Tuesday, March 20, 2018

No Changing My Decor

My home decor hasn't changed in over 20 years, and at this stage of the game I doubt that it ever will. What is my decor? A blend of Victorian and Country antique, along with a touch of Shabby Chic here and there. And let me tell you the Shabby Chic has been in my home long before I knew Rachel Ashwell gave it a name.  Why? Because it was affordable - at the time. 

Although I won't be changing my home decor, it still doesn't mean I'm not curious about the trends. And let's remember the word "trends." Trends are meant to come and go, but classic styles are here to stay. 

So once in awhile an article will peak my interest about what is "coming and going" in home decor  - such as this article that pointed out brass and over sized furniture is "back" in 2018. Well goody-goody. I am already set - - like 40 years ago. But the designers aren't going to talk me into a color palette of Harvest Gold and Avocado Green. 

The other day my curiosity got the best of me when I wondered, "Is the Paris-Shabby-Chic-French-Country theme still popular this year?" Then I realized - - duh. Of course it is. Anything from France or with a Parisian accent will always be in style. We have seen so many degrees of it through the centuries such as Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI style furniture, and let's not forget French Provincial. 

Not to mention that Pottery Barn entered the year with their new line of faux botanicals named the "Paris Flower Shop." And speaking of which - I read last week that Fixer-Upper Magnolia Market maven, Joanna Gaines recently shared that in the homes she decorates, she uses faux flowers and plants. Yup, I was shocked! Why would Joanna betray us like that? Her answer was for the new homeowner, the last thing they need is to worry about taking care of plants. Okay. Makes sense. 

From the Pottery Barn's "Paris Flower Shop"
And as we think about "is the French Country/Shabby Chic" still in style? Well of course it is in the country side of France. In the mean time, the trend for the hipsters who reside in Paris is "Tres Brooklyn."  Brooklyn? 

Friday, March 16, 2018

And Then This Happened...

It decided not to be a Thanksgiving amaryllis. 
It decided not to be a Christmas amaryllis. 
It decided not to be a Valentine's Day amaryllis...

It decided to be a Saint Patrick's Day amaryllis. 

It surprised me with four buds, and yesterday I found two more smaller buds.

It's a gorgeous thing.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Let's Revisit Boeuf Bourguignon

The wine cooking makes the house smell so good... 

I should make this dish more often than I do. For sure I usually make it in February and in the past if Valentine's Day was on a weekend, I invited friends over and made it a feast with mashed potatoes, a good loaf of bread, French salted butter, and of course - - a chocolate dessert. 

Choose a dry red wine you also enjoy drinking. 

Last week, I prepared it and ate a couple of meals with it, and stored the rest in the freezer. It freezes well. 

As I mentioned last year in New Year Resolutions, Part III: Cook Like Julia, I follow Julia's recipe when it comes to the ingredients, but with the procedure I have found several shortcuts. Let's put it this way, Julia had an assistant to scrub pots. I have eliminated the many pots and have it down to one pot - my favorite old LeCreuset Dutch oven. Here's some tips to make Julia's recipe easier. 

All ingredients finally combined. 

1.) I do not simmer the lardon (fatty bacon) in water - first. I skip the simmering in water and just fry the bacon as per the recipe. Keeping the fat in pan, set bacon aside on a plate. In fact, I just keep one large bowl to toss all of the finished ingredients in. This again is one of the "pot saver" suggestions. 
2.) Instead of tossing in the flour while the meat is cooking, I lightly coat each piece of stew meat in  flour before frying. It gives the meat a nice crust, while the excess flour still gives the stew the body it needs. I also season the meat before I flour it with the salt and pepper amount as per the recipe. 
3.) I do not cook the meat in the oven, but cook it on the stove top in the Dutch oven. When the meat is browned (not necessary for the meat to be done inside), I set it aside with the bacon. Then add the sliced carrots and onions to the same pot. Cook until just slightly tender - not soft. Also set the carrots and sliced onions aside in the same bowl with the bacon and meat. 
4.) In that same pot, add the butter and saute the mushrooms. Set mushrooms aside with the meat, bacon, and vegetables.
5.) One can peel a bunch of little onions, or used thawed frozen pearl onions. In the same pot, I saute them with a bit of butter, a sprinkling of salt and pepper until lightly caramelized. Yes, I even saute them when they are still a bit frozen. 
6.) Julia suggests to crumble the bay leaf. I don't. I leave it whole and remove it before serving. 
7.) Julia wants you to take the pot and clean it before combining all of the ingredients. Don't! Your pot is now seasoned. Just combine well all of the prepared ingredients, along with the remaining ingredients (Wine, tomato paste, stock, and herbs) and here you can do one of two things: complete the cooking by placing pot in oven and let it cook for a couple of hours in about a 225 degree oven; or let the pot and the ingredients cool down and refrigerate the day before serving, and finish cooking the day of serving in the slow oven. 

Ready for a long slow "stew" in the oven. 

Usually I serve the lovely aromatic stewed beef over mashed or boiled potatoes, buttered egg noodles, or even rice. However, I found a new side, thanks to my friend, blog enthusiast, decorator, and former high school classmate Diane Clements Wicks. Check out her lifestyle blog Tumbleweed Tidings. She takes the best photos... 

Diane divulged to me she serves her Beef Burgundy with cheesy grits! It was the perfect suggestion as I had just bought a bag of Bob's Red Mill White Grits, so I gave it a try - - it was so delicious, and a keeper that in the future I may forgo the potatoes and noodles.  

Let it be known, you can call this recipe either Beef Burgundy or in French, Boeuf Bourguignon. However, if you refer to it in the French version, then it's a must you say it in your best and highest Julia Child's voice. Bon appetit! 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Candle Care

First of all, you have to use your candles before you can care for them, so let's "shed some light" on the subject. 

Whether it is a gift or a purchase, the first impression of a new candle is exciting, especially for a candle enthusiast like myself. Then arrives the questions. Do I light or do I not light? When should I start enjoying my new candle? This is an important question especially since many new candles have such a vibrant presentation between the colors, fragrances, shapes, and even containers. 

Sometimes the packaging in itself is so attractive you don't want to rid of it, since it's the packaging that got you to buy the candle in the first place. However, we have to remember what Martha Stewart said about candles a few decades ago when it was cool to listen to Martha. "Always burn the wick of a new candle before staging it or placing it on the chosen holder as it makes the home more comfortable." 

What's the point of having a candle for show if you're not going to use it? It's like putting plastic covers on the couch; or those pretty little guest soaps and embroidered towels you put out for guests to use, but in your heart you prefer they wouldn't. It goes back to what I have always said, and especially the older I get, "If you don't use your pretty things now, some stranger is going to buy them at your estate sale and will use those things the way they were intended. Use your pretty things now!" 

Candles are more than just offering light during a power outage. They set the mood, enhance a special moment, and adds versatility in your decor. Candles are an affordable luxury that one can change out with the seasons. In the mean time, with all of their versatility from the useful to the aesthetics, do we think much about their maintenance? 

Tricky Wicks

Snip to a quarter of an inch before every burn to make sure the candle stays clean and presentable. No sooty residue. 

When the wick is first lit and if you see a little smoke - no worries. Just give it a bit of time for the wax to draw up. 

Allow  wax to melt and pool right to the edges of the candle, especially after the first time the candle is lit. Don't be too eager to blow it out, and with a bit of patience the uneven wax will be gone.  

Looking It's Best:

What's better than the glow of one candle? Two, three, or four candles! Experiment with different sizes and even different fragrances with coordinated scents such as spice (vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar, maple) or floral (lavender, rose, jasmine, gardenia) as an example. 

When it comes to fragrant candles be cautious about burning them at the dinner table, as  the candle fragrance can conflict with the food  and especially any wines that are served with the meal. 
Dirt or scuff marks can be removed by rubbing the candle with a clean piece of nylon stocking. Need to use those old outdated panty hose for something.  

If a candle is too big to fit into a holder, use a knife to whittle the bottom to size. If a candle is too loose to be held in place; use a wide rubber band, aluminum foil, or some tacky wax. 

To prevent melted wax from adhering to the rim of the candlestick, spray a bit of non-stick pan spray on the holder.

Let's end this with a pun. "What did the boy candle say to the girl candle? Do you want to go out tonight?" 

Friday, January 26, 2018

A Tea Party for Three Special Guests

You may not recognize the name, but you have certainly seen her illustrations. 

Susan Branch is an author, watercolorist, and designer.  Her colorful illustrations gained popularity in the mid-1980s. Susan's whimsical blog is filled with her colorful designs and decorating ideas. I felt the need to share...

The art is by Susan and the quote was written by author and poet Jessica Nelson North (1891-1988).  I am going to take Susan and Jessica up on this - after all these are three of my favorite guests.

Oh, there's three more guests, four-pawed guests by the names of Chloe, Rose, and Nash, who always crash my tea parties whenever their little noses smell sandwiches, cake, and pie.

I had a little tea party
this afternoon at three.
Twas very small,
three guests in all,
I, Myself, and Me!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Brown the Butter

Brown butter sounds like the old tongue twister, right? 

Betty Botter bought some butter,
"But," she said, "If I brown this butter,
It would make my batter better... 

Last year was the awaking of "brown butter," as I read many recipes from various publications, from Bon Appetit to the New York Times. There were brown butter ideas and recipes: use it to fry eggs, a splash in pancake batter, on top of oatmeal or other morning grains, pour over popcorn, use it toast grilled cheese sandwiches, stir it in mashed potatoes, roast vegetables, and prepare tarts and cookies instead of regular butter. 

My first encounter with brown butter was back in the 1980's at a chain spaghetti joint. I was looking for something a little lighter than a cream sauce or a rich marinara and there it was - - brown butter over spaghetti and topped with shredded Myzithra cheese; a very salty hard sheep cheese with origins from Greece.  It's also easy to prepare.

1 pkg. (1 pound) dry spaghetti or linguine
2 cubes REAL butter
1/2 to 3/4 lb. Myzithra cheese, grated

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water as per package or until al dente. Drain. While pasta is cooking, start slowly melting butter over medium heat until brown. The butter will foam up and rise, but just keep stirring until it turns brown. 
   Remove pan of butter from heat and allow the sediment (milk solids) to settle at the bottom of the pan for a few minutes. Do not stir up the sediments in the pan, keep the clear butter separated from the sediment at the bottom of the pan. Pour the browned butter into a separate bowl. 
   Toss the pasta with the finished butter, and top with grated Mizithra cheese to taste. For a little color, sprinkle fresh chopped parsley on top of pasta. Serve immediately.

If you're a butter browner, let me know some of your favorites. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Hygge: What is it?

It's a Danish concept that's been traveling about for a few years in American decor magazines. I know. Sometimes I am slow to catch up. Hey, I am still decorating in the Country Living/Victorian era. No, Mid-Century for me. I was raised with that stuff. 

Hygge, pronounced 'hue-gah' has no one word English translation other than perhaps "coziness" and a concept of peace, serenity, and enjoying simple pleasures.  January and February are the perfect months to start building your hygge space. 
Here are some easy ways to incorporate "hygge" into your life:

Surround yourself with friends and family
Enjoy the simple pleasures
Be present and thankful
Stay an extra hour in bed
Barbeque outside
Reuse and recycle
Take up a new hobby
Don’t stress
Appreciate your surroundings
Enjoy a good book

How to decorate "hygge?" It's mostly about attitude, but here are some ideas:

Create cozy areas with fluffy pillows and snugly blankets (especially important this time of the year). 

Treat yourself and your guests with special nibbles like nuts, fruit, bites of cheese, pretty imported cookies and crackers, and warm teas and cocoa. 

Decorate with candles. 

Light up areas in your house with twinkly lights. There are so many shapes and sizes available now to accent your home. 

Make a fire - or if you're like I am, "fake-a-fire" with the many pretty mantles on electric fire places - and they help keep the house warm. 

Create a spa-like bathroom with fluffy towels, candles, and pretty soaps.

Is my sanctuary hygge? Certainly some of it is as I have been decorating this way before I ever knew it was cool... I mean "hygge." My interpretation of hygge will always be a work in progress. 

Hygee Hugs! 

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