Sunday, January 31, 2010

I never saw it before in my life!

Potato book The other day I was passing by my bookshelves in the living room.  This is where I keep most of my non-fiction:  cookbooks, decorating book, etc.  (And boy, are there a lot of books there.)  Something didn't look quite right so I bent down to a lower shelf and found a fat squat book:  SuperCookery:  Potatoes and Vegetables.

I have a LOT of vegetarian cookbooks.  Not that I'm a vegetarian, but I just happen to LOVE vegetables. (A lot more than my husband. In fact, I could probably BECOME a vegetarian and not miss meat (well, except for pork).)

When I say I found this little book, I mean it:  I found it.  I'd never seen it before, or at least I don't remember ever seeing it.  I took it into my husband's office and asked him, "Did you buy this book?"  He said, "Never saw it before in my life."

Fairy-with-wand Hmm.  Do you think the book fairy dropped it off one night while we were sleeping in heavenly peace?

I opened the book and there was a yellow Post-It note inside that said:

I knew you were looking for a book about cooking with vegetables.  I thought this one was pretty nice.

(Check is inside the book.)

At least I THINK it was signed Allar.  While the note was printed, the signature was not and it was pretty incoherent.  More important, I flipped through the pages to find the check.  Darn.  Mom must have taken it out and cashed it!  And since there was a post-it note inside the book, there's a good chance I bought the book at a garage sale.  But if so, why don't I remember it? I usually devour cookbooks (not literally, thank goodness), and this one is just the kind of thing I enjoy.
And I did enjoy reading through it, and marked a number of recipes I'd like to try.

Have you ever forgetten you've bought a book?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Can One Learn To Love Wine?

Poured wine There's so much romance connected to wine.  It's been celebrated in story and song for thousands of years.  And I just don't like it all that much.

My sister-in-law hit it on the head with her description of most wines:  "Tastes like shoe polish remover."

The problem is, I don't have an educated palate--and neither does my husband.  (Who, by the way, taught me to like whiskey and gin.  I like them both waaaaaay too much, too.)  My parents did occasionally drink wine when I was a kid.  Pink Catawba.  Not exactly high brow, eh?  But they liked it and offered us kids a sip now and then.  (Maybe that's why I don't like wine.) 

When we were courting, then-date (now husband) and I went to several wine tastings thanks to free tickets from our workplace.  Our reaction to most of the wines?  Tasted like shoe polish remover.

Taylor Wine Company used to have marvelous wine tastings, where they even served hot hors d'ouevers.  That's where I learned about cream sherry.  (Don't drink it very often anymore.  Drank too much of it once and then combined with pizza ... well, we won't go there.)

Red wine?  I have tried it on many occasions, but I remember the first time.  I'd been feverishly working on a novella the entire day and kind of forgot to have breakfast and lunch.  Had three HUGE glasses of wine with dinner and ... see paragraph above.  (God, nothing worse than a red wine hangover.)
That's not to say I dislike all wine, but I admit it, I like the sweeter ones, like asti spumante.  Champagne?  Never did much for me.  Too dry.  My current favorite wine is canei, which I first had at my aunt and uncle's home.  They always have wine for guests when they entertain, and it's not often I turn down a glass of canei.  (In fact, I think I've done most of my wine drinking at their house.  See paragraph above for red wine hangover.) 

Despite his uneducated palate, hubby is a faithful follower of the wine column in our local paper (mostly because it's written by the daughter of an ex-work buddy.)  In November, hubby read all about beaujolais nouveau and how marvelous it's supposed to be, and how it cannot be sold until a certain day in November.  Hyped up over the marvelous description, he bought a bottle and took it to my aunt and uncle's for Thanksgiving.  We cracked it and sipped.

It tasted like shoe polish remover.

We'd both like to learn more about wine.  Got any ideas on how to do it?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happy National Pie Day!

Pi PIE Did you know today is National Pie Day?  Even more shocking, did you know there's a National Pie Council?

I didn't either, until I read about it in yesterday's USA Today.  Seems like it's a big deal, too, with pie championships, recipes, happenings, festivals, and even pie seminars.

Who knew there was a wonderful world of pie-dom out there?

Lemonmeranaguepie The truth is ... I'm not a big pie eater.  One thing I learned from one of the many diets I've been on -- if you don't like something, don't eat it.  Therefore, it's quite easy for me to turn down pie.  Most pies.  Every once in a while I like a slice of lemon meringue pie.  At Thanksgiving, I'll eat a slice of mince pie.  Once in a blue moon, I'll have a slice of apple, and once in a blue moon pecan pie, but that's as far as I go for dessert pies.  I'm a cake girl.

Meatandpotato pie Still, I wouldn't say no to a meat pie.  (And no one on earth makes a better meat pie than my Aunt Sunny.)  I love the meat pies you get in British pubs.  (Yum-yum.) Although I've never been able to work up the courage to eat a steak and kidney pie.  (Kidneys process urine.  Enough said.)  I've got several pot pie cookbooks.  Maybe I'll make a pot pie for supper to celebrate the day.

Do you like pie, and if so, what's your favorite slice?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Flaky furniture

Shabbywhitemainix5 I guess Rachel Ashwell gets the credit (or blame) for the shabby chic decorating.  Mind you, I like most  shabby chic decor.  Old picture frames, mirrors, vases of flowers, chandeliers, lots of white and pastels.  It can be very pretty.  And I really like the idea of rescuing old furniture, dishes, and pictures.  I've tried to incorporate it into my own home.
I'm just not so keen on flaky furniture.

For one thing, who knows how old the paint is on this furniture.  Until the late 1960s, most paint was lead based.  That's not good.  Lead is a deadly poison, and at it's best, if you inhale or eat the stuff (I'm not saying grown-ups would, but children are attracted to lead paint because it has a sweet flavor), it can damage you.

Flaky painted furniture That's only one reason I don't like flaky furniture.  The other?  It's kinda ugly.  I can't see why someone would want to incorporate something that looks like that dry sink on the right into their home.  Mind you, in all the books and magazine articles I've read on shabby chic decorating, I've only seen one that warned about the dangers of lead paint, and suggested anyone incorporating such a piece of furniture into their home should seal the piece with polyurethane.  Of course, the purists scream that ruins the patina.  Well, better that than brain damage -- but that's just my opinion.

Mind you, I do have a piece of flaky furniture in my house.  It's my second computer desk.  I bought the table my iMac sits on about ten years ago at a yard sale.  (Quite a coup at $8.)  I didn't buy it because it was shabby chic.  I bought it because I needed another computer table.  And I had every intension of repainting it.  The problem.

Flaky desk2 I'm lazy.

The thing really needs to be stripped, but that's a lot of work.  That said, I was worried about that lead paint, so I at least took lengths of sealing tape and pressed it on the entire surface, lifting off any loose paint.  I may yet strip it and take it back to a natural look--or paint it.  But I'm not in any hurry.  I have a lot of other stuff ahead of it on my to-be-done list.  And I'd kind of hate to lose the floral decal on the front of the table.

What do you think about flaky painted furniture and shabby chic decorating?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Is a farm sink with a sculptured apron too much to ask?

This_Old_House_logo It's winter, and thre's not a lot to do but sit around and read (when I'm not writing). And I've got a LOT of decorating books--and tons more decorating magazines. Add to that, I watch Hometime and This Old House on PBS. Lately, I've been watching a lot of episodes of Divine Design, Spice Up Your KitchenHGTV , and Income Property on HGTV.

(No, I still don't get HGTV with my cable package--but my mother does!)

Mum and I sit there and criticize--or praise--these home makeovers. And unlike ABC's Extreme Makeover Home Edition, these other makeovers take a lot longer than seven days to complete (and probably have a much longer life expectancy that the buildings that are whipped into existance in so short a time).

So what's my point?

All these makeovers (especially in a kitchen) are making me unhappy with my outdated kitchen. (And I want to totally revamp our summer cottage's bathroom, too.) There's just one problem.

Yellow dollar sign

Farm sinkUnfortunately, I am not very handy, and neither is my husband. (Those skills died with our fathers.) So why torture myself with those TV shows and magazines and their ceramic farm sinks with sculptured aprons, soaker tubs, and $50,000 makeovers?

I must be a masochist. (How about you?)

Ivy signature

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Books as Decor

I have a lot of books. I'm talking a REAL LOT of books. Many, many, many books. Fiction and non-fiction. Mysteries, cookbooks, how-to books, travel books, women's fiction, and even a few romances. I love books. I have books in just about every room in my house. (Okay, not the bathrooms. We're just not bathroom readers.) When we moved in 14 years ago, our movers cursed all our book boxes (and us), and we've accumulated at least triple what we had since then.

I love my books. A lot of them I read over and over again. It's like visiting old friends. My books may end as part of my decor, but they were bought to read, not to decorate.

French_country So, there I was, perusing a much-loved book on how to achieve French Country style on t

he cheap when I came across the following offensive sentence (and not for the first time, either): "A lot of my books are collected from thrift stores because they have character. Their covers are usually worn and slightly tattered. The literary content may not be of particular interest to me, but because they have been read and loved by someone, they somehow look and feel like a treasured heirloom."

The books in question: Readers Digest Condensed Books sans dust jackets.

I confess, I'm a book snob. If there's one thing I abhor, it's Readers Digest Condensed Books. Yet, in desperation, I've actually read a few of them. Reading the condensed version of a book made me seek out and buy the real (unabridged) version of a book.

Eat_cakeOkay, I can only think of two offhand; Ammie Come Home by Barbara Michaels (first read in ancient times when I was in high school), and Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray, only a few years ago. Ammie Come Home has not stood the test of time (well, it was published in 1968 and I have a first edition!), but Eat Cake remains one of my top 10 books. (Which I bought at full price (trade paperback) at an independent bookstore in New Hampshire while on vacation. I have since gone on to acquire the book on tape, I love it so much.) That could be because I love cake, but also as it's a story about the loss of a job, changing gears in midlife, and caring for eldrly parents. For those reasons, it resonates with me.

I came by my love of books as a direct result of my Mum, an avid reader. Although my Dad read quite a bit, he didn't understand the appeal of reading a book more than once. I'm so glad I inherited that trait from my mother. It's wonderful to visit old friends again and again. When I'm sad, I'll pick up a book that makes me laugh. When people disappoint me, I'll read a book where the characters are willing to give their lives for their friends.

As I have a home in transition (my summer cottage, which is slowly transforming from my parents place to mine/ours), I'm re-reading a lot of my decorating books as I try to meld the old with the new and keep a balance.

The cottage bookshelves held a lot of my Mum's books. I'm slowly replacing hers with mine (although I'm keeping all the Dick Francis books, so don't try to pry them out of my hands, Mum). I've already got an entire box of books ready to go, books my husband and I have been accumulating over the winter that we're looking forward to reading next the summer. Goodness gracious--the luxury of sitting and reading for hours and hours on end...makes one wish summer would never end.

Our books will be lining the shelves, but they won't be decor. They'll be ready for us to dip into year after year.

What kind of books do YOU like to read?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Yard sale, anyone?

George Harrison was right: "It's been a long, cold, LONELY winter, and, I don't know about you, but I am SOOOOOOOOO longing for Spring and getting back to yard sales.

It's not that I need anything, and goodness knows I should get rid of some stuff around here, but it's just so much fun going on that weekly treasure hunt. There are real things I need -- although I can't exactly think of one right now and where else can you find something wonderful for a quarter that can decorate that one spot that's been hard to find. (Something like those little pictures to the right--yup, paid a quarter each.)

I like to think of yard sale purchases as the ultimate recycling. Something someone else doesn't want--I love, I use (or just look at fondly). It doesn't end up in a landfill somewhere. It's good for the planet! (Don't you just love the way I can justify stuff.)

What will you be looking for when yard sale season starts again?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Is it spring yet?

I don't know about you, but I'm totally SICK OF WINTER--and it's only January 9th. Officially, we've had winter for almost three weeks. Those weeks of cold, snowy weather that happened before the Solstice were apparently faux winter.

The forecast has been bleak: snow, snow, and more snow. But there are benefits to winter, and believe me, I had to look high and low to find them.

Natural gas flame First off, I'm staying home more and saving lots of money on gasoline for the car. Of course, the furnace seems to be on 24/7, so we're making up for it by using a tremendous amount of natural gas to keep this place almost warm, so we'll probably be in the red for that.

Porch freezer1 I have a new giant freezer. It's called my porch. We ran out of space to put the Christmas goodies about mid-December. Not a problem. We just put them on the porch. The temp hasn't risen above 30 out there in at least three weeks, so the cookies are still frozen, as is the big bag of ice. All the craft beers hubby received for Christmas are nice and frosty, and I froze a big vat of turkey soup, which I first cooled outside, and then put in individual containers to freeze, so I wouldn't have to take up a third of my fridge/freezer to store it.

No skiing Oh dear. That's only two good things. I'm not into winter sports, like skiing, sledding, tobogganing, skating, or snowmobiling, and even if I'm not cold, seeing all that snow outside makes me feel like I should be either hibernating, or eating or drinking something fattening to make sure I survive this long, cold, lonely winter.

There must be other good things about winter. Can you think of any?

Friday, January 8, 2010

It's Icicle Season

January If I didn't have any calanders in the house, I would still know that January has arrived. Why? Because the icicles have returned to my house.

The bright-boy architect (it had to be a man, because this house was built in 1967) decided to put the front door smack-dab under a roof valley. That means the gutter builds up a massive ice dam, and we get loads of icicles.

Icicles_2a While they're really quite pretty to look at (especially if you look at them through the glow of your Christmas lights, but honestly, can I keep turning them on through March?), they make entering the house a real safety hazard--not just from melting onto the step, but possibly falling on your head. (Since that picture was taken, they've grown to massive proportions--and in only a day or so.) I whack them off--they grow back.

What hazards are you avoiding at your house?