30 November 2014

CHRISTMAS BEGINS TODAY



I finally finished working on Santa Claus!  I had always wanted to do this, so this year I did it.  He was hard to paint.  Who knew?  I have redone his face about six times because the first go 'round, he looked like Joan Collins in drag.  I thought the hair and the fur would be the hardest part, but that came together pretty easily.  It was the face.  I gessoed it out and started over several times.  I think I am better at painting glamour girls.  



I have done my dead-level best to "butch him up" but he still looks a little girly.  Oh, well...



This afternoon, we picked up all the Fallishness and toted it up to the attics.  Didn't take long, but boy!  The dust that can accumulate in that stuff in just a few weeks since I put it out is unbelievable.  I almost choked to death on it!


Shelf is now longer and deeper -- all ready to decorate.


The LR is now a total shambles as you can see.  The reason for that is that we finally got around to making an extender (for lack of a better word) for the mantel.  The mantel shelf was only seven and one-half inches deep, and it is very hard to make anything look really full like I want it to with no more real estate than that to work with.  We decided that getting one made at a local millworks place was too pricey, so we bought two unfinished stair treads which have a bullnosed front edge.  They were 12" x 4' each, and we had to cut off a piece of one to get the length we were after.

We slapped on some white paint that we already had in the cabinet, but after all the Christmas stuff is cleaned up, I will probably sand, glue and caulk and then repaint the whole mantel properly.  It is about due for a revamp anyway.  I like having a larger mantel shelf.  This will do until I find that perfect French antique that I have in mind which will actually fit the firebox!  ;>D (and the pocketbook)


I have gone a little nuts with the leopard!


I got all the leopard pillows done!  Yay!  

In the LR, the mantel will be the main show, with the coffee table being the supporting player, because I am going to do my "hit the high spots" thing again like I talked about when I put out our Fall stuff. 

So -- I have two crafty projects I am trying to do, and tomorrow, the mantel and the coffee table decorating are on the agenda.  Are you going all out, or like me, keeping it more low-key this year?




29 November 2014

PETER PAUL & MARY




Yes, I came of age in the 1960's. You may have guessed this already.  My favorite  music at that time emanated from Peter Paul & Mary.  Here is a link to an article about them.  Mary Travers has died from leukemia, back in 2009.  She had an incomparable voice.

There is a show about them on your local PBS station right now that you might like.  I realize this makes me a fossil to some of you!

I saw them once in concert, back when I lived in New Orleans during my counter-culture, anti-war period before I was twenty.  They performed at Tulane University in the gymnasium.  It was a night I will never forget.  All the girls wanted her hair, and all the boys wanted their girls to look like her and sing like her.  She had sex appeal off the charts that could not be explained by Glamour magazine's beauty editors who just taught you how to apply your eyeliner.   She "sang with her whole body" in the deep contralto with it's natural vibrato that poured like honey out of her mouth.  She was the child of journalists, never finished high school, and grew up in the West Village, as in Greenwich Village, NYC.

Their harmony was so close and tight.  Even I can still harmonize with them!  In fact, back in the day, I would sing with some boys I knew, and we called ourselves "Peter, Paul & Ralph."  I was Ralph.  


OK -- that's all you get today.


They were a little older here.

28 November 2014

THE FOOD

I said I would show you the Thanksgiving food if it turned out well.  It did, so here it is!


The salad:
Roasted veggies, seasoned with a blend I like from Penzy's called "Sandwich Sprinkle".
(It is not just for sandwiches -- it is great on a lot of things)
Toss the arugula with your favorite vinaigrette, then lay the veggies on top.
I added a little dollop of goat cheese in the middle, but I took the photo before I remembered to do it.
Oops.


The main event:
Filet mignon, sweet potato soufflé and asparagus tart with balsamic reduction.
Recipes at the end of the post.


The dessert:
Chocolate Pecan Pie
I warmed it while we were having The Main Event, and served it with whipped cream.

Sweet Husband said it was the best pie he ever ate!

Can't get much higher praise than that, right?
Here are the recipes:

Pastry -- this was my mother's go-to recipe for pie crust.  It will make five.  You can freeze the other portions.


PERFECT PIE CRUST
This recipe makes 5 single crusts or 20 tart shells.  It can stay in fridge for 3 days or be frozen in 5 portions indefinitely.  Measure accurately.  This is a fabulous pie crust.
4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour, lightly spooned into cup
1 T sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 and 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening (NOT refrigerated; do not use oil, lard, margarine or butter)[???]
I used 1 cup butter and 3/4 cup of Coconut Oil.
The crust turned out great!
1 T white or cider vinegar
1 large egg
Put first three ingredients into large bowl and mix with table fork.  Add shortening and mix with the fork till crumbly.
In small bowl, beat together 1/2 cup water, vinegar and egg.
Combine the two mixtures, stirring with fork until all ingredients are moistened.
This is an old recipe.
I am a modern woman, so I use a food processor to do all this!
Divide dough into 5 portions and with hands, and shape each into a flat round patty ready to be rolled.
Wrap each piece in plastic and chill at least 1/2 hour.
When ready to roll pie crust, lightly flour both sides; put on lightly floured board.  
Cover rolling pin with stockinet and rub in a little flour.  Keeping pastry round, roll from center to 1/8” thickness and 2 larger than inverted pie pan.  
Fold in halves or or quarters; transfer to pie pan, unfold and fit loosely in in pie pan. Press with fingers to remove air pockets.  I found it a little difficult to roll, and anyway I don't have a "stockinet", so I pressed it into the pie plate with my fingers.  Whatever works!


Pie filling: -- I used Geneva's Pecan Pie recipe, but I added one cup melted chocolate chips beaten up with the butter.  I also added some Vanilla.
PECAN PIE
3 eggs
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup sugar
1 cup pecans*
1 stick butter, melted
Pinch salt
Beat eggs until mixed; add sugar, corn syrup and add pecans.  Bake at 350° F in unbaked pie shell.  You will need a large pie plate.
  It takes about an hour.
*I used 1 cup chopped nuts in the filling, and then I used halves to cover the top.




Sweet Potato Soufflé: -- I sort of made this up.  It is not put together like a classic French soufflé, but it worked.  


Boil three sweet potatoes in the skins.
Peel and discard the skins when cool enough to handle.
Beat one egg and add to the cooled  potato.
Add 3/4 cup brown sugar and a good pinch of salt.  
In the food processor, process two Clementines. (you can sub an orange)
Then add the potato mixture into the processor along with 1/2 cup self-rising flour.
(I always use White Lily)
Process till very smooth.
Turn out into a soufflé dish sprayed with Crisco butter spray.
Bake at 350℉
till it is puffed and not jiggly in the middle. 
It will collapse as it sits a few minutes out of the oven.
  


Asparagus Tart: -- this one I discovered on Tina's blog, The Enchanted Home.  It is also all over Pinterest.  The original recipe seems to have come from Martha Stewart.  At any rate, here is what I did: 

Thaw one sheet of frozen puff pastry laid out on a sheet of parchment on the baking pan.  I used a smallish jelly-roll type of pan. Cut into six rectangles with a pizza cutter.  Beat up one egg, and brush each piece of pastry liberally.  Sprinkle with cheese.  The recipe calls for Gruyere, but I had Asiago, so I used that.  Cut the tip end of the asparagus spears about the same length of the pastry rectangles and divide them up onto the pasty.  Dab on a little more egg and add more grated cheese.  Sprinkle with sea salt and grind some pepper on it.
Put it in the same 350 oven with your soufflé, and bake till puffed and lightly brown. 
Drizzle with balsamic reduction. 

The Filet Mignon:  --  I wrapped these two with Applewood smoked bacon first, then added some Dale's sauce and a sprinkle of Montreal Steak Seasoning on each side.  I let them sit on the counter about an hour, coming to room temp before Sweet Husband cooked them on his charcoal grill.  He is a very good griller!



I am linking to Rattlebridge Farms for FOODIE FRIDAY
The Country Cook for WEEKEND POTLUCK



27 November 2014

COOKING FOR THANKSGIVING

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE!
~~~~~~~~


On Wednesday

I set aside a little time for cooking.  We are having a low-key, stress-free Thanksgiving this year, as we do most years.  We do not have family any more 
in this area except for a couple of cousins once or twice removed.  They have other things to do, and we like to do the holiday on our own terms, anyway.  Sweet Husband likes to watch football, and I like to watch TV while I cook, maybe sip a little wine and look at upcoming Black Friday sales on the computer, in between stirring the pots. 

I trimmed off all the fat, then divided this into quarters.
The ham without the bone looks kind of weird, doesn't it?

In the top oven a ham baked (and will get glazed), and in the bottom oven, the chocolate pecan pie is nearly there.  I am keeping a close eye on it.  I made my mother's pie crust recipe which makes five single crusts, and I froze the other four portions.  This year we bought a different kind of ham which I had never seen.  Costco had a whole ham with the bone removed for easy slicing.  I am all about easy!  It came with a red currant glaze which I have not applied yet.  [Note:  the ham has a good flavor but it is a little bit tough and chewy.  Boo!]



The pie was really puffed up when it came out of the oven.
Of course, when I am cooking, I pull out Geneva's recipes as well as my own faves, and turn on the TV.  On Wednesday I watched Gone With the Wind while I mixed up the crust and the pie filling.  I had missed the first few hours, but I know it by heart, anyway.  "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn."



I have been sipping a little bitty dab of Parducci Chardonnay, as it is now mid-afternoon, and we just finished lunch.  Tuesday I put together my lasagna in portions, and froze four of them in smallish throwaway casseroles, and baked another dish that was big enough for last night's dinner and today's lunch.  Back in Augusta, GA, I used to know a girl named Barb who was Italian-American from Canton, Ohio, and she is the one who taught me how to make lasagna. (This was probably the Dark Ages)   
It makes grown men moan, and I even got proposed to a couple of times after serving it, no lie.  (I said no both times.)  Over the years I have tweaked it a little, and it is even better.  If you want, I'll tell you how one day.





We are not actually having the ham for TGV dinner.  It is for the rest of the weekend and much of it will go into the freezer. 





On Thursday for the big meal, we are not having our beloved Tex-Mex, which we often have on TGV, or my mother's Chicken in the Dressing.  Nope!  We are having bacon-wrapped Filet Mignon which Sweet Husband is doing on the charcoal grill.  We will also have Asparagus Tarts with a balsamic reduction which I found on The Enchanted Home's blog.  I believe the original version came from Martha Stewart.  The other side dish will be Sweet Potato Soufflé which I am "designing" as I don't see a recipe anywhere for what exactly I have in mind.  I'll let you know how that works out.  The salad will be another original which I will also share if it works. If all these turn out, there will be a part deux to this post tomorrow.


La Table





Last weekend we hit a couple of estate sales.  We scored some nice  deals, including the plates we are using for this TGV.  I have a bunch of these Spode plates in blue and white, but I have never collected any other colors.  I found ten of these in green and white at this particular estate sale, left a bid, and next day they were mine.  I think probably some of them will go on a wall somewhere, but I'll keep a few in the kitchen cabinet to use on the table.  



Our TGV setting is relatively casual, but I did put a little bit of  thought into it. (We are not savages, you know.)  The red wine goblets are Waterford "Lismore" (estate sale) and the iced-beverage goblets are Mikasa "French Country."  The gold flatware is something like "Duchess" or "Grand Duchess" from Nieman's or Horchow a couple of years ago -- I forget the details.  The tablecloth is from another estate sale about a year and a half ago. I have had the malachite napkin rings over twenty years, and the ivory napkins have been around quite a while, too. 

I hope you are having a great day, with wonderful food, football, parades, your friends and family or whatever floats your boat! 




Come back tomorrow for the food!  It all turned out great.


Linking up to Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday.






                

22 November 2014

MY SAINTED HUSBAND and Another Furniture Reshuffle


Remember how I had the brilliant idea to swap our DR tables recently?  How we dismantled the one I painted red, and we brought it into the DR?  Then I draped it with silk?  We dismantled the white one and put it out in the studio, and I covered that one up to protect it.  It was even listed for sale.  (I am so glad nobody bought it!)


See what has been moved?

I knew I had made a mistake because the room was still too crowded for people to enjoy dinner in there.  However, I wasn't sure I dared to ask Sweet Husband to switch them back so soon.  It had only been a couple of weeks.  I had thought of another possible solution, and I wanted my white table back in there.  That solution involved removing the iron and glass console table altogether and shifting the Emile dresser over to the windows.  We would need a deflector on the heat/air vent. 



This morning over the first cup of coffee, I casually mentioned it.  "How would you feel about helping me move some furniture today?"   He looked at me over his laptop and said, "I don't have to move anything heavy up the stairs, do I?"


I decided to use the table pad to round out the scallops for a while.

I assured him that he didn't.  I waffled a bit, and said if you really don't want to do it, I guess it could wait.  However, when he heard my plans for making more room in the DR, he jumped on board and announced that we could get on it right after breakfast.


I brought in the wire table from the porch because I needed somewhere to set this little lamp.  It's gotten a bit rusty and could use a little fresh paint.

He had to run over to Lowe's to get the deflector for the heat/air vent, so while he was doing that, I started moving all the breakables out of the way.  You can't just move one thing, you know -- there's always the domino effect.  I had already figured out where that console would go.  (Did you doubt it for a minute?)  He's got this table swapping thing down to a science now -- he finished it in nothing flat!  


Now everyone can pull out a chair and be seated.
Highly exciting!
Some things are getting a new home for the holidays, and others are going on hiatus for a while.  The LR only needs a bit more  fluffing, and it will be fine, too.
The console wound up here...

...and my white pierced jars landed up here

and here.

I went to Hob/Lob this afternoon for a bag of pillow stuffing.  I have been to at least half a dozen places this week looking for that stuff -- why is it so hard to find?  Hob/Lob was an absolute zoo!  I wish they wouldn't close on Sundays.  Maybe Saturdays wouldn't be so busy.


I added in those lamps I redid in gold and changed the shades.
I decided this could be the wine table.
Tomorrow it will be back to doing a little more cooking.  Lasagna is on the game-plan, at least getting the sauce made, and I am going to bake a ham.  I have a couple of cakes and a pie on the agenda this coming week, too.  We are supposed to be in for some wild weather tomorrow, so I hope I don't lose our power.  If we do, I guess I will have to postpone all that cooking and be forced to read that new book by Rick Bragg about Jerry Lee Lewis -- by candlelight!




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