Thursday, June 27, 2013

Julia Child, Summer Strawberries and Too Much Asparagus

This is the time of year that I usually dig around in my vintage cookbooks looking for dinner time inspiration.

While rearranging a bookcase recently, I came across the copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child that my mother gave me years ago.  The book is the 15th printing dated 1967.
In the mid 1960s, my mother was one of the women who was glued to public television every time Julia Child's cooking program was on.  Viewed in black and white, Julia would create incredible food that really looked good and was light years away from the meat and potatoes, casseroles, Tang, space food sticks enamored generation of viewers.  It was on when I got home from grade school and my mother would be watching it-- she was not a daytime watcher normally--and most often taking notes.  Dad and I started to have omelets and vichyssoise and any number of Julia inspired meals.  When my mother purged her cookbooks a few years ago--this was one I nabbed.

There is a new book out about Julia--and I can really recommend it.  Dearie.  A very entertaining and easy read.  Well written biography.
Did you know that Julia's father was from Odell Illinois, right near Dwight in Livingstone county?  You can get copies of her shows on Netflix.  She really is fascinating to watch--and so real.

So--Jullia is heavy on butter and cream--and I am not cooking like that these days--but I am taking a page from the book that encourages in season produce--and fresh fresh fresh.   Hence--Dear Husbola is being treated to Illinois strawberries...
And very civilized dinners with lots of fresh asparagus.  Well--maybe a little too much asparagus.

Recipe tip-- drizzle olive oil lightly on fresh asparagus.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes and cool.  Serve with fresh tomatoes and a slightly undercooked hardboiled egg. I take the easy route and drizzle with Marie's Lemon Herb Vinaigrette which tastes as close to a provincial french dressing that you can get this side of the Atlantic. (found in refrigerated case at grocery)

Thank you Julia (and Marie!)

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Get There When the Picker Leaves

This just never happens.

At a recent roam around kind of day, I recently made a stop at a country shop near my house.  I did not make it my first stop of the day.  Nice weather and no rain called me out of hibernation.  Early summer usually finds me stopping for fresh asparagas, a few filler perennials, a couple of chunks of meat from my favorite meat market--and on this particular day-at a farm that advertised fresh eggs.

Fresh eggs 3 bucks a dozen. 

Then I made my  antiques stop.  There was a woman in a van surrounded by her wares on the parking area and one other car.  I pulled in, thinking she had just made mega purchases from the shop.  I tried to avert my eyes because I did not want to see all the goodies I had missed by not making it an earlier stop.

DARN IT.  Mustard grain painted bucket stool, fabulous windmill blade segment from a ginormous water pump, gorgeous tole tray, wood and iron shelf in original blue surface, etc etc.  DARN IT.

I wandered into the shop and wondered where the shopkeeper was--and then I noticed she was outside with the woman in the van.  Could this be???  Could this be that the Woman in the Van was a picker and my shopkeeper was buying--HENCE all the aforementioned items would be available for purchase?  TO ME???

Thirty minutes later--at the shopkeeper's invitation I am pouring over a mountain of Fresh To Her items.  She is shooting me prices that were incredibly reasonable and must have been a slight fraction over what she paid.  Fresh To Me Picker Goods.

Fresh asparagas-fresh eggs-fresh inventory--A Good Day Indeed!!

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Trolley Service of Drinks and Light Refreshment is Available on This Train...

Antiquing in England was a wonderful business pastime for us for many years.

This April was no exception.  Dear Husbola and I love it.  Something about how the Brits do things and say things makes even the most mundane task seem much more civilized.
 Train travel.  Easy to read digital boards.  I do miss those old flip chart like boards--but these are so user friendly.
 Flower shops have a wonderful casual hap hazard look.  Gray skies make flower colors more intense I think.
Book shops are more romantic.  Titles that just say "come in and buy me NOW."
 Pub lunch.  This is steak and ale pie with fresh veg and mashed swede.  Total rib sticking yummers.
 They even have wacky "who knows what this is" kind of flowers.  This at the Chelsea Physic Garden.
 No way you could mistake this as  the flower bin at Jewel grocery store...
Corner of the bar at the Sloane Club in London where we stayed.  A little tipple here tastes better than anyplace else.

I could be an old lady in London some day....

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

So What Are You Reading This Summer??

I owe my parents a great deal of credit for my adulthood love of books and reading.

I do remember early on -- age four --and our weekly visits to the public library.  In addition, not a night went by without a chapter or two being read to me at bedtime.  Never fail.  Winnie the Pooh and the Narnia Chronicles were particular favorites.

I am sticking with my resolve to read more--spend less time on the internet--and really READ MORE.  Persephone Books out of London is helping me do that. www.persephonebooks.co.uk
In an earlier spring post, I told you I was going to visit this bookshop while in London.  And I did.  What a treasure.

 This shop was a 10 minutes walk from the Tube--on a quiet street.  It was a beautiful day and door was invitingly open.
 Just look at this place! They only sell the books they publish--which numbers a couple above 100 now.  I was invited to browse and take my time.
 I was prepared with my list--and selected four books and opted to having them sent home.  I knew that our suitcases were all dangerously close to that 50 pound weight limit--(remember the trips to the antique venues???)


My visit coincided with my two week vacation away from the internet.  TOTALLY AWAY FROM THE INTERNET.  I did not check emails, do research, or venture down the rabbit holes that I find myself doing on the internet when I am at home.  I define rabbit holes as one website leads to another leads to another leads to another--and by then I am starting dinner too late or I don't get that 30 minutes to dig into a book. (or vacuum the dust bunnies but that is a never-you-mind...)

I was letting the internet get-ahold of me--and did not know how to set limits.  That little "can't say no" thread runs through me with the internet. Balance in all things.  So much easier said than done.  I am working at the log in my eye---not pointing out the speck in yours.

My visit to Persephone books revitalized me.  I have purchased a few of their books on Amazon too--so now I have a healthy little stack to carry me through the summer.

Of course the internet is a valuable tool.  I could not coordinate volunteers for www.thirdtuesdaysuppers.com without it.   But it has held me in its golden handcuffs.

So--for this summer at least-- any rabbit holes I follow will be with Alice and Lewis Carroll between the covers of a good book.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Love Affair With Chateau Trebesice

There is just something about this place.
This Aged Beauty is the home owned by Eugenio and Alberto, two life partners in Caslav Czech Republic and we have had the privilege to visit there twice.
These men promote FUTURA , a not for profit that promotes the production and presentation of contemporary art.  It helps provide artists with the space  to present and carry out their work.  FUTURA operates a contemporary art center in Prague, organizes international exhibitions and  year long exchange residencies for young artists in Prague and New York and summer workshops at Chateau Trebesice.

Our Wonderful Harriet makes sure that her tours visit Trebesice and have a special walk around and gourmet lunch prepared by Alberto.
We started with a drink and a small talk in the welcoming hall.  The Chateau was a real wreck when they purchased it.
The grounds and outbuildings are extensive.  And are not manicured.  And could still use plenty of work.  But it is a well loved property that encourages artists to be creative--and each artist must leave a piece of their work on the grounds or in one of the rooms when they leave.
Lunch was lovely.  Starter salad with mixed spring greens, and sprinkled with violets. There was this puff pastry with ham and cheese melt-in-your-mouth-thingie that was incredible.  The main was a braised short ribs and dessert was a variation on the theme of tiramisu.  Wine --lots of wine.


One could spend the day exploring the grounds and looking at the art nestled in the wild and out buildings.


This is the giant neon heart that was perched atop the Prague Castle when President Havel left office.  He always signed his name with a heart--so this was a glowing tribute to him.  And Eugenio and Alberto acquired it.

What a day.




Tuesday, June 4, 2013

When Did You Last Write A Letter With Pen and Paper?

My handwriting is atrocious.  I will blame it on Mrs. F., my fifth grade teacher who kept plucking the pencil out of my left hand and shoving it in my right hand.  If truth be told--regardless of what hand I write with--it is bad.  It is sort of a cross between chicken scratchings and a doctor on a prescription pad. 

At a recent auction I purchased a book "The New Standard Business and Social Letter Writer Illustrated" from 1911 by Alfred Chambers. A great vintage book from the heyday of quality letter writing.  This 275 page book gives examples of any kind of possible letter you might want to send.  And certainly some topics that have really never occurred to me.

The book is full of standard, lovely worded sample letters for thanks yous and for sympathy.  But then a few more curiously interesting. 
Did you know there are letters for:
+Asking for a vacation
+From ranch owners shipping cattle
+To a dressmaker for extravagant charges
+To an artist about a portrait
+Concerning a furnished country house
+A little girl to her absent mother
+Recommending a governess
+Marriage proposal from butler to a cook (How very Downton Abbey!)
+Proposal to a wealthy widow
+Gentleman to his fiancee complaining of her coldness  (take a hint Bub!)
+A gentleman sending a song to a young lady
+A little girl asking a friend to tea

The list goes on.  It is a remarkable read.  You can get your own copy by visiting www.abebooks.com and searching for it.

Twitter and facebook take note.  Dashing out typed notes where words are characters takes no skill or thought--they are just  words.  This book is from the age  when folks took care in corresponding.  Lecture over--you'll love the book.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Decluttering Project -- So How are You Doing???

To keep me honest and on track,  I vowed in a post earlier this year, to periodically give you updates on my de-cluttering work and maybe an encouraging "nudge" to you on your similar work.  To recap--my vow was to take five things in our home each day and throw out, donate or prepare for resale in our antique venues.

I am on track, oh yes I am.  Now I admit--that each day I might not come up with the five--but I do have many days where I come up with more than five.  This has been good for me--and it feels so terrific.

What am I finding?  My spice cupboard is weeded out.  The silverware drawer has been cleaned out--and extra given away.  Kitchen gadgets--ditto.  How many slotted spoons does one really need?
Cloth napkins That Have Seen Too Many Washes?  We never entertain more than eight people anymore.  Extras?  Gone.  A bin of old cards from people I don't even remember who they are?  Recycled.  Extras extras-- pencil cups, tupperware and toilet brushes.  REALLY--does each bathroom need a brush--like I could clean two bathrooms simultaneously!  Widgets, knicknacks and general dreck--working through it.  Do I really need that magazine subscription?  Five spray bottles of household cleaner?   Do I need every little widget my grandma gave me?  Why not pick three favorites and move the rest on?

I have read plenty about various plans of setting up boxes to sort in and other tips on making this a bigger deal than it is.  It really is simple.  Do you think you live in clutter?  Do you like the way you live and your house looks?  If so--great.  If not, just start with one small piece of your life--and start the project.  Don't overwhelm yourself with big areas or the large picture.  Just one small area--then move on to another small area.  It works.

OK-don't look in our laundry room--that seems to be the catch all place right now.  But the dreck is not in the living room or piled on the dining table or kitchen counters.  It is working here.  It is the new life plan.

Here's encouragement for starting your project or keeping up with it!!

Sad Farewell Beautiful Lady of Paris

Adieu Belle Dame.... View from the beautiful blooming park behind the cathedral.