Sandra Kehoe

Basketmaker & Willow Artist

Stowe Vermont Basketry Festival classes with Jennifer Lee

This last weekend I took a trip up to Stowe, Vermont for the annual Basketry Festival.  If you are a basket maker then this is the place to be every spring.  This year the festival marked its 27th year, and I was very happy to be taking part for the first time.  The last few years I knew about this event but was never able to fit it into my schedule.

We arrived a day early at the Trapp Family Lodge where the classes were being held this year.  I decided to book at room at this hotel so my boyfriend could hang out during the day while I took classes.  We were so lucky to be able to get up there a day early and enjoy the surrounding area and the excellent restaurants the hotel has to offer. 

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We spent most of the evening walking around the grounds just enjoying the expansive views and the gorgeous cool weather.  

After spending a perfect day driving up and relaxing at the hotel I was ready to start two classes that I signed up for with Jennifer Lee.  Jennifer has been making traditional bark baskets for over thirty years and I was so excited to finally try this type of basket making.  

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The first class that I singed up for was the Motok basket class.  We were working with ash bark and I choose the biggest piece with the most ridges.  Little did I know that meant that I'd be doing lots of hard work because the bark was very thick!

We were given a bundle of spruce roots and our first task was to strip the outer layer off to reveal the smooth white inner root.  It sure was a messy job, but the payoff was well worth it. 

We stitched up the sides of the bark with the spruce root then added a rim made from fresh red osier dogwood branches.  Then we lashed it all together with more spruce roots.  

The finished product was stunning.  I was so happy I signed up for this class and the berry basket class the day after. 

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Below is a picture of the Berry Basket we made in the next class.  This time we used white pine for the sides of the basket and I choose the thinest looking piece of bark there was.  I knew far too well from the first one how difficult the thicker pieces are to work with.

Since I had practiced all the steps on the first day I felt so much more confident in what I was doing with this basket.  This gave me the time to really focus on making something beautiful, and that I did!

This little berry basket has to be one of my favorite things I've ever made.  (I know I say that about every new basket)  But this one is just perfection!!! 

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I was so happy I got to attend the festival this year and I hope that I'll be able to to next year as well.  I met so many nice women who have been attending this festival for many years and they gave me such great advice and information. 

I'm going to be anxiously awaiting the list of classes for next year!  If I see Jennifer Lee's classes I wouldn't hesitate to sign up again. 

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6 Days at Lakeshore Willows with Steen Madsen

Whever I visit Lakeshore Willows I know that I am going to have an amazing experience.  Last year around this same time I got to meet and work with Steen Madsen for two days at Lene's farm.  This year on his second time visiting, I got to attend all six days of workshops.  I can't even begin to express my thanks to Lene for hosting and to Steen for teaching.  My hands were definitely worn out by the end of the 6 days, but it was totally worth it.   

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In the six days I got to complete 4 baskets and they were all extremely great learning experiences.  I got to make my first two square work willow baskets, a queens fitched basket and a catalan basket. 

I was also lucky enough to bring home some of Lene's gorgeous willow and a brand new bodkin that Steen made.  

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Learning from Steen is such a joy!  I feel like I understand basketry at a much deeper level and I can work with the confidence in knowing that I'm being showed the correct way.  He truly is a master at this craft and I find myself very lucky to be sitting in the classroom learning from him.

My biggest and favorite piece that I made was a fitched square work laundry basket.  I have been using a willow laundry basket that wasn't my own and my goal was to fix that.  The square work was so incredibly fun for me because I am totally OCD and trying to make everything perfect was like a brain massage for me.

Fortunately this year Lene had white, buff and black willow all imported from Spain.  I have seen white willow before but only in very small amounts and none large to work a whole basket with.  I can understand why basket makers prefer this type of willow.  It is very different to work with and it creates a much lighter basket that has the potential to last longer then willow with the bark on.  

I'm already using my laundry basket at home so I think it was a complete success! And the size of it is perfect.   

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The basket pictured below in what's technically called brown willow (aka willow with the bark on) and it was the most amazing learn experience I've had to date.  I learned how to fitch a base, to scallom the stakes and attach them, and to make a very difficult roped handle.  I messed up in many different places including the base, so technically the basket is not very useable, but it is very beautiful.  I have a feeling I will find a use for it on a shelf probably holding willow bark.  

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The last basket I made up during the end of the week was a catalan basket.  A style that comes from spain and was meant as an all purpose kind of basket.  There were a few ladies in my class who were studying this type of basket and I wasn't going to make it, but by the end of the week I needed one more thing to fill up my last two days.  

This was a style that I have always been interested in learning.  I have made similar bases before but this base is slightly different because the stakes are woven into the basket from the start. I also learned a fish scale wale and that gorgeous twisted rope border.

Once I have some more time, I would love to make a few more of these to really get a good handle of the techniques.  BUT, I'm not sure when that is going to happen because I have a full summer of classes to take!!!  Summers are my times to learn and take as many classes as I possibly can.  Hopefully I will find the time to document and blog all of the amazing opportunities I have to learn and baskets I get to make.    

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Granny's Lemon Bars

So these lemon bars are probably one of my all time favorite desserts.  My great-grandmother used to make them all the time for all our family get-to-gethers. 

Of course I altered her recipe just a bit so I could use my favorite Meyer lemons from Lemon Ladies Orchard.  Place an order for Karen's lemons and you'll understand why.  Support small growers and farmers; it's a practice I wish I could do more often.

And these lemon bars do not disappoint.  I altered it so I'm basically only left with a half batch, because I will honestly destroy the entire amount made.

Oh! And you could also sneak in some powered lemon peel into the crust if you want.  Just gives it that extra tartness.  

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Granny's Lemon Bars

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one glass cake pan 8 X 11 inches or 9 X 13 inches

1/2 cup (one stick) melted butter
1 cup flour
1/2 (scant) cup of powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
5 Tablespoons Meyer Lemon juice (about two large Meyer lemons)
Zest from one Meyer lemon (optional)

Additional powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a glass baking pan (8 X 11 or 9 X 13) with parchment paper and set aside.  In a large bowl mix the melted butter with the flour and powdered sugar until combined into a dough.  Press the dough evenly into the parchment lined baking pan with your fingers or the back of a spoon.  Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.  While the crust bakes whisk the remaining ingredients in a large bowl until combined.  When the crust is done pre-baking, pour the lemon mixture over the top and return back to the oven to bake for an additional 20-25 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and let the bars cool completely before sprinkling on some powdered sugar.  Cut and serve.   

Pignoli Cookies

So I'm adding yet another random recipe to my blog.  I lost interest in the whole "food blog" thing a few years ago, but having my favorite recipes online is always handy.  I don't need to go searching through piles of books and when someone asks for a recipe...bam...here's the link!

So every Christmas since I was a teenager I have been making Christmas cookies for my family. Every year we spend a few days making thousands and thousands of cookies, dividing them all up and giving them out as gifts.

This was the very first year in about 16+ years that we didn't have our Christmas cookie extravaganza.  I thought I would be more upset to let this tradition go, but to be honest I'm really glad that I did.  I'm thoroughly looking forward to getting through this holiday season and starting a new year with a new purpose. 

So out of the 20 some odd cookies I used to make, these Pignoli cookies were a new addition last year.  I got an amazing recipe from a friend and expert so to say!  All I'm going to say is that if you are looking for a recipe for an Italian cookie, you better go to the source. 

I really wanted to make these so I decided that I would make at least one batch. 

These are definitely one of my favorites, and definitely one I will be making every year to come, even if it is just so I can have them for myself.  

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Pignoli Cookies

1 lb of almond paste

½ lb of granulated sugar

3 egg whites

1 teaspoon of vanilla

Pine nuts

Preheat oven to 350.  In a stand mixer, beat almond paste and sugar together until combined and grainy.  Add egg whites one at a time and beat until a smooth paste has formed.  Add vanilla and continue to beat for a few minutes.   Spoon batter onto parchment lined baking sheets and sprinkle with pine nuts.  OR spoon batter directly into a bowl full of pine nuts and cover the ball of batter completely.  (Depends on how many pine nuts you can get a hold of.)  Bake for 15-18 minutes until slightly browned.  Let cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.