Fiber Works by Jane Carlstrom

photo by Anderson Factory Outlet

All sorts of fabric and fiber stuff by me. My goodness it was hard to get accurate shots through the window. So you get to see two views. one taken by me, one by Anderson Factory Outlet. Between the two you get to see most of the display. :D

No lady slippers in the window displays. Notice was very short this being the first year, still how wonderful that invites were made and artists stepped up with works to help celebrate spring in Minnesota. So even though there were no lady slippers in my works, tried to pull in the pinks, greens and whites, the feel of spring in the northland. And of course the cloud and rain wall hanging. :D

The birds are singing away this morning as I type, so hopefully today like yesterday will be a glorious sunny day and the people who participate in the Lady Slipper Celebration will have a lovely time.

Last but not least, a big thank you and shout out to Karen Forbes, manager at Anderson Factory Outlet for inviting and hosting fiber artists in her windows and in the store.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rhubarb Salsa - not dancing, eating Good

I've always been fascinated by rhubarb, so pretty yet so full of pucker power. 20 odd years ago, Mr Frank, who professes a deep dislike of rhubarb, mowed down my rhubarb plants. No more rhubarb was ever planted here and none crossed the doorstep --- Until this spring..... First there was the Rhubarb Bash at Farmers Market, then I found some amazing recipes..... Rhubarb Relish and Rhubarb Salsa....... oh me oh my..... I had to try these.
Fresh picked Rhubarb from Bemidji's Natural Choice Farmers Market June 18
how could I pass this up?

Extracting petty revenge after 20 odd years, I made Mr Frank buy rhubarb, not once but twice. Two weeks in a row, he tightened his belt, got out his wallet and purchased a 2 lb bag of rhubarb.

Week 1 -June 18, the rhubarb became canned relish. Thanks to Jocasta Innes and her fine little recipe book: The Country Preserves Companion
in which this recipe appears
Collins Publishers p.55 ISBN 0 00 255493 3
Oh YES! A sweet relish with a tang. We mixed it with some canned chicken and a little mayo to make chicken salad sandwiches. Very good, and even Mr Frank liked it. 6 half pint jars are now in the storage area, waiting on the shelf. Putting food by is our standard practice. Nice to add a new relish to the pool.

That success got me searching the web for more rhubarb recipes - relish led to salsa. Two appealed to me. Especially one using honey. Oh boy, that translated to a sweetner with minimal processing (using local honey from Kroeger and Rixen Farm) rather than refined cane sugar.
Honey from the hives at Kroeger and Rixen Farm in Nebish, MN
find Gail at Bemidji's Natural Choice Farmers Market most Saturdays

Not having all the ingredients in the recipe, and of course just like with sewing, I seldom follow the exact directions and adapt with past experience and what is available in the stash or larder at the time. Here is my version of a

Rhubarb and Apple Salsa

2 cups rhubarb, diced small, after removing all of the outer strings
1 cup apple, peeled and chopped
3 green onions thinly sliced
1 Tablespoon bottled key-lime juice
2 Tablespoons honey (from Kroeger & Rixen Farm, of course)
1/4 of a jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped fine. (yes, barely there, but aware)

Steam blanch chopped rhubarb for 2 minutes let cool.
Stir all together until thoroughly combined.
Let it sit in a glass jar overnight to meld flavors. Keep refrigerated.
- sweet and mild with a little tang, soooooo nice.

Light green = Rhubarb Apple Salsa Dark green = Rhubarb Cilantro Salsa
photo by Rochell Carpenter

Then because there was beautiful cilantro at market (thank you high tunnel technology and Full Moon Farm) as well as jalapeno pepper and green onions. AND Mr Frank likes spicier and hotter salsa gave this one a try.

Rhubarb/Cilantro Salsa
2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup chopped sweet onion (I used Vidalia)
4 or 5 green onions
1 teaspoon Honey
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 Tablespoon bottled key-lime juice
drizzle of olive oil
generous dash of cumin

Before chopping the rhubarb remove some or most of the more obvious outer strings. Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl, add just half of the jalapeno first and try it for hotness level, add more if desired. *- based on recipe from Simple and Tasty Blog check out the link for their original which uses green and yellow peppers and less onion and cilantro.

This one received rave reviews at the group sampling taste test when offer at Rail River Folk School. One fellow suggested it would be superb with fish -- anyone have fresh Walleye? Oh YES. try the rhubarb and cilantro salsa with Walleye! He also suggested a bit of cucumber would blend well in this recipe and be make a lovely refreshing salsa.

Well it has been a tongue tingling two weeks. So much fun.

Thanks to all the producers at market for many of the fresh ingredients and thanks to Mr Frank for being brave enough to try rhubarb in these relishes and salsas.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Gluten Free Baking

Why in the world would a guy who has no problem with gluten choose to bake gluten free cookies, cakes, muffins and other sweet treats to offer at farmers market?

Christina Thorne, friend and owner of Bad Cat Creations

Well, as with most things in life, it depends on who your friends are. Hearing Christina rant about lack of choices and lots of not so palatable commercial options inspired Frank to try his hand at gluten free baking. All winter long, he practiced, experimented, read, learned, tried again.

Oh MY! Definitely a learning curve.

Gluten is composed of the sticky storage proteins found in wheat, rye and barley. It is that sticky quality that helps create texture and smoothness in baked goods, that maybe makes baked goods light and fluffy. The glue that hold things together. Light bulb moment for Jane, well duh! yep in days long before glue sticks we made paste from flour and water to create art projects.

Baking without gluten challenges the baker to find a blend of ingredients that will taste good, hold together, and bake up light. Balancing the grains, nut flours, vegetable flours, xanthan gum, for both taste and nutrition. Many of the “flours” that make the appearance more like things made with wheat flour are highly starchy, thus more calories. Others tend to have a definite flavor that is hard to overcome, a flavor that overpowers the spices. Texture tends to be grainy and heavy, also prone to falling apart.
Frank has come up with a few really good recipes. The best so far has been angle food cake, caramel-chocolate-peanut bars, almond crispie cookies, oatmeal raisin cookie, peanut brown sugar cake, pound cake, chocolate fabulousity cake, and a cinnamon swirl coffee cake.

He has not baked anything with wheat flour since December. Partly because he needs the practice developing gluten free goods and partly to eliminate potential contamination. Even micro bits of wheat flour picked up from the mixing bowls, baking dishes, etc. can cause reactions in people with gluten intolerance. Not fun at all, not pleasant, a risk to be minimized. He bought a new flour sifter to dedicate to gluten free and also dedicated mixing bowls and baking dishes.

He has baked at least once a week, carrying samples to Christina, our gluten intolerant friend. She has had no gluten reactions, so we are feeling confident that he is not getting any contamination and is choosing appropriate gluten free ingredients. Christina has also been great at providing taste feedback, what she finds tasty, what needs improvement.
It has been a joy for Frank to be able to provide home baked food options for Christina, and now he hopes to provide more choices for others with gluten intolerance too. This year at Bemidji's Natural Choice Farmers Market he is offering gluten free baked goods most Saturdays.

There are also two other bakers at market who offer gluten free baked goods: Cheryl of Chill Creek Ridge with rich chocolate torts, cookies, scones, muffins; and Malisa of A Grain of Good often brings a few loaves of gluten free artisan bread. It is really neat to be working together, each having a little different style and thus offering a nice variety of gluten free baked goods.

Thanks for reading, have a great day,

(a few resources if you wish to learn more about gluten intolerance/sensitivity or gluten free baking

Eating gluten free - the challenges, unexpected things that contain wheat/gluten

Gluten sensitive enteropathy and wheat allergy

How Baking Works

Monday, May 16, 2011

New Gear from Worn Sweatshirts

It started with one old sweat jacket with a broken zipper, quite worn, too worn to fix and wear. Plus after wearing it for years, a desire for change. A cotton-polyester blend, in a land fill the poly portion would take eons to degrade, so could it be usefully salvaged? Could it be reclaimed with zero waste?

Thus began the adventure. Clean it, reduce it to parts, put it back together making useful items.

Clean It -- whether the used/worn/old shirt is from your own wardrobe or garnered at a garage sale or thrift shop. Cleaning is a good idea. Check pockets, seams for dirt, dust, lint, bugs. Often vacuum cleaning of seams and pockets is helpful. Washing may be done before deconstruction or after reducing it to parts.

Reduce it to parts --Look at it for size of pieces in sleeves, front, back, pockets, hood, ribbing. Are there ways to create an item with keeping some seams intact? If so, leave those, and just remove and save thread from other seams. The thread goes into the freezer or gets hand washed. Both methods can work for refreshing/cleaning. (the cold kills bugs and lifts dirt to surface.)
Cut, shape, sew -- For the gloves, I use a pattern, lay it on the salvaged fabric parts and cut. For most of the bibs, turbans, bags/totes, I draw a pattern using chalk and cut on the lines. For flowers: cut gradated size square or circle shapes, cut again to create a petal shaped edge, stack and sew. Petal shapes are freehand cut from any irregular pieces left over after cutting other bits. Thread becomes fun flower centers. Ribbing may become glove cuffs, ruffles or rolled for flower. Zippers can be rolled for flower shapes or used as bling decoration in other ways. The few remaining scraps get chopped up for use as stuffing in softies (stuffed toys.)
And there you have it - zero waste, some new usable items, some practical, some fun.

Use and Enjoy!

Thanks for reading,


*Glove pattern from 1920s

*Some of the goods I keep and use myself, others are available for purchase year round at Bad Cat Creations a Unique Boutique in Bemidji and others directly from our stall in Bemidji's Natural Choice Farmers Market on most Saturdays during the summer.

*At farmers market this past weekend, a person stopping by to chat, mentioned that her sister make capes for kids, the same way I make the bibs for eating in the car. She puts super hero emblems in the center and the cape flies high when the children run and jump. What fun.

* The jewelry glistening in the photos was not made from the sweat shirts :P -- Just some of Frank's work that fit in with the color scheme and made the pictures prettier. Thanks to Alyssa Hod for taking those photographs. She came over one day to help with product shots. What a good friend!