Sunday, January 25, 2015

Tagine Dreams

I had been looking for a tagine for some time.  I had never used one, but had heard it was a wonderful cooking vessel.  I found a store on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo what sells them along with olive oils and other Moroccan treasures.

Not only are they wonderful "steamers," they are quite lovely.  I can't hide mine in the drawer because it's much too beautiful.

The tagine on the stove.

Beef stew cooked in the tagine.

I am used to cooking on a gas stove and cannot wait to get rid of the electric stove that came with the house.  That said, I was afraid to try cooking on the stovetop.  You may also cook in the oven using the tagine.

Low heat is all it takes and about an hour later you have a fabulous stew.  Our initial stew looks great, but I would have chosen a better cut of meat.  Next time we will try chicken thighs.

Oh, the smells.  And the little pipe of steam coming out the hole in the top.  This was just cool to watch.  The idea is that it is also a serving platter so you can take it from stove to table.

Christmas at the Homestead

Looking through recent posts it occurred to me that I didn't post any of the photos from Christmas.  I thought I had, then I remembered that I posted them to Instagram.

Our plan is to invite Christmas into every room in the house but we haven't gotten that far yet.  I will tell you that we raided Lowes' after Christmas sale and bought ornaments and enough lights to do the town of Franklinville next year.  Let's see how they get used.

We also had a great time finding vintage ornaments at our local antique stores.  Look for them next year also.

This year we decorated our living room.  We got our tree from our usual tree farm - Almeter's in Cowlesville/Strykersville.  He has a wonderful selection and the atmosphere is great.  If you choose the right weekend you will be wandering about in freshly fallen snow on acreage with a marvelous view.

My cousin Clay has made wooden ornaments for the family for years.  Each year I look forward to his newest creation.  I have Santa's head and the drummer boy (boy is harder to see).  One year we plan to have a tree with just the wooden ornaments.

Ages ago when HGTV had how-to shows, I saw them make this Christmas tree.  All you have to do is get a Christmas-themed pot, some pillow/decorative rope and a conical styrofoam piece that fits the pot.  Put glue on the styrofoam base and then pipe the rope around.  To store it, I just take the "tree" out of the pot.  The other trees are from dollar-type stores or Rite-Aid.

The mantle of the fireplace had two small trees, lights and pine garland.  You can see the shelves decorated to the right and left of the mantle.

My "sister-in-law," Jennifer Stewart, makes these wonderful little ornaments.  This is my naked snowman. Love him!

I love to collect trees. The trees in this photo and the one below came from the Marilla General Store.  If you've not shopped here, it's worth the trip to Marilla.  Fun country, general store with great gift items and home decor.

Nothing says Country Christmas like a cock ornament.  Thanks, Nancy!

Rustic deer that I could keep out year round, but I like him at the holidays.  Found him at the gift shop in Machias.  They also have some neat finds.

Snowmen and trees.  Love them all at the holidays.

Uncle Jim left several ornaments behind.  A couple of them were farm-themed, so we had to hang the John Deere.  Hey, in the country, Santa drives a tractor.

Our tree in the perfect corner.

Monday, December 29, 2014


I love leftovers.  Jamie, not so much.  I love to challenge myself with what to do with leftovers.  We made a wonderful pork tenderloin for our day after Christmas dinner.  We have plenty of pork leftover and had plenty of roasted veggies.  I thought I'd make a stew.  I tossed the leftover turkey broth which we made and froze a year or so ago with a leftover turkey carcass from some dinner.  Then I added the cut up pork loin, the roasted veggies and a can of diced tomatoes.  I also tossed in some rosemary, oregano, basil, thyme and a couple of bay leaves.

Holy hell!  That was the best stew we've ever made in the crock pot!  I told Jamie we need to remember what the hell we did and do that exactly.  Of course, that won't be possible given that we just tossed it all together from leftovers.  Heck, I don't know if I remember what spices we put on the pork loin and roasted veggies to get that taste!

But we will try.....

It is just as delicious the next day!

Reno over Christmas

Many people celebrate Christmas with family and friends.  Well, we've moved far enough away that it takes effort to get to family and friends.  Also, we were having people over the day after for dinner.  Christmas was our free day.

So we did some home remodeling projects.

We had painted the hallway earlier in the year.  We wanted to mimic the color we found when we drove by wheat fields.  We knew we could find "amber waves of something" in Lowes or Home Depot.  Come on - that had to be a color.  We sure did.  Jamie didn't like it.  He didn't think I would like it.  I lived with it for a few months and decided I did not like it.  If this color was to mimic a field of grain, we were driving my different fields.  It sure didn't do that.

We found a different color that was a bit more brown.  Jamie called it mushroom.  Official name:  Valspar Hotel St. Francis Fawn.

Yes, I did find it ironic that I chose a color with St. Francis in the name since I do work at the first Franciscan University in the U.S. - St. Bonaventure.  I digress.

Also, Black Friday has become a shopping day for my good friend and me.  We don't hit the normal outlets, but choose local shops.  We always go to Cone Five Pottery on Hertel Ave. in Buffalo.  They have wonderful things and we go ape-shit crazy each year. I bought these wonderful wall vases to add to the hallway.  Here is a pic of them before and after the wall painting.  Please note that we also painted the French doors to the front room!  They are the usual trim color - Snowbank.  Hey, we didn't have a white Christmas, but we were painting with Snowbank so all is right with the world.
Wall vases with new wall color.
Wall vases with the original
Amber Waves wall color

French doors painted with doorknobs.  We will get to the trim soon enough.
French doors from the dining room.  We will get to the wall trim.  Baby steps.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Butternut Pumpkin Risotto

What do you do with fall veggies?  My nieces grew pumpkins this year - eatin' pumpkins - and they gave us two.  I also had a great butternut squash from the farmer's market.  I cut both up and roasted them in a little olive oil, salt and pepper at 350 for about an hour - about.  I stirred every so often (how's that for vague instruction?)

After the squash was good and soft, I put about a cup in the food processor to mash it up so that I could add it to the risotto.

Then I used a recipe adapted from Cooking Light (link to the specific recipe is not available as I write this - will try to find it and add it later).

4 cups chicken stock/broth
1 cup white wine
1 cup risotto (arborio rice)
1 cup mashed squash (see comments above)
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup cheese (I used a combo of parmesan and cheddar because it's what I had and needed to use)

Bring chicken stock to a boil on the stove.  In a skillet, add olive oil, onion and garlic and cook until both soften.  Then add the arborio rice and cook for 1 minute.  Add the white wine and stir until absorbed (not too long).  Then add chicken stock one cup at a time until each cup is absorbed, stirring nearly constantly.  Keep in mind that everyone always says you need to stir risotto constantly.  I do, kinda.  Sometimes I refill my wine glass; sometimes I run to the loo.  The risotto has never failed me.  Don't go watch TV or something.

When the chicken stock has been absorbed, add the mashed squash (butternut squash and pumpkin in this case).  Then add the cheese and salt and pepper (should you want salt and pepper - with the cheese, I don't add as much salt - but I love pepper).

Then serve.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Garden Recipes

What do you do when you have a bumper crop of everything in your garden?  You make stuff!  We had a crap load of wonderful herbs and cabbage, carrots, peppers, carrots, you name it.

Caprese salad done my way.

Coleslaw my way.

Tabouli to take advantage of mint and parsley.

Caprese Salad done my way:
Pick fresh tomatoes from the garden.  In my case I used grape tomatoes and whatever else happened to be there.  If grape tomatoes, cut in half.  If others, cut small enough to be half a grape tomato.
Cut up fresh mozzarella small enough like the tomatoes.
Cut up fresh basil by rolling the leaves and slicing.
Add a bit of olive oil
Add balsamic vinegar

I don't measure any of the above.  I add enough olive oil and vinegar to touch each of the pieces and to taste.  Also add a little salt and pepper to taste.  Stir up and serve.

Coleslaw my way:
This recipe was adapted from Robert Irvine and Bobby Flay of Food Network.  Far be it for me to think I can improve on two wonderful chefs, but I did try.  This recipe is delicious and takes advantage of what you have growing in the garden.
1 head green cabbage
1 head red cabbage
2-4 cups carrots
2-4 cups turnip
1 onion
1 c. mayonaise
1/4 cup champagne or other white wine-type vinegar
1 tsp celery seed
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tsp try mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients from mayo down into the dressing.  Chop all veggies into slaw (some like it very finely chopped, others more like ribbons, if you will).

This recipe was adapted from Food Network.  Adapted is the wrong word.  It was damn near taken completely from Food Network because it's so good.
1 cup bulgar wheat cooked according to package direction (likely with 1 cup water)
1 cup parsley (I use a combination of flat leaf and Italian parsley)
1/2 cup chopped mint leaves
1 small onion diced
3 tomatoes diced
2 cucumbers diced
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
The recipe suggests that you seed the cucumber.  I never do.  Everyone in the pool, I say!
Cook bulgar according to package directions.  When finished, add all ingredients through cucumbers.
Mix the olive oil and lemon juice.  Add to veggie and bulgar mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Let sit in the refrigerator several hours.  I usually make mine the day before and let it get good and tasty overnight.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Amber Waves of Grain

Jamie and I found ourselves driving all over creation last summer.  What was funny is that we seemed to notice all the wheat/grain fields as we were driving.  They had to have been there for years, but last year, we noticed them everywhere and fell in love with the color.  We decided that we had to paint one of the rooms in our new house the color of those fields.

Jamie asked me how we might find it and I told him I could guarantee that one or more of the paint companies would have "amber waves of grain" or some derivation thereof.  Sure enough, Valspar has a color named "Amber Waves."  It became the color we put in our hallway.

I also told Jamie that we had to paint something with the two accent colors we often found with the fields - one a vivid pink/purple and another a palish blue.  We haven't done that yet, but it's coming.

I have added some before pictures of the hallway below:

The ceiling has been replaced as has the light fixture.  The "wall" at the end of the hall has been removed and a French door has been added.  The space is much more open now.

The paneling is visible in the hallway in a better way than in the living room.  It is the same.  Also, the carpet is the same as in the living room.  It has been removed.  The hallway may be seen in the after photos of the living room in a previous post.  I will also take more after photos after we finish some additional handiwork.

Ooops. Where are the before shots?

A very astute friend of mine (she likes to be anonymous so let me disguise her name - let's call her Kathy) noticed that I hadn't posted before pictures for our living room.  I think that I was so excited to have a "new" living room that I didn't care about the before.  I am posting before pictures below.  The post from July 6, 2014 shows the after (the post just before this one).
Living room as we were moving in.  Our old furniture is pictured.

Living room before.
Please notice the paneling on the walls that has been removed and had been painted.  Also notice the carpet.  We ripped up all of the carpet in the entire house and found gorgeous hardwood.  We also painted the ceiling, trim and bookshelves.

The bookshelves contain my National Geographic Magazine collection.  Window treatments have also been replaced.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Living Room

We finished the living room....sort of.  We do need to fix the hole in our wall and also add trim to the top and bottom of the walls.  We are having it custom made so that it is keeping with the style of the house.

I was incredibly nervous to buy leather furniture with dogs.  Everyone I'd talked to, though, said that leather furniture is a God-send with pets.  They were right!  Not one scratch (knock on wood) and the fur and spit just wipes right off.  Why didn't we do this sooner?  Oh yeah, it's expensive as hell.  But it lasts a lifetime - or it better.

We opted for pieces that would be more traditional looking without being trendy so that we were sure we would still like it years from now when we are still wiping spit and hair off of them.

Look at how wonderful the floors look.  This was after removing carpet and not doing a damn thing to them but sweeping and mopping.  Notice the orangish throw on the back of the sofa.  One of the best, most comfortable finds at a local antique shop.  You may also see the hallway color on the right.

View from the inside of the living room looking out into the hallway.  We painted the trim in the living room but have not yet gotten to the trim in the hallway.  That will happen soon enough!  Staircase is fabulous.  From this photo you can see the hallway, and to the left, the door that leads to the dining room (notice that wonderful Coffee Rose paint color on the walls).

View into the living room from the hallway.  Notice the shelves at the top left.  My NatGeo collection is houses there!

The floors:
We removed the carpet in the entire house.  Under most of the carpet we found stunning hardwood floors that required no maintenance or repair.  This is an example of that.  


Main wall color: Hi-Ho Silver (Olympic) 
Back of Shelves color: Blue Fjord (Olympic)
Hallway walls: Amber Waves (Valspar) 
Trim: Snowbank (Olympic)

Other pieces:
Leather Furniture:  Calvin's Leather Gallery, East Amherst, NY
Furniture:  Company no longer in business so it doesn't matter (sorry)

Curb Appeal from any Angle

How does the house look now?  We were so excited to see what would grow this spring and summer season since this is the first year in our house.  We were excited to be able to get rid of some plants and add some others, but not too many.  We want to see what we've got.

We weeded the heck out of the front garden and used black mulch.  That's our favorite and it contrasts nicely with the red barn to the left and the grey house.

Our side porch with awesome hanging baskets from Pleasant Valley Greenhouse.  We redid the plants around the lightpost.

Lowes had a sale on heather plants.  We don't even really know what they are, but they look nice - the little purple/pink bushes in the front.

I like to walk in the backyard which is up a pretty steep hill.  This is the view from the top of that hill looking down at our barns.
I absolutely love rural living.  I feel as if we have certainly found our home.  I love waking up in the morning and enjoying the backyard or the side porch.  I also enjoy coming home from work and going into the garden, or for a nice walk up the hill.  Idyllic, to be sure.

A goober's life....Nat Geo forever

We finally have shelves to house my collection of National Geographic Magazines (NatGeo, for those in the know).  We painted our living room a light blue, the trim Snow Bank, and the back of the shelves a darker blue.  The NatGeos really do pop against the shelves and stand out in the room.

I have been a fan of Nat Geo since I was a kid.  I remember reading them monthly as a new issue arrived.  I also have a signed copy - Eugenie Clark, renowned shark expert, spoke at the Buffalo Museum of Science at the former Hayes Lecture Series.  My father and I were regulars.  I asked her to autograph a then recent article titled "Sharks, Magnificent and Misunderstood."  What kid does that?  I still have it.

In fact, my father was probably tickled that I was a goober.  He had to be thinking, she won't be a teen pregnancy statistic because she won't even kiss a boy until she's 30.

I have most issues from 1950 to the present and many from 1920-1950.  A pretty nice collection and they look wonderful in the living room.  They had been at my mother's house.  I think she was thrilled to get rid of them.

It may be difficult to see the navy background color, but look how we've arranged the magazines.  I didn't want to just have them loaded one after another as they are on the bottom shelf.  Jamie was worried that was what I was going to do.

I like that they are displayed with other things that mean something to us.


Main wall color: Hi-Ho Silver (Olympic) 
Back of Shelves color: Blue Fjord (Olympic) 
Trim: Snowbank (Olympic)

How does your garden grow?

We moved to Franklinville in September after living through hell to get us there.

Jamie surprised me a few months ago with a newly rototilled spot at the top of our fenced in yard.  "This is the garden," he said to me.

It's huge.

We took great pains to select the appropriate produce to grow.  We ordered seeds from Burpee, Territorial Seed and Stark Bros.  We also bought plants and seeds from our local nursery - Pleasant Valley Greenhouse in Hinsdale, NY.  We are so pleased with our plants.  There were a couple of fruit "trees" that are really just sticks.  We are reluctant to pull them because we were lazy and left others and they've since sprouted at the bottom.  Sticks grow!

We've had a bounty of plants and herbs and now struggle with what to do with them.  For example, radishes.  We have a bazillion radishes.  We ordered one pack of tricolor radish seeds.  We have red, white and purple radishes and each has a bit of a different flavor.  Rather than separate them, though, we try to cut up one of each.

But how many radishes does one need at a time?  How many can you cut up and put on a salad before you want to poke your eyeballs out?  Turns out not many.  So I turned to Cooking Light to find other uses and found two wonderful sides.  The first is a radish slaw that we made with a vinegar base and included yellow peppers and carrots that we served with a wonderful slow cooker bourbon -peach, pulled pork (also from Cooking Light).  Delicious!  The second recipe combined leeks, shallots and radishes.  Saute them in a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper and serve as a side.  It went very well with a perfectly grilled New York strip steak.  Yum at our house!

We are also using the lettuce for more than just salads (hello, sandwich), but we are making different salads with different toppings and different dressings just to jazz things ups.

We cordoned off the "salad" section.  We put clothesline around the poles so that the peas have something to cling to.

The garden just getting started.

Tomatoes growing like it's their job!

The herb garden which is adjacent to our back patio is ideal.  There are also salad greens growing here.  This photo was taken in a recent rainstorm.  So nice to sit outside and watch the rain and listen to it hit the metal barn roof.

I take a walk out to the garden each day.  I find it enormously relaxing.  It's also wonderful to see what's new.  These pictures are a few weeks old.  I will have to add some new ones, the progress is that stark.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Better pictures of the Orange Room

I have been struggling with the orange room.  It's our bedroom and it's also kinda dark.  We had quite a bit of sun today and I turned the lights on.  Let's see if these look a tad better.

I just love the combo of orange and purple.  This quilt is from an antique shop.  Just love this room.

We bought some new bed linens to better match the room. I love the combination of orange, purple and green.  The wall hanging on the right is from China.

View from the door looking straight in.  I realize that feng shui dictates that the foot of the bed not aim for the door, but it's all we can do for now.  We will change it when we convert our master bedroom.  This is the guest room/my office.  The picture on the wall is of Assisi, Italy, from Assisi.

A better view of the room without as much blur.  Of course I have a broom hanging on my wall.  You may also see my antique schoolmaster's desk.