vintage and handmade ornaments are the best!

Most of the Christmas ornaments I have are varying degrees of vintage. I even have some that belonged to my great grandparents who lived in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

I told all of you about the wonderful vintage Christmas market at the Smithfield Barn. It’s happening today and tomorrow. I realized I never showed you what I bought!

I was actually pretty restrained for me. I tend to go crazy over the ornaments my friend Kristin finds! This year was no exception as she had some vintage ones that were made in the Ukraine. The Ukrainian ornaments are different from the German ornaments and the glass feels different in your hands. And they are so lovely just like old German ornaments!

I am pretty sappy when it comes to Christmas. It literally makes me so happy to decorate and cook for friends and family. And I have always loved vintage ornaments.

My late father loved silver and gold. And somewhere my mother still has boxes of now vintage silver and gold glass ornaments. But I like color in my tree and decorations. I am however primarily a red and green person.

I also love Santas, elves, and nutcrackers. I love handmade and hand carved Christmas decorations as well! I have a whole bunch of folk art Santas and it makes me grin when every one of them comes out of the storage bin where they live the rest of the year.

I also like ornaments that remind me of the nature that is all around me. I have a lot of mercury glass birds both old and new. It’s hard to get really amazing vintage glass birds because people hang onto them. And the vintage ones I have are from my father. A lot of the glass birds are the ones that I see in my own garden. And I even have a glass fox or two.

Also with the nature theme? Mercury glass pinecones. They are among my favorite Christmas tree ornaments and I found some new ones this year at the Smithfield Barn!

The thing you’ll find about shopping at the Christmas market for the Smithfield Barn is they don’t rake you over the coals in price. Things are priced fairly and definitely a lot of the time below other dealers elsewhere. Way below. Part of what makes the Smithfield Barn so special is the way things are paid forward.

And yes, I will also admit I am a not so closet Hallmark Christmas movie watcher. There’s so much ugliness and unpleasantness in the world, the Christmas and decorating for the holidays it’s just a beautiful and warm respite from all of that.

Thanks for stopping by.



everything old is new again…

I actually love Country Living Magazine. I have for years. And according to their September, 2019 issue I might be shockingly trendy.

Well except for the stock tanks. I don’t have a stock tank as a bath tub, nor do I want to and THAT made me giggle. Apparently stock tanks as bath tubs are a thing.

So that’s a little silly to me as I am a claw foot tub girl. No, I don’t currently have one but I did for a while growing up. Awesome tub to take a soak in!

Next up this month as one of their trends? Pie safes. But why buy an expensive reproduction from places like Plow and Hearth? I see them all over. Brandywine View Antiques, Smithfield Barn, Cricket’s Antiques and Garden Market, Creekside Antiques Downingtown by the Brandywine, Brandywine River Antiques Market in Chaddsford, and the Shoppes at Whitehorse Mill (just over the Chester County border in Lancaster County) just to name a few places!!

All of these places have Facebook pages and they post new merchandise all of the time! You don’t need pricey replicas when you can buy the real deal antiques which are always better made. You can also still find these pieces at country estate sales and auctions. Or special shows and sales like the seasonal genius of Life’s Patina.

The sad thing is so many people are geared towards new reproductions that they completely don’t realize the real deal is available and affordable. Sometimes these dealers will have wiggle room in their pricing especially if you bundle a few items but please, be respectful. I have seen some truly rude hondlers out there and well, these folks aren’t running a charity, they are trying to make a living.

Other things that are showing up in the pages of Country Living this month as a trend are vintage dog portraits. I see them all of the time at Brandywine View Antiques and Brandywine River Antiques Market in particular.

Another trend is vintage and antique occasional tables. They are everywhere and at all price points. You can also score some fine ones at auctions at Pook and Pook as well as Converse Auctions and Wiederseim Auctions. Don’t be afraid of auctions or auction houses. Yes, a lot of the auctions are online these days but most of the auction houses will also have a preview day where you can go look at an item that you are interested in before you bid.

With the side table trends I am going to put in a plug for Eastlake side tables. I love them, and I have owned a few over the course of my adulthood.

Eastlake furniture belongs to the Victorian era but isn’t as over the top as other furniture of that era. The side tables are my favorite of the style although I also love Eastlake settees. I have seen Eastlake recently at the Smithfield Barn and also the Smithfield Barn’s floor at the Shoppes at Whitehorse Mill.

Other trends as per Country Living are vintage salt and pepper sets and vintage glassware. The Smithfield Barn in Downingtown is definitely your source for those items! The owner I swear has super powers on these items and other fab vintage things like vintage and antique linens to use with them. I know because I have some amazing vintage linens drying on a towel rack from them right now!

I love my vintage dishes and glasses. My every day dishes are vintage Fiestaware and my everyday glasses are vintage bar ware. I love my vintage and I use it. Most of the time it’s extremely durable too!

Another trend the magazine is covering is a return to some better simplicity in furniture. Specifically Shaker style. From boxes to benches to tables and chairs and dressers.

Traditional Shaker antiques can be very expensive but their design influences can be seen all over. Look for vintage and antique country furniture pieces that are sturdy and well made with simple lines. You can find these pieces all over for a steal because well, people are still stuck on the trend if they don’t want “brown wood”.

Shaker furniture is a distinctive style of furniture developed by the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, commonly known as Shakers, a religious sect that had guiding principles of simplicity, utility and honesty. Shaker beliefs were reflected in the well-made furniture of simple designs. There is a great essay on the website of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And as of 2017, according to Smithsonian Magazine there are only two Shakers left in the world.

Other trends that seem to be occurring that I don’t understand is buying reproduction grandfather clocks when so many go to auction every year and often do not get sold.

Of all the trends that seem to be cropping up everywhere I am heartened to see a return to loving wood furniture as in not everything I am seeing is covered with paint.

Painted furniture has a place, but the past few years it has been really upsetting to see the gorgeous pieces of wooden furniture and good wood like mahoganies and walnuts and fabulous maples being covered up with things like chalk paint. I have literally watched people destroy beautiful wood dining room tables by trying to paint them. I can see painting something that’s so beat up it’s just more cost effective, but to me there is nothing better than the soft sheen and warmth of wood’s natural beauty. And maintaining wood furniture is a little bit of elbow grease once in a while but it’s simple. My favorite thing to use is Howard’s Feed and Wax.

I love the thrill of the hunt of vintage and antiques. I have some things that I will always keep, and I have other things that I will love for a while and let go for something I like better. It makes it fun!

Fall markets are just around the corner. Keep an eye peeled for things like the sale September 7th and 8th at Brandywine View Antiques. Their annual barn market and 4th anniversary sale and celebration at their current location.

Happy Friday all!

the evolution of apple-pear butter

I love Apple Butter and Pear Butter. Snd I like to make a hybrid cross mix of both in the fall. I always have. Maybe it’s my Pennsylvania German heritage shining through – my maternal grandmother was Pennsylvania German and I learned how to make a lot of things from her.

I have been reading various recipes on the Internet and decided to try making my apple pear butter in the Instant Pot.

I have an 8 quart Instant Pot. I cored apples and pears. I cut them into chunks of a fairly even size, and filled my Instant Pot to just below the “max” line.

I know, I know that isn’t very exact for some of you home cooks but apple butter consists of apples cooked down….

I did not peel either the apples or the pears because when you make everything all fine with an immersion blender after the fruit is cooked it all is very smooth and lovely.

But let me back up. After the fruit was loaded into my electric pressure cooker, I added a quarter cup of orange juice, maybe closer to a third of a cup I wasn’t measuring too precisely.

To that I added half a cup of brown sugar, four cinnamon sticks, 1 teaspoon ground mace, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon, a healthy dash of salt, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

The vanilla is a quirky thing I read about it in a recipe when I was researching this and I thought I would try it and it ended up working out well.

Anyway give everything a toss within your Instant Pot to make sure the apples and pears are kind of coated.

Set your Instant Pot to the manual high pressure setting for 9 minutes. The valve should be at the top sealed position. When time is up, turn off the machine and allow the natural pressure release to occur. That will probably take a good half hour or so. I didn’t time it exactly.

Meanwhile make sure your canning jars are properly prepared and sterilized and get your big pot ready for water if you are doing a canning bath.

When your pressure cooker is de-pressurized and it is safe to remove the lid, take off the lid and remove the four cinnamon sticks. Using your immersion blender, blend the fruit until it is smooth and seamless.

But wait, it’s not ready yet here’s the next step.

Turn your Instant Pot back on to the sauté setting and adjust the sauté setting to LESS. Simmer the apple pear butter for 30 to 40 minutes until the apple pear butter is thickened and at your desired consistency. Most recipes I studied suggested 15 to 30 minutes but I actually did 40 minutes today to get it where I wanted.

I will caution you to stick around in your kitchen with a silicone spoon or spatula. You will need to stir it occasionally while it’s continuing to cook down or it will stick to the bottom of the Instant Pot.

When you think it is thick enough and cooked down enough, turn off your machine and allow the apple pear butter to cool down. I basically ignored it for a good hour.

At that point you can jar it up and either do your canning bath or store in the refrigerator. I did the canning bath because now that I have gotten the hang of it it really is my preferred way of dealing with preserves and chutneys and things like this.

I will leave my jars sitting on a wooden cutting board on the kitchen table until they’re completely cool and then I will add the labels and the date I made the apple pear butter. I made six jars. Not big jars – small jars and two taller skinny ones – see the photo at top of the post.

Making apple pear butter is one of those fall things. It’s definitely something that fills your kitchen full of false spice smells. And I do tend to combine both fruits when I make it.

You can serve apple pear butter on toast, bagels, English muffins, cheese and crackers, pork roast, all sorts of things.

I will note doing it in a pressure cooker reduced the time spent canning considerably. I think I am going to research other kinds of preserves and even chutneys to see what else I can make and can via the Instant Pot.

Try it!

vintage cookbook sacrilege

On page 26 of the latest Country Living Magazine (Jan/Feb 2018) they have picked up on a new trend I find to be vintage cookbook sacrilege .

Basically you take cookbooks, tie them together with twine or a cord and jam knives in them.

To me it looks like messy loving hands at home crafting. Also doesn’t make sense from a practical standpoint for a kitchen you actually cook in.

But where I find this to be true vintage cookbook sacrilege is check out the cookbook second from the right above (screen shot of my magazine). One of the most famous and collectible cookbooks of the mid-twentieth century: Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, first published in 1961 (and the Volume Two sequel was published in 1970).

O.k. that is just dumb. Forget about the fact this is a cookbook bible that every home chef should have in their cookbook collection (more so than The Joy of Cooking in my opinion), the earlier editions as I previously said are highly collectible….which means if you don’t use it, don’t love it — SELL IT!

As my friend Shirley said, Julia Child’s most famous cookbook should be open on the counter…in an altar setting.

Now I saw this idea before in 2017 and was horrified! It was this past August on a blog called Town and Country Living. The author was inspired by something she saw in Flea Market Style Magazine. (See other screenshot)

The author pictured one of my favorite novels, Lalita Tademy’s Cane River. Another book was by an author of the early 20th Century, Inglis Fletcher. The book pictured was Raleigh’s Eden. Which I read years ago along with many of her other novels.

I love books. And I love to read them. It’s nice having them on my tablet but it’s not the same as the feel of the paper. And I use my vintage cookbooks all of the time.

I am all for adaptive reuse, but please show the old books some love. Go score yourself an old knife block and clean and oil it up, or do what we do- hang super strong professional magnetic knife strips on the wall and free up some counter space.

I am sorry but I do not see a true home chef or professional chef embracing this unfortunate fad.

#SaveBooks

summer recipe back to basics: purple coleslaw


I have been remiss. I haven’t blogged any recipes lately. This evening for dinner we were grilling marinated chicken thighs and my neighbor had given me a beautiful head of purple cabbage so I decided to make coleslaw.

Here is the recipe:

Purple Cabbage Coleslaw

Ingredients

4 cups grated purple cabbage 

1 cup grated carrots

1/2 grated large vidalia onion 

6 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise

2 tablespoon prepared Dijon mustard

5 tablespoons organic cane sugar (Turbinado)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar 

2 tablespoons fresh minced dill

Freshly ground salt pepper, to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Directions

I read somewhere once that purple cabbage is really good for you. A super food full of antibiotics, vitamins, fiber, and other good stuff. I think it also makes a tastier coleslaw. I also add vidalia onion to my coleslaw and fresh dill to the dressing, which I think keeps it fresh and different.

First finely grate cabbage, carrots, and onion. My “Pro Tip” here is I put these vegetables into a fine mesh strainer after grating and set them over a bowl and press gently for some of the extra liquid to drain out.

Mix the cider vinegar, sugar, cumin together. Unless you want a grainy dressing, make sure the sugar is fully dissolved before proceeding and adding the mayonnaise, dijon mustard, olive oil, and fresh dill. Whisk the dressing together briskly and refrigerate for a few minutes.

Next put your veggies in a clean bowl and pour the dressing on top of it. Mix well and then use a little spoon to taste and adjust for salt and pepper as needed. I like fresh ground pepper in coleslaw.

Refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

Enjoy!

why you garden

A friend of mine gave me a cache pot that belonged to her grandmother. It’s a beautiful pot and it makes the perfect vehicle for summer flower arrangements. All of these flowers are out of my garden.

This is why gardening is so worth it. With the help of Mother Nature you can create such simple beauty and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

rainy day chili

chili

One of the ladies in my cooking group asked for my rainy day chili recipe, so here it is:

 

Brown 1 lb ground pork and 1 lb ground beef with 6 cloves of garlic diced and 1 sweet onion and 1 red onion chopped.   Salt to taste.

 

To that add 4 grated carrots (medium carrots), and 1 1/2 cups grated raw potatoes (red bliss or Yukon gold).

 

Add one package frozen corn (no sauce kind – just the corn).

 

If I have green or red bell pepper I will chop up one of those too.

 

Add 3 Tablespoons Chili Powder (I use hot), 1 teaspoon Chipotle Chili Powder, 1 teaspoon Smoked Hot Paprika, 1 teaspoon bittersweet paprika. A few dashes of cumin.

 

Then add ¼ cup chopped fresh Cilantro and 1 Tablespoon dried oregano

 

Add one 40.5 ounce can of dark red kidney beans (or white cannellini beans which my grocery store has been out of)

 

Add one 28 ounce can of crush red tomatoes.

 

Add one 28 ounce can of tomato puree.

 

Add a few dashes of chipotle Tabasco sauce or a good Mexican hot sauce.

 

Bring to a slow boil over medium low heat and reduce to low/ simmer and cook the chili for a few hours until cooked down a bit (makes it thicker).

 

Simmer with a splatter screen on unless you want your kitchen to wear chili.

 

Adjust for seasoning here and there.  Chili cooked a day ahead and reheated is even better because spices have a chance to settle in.