Friday, November 30, 2007

Joyful Tidings

I found this tin bucket today and filled it with some greens. It now sits by my sink. Ho ho ho, I'm coming along.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra

This is two, yes TWO, day's worth of mail--all catalogs! Geesh. You think I will ever get through them? Doubt it. There are two copies of some. What a waste of paper. My attention span is getting shorter and shorter and I don't find it much fun rummaging through them when they all come at once. I feel like I've just went through the last batch and thrown away a slew of them. My trash bins are getting heavier and heavier!

Yesterday, I started playing Christmas music on my XM. I'm kind of liking the Holiday Traditions station. Oh what would I do without my XM radio? Go back to bed, I suppose. ha. I'm really trying to get into the spirit. I have nil, nada, zilch. I'm going to order my tree tomorrow from North Carolina. I normally go through one of the catalogs to get my fresh tree; and it seems they all come from North Carolina. So this year, I'm going straight to the farm, by phone, that is. Cutting out the middle man. I'll keep my fingers' crossed they are as nice as, say, Williams Sonoma's. As usual, I waited too long and hope that if I go straight to the farm, I can get it before mid-December. If I go through the catalog, it will be after mid December. Seemed it wasn't up very long last year, even if we do keep it up until after mid-January because of Ukrainian Christmas on the 7th. Ok, rambling now. I found the above card holder at one of the antique shops while shopping with my brother and SIL last week. It's not old, but a repro; but I liked it and it was pretty cheap. I found the old Christmas post cards there too. I have it hanging in the front hall. Who knows if it will stay there or not.

I ran to Costco today to get some things and found they are selling amaryllis already in pretty glass vases. Oh yea, I actually went there to look at the Portmeirion they had on sale the last time I was there. I was thinking of putting some amaryllis in one of their bowls. The one bowl they had that was the right size was more springy than wintry or Christmasy like the one on the left there. When I saw they had the amaryllis already in the glass vases, I was quite happy I had made the trip. I bought three. This is where they have ended up, again for the time being, on the kitchen island. Will probably move them to the kitchen table during the day where they will get some awesome light. Grow babies, grow! I hope they'll be blooming by Christmas! I used to grow paper whites in my kitchen window. Now, I can hardly stand the smell of them. They are just too strong. They are so pretty but phew! Or, pee-ew! I switched over to rosemary plants in the windowsill but I can't find them down here. I had the perfect herbist in Virginia, DeBaggio's. They were located not far from where I lived in Arlington and then moved out to the country shortly after I moved out there. It was perfect. That is, until I moved to Tennessee. I bought all my lovely lavender bushes there as small plants and they have just thrived here. Yay. I may just have to look a little harder from some rosemary topiary like DeBaggio's now that I think of it.

I replaced my flowery plates with Christmasy ones in my plate rack. Let's see how long it takes everyone to notice that switch. I found these at TJ Max for dirt cheap a couple of weeks ago. Aren't they lovely? Lovin' them.

Dave is hunkering down early these cold nights. He's taken to his bed, the old suitcase I converted into a cat bed. It has the heat blowing on it so it's the perfect spot. He is still wounded. He got stapled up a couple of weeks ago, got out once while my brother was here and they all disappeared and yet another gap returned to his neck. If you remember, he's had stitches and staples since October! And so I took him back in on Tuesday and they found another hole in his side! I don't know what he is messing with out there. My neighbor told me we have a bobcat living in the woods across the street! Not only do we have to contend with the coyote but now a bobcat! Amazing.

Bella is still Bella. My sweet Bella. Here she is, thinking she's in the jungle, eating the leaves off one of my plants. Should have named her Petunia or something. She's just the best kitty ever. Thank you Jacq for picking the bestest. We all just adore her. Miss Personality, I tell ya. It was sad seeing my niece Jacq saying goodbye to her. Me and Jacq, just too soft hearted for our own good. We cry at the drop of a hat. We got it from my dad, her pa-paw. Miss you Jacq. Miss you all. Pout. Ok, someone pass me a kleenex.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Tonight I've been enjoying Eric Clapton's Crossroad's Guitar Festival ('07) on PBS. It was excellent! Wow. I haven't heard Jeff Beck in years; and the bassist he had playing with him, Tal Wilkenfeld, is an amazing young woman. Very reminiscent of Stanley Clarke, although she doesn't plunk the strings like he does. Anyhoo, check out the video. (That is if I did this right.) Of course, there were other excellent performers, Willie (as in Nelson), BB King, Sheryl Crow, etc. But I really enjoyed Jeff Beck's performance the most. Think I'll have to buy a couple of cd's for Christmas presents.

If it doesn't work, give her a google. It's worth the time.

Speaking of crossroads, I'm continuing to turn the corner and beginning to enjoy the kitchen as it should be enjoyed. Tonight, I cooked yet another delicious recipe from America's Test Kitchen cookbook. I had decided upon pork chops and was just going to bake them and thought I would take a look and see what ATK said to do with them. Low and behold, I had every ingredient I needed. Amazing. I did, however, substitute fresh thyme because I didn't have any dried. Everything was a tad overcooked as I had to run and pick the kid up from church and I was a couple minutes late in getting home and taking them out of the oven when they should have been. Oh well. They were still very good.

ATK Crunchy Pork Chops

  • 1 (5 oz) box plain Melba toasts, broken into rough pieces
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t paprika
  • 1/2 t dried thyme
  • 1/8 t sugar
  • 6 T mayonnaise
  • 4 boneless rib pork chops (I used 5)

  1. Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the Melba toasts, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, thyme and sugar in a zip lock bag. Seal the bag and pound to course crumbs, leaving some crumbs the size of small pebbles. (I put the bag of toast in one zip lock and then put that bag in another zip lock. I always seem to get holes in my bags when I beat them. This way, it stays inside the bags and you don't get the crumbs everywhere. I then transferred all the crumbs to the second back because, yes, the bag with the crumbs was full of holes.)
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of mayo to the bag and work the mayo into the crumb mixture. Transfer the crumb mixture to a large plate.
  3. Working with one chop at a time, coat with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise using your fingers, then coat thoroughly with the crumb mixture. (I put the plop of mayo on all the chops before going to the step of putting crumbs on them. This way, you don't have to pick the mayo jar up for each chop and get it all goopy.) Press on the breadcrumbs to make sure they adhere, then lay the chop on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet.
  4. Bake the pork on the wire rack until the coating is golden brown and the center of a chop registers 135 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, 16-22 minutes. Transfer the chops to a clean plate and let rest until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 145 to 150 degrees before serving, 5 to 10 minutes.
I also whipped up some more of that Green Goddess salad dressing. It is soooo good. I am loving all my new Penzey's spices that I purchased for the new kitchen. It is all so fresh and makes such a difference in the taste of food.

And then for dessert, as if all that wasn't enough fat, we had Chocolate Pots de Creme. Jim had made them before leaving on Monday. All I had to do was whip up the cream and top them off. OMG. They were deadly. I could only eat half. He taught me last year how to cover whipped cream so it will last a day or so. I can hardly wait to dig into it again tomorrow night.

Push the plastic wrap up against the whipped cream to keep the air from getting to it. (Don't you just love my green seran wrap? The teenager bought it for me on "sale." Hmmm, wonder why it was on sale? ha.)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Where is Everybody?

This is about how I'm feeling today. Where is my houseful? My brother and his family left yesterday afternoon. It was terribly sad to see them go. I already miss the epicurism taking place in the kitchen and the smells resulting from such love of food and preparation, I miss the sounds of the kids running through the house and laughter finding its way down the stairs from the kids giggling at something we probably shouldn't know about, I miss having my coffee made perfectly by my brother each morning when I finally made it downstairs after sleeping like a baby full with content, I miss the evening games of Pictionary which sometimes turned quite competitive because, of course, everyone wanted to win, I miss the smiles on mom's face when she was surrounded by so much love, I miss the music coming from each speaker as my brother chose his songs to cook with, I miss it all. I miss them all and having them here.

After dropping the family off at the airport (found out they had a two-hour delay only today), we made a beeline to the orthodontist office as the kid had a malfunction in one of his hydraulics in his mouth. After finishing with that, we came home and I kind of puttered, oiling the island, putting clean dishes away and such. My neighbor, freshly in from Los Angeles knocked at the door, and what a needed friend she was. The emptiness had already sunken in. We sat and drink my brother's sangria and talked. She invited us to go see Fred Claus at the theatre and we excitedly accepted. It was their birthday gift to the kid and I. They are just too sweet. I hardly ever go out and this was the perfect night to be out of the house and get my mind of my family leaving. The hub was working late, so I quickly threw together turkey fricassee, consisting of turkey and gravy thrown in a pan and served over warm toast. We had some green beans and corn casserole left over also. Voila. Dinner. Turkey night No. 4. I am still loving it.

We met with our friends and headed to the theatre down the road. OMG. I have never seen so many commercials in my life. Trailers are one thing, but 20 minutes of full-blown commercials is absolutely absurd. I enjoyed the movie though. It was cute. Of course, I got all weepy at times. I'm becoming such a softy in my old age. Thought I was supposed to harden, but it seems the opposite is happening with me! Geesh. How embarrassing when tears roll down my eyes at the movie theatre. Vince Vaughn and Paul Giamatti were fun and I was pleasantly surprised to find that Kevin Spacey had a key part in it. I have always loved his acting. Anyhoo, big thanks to the R family for making my first night without my family here a fun one. I think the hub enjoyed the quietness of coming home to an empty house, eating his turkey fricassee and retiring with a good book. Perfect.

My brother Jim, in one of our many shopping expeditions while they were here, bought me my Christmas presents early. Of course, after Thanksgiving, we knew what the kitchen needed so while SIL was shopping, we snuck over to the Viking store. He got me another cutting board, a size smaller than the one I have, some oven mits (mine emitted lint when used--ew), some most excellent cooking tongs and the best cookbook since Betty Crocker's in the 50s--The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I had first heard, or saw, America's Test Kitchen show when we were in DC last and the hub and I were there to clean mom's house out. We stayed in Georgetown and I flipped on WETA (the local public TV station) to see what was cooking. I forgot what they were making, but oh my. They gave you so many pointers and it was so refreshing to watch. When my brother arrived this time, he showed me his new cookbook. He says it is the the best cookbook ever. Coming from him, that means it is. And so, when we found a copy at the Viking store, of course he bought it for me. We scoured through them all week.

I was going to make the ATK beef stew last night, but I ran out of time since I was going out. And so today, I gathered all my ingredients and it is cooking as we speak! It is smelling the house up so nicely. Perfect for a chilly night.

And so, without further delay:

ATK Beef Stew
  • 3 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 T vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 T all-purpose flour
  • 1 C dry red wine
  • 2 C low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 T minced fresh thyme or 1 t dried
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 pounds red potatoes scrubbed and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1 C frozen peas
  1. Adjust the oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 300 degrees. Dry the beef with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Brown half of the meat, about ten minutes, then transfer to a plate. Return the pot to medium-high head and repeat with 1 more tablespoon of the oil and the remaining beef.
  2. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the empty pot and return to the medium heat until shimmering. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Slowly stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the broth, thyme, bay leaves and browned beef along with any accumulated juices. Bring to a simmer, cover and transfer the pot to the oven. Cook for 1 hour.
  3. Stir in the potatoes and carrots. Cover and continue to cook in the oven until the beef is tender, about 1 hour.
  4. Remove the pot from the oven and discard the bay leaves. Stir in the peas and let stand off the heat for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Some random shots my brother has been taking the past few days around the house.



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