Saturday, December 31, 2016

Fast the New Year Approaches

I am not unhappy to say goodbye to 2016.  I'll just leave it at that rather than detail all the negativeness that has been bantered about by so many.  Rather, I'll leave 2016 with a reminder to myself of the positive things that have been in my life.  I have been blessed with a wonderful family and wonderful friends.  We enjoyed time with our children.  We've enjoyed our old friends and made new ones.  Our 2016 calendar is filled with memories of good friends, enjoyment of the arts, strolling beautiful gardens and much, much more.

The tree is still up.  We'll soon remove the decorations from the tree and reminesce as to where they came from and when (as far as memory serves us).  

We'll remember meals shared in our home and the homes of others.  There was always good food and good conversations.


This was our second Christmas in our new home.  We've never looked back.  We've never questioned our decision to relocate to a new place and a new city.


I was going to take a photo of our sweet Oliver.  However, every time I have the camera in hand, he is napping.  So, instead, here is one of our Christmas presents.  An original, and one-of-a-kind piece of art from Stefan and Elyssa.  I think the artist has captured all three of our dalmatians in one!!


I seem to have a love of cars, especially "woodies", with trees being taken home to decorate.


While Stefan was home, we enjoyed working this lovely wooden puzzle.  In full disclosure, he did most of the work.  Andrew has requested it be dismantled so that we can work it together.  I think that sounds like a plan for a snowy day!



Now, we want to wish each and every one of you a happy and healthy new year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Let the Season Begin!


I am wealthy in my friends.

Yesterday was the day two of my best friends and I got together to celebrate the season.  We had 
planned to meet at the new Thai restaurant in town.  The weather, however, was not cooperating.  It was very cold and icy out.  While the roads were clear, the parking lots were not.  So, we decided to get Thai takeout. The Baker was kind enough to brave the elements and pick up food for us.  He was also kind enough to make a dessert for us which I'll share in another post.



I have drawers filled with cloth napkins but could not resist these.  They are so delicate and soft and were perfect for a simple table setting.


Notice the price for twenty five.  That's right--30 cents.  I picked them up last December at an antique shop in Chesterton.  They aren't antique but, I'm guessing, mid-century "modern".  I paid $3.00 for two packages.  Still a bargain!!

We stayed in and warm while the tree sparkled and carols played.  We also feasted on


Thai vegetable soup


Pad Thai
Pad se ew
and
Green Curry

Finally, a glance at the clock let us know we'd been dining, opening gifts and chatting for almost four hours!!  Time passes quickly when you are with those you love. 

Thank you, dear ones.
You are very special!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Autumn in the Neighborhood

"Come said the wind
to the leaves one day,
come o'er the meadows
and we will play.
Put on your dresses of
scarlet and gold,
for summer is gone and the days grow cold."
A Child's Song from the 1880s


Fall color seemed to be long in coming here.  When it finally arrived, there was an explosion of color that lasted for an all too short time.  Of course, I suppose that is what makes it so special


Taken from our hallway looking out of the front door.  This was five days ago.  Today, almost all of those leaves are on the ground.


A neighborhood beauty.  I love the way it seems to be sheltering the small evergreens beneath it's branches.

Happy Fall! 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Candied Citrus Peel

This is the time of year that I start saving orange and grapefruit peels to candy.  It goes into cookies and cakes.  There's always a tin filled to enjoy with tea.  Tied up in cellophane bags, it is perfect for small gifts to friends and some family members.  My boys would rather find a bag of coals in their stockings than candied fruit peel!!  I guess I didn't introduce them to the treat soon enough.

In case you are an aficionado, here's my tried and true recipe.



Candied Citrus Peel

3 large navel oranges, well scrubbed
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

Carefully remove the peel from the oranges.  This is easier if you cut through the peel in four sections.

Cut the four sections of peel into eight sections and, with a sharp knife, cut away as much of the white pith as possible.

Cut the eight sections into pieces approximately 2 1/2 inches by 1/4 inches.  This is entirely up to you.  You may even dice them depending on how you'll use them.

Put into a pan and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and gently simmer for five minutes.  Drain and repeat the process once.  This gets rid of some of the bitterness.  I happen to like the bitterness and sometimes skip this step altogether. 

Place the water and sugar in a heavy saucepan and heat to dissolve the sugar.  When dissolved, bring to a boil and add the orange peel.  Simmer for approximately 45 minutes, uncovered,  or until the peel becomes translucent.    

Remove from heat, drain, and spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Allow to cool slightly before dredging in sugar to just coat.  Place back on the parchment and allow to dry at room temperature overnight.  Place in an airtight container.  This keeps for a very long time--months if you can refrain from eating them.

If you would like a real treat, dip the peels into melted chocolate to coat about an inch.

ENJOY

Friday, October 14, 2016

Wild Mushroom Soup

After an early fall of moderate temperatures and sunny days, we got a heavy rain earlier in the week and the temperature fell thirty degrees overnight.  While I like fall and winter (really, I do), I don't like jackets and coats--especially coats.  It was time to organize them into a more convenient space though.  But first, I made soup.  After hunting and gathering the dried wild mushrooms from Williams-Sonoma, the rest was easy.  Delicious!

So far the fall color is slow in coming.  The large maple out back has one small area of red showing.  The cooler temperatures should tease more color out soon.  



Wild Mushroom Soup

1/2 cup of wild rice
2 cups of boiling water
1/4 tsp salt

1.  Rinse the wild rice and drain.  Place the rice into a pan and add the two cups of boiling water and the salt.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low.  Cover and cook without stirring for 40 minutes or until all the water is absorbed.  Keeping the pot covered, remove it from the heat and set aside to cool.

1/2 ounce of dried wild mushrooms
1 cup of boiling water
8 ounces of fresh cremini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

2.  Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour the boiling water over.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Drain, reserving the liquid.  Strain the liquid thorough a fine strainer and set aside.

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery chopped
1/2 cup of dry white wine
3 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup of heavy cream or half and half

3.  Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Stir in the onion and celery and saute, stirring from time to time, until they are soft, about 10 minutes.  Raise the heat to high and stir in the wine and cook until the wine reduces to about 1/4 of a cup.  This will take about 5 minutes.

4.  Add all of the mushrooms and saute over medium heat until they are softened, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5.  Raise the heat to high and add the stock and the reserved mushroom liquid and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, 20 minutes more.

6.  Add the wild rice and the cream or half and half and simmer for another five minutes.

ENJOY!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Muses Came to Discuss "The Summer Before the War"


It was a dark and stormy night....at least that was the weather forecast.  The intrepid Muses decided that would not stop them and over they came to discuss the book by Helen Simonson.   We had enjoyed "Major Pettigrew's Last Stand" a few year's ago and weren't disappointed in this one.  The setting is the town of Rye in East Sussex.  It is 1914--the idyllic summer before the war.  Beatrice Nash arrives to teach Latin.  She finds colorful characters, resistance to a female teacher, love and much more.




Lisianthus and hydrangea from the patio garden.


Veggie chips to start.


Chicken salad with dried Montmorency cherries.


Fresh mozzarella and heirloom cherry tomatoes.



Plum tart made by The Baker.
Recipe here:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Cucumber Soup

The calendar says two more weeks of summer.  Already the shadows grow longer.  The days are taking on a golden light.  I will be happy to welcome fall.  However, two weeks is plenty of time to enjoy this chilled cucumber soup.  And, if we're lucky, an "Indian Summer" would be a perfect time to serve it more than once.

I invited a few ladies for lunch this week and one, my friend Jane, offered to bring chilled cucumber soup.  Oh my, it was delicious!  I had just harvested the last of the nasturtiums the day before and had enough blossoms to add to each serving.  We've enjoyed their peppery addition to salads all summer.

Most of the blooming plants were taking a rest the day of the lunch so I asked The Baker to gather up some herbs for the table--parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme would be good.  He clipped them and brought them in to the vase that I'd put out.  Just before the ladies arrived, I took a look at the arrangement and found parsley, sage, rosemary and OREGANO!!  I guess he had forgotten the words
to Scarborough Fair.

NOTE:  The four of us ladies were a little surprised to find that our luncheon had been a four-hour affair!!



Cucumber Soup

Ingredients

1/2 medium red onion, small dice (1 cup)
1Tbsp Champaigne vinegar
2 lbs. European cucumber, peeled and seeded
Salt and pepper
1/2 lb. green grapes (1 1/2 cups)
1 c. plain organic yogurt (whole milk)
1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh mint
6-8 mint leaves, bundled and thinly sliced for garnish

Preparation

Bring small pot of water to a boil.

Drop in the onions for 20 seconds, drain and toss in small bowl with vinegar,
      set aside.

Finely dice 1/2 of the cucumber, season with pinch of salt and pepper and 
      set aside.

Coarsely chop remaining cucumber and place in blender; add grapes, yogurt, chopped mint, 1/2 teaspoon salt and pinch of pepper and puree until completely smooth - about 5 minutes. 

Transfer to large container, stir in diced cucumbers and onion and chill for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve in chilled bowls or wine glasses.

Garnish with sliced mint and if you're lucky enough to have them, a single edible nasturtium!

ENJOY!