Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful for so much . . . . . .

Today we are celebrating Thanksgiving as always, but this year I'm 
taking a break from cooking the huge meal and we will be eating out.
Tomorrow, still stuffed from the traditional holiday delicacies, we'll head 
to the North Carolina coast for the weekend. With pleasant weather 
expected, we'll dress warmly and walk the beach, stroll the old boardwalk,
eat fresh from the ocean seafood, and join in the annual start 
to the busy Christmas season - beach style. 

I love this delicate china, in a rich brown transferware pattern named 
Petunia, from Johnson Brothers. Beside petunias there are fuchsia, dianthus, 
and sprigs of other dainty British garden flowers.
From what I've discerned online, Petunia was perhaps one of their first patterns 
and produced around 1885. At present, there seem to be very few pieces 
available to collectors here in the USA. The four Johnson brothers 
bought their grandfather's business, the famous Meakin china factory in 
Stoke-On-Trent, England, in 1882, and launched themselves into the dinnerware 
business, producing sturdy whiteware with glaze as fine as that on good porcelains. 
Following WWI, the company also began producing dinnerware that was a solid color 
throughout so that chips didn't show as badly. Business boomed to such an extent 
that by 1900, an additional five factories opened in England and brother Robert Johnson 
moved to the USA to handle the trans-Atlantic sales.
Johnson Brothers china company joined the Wedgwood Group in 1968 and, 
sadly, by 2003 all manufacturing operations were moved to China.

I own just two pieces of Petunia, one a dinner plate, the other a side plate.
In fact I've never really made an effort to collect brown transferware, my little stash
consists mostly of some antique blue, grey and black patterns. 
So, if you enjoy the lovely brown designs you must take a look HERE where
 blog friend Loi, at the beautiful blog Tone On Tone, is displaying his fabulous collection
of transferware - including an unusual shaped platter in the Petunia pattern.
 Loi is a Washington, DC antiques dealer, shop owner, designer, 
gardener, grower of topiaries, and photographer extraordinaire. 
I can honestly say I have never not fallen in love with anything Loi has shared 
on his wonderful blog. 
If you've not visited Tone On Tone yet, do so soon. I promise you will love it.

So dear friends, whether eating your holiday meal on priceless antiques, 
your every day china, or even paper plates, enjoy and be thankful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A rather calm Thanksgiving. . . . . .

Here it is, the day before Thanksgiving and I actually feel relieved at having nothing
pressing regarding roasting, baking, setting, serving, cleaning, scrubbing, washing up.
You know, the myriad chores associated with producing a groaning table of food 
for others. Does that sound mean? Hope not. I am very thankful for very many things. 
Over the past 50+ years, in kitchens of my various abodes, I've produced those huge
meals requiring two days of preparation, followed by 24 endless hours in a hot kitchen.
My hair got frizzed from opening the oven while basting a big old bird I never 
tasted, all while trying to get the lumps out of the gravy with one hand and mashing 
rutabaga and butternut squash with the other.
I won't expound on the clean-up and dish washing late into the night, other than
to say thankfully my lovely man always insisted in helping with that part.
Don't get me wrong, I didn't mind the cooking, I love cooking, but these days I love it 
on a smaller scale.
Now, if not invited elsewhere - and I'd be only too happy to bring along a dish of 
something delicious - a restaurant is the place I want to be. Being a non-turkey eater 
I don't require a traditional Thanksgiving meal other than some great veggies, perhaps 
a nice portion of tasty meatless stuffing, cranberry sauce. . . . . . and the ultimate 
splurge for me, a slice of pecan pie with real whipped cream please!

 This morning. . . . . . . . calm, and quite delicious.
What did I decide to do early as I sipped my first coffee? As there's no big bird 
chilling in my 'frig requiring my attention, I baked a big batch of our now favorite 
muffins, The Mennonite Girls Can Cook carrot raisin beauties. 
See my recent post HERE for more on this fabulous recipe, and the link is there 
if you would like to make them. I measured all the dry ingredients last night 
making less work this morning.
The recipe makes 18 and they freeze very well. I store two to a bag
and freeze them until we pull them out for a morning breakfast or teatime snack.

Once again I used Trader Joe's lovely bag of mixed tricolor carrots - more interesting
than just orange. Tossed the remaining carrots, not required for the muffins, 
into a baking dish with a quartered red onion, a sweet red pepper, and olive oil, 
and now have a lovely roasted veggie dish to enjoy also.

Happy Thanksgiving preparation if you're the chef at your home. 
Hope you get some assistance and can then sit down and enjoy a lovely meal 
with family and friends on the big day.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Almost dry!

A quick update on my recent post HERE about drying beautiful hydrangeas 
naturally, easily.

They rustle softly. . . . .their flexible stems now stiffened, waiting to be trimmed 
as each delightful bloom is tucked into a vase, a pot, perhaps a table centerpiece, 
or even a holiday wreath for a door or window. 

I love these crusty painted pots with matching saucers - purchased at the 
Holiday Open House last week from Two Old Birds located at The Vintage Village. 
I'll be using them in my Christmas decorating.

Anyway, just ten days out and already the cut blooms have almost finished 
soaking up the water in the vase. Petals are now mostly crisp and somewhat 
shriveled, colors more muted but still very pretty.
The day after cutting these we were hit with an entire week of below freezing nights,
 unusual for this area in November. Several remaining blooms I'd planned to cut later
 for drying were completely zapped the first night. So this is it for the year - just enough
 to tuck into winter and Christmas decor along with some others from last year which 
actually still look good. . . .you can see them in the olive basket in my current header.

If you've been drying your hydrangeas, I hope you've a big bunch of really pretty
ones to enjoy around the home through the winter months.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

My Welsh love affair. . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . with the leek!

I adore this vegetable. I grew up not in Wales where the leek is the 
national emblem, worn along with the daffodil flower 
(known in Welsh as "Peter's leek) on St. David's Day, but next door in southern England. 
There we grew, bought, gobbled up very inexpensive leeks often in my 
childhood household. I love them braised, but my favorite way is in soup, 
especially chilled vichyssoise in the summertime, and this one below, a 
steaming bowl of comforting leek and potato soup on a cold autumn or winter day.

My only disappointment with purchasing leeks here in the US, is the high price.
One local store was actually charging $1.99 per leek a few weeks back!
Most stores sell them by the pound - a few such as Trader Joe's have them pre-packaged 
in poly and priced per bag. If you buy leeks, you know the loose ones, which I prefer, 
have several inches of the tough dark green leaves left on. This part is not edible, 
very tough and stringy, so has to be thrown away. My compost bin loves them of course.

Right now I notice they have come down in price a bit - leeks are best in winter - 
but still they insist on selling them with too much up top which is wasted, and you 
have to pay for all that weight which you end up throwing out. Personally I feel ripped 
off paying for waste. I have visions of sneaking up to the produce display, little scissors 
in hand, and trimming off those dark green bits, before putting them into my bag. 
How naughty would that be?

Oh well, nothing nicer right now in this cold spell than a steaming bowl 
of easy to make leek and potato soup, a true comfort food. 
We had this a couple of nights ago after coming home from SuzAnna's and 
The Vintage Village Holiday Open House which was a great night out. 
We'd nibbled on finger foods and had a toddy, but came home a bit hungry. 
The soup was waiting, just needed re-warming, as I made it in the afternoon. 

I don't puree this soup as we like it chunky, used Russet potatoes. Just mash 
gently with a potato masher, add plenty of fresh ground pepper and a little salt to taste.
I use vegetable stock then add some cream to finish and enrich, and this time 
also some buttermilk.
It was delicious.

Have you ever grown your own leeks? If so, did you get a good crop? 
I have an empty raised bed and am considering trying to grow some.
Any tips would be appreciated. . . . . otherwise I may just consider moving 
to Wales to feed my addiction!!!

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