Thursday, December 25, 2014

On the Homefront: Christmas Is Cancelled

Yesterday our poor sweet old Dalmatian Gia was knocked down in our driveway by the mail truck.  She has a fractured pelvis and a major tendon in her abdomen suffered some damage as well.  Right now she is in the ICU at the University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital, and will remain there for at least several days for observation and pain management.

If Gia were a younger and healthier dog these injuries would be less worrisome, but she is too old for surgery and has other health issues that may or may not be complicated by this accident.  All we can do is wait and see if she begins to improve.  She is a tough and willful old girl and has a strong desire to keep fighting on, which is something in her favor.  The vets advised giving her three weeks to see if she can recover.  My blog will be on hiatus for a while as we wait.  Hopefully I will have better news in a few weeks, but for now I will be spending all of my time worrying about and then if all goes well taking care of Gia.

Best wishes to all (especially Gia) for a healthy and happy New Year.

This 'n That Thursdays: Yuletide Décor

From Pottery Barn

Once again the winter holiday season has arrived, and décor ideas for Christmas abound!  Here are some of the inspiring ideas I found on a quick search of the Internet:

From Get Things Done

From Homeplusdecor

From Homedit

From Home & Interior

From Green Style Gallery

From Architecture and Design

From Homedit

From Decorating Zen

From Real Simple

From DigsDigs

From Modern Diy Art Designs

The creativity and sense of style out there never fail to amaze me.  I may just have to copy some of these decorating ideas for myself next year!

Enjoy the holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Wish List Wednesdays: Regal Club Fender

Even though fireplace fenders are a décor idea from another era, I cannot understand why they are not popular now.  I had never heard of them before I saw this Regal Club Fender with Leather Seats ($3,450) in the Scully & Scully catalog, but just think how cozy it would be to sit on this fender in front of a blazing fire when coming indoors from a day spent out in the cold!  Obviously it is not inexpensive, but this is an item that will last a lifetime, and beyond if passed down to the next generation.  What a smart investment a fireplace fender would be!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Seasonal Style: Winter Rustic Lodge

From Living Room Decorating Ideas

The winter solstice has arrived, and I am in the mood for a rustic lodge look this winter.  Of all the places I have lived so far, the Colorado foothills area is my hands-down favorite.  I would choose that cold, dry climate over heat and humidity any day -- I don't even mind shoveling snow!  Of course the lodge would be made of logs, and the obligatory fireplace of rock, while the décor would include a bit of plaid, some southwestern style, lots of books to read in front of that fireplace, and some well-insulated windows so I could watch the snow fall while staying warm and toasty inside.

From Corduroy

Best of all, the apparel for this look is comfortably casual.  Well worn denim, plaid, flannel, a down vest, warm and water-resistant pants, and these leather and rubber Duck boots from L.L.Bean which are so popular right now the company can't even keep them in stock.  The rustic lodge look really is just my style!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Foodie Fridays: Breakfast Wraps

My Breakfast Wraps are so simple I almost hesitate to call this a recipe, but they are one of my favorite breakfast meals at the moment so I decided to include them here, especially since I am rather particular about the ingredients used.  I always choose the same sausage and the same type of tortillas, and the cheese must be a cheddar or cheddar blend, preferably my favorite cheddar-mozzarella blend.  This is a hearty and satisfying hot breakfast with a reasonable calorie count (330), perfect if you are anticipating a cold and active morning.

Breakfast Wraps

2  6-inch corn/wheat blend tortillas*
2 fully cooked breakfast sausage links**
2 T. finely shredded cheese (I use a cheddar blend)

Warm the tortillas for 15 seconds in the microwave.  Place a sausage link on each tortilla, sprinkle each with 1 T. cheese, and roll them up as tightly as possible.  Place them on a plate and heat in the microwave for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until the cheese melts and the sausages are warmed through.  Serve immediately.  Serves 1.

*I use La Tortilla Factory Yellow Corn Tortillas from Publix (Trader Joe's also has good ones)
**I always use Al Fresco Country Style Chicken Sausage from Publix

Thursday, December 18, 2014

This 'n That Thursdays: Pantone's 2015 Color of the Year is Marsala!

Pantone recently announced its choice for the 2015 Color of the Year.  The color is called Marsala, and it has received decidedly mixed reactions.  I found the deep reddish brown shade a bit difficult to like at first, until I realized that one of my favorite lipstick shades (on the extremely rare occasions that I actually wear lipstick) is exactly this color.  From there I decided that Marsala, while not an exciting color, is an adaptable one that plays well with other hues.  For example, I paired it on a style board with Benjamin Moore's 2015 Color of the Year, which is called Guilford Green:

Benjamin Moore Guilford Green HC-116

The two colors, accented with silver and a bit of black and white, are quite pleasing together (and possibly even appropriate for the Christmas season!):

Clockwise from top left: Anda Armchair by Ligne Roset; Apollo Leatherette Sofa in Burgundy from Urban Ladder; Storybook Village Field of Beams Celadon Green Throw Pillow Cover from Society 6; E.F. Chapman Gourd 1 Table Lamp in Celadon Crackle Porcelain from Visual Comfort & Co.; Hammered Drum Table/Stool Collection from Viva Terra; Fluted Console Table in Antique Silver Finish from Signature Designs Home; Scirocco II Canvas by Farrell Douglass from Great Big Canvas; China Seas Damask San Marco Decorative Pillow Cover from Etsy; Center: Marimekko Geranium White/Black Throw Pillow from FinnStyle; Center background: Antigua Jute Rug in Wine from One Kings Lane; Background: Benjamin Moore Guilford Green HC-116 interior wall paint.

Pantone's 2015 Color of the Year may be an acquired taste, but it does seem to eventually grow on one if given the chance.  In fact, the only thing I don't really understand is the name choice.  Marsala wine is more of an amber brown color, or even a ruby red shade:

From Italian Food Excellence

From Histórias e Vinhos

Pantone's Marsala color has been unfortunately linked to the color of raw chicken livers by many bloggers:

From We Are Not Foodies

I am going to be more charitable and liken it more to the color of pâté (I know, pâté is a bit paler than the color swatch shown above, but which image do you consider to be more appetizing?):

From The Guardian

The pâté is closer in color to the Pantone Marsala fabric swatch, possibly because the loose weave of the fabric allows more of the white background to come through, giving the reddish shade more of a pinkish tinge:

From Apartment Therapy

Maybe the folks at Pantone should just resign themselves to the obvious and change the color name to something like "Parisian Pâté" (at least it sounds better than "Raw Chicken Liver")!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wish List Wednesdays: Eastern Accents Monogrammed Christmas Stocking

I haven't had a monogrammed Christmas stocking since I was a child, and I think it may be time to remedy that situation.  The Eastern Accents Coastal Tidings Crabby Spa Stocking ($59.99) from AllModern would be a great choice, since I am always on the lookout for anything with a crustacean theme.  Should I decide to forego a monogram, the Eastern Accents holiday stockings come in a variety of additional designs.  Both the Nordic Holiday Red Nose Stocking ($60) and the North Pole Sweet Friends Stocking ($95) appeal to me.  With so many wonderful stockings available, I think I just might have to celebrate Christmas more than just once a year!


Friday, December 12, 2014

Foodie Fridays: Chocolate-Covered Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

I try not to bake cookies too often, but this is the holiday season and baking has always been part of the festivities for me.  I enjoy baking, as opposed to meal preparation which I consider to be a bit of a chore.  My freshman year at college I baked Christmas cookies in the dorm oven at the end of finals week to take home as a gift for my family, and I have tried to continue the holiday baking tradition ever since.  Because of our old Dalmatian's health issues this year, I can't spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but cookies bake pretty quickly and I usually cut cookie recipe amounts in half as we do not need so many for just the two of us.

My husband loves oatmeal cookies and I was looking to use up some chocolate-covered raisins, so this recipe was the result.  The original recipe (which was printed on the oatmeal container) calls for shortening, which I do not use, but my husband had purchased a jar of coconut oil, which is solid like shortening at room temperature, so I thought I would give it a try in these cookies.  I heated the jar in the microwave to melt the oil, and measured out 1/2 cup of the resulting liquid.  I was expecting the cookies to taste a bit like coconut as the oil had a noticeable coconut aroma, but to my surprise I did not taste coconut at all.  The cookies are light and crisp with no oily texture, and I was quite pleased with the result.  I will try using coconut oil in other cookie recipes, including those that call for butter, to see how they turn out.  Who knows, I may just end up preferring this new ingredient in all of my cookie recipes!

Chocolate-Covered Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

1/2 C. coconut oil
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 egg
1 T. milk
3/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 C. rolled oats (I used quick cooking oats)
1/2 C. chocolate-covered raisins

In a large bowl, combine the coconut oil and sugars, stirring until smooth.  Blend in the next three ingredients.  Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt and beat well.  Add the oats and chocolate-covered raisins.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (one-inch diameter) two inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes, turning the sheets halfway through cooking time for even browning.  Remove from the oven, let stand for 5 minutes, and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

This 'n That Thursdays: Cardinals for Christmas

From Wallpapers Design

With their striking red color, male cardinals stand out in the winter landscape, making them a popular symbol for the season.  These jaunty little birds are easily incorporated into Christmas décor.  Here are just a few possibilities:

Cardinal pinecone wreath
(from Minimalisti)

Christmas Cardinals Mug
(from Cafe Press)

Cardinal Hand-Hooked Wool Pillows
(from Plow & Hearth)

Cardinal tree
(from Hirondelle Rustique)

Stitched Cardinal Stocking
(from Herberger's)

Three Red Ceramic Cardinals
(from White Owl & Company)

Embroidered Cardinal Sateen Sheet Set
(from Cuddledown)

Winterberry Cardinals Tree Skirt
(from Cultured Living)

222 Fifth Winter Cardinal Dinnerware Set
(from Kohl's)

Symbol of the Cardinal Glass Ornament
(from Bronner's Christmas Wonderland)

Why not invite a few cardinals into your home for Christmas this year?

From Fine Art America

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wish List Wednesdays: Snowbirds Glass Plate

Certain elements of nature will always bring Christmas to mind for me, and the cardinal is one example.  In our part of Georgia, cardinals are plentiful year round and quite noticeable in the winter, especially the bright red males, who brighten up an otherwise drab winter landscape.  The 13-inch Snowbirds Glass Plate ($28) from Expressions reminds me of the cardinals that flit through the paper birch tree in our yard, and would be perfect as part of our Christmas décor.  It can also be put to practical use as a serving platter for the Yuletide feast.  Best of all, this plate is appropriate all winter long, and not just for the holidays!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Foodie Fridays: Creamy Sweet Potato Soup with Ham

As so often happens at our house, this recipe was born out of the necessity of cleaning out the refrigerator and pantry.  Sweet potatoes in the fridge and an onion in the pantry had to be used or lost, as did some ham steaks that had been in the freezer for quite some time.  Since fall is the time of year for soup, this simple dish was the logical result, and it turned out to be one of the best soups I have ever made.  I had it for lunch with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (which was more like dessert for the meal) and it was so good and satisfying I just might have this pairing for dinner one night!

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup with Ham

1-2 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 C. chicken stock (I used unsalted)
salt to taste (I used 1/2 tsp.)
1 T. honey mustard
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes, cooked and peeled*
6-8 oz. ham steak, diced

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook one minute longer.  Stir in the stock, seasonings, and sweet potatoes.  Cook over medium-low heat until heated through, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and purée with an immersion blender until smooth.  Stir in the ham and serve.  Serves 6.

Note: I had some slender French green beans (haricots verts) that also needed to be eaten, but I did not want to add them to the soup as they would get overcooked very quickly.  Instead, I steamed them and diced them finely.  I then placed a mound in the bottom of a bowl and spooned the soup over the top so that they could be stirred in while still bright green and slightly crisp.  This method was the perfect solution!

*I used prepackaged microwaveable sweet potatoes from Publix.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

This 'n That Thursdays: Holiday Porch Décor

From Grandin Road

Lately I have been thinking that our porch needs a red outdoor bench.  Our house is painted a taupe color with just a hint of green, and red accents complement this color nicely.  The porch wraps around the house and is covered on three sides, so there is plenty of room for a bench.  Red outdoor benches also lend themselves well to Christmas décor, as the above image shows.  I prefer a simpler bench design, but could see myself going all out decorating my bench for the season.  I've even come up with a style board for the occasion:

Left to right from top to bottom: Reindeer Snowflake Pillow from Houzz; Holiday Themed Sherpa Plush Throw from Stein Mart; Poinsettia Outdoor Pillow from Pier 1 (no longer available); Generations Garden Bench from Homeclick; Outdoor Bench Cushion in green from Target; Zoey Red Planter and Cordless Holly Jolly Urn Filler  from Grandin Road; Reclaimed Wood Sleigh Coffee Table in red from Johnson's Antiques; Center background: Dash and Albert Diamond Sprout/White Indoor/Outdoor Rug from Lavender Fields.

Some lush greenery in the form of garlands and wreaths would complete this holiday porch décor, and what a warm welcome this cozy nook would give to any Yuletide visitors!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Wish List Wednesdays: Sauria Cakestands

I think a lot of children go through a dinosaur obsession phase, and I was certainly one of them.  I happened to prefer the herbivores to the carnivores (the stegosaurus was my favorite), and I am still rather fond of these extinct reptilian giants.  Naturally I was delighted to discover the Sauria Cakestands ($130 each) from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) Store.  While there is no stegosaurus, both the triceratops and the brontosaurus are represented, and I am almost as fond of those two species as I am of my favorite.  Best of all, if you become a member of the museum, you will get 20% off of any purchase (plus other benefits in addition to supporting MoMA).  Any celebration would be much more fun and festive with one or both of these cake stands on display!


Monday, December 1, 2014

On the Homefront: Simple Thanksgiving Table

From his lofty perch, Pilgrim the Dalmatian surveys the
simple Thanksgiving setting with satisfaction.

This fall has been unusually stressful for us.  Our old Dalmatian started having seizure-like episodes at the end of September, and despite extensive tests at the University of Georgia's School of Veterinary Medicine, no conclusions were reached as to the cause, or even as to whether or not the episodes were true seizures.  Various medications were tried, with unpleasant side effects but no resolution to the problem.  Finally, after almost three weeks, the episodes seemed to be resolving themselves.  They have become less and less frequent, and much less severe (although they were never really bad, just extremely frequent in the beginning, as in several times a day).  My theory is that our poor girl, who has significant arthritis, fell down and, in struggling to get back up, hit her head and gave herself a concussion, which is slowly but surely healing.

We are certainly grateful that our Gia is getting better, but she still needs a lot of care and cannot be left alone for too long for fear she will fall and injure herself again.  This means that I cannot do any cooking that takes a lot of time, as I am frequently interrupted by her, so our Thanksgiving this year was very simple by necessity.  I took a lot of shortcuts by using pre-made options from the grocery store, and my husband thoughtfully bought the pies from a bakery called the Buttermilk Pie Company he found when he was in the nearby town of Gainesville recently.  I did have time to set a simple table by starting early in the month and doing a little at a time.  I am finally getting around to posting our table, which turned out quite nicely despite the fact that I had so little time to spend on it.

Autumnal print table runner and napkin from Home Goods last year; dark brown wooden bead placemat from Target a while ago; pumpkin-colored dinner and dessert plates from Walmart several years ago; faux wood-handled flatware; beaded napkin ring from Home Goods last year; clear glass water and wine glasses.

This image gives a better idea of the actual colors of the table
(once again my little camera and poor lighting meant that I
could only get a really good shot from one angle).

An oak leaf wreath and dark metal hurricane candleholder
with a punched leaf design make a simple centerpiece.

A turkey-shaped basket filled with excelsior and a faux pumpkin
sits in a basket tray surrounded by chocolates at the far end
of the table.

A close-up look at the pretty napkin and ring.

My menu is not the one I actually served this year, but it is one I have served in the past.  The turkey recipe comes from Claire Robinson's Food Network show called "5 Ingredient Fix" and is a favorite when it is just the two of us for Thanksgiving.  It is fast, easy, tasty, and makes just the right amount for us.  I have been making the cranberry sauce recipe for decades now and it is a tradition for our holiday table (there is always enough left over to serve at Christmas as well).  I usually make steamed or roasted broccoli or Brussels sprouts as the vegetable, but if I am feeling decadent I will make the broccoli casserole, which is cheesy and creamy and definitely a comfort food.  My husband and I are both traditionalists when it comes to a homemade dessert.  If I am making the pie, it will always be pumpkin, and it will always be the recipe on the can of Libby's pumpkin purée!  The dressing is the only thing I made from scratch this year (although I have to admit the cornbread was made from a mix).  I took a lot of liberties with Claire Robinson's recipe, and it is no longer just five ingredients, but I added ingredients that we love and that made it even better for us.

Simple Thanksgiving Menu:

Easy Cornbread Dressing*
Pumpkin Pie/Whipped Cream

*Easy Cornbread Dressing

6 C. crumbled cornbread
1/2 C. butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
1-2 stalks celery, finely diced
1/2 C. chopped pecans
1 tsp. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 C. chicken stock or water

Spread the cornbread on a large baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes until dry but not browned.  Melt 2 T. butter in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and celery and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside.  Melt the remaining butter in the pan.  Add the pecans and cook until the butter is browned.  Stir in the seasonings and remove from the heat.  Put the cornbread in a large bowl.  Stir in the eggs and sautéed vegetables, then gently mix in the pecan-butter mixture.  Fold in enough stock to moisten the cornbread without making it soggy (I used the whole amount).

Pour the cornbread mixture into a greased 9x13-inch baking pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the mixture is set in the middle.  Serves 6-8.

Note: One 8- or 9-inch square pan of cornbread will make enough for this recipe (if using a mix, this is the equivalent of two 6-8 oz. packages of corn muffin mix).  You can use 1 tsp. poultry seasoning instead of the sage and thyme (I was out so I had to substitute).

As always, there is candy on the table, mostly Pumpkin Spice Hershey's Kisses with a smaller amount of Hershey Gold Kisses with Almonds, surrounding the turkey basket in the basket tray:

We enjoyed our simple Thanksgiving this year, and I hope everyone else had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!