Monday, December 31, 2012

Winter garden

Here in Southern California, frost and ice are rare...we rarely have 400 chill hours, much less frost.
This year we have had 4 frost days...most very light. Today however, we had ice. It dripped from the roof like it does in the high country. Many plants are being "cut" back by the cold. And yet, many are just fine!
 This is the lime tree, it is doing fine. The cold is not intense enough I guess to affect it.

 The broccoli is quite happy, in fact when it got cold, it started making heads!
The parsley is doing well, tucked in amid Fava beans and other plants.
This is a shot of Fava bean flowers up close. Yes, it is blooming. The only problem here is that it is too cold for bee activity! So, these may not become beans....sad.....
The hills and local mountains have snow around us, and in the sun it got up to 60 degrees. Our house is cold and feels downright damp. At this time of year,  there is that tendency to feel damp in winter, perhaps due to the fact that our house is on a slab. However, most houses get that way in winter, right?. It is definitely a time for sweaters and coats.
How are you doing this winter? What is happening in your garden?
Happy New Year!!
Nancy

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Flunking Chutney 101

Ok. So, I have been looking for recipes to use my limes. We had a bumper crop this year and so many have gone to waste!
I also have been canning jams, jellies, fruits etc for about 33 years, so I am not a beginner. I am however, a beginner for chutney. Well, correction, I have made a couple of apple based chutneys. Never a lime one.
So, I went looking for recipes and found one that seemed straight forward. No pictures, no description of what to expect. But, I forged on ahead. I found the recipe on CDkitchen.com. "Indian Sweet Lime Chutney".



The recipe was followed exactly. The consistency was that of oatmeal! I cooked it for 40 mins (the recipe said 30), but it didn't look "cooked".
The last jar you see is a "refrigerator" jar....I always have one or two. I should have been skeptical, as though it told me to can in boiling water bath for 15 mins, it didn't specify pints, half pints or any other size.
I tasted it before canning....ugh! What a waste! A waste of raisins, dates, sugar and vinegar. The limes would have been wasted, but seriously? Sad.
Ever made chutney? I would love to hear!
Nancy

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Nespresso Bar

Oh what a lucky lady I am!
My daughters and son-in-law gave me a Nespresso! Yes, one I have wanted for some time...for the ease and the yummy tastes....
But, my husband kept saying that we didn't need it, we have coffee makers and they were new.....
Well, I wanted a Nespresso.

So, today as I cleaned up the kitchen and livingroom, I decided where it will live....here....a Nespresso bar! And, I was able to combine a bit of the hot cocoa bar too. Since this is a manual Nespresso, one can use the hot water that comes through and make hot cocoa....awesome! And those cute cups? Well, they were part of the gift! They came with the deal the kids got from Sur La Table...and what a treat!
Nancy

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Blessings

The best part of Christmas is spending time with loved ones.
Today, Christmas Eve, my daughter came over and we created a pumpkin pie and a Dutch apple pie.

And the pumpkin....
She got the idea to cut shapes out of the extra pie crust...and at first we started to put them on right away, but, they started to sink, so we added them after the pie had baked part way....
We are going to invest in those crust protectors that you can get...we both burned ourselves trying to put on tin foil guards....HOT!
Then we had leftover pie crust....saints preserve us! So, she added cutouts to the apple pie and we made a turnover with pumkin butter, cranberries, raisins and cinnamon....

So, as everyone's house fills with the smells of Christmas cooking near and far, I want to wish all of you a very, Merry Christmas!! May you be filled with Christmas blessings of family and friends and good times.
Nancy

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Opulent bedding

I will let you, my readers, in on a secret.
As I make the beds for guests who will arrive...I want to make the coziest beds up for them.
I have been lucky enough this year to be able to snag many damask tablecloths and napkins.
A few tablecloths are huge, 80" x 112".  Now, that is a great size for a queen size sheet.
Now, imagine a cold winter night and true linen damask sheet, not too hot, not too cold and rich sleeping.
I know what you are thinking...but think about it. A large tablecloth that has few light little stains doesn't look great maybe on the table, but under a blanket...it is heaven!


I have a few that are smaller that will become pillowcases.
And just think, you don't Have to iron them!
If you are super handy, you could create a fitted sheet...
Just wanted to pass an idea along.
On to get ready for Christmas Eve...
I am making a basket of cookies with cocoa for some friends....

Merry Christmas to all!
Nancy

Friday, December 21, 2012

Raspberry Cordial

Way back in the summer, I followed a recipe for raspberry cordial that I found online. Simple actually. Basically, you take fresh raspberries, sugar and vodka (the actual amounts are in the recipe). Put it in a large jar. Turn and gently shake everyday. It is best to store in a dark place during this time. 8 weeks later it is time check it out. The raspberries will be "deflated" and faded as well as mushy. The color of the cordial should be absolutely the most beautiful red color. It should not be cloudy, but clear and bright. Then you strain it through cheesecloth leaving you with just the liquid.
At this point it will store nicely. As mine did.
I am rather pleased with it. It is simply lovely.
My daughter wants to use it for super martinis. She said she would sugar the rims and then make martinis!
So, here are three bottles for gifts. One for my son-in-law, one for my father-in-law and one for a hostess gift. See the labels? My hubby bought the pack of labels, actually from Avery (sold at Office Depot) and they are wine bottle labels! In fact they have lots of pre-colored labels that are pretty cool. We chose the plain labels so we could include a picture of raspberries from clip art.
I am happy with the way they turned out.
The two bigger bottles came from Container Store, for about $5.  The smaller bottle was actually a maple syrup bottle. Isn't it sweet?
The next cordial getting made is Elderberry Cordial. My elderberry has been producing continually all summer, and I have been collecting the ripe berries and putting them in the freezer until I had enough.
Well, gotta go wrap presents.
Nancy

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

That's a crock!

Well, every so often a blogger asks what we, the reader, collects.
I find my collections tend to surge in one the direction and then take off in another. However, there are some collections that remain over time. Those are the collections that no matter how many you have or the lack of storage, you will still get them when you find them.
I have several, although over time I have backed off a bit, mostly in part due to storage, or should I say lack of storage.
Dishes. Yes, I love china. I have collected different pieces or parts of sets over the years. Lucky for me my girls love it too, so I am more than happy to share!
Fabric. I seem to be magnetized to fabric, and because I sew for my Etsy store (wildoakdesigns.etsy.com), it seems fair.
Cookbooks. I love to read through them and get ideas, and they are becoming obsolete, so they are extra wonderful.
And then there is crockery. I love crocks, especially the crocks that I can use in the kitchen...smallish ones are easier to find uses for. There are the crocks that were intended for pickling or storing grains. They are extra fun when they already had numbers on them.
Recently, I found this crock. No markings, just a great old crock. It just needed something....


I soaked a label off of a wine bottle and ripped the edge a bit and decoupaged it to the crock.
Simple. Now it seems to have more "purpose".  It is holding the candy canes for the cocoa bar we had, and now those candy canes are going to go to some carolers we heard will be coming tonight.
If you have a crock you want to dress up, decoupage is a good way to go.
Nancy

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Party

Oh, the weather outside is frightful....
It was perfect Southern California weather for hot cocoa and for some Champagne punch!
We had way too much food, and oh so much fun.

Here is the table as we started to fill it. You can see this white dish here with a label telling what would be there. We hot food, we had cheese galore, breads and crackers galore. My friend brought two crockpots with hot shrimp and hot tortellini. Oh we ate well...
And, we had champagne punch.....
This recipe is from Food.com. Wonderfully simple, delicious and fun! The red was perfect for Christmas! The recipe you ask?
2 bottles of champagne,
1 qt of soda water, and a
 64 oz Raspberry-cranberry juice.
That is it! We froze two small containers with the juice to keep it chilled. It was just fab! I can't stand over the top punches myself. The simpler the better.
Then we had desserts of a raspberry galette, Christmas cookies, and a hot cocoa bar. So, wonderful.
In between eating dinner and dessert we did the Christmas gift exchange with the "stealing game" also known as a "White Elephant" gift.  Although my experience with white elephant gifts has been old gifts, the limit here was $15. It was great fun. It is wonderful....
Merry Christmas....
Nancy

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Family Christmas Party Prep

We have been having a family Christmas Party with our friends down the street for years. I have lost count. We alternate between the houses. Once it was our daughter's new house. Usually it ends up being between the two Moms. Isn't always? Moms like to have traditions and parties.
So, I am excited. This year it is here. This has been my year of parties!
So, amongst my plans I came across a blogger who invited her guests to have hot cocoa. She had the most divine self service area for hot cocoa. I apologize for not remembering which blog, but my thanks to her.
I took the dried bottles that were on this bottle rack that I got, and put cups on it...(hers was an old French one, much more special).
Then I gathered up two of my crocks that I have found "treasure hunting" and stenciled a number on one and decoupaged an old wine label on the other. Those are for my packs of cocoa and candy canes. I had a hard time finding the big perfect candy canes. Can you believe it? I found them at Stater Brothers. Then I put mini marshmallows in the little jar with mini tongs to get them out and the spoons are in a creamer that just happens to be red and white! The napkins in the background are in an old toast holder! And there you have it, a cocoa bar!
I also am going to have a Champagne punch....but that will be part of the surprise!
For decor on the table, well, my eldest daughter is coming and helping my get things pulled together, and I have hopefully created a sweet little table runner and here is one of my centerpieces....
It is a trifle bowl! I mean honestly, what do you do with a trifle bowl the rest of the year?? We don't make trifle very often, and when you want one, here it is....but it doesn't fit in most of my cupboards and my daughter doesn't have room either....so getting creative with it has been, well on ongoing chore. But here it is sporting a yummy candle with fake holly and a ribbon of linen tied on. You will get to see what I do with it tomorrow...just a glimpse.
Oh, and in the window, which is next to the table, I created a quick wreath. I had this grapevine material that is one long strand, and I left it coiled and just tied it to the drapery rod and tied some ribbon on the bottom. Simple. Rustic. Understated. Love it.
Isn't it funny how hard we work to have people over? I mean you would think the Queen was coming! For me, it doesn't matter if it is 5, 11 or 20+ people, the planning and arranging is still the same. The cleaning, planning and organizing. In the end, they will have been here about 3-4 hours. They are also bringing food too. But it is still the same . Do you do that too? Or am I the only one who sets about being hostess this way?
Now, I don't want you to think I don't like the parties. I am thrilled to have them. I look forward to this party immensely, I just wondered if I am the only nut who approaches guests with such "order".
Ok. Well, see you tomorrow!
Nancy

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Vegetable garden plans

Every year at this time the seed catalogs arrive, almost as many as the general shopping catalogs. There are so many choices and each catalog has wonderful pictures, it becomes difficult to narrow down your selections. So, this year I chose a different catalog.
VermontBean.com
They had a great website! Even offer a free trial of a garden planner program, that I seriously almost considered, had I not already drawn my plans for the garden.
Each box will have two sections, except for the tomato box, which will only have three plants, possibly only two...that is still out for debate as we buy plants that are ready to go.
I ordered onions, beets, carrots, beans (two kinds), peas, cukes, & squash.
I have 6 boxes, but one is holding the raspberries and hopefully pumpkins.
Therefore, I don't have much space. Sometimes I want to tear up the grass and add more boxes, but others I like the grass area.
01017 - Accelerate Bean 
Our bean of the year for 2013 is a large sieve pod that is great for the home gardener. It was developed at the University of Wisconsin and was selected for its heavy yield and disease resistance. The medium green pods are 6" to 7" in length that are born evenly on the plant. Although the pods start to produce early in the season, it remains productive throughout the whole season.

I opted for bush beans this year. I have always sworn that pole beans are better, but this variety caught my eye...so we will see. It is time to try something new!
I am also trying anew "lima" that is a bush variety and is small, round and red...
So, this all being said.
What are your plans for the garden for next year?
Nancy

Friday, December 14, 2012

Limes, limes, limes

Okay dear readers, I have a problem. My wonderful lime tree is making too many limes and too many are going to waste!
Last year I froze lots of lime juice and lime zest...so I still have some of that, and, I don't have anymore room in the freezer. So, what do you all do with limes?
Now, these are special limes. They are actually crossed with a lemon as I planted them too close together.
Really.
No, I mean it.
They look like lemons on the outside but are greenish on the inside.
Really.
And, to top it off, I have a potted Navel orange nearby and that tree has made some of the most amazing lemons and some of my limes, well, let's just say they are much bigger than usual.
So. What will I do with the limes? Thoughts? Let me know.
Nancy



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

More Christmas decorating

So, blogging is wonderful. You meet people and get fabulous ideas for everything from home to garden. Today, I followed my blogging friends and got tremendous ideas...many of which I will store away for another year...and some that inspired me to get off the couch (I am sick with a cold) and gather a few things.
I brought in a few of my pots that I hadn't even thought of bringing in before. I cleaned them up and brought them in and see what I did. Simplicity is the theme this year. And more neutrals are being used with just a touch of red here and there.
Now, you have to forgive the awful shots...especially with my arm in the mirror. It is hard to take a picture with a mirror! Your messes on the other side of the room show, as well as your arm! LOL, so you have to forgive. But I think these decorations look pretty good!


Well, a little blurry, but you get the idea....This is an old fiberglass pot that has been sitting outside for probably 6 years, and it has weathered quite nicely. It was cleaned up, but because this is a real live plant in the clay pot that is tucked inside, I set the whole thing in a white dish I have, to protect my antique dresser. Then I just used the burlap ribbon (love this stuff and you get it at Michaels). Then I tied a couple of silver ornaments on with selvage fabric (the stuff you cut off with sewing). The rest just sit on the plant!


This cast iron urn I bought a few years ago, and it has been living outside. Because it has rust on the bottom, it is sitting on some white tissue, and then I used the burlap ribbon that I had on hand...love the look, simple and yet festive. It is sitting on the butcher block island in the kitchen, so as you come in it is the first thing you see. (So, for now ignore the other views you have, when I feel better the rest of the kitchen will get cleaned up.)
I am going back to resting...what do you think?
Nancy

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Haviland Limoges China on sale

Okay, it is official. I have posted the Limoges china that I have in the Etsy store.
At this point, I have only pictured and posted the two main wonderful pieces. They are more than half of the value a company in Missouri told me they were worth.
The French covered butter dish...



This piece is amazing. To find it in a complete condition with all three parts, no chips, cracks or glazing. It is as if time has stood still on this piece. Oh the stories it could tell!
It is pre-1941 from France. Oh the elegant meals it could tell us about. A more formal and regal time. Shouldn't you have this in your collection? I have run out of room. Perfect for the shabby chic, or country decor....
The other piece I have is the French covered casserole. Another amazing piece with no nicks, or wear!

Now, truth is I am fighting a cold and don't have the energy to post the rest. But I also have 11 berry bowls, 11 salad/dessert plates, and 7 cups and saucers (one cup was repaired). If you are interested in one or more pieces, you can go to the store and buy either of the two mentioned pieces through the store (we take credit cards) or convo me through the store to make arrangements for the other pieces. Help me get organized for the New Year!
Think of the tea parties!!
Hoping you are well.
Nancy

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bottle dryer

Almost a year ago, our daughter and husband gave us a present of "Purple Feet". It is a company that helps people make their own wine. Yup.  Wine, but no, we didn't have to squish the grapes. The company buys grapes and has them made into the squished grapes, which they call "Must". It is at that stage where we get to play with our food.
We determine the type of wine we want, ie, White or Red...and then what variety. Of course, we had to sample some to be sure.....As we were tasting, I mentioned that the one we were tasting was "a little too sweet"....and she heard and said, that the wines we were tasting were young wines that had not been stored a long time, and that they continue to mature over time in the bottle.
Well, without giving the entire lesson on making wine, let me just say, we had a great time with our daughter and son-in-law and our other daughter, who played the designated driver. Our Cabernet Sauvignon will be ready to bottle in about 5 weeks. Assuming that nature plays fair. Our big task before that time is to design our label. Oh, and collect some used wine bottles. Now that isn't hard. We do drink wine and have thrown away the bottles, until now. And that is the reason for this post.
We needed a way to dry the bottles.
I wanted a lovely zinc French bottle drying rack. How perfect would that be? A real reason for one!
But, alas, I haven't found any under $150 and that just seems silly. So, I realized that if there are companies that make wine  (not just wineries) then there has to be a place to get supplies....
I found "Home Brew It.com" . They have supplies to make wine or beer for home brewers or wineries.
Ah ha!
I found a bottle dryer that can hold 45 beer bottles or about 24 wine bottles.
Now it isn't the antique French beauties, but it does do its job. It is very interesting. You can add pieces later to make it hold more bottles, they screw together and unscrew to store away! You can't see it, but there is a nice handle to carry it with on top.  It is well balanced for its job....



For the time of drying we are storing it in the laundry room, but for the pictures I put it on the island for you to see. It is not gorgeous, but kinda cute, in its own way. And I really like the idea of reusing bottles.
I just wanted to share with those of you looking for a bottle dryer...and yeah, if you wanted it could be used for cups, baby bottles or other uses. It cost under $30 with shipping and arrived in two days. Not bad. Lots cheaper than the French ones....
Nancy

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fungi in the Garden

Well, it may almost be Christmas, but the weather has been mild. We have had enough cold to kill off my tomatoes and squash, but my Fava beans are still growing, and they are blooming...and I have the prettiest little orange fungi! I had to show them to you....



And along with the Fava beans that are blooming, so is the elderberry!
The lettuce is still producing, though it is starting to go to seed...so we need to eat it.
And the broccoli is starting to do better as the little bugs that were eating it, have all gone away...

So, has everyone's garden gone to it's winter sleep??
Nancy