{love the ruby color of these Cara Cara oranges}

After the holiday sugarfest we seem to have had at our home last month, I’m working on my kids eating healthier, and realize my best chance is when they come home from school.

All three of my children come home from school HUNGRY, and there is nothing like a little hunger to get them to munch on anything – hence my best chance of the day to get something nutritious in them.

{Mad for Cara Cara, so sweet!}

The pharmacy at our local Hannaford supermarket had these beautiful Cara Cara oranges on sale. (And they were not in the produce section – they were right there in the pharmacy area! As a nod to good health. Thank you, Hannaford for recognizing food can be the best medicine!)

{Son H and his Cara Cara “smile!}

One of my goals in the new year is to have a healthy snack waiting for the kids when they get home. And these Cara Cara oranges were a hit!

The Cara Cara oranges, a unique mutation cross between the Washington navel and what people believe was a Brazilian Bahia navel, were first discovered in 1976 at Hacienda Cara Cara in Venezuela. The fruit has typical orange skin, but inside the flesh is a gorgeous ruby color.

What makes them great – sweet and juicy with one Cara Cara orange giving you 150% of your daily Vitamin C, 30% of your Vitamin A, 250 mg of potassium AND a healthy dose of Lycopene – the same disease-fighting antioxidant found in tomatoes. (Another type of “red” orange – the blood orange – does not have Lycopene…)

Cara Cara oranges from California are available December through April. I will be on the lookout for more this winter!


{Portland, Oregon Spring 2012 Loretta Fontaine}

A New Year!

I’m thinking of some changes here at APPLESandRUBIES, namely a name and focus change.

When I started blogging in 2010, APPLESandRUBIES was a great name, as my life was a balance of my jewelry design business (the rubies) and everyday happenings (the apples!).

{Portland, Oregon Spring 2012 Loretta Fontaine}

Now in 2013 with ALL three kids in school, (Son H is in first grade), I have more time to pursue some goals that I’ve always been kicking around in my head.

I’ve written a book on Eco-friendly living, (Eco-Happy: Three Steps Towards an Eco-Friendly Life) and am developing new products (not just jewelry anymore!) in my studio that are earth-friendly.

{Portland, Oregon Spring 2012 Loretta Fontaine}

I’m in the final stages of editing my book: photo selection and placement, page layout… I realize this could take forever and need to give myself a good firm deadline to just get it done so the book can get into people’s hands! (That is the goal, right?)

…and I’ve already developed and finished a new eco-friendly product – recycled paper notecards that feature photography from my book. I had them printed last October and brought them to the local craft and farmer’s markets here in Albany, New York. The new recycled notecards came out beautifully and… Sold Out! I will be ordering more, soon and hope to do a recycled paper notecard giveaway on my blog as soon as I get them!

It was SO much fun to develop a new product, and I have lots more eco-friendly products in my head.

{Portland, Oregon Spring 2012 Loretta Fontaine}

So where does that leave APPLESand RUBIES? Okay, I LOVE the name, but think it’s time to change the name of the blog to relate to what I’m doing NOW. I reserved a “new” blog name on both WordPress and Blogspot and am going to work to get a new blog up on both platforms and choose my favorite.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing on APPLESandRUBIES until the new blog is ready for a big unveil.

Do you have big changes for the New Year?


p.s. Do you have a preference for a Blogspot or WordPress Blog? I think Maria of Colour Me Happy and Camilia of Effortless Style switched to WordPress. I would love some advice here…

{needle and thread}

 A bit of embellishment on a beautiful thrift shop dress for my wonderful Niece A…

{My niece picked her favorite embroidery floss colors – purple and pink!}

 The strawberry applique was from a two-piece baby outfit I wore as a kid. The ice cream cone fabric is a scrap from a pair of Son H’s old shorts, and the purple and white stripe “ice cream” is fabric salvaged from a shirt worn by both Evie and Rosie. And before that the same shirt was worn by my cousin’s daughter…


So much fun to find some time to make something special!


{Reindeer illustration by Gyo Fujikawa}

Merry Christmas! I am awaiting the gifts, gazing at the lit Christmas tree, the meals shared with family… It’s such a wonderful time of year. May the peace and wonderment of the holiday season wrap you up in joy.

{The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa}

One holiday tradition we have in our house is wrapping up 24 Christmas books in newspaper and placing them under the tree December 1. (Yes, we get the tree up right after Thanksgiving!) I save last year’s Christmas cards and tape a card to the top of each news-print wrapped book. So it all looks super-festive, but the book wrapping carefully reuses what we already have.

 Every night we unwrap and read one. The Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer book is the biggest, so that’s usually known and opened first, but the rest are in disguise under the newspaper wrapping and we only know what we get once it’s opened. Three of the books (like Jingle Bells) are simply the song lyrics with illustrations, so when we open those three Chrsitmas books, we get to sing them!

I adore the illustrations in these Christmas books, and many of them are vintage books. One of my favorites is a vintage version of The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa.

{illustration by Gyo Fujikawa}

I know some folks love the wonderful 1998 Jan Brett version of The Night Before Christmas– and if you have been to nearby Stockbridge, Massachusetts, you’ll see all the local landmarks in the town including the Red Lion Inn! But I am smitten with this vintage version of The Night Before Christmas and the delicate reindeer drawn by Gyo Fujikawa.

Ms. Fujikawa passed away at 90 in 1998, and was one of the first popular illustrators to include children of all different races in her illustrations.

What is you favorite book of the season? 

Merry Christmas!

Dec 17

Thank You!

THANK YOU to everyone who came out to my open studio this month… My friend Liz Vigoda (amazing ceramics!) and I hold this event once a year during the holidays at her home/studio, and we were able to make a very generous gift to the victims of Hurricane Sandy from proceeds of the sale.

It was so nice to see everyone who stopped by, and to be part of the fun of picking out the “perfect” holiday presents was so rewarding… Not to mention helping people pick the perfect piece of jewelry for themselves, too! It makes all the hard work worthwhile.

{Loretta Fontaine Jewelry sterling silver necklace on a piece of Liz Vigoda Pottery}

This year at our  Delmar Holiday Open Studios I purchased a new handcrafted black and white pottery plate from Liz – it will look perfect displayed in my living room once the new blue/gray paint goes up on the walls.

Once again, THANK YOU for everyone who came out and made the event a wonderful success!


{our poster and postcard design!}

 I cannot believe how December flies by. It seems like yesterday I was working on the postcard and poster design for this sale, and now the sale is tomorrow!

Are you in the Albany, New York area? You should stop by the sale – it’s our fourth annual Holiday Delmar Open Studios – and it’s this weekend Saturday December 8 and Sunday December 9 from 10am – 5pm. We hold the sale at my friend Liz’s Vigoda’s studio/home in Delmar, New York, and Liz and I have been updating information on the sale on our website (www.delmaropenstudios.blogspot.com) and Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/events/116877265135873).

{one-of-a-kind hand-built ceramics by Liz Vigoda}

Liz is a dear friend and creates the most unbelievably gorgeous ceramics and I can’t wait to see what new pieces she’s made. All her pieces are hand-built and one-of-a-kind, so many folks arrive as early in the weekend as they can to choose from the best selection. I’m spending my day finishing some new pieces of jewelry for the sale.

{custom Loretta Fontaine Jewelry sterling silver Maria ring}

This will be the last weekend to order any custom photo jewelry pieces for the holidays. I always have a bunch of these very special custom orders on my bench this time of year. This charming little pup on the photo is on the ring is named Domino!

{New! Loretta Fontaine blank recycled paper notecards}

..and brand new this year are my blank recycled notecards I had printed on recycled paper – all with images from my new book, Eco-Happy: Three Steps Towards An  Earth-friendly Life. I am SO pleased with how they came out and the quality of the cards.

Liz and I have decided to donate 10% of our sales to Hurricane Sandy Relief. Our area in New York was mostly spared from damage, but we know many others in the Northeast that have been affected by this tragic storm. My husband’s family is in the New York City/New Jersey area and they were hard hit. Liz will donate to the Red Cross and I am writing a check to a downstate Long Island Habitat For Humanity chapter.

Happy Holidays!

{In my parent’s yard, turkey waiting for us inside…}

Happy Thanksgiving!

Right before we sat down to eat, I took some photos of my sister’s family for her Christmas card, and then asked Uncle R to snap a photo of our family.

Were there 22 seated at the two tables? (My parents set a classic kid’s table in the living room with a folding aluminum table and the piano bench pinch hitting for seating.) Or was it more? Anyway, a great meal and many more cousins and an Uncle joining us later in the day.

How was your Thanksgiving?


I’ve had a booth selling my jewelry, photography and notecards at the Delmar Indoor Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings this season, and one of my booth neighbors is Capital District Community Gardens’ Produce Project. 

{myself, Hannah and some gorgeous beets – see what I made in them at the end of this post!}

Hannah Savio is one of the staff on the Produce Project, a year-round training program at Troy High School. Students are employed and earn school credit at a really cool 2.5 acre urban farm and greenhouses in Troy. Hannah let me interview her on what The Produce Project means to her.

How did you get involved in Capital District Community Gardens’ Produce Project?
I grew up in a rural community with a large garden in the backyard.  Working in the garden as a young person, I assumed that everyone got to (or had to) experience the challenges of growing their own food.  Moving away from home I realized how untrue that was and how amazing the opportunities I had were, so I graduated from college with copious student loans and a desire to teach young people about where their food comes from.  As an AmeriCorps*VISTA () with the Produce Project, I could work on both of those things at the same time.  Now that my AmeriCorps service term is complete, I am lucky to continue on with the Produce Project as the Farmer!

What’s your favorite vegetable to grow, and why?
I enjoy growing carrots.  Growing carrots takes more patience than other crops because they are slow to germinate and you can’t watch the majority of their growth.  As with other root crops, not being able to see and track their growth adds excitement and requires a certain faith in the plants.  About 60 days after planting, you find out how well it worked!  We grow carrots outdoors in the warm seasons and in the high tunnel in the winter.  This year we are experimenting with overwintering some carrots – they are planted outdoors and will hopefully remain cozy and dormant under some nice snowfall this winter, resuming their growth in the spring for an early harvest!

{Troy High School student Cassandra at the market}

What’s the most important lesson you teach the kids?
With a vested interest in the program, I hope that every moment our students spend at the Produce Project is a productive one, but our project’s unique strength lies is teaching them how to grow their own food.  As urban youth, the students we work with generally come into the program with little knowledge of how and where their food comes from.  I hope that teaching gardening skills and fostering their importance will encourage them to think about the origins of their daily meals and ideally to grow their own food in the future.  With basic farming skills under their belts, our students will be able to make their own informed decisions about what to eat with the opportunity and ability to operate outside of the commercial food system and grow their own food.

What else would you like others to know about the Produce Project?
We grow food year-round! Using two high tunnels (unheated greenhouses), we can grow produce throughout the winter.  Winter growth is slow (the low angle of the sun means the plants have trouble gathering enough energy to grow), but what we harvest and sell is incredibly fresh! During the winter, you can try our produce at various local restaurants (in Troy at The Hungry Fish Café and Jose Malone’s, and in Cohoes at the Dali Mamma Café) or at the Delmar Indoor Farmers Market.  During the summer we also have a farm stand right on 8th street in Troy on Tuesday evenings – check out where we grow and bring home some produce!


…and here’s what I made with my Produce Project beets – a pizza! Delicious, and I had it all to myself as beets are the one veggie my husband does not like. He likes all the other veggies, so I’ll pick something up for him next week!


{ice-covered oak leaves in the grass}

 We’ll get our first frost in October here near Albany, New York. I think we had one hard frost day last month – and I covered the veggie garden up in tarps and towels to protect some of the plants…

{ice on the car windshield}

 But in November, it dips below freezing hereso often that I give up the tarps and let the garden freeze over.

{dead, dead, dead}

 The tomatoes vines look like this, and I’ve potted up a tall rosemary plant and hot pepper plant to sit on the windowsill so they don’t meet the same brown, shriveled fate.

{Bright Lights Swiss Chard}
But the swiss chard will keep going…
{my little toughie}

… and keep going! So many people think this plant acts like spinach. But swiss chard is in the beet family, and so much hardier in hot and cold. Unlike spinach, it has a big, thick taproot to draw energy from.

Swiss chard doesn’t bolt and go to seed in the hot summer sun, and it holds up to the cold better than anything else I’ve planted. With that big taproot, you can cut swiss chard down and it resprouts new leaves beautifully. So when I titled this post I’m saying swiss chard isn’t “tough” as in hard to chew – but “tough” as in tough as nails. I may even get to harvest more this month…


{Love this giant Earth beach ball!}
I will be at the Holiday Craft Show at The Woman’s Club of Albany this Friday from 5pm-9pm and Saturday from 10am-4pm. If you are in the Albany, New York area, please come by and say hello!