Thursday, August 10, 2017

Cleaning Up Some New Finds

Last week I did a little thrifting and, stopping by a local antique and collectibles market, found some dirty items. It's been a while since I've had time to go on a hunt, so I was pretty happy with my small finds. Back at home I grabbed the Bar Keeper's Friend and went to town. In very little time they were almost back to their original, shining finishes.
The small sauteuse pan and square brass tray had certainly seen years of neglect. But at $12 for the pan and $3 for the tray I was more than willing to take the risk of them not coming clean.
Some Bar Keeper's Friend and a little elbow grease and the grime began to disappear instantly.
The brass tray came clean as well. The pan will clean up even more over time, use, and washing. I always clean the copper pots every time I use them, and never put them in the dishwasher.
I'm not sure where the tray will go, but the pot looks great joining the rest of my collection of copper. Even if I had to hang the lid on a different pot's handle.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Happy 75th, Martha!

I know I've told this story before, but I'm going to tell it again...A long, long time ago on West Jefferson in one of those enormous apartments that cost next to nothing and no longer exist in West Central, I stuck some white peonies I had found in the alley into a jar. "Very 'Martha Stewart'," my dearest friend, Erin, commented upon seeing it. What? Martha who???

Of course my older sister was already a subscriber to Martha Stewart Living, and after a flip through one issue I was hooked. It all just clicked! Cooking, gardening, decorating, entertaining, even cleaning! This lady was teaching me how to do everything the fastest way and with the best results. It was a Good Thing, indeed!

Any reader of my blog already know how nuts I am about Martha and her aesthetic. The ideas she and her editors, designers, gardeners, chefs and house keepers have shared and continue to share for the past 35 years (if you go way back to the publication of Entertaining) has inspired me in countless ways.

Here's a look at an old post I put up 5 years ago to celebrate her 70th. It's a little amazing to look at this and see how my tastes have changed and my collections have grown. I should do an updated version of this entire post. I did add some newer photos of Cantitoe Corners from my drive-by in April.

I love this picture, and it hangs (rather tongue-in-cheek) in my kitchen. (Now, in 2017, it hangs on a large gallery wall.)

Where it all began-my collection of Fireking Jadeite. I loved the hunt (and still do) finding pieces in thrift stores and antique shops. I've backed off a bit, but still pick things up when it's a good deal. When I started collecting 12 or so years ago, the pieces were still pretty moderately they cost a bit more.
The Jadeite led me to Wedgwood drabware. My collection is tiny, and I say that it is now the only thing I will buy (to try and curb my Plate Collecting Disorder)...but everyone knows that is not true.
The first major purchase I ever made (by major I mean something that cost over $100) was this spice rack from the Martha by Mail catalog. It came complete with spices (don't worry...they have all been replaced many times) and I love it as much today as I did all those years ago.
The kitchen is where a lot of the "Good Things" come into play-like my pots taking the place of curtains, and hung on a simple rod.
Of course the legendary "original" Good Thing-decanting dish soap into a glass bottle. (Martha Stewart Clean products make my life easier, as well!)
Martha first taught me about faux bois...and my small but growing collection of concrete or terracotta vessels designed to look like wood is a new interest.
Of course color is a constant inspiration, and ever since her paint was available at K-Mart I have had a paint chip board above (or near) my desk.
And the books and magazines. Some think my keeping the magazines is ridiculous, but I promise you I still flip through them (usually pulling all of the past issues of the current month to go through) all the time.
So this post wouldn't be complete without some pics of two separate "Drive-Bys". My friend Christina's childhood home was pretty close to Turkey Hill ("where it all began") in Westport, Connecticut.

Driving to Connecticut last April, I tricked Contractor into driving by Martha's farm in Katonah, New York. Here is the approach of the Summer House.

It always surprises me when I am reminded of just how close to the road all of the buildings are. The Summer House is used for entertaining, as well as a repository for Martha's vast library.

The original owner of the property would move to the 18th Century Summer House in summer, and back to Martha's primary residence, the Winter House (which was presumably better insulated), in the colder months.

Passing the Winter House. Martha sort of re oriented the buildings along Girdle Ridge Road to face inward onto the 150 acre farm rather than face the road. Thus the "front", or road side, facade is actually the "back". The Winter House was built in the 1920's as a "fancy farmhouse".

Here you can clearly see the deer fencing that surrounds the property.

Next up is the little Tenant House built toward the end of the 19th Century.

The large glasshouse Martha commissioned for her extensive collections of tropical plants. In addition there are several hoop houses as well as a vegetable greenhouse where Martha grows vegetables in the ground year round.

I absolutely love the little pond house built into the wall and painted Bedford Gray like every other building on the property.

On the way out I made Contractor turn down Maple Avenue to catch a glimpse of the roof line of her stables. All of this is so familiar from The Martha Blog, it's almost surreal to see it in person.

I hope you enjoyed this little old/new post. Happy birthday, Martha!

Saturday, July 29, 2017

This Year's Lilies

We really did have an amazing season for lilies this summer. Beginning with the Asiatic lilies, then moving on to the first, fragrant, trumpet lilies, all of the bulbs I planted last year grew marvelously. I can't wait to keep adding to the collection this fall as soon as the new bulbs start appearing.

Take a look at some of the lilies we grew this year.

Most of the lilies are all planted in two locations, aside from a very few we have begun planting out in the perennial beds. Here are the large clump near the patio. Early in the season a large group of pink Asiatic lilies bloom, followed by trumpet and tiger lilies, and ending with fragrant Oriental and Orienpet (Oriental and Trumpet hybrids) lilies.

The second, and new location is out in the Kitchen Garden. My thought was to plant some flowers that would attract pollinators. I layered the lilies with Dutch iris and several kinds of allium and have had steady blooms all summer. Sunflowers were planted as well to continue the display.

An extremely fragrant, double Oriental lily. I planted these late in the spring and they all grew well.

A close up of a fading 'Purple Prince' orienpet lily.

Fragrant, creamy yellow lilies.

A delicate yellow tiger lily.

And a gorgeous, peach throated lily. Remember that the pollen can stain, so you want to use a paper towel or tissue and pull off the anthers to protect your clothing or upholstery.

A better look at the 'Purple Prince' growing so tall and strong for it's first year.

Another shot of one of the stalks of the double pink Oriental lily.

An unidentified orienpet up near the patio.

When the 'White Stargazer' lilies began blooming in the Kitchen Garden you could smell them as you walked around from the front of the house. Absolutely amazing, and a major draw for bees! The sweet peas have been helping draw in pollinators as well.

Delicate pink edges.

A rather crazy looking, and extremely fragrant, double Oriental.

Nothing compares to the scent of white lilies, however. 'Casablanca' was my favorite, but these 'White Stargazer' lilies were a show stopper. 

And here, almost last to bloom, is a true 'Stargazer' lily.

And towering above the mint plants are some older  'Scheherazade' orienpet lilies. The first orienpets I ever planted.

Best of all, there were so many lilies this year I could have arrangements all over the house and no one would ever notice them missing from the Garden.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Berry Season is Underway

After a light year last year, this year we have had a bumper crop of currants and the first major crop of gooseberries. Unfortunately we have lost almost every one of our old blackberries and golden raspberries. So strange as they usually spread like weeds. Next spring I will need to do some major pruning of the currants and gooseberries, and I would like to plant some black and white currants, but for now I need to hurry up and finish picking!

We grow 'Red Lake' currants, and they were all seriously productive this year.

The currants grew extremely plump and red on the dangling racemes.

I always pick the entire thing. If needed I will remove them from their stems before freezing. For making jam, however, I toss it all in the pot. The stems come out in the food mill.

Down by the vegetable garden are three more currant bushes (don't ask me why I thought we needed six of one variety). They, too, are completely laden with fruit.

Back in the Berry Patch the gooseberries are a huge mess of brambles, but there are so many berries!

They line the undersides of almost every branch.

And they mean business. Some of their thorns are almost an inch long!

The tart, plump little berries are almost always mixed with sugar when cooking. The more ripe berries you can eat out of hand.

Here you can see the dark, riper berries. For baking, however, the green are the norm. I will divide these up before freezing whole. When I use them frozen you just snip of the head and the tail and they will be ready to go.

This is the fifth bowl of currants. I imagine we have picked about 20 lbs so far. Now, what am I going to make?