In My Kitchen – November 2014…The best way to choose paint colors

In My kitchen this month is decision central…

In my last post I mentioned that we were getting ready to paint most of the rooms in the house, starting with the kitchen.  I mentioned that we must have just about every paint chip available from all of the major paint companies.  Did you thinking I was exaggerating?IMG_1607

I think the problem is having too many choices and of course there really isn’t a huge difference between say Mystic Cream and Artist’s Canvas.  As for the names of these paints…what are they smoking to come up with names like First Love, Meditation, Woodstock Tan, and Stone Harbor?  I like names that at least have something to do with color – tell me what color do you imagine when you think Meditation?  I also feel like I’m color blind when I talk to the paint experts at the hardware store:

Diane:  “I have a light beige and persimmon duvet cover that I’d like to coordinate with, what do you think of this linen color?”
Paint Expert:  “Well, I suppose you could go with that but aren’t you afraid of the green undertones in that?”
Diane (to herself):  Green undertones?  I see light beige…
Diane (to Paint Expert):  “Oh, of course, I see what you mean, how about Lonesome Dove”
Paint Expert:  “Weellll, I could see it but do you really want to bring the hint of gray in there?”

In any case, I’ve come up with a pretty good way to pick the color for the back hallway and the kitchen.  I wait for a rainy, muddy day and let the dog out.  Once Lola does the test color with her tail I go find the color card that’s the closest to our mud.  Now if you have dogs, you’ll need to do your own test since I’ve noticed that mud varies region by region so I won’t give you any particular recommendation but ours looks like this:

As always, thanks to Celia for hosting the In My Kitchen feature.  Please stop by to say hi to her and if you don’t already, think about joining in next month – there should be plenty going on in everyone’s kitchens during December.

 

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In My Kitchen – August 2014

August … already the light is subtly changing and the afternoon shadows sneak into the kitchen a little bit earlier each evening.  I haven’t been spending much time in the kitchen cooking but have been taking advantage of our incredible summer days outside cutting brush and digging out stumps in my never ending quest to reclaim our back hill.    Of course New England weather is much like that little girl in Henry Wadsworth Poem – There Was a Little Girl:

“When she was good, she was very, very good
and when she was bad, she was horrid”

Needless to say we’ve had the entire range of hot, humid days where breathing feels like sucking air through a wet towel; chilly, rainy (even tornado warnings) downpours, and then what we always dream of around January – The Perfect Day.

We’ve had enough sun and rain for my blackberry patch – at least enough for us and plenty to share with the birds:

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My daughter and I spent a weekend in New York City on a mission to find the perfect wedding gown for her August, 2015 wedding.  After finding that perfect gown, we celebrated at Nino’s and we each had their special of braised short ribs over pasta.  It was so good that I had to try to re-create it when I got home.  I think I really nailed this one and decided to braise the short ribs in the crock pot until the meat just fell off the bones.  I’ll share the recipe in another post, but in the meantime, have a look at these ribs simmering away in wine with rosemary and oregano:

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In addition to pre-wedding planning, Niki and her fiancé have had an offer accepted on a gorgeous home in Boston.  They won’t be moving for a while but in the meantime I’m trying to sort through the boxes of “stuff” that’s been parked at my house.  In exchange for the use of my space, I’ve pilfered this adorable cupcake tree.  As I said, we’ve had some beautiful weather which is why there are no cupcakes on the stand – but please feel free to send some my way…Mandy?  Butter, Sugar, Flowers?

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Finally, patiently waiting for us to finish singing Happy Birthday is Lola, our 9 year old Bernese Mountain Dog, drooling, waiting for her birthday hotdogs.  I know it’s hard to tell and I didn’t go a great job of making those hot dogs in the shape of a “9”, but she didn’t mind what shape they were in as they disappeared in a matter of seconds – chewing in not something Lola ever learned:

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Thanks for stopping by my kitchen this month and again, thank you to Celia for hosting this monthly peek into everyone’s kitchens.  Please swing by to see what she’s up to at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial.  Also, be sure to enjoy the list of contributors who share their what’s happening in their kitchens.

 

 

NEMO – Who’s Nemo?

I knew we were getting a major storm, but nobody told me they had named it.  As I checked some friends on Facebook after the storm, they had pictures up with captions like “Judy with Nemo”, “Kathy playing with Nemo”… and they were all alone in the pictures!  I kept thinking huh, did Judy AND Kathy get new dogs and both name them Nemo?  And where’s Nemo?  I finally saw a post of someone shoveling Nemo…

Ooooh – they named the blizzard Nemo?  They’ve always named hurricanes, but I don’t recall ever having blizzards named.  Like the Blizzard of ’78…we called that the Blizzard of ’78 and that worked out just fine.  We were buried for almost a week, there was a ban on driving, and the best part was that it was all before the internet so no one could work!  It seems to me that storm was worse than this one but it could be because we lived in the city at the time and there was no place to put the snow.  Niki’s street in Boston just got somewhat plowed out last night and the people who don’t have off street parking should be able to get to their cars sometime in June.

Anyway, whatever they call it, we did get a lot of snow, the roads were closed as of 4:00 pm Friday and reopened at 4:00 pm Saturday.  As of Friday afternoon though I kept telling my husband that I wasn’t all that impressed with this storm.  But then when I got up Saturday morning to this…

blizzard feb2013 013I was a little more impressed.  Before I could get my jacket and boots on, Lola had already dug and tunneled her way out to the back.  I’m sure some of that was drifting but the front was pretty much the same.

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A big pile of Nemo

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Lola standing in Nemo

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Lola eating Nemo

Lola just hanging out on Nemo

Lola just hanging out with Nemo

John swearing at Nemo

John swearing at Nemo (yeah, I had another caption but I just can’t use it)

Apple Crisp and the whipped cream that got away

Chock up another birthday for Niki.  Birthday girls get to chose their dinner menu and since she was looking for a quiet family celebration, Niki asked for Lobster Risotto with Apple Crisp (recipe follows) as her birthday “cake”.

Now I’m beginning to think that I should rethink my blog to something like gardening or basket weaving because it seems as if I’ve had one kitchen disaster after another lately.  I’m afraid no one’s going to dare try any of my recipes if it means trashing your kitchen but if you can trust me on the ingredients and ignore my execution, the taste is great – just be more careful than I am.  And if any of you have suggestions for getting bad juju out of a kitchen, please pass them on.  I’m making a garlic clove necklace for when I step into that room but I might need more backup.

I think a big part of the problem is this:

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I have a love/hate relationship with my mixer.  It’s almost as old as I am and works fine but I think I’m supposed to be ashamed that I don’t have a KitchenAid.  In all honesty the problem really hasn’t been the mixer’s fault, it’s been more of what the manufacturer would call “operator error”.  The flying mussels incident was definitely my bad for expecting it to be an immersion blender.

If you look at the photo above, you’ll see that one beater is rounded and the other has a squared off bottom.  Round on the left, square on the right and all is well.  If you’re not paying attention and reverse those beaters, then dump in a pint of whipping cream, set it on high, and walk away then you have the makings for a funnel cloud of whipped cream which, just like a tornado, is totally unpredictable and leaves the bowl splattering whipped cream all over the walls, cabinets, and yourself. It’s pretty amazing to watch – as everyone did!  Nope, did not get any photos of that mess and I’m glad the camera was out of range.  But the apple crisp was delicious and after trying dozens of recipes, this is “the one” – nice crispy topping with tart apples on the bottom.

The excitement of the flying whipped cream was super fun for Lola but I’ve mentioned before how the sound of ripping paper kind of makes her brain go crazy.  Our paper shredder broke years ago and we just don’t have a need to replace it.  There’s one wastebasket for paper that she checks every night and handles all of our shredding needs.  This is what happens if you don’t beat her outside to grab the newspaper:

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Her all time favorite though is birthday and Christmas wrapping. If you’re having a party and it gets boring, I’ll loan you Lola.

The APPLE CRISP that was a birthday cake:
(so fast and easy, no excuse to not make it)

4 Cups    Apples
¾ Cup    All purpose flour
1Cup      Granulated sugar
1 teas     Cinnamon
½ teas    Salt
½ Cup    Softened butter

Peel, core, & slice apples evenly
Layer apple slices into buttered baking dish (8” or 9” square)
In small bowl, combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, & salt
Cut in butter w/pastry cutter or 2 butter knives until mixture is coarse
Sprinkle mixture over top of apples
Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.
Top with whipped cream (if possible)

Decorating the Tree – that was the plan

So I figured I’d get a load of laundry going, do a little cleaning, and start decorating the Christmas tree.  Standing downstairs in the laundry room I looked down and figured, eh these pants should go in…and the sweatshirt too.  Just as I got the washer going, Lola went nuts barking, jumping and clawing at the front door.

Oh-oh…somebody rang the doorbell.  And I don’t have any pants on.  No shirt either. No way to get upstairs without going through the foyer and since the front door has side lights, there’s no way to go upstairs to get any clothes.  The only dry fabric available to me was a small hand towel.  So no problem, a little chilly but I’ll wait them out.  Except Lola’s still going nuts and instead of the doorbell, whoever has decided that with all the barking I might not have heard the doorbell so they decided to knock on the door.  Seriously, if I don’t come for the doorbell do you think I’ll come for the knocking?  And don’t you see what’s happening to my door and windows?

In the lull between barks I can hear a little tap-tap-tap on the side window and someone saying “aw…look a puppy…too cute”.  No it is not a puppy, it is not cute and if you don’t go away soon, I really am going to open that door naked AND let Lola out.  How fast can you run?  So please, feel free to stop by but do call first – I’d appreciate it.

The excitement of visitors over and myself dressed I finally got on with decorating the tree.  First decoration every year is usually this one.  Hey, you bring a tree into the house and things happen (better than what Lola did the first year):

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I love my tree decorations because so many have been gifts or collected while traveling.  I also have a hobby of making eggshell ornaments that started with a gift to Niki for her first Christmas from my sister in law:

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Once I took a look at that I decided “I can do that!”.  And started collecting eggshells whenever I baked by cutting an oval out of the front of the egg with teeny embroidery scissors.  We did spit lots of eggshells out because I always missed a few little bits.  After cleaning them out, I coat the shell with Mod Podge, then paint, then use layers of shellac – and I always put them at least 3′ up since the Berner tail takes out everything on the lower branches every year.  These I also fasten very carefully since everything on the tree is a cat toy.

So, at the request of my blogger friend at A Detailed House (please, you have to stop by her site because she is the most talented and creative person I’ve run across) these are some of the ornaments that I’ve created over the years. Niki used to skate competitively and one of my first was this of her on ice:

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A little gift for the teacher:

eggs inventory 014And lots of just fun things using minatures, my favorite being tiny seashells (yes, that’s Chatham beach sand) that I find at the beach.

eggs inventory 019So those are just some of the ornaments but what would a tree be without the angel on top?

lola3 007Okay, so Lola wasn’t very happy playing an angel for long:

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Frankenstorm…again

I love these weather headlines:  Frankenstorm predicted to SLAM East coast.  A hurricane-winter storm hybrid will likely pound region early next week.  

Now New Englanders are pretty tough when it comes to weather during the winter.  But we consider our winter season to be between December and March, at which point we’re done with the snow, sleet, and freezing nose boogers.  I don’t exactly know what a hurricane-winter hybrid might be but I’ll get in line at Target with everyone else and stock up on batteries.  But Mother Nature!  Can you please give us a break?  October?  Remember when you smacked us last October – October 28th to be exact with this?

Very pretty, but since all the leaves were still on the trees, they couldn’t take the weight of the wet snow and damages were severe. Powers lines were across roads, schools of course were closed, and Halloween was cancelled.  We were very lucky that we’d just had about a dozen huge trees removed from the back hill that were leaning toward the house & would definitely have crashed on us.  Already had that happen to us once.

Last year our power was knocked out on Friday, Oct 28th.  We didn’t get it back until Tuesday of the following week.  And unlike a lot of freak storms, where we get snow and it’s gone the next day, IT WAS COLD!  Thankfully we have wonderful neighbors with generators who offered showers and food but we still had to come back into the frigid house.

We are in a very small town west of Boston and rely on electricity.  We have oil heat (which requires electricity), a well (need electricity for that too), and a septic system (which in our case has a pump to pump up to the leach field).  We can get by with limited flushing by bucket provided someone not only fills the bathtub, but also realizes that the drain isn’t slowly leaking all of the emergency water down the drain. It’s possible to ration the number of bucket flushes but you sure don’t want to guess at how full the tank is getting since a miscalculation means it’ll be coming right back at ya.

So I’m really, really hoping that this storm which is scheduled to hit on just about the same day as last year goes easy on us this time around.  You know all those pictures you see of smiling people snuggled up in front of a blazing fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate?  It’s a bunch of garbage!  A fireplace doesn’t throw any heat and unless you’re willing to stick your butt a few inches from the flames, you are not going to get warm except maybe from the energy it takes to haul logs up into the house.  Believe me, 2 layers of long underwear, fleece pants, 4 layers of sweaters, wool hat, scarf wrapped around your face and mittens isn’t all that romantic.  Even though Bernese Mountain dogs love the winter, they still like to come into a warm house when they’re done playing in the snow if only to get a Kleenex to wipe the icicles off the nose.

Courthouse Bugs, Dead Cars and Roast Beef

I’m not sure what specific ‘bug’ was lurking around the courthouse but since I’m still trying to fight this thing off for over 2 weeks now, I don’t think this is something I’d want to look at too closely under a microscope.  It’s mean and nasty that’s for sure and just when I think I’m getting my pins back under me, it sneaks up and smacks me upside the head.

I’m of an age where I no longer have guilt feelings about a dirty house or windows that need cleaning.  So the good part of ‘having’ to rest up is being able to read to my heart’s delight.  I finished off Richard Clark’s, Your Country Failed You; The Last Minute, Jeff Abbott; Bad Faith, Robert Tanenbaum, Guilt by Degrees, Marcia Clark, 11th Hour by James Patterson; and am now enjoying the latest by my favorite author, John Sandford, Mad River.  Although I haven’t felt inspired to update my own blog, I’ve been following all of you and been enjoying my free trip to Germany courtesy of Backroad Journal and loving a great vacation in Europe via Bam’s posts.  Thank you ladies, I’m enjoying my free vacations very much.

But, the sun is finally out and I was ready to put on my out house clothes to venture out except for one little problem.  My car is as dead as a doornail.  It’s been cold, but not kill your battery cold and I did drive it a few days ago but as my husband was trying to jump start me, the light bulb went on over my head.  Literally.  That would be the little overhead light that can be punched on by a certain big ol’ Berner head when said Berner stands on the console sticking her head out the sunroof.  Unfortunately the attempt at jump starting just resulted in the little bulb to flicker and did not get my car started.  Lucky(?) for me, I already had an appointment at the Mazda dealer for Tuesday to replace my brakes and rotors so it was just a matter of having AAA tow my car over there a day early. Tell me – do all tow truck drivers have naked ladies painted on the side of their cabs with comments like “support your local hooker“?  Maybe it’s a local union thing where they all support each other, I don’t know but he did take my car and was very careful to not scrape the front fender pulling it onto the truck bed.

Maybe this time I’ll learn my lesson about checking that overhead light since this is the second battery Lola has killed on this car.  Maybe I’ll just remove the bulb and not worry about getting in in a dark parking lot.  Who would be dumb enough to hide in the back of my car with a 90 lb. black bear taking up most of the space?

Anyway, feeling low and having a dead car set off cravings for some comfort food.  I had my husband buy the best hunk of roast beef the store had.  Although I can’t call this a recipe, I did rub it with a little bit of oil, minced garlic, some oregano and basil then splashed Worcestershire sauce on top.  Asparagus and some smashed potatoes with gravy from the beef drippings and I felt a lot better.  And, I have been listening to those of you who say to let the roast rest before cutting.  That in addition to making sure I didn’t forget that the roast was in the oven made for a very juicy and tender piece of meat.