Category Archives: Home

Smoke and Spoons

Among the many fine qualities my kids possess is the ability to remember my random “Gee, that would be cool”s  and translate them into a Christmas present. I was chewing the fat with John much earlier this year and said “Gee, I think woodburning might be cool.” The UPS man delivered a big box a few days before Christmas, and there it was, “With love from Honor and John.” Included was “Pyrography Workbook,” which tells me everything I need to know to get started.  The hundreds of glossy examples of the pyrographer’s art are pretty darn intimidating, showing as they do photographically realistic wolves, owls, elephants and lions. I never knew that nature study was why I wanted a woodburning kit. It isn’t, and that’s not just sour grapes because I know I’ll never achieve those artists’ virtuosity.I’m humbled: woodburning is hard.

It’ll be awhile until my technique is good enough to earn a Cub Scout merit badge, let alone burn a rearing stallion onto a block of walnut, but hey, I like the learning part. The toughest part is finding untreated, unvarnished wood. But as my intention all along had been to play around decorating humble household items, I found a good bulk price in wooden spoons. Not any wooden spoons: wooden spoons with flat handles. Here’s my first attempt, and it’s OK to laugh:

spoon1

 

 

 

 

I had fun! I didn’t burn myself or anything other than the spoon. The kitchen smelled like summer camp. I know I should learn something practical, like plumbing or car maintenance — you know, something home – related but actually useful. But what I’m really contemplating is a run to  Ikea to see if they carry untreated wooden hangers.

I promise not to take up lanyard braiding. Well, maybe.

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Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Home, Woodburning

The Kitchen Reno: Ottawa Edition

Many of you have come through a rip-it-back to the drywall and start from scratch kitchen renovation and lived on to lead full, productive lives. But man, it’s a major shakeup to body and mind. I can’t count the times I’ve reached down for a roll of plastic wrap to be foiled by the drawer that’s not there anymore.

My father got most of the work done before I arrived, but there was still plenty of cabinet emptying and stuff-reshuffling to handle this weekend. Yesterday was demo day. Here are some pix of the devastation:
The pantry, relocated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bye, bye cabinets and tile backsplash. What took the most time was removing the wallpaper. David was hard at  it until 7:00 pm, which shot my plans for cooking dinner. Here are random views of the rest of the house, now a storage locker for kitchen contents.

 

 

 

 

 

The mantle and hearth are now shelves for two centuries of Blue Willow and lead crystal.

 

 

 

 

 

The dining room is now an appliance bin, prep area and storage.

 

 

 

 

 

Upheaval can be a good thing, leading to broadening experiences and improvisation. Case in point: for the first time in his 85 years my father ordered a pizza for dinner. We had a picnic in the parlor off paper plates.

 

 

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Filed under Home, Worth it anyway

It’s a Corker!

I’ll just say it flat out: I Iove screw top wine bottles. No corkscrew? No problem. No wine stopper? No problem. Expense to have your cellar full of decades old Romanee-Conti  recorked every fifteen years or so? By some French artisan you’ve flow in first class on Air France? Zero.

Not that we have such a swanky cellar — in fact you’ll be lucky to find three bottles lurking around in various levels of fullness. But geez, trying to recork a bottle is such a pain in it! It doesn’t matter how hard I force. Chipping away at a cork with a pairing knife simply ensures that I’ll need to use a tea strainer to remove chips when when I pour the next glass.I’ve never dared lay a recorked bottle on its side in the fridge, for fear of dribbling onto the english muffins.

A screw top bottle fixes all that. Problem is: where I live the selection of drinkable wine that come with a screw top bottle fits on a space at the liquor store the size of a postcard. This wasn’t true in Canada — all through January the Liquor Control Board of Ontario supplied me with very drinkable plonk in recloseable bottles.

Thank heavens I returned home to this gadget, yet another cool thingie my daughter introduced me to last time I was in LA. I picked up three @ $1.95 apiece at Surfas in Culver City. I stole the pic from the Crate and Barrel site because it seems my camera has gone walkies. (Yes, C&B sells it for a buck ninety five too.)

Nuts, I can’ t upload the photo so check out the link:

http://www.crateandbarrel.com/dining-and-entertaining/bar-accessories/wine-bottle-stopper/s268704#reviews

And read the glowing reviews! I believe they’re all five stars. I give it six stars — talk about cheap and cheerful!

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Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Drink, Home, How Cool is That?

Apron(s) of the Day (Week)

Hoo boy, what a week! We’ve got a new roof and new soffits and fascia, so I can now pull into my driveway without feeling as if I’ve been transplanted into a Steinbeck novel. (The Polish gentleman who did the installation didn’t kiss my hand, as Polish gentlemen of a certain age almost always do, but he bowed low over it instead of shaking it. It, no kidding, made me feel like a princess, for the first time in a few years — the last time a Polish gentleman kissed my hand.)

My right index finger met the spinning blades of an immersion blender; pure carelessness on my part. (It could have been much worse. Much worse.)

And I cranked those holiday aprons! I tried a time and motion study, an apron assembly line, to see it I could speed up production. One apron takes me a day to make, which includes doing laundry, checking Facebook, watching Jeopardy, running errands, reading and cooking. I wondered if I cut out several aprons, then trimmed all the pockets in one step, sewed all the neck straps in another step, and assembled the aprons one after one I might shave some time off the process.

Detroit methods don’t work. I made five and a half aprons in five and a half days, and I was bored. I missed the satisfaction of having a finished product to admire during cocktail hour, and I didn’t get as attached to any particular product as I always do. I’ll be back to artisanal, not assembly line aprons.

Technical issues aside, I think these are swell aprons!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a closeup of the print, which I love:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the Hallowe’en/Thanksgiving side, modeled by the lovely Christina Simpson, since I’ve known, no kidding, since she was a babe in arms. Baby, look at her now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s the fabric. To me it whispers farmhouse kitchens, candy corn and a big bird in the oven.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s the same fabric I used on the reverse of this Christmas beauty — it might be my favorite:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I mean, how could I resist a yard of this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a shot of the other fall holiday print. It or “candy corn”  was the reverse of most of the holiday aprons. Like this one:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a sad day at the Kenmore — I used up the last of my super-duper-pooper jumbo rickrack. The prezzies have a sort of mid-century vibe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’ll find the punkins backing up this oh-so-Christmassy print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are Dale Jr. and his lovely sister modelling the apron and a half. Dale looks as if he’s wearing a bib, but it’s actually a tot-sized apron. The fabrics are both red, but this side could be worn any season of the year:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ah, youth and beauty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whew! I need a computer that uploads pix faster for posts like this. Needless to say, they’re for sale, and I have enough yardage of most of the fabrics to construct a custom item for you.

Time to don an apron and rustle up dinner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under A yard of fabric, Apron of the Day, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Home, Reversible Aprons, Site of the Day

Apron of the Day: His and Hers Camo

Well, when you’ve finished field dressing that buck, you’ll need to cook it, right? Here’s the latest in my “Field and Stream” line. By the way, Lou’s promised to get a haircut. When his hair’s short he looks twenty years younger, and dang handsome. His follicles are now at the dude drinking cheap wine out of a paper bag stage, but hey, he’s still the Loulander!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This camo was designed by computer, and I like the digital effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, hmmm, I don’t know what part of the country a gal could  blend into wearing this apron. Sarah Palin’s beauty salon in Wasilla? Better: Dollywood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who knew that camo and rickrack are soulmates?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Extra photo for Willow’s groupies. She almost made it to the photo shoot, but got distracted by some yummy grass at the end of the driveway. Geez, these feline diva supermodels!

 

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Filed under A yard of fabric, Apron of the Day, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Home, Needlework, Reversible Aprons, Sewing

Groovin’ With Grains

I’m not the crunchy granola type, but I’ve found decent whole wheat pasta, whole wheat couscous, and (maybe because my ancestors were Scots) I love barley. Bring on the bulgar! Smooches for spelt! Tonight, thanks to Lidia Bastianich, I’m fooling around with farro. It’s a kind of whole wheat barley, so packed with nutrients that it alone, with a few lentils, will keep you alive forever. And hot and lean forever.

Two nights ago we made Lidia’s “Farro With Pork Stew Potenza Style.” Well, the pork stew was ridiculously good and easy, but Dio Mio, we had to slum it with (white) rice. I was intrigued by farro, so yesterday we headed out to the local Whole Foods, and yes they had it — five bucks for a pound bag. Whoa, I was unworthy.

I hate to type, but I figure you’d like to read the whole label.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Montebello is an Italian classic. A monestary built in 1388 where authentic artisan famers use long forgotten Old World techniques to create premium 100% Italian foods full of distinctive flavors and aromas…And not far from the summit, overlooking the Adriatic, grow acres and acres of organic Farro and , that sustained the Roman legions centuries ago.”

The package said I should soak it for eight hours, then simmer for thirty minutes. I soaked it for an hour and cooked it for forty-five minutes, with a bay leaf and some fresh thyme , rosemary and oregano from my garden, A small blast of lemon juice and some parm — tastes fab, It has that creamy graininess with a teeny bit of bite that a well-made rissoto flaunts. But, amici: buy a cardboard cylinder of Uncle Ben’s Barley, cook it the same way and you’ll have the same end product. Not organic, sure, and not blessed by 14th century monks, but cheaper and with comparable food value.

Here it is plated up with the pork stew and a tomato/scallion/basil/ricotta salad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice that half slice of buttered bread at the top of the plate? I decided to go all responsible tonight and made  the Light Whole Wheat Bread from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes. I should have fussed more about the crust, but I didn’t. The flavor and grain is good, but I’m eating it warm so I can’t make a judgement on it’s quality until tomorrow, when it’s cool. All I ask for is a few decent slices for toast and a tuna salad sandwich.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve got to say, whole grains make you feel full, which is why they’re so valuable, globally, as a food source. On the other hand, they’re making me wonder why I don’t own Birkenstocks and sport temp henna tatoos. But, it was all good and I won’t need a late night snack tonight.

 

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Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Books, Food, Home

Making Bread: Cheap Cheerful and Guilty

I might have posted on this subject before — forgive my failing memory — but I’m gonna do it again. The eternal question: why don’t we get our act together and make our own bread ? Every other day?

It’s not as if we live in Paris or Montreal or Saigon, where a bodacious baguette lolls around every corner. We live in the Land of Bad Bread, unless you’re willing to spring five bucks for a spurious loaf of La Brea.

In the last couple of weeks I made this loaf of white sandwich bread, straight off the back of the King Arthur Dried Baker’s Milk bag:

Tall, wide grained, and kneaded in the KitchenAid: approx five minutes hands on work. So why don’t I have a few loaves in the freezer? I guess I’m a lazy slut.

Glom your eyes at the rye loaf cooling on the countertop. Lou made it with zero drama — so why not twice a week? (In fact, half the dough’s resting in the fridge for rye rolls later in the week.)

I mean, before the Cuiz and the KitchenAid I was perfectly capable of kneading my own dough with my own two mitts, following the recipe from “Joy,” With my beloved machines, I should be able to crank out a loaf every other day, but I don’t.

Baking bread is the furthest thing from rocket science — peeps have been doing it for thousands of years, fomenting their own yeast from the air instead of ordering it for the King Arthur catalogue. (Fermipan!) I’m going to spend a few more minutes of rising time to flagellate myself for my laziness, then I’m going to build a big ham and swiss on Lou’s gorgeous rye

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Filed under Food, Home, Les than 99 cents