Monday, December 24, 2012

Even Atheists Need Love...

Whether someone wishes you Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings, what they are doing is telling you they wish you happiness and peace – that is, of course, the meaning behind all of the holidays during this wonderful time of year. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or none of the above, the reason for the season is still the same. So, to all the poor souls who choose to be angry about being told Merry Christmas I say: no matter what the words, the sentiments are filled with love. Open your cranky little Grinch heart and let it in.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Falling Off The Face Of The Earth

Handcrafted Pincushions
I recently read that you aren’t supposed to apologize for a lack of posts, but I feel the need to do so anyway – I’m so very grateful for my readers and I hoped when I started my little blog to post something mildly interesting at least weekly. All the lovely ladies whose blogs I read post almost daily and make it seem so easy.  Props to all of you who entertain, educate and/or just make me feel like I have a room full of friends!  

Today I’m sharing my excuses – only the best ones of course. First, I did my public debut of French Hollow at a lovely charity shopping bazaar. It was held at a Church in Lake St. Louis near my house and was to benefit Oasis Food Bank. It was their first and was not as well attended as they had hoped but I met some wonderful ladies and got lots of compliments on my new booth and holiday items. I also found out that the Square works REALLY well for accepting credit cards. I highly recommend it.


I’ve also been working on some requests for custom items like these pincushions for a beautiful lady I know who is giving them as stocking stuffers. She was sweet enough to trust me with a cup and saucer that was a family heirloom. It’s the gray one pictured. I attempted to duplicate  the saucer pattern for the cushion. I hope she likes it!

 Thanks so much for stopping by and for your support – even when I don’t deserve it!



Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Let the Gratitude Begin!

Fall Colors at French Hollow
Autumn at French Hollow - need I say more?  Well, yes, I think I do!  I would like to say that I am grateful for all of my followers, both the newest ones and those who have given me encouragement from the beginning. I think we sometimes skip right over Thanksgiving rushing to Christmas from Halloween - just thought I'd start being thankful early so I would have enough time to show gratitude for all of the wonderful people, things and events in my life! Thanks - and blessings to you all.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Souper Sunday Recipe

Remember this cute baby squash?  It came from the one butternut plant that survived both the birds and the baby rabbits. I got about 6 squashes from my plant. I split a couple of them in half, scooped out the seeds, drizzled them with olive oil, sprinkled them with kosher salt and roasted them in the oven – yummy. The rest of them made a beautiful butternut bisque. I used fresh herbs from my garden, but dried herbs can be used as well.
This recipe makes six servings.
 2 T good olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
1 stalk finely chopped celery
½ t fresh thyme or ¼ t dried
½ t fresh rosemary or ¼ t dried
1 fresh sage leaf, finely chopped
1 t salt
¼ t ground black pepper
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 cup heavy cream (leave out the cream for a vegan version)
In a large saucepan over medium, sauté the onion, carrot and celery in the olive oil for 5-7 minutes, until the onion is soft and translucent.
Add the herbs and sauté for an additional 2 minutes.
Add the butternut squash, stock, salt and pepper and bring the soup to a simmer. Cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, until the squash is tender. Puree the soup in a countertop blender or with an immersion blender until it is completely smooth. Stir in the heavy cream and heat through.
If you wish to increase the recipe and freeze some for future use DO NOT add the cream before freezing. Thaw completely, then add the cream and simmer just until heated.
Silly me, I forgot to photograph the finished bisque before we enjoyed it for dinner, but it looked just like this:
Photo by Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Cindy Barr
and tasted fabulous!  Enjoy! And thank you for stopping by.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Restoration - a matter of preference or preservation?

Silver Coffee Service
 I’ve seen lots of silver and silver plate at antique shops and flea markets lately that is darkly tarnished and unpolished. I enjoy the shabby chic look, and there is certainly beauty in allowing a vintage piece to be highlighted by leaving darkened areas within the pattern.

Lots of us are “aging” furniture and decorative items or collecting chippy, rusty home décor pieces; however, blackened silver is simply not attractive in my opinion. Not to mention that tarnish can eventually ruin the silver altogether. When allowed to tarnish to black, it takes a good quality polish and lots of elbow grease to turn this:
Into this:

Polished Silver Coffee Service
The best way to avoid tarnish is to use your silver regularly and wash it with mild dish detergent. Make sure to dry it completely with a soft dish towel. If you save your silver for special occasions, store it in one of the many commercial bags or boxes made to prevent tarnishing. You really don’t want to have to polish often – both because it is a LOT of work and because each time you polish you actually rub off a little of the silver. I highly recommend enjoying those lovely pieces. Have coffee with friends!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Annie Sloan and the Musee du Louvre

I have has this architectural shelf/bookend for ages. In its current state it’s just a bit

After Annie Sloan Paris Gray
I've been dying to use my sample of Annie Sloan Paris Gray and I thought this would be the perfect first project. Very nice, one-coat coverage. Loved how smoothly it went on.

Musee du Louvre Architectural Detail

Never one to leave well enough alone, I found an inspirational photo of the Musee du Louve and decided that though Paris Gray was excellent start, I was not yet finished.
My first addition was a very thin wash of thinned black artist acrylic.
With the help of my friend the Brawny
dude – yummy in a cheesy sort of way, isn’t he….?
...I removed the black from all but the deepest crevices.
Finally, to get the slightly warmer glow of the stone in my inspiration piece,

Musee du Louve - my inspiration

 I highlighted with a thin layer of toffee acrylic using one of my favorite tools - my fingertip.

Voila! Thank you Annie for the lovely color - and thank you Louve for the inspiration.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Brunch At Home - Scrambled Eggs and Tomatoes

Not Pretty Food - Just Yummy Food
Home grown fresh picked tomatoes are unbeatable in flavor. Though I did can some of them for winter, I try to use as many as I can fresh from the garden. Sometimes, I even START my day with a tomato filled meal. The ingredients in this recipe are simple and healthy and it is very easy to increase the number of portions:

Scrambled Eggs and Tomatoes (Per Person)

2 eggs (I wish I had hens)
1 medium tomato
Olive oil (about 1/4 tsp)
Fresh or dried herbs ( a pinch each of basil, parsley and marjoram is my favorite)
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute Tomatoes
The trick to making certain your eggs don't come out all runny or too dry is to cook them separately from the tomato initially. Today I had a few pear and cherry tomatoes, so I included them with Roma tomatoes and sauteed them with a few drops of olive oil in a well seasoned cast iron pan until they look like a chunky sauce.

Scramble Eggs Separately
While the tomatoes cook, whisk the eggs in bowl - do not add milk or water. Add your herbs of choice and the salt and pepper.

Remove the tomatoes from the pan, add a touch more oil if necessary and scramble the eggs until nearly done, but still a little runny. Return the tomatoes to the pan, scramble until well mixed and serve! Easy peasy and oh so good...

... though I will admit it isn't the prettiest dish I've ever prepared.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I Hope Mother Nature Read The Books...

Heirloom Tomato
With much gratitude to the Rock Star for his daily watering, much of my garden is surviving the drought. I made it past the hail, and the rabbits and birds have left me some tasty delights. I have several varieties of tomatoes, including red cherry, heirloom Cherokee Purple, Early Girl and Roma. I’m hoping this will cover, salads, canning and sauces, sandwiches and eating right off the vine.
Dill Head - Seeds Anyone?
My herbs are doing beautifully. Apparently, neither the birds nor the baby rabbits like them.  I have dill, basil – lots of basil, although some of it has bolted – oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (don’t go there… it will give you an earworm).

Butternut Squash
I’ve adopted a combination of square foot gardening and the easy bag plan I found in Barbara Pleasant’s book. The bags in the center were planted with green beans and peas that were supposed to grow up the fencing and then I would add garden netting and teepees. Unfortunately, the birds were able to munch them faster than I could plant new seeds and what is left in the center now is summer squash, butternut squash and watermelon.  I only put a few seeds in each bag and skipped bags in between each crop so they will have room to spread.

Cucumber Blossom
Oh, and there is some grass and weeds in a space where I needed to put down weed barrier and mulch.  That's why you're not getting a full garden view photo just yet...I am totally flying by the seat of my pants. It all seems to make sense. I sure hope Mother Nature read the books…

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Fresh From The Garden Recipe

Fresh Herbs From the Garden
The garden is starting to pay off! I have a lovely recipe for the basil, parsley and oregano that the rabbits have deemed icky (they don't seem to like herbs - lucky for me). 
Chicken With Zucchini

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cutlets or strips
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup fine breadcrumbs or whole wheat flour
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus more for serving
1 T fresh minced oregano
Olive oil
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin
4 large tomatoes, chopped
1 sprig fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
4 zucchini cut lengthwise into paper  thin strips
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

Salt and pepper

On a plate, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan and oregano. Place the egg in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. Dip the chicken into the egg and then into the bread crumb mixture to coat completely. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned on one side, flip, and cook until chicken is firm and lightly browned on the other side. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Meanwhile, in another large skillet or sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft, approximately 1 minute. Do NOT brown. Add the tomatoes, parsley and basil. Bring to a simmer, cover and simmer gently 15 to 20 minutes. Add the zucchini and, if needed, a small amount of water so the vegetables simmer and do not stick. Cook until zucchini is just softened and heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, quickly stir the ricotta into the vegetable mixture, place ¼ of mixture on each of 4 plates, top with chicken and sprinkle with parmesan.

I served this with fresh from my garden lovely cherry tomatoes in a balsamic dressing made by Rock Star - YUM! And soon I will have my own zucchini too!!

It would be terrific if you would share your zucchini recipes - I have a feeling I'll have quite a few....

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Renovation Angels Smiled Upon Me

Vanity Tray Before

I found this lovely early 1900s Victorian vanity tray at the Wentzville flea market. It is small, about 6 inches, and very sweet, but extremely dingy, and it came with one piece of clear glass. I washed and polished it and added just a tiny bit of gilt - not too much, I just wanted to restore a little of the original glamour. I don't feel too gilt-y about that...

Cleaned Vanity Tray Before
After researching similar pieces I discovered they originally came with beautiful handcrafted lace between two pieces of glass. Some I found had been replaced with mirror, but I really loved the lace. I spent long hours looking for just the right piece of lace online, but with no luck. I put my little tray in storage until I could decide whether to add a mirror. 
Vintage Vanity Tray with Mirror

And then the Angels smiled upon me... One of my many walks into town (uphill both ways) while in Grafton, Illinois lead me to the Grafton flea market where I found a fabulous piece of vintage Tenerife lace exactly the right size for my vanity tray. Since both pieces were of early 1900s vintage, I figured it was the perfect marriage.

Tenerife Lace with Cutwork Lace Center

Cutwork Lace Center
Years ago I took a stained glass class. I looked in the memory banks for how to cut a circle from glass (not easy as glass tends to break in straight lines). After one major boo boo and many shards later, I managed a second circle to sandwich the lace between.

Cut Glass Boo Boo

I’m very pleased with my refurbished vanity tray. Even though the lace is not exactly what one would have found in such a tray, it is a beautifully hand crafted and delicate vintage piece. I think this tray is a fabulous way to display it. What do you think?

Vanity Tray Refurbish With Tenerife and Cutwork Lace
I do think refinishing to exact original is wonderful, but when it is not possible to do so, I think its better to create a beautiful useful piece than to let orphaned items languish in boxes, don't you agree?

Sharing with Potpourri Friday

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Uphill In Both Directions

Rock Star and I spent three days in Grafton, Illinois for a business-mixed-with-pleasure trip. We stayed at the beautiful Aeries Winery high on the river bluffs of the Mississippi. The photos taken for their website at must have been taken in winter. Our view from the balcony was this beautiful pool and breathtaking scenery looking over the trees at the river.

I took a walk early in the morning and found the woods surrounding our condo to be a soothing respite from the already hot temperatures of the Midwest summer.

A two lane path beckoned and birds chirped a cheery morning tune. I couldn’t seem to manage to get a photo of anything more mobile than a tree, so I’m sharing the path, the trees and plants along the way.
The Path
Nature's Textures
How can anything so lovely be called a weed?
I found a big patch of wild berries which the birds were kind enough to share. Yum!
Berry Patch
Sweet Red Berries
Next time I’m going to zipline through the woods and I promise I’ll take more photos. The entire three days I kept thinking “I should share this with my blogger friends” but most often I forgot to take my camera or, sillier yet, I never took it out of my bag. Not quite a professional yet, am I?

Well, if you live nearby do take a look at Aeries’ website and you will see why I highly recommend a stay there when you need to get away from it all for a mini vacation only minutes from St. Louis. It is lovely and the staff could not be nicer. Be prepared to walk uphill – a lot…

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What the Hail ?

Two Inch Deep Hail
I would like to know just what I did to tick off Mother Nature. My mailbox garden has been chewed to the ground by something, I don’t know what. And now this. A vicious and lengthy hail storm hit my neighborhood while I was at work twenty-six miles away. My shade garden is a shambles and most of my green tomatoes were knocked off the plants and strewn about the ground. I think I need a hug…

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pinwheels and Rattlesnakes

Rubber Rattler
Now I'm the strange lady with pinwheels in her garden. I always used to wonder who on earth would want to "decorate" their veggie garden with pinwheels and now it's me. I managed to keep out all but the tiniest of the Rascally Rabbits (yes, they are still squeezing in - but they don't eat as much as mom rabbit does). Now I'm having trouble with robins and turtle doves. They wander in (can birds wander?) and with one dainty nibble, SNAP! there goes a seedling.

Pinwheels in the Garden
Do you have this much trouble getting along with nature? Hopefully, the twirling sparklers and scarry snakes will help - I'll let you know.

Monday, May 28, 2012