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.



favorite places: brandywine view antiques

Located at 1244 Baltimore Pike in Chadds Ford, PA Brandywine View Antiques is just one of those places you have to visit…three floors of fabulously cool antiques, vintage items, garden and home accents.

I used to go visit them in their old location near The Gables at Chadds Ford. I had visited them at places like Clover Market, and had been to their barn markets, but amazingly enough I hadn’t been to their new home until today.

Oh my.

It was heavenly!

Lisa the owner has an amazing eye, and much like her old location, it’s a wonderland of stuff inside and out. But this new location is so terrific and the building is so much better and it has amazing flow.

Of special interest to me today because I am a self-professed garden fanatic, was all the great stuff owner Lisa has to make your garden look fabulous.

From vintage concrete benches and beautiful cast iron antique garden furniture to the perfect little fox or owl or angel or even gnome for your garden, there is a lot to choose from.

Things I found of particular interest were cast concrete edging made to look old and these darling little concrete obelisks that you could put in your garden beds. They also have cast concrete leaves that are flat that you could use as stepping stones in a garden which I really liked and it almost made me wish I hadn’t already put down a stone path on one side of my garden!

And gargoyles! I can’t forget their gargoyles which look like they just flew in from living on old Parisian rooftops!

A nice selection of concrete birdbaths, architectural salvage, great old doors and windows… even in this heat I could’ve stayed a lot longer than I did. And when you go inside there are all sorts of wonderful antiques and vintage items for the interior of your home as well. They have the best selection of antique and vintage mirrors I have seen in a while, and some interesting and reasonably priced vintage art throughout the building.

I will note that even Martha Stewart shops here when in town doing her QVC thing as evidenced by this recent photo courtesy of Brandywine View Antiques:

Anyway, it’s a feast for the eyes and visiting this business also gives you great ideas! I also love that there is so much diversity of merchandise. And I hate to say it but I’m really glad it’s not an antique store full of mid-century modern.

And their pricing is quite reasonable, and if there something you wonder if they can do better on – just ask. If they can, they will if they can’t they’ll tell you.

I will close with a photograph of all the fun stuff in the backyard that you can use to accent your garden with:

holiday decorations

I always decorate my chandeliers for Christmas. I decided to do them for Thanksgiving as well this year.

The design style started with a strand of cranberry colored wood beads that I bought a while back at a barn sale. When I looped them through my chandelier the rest of the design sort of came to me.

So I bought an additional two strands of beads for this chandelier and the craft store also yielded pinecones strung on twine, which saved me time and effort.

I think the effect is simple and pretty but not too rustic. When it comes time to decorate for Christmas I will add birds and some hanging snowflakes to this and it will look just beautiful.

My husband of course seems to think I am just trying to get a “jump on Christmas” as he put it. Now that isn’t exactly true, but I will not deny that this helps me get some of my pre-decorating done for Christmas.

If you are interested in beads like this, as well as a pre-strung pinecones you can also find them on Amazon and eBay and Etsy. They are not terribly expensive and I think it gives such a nice look.

Happy day before Thanksgiving!

swedish meatballs….my way

I love old school recipes.  One from my childhood is Swedish meatballs.  Not because we had any Swedish heritage – it was just one of those dishes my mother would make for us.  Over the years I have tweaked a basic recipe to suit me.

The weather has finally turned crisp and fall-like so I thought tonight would be a good night to dust off the recipe and prepare Swedish meatballs.  My recipe is NOT made with heavy cream and I add mushrooms and a couple of other herbs/spices. But the flavors work and you get that old school Swedish meatball flavor…enhanced.  Some add caraway seeds to either the gravy or meatballs, I add celery seed to the gravy

I also do something that I doubt anyone else does – I will prepare the meatball mix ahead of time the day I am cooking and refrigerate until it is time to make the meatballs.  That allows the spices to meld and perfume the meat mixture better.

Panko bread crumbs are superior to regular bread crumbs in my opinion, but the most important thing to remember is to use PLAIN breadcrumbs. This is not the recipe for flavored breadcrumbs.

Some use mashed potatoes, I like wide egg noodles.

I hope you enjoy my recipe if you try it. Watch the salt you add because of the sodium in most broths.

Swedish Meatballs My Way

  • 1 pound meatloaf mix
  • 1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped x 2 or 1 cup
  • ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon White Pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • Splash of buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 8 oz package baby bella mushrooms slices thin
  • 1 egg
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups beef broth or bison broth
  • 1 cup evaporated Vitamin D canned milk (also great for homemade macaroni and cheese) or half and half
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a medium sized bowl combine ground beef, panko, parsley, allspice, nutmeg, onion, garlic powder, white pepper, cumin, paprika, mustard powder, dash of buttermilk, salt and egg. Mix until combined. Put in refrigerator and chill a couple of   I do this because meat mixture flavor deepens.
  2. Roll into  20 + small meatballs. In a large dutch oven heat olive oil and 2 Tablespoons butter. Add the meatballs and cook turning continuously until brown on each side and cooked throughout. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil.
  3. Quickly sauté ½ cup minced onion and baby bella mushrooms
  4. Add 4 Tablespoons butter and flour to skillet and whisk until it turns brown. Slowly stir in beef broth and milk. Add Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard and dill and bring to a simmer until sauce starts to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a small dash of nutmeg (I mean small!) and celery seed.
  5. Add the meatballs back to the skillet and simmer for another few minutes. Serve over egg noodles or as the Brits call it, a “good mash” or plain mashed potatoes. I prefer egg noodles.

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.

canning season

  Becky Home Ecky has taken me over the past three weeks. I have been canning apple sauce, apple butter, pear butter, pickled watermelon rind with red onion, and garlicky bread and butter pickles with jalapeño peppers. The apples and pears I picked myself out of the gardens of friends, and this year everyone seems to have a bumper crop of apples, especially.

The recipes mostly came out of my head and memory of canners past but I used the Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, Simply Recipes, and Ball’s website for added direction on procedure and proportion.

  I have memories of my mother canning and making preserves and her mother, my grandmother, and my late cousin Suzy.  My grandmother would pickle and preserveanything that stood still long enough, and she was an amazing cook. I remember my mother pickling okra and green tomatoes and I also remember her making peach preserves when my parents’ friend Charlie Peterson gave them a big bushel of peaches when I was little.

My mother’s German friends Susi and Babette were canning wizards. I remember all the things they made, pickled, and preserved. When you were in the kitchen of Babette’s farmhouse  in the fall you could hear the sauerkraut popping in their stone crocks in the basement.

  
And I also remember my great aunts on Ritner Street in South Philadehia doing a lot of canning too. They had essentially an extra kitchen in the basement and I remember them pickling and canning what came out of my Aunt Rose’s large kitchen garden in Collegeville.  
  
My Aunt Rose and Uncle Carl had this big old house with sweeping grounds that backed up to a farm when I was little. The farm had horses near some apple trees that would stick their heads over the fence looking for a pat (and some apples!)…my cousin sold the property after my aunt and uncle passed away and by that time (after 2000) where they once lived had stopped being country long ago, and was obscenely over developed.
  My great aunts would mostly can tomatoes and made these pickled hot peppers that would bring tears to your eyes. I remember the jars of canned tomatoes all lined up one after the other all in a row. It actually looked really pretty.

  I had a lot of fun doing my canning with the exception of a minor kitchentastrophe. I singed my backsplash behind my stove top when my giant 21 quart enamel pot I use for the canning water bath was off center on its stove burner.

My kitchen was filled with the smells of childhood.  The vinegary garlic spice odors of making a pickling brine. And the sweet smells of apples and pears cooking  in cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, star anise, and turbinado sugar.  They were wonderful smells and truly sensory memories.

  But last evening when I had finished placing my last batch of applesauce in the canning hot water bath, I was ready to be finished. Canning is actually pretty hard work, even if it’s fun.  Your arms ache by the time you finish pushing hot fruit through the chinois  before the final cooking stage. It made me realize how hard women used to work putting up food for their families to last all winter long.  

  A fun fact is canning dates back to the late 18th century France.  Canning food in unbreakable tins was an English invention from the early 19th century.

I am pretty much a novice at this culinary art form. I am not as nearly accomplished as some of my friends and neighbors. I am sure as I do more canning I will become more adept. 

  So now all I have to do is finish labeling and dating  my final couple of batches and put it away.

Thanks for stopping by.

  

new spin on summer salad staple

 So bean salad is a summer staple. One bean, two bean, three bean and more.

I decided to change it up. I took half a bag each of Goya dried navy beans and pinto beans yesterday and put them in to soak with salt and water overnight. I then cooked them according to directions on their packaging this morning.

While the beans were cooling I minced three large cloves of garlic, chopped fine one large red onion, chopped one fresh red bell pepper, peeled and chopped one fresh cucumber, and tossed into a bowl.

To that bowl I added salt and pepper to taste, 3 tablespoons of white table sugar , a bunch of fresh dill chopped, and a third of a cup of Italian flat leaf parsley chopped.

I mixed the salt and pepper, herbs and spices, along with the vegetables and drizzled olive oil and rice wine vinegar and red wine vinegar over the top of it and stirred some more.  I always add more vinegar than oil to bean salads.

I should’ve measured exactly how much oil and vinegar but I didn’t I’m sorry- you want basically enough that your salad gets coated and sort of pickled  but not enough that it swimming in dressing.

Last but not least I tossed in the beans which I had drained and mixed everything together, as well as adjusted for salt and pepper. I will now chill the salad down until this evening but it looks beautiful and tastes terrific!

summer dinner

  It’s been a brutally hot week and I’m having people for dinner. We will start with Mutabbal which is basically Egyptian baba ghanouj and pita.

Next to accompany a marinated roast we will be grilling we will also be grilling marinated veggie shish kebabs, lentil salad, and for dessert a simple summer trifle.

Guests may have sparkling water, ice tea, a lovely rosé wine or glass of Sancerre.

vegetables marinating for veggie shish kebab. Marinade marinade made with an Arabian spice blend known as Baharat

 

Lentil salad made witjh red and regular lentils, for grated carrots, one purple onion, one small purple bell pepper, halved grape tomatoes, Italian flat leaf parsley and fresh basil diced, a simple vinaigrette made with lemon juice lemons asked, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, cumin

 

Mutabbal- two cans drained canned chickpeas, tahini paste, olive oil, one roasted white egg plant and one roasted red pepper, half an onion, three cloves of garlic, a few dashes of Tabasco, Stonington sea salt, a little fresh parsley, juice of one large lemon and zest as well, paprika, cumin, couple dashes of Ras el Hanout. Purée and refrigerate and serve with pita.

Summer trifle made with rasberries, blueberries, lady fingers, lemon and coconut puddings

cooking gnocchi with mushrooms


I ended up having some people over for dinner last night.  So I butterflied a big roaster chicken and roasted Julia Child style simply with fresh herbs (you can see the chicken in the photo at the bottom of the page – that was what it looked like as it went into the oven – I forgot to take its picture when it came out). 

I served with a fresh mixed green salad to which I added a simple balsamic mustard vinaigrette, and the starch was homemade gnocchi with mushrooms. Dessert in case you were wondering was sliced fresh strawberries from Kimberton Whole Foods.

I have previously given you my gnocchi recipe. So use that as your guide to rolling them out until little logs and slicing them into bite-size pieces, but the dough composition is different and here’s how I did it:

 
1 egg beaten
 
4 to 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
 
2  medium sized (not huge) potatoes roasted skins removed and smashed up
 
1 cup of ricotta strained to remove any extra liquid – whole milk is best
 
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
 
About 2 cups of flour, maybe  less – add half a cup at a time to your dough to see. You don’t want a dry dough with gnocchi, it should always feel not quite sticky but more elastic.
 
1 tablespoon of rosemary leaves dried, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt.
 
Basically you mix it all together until becomes a dough but don’t overwork it. Then I throw a cloth over my bowl and allow the dough to rest for at least half an hour.
 
When your dough has rested, break off pieces of the dough and roll into little logs and slice into bite-size pieces from the log. You can roll them off the edge of the forks so they have those lines in them or you can cook them just the way they are.
 
After I make my gnocchi I lay them out on a large baking sheet on parchment paper and put it on a shelf by itself in the refrigerator till I am ready to cook.
 
 
The sauce is pretty simple:
 
Melt one stick of butter which is half a cup in a sauté pan – a large sauté pan because you will be adding the gnocchi to it later.
 
When the butter is melted and starting to bubble just a slight bit, add half a large red onion diced. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.  Add one finely grated medium sized carrot.
 
After the onion starts to turn slightly translucent, add thinly sliced baby Bella  mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms, and a handful of white mushrooms. Basically you should use one 8 ounce package of shiitake, The same size package of baby Portabella mushrooms also known as crimini, and about 4 ounces of white mushrooms.
 
Next add a handful of fresh sage leaves chopped into small-ish pieces and about a teaspoon of dried rosemary  or if you have fresh dice up a smallish twig.
 
When everything seems to be cooked together fairly well but not mushy remove from heat.
 
I do the mushroom mixture ahead of time and not at the same time I am cooking my gnocchi because there is not enough time.
 
After the mushroom mixture is cooled use a slotted spoon and remove the vegetables to their own bowl for the time being. Leave the butter and liquid from mushrooms in the bottom of the pan.
 
Boil a large pot of salted water and when everything is really boiling toss in all your gnocchi.
 
The same time you are boiling your gnocchi bring the pan with the butter and the mushroom juices back up to heat. You may have to add about another tablespoon of butter and do add a scant 1/4 cup of white wine.  (Last night I was roasting a chicken as I was making these gnocchi for a side dish so I also tossed in 2 tablespoons of pan juices. ) You need that mixture to reach almost boil but not cook off. Also toss in two or three whole sage leaves.
 
The gnocchi will cook probably in about 3 to 4 minutes – when they all are bubbling to the surface and bobbing around, use a slotted spoon to remove them.
 
Put the gnocchi immediately into the pan with butter and wine that should be really bubbling at this point. Move the gnocchi around gently to brown slightly. As you are moving the gnocchi around gently add back the mushrooms and red onion to heat again.
 
Be careful  with your gnocchi they are a slightly delicate things but once everything is browned through toss half a cup of grated Parmesan on on top and some diced flat leaf parsley if you choose. Toss one more time into a bowl and serve.