Tuesday, November 29, 2016

It's been a long time. . . . . . .

. . . . . . since I baked bread!
I recall trying it back in the sixties, loaves and pizza dough, but didn't have
much success.  Being a young homemaker, taking care of the family took up a
 lot of time. Bread making was a lengthy process. Besides, bread was less
 expensive then, one of the more affordable items on the weekly shopping list
when the budget was tight. 
These days a really good loaf from an artisan bakery can cost several dollars.
Maybe it's time to get back to home baking.

Perhaps I'm late to the 'Faster No Knead Bread' Party!

My good friend Ruth in England recently sent me instructions for making this
 loaf in a Le Creuset Dutch oven. 
When looking online to determine whether anyone else knew about this easy
 sounding homemade bread, and to determine the temperature in Fahrenheit
 rather than Centigrade which Ruth sent, I was astonished to find everyone seems
 to be using this easy recipe!
For me the presentation and recipe from former talk-show host and comedian,
 Jenny Jones won me over.

 I particularly enjoyed watching Jenny's video which you can
 view HERE along with the Faster No Knead Bread recipe on her blog.
Jenny is so much fun to bake along with, go check!

 Here is the first loaf I baked following her recipe. 
 I was truly thrilled with the finished loaf and will be making it again, often.
 I will try some other types of bread using the same basic recipe, sometimes
changing the flour (I used King Arthur unbleached all-purpose white here)
 adding things such as nuts, raisins, cranberries, perhaps Parmesan cheese
 and rosemary etc., the breads I find to be very expensive at the bakery.

This white bread is just as good any I've bought from a bakery. The crust 
was crunchy, the crumb tender and flavorful. Right out of the oven it was
 delicious - 5 days later it was still being toasted for breakfast - and for me
 that's the test of good bread, crunchy toast which stays that way even with
 butter and marmalade! Knowing there are no preservatives and unhealthy
 additives in the bread is definitely another plus. 

Adorable hare and tulips plate, Anthropologie, a gift from granddaughter Jasmin.
Butter pat from my vintage collection. French linen towel with cheese design.
Black 'Scrumptious' cheese board, gift from my daughter Kim, HomeGoods. 
These gals seem to know just what I like!

I have to tell you that although I do have a lot of great Le Creuset baking dishes,
 I don't have one of their beautiful Dutch oven cast iron pots.
 (Santa - I've been good this year!)
I do however have 'knock off' versions of Dutch ovens - two sizes of bright red
 Martha Stewart, and a small cream IKEA one for soups.
For this bread I used the large MS, and because it doesn't have a metal handle 
on the lid, I did wrap my knob in aluminum foil to protect it from the high heat 
the bread needs for the initial baking. That worked out fine.
For the second bake, with lid removed, in my oven I found that 10 minutes, no
 longer, was ample time to get the beautiful rich golden crisp crust, so watch carefully.

Let me know if you have made this bread or, if like me, you're late to the 
party, will perhaps give it a go! 
 You won't be sorry. 
Slicing into your very own home baked crunchy loaf will make your day I can assure you.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

North Carolina shore on Sunday morning. . . . . . . . .

Looking north toward Wilmington, NC.

Looking south towards the fishing pier at Kure Beach, NC.

We walked along the shore at Carolina Beach this morning quite early, before coffee
 or breakfast. Not many people out as the wind was cold, temperature 40F, but
 the sun was shining and the sea birds were sunning, preening and fishing!

Later two surfers braved the waves in wet suits. . . . . . . . . 

 . . . . . . . whilst I just dipped my toes, not bad, but that's as far as I go
in the Atlantic at this time of year!

Early morning on the boardwalk.
Carolina Beach rebuilt its board walk over the past two years and it is
really beautiful. It is now being extended even further along the shore 
where new hotels, shops and condos are being built.
Home again now.  
Next time I view the mighty Atlantic Ocean I will be flying over it back to Europe.
Life this year has certainly required a lot of packing and unpacking. . . . . . 
and it's not over yet! 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Carolina Beach Sunrise. . . . . . . . .

I set the alarm for 6:30 am this morning not wanting to miss the chance 
to take sunrise photos. At first I was not sure of catching a perfect sunrise, the
 clouds were heavy, almost threatening. 
Within 15 minutes all changed. . . . . . . . for the better.
There were a few early beach walkers, a trawler followed by gulls and pelicans,
 beautiful cloud patterns, and finally the golden rays of the sun falling across the
 ocean making a path to the shoreline.
Imagine what you would miss if you slept in at the coast!

The perfect 'glitter path' - I didn't know until now that there was a name for
 this beautiful pathway across the water.

All photos taken today 6:30-7:15 am - from our 10th floor balcony.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Beach, blue skies, blessings. . . . . . . . . .

 As soon as we checked into the hotel today I was on the balcony, tenth floor, 
taking photos as the brown pelicans did their usual 'fly by' to welcome us!
The weather is close to perfect for late November, around 70F all afternoon, 
great for boardwalk strolls and watching children making sandcastles, some
 even swimming in the blue Atlantic Ocean!

Tonight we watched the lighting of the Christmas decorations around the lake
and along the ocean board walk, still comfortably warm, only a sweater 
required, many people in shorts and T-shirts.
This is late Autumn in the southeast, and we are grateful we live here in
 beautiful North Carolina.

Coastal call. . . . . . .

Atlantic Ocean at daybreak ~ Carolina Beach, North Carolina 2015

This morning I'll be on my way here again - for our annual Autumn beach weekend.
Weather promises to be perfect for beach combing, boardwalk strolling, sunset
 watching, fresh seafood eating. . . . .and the lighting of the Christmas decorations.

More later. . . . . . . . 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

More on staying casual, cozy and warm - in a dress!

I have to say the sweater offerings in the shops this year are 
the best ever. I've never seen such attractive knitwear.
From cardigans, casual jackets and wraps, to classic and
contemporary sweaters and tunics. Even knit dresses have
 made a comeback. 

I'm not much of a dress person however this season I'm enjoying this
 cozy black/grey mélange knit from of all places, H&M. Inexpensive, machine 
washable, and very comfortable with the warm funnel neck. 
On Saturday for the Christmas paradeI wore it to town with a light black quilted
 vest and short grey boots. Later, in the much colder evening, to watch the
 tree lighting and mingle with the cheery crowds at the shopping center,
 I tossed on my warm black faux sheepskin knee length coat and my tall boots.

I have to say, dressing in a casual dress can be a nice change from all those
 tops and bottoms our wardrobes seem to hold these days!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A parade, an Autumn city walk, some history. . . . . . . .

We headed into town early yesterday to watch the annual Christmas Parade
prepared to do some city walking.
It was perfect weather, bright sunshine, clear Carolina Blue skies, a breeze, and
 temperatures eventually reaching the high 70's. Definitely not wintry weather
 by any means, but it certainly brought out the crowds standing or sitting ten deep
 along the parade route. The mood was cheery, it was a day full of smiles and
 happy moments.

After the parade we decided to walk the long way back to where we had
parked the car - through the city streets and on into a nearby neighborhood which we
 were not really familiar with, at least not on foot. It's good to see everyday life within
 the city confines looking neat and tidy. The houses are small, many quite old,
compared to the burgeoning suburban neighborhoods, but lovely in the Autumn 
sunshine. We chatted with people enjoying the mild weather on pretty front
 porches, stopped for coffee, and just enjoyed walking and kicking up
 leaves . . . . . . here are few photos from our pleasant hours spent in town.

Old and new - the City Market and condominiums.

 Leaves changing, and falling, at last.

 We took the elevator to the 20th floor of the downtown Holiday Inn - the huge
 difference in the cityscape was even more obvious from above!  
We have lived here almost 40 years. . . . . . . many, many changes over that time.

 Off in the distance, among the lovely trees, we were able to get a great view of
 the Holy Name of Jesus cathedral under construction. 
The 160-ton steel and copper dome, 65 feet tall, was lifted into place last March
 by a special crane built on site. Expected to open in Autumn 2017, this cathedral
 will serve 2,000 worshippers at a time. The city's current Catholic cathedral, 
Sacred Heart, is the smallest in the United States with only 320 seats, and
 requires 11 Masses each weekend to accommodate all comers.

A coffee shop we'd not tried before where the almond croissant was one of the best ever.
We'll definitely go back!

A wonderful day in the city. Then last night we headed out again - in much
 colder temperatures - to join another merry crowd at the lighting of the
 Christmas tree in our midtown North Hills neighborhood. 
A busy but most enjoyable run-up to the holiday season for us.