Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Calling Card

In the day of technology, I say bring back the "calling card," -- but then again, I am an advocate for cursive, and bringing back letter writing, and especially love letters. What is a "Calling Card?" 

And no, - - it is not a plastic debit looking card with pre-paid funds to pay for phone services. 

If there is such a thing as "living past lives," I've often thought I must have lived in the Victorian-era. I love the ornate, the old Victorian and formal decor - from delicate tea cups to heavily decorated armoires, it's a look that attracts me. However, the state of dress does not appeal to me. Okay, so the bustle and the hoop skirts might hide the thighs, but wearing the rib cage-cinching corset makes me wince in pain just looking at it. 

During the era of the Victorians, etiquette required that anyone paying a social call provided a calling card. The calling card, or "visitor's card," was exactly like the business card, but without the business. Typically it would be used upon arriving at the home of a friend or an acquaintance. The caller would hand their card to the "servant" answering the door. The card would then be placed on a silver tray and brought to the master or mistress of the house, so the visitor could be received. If they were not home, the card would be left for their reference. Calling cards can be as simple as a monogram, or as elaborate with a border of flowers, - - or nothing other than your name and contact information. 

From Seaborn Press 
From Victorian Trading Company
So, I am not advocating that you need to go through all of the formalities of the butler and the silver tray, but the calling card makes a nice presentation and gives the receiver a nice reminder of who you are. Former internet wine entrepreneur and social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk advocates to eliminate business cards altogether. He claims that when upon meeting someone and wanting their personal info, that you just put all of the person's data into your phone - networking. Well, that works for Vaynerchuk since he gets at least 100,000 cards annually, but not all of us make it our job to be in the networking arena. Most of us just want to be remembered. 

Personalizing a calling card is a way to be remembered. 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Fairy Tales

On many of the decor and craft sites, especially Pinterest, I keep noticing all of the fairy themes: fairy parties, fairy gardens, fairy flower pots, and even fairy-themed treats; such as "Fairy Bread." 
Selected photos from Pinterest
There is a side of me that has been paying attention to the recent fairy themes, and especially a side where old memories keep popping up. Several years ago - - okay almost like twenty years ago - - a couple of friends and I rented a lodge in the woods for a weekend and hosted several other craft-minded friends for a "Fairy in the Forest" weekend. We crafted, we laughed, we ate, we drank, we even dressed as fairies for our final "formal" dinner - wings and all! 

With this new surge of fairy popularity, I rattled through my own display case of treasures and miniatures, and found a few things in my collection. 

Fairies squatting on my turf. 
It's my opinion that when we start talking about fairy parties and teas, we tend to limit ourselves and strictly think that these type of events are only for children. Oh my - -  one couldn't be more wrong. While fairy gardens and parties are a wonderful and magical way to spend quality time with children, as well as encouraging their creativity and imagination; I also believe that adults need some "quality" time to relax, laugh, reminisce, create, and just giggle, too. Hey! We're under a lot of pressure, and a fairy gathering; whether for dress-up or crafting, is a sure way to rid of the stress and take us away for a few hours.

For me the magic of the fairy garden or a fairy diorama is not to use any fairies (dolls and statues) in the settings. The magic is to see the fairy's house, their garden, and what the fairies dine on - the magic is to see the world of the fairies while "they are away" - - ummm... away and busy being fairies! The magic is keeping the secret that at least you know where they live. Shhh... 

Of course, Fairies love teas and setting a tea party for the fairies is easy  - - it is a matter of thinking "small." Look around your household, even a round oat style piece of cereal (rhymes with "heerios") makes for a perfect doughnut. Paint the doughnut with a bit of chocolate brown or pink paint from a tooth pick and you have frosting! A wooden bead covered with colored caulking and set on a bottle cap or a button makes a perfect fairy cake. 
I set a table of cakes and cookies for the fairies (and it's all gluten-free)
Keep the neighbors guessing or giving your children a bit of magic is as simple as a little door. This door made of wooden slats with a small heart-shaped cut-out looks darling attached to the base of your favorite old tree.* 

Doors available at Love of Junk Vintage Market
If you haven't signed up for Pinterest, and you love getting decor and garden ideas, and recipes; kind of like clipping pictures from your favorite magazines, I would recommend it. You will be delighted at all of the fairy ideas available, too. Say "Good night, Tinkerbell." 

Good night, Tinkerbell!

*The fairy tree doors will be available by me at Love of Junk, Walla Walla's Vintage Market, June 17th-18th. Look for me, "Passementaries" as I will be sharing a tent with local antique business, "Three Doors Down."

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Cooking is Cheaper than Therapy: Marcella's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

Everybody's mother makes the best spaghetti sauce. Seriously, the majority of mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and even grandfathers make the best. It's the best because it's what we grew up with. It's what evokes memories, and who can argue with that? 

A few recipes ago, I was somewhat maligned by a "dissatisfied" reader because the recipes I share are not mine. I didn't realize there was the "recipe police" who said one had to create their own recipes before they shared them. In the recipes I have shared, I have made sure to follow their lineage to the best of my ability, along with providing links and giving credit where credit is due. If I discover a new recipe and it has great results, of course I am going to share it. Now, back to spaghetti sauce. 

One of the first things in grade school I learned to make was basic spaghetti meat sauce. We used the old iron skillet and into it sauteed up chopped onions (usually from our neighbor who grew onions), browned up hamburger; dumped canned tomato sauce in the pan, and opened the spice cupboard and started tossing in what was typical, from garlic powder (when fresh wasn't on-hand) to Italian-influenced dried herbs. Through the years I have continued making sauce without a recipe, just tossing things in the pot from very fine shredded carrots to make it a bit sweeter, sometimes a bit of finely chopped celery to give it a brighter taste, using a mixture of hamburger and Italian sausage, and of course a few generous pours of red wine. I was also told by many local Italian families that the one secret ingredient from their grandmothers was to add a pinch or two of sugar at the end to smooth out some of the acidity from the tomatoes. 

Preparing sauce from scratch was good, but I wanted an actual recipe - a proven recipe. So with trial, error, and finally success; Chef Tyler Florence's Ultimate Spaghetti and Meatballs spoke to me. The meatball recipe alone was a confirmation to me that I have been making meatballs all along the "Tyler" way.  I didn't have to change the recipe in the "file cabinet of my mind." This recipe is one that you really want to set aside some time to prepare. However, when you want a quick and easy spaghetti sauce, let me introduce you to Marcella... 

Marcella Hazan (Polini) was an Italian-born food writer whose books were published in English. She would eventually be hailed by chefs and other food writers. Marcella married Victor Hazan, also Italian-born who gained fame as a wine writer. However, Marcella had never cooked before she was married, so she began cooking by sourcing cookbooks from Italy, but also used her memories on the flavors she tasted as a child; and started to reproduce them. Marcella was very much the Italian version of Julia Child, and ahead of her time as she taught cooking classes and wrote a total of seven cookbooks. Marcella died in 2013, but left the world her famous "Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter," from her cookbook, "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking," published in 1992. 

The ingredients are simple: 

One 28 ounce can of imported San Marzano whole tomatoes. If you cannot get to your favorite Italian deli, regular canned whole tomatoes will work. 
5 tbsp of butter (No, don't even think about fake or margarine)
1 medium onion, peeled and cut in half
A pinch of kosher salt, and later you can add more to taste. 

Place all of the ingredients in a sauce pan. Note, I used one of my old and rather beloved LeCreuset pans since it is heavy. Now don't comment on how it looks all scuffed and stained. It is "seasoned" with love. Cook the ingredients uncovered at a very low temp, but let it simmer for at least 45 minutes to an hour; or until the butter fat floats. Stir from time to time, mashing the tomatoes with the spoon, or even later to finish with a potato masher. Taste and correct for salt. Remove the onion before adding your favorite cooked pasta, but whatever you do - - do not toss the onion. Save it and nibble on it later, or slice it and add to other vegetables, or use it in a sandwich. The onion turns really tender and sweet. I like the "rustic" texture of the finished sauce as is, but if you prefer a smoother sauce, you can use a food mill to puree it. 

It will make your house smell wonderful. This is a simple basic recipe that you can tweak and make it your own. Eat! 

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