Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bright Copper Kettles and Warm Woolen Mittens

There is nothing so lovely as the turn in temperature to make one feel all cocoon-y.

Yesterday, I spent most of the day preparing for a dinner party.  I always love to do that, but I can be a bit of a tightrope walker, suddenly deciding that I am going to make something I've never made before.

In this case it was a panna cotta recipe by Gordon Ramsay, and despite fears, it turned out beautifully.


Serves 4
2 medium sheets leaf gelatine (11 x 7.5cm)
250ml double cream
50g caster sugar
50ml milk
15ml dark rum, or to taste

Pomegranate glaze:
20g caster sugar
275ml pomegranate juice

Chocolate shavings:
Block of good-quality dark chocolate, for grating

1. Soak the gelatine in a shallow dish of cold water for a few minutes. Meanwhile, put the cream, sugar, milk and rum into a saucepan and slowly bring to a simmer. Heat gently for 30 seconds, then remove the pan from the heat. Taste for flavour, adding a little more rum if you wish.

2. Squeeze the gelatine leaves to remove excess water, then add them to the cream mixture and stir until fully dissolved. Tip the mixture into a jug.
3. Now pour into four individual glass dishes, leaving enough room for the glaze. Leave to cool, then place the glasses in the fridge to set for at least two hours, or overnight if preparing ahead.

4. To make the pomegranate glaze, heat a dry frying pan.Tip the sugar into the hot pan followed by the pomegranate juice. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble for 10–15 minutes, until thickened to a sticky, syrupy glaze. Pour into a small jug and leave to cool completely.

5. Pop the chocolate in the freezer for 10–15 minutes before serving. Pour the cooled pomegranate glaze on top of the chilled pannacottas. Take the chocolate from the freezer and draw a small straight-edged knife along the flat side of the bar to make curled shavings. Top each pannacotta with chocolate shavings to serve.
(Christmas with Gordon by Gordon Ramsay is published by Quadrille.)
NOT mine!  Stolen from the internet!

Yay Gordon and Wendy!

After hours of good conversation and a healthy dose of wine, I headed to bed after midnight.

Honestly, midnight itself is exciting enough; I see it so rarely, that when I do see the two hands of the clock pass twelve it feels as if I am doing something naughty!

The morning after a late night is reserved for coffee and much laying about.  In this case, you would have found me curled up with Indy on the couch, reading Middlemarch.  I am getting ready for Dani and GSL's book club in late November, and I am truly loving the book.

Last night, however, you would have found me boiling my homemade ravioli in my lovely new copper pot.

If a person can love an inanimate object (no Ryan Gosling jokes please and thank you or other smutty comments), well, I love this pot:

Made by the Italian company Ruffino, it cooks like a dream.  I do not mind the polishing one little bit.  It is very meditative!

And of course once you start thinking of copper kettles, you start to think about warm woolen mittens, don't you?

And when I think of warm woolen mittens now, I can't help but think of my friend Barb, a retired school teacher and gifted writer, who has a wonderful blog called wool gathering.

In the blog, Barb shares her perspectives on many things, but what I love best about her blog (and her Facebook posts) is when she shows the spectacular mittens she makes and sells:

Given her literary bent, she is not one to simply make the mittens and sell them.

Nope - she gives them the most spectacular names.  The ones above are called (left to right): Strawberry Blizzard: Strawberry Blush; Stormy Rose; Strawberry Yogurt; I Never Promised You a Rose Garden.   Last winter she had a pair (and Barb correct me if I'm wrong!) named after David Adams Richards' novel Evening Snow Shall Bring Such Peace.  I mean, come on, how cool is that?

Don't you just love it?????? 

Well I do, and so I thought it worth sharing, along with Barb's blog link for those who are interested in some of Barb's favourite things.  

I see a pair of Barb's mittens in my winter wardrobe for sure!

And perhaps a cream-coloured pony under the Christmas tree?

It has been so long since I had a "real" pair of mittens!  I can't wait!!!

Hope you are having a fantastic Sunday!  Stay safe out there!

xoxo wendy

Friday, October 17, 2014

Miller Time Friday - Down the Rabbit Hole, in a genteel way

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way, and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down a very deep well.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Happy Friday!

I have been terribly busy all week - lots of things going on here.

I was also 'trapped' - I was doing some family research for a character in my next book and I ended up going through three Rubbermaid bins full of my parents' papers.

It was a lot like this:

losing track of time

Once you start looking through things you think "Well honestly, I ought to sort some of this out" and then suddenly it is two days later and you have it semi-organized, well on its way to be being properly corralled.

My mother was a historian by training, as was her mother, so for me it was quite torturous to determine what should stay or go.  The ephemera of our lives may or may not be of interest to future generations and we must use our best judgement when curating these things.

Now that I have them all sorted, they will, through the course of this winter, be transferred to archival quality scrapbooks, complete with a small history about who this person was.  No one but me may ever look at these things, but at least I know I will have done right by them.  When this task is complete, I will turn to Barry's and my photo albums; will future generations care to see 15 pictures of a sunset in Lake Winnepesaukee in 1987?  I think not.

I did think it fun to share a couple of things that I found in the bins which I am keeping and which I quite long for in the 21st century:

Dance Cards!

I long to be invited to a dance where such things exist and am tempted to throw such an event myself as it is simply too delicious!

Ah Mum - who was Dale?  If only you were here to ask....

She got invited to a lot of dances in high school and at University;
These are only a few that I found in her keepsakes.

I just love the heavy paper.
Wouldn't you love to hear Bruce Holder's Orchestra on Boxing Day?
My mother was 18 in 1952.

We live in such a casual world now and these are such a reminder for me of a more genteel time when a young man asked a young woman out to a dance and wore a suit and tie and brought her a corsage.

The other thing I found in the papers were telegrams.

Oh how I adore telegrams!  They remind of more glamorous times, men and women type-type-typing into machines or receiving and printing out the messages from friends and family far away.  While there were a couple of sad telegrams in the bunch, I tried to focus on the happy ones received when my parents got married or when my Mother graduated from the University of New Brunswick with her Masters Degree in History.

I love the envelopes they came in!

Getting a telegram from London in 1959 - how glamorous!

I remember the old Canadian Pacific Telegraph Building in downtown Fredericton; I believe it houses a tattoo parlour now.  The irony of that is not lost on me.

It is a treat to be able to look at these items now.  If they were alive, my parents would have celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary on October 10th.  In their honour let's have a cocktail, shall we?

And what better cocktail to celebrate the 1950s:

The Classic Martini

The Martini is often mixed, rarely perfected. The key to an excellent martini is to ensure that it is ice cold. The classic martini has only two ingredients–so it’s important to use the best ingredients you can afford. Vermouth should be stored in the refrigerator to retain its flavour.  Make sure the martini glass is ice cold.

- 1 part Gin
- 1 part Dry Vermouth

Combine in shaker over cracked ice, stir and strain into a cocktail glass. Optionally, garnish with an olive or two or a twist.

I suspect that more than one of these were downed at my parent's wedding reception at the Admiral Beatty Hotel!

Admiral Beatty Hotel Saint John New Brunswick

Would love to hear if any of the rest of you are trying to sort through family papers and pictures these days - it's quite a job isn't it?

And who wants to join me for my fancy dance party?????

Have a happy Friday and stay safe out there!

xoxo wendy

Monday, October 13, 2014

Giving Thanks

The view out my bedroom window.  I live in a glorious tree house!

It is a beautiful fall day here.  The perfect day for a Thanksgiving celebration!

What am I most thankful for?  Besides my family and my friends, I would have to say that I am most thankful for the opportunity to pursue a creative life.  It has made me a very content person.  And really, being content is what it's all about, isn't it?

So, the turkey is in the oven

2 more hours till golden time...

The pies have been made

Apple. Isn't my bluebird sweet?
And that is a little heart in front of him

Pumpkin pie, completely from scratch
I confess I have used canned pumpkins in the past..
Those are spaniels on top - don't ask why!

The table is set

I have added the remnants of the garden to my store bought tulips

can there ever be too many flowers?
Not in Wendy's world...

And the cook is decked out in her new Brynn Walker outfit and new Anne et Valentin glasses.

Byrnn Walker - made in the USA!  Anne et Valentin - made in France.
How multicultural of me!

last year's kikis work very well...

ruching details on the dress
Mostly I will wear this with boots...

I am ever reminded of how fortunate I am to live in a country that is generally safe, to live in a province that is friendly and beautiful and to have food on the table and clothes on my back.

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.
 ~Thornton Wilder

Have a lovely Monday all, and happy thanksgiving to my Canadian friends!

xoxo wendy

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

NOT your mother's stretchy pants

My days are relatively routine these days - Barry and I walk for an hour, usually setting off sometime before 8 am and then I return to shower and begin writing and other tasks for the day.

What I have discovered is that jeans are simply not comfortable for sitting at a desk for long stretches of the day.

Sweat pants felt like I was giving up.

But thanks to the fashion gods, dressy slouchy pants are in this fall and I have bought some and I am GLAD.

These, or leggings under a tunic, are now the order of the day.

But they have to be pretty.

I recall with some trepidation pants of a similar ilk of my mother's (and some from this) generation:

Tradition /MD Pull-On Pant

I shudder at the mere glimpse of them and have made my daughter promise, that should I lose my mind due to some horrible ailment or because George Clooney shows up at my door when I am out getting groceries, that she will NEVER EVER allow them put me in such pants.

But they are comfortable (minus the scratchiness of the cheap poly I guess).

But I have found my own versions and they are swell.  So swell that not only do I answer the door to UPS man, but I sally forth into the great wide world, as comfy as comfy can be.

It started with the Citizens of Humanity waxed jeans.

Then I picked up the drapey wool sweat pants on sale from J Crew, which I love!

Yes ABC, I am SOOOO copying you!

I love the colour combos here...

And then Banana Republic had one of their hourly 40% off sales, where I snapped up the shine drapey pant:

Shine Drapey Pant
By the way, I am loving the BR this fall...

I gotta say - these are divine.  the fabric is fluid and the pants can be worn dressed up or down.  I can definitely see these as holiday pants, with the right shoe!

What I wore them with today - sorry for the blur!

I like how they break at the ankle.

And a closeup of the fabric...

Have I given up?  Perhaps.  But the comfort factor is just exactly meeting my needs these days and makes the other trousers and jeans I have seem more apropos of events of shorter duration.

This fashion time will pass and thank god for leggings I say!

leggings and boots and roots jacket

Oh and one other thing - these pants make me appear to have a bottom.  It is a shocker, even to me, I can tell you!

Any one else on the comfort band wagon with me, or am I letting it all hang out, sans spanx, alone?  

Have a fabulous day and stay safe out there!

xoxo wendy

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Have a seat....A dining room update!

The first six chairs are back from our upholster's and they are a thing of beauty!

the before

The dining room tables and chairs, if you recall, were my great-grandparent's, made for them sometime in the 1880s.  There are 9 chairs (assume the 10th came to an untimely end at some point) and there are three large leaves to the table.

The chairs were getting in quite bad shape; the seats were falling inwards, every chair squeaked and shook when you sat in them, and if we were going to take care of them for the next generation(s), they needed to be dealt with.

I must say, Mr. Chessie of Chessie's Upholstery, did a fantastic job!

The chairs feel brand new and are so comfortable!

The After.  We are painting the chandelier a creamy white today.

The sapphire blue and patterned material I chose is absolutely beautiful on these chairs.

The back of the side chair uses the reverse of another fabric.
  I loved the pale blue detail!

What I especially like is  that depending on the light of the day, the chairs look either very dark and moody or lovely and bright.

It is wonderful to have the chairs back, since next weekend is Thanksgiving here!

I found this runner which is very autumnal,
just in time for next weekend's celebrations!

You can see the drop cloths in the background, ready to go,
More pictures of our renewed hallways and stairs this week!

You would be hard-pressed to buy a seat today with hand carved reliefs in a dining room chair, wouldn't you?

And I did congratulate myself on finding pillows for our new love seat
that echoed the material I chose for the chairs

Some people decorate a room around fabric.  We did it around my mother's portrait and are very happy indeed with the results!

Of course, one you get the painting bug, nothing is immune!


Painted Chandelier!  Feeling virtuous between this and the homemade linguine.  Off to read on couch...

I plan to bring other pieces of furniture to Mr. Chessie to upholster and I still have a ton of fabric from this order, especially since we only have three more chairs that need to be done.  What I love is that the dining room fabric choices and how they are placed on the chairs are uniquely ours.  

But mostly what I feel is gratitude.  Gratitude for the wonderful job Mr. Chessie did on these precious family heirlooms, gratitude that I inherited them and gratitude that they will be passed on in even better shape than we received them.  

I hope you have a wonderful day!  I plan to read, make some home made linguine, and write!

xoxo wendy