Sunday, September 29, 2013

Picture Parade: Colors of Autumn-Inspired Interior Design

From iWallScreen

I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- fall is my favorite season!  And I just love autumnal colors.  Those warm, mellow hues drawn from nature are my color palette of choice for interior design.  Just take a look at these examples:

Top: From Houzz
Bottom: From Elana's Pantry
PUMPKIN


Top: From Design Shuffle
Bottom: From Cooking Light
BUTTERNUT


Top: From Houzz
Bottom: From Modern Garden
CIDER


Top: From HGTV
Bottom: From Herbal Extracts Plus
CINNAMON


Top: From Wolf & Wing Interior Design
Bottom: From Cambridge Tree Project
RUSSET


Top: From Houzz
Bottom: From Agriculture Corner
WHEAT


Top: From Hillsdale Furniture
Bottom: From Louisville Naturally
GOLDENROD


Top: From ISeeCubed
Bottom: From WallpaperPimper
PERSIMMON


Top: From artVIA
Bottom: From French Country Cottage
CRANBERRY


Top: From Houzz
Bottom: From Photo Dictionary
CHESTNUT

Any and all of these colors would be welcome in my home at any time of the year!
                

Friday, September 27, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Applesauce Pecan Bread

From The Apron Archives

My husband has an annoying habit of buying food impulsively, then eating one or two servings and leaving the rest to sit around in the fridge or pantry until I decide it must either be thrown out or used up.  A jar of applesauce that has been in our fridge for far too long is the latest item on my "use it or lose it" list.  This Applesauce Pecan Bread recipe will use up a good amount, and will make a tasty breakfast treat for the next few days as well.  I wish all of my husband's impulse buys were so easy to deal with (the ten-for-a-dollar-each hummus fiasco lives on in infamy, not to mention the half-dozen jars of herring in cream sauce).  Now if only I could find a way to use up some of the pickled okra my husband has stashed away in every available nook and cranny!

Applesauce Pecan Bread

1 C. sugar
1 C. applesauce
1/3 C. oil
2 eggs
3 T. milk
2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 C. chopped pecans
1/4 C. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 C. finely chopped pecans

Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, sift or stir together the next six ingredients.  Add to the wet ingredients and beat just until well combined.  Stir in the pecans.  Pour into a greased loaf pan.  Combine the remaining three ingredients and sprinkle over the top of the loaf.  Bake at 350 degrees for one hour, covering with foil for the last 30 minutes.  Cool on a rack, then remove from the pan and cool completely.  Serves 8-10.
             

Thursday, September 26, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: Silly Songs of the '60s

From Amazon.com

Last week I took you on a trip down memory lane via silly '70s songs, so this week I thought we would continue our journey with equally silly songs from the '60s!

1) "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport" (1960) by Rolf Harris


3) "Monster Mash" (1962) by Bobby ("Boris") Pickett

4) "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" (1963) by Allan Sherman*

5) "Don't Let the Rain Come Down" (1964) by The Serendipity Singers

6) "Leader of the Laudromat" (1964) by The Detergents**

7) "The Name Game" (1964) by Shirley Ellis (I still sing this one, and I'm really good at it!)

8) "MacArthur Park" (1969) by Richard Harris

9) "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" (1968) by Tiny Tim (yes, this is a man singing!)

10) "Gitarzan" (1969) by Ray Stevens***

While listening to the falsetto voice of Tiny Tim is difficult, for a truly unpleasant auditory experience from the 1960s just play anything by Mrs. Miller.  This woman, bless her heart, truly did have aspirations as a singer, but unfortunately not the talent.  Even more unfortunately, her recording company decided to capitalize on her lack of talent, and she became quite a sensation of a sort.  She did soon come to realize that she was being used, but played along because you can't knock success, no matter how convoluted!  Here is just one of many examples of her recordings ("Downtown", released in 1966 on her Greatest Hits album):



For better or worse, these songs were a part of my formative years, and it is fun to listen to them occasionally (but not too often, because one can only handle so much silliness!).  I hope you enjoyed this brief foray into the world of weird music as much as I did, and I promise to avoid this topic from now on (at least for a little while)!

*The parents of a childhood friend had the Allan Sherman album, and this song was our favorite by far!

**For those who may be too young to know, this song is a parody of the popular "Leader of the Pack" (1964) by The Shangri-Las, which is a silly song in its own right.

***Ray Stevens has made a career of singing hilariously offbeat tunes.  Check out the rest of the Gitarzan album for more of his unique brand of musical humor; there are also several Ray Stevens playlists on YouTube if you just can't get enough!
                

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wish List Wednesdays: Circling Swallows Clock


I have an obsession with clocks -- we have at least one in most of our rooms, and often more than one.  They certainly do not ensure that I arrive at my destinations on time (although I am rarely extremely late), and they are not always accurate (some run fast and some run slow).  Whenever there is a time change (and one is coming up on November 3rd, FYI), my clocks are a nuisance to reset since there are so many of them.  But somehow it is reassuring to me to always know at least the approximate time, and I can't imagine giving any of them up.  In fact, I just may add to my collection!  The Circling Swallows Clock from Anthropologie would be a unique addition, since it consists of twelve lovely white birds in flight individually attached to the wall, plus the mechanism with the clock hands.  The price is steep ($158), but if you are as obsessed with clocks as I am, it is worth the price just to own such an unusual timepiece!
             

Sunday, September 22, 2013

On the Homefront: Chinese Moon Festival Table

Harvest Moon (from EarthSky)

This past Thursday was the day of the Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival, a harvest celebration popular in China and other Asian countries.  Unfortunately, I did not realize this until the night before, so I had very little time to prepare, but I did my best with what we had.  My husband owned a set of Fitz and Floyd dishes called "Sea Dragon" in Glaze Blue before I even met him, and it is still a favorite for both of us, so this was the dishware I chose for our table.  A simple table setting and some Chinese takeout food, and we were ready to celebrate!


Threshold table runner from Target; dark brown wooden bead placemat from Target; "Sea Dragon" dinner plate and soup bowl by Fitz and Floyd; faux bamboo flatware; blue and white striped napkin from Cafe Pasqual's Gallery in Santa Fe, NM; blue and white shrimp chopstick holder; blue goblet.


Close-up look at the Sea Dragon soup bowl.

Shrimp-shaped chopstick holders.

A simple centerpiece.

Full moon-shaped candles resting on top of a dragonfly plate
(made in Japan and purchased, I think, at East-West Imports
in Fort Collins, CO -- a great store, BTW, and not to be missed
if you are in the area).


For this rather impromptu dinner, we simply purchased Chinese takeout food, since I had no time to cook.  It is traditional to eat mooncakes, beautiful molded Chinese pastries usually filled with lotus seed or red bean paste, as part of the Moon Festival celebration, but they are difficult to find here, especially at the last minute, so I ordered sesame balls from the restaurant instead.  These fried dough pastries contain a similar filling and are quite good, plus their round shape reminded me of a full moon!

Delicious sesame balls.

Chinese Moon Festival Menu:

Sizzling Rice Soup
Mu Shoo Chicken
Shrimp with Broccoli
Eggplant in Garlic Sauce
Steamed Rice
Fortune Cookies
Sesame Balls

This was obviously quite a feast, but we always order way more food than we need when we get Chinese takeout so that we have lots of leftovers to eat for a few more days.

Lanterns are another Moon Festival tradition, but we had none and I had no time to shop for them.  Fortunately, our dining room light fixture bears an uncanny resemblance to a full moon:


We so enjoyed our last-minute Moon Festival celebration that next year I intend to do it again, only this time I will try to remember far enough in advance so that I can track down some mooncakes and lanterns!

Mooncakes (from Gourmet by Kat)
                

Seasonal Style: Autumn Western

Today is the Autumnal Equinox, or the first day of fall!  That means it's time for another Seasonal Style post, and I've decided to go with a rustic and comfortable Western theme.

Crow's Nest (no longer available)

Crow's Nest (no longer available)

This look is so warm and inviting -- no one would care if you put those suede boots up on that recycled wood coffee table and relaxed on the big leather sofa after a day on the range.  Who wouldn't want to spend cool, crisp autumn days in an outfit and an interior like these!
             

Friday, September 20, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Grits and Greens Casserole


I have had a bag full of chopped kale sitting in the refrigerator for days that really had to be dealt with.  I also have a partially used bag of grits that I have been trying to use up.  Imagine my delight when I found a recipe that calls for both!  I modified the original Grits and Greens Casserole recipe to incorporate what I had in my kitchen, and got to finish off a lot of bits and pieces that have been languishing in the fridge for a while.  I'm sure you've noticed the sad lack of bacon in my recipe compared to the image above.  I did not have any, and it sometimes triggers my red meat allergy, so I left it out, but anyone else should feel free to add bacon (just crumble four slices of crispy cooked bacon over the top before baking).  Frugal, fast, easy, and tasty -- what more can you ask of a casserole?  I know I'll be making this one again and again!

Grits and Greens Casserole

1 lb. chopped kale
2 T. olive oil
1/2 C. barbecue sauce (preferably vinegar-based)
1/4 C. heavy cream
2 C. chicken stock
1 C. water
3/4 C. heavy cream
1/4 C. butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 C. stone-ground grits
3/4 C. shredded cheese (I like to use a cheddar blend)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Steam the kale in the microwave on high for one minute (if using bagged chopped kale, just cut a vent hole in the bag and steam in the bag).  Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the kale, removing any large pieces of stem if necessary.  Cook the kale down a bit, then add 2-4 T. water or stock, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes or until the kale has cooked down by about half.  Stir in the barbecue sauce, remove from heat, and stir in the cream.  Cover and set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the stock, then add the water and cream.  Bring to a gentle boil.  Add the butter, then salt to taste.  Slowly add the grits, stirring constantly so that the grits do not settle to the bottom and scorch.  Reduce the heat to medium-low.  Cook the grits for 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching, until the grits are tender (the consistency of oatmeal, moist not dry).  If the grits become too thick, add warm stock or water to thin.  Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 C. cheese, reserving the other 1/4 C. of cheese.  Temper the egg with a few spoonfuls of the grits, then stir into the pot with the remaining grits.

Spread half of the grits on the bottom of a greased 8-inch square (or 7x11-inch rectangular) baking dish.  Top with the kale, spreading evenly (drain off any excess liquid first).  Spread the other half of the grits over the greens.  Sprinkle the reserved 1/4 C. cheese over the casserole.  Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, until hot and bubbling.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.  Serves 6.

Note: The unbaked casserole can be covered and refrigerated for a day.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, until bubbling.
             

Thursday, September 19, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: Silly Songs of the '70s

From YouTube

Not long ago I read an article about the "Top 10 Most Annoying Songs of the 1970s".  I was a teenager/young adult during those years, and I remember most of these songs well.  While I agree with the writer's assessment that songs from the era tended to be sappy and overwrought, to me they were more silly than annoying, and actually rather amusing.  There are a few exceptions, of course.  "Having My Baby" (1974) epitomizes annoying, and "Run Joey Run" (1975) is so bad I had apparently blocked it out and didn't even remember this song until I listened to it again (don't worry, the links do not take you to the songs, just a description).  In my opinion, the most annoying song of the '70s is not even on this playlist.  Minnie Riperton's painful assault upon the eardrums called  "Lovin' You" (1975) was the song I disliked the most from that era.  This link does take you to the song, so listen to it at your peril (just because one can hit extremely high notes does not mean that one should, especially when they serve absolutely no purpose in the song!).

While a lot of songs from the 1970s were not great, so many of them were rather funny.  I think it may have been a reaction to '60s protest music (although the 1960s years had some pretty offbeat tunes of their own).  The silly '70s songs did serve a purpose, which was to bring a little laughter into people's lives.  I have compiled a list of some of the most ridiculous, and I hope they add some fun to your day!

1) "Gimme Dat Ding" (1970) by The Pipkins

2) "Lola" (1970) by The Kinks

3) "Chick-a-Boom" (1971) by Daddy Dewdrop

4) "Brand New Key" (1971) by Melanie

5) "Dead Skunk" (1972) by Loudon Wainright III

6) "Troglodyte" (1972) by Jimmy Castor Bunch

7) "Spiders and Snakes" (1974) by Jim Stafford

8) "The Streak" (1974) by Ray Stevens

9) "Junk Food Junkie" (1976) by Larry Groce

10) "Muskrat Love" (1976) by Captain & Tenille

Dancing muskrats and the Captain (From Funny or Die)
             

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Wish List Wednesdays: Porcelain Blossom Diffuser


When it comes to floral fragrances, my husband and I do not always see eye to eye (or is it nose to nose?).  I absolutely adore lavender, but dear hubby is not as much of a fan.  However, we both agree that the scent of tuberoses is exquisite.  Unfortunately these flowers can be a bit hard to find in our local floral shops, which is why I was delighted to discover the Porcelain Blossom Diffuser ($69) from The Monticello Shop, which comes with two bottles of tuberose scented oil.  One of these diffusers in our TV room, where our dogs spend most of their time, would be heavenly.  It would also be great in a bedroom or bathroom.  I am ready to surround myself with the scent of tuberoses, and I don't think my husband would mind at all!

Tuberose (from Flowers-sc.com)
           

Friday, September 13, 2013

Foodie Fridays: Peanut Noodles with Edamame

From Real Simple

Today is National Peanut Day, perfect for a pasta dish featuring peanuts (please ignore the fact that it is also Friday the 13th)!  I found an easy recipe and made it even simpler by using coleslaw mix (I omitted the snow peas since I do not like them).  I did have some fresh parsley, which is unusual, so I used that in the dish as well.  Pasta and peanut butter are two of my favorite foods, and this easy-to-make dish can be a complete light meal on its own.  What a perfect recipe for a late summer day!

Peanut Noodles with Edamame

12 oz. whole wheat spaghetti
1 C. frozen shelled edamame
1/2 C. peanut butter
3 T. rice vinegar
2 T. soy sauce
1 tsp. ginger
1 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 C. water
2 C. coleslaw mix
1/4 C. minced parsley
1/4 C. chopped salted peanuts

Cook the pasta according to package directions, adding the edamame for the last five minutes of cooking.  Drain and set aside.  In a blender, puree the next seven ingredients until smooth.  Toss the pasta with the dressing, coleslaw mix, and parsley in a large bowl.  Serve sprinkled with chopped peanuts.  Serves 4.

Note: Try other shredded or thinly sliced fresh vegetables in this recipe.  Some possibilities include carrots, cucumbers, summer squash, bell peppers, scallions, jicama -- use any of your favorites!  You can also replace the ground ginger with 1 T. grated fresh ginger.
             

Thursday, September 12, 2013

This 'n That Thursdays: "Imaginary Worlds: Plants Larger than Life" at the Atlanta Botanical Garden


My husband and I had been planning to visit the mosaiculture exhibition at the Atlanta Botanical Garden since it debuted in May.  This past Saturday we finally found the time to go, and we are so glad we did -- what a treat!  "Imaginary Worlds: Plants Larger than Life" was created by a partnership between the Garden and International Mosaiculture of Montreal.  More than 100,000 plants were used to form 19 unique living sculptures in the first major mosaiculture display in the United States.  A metal form covered in special fabric is stuffed with growing medium into which thousands of tiny plants are inserted.  The foliage is meticulously groomed as the carefully selected plants grow out to create each specially designed piece.  The living sculptures are maintained daily by the Garden's horticulture team, assisted by seven temporary workers hired just for this exhibition.  The intensive efforts required to maintain the display are worth all the hard work -- just check out these photos:

Two cobras

Ogre 

Two butterflies

Unicorn

A Canopy Walk leads to the next sculpture.

Shaggy dog

A most impressive Earth Goddess

My husband the ecologist communing with the Earth Goddess.

Two dancing fish (they rotate!)

Five rabbits (I seem to be missing one)

Three giant berries

As if the mosaiculture sculptures were not enough to make our visit enjoyable, the Atlanta Botanical Garden was also hosting a "Chocolate Weekend" event while we were there!  Cooking demonstrations and chocolate samples of all sorts were available for free to all who came to the garden that weekend.  We got to sample some great chocolates (I fell in love with the white chocolate-covered pink champagne cake truffle made by Candy Cake Company, while my husband was impressed with the dark chocolate ginger bonbon from Chocolate South).  I also had to get the recipe for the Dark Chocolate Coconut Shake being served at one of the booths (very appropriate for today, which is National Chocolate Milkshake Day).

We had lunch at MetroFresh in the Garden, which was good but not great.  All of the food was made with quality fresh ingredients, but our biggest complaint was that the sandwiches had way too much bread, especially mine, which was cut from the end piece of their ciabatta bread sandwich and had almost no filling.  The sandwiches were also too cold (served straight out of the refrigerator) -- the use of a microwave would have been helpful.  A lady pea salad was listed on the menu, but when I ordered it I was told that they had used corn instead of the lady peas.  The corn salad was okay, but the dressing needed more vinegar to counteract the excessive sweetness of the freshly cut corn kernels.  The best part of the café was their make-your-own gorp bar, where you could combine any number of ingredients from about a dozen bins filled with various dried fruits, nuts, and candies.  This was a clever idea and a big hit with children.  I think the café is relatively new and perhaps with a little time they will work out the kinks and become a truly great place to eat.

I did manage to take a few photos of other garden plants -- it was a beautiful day, not too humid, and it did not get too hot until the middle of the afternoon, so the weather was perfect for taking pictures.

Beautyberry (Callicarpa sp.), one of my favorite plants.

White hydrangea

White eggplant

Colorful zinnias

Red spider lily (Lycoris radiata), a popular garden plant in the South.

Yellow hibiscus

Blanket flower (Gaillardia sp.), another favorite of mine.

Three frog sculptures grace the Fuqua Orchid Center,
which houses the Garden's impressive orchid collection.

One of our favorite spots is the small but serene Japanese garden:


The moon gate entrance

There is a small teahouse where you can sit and admire the view:


The persimmon tree next to the teahouse.

The exit gate

A lantern near the exit gate.

The mosaiculture exhibition will only be at the Atlanta Botanical Garden until October, so if you are in the area I encourage you to go take a look -- you won't regret it.  And don't forget to enjoy the rest of the Garden as well!

A view through the treetops in the Garden!