Archive for September, 2011

September 30, 2011

from the cookbooks on my shelf

it’s friday!  the last friday in september and a lovely fall day.  actually the fall weather is still a bit slow in coming on and i have worried about  my cool weather crops that prefer lower daytime temps.  i’ve been bitten by the fall bug this weekend however, and am tempted to set aside some time to bake something and get to making that fall wreath for the door (subject of a future post).  i’m also in the middle of a Pantry Project that really needs to be completed (also the subject of a future post) so i’m not sure yet whether that will win out over my desire for pumpkin cookies? cake? muffns? or not.

now to a cookbook review…

it is no secret that i love to cook.  i love to cook with recipes.  i’m not usually one to strike out on my own and attempt something original, i like to go by the book.  i do though have a small kitchen and i have never seen the point of owning an entire library of cookbooks that are never used, so i am very choosy about what goes on my single cookbook shelf above my sink.   i like to choose books that are a resource on one specific type of cooking (say french bistro or breads) or an excellent general resource on the basics.  neiman marcus taste  by kevin garvin is one of those great general resources.

how i came to own it: this was given to me a few years ago as a christmas gift from my sister.

why it stays on the shelf as opposed to being relegated to the “give away” pile: in addition to this being a beautiful book (it could sit on a coffee table) it is loaded with some amazing recipes.   while not exhaustive, it does contain a wide variety from appetizers, to salads, entrees, and desserts.  i have to say their cookie recipes are exceptional (orange marmalade cookies anyone?).  the majority of the recipes are taken from helen corbitt’s (the original food director of neiman marcus in the 5o’s and 60’s) files and updated by the current director kevin garvin, along with some family favorites of his own.  i had the privilege of lunching last year at the flagship neiman marcus and passed garvin in the elevator wearing his chef’s whites.  i did not have the nerve to tell him “i have your cookbook!!” but i did stare in a most pop-eyed unladylike fashion.

to whom i would recommend this book: a fellow foodie.  someone who enjoys cooking as well as presentation.  this is not for someone who counts calories, or is on a restricted diet; and while the recipes are rated according to skill level, this would not be for someone just starting out in the kitchen.

i would also add: nearly every recipe is photographed, the book contains a very interesting history about the neiman marcus restaurants.  and just for what it’s worth and just in case you were wondering:  the book does not contain the recipe for the (urban) legendary $250 neiman marcus cookie.

my rating: four spoons (out of five)

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September 28, 2011

…on hopes and dreams

thought for the day (snagged from a friend on pinterest): do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not: but remember that what you  now have was once among the things you only  hoped for.

as my husband and i continue to work our way through the unknown i’m reminded of another similar time in my life some fifteen, twenty years ago.

our little house sits very prominently on a hill, one of about four or five very stately little houses all in a row, and the dormer windows and rooftops can be seen from the highway down below.  years ago, from time to time, i would pass by on the highway.  lonely, and unmarried, i wondered if i would ever have my heart’s desire: a soul mate and a home of my own – an older home that we’d fix up together.  i can recall looking up, seeing those darling little dormers and wondering about that house.  who lived there?  how  did it came to be there overlooking i-244 and yet still looking so elegant and so pretty.

who knew that i was viewing my future home, the older, fixer-upper i would later inhabit with the love of my life.  who knew that spot would one day become my happy haven as we labored together to restore that home.

these next few weeks as i pass through the still unsettled nursery?/office? and wonder what will become of it i need to remember those afternoons on the highway, peering over at those beautiful dormer windows; unaware i was actually looking at the happy ending of my then dilemma.

we may/may not get exactly what we’re hoping for, but i’m convinced that what we do receive will be incredibly good.

September 26, 2011

stuff i want to do this fall….

~make chili; a different recipe once every month

~bake some yummy concoction with pumpkin, i’ve half a dozen recipes earmarked

~make halloween cards

~plant collard greens

~set out a fall wreath

~begin planning Christmas: ornaments to make, menus, cookie recipes, etc.

what is on  your fall agenda?


September 22, 2011

furniture lust

once upon a time we bought a used sofa.

it was a small settee with a wing back frame covered in a peach and sage plaid that, had we been living with it twenty  years ago, would have been very relevant and very pretty.  we scrimped and saved and bought several yards of  a nice waverly print on a crimson background and i set to work making a slipcover.  when it was finished, i swore off making slipcovers forever, but it was very pretty; and when we moved into our new old house, it looked very charming in our new old living room.

i was so very proud of myself for being so content with used furniture.

then one day,  my husband read about stickley furniture in old home journal and told me to trot on over to their website for a look-see.

i discovered, amongst some fabulous arts and crafts style pieces,  a line of colonial williamsburg furniture.

i lusted.

i coveted.

i was never able to look at my used slipcovered sofa with the same affection ever again.

the end.



easy chair




September 20, 2011

ten random things…

about my old house

1. it’s “awkward” location tells a story.  once upon a time, there was a nice neighborhood; then along came 1-244.  confession: i love the location.  i love to listen to the traffic at night.  i love to stand at the kitchen window, washing the dishes, watch the highway traffic headed west and wonder where everyone is going.  traffic is cozy.  and this from a major introvert.  it also makes for easy airport runs when my husband travels frequently.

2. it has pokey rooms that make for very interesting living areas.

3. the garage is not attached and can comfortably house only one car.  however, it hosts a treasure trove of old things: vintage screen door, old storm windows, and the like.

4. the dormer windows are real.  each window creates its own special nook on the second floor.  i’ve spent the entire three years we’ve lived here trying to decide what to do with those nooks, but once i decide, it will be spectacular.

5. it has a few special challenges, like the drain from the washer backing up every so often.  however, we find these challenges to be very endearing.

6. we live within blocks of a university.  this gives a small college town feel to our neighborhood.  in the fall, we can hear the football games from our back porch.  we don’t really follow football, but the sound of the game means to us, that fall is here.

7. the kitchen floor has a special creaky spot in front of the fridge and a drawer that opens randomly on its own accord.  i refer to the opening of the drawer as the kitchen ghost, and often berate it for choosing to fix itself a snack when i am in the middle of dinner preparation.

8. we have a magnolia tree in the front yard.  i hate picking the leaves out of my flower beds, but i appreciate the fact that whoever planted it years ago, respected the colonial theme of the house and tried to carry it on in the landscaping.

9. our home has no hallways.  the front and back hall are actually square “rooms” connecting living areas, bathrooms, and bedrooms.  in my opinion this is a brilliantly efficient use of small space.  someday i am going to paint these special “rooms” a deep cherry red.

10. the guest bath hosts the original cast iron tub, especially long, and especially deep.  one can fill this up with luxurious warm water and foamy bubbles and soak for hours before the water starts to turn cold.

September 14, 2011


i want to be a real italian; not just an okie with an italian last name.

last night I watched moonstruck for the first time and was captivated by the italian-ness of the two families in the story.  it gave me a better understanding of why my husband raises his voice when he says something about which he  feels very passionate and why he pinches his fingers together and shakes his hands when he is communicating.

i  wanna do that too.

like i said, i already have the last name.

i have a chaotic kitchen where i spend most of my time stirring something on the stove.

but I want to lapse into my beautiful mother tongue when I’m expressing something important.  I wanna  serve my chuck roast with a side of spaghetti instead of mashed potatoes and plunk down a plate of it  in front of whomever passes through my kitchen.  i wanna slap people around and change my name to rose.

having been raised a very devout protestant i can’t in very good conscience convert to catholicism but I don’t see any harm in hanging a picture of the pope in our dining room; right next to a portrait of dean martin whom we will listen to more often.  when we’re not listening to dean we’ll listen to puccini.

I can hang heirloom lace curtains in the living room; brought directly from the old country.

i can string a clothes line from the window on the second floor.

i just wonder if i can accomplish all this before my husband comes home on thursday night.  he isn’t going to know what hit him; especially since i plan to pick him up riding a vespa.


September 12, 2011

it’s the little things

in spite of having to drop off the love of my life at the airport for week one of a two week business trip (having been told he’d only be making one trip this month)…

in spite of having to take a hurt doggie into the vet this afternoon to have his toenail removed (having carefully planned and choreographed my day in order to deal with the love of my life being gone this week)…

in spite of sitting in the middle of a very dirty house (hence the carefully planned day to whip this place back into shape)…

in spite of being in the middle of a raging fiery trial (thereby facing all sorts of unknowns)…

in spite of having to eat my hard boiled eggs this morning without any butter, toast, or jam (nothing like a fiery trial i’ll admit, but it comes pretty close)…

it’s the little things that make this monday morning in september worthwhile.

little things like:

powering through what started out as a very difficult run, turning down my favorite stretch of old houses and sidewalk, finding a second wind, and discovering what a gorgeous morning it really is…

happy lyrics in my earbuds telling me to go make an earthquake…

the buds on fall blooming irises that i didn’t even know i had planted…

beet sprouts…

the first tiny green tomato in our fall tomato patch…

discovering that the african violet i propagated “took” and  is putting out tiny new leaves…

being able to resume my morning ritual of opening the interior shutters to let in the sunlight because the horrible summer  heat has finally broken…

a cup of black current tea in my flowerdy tea cup…

the anticipation of a new sewing project…

remembering the numerous times the love of my life has reminded me this past week that everything is going to be all right…

happy monday ya’ll!

September 8, 2011

artisan bread in five minutes a day…

i tried it.

i don’t recall where i first heard of the book artisan bread in five minutes a day but i do recall being very skeptical.  i was reluctant because in my opinion anything that traditionally requires a good bit of time, and is shortened for the sake if convenience can’t be all that great or good for you.  this is why i don’t own a microwave.  (yes. in case you haven’t guessed by now i am a terrible food snob and not ashamed to admit it)

i ended up revisiting the book however out of necessity.  (maybe i’m not so much of a snob after all??)

we want to eat healthy.

i believe in from-scratch cooking as much as possible.

baking bread makes me feel all warm and house-wifey inside.

we recently began using more spelt.

organic spelt bread costs more than $5 a loaf.

i rarely managed to find  the time to bake.

i decided to have a look-see and checked the book out at the library first.  after looking through it and giving the master recipe a go, i’ve decided to buy it.  this really is wonderful stuff, and it really is very, very easy.  i liked the fact that one has the added bonus of soaking the grains if you are trying to do the traditional foods sort of thing.  now, i did use processed flour and for this first run through i used white flour

::ducks to avoid flying objects hurled by the healthy crowd::

i didn’t want to tweak anything until i was familiar with what i was doing.  that being said: i’m sure that using processed flour cancels out any benefit from soaking the grains but at least i feel better about eating it.

here is my dough (again i used the master recipe for a basic boule) having been in the fridge for nearly a week. as you can see, we  had already sampled one loaf.  it really did take less than fifteen minutes to mix together and rose beautifully before being stored in the fridge.  the book recommends storing the dough in a plastic lidded container which i don’t have.  my glass bowl covered with plastic wrap worked fine and i may just stick with that.

here are two loaves ready to raise on the pizza peel.  this was one of the things marked “necessary” by the authors of the book.  i don’t know that i would agree as to it being absolutely necessary.  neither was the oven thermometer. i discovered that my oven *is* off, yeah, but the bread still baked just fine and was amazing.  the baking stone and the broiler pan for the water bath however, were in my opinion, an absolute necessity.

dusted, scored, and ready for the oven…

the finished product.

for now we’ve decided to stick with the boule recipe because we like it.  but i can’t wait to try the recipe for the bagel dough or the brioche.

take 2 will be an attempt at a boule made from spelt.

i’ll keep you posted…

September 6, 2011

catching up….

while i love living where we do and can’t imagine living any place else there is something about the change in seasons that leaves something to be desired.  there really aren’t many “in between” days; we typically go from hot to cold; and then from cold back to hot once again.  just over the weekend, we went to bed on a very hot humid evening, and woke up the next morning to a lovely 70some degrees.  i’d love to say that fall is finally here, but i know we’re in for a few unexpected warm days before the heat finally does break for good.

yesterday i took advantage of the break in the weather to clean up what is left after the drought and to put in my beet seeds.  i’m waaaay late in getting them in.  partly because i didn’t want to get out there when the temp is in the triple digets and partly because i just haven’t been feeling all that well.  i decided to go ahead anyway and see what they do.  worst case scenario we have no beets, but we should get some tops.  the cabbages on the other hand…..well i don’t know.  they don’t like anything over 80 degrees but if you don’t get them out there they don’t have enough time to establish themselves before winter hits.  after trying for days to harden them off (during which they would just wilt and not recover) i chose two of the strongest looking ones out there and pluncked them down in their plot.  they’ll have to sink or swim.  at the moment, one is sinking and one is swimming.  we may or may  not have home grown heirloom cabbage this year.  ::shrug::  i tried.

two views of my tomato beds.  the tomatoes are coming along, we’ve lost a few but still have four with some blossoms.  the victoria salvia seemed to thrive, even during the extreme heat.  the sunflowers did not.  they were ripped out and replaced with some red zinnias i had started indoors.

the aftermath of the drought.  some of my potted plants hung on, some didn’t, and some i just let go.  after a while, they just didn’t look pretty anymore and so i figured what’s the point?  this week or next i plan to replace the dead stuff with pansies, mums, and ornamental cabbage.

cleaning up what was left of the tomato bed.  the zucchini finally started to die off and i have given up on it.  replacing all of this with cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts.