musings

How Things Change

West UWhen we built our house 26 years ago in a style influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, our sanity was questioned.

IMG_0564Here we were in the midst of very traditional homes, many dating back to the 1930’s, and we were introducing a totally different style.

To make matters worse, during construction I was running for office. Someone who apparently objected to the look we had chosen wrote a letter to the editor questioning my abilities considering my taste in architecture!  After that there was never a time when we came by to view progress that we didn’t find curious people walking through. That was a pretty easy way to meet folks and I’ve always laughed thinking that the house provided a successful campaign outcome.  

IMG_0560Well, that was then and this is now.

IMG_0578In the last couple of years, new construction indicates a changing taste in architecture.

IMG_0561Since the 1980’s when redevelopment in this area began, decades have been defined by home styles so these may well be the look for the second decade of the 21st century. 

IMG_0576 (1)I am glad that our house no longer stands alone when it comes to architectural style. It is reassuring that it is as relevant today as it would have been had it been built in the 1930’s which was our intent.  No matter one’s taste in architecture,  an important criteria is that it withstand the test of time.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

 

 

Tablescapes

International Flair

You never know what is going to inspire a tablescape.  This one started with orchids which were thoughtful gifts deserving  special attention. 

Orchids made me think of Thailand where the markets literally had bags stuffed full with purple, pink and white blooms.  That thought led me to choose this beautiful handwoven silk table runner that was made in Bangkok.  Thanks to Jim Thompson, the weaving as a cottage industry is alive and well there.

The runner paired nicely with placemats purchased from a street vendor in that same city.  I love finding things for the table that are light and take little suitcase space when I travel.

Because it is spring, a season of gardens bursting with color,  these dishes that once belonged to my mother-in-law seemed a nice complement all the pink tones.  According to the writing on the back, they were handpainted by a woman named Ernestine in Salerno, Italy. I believe they were sent home by a soldier husband during World War II.  I would love to know the whole story.

OK, Thailand and Italy are covered, so let’s go with napkins from a Saigon market.  Each little flower is hand embroidered.  In addition to this table showcasing pieces gathered from my travels, it also confirms my attraction to all things hand done.

All that is left to complete the table is glasses, and they, too, have a story.  I don’t know where they are from, but they belonged to a special friend’s grandmother.  My friend thought I would use them more than she and gave them to me.  She was not wrong, and the glasses with their wonderful texture are much used.

So many of my tables are filled with special memories of people and places.  This one, with its international flair, is especially so as with each piece my mind wandered to another place and the experiences had there.  

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Tablescape Thursday

Food, Recipes

Vegetarian Delight

Over the years with no one home but two, most of my friends have quit cooking dinner opting for takeout or restaurants.  That works for me every now and then, but I still enjoy preparing the evening meal because there are so many  things to try.  That makes the hubby very happy as he’d rather eat at home any day!

Another friend and her hubby are the same, so every week or so we share a meal.  They are not meat eaters which at first made meal planning a challenge, but it has gotten easier and done creatively, those meatless meals are downright tasty.

IMG_0566For ideas, I go no farther than these two cookbooks loaded with recipes to suit any palate.  There’s no chance I’ll ever get through the two!

The last dish tried was a mushroom/asparagus/cannellini bean combo that was so tasty not a bite survived.  Of course, meat lovers could add chicken or pork to go with it, but when something is as good as this it’s really not necessary.  Enough said, I’ll share the recipe!

Polenta with Asparagus, Mushrooms & Cannellini Beans

1 1/2 c. vegetable stock

1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, thickly sliced

2 T. olive oil

1 bunch green onions, including as inch or so of green, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

15 oz. can cannellini beans

1 brunch of asparagus, steamed or roasted

1/2 c. Parmesan (serve on the side for a vegan friend, otherwise add it to the cooked polenta)

1 T. butter (can be left out)

chopped basil, parsley, chives or marjoram for garnish

Make the polenta using a packaged mix or yellow cornmeal cooked with water over a double boiler.  While it is cooking, do the chopping and mincing required to prepare the sauce.  

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add the mushrooms, season with sea salt and pepper and saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat. (It may be necessary to do the mushrooms in 2 batches depending on the size of your pan.)  Add most of the scallions and garlic and cook for another minute. Then pour in the stock and add the beans.  Simmer until the mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, add the butter and the remaining scallions to the mushrooms.  IMG_0455Spoon 1/2-3/4 c. of polenta into the center of a plate.  Arrange asparagus around it and spoon the sauce over the polenta. Garnish with chopped herbs.

What I like about this recipe is that it’s pretty easy to fix and all you really need to go with it is a hearty, crusty bread to use for soaking up the liquid.  Don’t be surprised when appreciative moans accompany this dish!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind 

Texas

Wandering Country Roads

There’s plenty to do in Houston, but every now and then it’s fun to leave the big city behind and explore the wide open spaces that define Texas.

It doesn’t take long to see what rural Texas is about.  Cattle graze lazily in fields

and the sprawling metropolis is replaced by a series of small towns.

IMG_0456This time of year the landscape colored by wildflowers is spectacular.  No matter how many times I see fields of blue, red, yellow and pink my heart sings in appreciation of nature’s beauty.

Another reason to get out and about now is the Round Top Antique Show which these days is said to cover some 28 miles.  That means a lot of stuff to browse.  Now, I don’t need a thing, but that doesn’t keep my eye from wandering in search of the unusual or interesting.

IMG_0463Bottles never fail to get my attention.  These are truffle jars that when filled with mushrooms and cotton hold in the moisture necessary for preservation.  You can be sure that in my possession they would be filled with flowers to create a centerpiece for a tablescape.

IMG_0472Talk about an unusual flower container.  Take a look at this chemical beaker.  I didn’t buy one, but the temptation was great.  These were $175 each, a little pricey so I’m going to look into finding new pieces and creating the look.

IMG_0474These wooden mallets got my attention because of their varying shapes and heights.  In case you are wondering, they were used for barn building.  I wouldn’t want someone with one of those in their hand to get mad at me!

IMG_0489One exhibit featured lamps and chandeliers made from the most interesting materials.   For a fleeting moment I could imagine one in my eclectic mix of things.

IMG_9777Then, there were those things that reminded me of some of you bloggers.  White porcelain

IMG_0480and blue and white pieces are favorites of many of you.

IMG_0487Exhibits are in fields, tents and enclosed spaces some of which are beautifully displayed.

IMG_0488I have a hard time imagining how much dealers have to sell to justify the cost.   As one said, it’s always a gamble and you have to do a show knowing that you will win or lose.

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A day or two of wandering among the exhibits is about all I can take and then I’m ready to get back in the car and wander the country roads stopping here and there to take a photo.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Desserts

Strawberry Treat

Who can resist sweet and juicy strawberries bursting with flavor?  Not me, nor can I  resist making an all time favorite dessert which came to me via a high school boyfriend’s mother.  That means I’ve been making it for a long time!

There are surely fancier strawberry concoctions, but for delicious, this one rivals any.  Heck, just looking at the picture makes me want a bite right now!  If you want to join me, here’s the very simple to make recipe.

Mrs. Ames’ Strawberry Dessert

3 cups strawberries, sliced and sweetened with sugar (I also add a tablespoon or two of Amaretto which adds the unexpected to the berries).  Set aside until ready to use.

Cracker crust

2 c. cracker crumbs (I use unsalted Nabisco crackers)

3 egg whites

1 c. sugar

1 t. vanilla

1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 c. chopped pecans

Beat egg whites until fluffy.  Add vanilla,  gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff.  

Fold in baking powder, finely ground cracker crumbs and chopped pecans.  Pour mixture into lightly buttered 9″ pie pan and bake at 325 until lightly browned.  This takes about 30 minutes.  Cool completely.

To serve, top the crust with strawberries and slightly sweetened whipped cream.  (I often put the berries on the crust a couple of hours before serving to let the juice soak in.)

If this dessert is as popular at your house as it is at ours, you will be making it again and again.  Enjoy!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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Share Your Cup Thursday

Full Plate Thursday

Tablescapes

India Inspired

There was never a doubt that this beautiful meticulously handwoven runner from India would be the inspiration for a tablescape and dinner for our gourmet group when it next met at our house.

The design elements in the piece are many, but the primary ones are symbolic of the images seen again and again in Rajasthan.  I still marvel at its artistry  and treasure the runner as a favorite possession.

My first thought was for the table to be as elegant as if it were in a maharajah’s palace which meant bringing out the china, crystal and silver.  Good idea but it proved to be a bit much so began the process of simplifying.

I wanted nothing to take away from the beauty of the fabric so glass candle holders and vases as a centerpiece allowed the colors and pattern to show through.

Gold chargers did survive the cut and became the backdrop for varied colored plates that not only played off the thread colors  but were more subtle and took nothing away from the beauty of the runner.

IMG_0356With napkins of gold and burgundy and etched stems with different patterns, the table was simple with touches of elegance that fit my comfort zone.

IMG_0357To this point the only thing missing was the flowers. Choosing roses was a no brainer as in India we were showered with rose petals upon arriving at every hotel.  As luck would have it, Trader Joe’s had the perfect colors, and the tea roses nestled beautifully in their globes.

IMG_0354With memories of India swimming in my head, there was never a doubt that the food would also be inspired by that adventure.  I opted for chicken tikka masala seasoned with spices gotten in Dehli, and to my delight the hubby found Kingfisher ale at Total Wines.

I have to admit that Indian food met with resistance from some of the group, but the ale was a big hit!  Hey, isn’t challenging the taste buds part of the planning for a gourmet group meal?

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Tablescape Thursday