Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Grapevine Tabletop Christmas Tree

My tabletop grapevine tree

I made my tabletop grapevine Christmas tree many, many years ago. I store it, completely decorated, in a closet until it's time for it to come out again and make my house all Christmassy once more. It has very minimal decorations. Just a string of white mini lights and a garland of pink berries. It's armature is a tomato cage. I display it on a sofa table that I cover with crushed up vintage doilies which (in my mind) resemble a snowy forest floor.

I usually harvest grapevines in the early Fall while they're soft and supple and easy to wrap round and round the armature. That did not happen this year.

My brother and sister-in-law came for a weekend visit on the weekend before Thanksgiving. They wanted a grapevine Christmas tree for their house, too. We, all three, dressed up warmly and went into the woods to harvest grapevines, which were by this time, a bit dried out and resistant to being wrapped around an armature. But, with much struggle, bleeding fingers and cold noses, we got the job done.

We brought the gardening shears into the woods with us, harvested a whole trunk load of grapevines, set up shop in my garage and began to assemble the tree.
Work in progress

Voila!!! Success
My sister-in-law had already purchased sparkely garland for her tree the day before when we made a foray over to Hobby Lobby. They do not have a Hobby Lobby in their neck of the woods so it's always one of the places they like to visit when they come for a weekend visit to the "big sister's" house.

This is the new grapevine tree - now living in the mountains of Pennsylvania in the log house of F&B

It is sitting upon an antique hall tree hat rack in their foyer. All gussied up with sparkles.

Both my sister-in-law and myself contracted poison ivy in the woods and had to be on a 10 day regimen of prednisone for the rash. My advice to you is: be perfectly sure that all the grapevines you harvest are grapevines and not some other plant.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Christmas Tree Festival

As promised in my last post, which was a visit to Christkindl at Granger Homestead in Canandaigua, NY, part two of that illustrious day was the Christmas Tree Festival. This takes place inside the Granger Mansion and is an annual event. Insight I gathered from my research is: that this a holiday decorating contest. The entries are judged. Honors given. Entries may include artificial trees (only) from 2.5 feet to 7 feet, mantle decorations, tabletop decorations, and wreathes. The entries are auctioned off or sold outright.

Every room in the entire first floor of the mansion is decorated with contest entries.  It's opulent. If you don't walk out of there in the mood for Christmas, you may be suffering from grinchitis.

Granger Homestead - Canandaigua, NY
decorated with handknit elf clothing
tree of books - tabletop tree 3rd place prizewinner
created by Ontario County Literacy Volunteers
mantelpiece décor
 mantelpiece décor - 2nd prize winner for mantelpiece dec
you know who from Whoville
Impressive snowman wreath - DIY-ers take note
He won 3rd prize - created by Girl Scout Troop 
And finally, on my way home, I had to get out of the car on one of the blocked off streets near the Granger Homestead, to take a picture of this house. I was so impressed with it's symmetry, it's color combination, it's age, it's charm. I would move right in. All in all, a totally lovely Fall outing.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I Went To A Christkindl

This a  local annual event which I've known about for a very long time but have never attended. I made up my mind that I would attend this year. I didn't really know what a Christkindl was, except that it was of European origin. That entranced me.  History of Christkindl

The weather was cold that day. 40 degrees F (5 C) brrrrrrr. It was also a bit windy. As usual I wore sandals, no socks. Big mistake.

When I arrived at the Christkindl, it looked like the entire town was parked up and down the Main Street. There were traffic directors who informed me that I could park at the local school and take a shuttle bus which would deposit me at the venue entrance. I took their advice. It was that or parking on a side street (where all spots were occupied) and walking a distance in the cold wind, with sandals on my feet, to the venue.

This event was held in a small historic town situated on one of the finger lakes and about 20 miles from my house. The exact location was on the grounds of the Granger Homestead (circa 1816) in Canandaigua, NY. The Granger Homestead is currently a house and carriage museum. Each Yuletide they stage a Christmas Tree Festival in the house and the Christkindl on the grounds. There were actually two events taking place on the same site simultaneously. Today, I'll tell you about Christkindl and in the next blog post, I'll tell you all about the Christmas Tree Festival. 

I didn't know that Christkindl was an outdoor event!!! If I did know that, I probably wouldn't have gone or I would have dressed more appropriately. As it turns out, on my way home, I stopped at DSW and purchased a pair of warm boots !!!

The Granger Homestead is situated on 12 acres of land. The house itself sits far back from the road. The lawns are vast and it was there that a series of interconnecting tents were set up. The Christkindl took place inside the tents. It was warm-ish inside. I could feel heat blowing in. There were approximately 150 vendor booths. The atmosphere was festive, filled with music and happy people.
It was a 3 day craft show. I was there on day 2.

Being a crafter myself and having experience participating in shows, I would not do a show like this. #1 - too cold, #2- too damp #3 too messy (even though in a tent, you still walked on damp grass and set up shop on grass), #4 too many days (for me). However, I loved being a shopper. I could come and go as I liked, I didn't have to lug a stage set to create my shop, into a tent and I didn't have to stay there 3 days and hope people would like what I made. I will definitely go again and dress appropriately when I do. Would you like to come with me next time?

This is what I saw upon entering the grounds of the Granger Homestead..............

wall to wall people

I loved this booth - her esthetic and mine are similar - she creates new jewelry from old

Monday, November 9, 2015

My Esthetic - Old Lace

I love old lace. I think it is so romantic. My love affaire started many years ago when I was furnishing my first home. I wanted to set an elegant table with real linen napkins. I didn't want plain damask napkins. I wanted linen napkins edged in handmade crocheted lace. I found these at estate sales. Now I have a linen cupboard full of them. Also lace table cloths. My paternal grandmother made me a whole set for a wedding present which includes not only the tablecloth but many various, smaller sizes. All in the same pattern. To cover dressers, chests, lamp tables, etc.

Grandmom's wedding gift

I've discovered that this heirloom lace is very, very sturdy. Far outliving the linen it is sewn onto. Our Victorian ancestors, followed by the new immigrants to this country, then the WWII wives would all remove the lace from the hems of  their worn out sheets, pillow cases, towels, napkins, etc. They would save it to apply to new linens or just stash it in a box for me to discover many years later in someone's attic when I go digging at estate sales. No plain, unembellished linens for them. Everything that could be trimmed in lace - was.

Of course, those frugal housewives would not toss the worn out linen when only the middle of sheets wore out, they'd use the edges to make pillow cases, or small nightgowns, or hand towels and finally they were transformed to dustrags and window washers, even diapers.

Miraculously, the removed lace doesn't show any signs of wear. Amazingly, most of it was crocheted by young girls, learning the art, who crocheted yards and yards of it, in strips to be used for edging. They became expert at it, making many embellished linens to fill their own hope chests to bring with them when they left their childhood homes at their own marriage.............bringing all that beautifully embellished linen with them.

freshly laundered estate sale find

In my etsy shop sammysgrammy there are many items I've created re-using vintage lace. I make wedding garters, wedding purses, wedding banners and bunting, all from repurposed vintage lace. I make non-wedding items from the lace as well. It seems to have grabbed  a hold of my heart.

wedding garter

bride's clutch

vintage doily garland

The collection of lace doily filled embroidery hoops on my dining room wall is my most recent foray in vintage lace land.

doilies in hoops

Christmas table top tree in my shop
               Do you have a compelling diversion that keeps you on the "hunt" for more and more?

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Apple Avalanche

I'm not talking about the Apple Ipod, or Apple Ipad, but "apple" as in Johnny Appleseed. "Apple" as in Adam and Eve. "Apple" as in apple pie, apple dumpling, applesauce.............

I have a sweet friend who has apple trees. This Fall there is an abundance of apples. She left a huge grocery sack of them on my front porch. I spent the entire week following this windfall, in the kitchen - peeling, slicing, simmering, processing, and baking apples.

Here is the result:

Frozen peeled & sliced apples for future use
Apple sauce
Apple Crisp

Apple bread

Apple Crostata

I'm sure you'll notice the very vintage tiny Corning-ware that I made the apple crisp in. I cook for one so I don't prepare anything in "giant-size". Everything is mini or "fun size". These little apple crisps are so simple to make for one. I take a mini container like my Corning-ware or a ramekin, spray it with Pam, fill the bottom with sliced apples (or any other fruit), cover the fruit with a random mixture of butter, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and oatmeal. Sprinkle that over the fruit and bake for about a half hour. I bake mine in the toaster/oven - (a) because I'm cooking for 1 and (b) why fire up the big oven for 1 little item when the toaster/oven will do the same job with lots less energy.
For the crostata - the same rationale - I'm cooking for one, therefore, I don't want a great big pie going stale while I try to consume the whole thing slice by slice.  I can consume an entire crostata in one fell swoop or if I'm feeling a bit like eating healthy, I'll cut it in half and have one piece now and the second one tomorrow (or in the next half hour).
I made the crostata by unrolling a refrigerator pie crust from the super market onto my floured counter and cutting it into 3 rounds. I measured the rounds with a lunch plate. I piled the same mixture that you would use for apple pie into the center of the dough round, then drew up the edges of the dough round to cover over the apple mixture. Baked on a cookie sheet in the big oven til apples were soft and dough browned.
Just in case you don't know: the apple mixture consisted of sliced apples, a tablespoon or 2 of sugar and flour, sprinkle of cinnamon and several pats of butter. I did brush the crostata with beaten egg and a sprinkle of sugar before baking.
I made 3 of these, gave one away and froze the others.
I'm not including the recipe for the apple bread because I'm not too happy about it. It did not turn out as expected. I'll give it to you if you request it but I like my Aunt Mimi's Jewish Apple Cake recipe much better. But I'm loath to make it because it's huge. I suppose I could make it and freeze slices for eating in the dead of winter. Yes, that's what I think I'll do.  
I make apple sauce by first washing the apples, next I slice the apples around the core, discard the cores but do not peel. I leave the skins on (a) because the skin is good for you, has lots of beneficial nutrients and (b) the skins give the applesauce a beautiful pinkish glow. I put all the prepared apples in a large sauce pot (kettle) and cook on VERY low (don't want to scorch) heat until a skewer will go through the apples very easily. I let this cool down a bit. Next I pass the apples through a food mill into a large container. The food mill will remove the skins and any bits of core and what you'll find in the large container will be awesome applesauce. I didn't add any sugar or sweetener. It was sweet enough. I put this up in the small plastic containers that you get from the olive bar at the supermarket. They freeze perfectly. When you're ready to use one, defrost in the refrigerator for a day before.
Another method for making applesauce is to use a crockpot. I gave this one try and was not thrilled. But I am going to try again. One advantage to this method is you don't have to worry about scorching. You also don't have to watch the pot. BUT you must not leave the crock pot lid on (this is what ruined my crockpot applesauce experience). Cook the apples "open kettle" or you will have watery applesauce (not good). With the lid on = too much steam which translates = watery applesauce.
Any questions???

Monday, October 5, 2015

A House Tour This Weekend

This past Sunday I took myself on the Perinton Historical Society's 35th annual house tour. My town was founded in 1793 by Glover Perrin. The town has a rich history as, I'm sure, most small towns do.

This year the homes on the tour were all on the same street so you could just park your car and walk the tour. All the houses on this year's tour were built in the early 20th century.

Our Historical Society and Historical Museum are both completely volunteer staffed. This tour is one of several fund raising events that keeps this treasure up and running. I am happy to support it.

Each house had a chair or chairs outdoors so visitors could put "booties" over their shoes to protect the homeowners floors and carpeting. When visitors were finished using their "booties", they were deposited into the colorful shopping bags you'll see next to the outdoor chairs.

This apple tree, loaded with big, shiny apples was in the garden of one of the houses.
The tour afforded the tour-goers a peek at the first floor of each home. A docent was present at each one. They gave a little capsule of the history of each house.
This little house was, by far, my favorite. It's the Cape Cod style. Note the clematis growing over the garage door and the wisteria over the front entrance. This inside had a very Key West vibe, clean, white, open, airy. The homeowners vacation there and their northern home is a lovely reminder of their relaxing times in Key West.

There was a secluded spa in the backyard.
This weathered lattice created the seclusion of this home's garden. I couldn't resist taking pictures everywhere I could at this house. I would move in tomorrow if they would let me.
                       A small Autumn gourd vignette on a side porch of the same favorite house.

I think this home owner so honored the unknown visitors to their home on this bright sunny house tour day. This is a window box on the side of the house, just brimming with cabbages, gourds, and everlastings. I found it so enchanting. I think I would love to know these folks.

There were 7 houses on the tour and as you can see I was charmed by one in particular. I just used my phone cam to take the pictures. Sorry they are the best quality.

Hope you enjoyed seeing the tour with me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My Family's Version of CHOPPED

I am a BIG fan of the FoodNetwork program, CHOPPED. On this program, four chefs compete for a $10,000 prize by creating a three course meal consisting of appetizer, entree and dessert from a basket of unknown ingredients that they get to open at the beginning of each round. They must use and transform each ingredient in the basket in their presentation.

On the program, one chef is eliminated each round, until there is just one chef left standing. The rounds on TV are appetizer = 20 minutes and entree and dessert, each 30 minutes.

Our family's version took place during a regular "family style" Sunday dinner. Just like on TV, there were four chefs. Our "take" was to do the appetizer and dessert rounds as a competition. The regular, family style Sunday dinner was prepared in advance by the host family (and without any competition) That would be the middle course, the entree.

Our prep times were strictly controlled by the "judges" and, to tell the truth, because I was one of the contestants, I didn't pay any attention to time. I think the prep time was between 20-30 minutes. As a contestant, I didn't pay attention to anything except getting my offering prepared and plated and presented to the judges. I didn't even look to the right or the left to see what the other contestants were doing.

One thing I do know is that we made the most colossal mess ever. There were spills and crumbs wall to wall. The labradoodles were in "heaven"  trying to keep it clean. If you never got to meet these puppies, I had the pleasure of spending a week with them one time. Check it out here: My Week Went To The Dogs

The basket ingredients were chosen by an impartial individual. For the appetizer round the basket ingredients were: Canned Vienna chicken sausage, pickled jalapino peppers, dill pickle chips, and stove top stuffing.

Each contestant had a cutting board at their very tight station (remember-this is a family kitchen not a commercial one-we are stuffed at the counter like sardines), plus knives, aprons, etc. and liberal use of pantry and fridge.

As soon as the clock started on the appetizer round, I dove into my basket ingredients, chopping up those strange looking sausages, adding about a tablespoon of drained jalapinos to get chopped up too. Into a bowl that went along with some stove top stuffing. I added a beaten egg to that and formed it into a "slider". Crushed some of the dill pickle chips onto my cutting board and pressed the crushed chips onto both sides of the sliders. Then browned them in oil in the grill pan. All my secret ingredients were transformed and in use. All I had to think about now was attractive presentation. I sliced up a tomato and layed the crispy slider on top of it. The dish looked unfinished. I took a green bell pepper from the pantry, sliced it into circles, put them into the grill pan and browned the edges. Set those askew onto the sliders, put a spoonful of ricotta cheese into the middle of the pepper circle, salt and peppered it and dolled it up with a sprig of parsley. Done!

These are the appetizers made by the other contestants. All using the exact same ingredients but each dish totally different from the other three.

Laney's dish - sausage~stuffing~chips~pepper hash on bed of arugula topped with fried egg

Michael's: Hushpuppy with same ingredients (pulverized)~Handmade Jalapino catsup~pickle from pantry

Sorry, I did not get a picture of the forth dish. It was an empanada made with hand made dough which the contestant made using the potato chip and stuffing basket ingredients plus pantry ingredients. The deep fryer was in use for the hush puppies so she had to pan fry her empanadas. Unfortunately this happens on the TV show as well and the contestants have to think on their feet. This entire contest was conducted in the most military, rushed atmosphere that there was little time to snap pix as well as cook. The main reason for rush - 3 babies, ages 3,1 and 3months who had one parent in the contest, and the other was a judge plus the babies all had to be in bed by 7PM or the parents turn into pumpkins.

Unlike the TV version, two contestants were eliminated in round one. Between round one and dessert, we had the already prepared grilled dinner which everyone (14 people) ate together.

In the final round of our family CHOPPED competition, there were two contestants. Myself and the nephew. The ingredients we discovered in our baskets were: a golden yellow honeydew melon, Neopolitan Soy Ice Cream, French fried potato chips, and crescent rolls.

Again, not paying any attention to the other contestant, I peeled and chopped up melon, added sugar, flour and cinnamon to it then opened the crescent roll tube, floured my board and rolled out the dough triangles and put a tablespoon or so of the melon mixture into the center of each. Folded them up so no filling would escape, sugared the tops and put them into the oven. Next I made a chopped French fried potato and chopped nut brittle. I melted some of the ice cream in a separate pan, to use for a sauce, adding a bit of ricotta to it to make it less sweet. When I had two minutes left on the clock, I removed the tarts from the oven onto a plate (by this time we were using plastic plates), Put down some of the sauce on the side of each tart and garnished with the brittle. Here it is. The winning dessert !!

This is the nephews dessert. Because I was so crazy busy, I had to make some phone calls to find out about it. He flambed then pureed the melon adding a bit of the ice cream to it to make a sauce to pour over the  rolled and deep fried dough. He crumbled the French fried stix to use as a topping.

The unwinning dessert

According to one participant: "we have to do this again, this was the most fun we ever had at a Sunday dinner".

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What to Bring For Dessert Tutorial

I am invited to have dinner at one of my niece's homes tonight. I asked if I could bring something. She said "bring dessert".

Since it's Summer and all these fruits are succulently in season, I planned to make a fruit tart.



I made it in a 9" spring form pan. I will remove the sides of the pan at service time. So, this is what you need:

1- get some mouth watering looking fruits (any kind) at the market of farm stand
2- one small package of vanilla instant pudding
3- 1/2 cup of Nutella
4- 1/2 cup of clear jelly, not jam (I used plum)
5- 1 package of refrigerated, ready to bake, 24 cookie, sugar cookies

1- Put the fruits, one type at a time, into a collander and spray with water. Lay fruit out on tea towels to dry. They must be totally dry before arranging them on the tart.

2- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

 3- Smoosh, with your floured fingers, the sugar cookies around and a bit up the sides of the spring form pan. Smoosh remaining cookies over the pan bottom.

4- Put the cookie crust in the oven. It does take longer to turn golden than the manufacturers directions for baking individual cookies. Keep your eye on it. Remove when golden. Cool on rack.

5- Spread the Nutella over the cooled cookie crust.

6- Prepare the instant pudding using 1.5 cups of milk, not the 2 cups the manufacturer suggests.
Spread the thickened pudding over the Nutella.

7-  I hulled and cut the strawberries in half. I also cut the grapes in half. Arrange the fruits you have chosen in an artistic design over the layer of pudding.

8- The final step that makes this all look gorgeous is: melt that 1/2 cup of jelly in the microwave about 1 minute. With a pastry brush, paint all the fruit, covering each piece completely with the melted jelly.

That's the secret of making it look divine, all shiny and bright and irresistible.

Bon Appetit

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Life Started In A Garden Part II

As promised last week, here is part II of the RMSC 2015 Garden Tour. This part of the tour took place in the western end of our county in the little historic town of Scottsville, NY  To see Part I, click on this link

The first garden we visited was the home of a family who live on and operate a flower farm and are in the "flower" business. They have a roadside stand where they sell bouquets and also sell at the local farmers market. The farm was idyllic.

row of bachelor's buttons

busy little bee sipping some nectar from this sunflowers center

treehouse built right over the sandbox

 The owners so friendly. We asked directions from them on how to get to the next stop on the tour. While they were giving us directions, they mentioned "turn right at the Scottsville Diner". That's all we needed to hear. It was time for lunch. What better to eat than at a small town diner.

We had a delightful lunch there. Greek chicken Souvlaki salad in a pita and iced tea. You see the "CLOSED" sign in the window because the diner is just open for breakfast and lunch. By the time we left, it was indeed closed.

Next stop, a town house and garden in the old town of Scottsville.

grape arbor - much cooler under there

Just couldn't resist taking pictures of some of the houses on the street where this garden was. All of them built circa 1830

The final house and garden on the tour was the most expansive, awesome, restful, peaceful............don't have words to describe it..

there was a sandy beach on this pond and two Adirondack chairs to sit and rest in

shady hosta filled path and almost invisible rope hammock attached to two trees here

I sneaked a little picture of the front porch with its white wicker furnishings, including a porch swing

arched entrance to the patio overlooking the garden