Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Just a loafin along....

I am loafin....
Making more bread that is. I have friends who are now buying my bread, that is great because then I won't eat it! It is so fun.....positively addicted to making bread!
I made a Spiced Whole Wheat, several French breads and rolls, in three days!!

The rolls above were from a recipe on the back of the flour bag.
I can't tell you how very different this flour is from any other flour I have ever used! Think of making bread. In the past years I have made bread, it was at least a four to six hour operation. Rising and rising again.
Well, this flour is super powered....it rises in 15-20 minutes, 30 on a frigid day. Really.
What is the flour? I posted about it before, White Lily....
Seriously, if you are into making bread, don't even bother with a bread machine....You will never go back to any other flour.
And then, today, after I got up and made this loaf (above) for my friend, the sun was out and so I went into the garden. We need to harvest the parsley and dry some! And I had to thin the French Radishes, they are growing so well....
These will be appetizers tonight. Yummmmm.
What is growing in your garden??
I just wanted to share with you....
Nancy

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Choosing floors

My Hubby and I have a problem.
Our old oak floor that we put in 11 years ago has scratched beyond being refinished.
Our carpet is 19 years old and is coming apart at the seams.
We want to get rid of carpet in high traffic areas, which is, well, expensive.
We went shopping, and shopping and shopping.
I started off looking at many stores...and landed at one very nice store....and checked out sample after sample.
Finally, we found one that was just "yummy" and we both agreed. Wow. Agreeing on a sample.
So, we called the store, they sent out their guy to measure and give us a quote.
YIKES!
Needless to say, that isn't going to happen.
I love, love this flooring. It is Provenza. And at that store the material cost was very affordable, really.
But, where they get you is installation.
After shopping around at some other shops we found that this is what they do....so that installation makes up for the "great price".
Then, we rethought the floor as it really doesn't necessarily stand up to our household (I am not OCD about housekeeping and we have two labs).
So, out we went again.
We went to one very wonderful store and they had a new type of laminate, that really looks like wood and even has a surface finish like wood....

They are truly amazing laminates....and would stand up to yours truly in the kitchen and the dogs, it's just well,  we (I) want wood....

    So, another store has something cool. It is a 25 year finish, all wood (engineered) and it is already "distressed" so when the inevitable occurs, we just put a little old english on it and enjoy the extra patina.
 Here you can see our present floor underneath (yes this section doesn't look too bad, but trust me there are areas of horrible wear).
This floor comes from a store that will do a cash and carry as well....sweet. (Where you can buy the product and have someone else install it. Not all of them do this, you have to ask.)
They have installers and their installation is much better priced than that other store (we think)...but now we have our friend, Kobi, who is going to give us a quote on installation.
If it is what we hope it is (demo and removal of old carpet and floor and installation), then the living room can have flooring instead of carpet too.
So, that is what I have been up to....shopping for flooring.
There are few things to keep in mind that I have learned that I can share.
Stores vary a great deal.
What looks too good to be true, probably is.
Don't forget the removal cost of old flooring.
Engineered floors are often glued down not just floated, so ask about the installation process. Most will charge extra for glue, vapor barriers etc and that is not always included in the installation fee.
If you aren't sure, ask. Ask and ask.
Consider your lifestyle. They will tell you that this floor or that floor is lifetime finish, but won't tell you that if you spill red wine, it will stain.....(just sayin...)
Many floors that are very affordable are not made here in the USA....they come from Germany (the cheaper of the laminates we looked at) and Canada and China.
Laminates are not always affordable...the laminates we looked at were the high end (1/2" backing), and cost much the same as the wood we looking at. However, with laminates, they are often floated, so installation is less...
So, where are we in the hunt? Frustrated and tired.
We have looked at 15 stores. Considered roughly 35 samples. And if our friend the contractor cannot help us out at this time due to cost, we are going to "table" the discussion for the time being.
We had set aside what we thought would cover the flooring, we were wrong. It is roughly 50% more than we thought, and that has been due to installation, not the product itself (although there are some floorings that  can be really expensive!!!)
So, I hope our pain and hunt helps you. It is important to know how YOU live. And, set aside more $$.
Oh, and I forgot.
We cannot do this ourselves. We are not physically able.
Those of you who can remove the existing floor and put it in yourself, I applaud you. That really does make a difference. DIY does make a difference....and you will save lots of money.
It is just we cannot...and that is why it may not happen at all.
Have a great weekend!
Yours,
Nancy


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Poached Pears

The other night we had poached pears.
I have this recipe, from Yvette Van Boven, that I have used before that is oh so yummy!
You should try it.

Her recipe uses red wine, which makes a thick sweet syrup when it boils down. Her recipe calls for brie to be served with it, however, that might make a bit too rich. I would recommend trying it without the brie, or perhaps on ice cream. We had just the poached pears with a few chocolate chips on top (the hot pears and syrup melt the chocolate).
Here is her picture....
One wouldn't necessarily think of red wine, but seriously, it is delicious. If you are not at all into red wine, you can use white, though it isn't as rich (I tried it). And, if you are not at all into wine in the least (remember the alcohol cooks off), then you can use apple cider or pear cider, just be sure it is pure juice with no added sugar as you will be adding sugar to make it get thick.
Here is our little dessert. We had only half a pear each as it is rich....
Her recipe is a follows:

1 bottle of red wine (use a good wine you want to drink)
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 cloves
3 star anise
6-8 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
4 pears, peeled, halved ( we used Bosc, she recommends Comice)

In a large saucepan, over med low heat, combine red wine, sugar, cloves, star anise, cardamom, and cinnamon sticks. Add the pears and poach them until they are soft but hold their shape. Take the pears out of the wine, and set aside.
Continue boiling the cooking liquid until it's reduced by half. (Be careful here, use a deep Pan, and stay with it, I had it boil over and that is dangerous). This will be a thick liquid that gets thicker as it sits.

For more of her recipes and this one in greater detail, you should get her book, Homemade Winter.
I have enjoyed her book greatly...it makes for good reading as well as great recipes that are really good. They are as she puts it, French with Irish roots....(she lives in France, but grew up in Ireland).

I hope you try it and let me know what you think.
Try it soon, Pears will be out of season soon.....
Nancy



Monday, February 18, 2013

Simplify!

This is the "keynote" of the season....with the coming of spring, I have vowed to try and "Simplify".
It is not a task for the faint of heart...
So, once again I turned to see a mismash of books and "junk" filling the bookcases, where only the truly needed books and "knick-knacks" should reside.
I do this periodically, probably the training as a Librarian to "discard" books that are "out of date" or no longer being "checked out".
I know there are some of you who would never part with your books and there are some of you who don't really keep them around, especially in this day of e-books.
I am sort of, well, in between. There are books that regardless of their age are timeless. Others are reserved for future generations and some are keepers in their own right. And then, there are the books that no longer meet the needs when they were purchased. Many of the books have been purchased at thrift stores, library bookstores or Amazon.
Now, I have to admit, as I go through our books, most of them are non-fiction. There are actually few fiction books around. Those that remain are timeless, but there are just few of them. In the closet I have collected a number of children's books...those are not counted in the "culling".
The books being thinned are old decorating, gardening, craft and cookbooks. Those being "thinned" are being donated to the local library bookstore, where they will go on to give someone else joy.
Lately, the joy for me is seeing the backs of the bookcases! Open space and a breathe of fresh air.
So, I am painting the back section of the bookcases as I go. I rather like the feel it gives, not so "bright white".

The case to "Simplify", it not easy. It takes time. I have only done most of the first bookcase, but I like the open feeling.
Once these bookcases are done, then I will move on to cupboards in the Family Room, which have even more things to purge and organize.
Isn't it amazing how we collect?
Are you trying to Simplify? How are you going about it??
Nancy

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Treasure Hunt

This Saturday, my friend and I went Treasure Hunting, and look what I found at an estate sale! I found the copper boiler that I have been dreaming of!
It is a lovely gently patina'd copper one with yes dents, but it is solid...copper. It was a bargain...so that was pretty much what I found. I also got a matelasse throw, and some silver cloth and a silver cloth bag.
For now, the copper is in the living room to hold wood instead of the basket. I am looking forward to summer entertaining where I can fill it with ice and drinks! Cool!
What did you do this weekend??
Nancy

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My new friend....

I made a discovery. I believe I was once told by a blogger that I could use Bar Keepers Friend to get rid of rust and crud.
Well, we have Villeroy and Boch china that we eat off everyday. That was taking a toll. There were fork scrapes and knives scrapes that left dark marks on the plate. No scratches, just dark marks. Nothing removed them. This was very frustrating!
Now, I suppose we should use this china for special occasions, but I love it....everyday.
But, honestly those little marks were discouraging and I was not using those plates .....
But, enter my new friend, Bar Keeper's Friend.
I used the tiniest amount on a wet plate and a no scratch sponge (the blue kind)....and voila!
No more scratches!

After the gentlest of rubbing, the marks are gone.
Then, a very thorough washing to remove the powder and you have almost all new plates.
How is that for a discovery? Am I the last person to find this??
Have a great weekend.
Nancy

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day

I want to say to all my readers out there in the "blogosphere", Happy Valentine's Day!
It is a day to say "I care", share love and let friends know they matter.

Here it is a quiet sort of day. We usually eat in, having something we haven't had in a long time or ever.
Hubby brought me Roses!
They are beautiful!
And I am making a pheasant for dinner (Emirl Lagasse recipe) and his side dish he recommends...and artichokes and chocolate covered strawberries (using Giada's recipe).
I think they look pretty good, although her recipe doesn't use a stiffener like I have used in years past, the taste is good.....
The weather has warmed up, today we didn't have any frost and it is warm enough to eat hors d'oeuvres outside....that will be fun....

So, How do you celebrate Valentine's day??
Hope it is a good one for you.....
Happy Valentine's Day!!!
Nancy


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Just another pretty face...

Well, for those who have been following and wondering, the chair is done.
It was not an easy adventure. It was not designed or destined to be perfect. The goal was to get a "rustic French country" wing chair. I think I accomplished that.
It doesn't however, work to be a "head" chair at the table. It is simply too low...by about 2 inches. Sad.
I really don't need another chair in the family room, but it will be there unless one of my readers wants to get it.
Without more verbage, here it is.....

It actually looks ok, I think...just sitting there. It would be cozy to sit in during the summer, perhaps take it outside. We will see.
If anyone is interested, let me know, just leave a comment to that effect and where you can be reached...
Have a great evening....
Nancy

Going Rustic

First let me explain.
I have been looking at wonderful pictures all over the blogosphere at the miraculous creations that others have done. I am loving a more relaxed and somewhat "rustic" touch here and there.
My house is filled with beautiful pieces, but once in a while I think a "rustic" piece might just relax and calm the soul. Anyone else feel this way?
Well.....
When my friend gave me the chair, you know the one that wouldn't fit? She knew my plans, well mostly. We talked about it for weeks. In fact, we found some wonderful fabric on sale at the store and I bought it, but alas, when I draped it on the chair, it was way too dark. No loss...it makes a great tablecloth. It will be perfect outside on the big table we have......
I was going for the look that Restoration Hardware has of stripped down furniture. I was going to take the chair down to the wood, and create from there.
I didn't realize that I was going on an excavation.
I began yesterday, cutting and tearing. I was going for it. I do not have pictures for you of the layers...that I discovered. But, I had to stop.
There were metal strips that only a furniture upholsterer with his massive machines could remove. Perhaps a jackhammer.
There was this layer of old, almost delightful fabric underneath the front fabric that looked like grainsack, but rougher with stripes of orange, blue and green. It was old. And it wasn't coming off easily (Nor did it go with my decor). By this time, my muscles were on their second dose of Advil....I was not going to get to the wood.
Do you know how many super staples they use when upholstering? This one has more.
When I removed the back and sides, I decided on a different approach. I would do a rustic recover. I removed only what needed to be removed...
I went to the fabric store, bought new batting, rustic looking tacks, and foam.

So, here is where I started.....


So, I set off, to explore.....
And, this is where I am today....not finished...but well underway....

It isn't done, but it well, getting there.  I have it at the table, Hubby will be using it as the head table we think....
 I will be showing the rest to you later....I am sewing a new cover for the seat today after I cut the foam.
I painted the legs, they don't show in this picture as the fabric is not attached to the bottom yet...but it is getting there.
Oh the French do this so much better.
But hey, it was free, and I only bought foam, batting and tacks and oh yeah, more staples. It is an exploration of creativity, and adventure.
I will keep you posted......
Nancy

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The chair that wouldn't fit

Last night, our friends that came to dinner, brought a special "hostess gift", a wing chair.
It is a lovely old chair that I have admired and envisioned differently. They couldn't sell it. They even put it out on the curb with a curb alert with no takers.
It needs to be recovered and as so many of you know, this is an expensive proposition. My friends didn't want the chair, it no longer fit what they were doing.
Honestly, it is one chair too many here. I don't need it, but, I can't resist a wing chair, let alone a free one. So, here it is.....
It couldn't fit at any angle through the doors of the rooms....I wanted to put it into the "craft" room to work on, but no, it didn't fit. So, they left it at the end of the hall....
This morning, I moved it with Hubby to the livingroom, that is where I will be working on it. I may exchange the wing chair I have right now with it, when it's done....it is more the same height with Hubby's chair. The other chair, might look nice at the dining table...we will see.....
Here is the close up...


So, what are my plans?  Dunno.
I have thoughts of doing a "deconstruction" of it, much like the Restoration Hardware types, however....we will see. I have some fabric that might work, though we shall see......
Stay tuned...
Nancy

Becoming a Foodie

I do not consider myself a Foodie...but, perhaps a growing one.....
We had some dear friends to dinner last night. I planned the menu for weeks.
Appetizers were fresh homemade French bread with Brousse cheese drizzled with garlic oil, and spicy walnuts and pecans...
Dinner was Porchetta, roasted carrots and potatoes, arugula and mache salad with pomegrante seeds and more homemade French bread
Dessert was Cardamon cake with whole poached pears & white chocolate
Does this make me a Foodie? Perhaps.
Here is a picture of the nuts. I made these the night before....They were pretty yummy. They were excellent paired with the fresh French bread & Brousse cheese (homemade). We served Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvingnon with it. Yum.

I had so much fun, though there was a lot of work.....
Here is the Pork Belly wrapped around a small pork tenderloin. It is "resting" in the fridge for 36 hours. The filling is fresh thyme, sage, and rosemary with pine nuts (a full bag) and fennel seeds (that I grew last year). This is the last shot I got....being so busy pulling together a whole dinner...sorry.
The dinner cooked faster than the recipe said, guess my oven is working a little too well. But, all in all, very yummy.
The pork belly came from the Farmer's Market at So. Co, from Dave the butcher. It was a bit expensive, but when it comes down to it, I really liked the idea of knowing the farmer and butcher in Dave. His meats are all excellent and I recommend his products.

This morning we had some leftovers for breakfast. Hubby loves breakfast!
Here we had porchetta chopped and cooked, the bread was turned into French toast and I chopped up some of the nuts and put them into the maple syrup (we use only pure maple syrup as the others have corn syrup). It was rich and I couldn't finish it all....Hubby left just a few nuts on his plate.

Does all this make me a Foodie?? Perhaps.
I know that this is the year that I am experimenting with different recipes and cuts of meat. So far, this was a winner and will address again......later. It is a rich and yummy cut (afterall it is where bacon comes from), and I don't think it is a good thing to eat before a cholesterol test....humm...

What do you like to cook?
Have a great weekend.
Nancy

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Again!!

Painting that is! Again!
Yup, I got this dark basket a few months ago, but always felt it too dark. So, yesterday, while waiting for the carpet cleaner, I painted this basket. I used Paris Grey, which to my eyes is just a soft blue with a hint of grey. It looked too blue...so later I gave it a light coat of French Linen.

Here it is, dark, dark, dark. And here it is is Paris Grey.

And here it is this evening, serving to hold wood. Well, it was until Hubby burned the wood.

The handle is flipped forward, it is still Paris Grey...
The burlap is too keep wood chips and dirt in the basket....
This picture shows you how Paris Grey is a bit blue and French Linen has green tones to it....
Hope you have a great weekend.
Wanna know what I am planning? I am going treasure hunting tomorrow, having friends to dinner on Saturday and probably painting this old chair on Sunday...
This chair has been in the family for generations. It also has been repaired so many times that the wood shows all it's repairs...and well, it is time for a renovation. My mother would approve if she were here. I am choosing, what else but French Linen and a beautiful toile that she would also love. I covered this chair many years ago with this black fabric which at the time was all the rage...but I am ready for a change and I think the chair may be too. I will let you know.....
Have a great weekend.
Nancy

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Spring?

It has been cold, for here So. Cal anyway. No, it isn't as cold as other parts of the US, but for us, quite chilly! We have had a great number of "chill hours", so that will be good for some of the trees around here. You know the ones like pears and cherries that need a larger number of chill hours.
I have one tree that doesn't seem to care, it was the first to bloom last year, and it is again this year. It is my miniature peach. Last year, it's first with us, it gave us about thirty little peaches. Oh so yummy peaches.

Isn't that something? We had a couple of warm days, about 75 degrees and boom, it bloomed. Of ourse, tomorrow we are supposed to get rain, so like last year, I will cover it lightly to protect the new blooms.
And, my Fava beans are blooming like crazy! They went all winter with no problems at all with freezes! Really. I planted the seeds in late September and they have been growing and blooming the entire time. Now, if we can get more bees. People have had swarms and the bee population is dropping because when they get a swarm, they call an exterminator. Sad.
I would go to great lengths to find someone to collect them....ya know? I have even saved a number on my computer to call for "live collection". We need those bees, even little suburban "farmers" like me.


Aren't they wonderful? The blooms are closed here, yesterday they were open and gorgeous and I took a picture, but it got lost.....
I also have trimmed my elderberry and soaked the cuttings and then potted them to regrow new ones. I think it is working. They have the type of stalks that can easily grow roots if given the chance. elderberries are an important part of the "medicine cabinet" around here as well as just being yummy in jams and pies.
It doesn't look like much, but that is 4 stalks and I think if only one works I am ahead of the game.
Yup, with sunny days here and there, the birds say it is spring too. Next door the bluebirds have started nesting and the hummingbirds are claiming territory.
Is it spring where you are?
Nancy

Monday, February 4, 2013

Gotta paint

Those of you who have been following me for a while, know that once in a while, I just "gotta paint"...
I have been looking for things to paint with ASCP, my favorite is French Linen.
Well, I found what really needed to be painted. It is this painting that I love as I walk down the hall back to the kitchen. It had an old oak frame, which was ok, but it was bothering me against the new grey on the walls. So, after thinking about it for months, today was the day.
 You can see the old oak frame.....
 and the little chip brush I use....
this is a sample pot of ASCP in French Linen....I bought it at Peinture.......

So, after taping, I began.....

After painting, I waxed with clear wax and then went over it with a light amount of dark wax....and then impatiently waited for it to dry....so the dark wax would still be there.....
and then 30 mins later it was done......
Yes, really, 30 mins.....



This color looks so much better next to the taupey grey I have on the walls.....
I wonder what I should paint next????
Have a great rest of your day.
Nancy

Friday, February 1, 2013

Slipcover puzzle

I am not great at making slipcovers, least of all for recliners.
Yes, we have two matching recliners which are typical recliners, but ......recliners none the less.
They are about 13 years old give or take and the fabric has begun to wear. They are from the days when everything we had was blue. I have mended them once on the foot rest portion, but even that has now worn, more on my Hubby's chair than mine. We looked into getting them recovered and I even went on a fabric hunt. But, even with cheaper fabric our upholsterer would charge a fortune. I want wood floors more than that, you know?
So, I found a solution, temporary I am sure, but getting out of the "blue" zone feels so much better.
See the different fabric on the foot rest? Yeah, I did that about two years ago....It is time.
Sure-fit to the rescue...I hope...
I ordered them from Amazon...I needed two. There was one on Overstock, but only one.
So, it can be done...
I think.
The directions are minimal, but really not bad. And I knew going into this that fit might be off, these are not typical recliners.
No, not perfect, and I will keep "tweaking", but much more soothing...for now....
Their "stretch suede" covers. Cheaper than new chairs, and way cheaper than recovering....it is an option, and I took it.
Now I just have to wait until Hubby comes home.....
Nancy