Cooking & Baking Day

Last Saturday, I declared a day of cooking and baking.  A whole day.  A FULL day.  In actuality, it started Friday when I cooked two chickens into chicken stock (and cooked chicken, of course)…

…and cooked a spiral-sliced ham I bought for more than 50% off at the grocery store.
So I awakened Saturday morning, ready to tackle the day.  First I made 18 cups of granola.

Then I made nearly three dozen cinnamon rolls (shown here before frosting).  I try to make cinnamon rolls once a winter, preferably on a snowy day.  My recipe is a mock-Cinnabon recipe, and once they’re baked and frosted, you can wrap them individually and put them in the freezer.  The night before you want one, you pull it out to thaw overnight.  Then in the morning, you pop it in the microwave for 30 secs., and it’s just perfect!  Click here or the source of the recipe.

Then I made half a dozen quiches for the freezer using some of the spiral-sliced ham.  Now we have three for an upcoming baby shower brunch, two for guests coming in March, and one for ourselves.  Here are the quiche fixings: ham, asparagus, red bell pepper, and mushrooms (and there was also onion and garlic in each).  The recipe I use is here, although this time, I added a generous splash of whipping cream and/or half-n-half to each one.

All of the above was completed by about 5:00 p.m., which was good because I needed to move on to making chicken pot pies, and some of those were for dinner that night.  So utilizing my chicken stock and cooked chicken from the day before, I made: four individual pot pies for dinner, one large one (serving 6-8) for the freezer, and one small one (serving 3-4) for the freezer.  Plus, I had about 12 cups of leftover chicken stock, which I then divided into one-cup portions and froze.  Mmmm…warm and nourishing food was my dinner reward for a day of hard work!

I started cooking at 9 a.m. and finished with clean-up at 9:00 p.m.  Whew!  It was a hard day’s work, but it was very gratifying to come downstairs to the tidy kitchen the next morning, knowing that the freezer was well-stocked with homemade goodness, AND that Sunday was a day or rest!

Guacatillo Sauce

When I was in California last fall, and after spending a few hours shopping in the L.A. Fabric District, I was quite hungry.  So, I plucked up my courage, and for the first time in my life I ate food from a street vendor.  They have small, push carts, parked along the sides of the streets, and cook your food right there.  It always smell so delicious, but I’ve never been brave enough, or at least hungry enough to try.  I ordered a chicken quesadilla, and it was served with sauteed onions, salsa, and guacatillo sauce.  I’d never had guacatillo sauce before, and I was pleasantly surprised at its fresh deliciousness!
So, I went online and found a recipe here. Assembled my ingredients and made a batch. 

If you make this recipe, I would add that you need to let the flavors meld for a bit, preferably overnight.  It tasted nearly exactly like the batch I had in California, and I will definitely make it again.  Everyone loved it!

Touring the MFA

After Max and I toured the Old South Meetinghouse, we worked our way over to the Museum of Fine Arts, one of my favorite places in Boston!

Everything in the MFA is beautiful…even the lobby.

Max, at the base of the grand staircase.

And if you go up that staircase and look up into the rotunda, this is the gorgeous view.

I said to him, “Ohh…go stand by the large green thing!  It will make you look short!”  At nearly 6’6″, there’s not much that does that!

We spent nearly our entire visit touring the American Wing, focusing on the early American art, which includes: paintings, furniture, re-created rooms, textiles, architecture, sculpture, and more.  Here’s a glimpse at what we saw there.

The sign explaining these antlers (donated from an historic home in Portsmouth, NH) said that the colonists adopted the European custom of displaying antlers in their homes, and that it was meant to symbolize man’s dependence on, and dominion over, the natural world.

This is a sculpture that is displayed against a wall of glass, and the view outside is of an apartment building.  I loved the juxtaposition of the classic and the modern.

This antique door has panes of bulls eye glass.  I recently learned that glass at the time was blown into large flat discs, and then it was cut into individual panes.  That’s why so many old windows have wavy glass.  But these windows are made from the very center of the blown glass, hence their circular feature.

On the hunt for a bakery treat for the ride home, we made a quick pass through the Modern Art Wing.

Before we left, I visited a special exhibit on the history of the color pink in fashion.  More on that in another posting.

Sabbath Rest

My Sunday afternoon -- new book, a cup of tea.

Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
Most bless├Ęd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.

Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
Nor wanting, nor wasting, Thou rulest in might;
Thy justice, like mountains, high soaring above
Thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

To all, life Thou givest, to both great and small;
In all life Thou livest, the true life of all;
We blossom and flourish as leaves on the tree,
And wither and perish—but naught changeth Thee.

Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
Thine angels adore Thee, all veiling their sight;
But of all Thy rich graces this grace, Lord, impart
Take the veil from our faces, the vile from our heart.

All laud we would render; O help us to see
’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee,
And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.

--Walter C. Smith (1876)

Field Trip - Old South Meetinghouse

Yesterday, I took Max on a field trip to Boston.  He has just finished studying the American Revolution, and I wanted to bring it all to life a bit for him.  What a chilly, chilly day to visit Boston!  We had to walk a few blocks from where we parked to our first stop, and he commented to me, “Even wearing a hat, I can’t feel my ears anymore.”  But we survived to tell the tale.
Our first stop was the Old South Meetinghouse.  It is most famous for being the meeting place of the Sons of Liberty the night of the Boston Tea Party.  But it holds many other claims to fame as well.  It was the place where large crowds of people came to debate the issues of the day for more than two centuries.  Benjamin Franklin and Phyllis Wheatley were baptised there (and she was a member).  (Benjamin Franklin, although more closely associated with Philadelphia, was born in Boston and grew up on the street from which I took this photo.)  The clock on the outside of the church dates to 1770.

A statue of Phyllis Wheatley.

I was surprised to find that the interior of the church sits sideways to the front door.  Instead of looking at the back of the pews as you enter, you look at the ends of them.  Some of the pews were box pews, and others were the more traditional long pews, but still with doors on each end.  Church members would’ve paid for their pews annually.

Here is a glimpse inside a box pew, outfitted as it would’ve been in the 1700′s with a foot warmer, writing tables, inkwell, and quill  pen for taking sermon notes.

The church clock.

During the British occupation of Boston, the redcoats trained their horses in this church.  A horseshoe, found in the building, dates back to that occupation.  And this sign is embedded in the woodworking of the gallery.  If the print is too small for you to read, it says, “During the occupation of Boston by the British, this Meeting House was used by the Queens Light Dragoons as a Riding School.  Soon  after the evacuation WASHINGTON, looking down from this gallery on the wreck which the British had left, reverently expressed surprise that those who venerated their own church, should have desecrated ours.”

Among the many items on display there was this vial of tea and a tea wrapper with Chinese lettering, and according to the sign, “Tradition has it that these tea leaves, as well as the Chinese tea label, are souvenirs from the Boston Tea Party.”

To help their visitors warm up on such a frigid day, cups of tea were offered to all.  I was grateful to drink my tea, as a free American citizen, and grateful to all those brave patriots who dumped the British tea in the harbor.

Sabbath Rest

"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."

- Psalm 51:7

Snowy Saturday

God blessed us with a snowy day today!  Our snow had nearly completely vanished, so it was nice to see its return.  Normally, I stay tucked snugly indoors when it snows.  But today I had a baby shower to attend, so I was out and about and snapped a few pictures to share with you on my ride home.  Enjoy!

Tea Time

After a week or so of warm temperatures, more like April than January, the cold temperatures have returned.  The abrupt change left me quite chilly yesterday.  Time for tea!

This is my new favorite tea.  It’s Harney & Sons African Autumn tea, an herbal blend of red bush with cranberry and orange.  So deliciously comforting on a chill January day.

Educating the Home Decorator

When it comes to decorating our home, I know what I like when I see it.  I know that if I absolutely love it, and the price is within my budget, that I ought to buy it, because I never regret it when I do.  And I'm slow and careful about thinking through my purchases, sometimes waiting years for just the right piece to come along and find a place in our home.  But I don't always know the correct decorating terminology for certain pieces of furniture.  This can make shopping a bit of a challenge, if you are trying to describe to someone what you want.

Recently, the online retailer, One King's Lane, asked me to check out their Home Decor Resource Guide.  I was honored to be asked!  And I was really thrilled to discover what a useful tool it is for learning about decorating styles, furniture history, and terminology!  It's a one-stop spot for teaching yourself to be your own best interior designer!

When we were house hunting, after just moving across the country to New England, we knew we wanted a guest room.  Guests were likely to come and visit and stay a while, since nearly all of our friends and relatives live on the west coast.  So, decorating a guest room was top of the list of priorities when we moved into our new home.  I settled on a color scheme: brown, taupe, and red.  And I set about furnishing it with a mixture of new items, antique pieces, and reproduction furniture.  While the bed was a modern, queen-size bed, other pieces had to have that "touched by history" feel that is so very New England.

I wanted the room to have a versatile chair.  A chair that could sit in the corner and be useful, for say...sitting in when putting on shoes.  But also a chair that could easily be pulled over to the small desk nearby, so a guest could work on their laptop or write a postcard home.  And one day, I discovered just what I'd been searching for...

By going to the Home Decor Resource Guide at One Kings Lane, I discovered that my uneducated instincts were actually fairly accurate in choosing a piece that reflects the 18th century history that draws so many visitors to New England.  But now I know what type of chair I have!  It's a slat-back chair, and is considered to be "...the quintessential American chair".

The Home Decor Resource Guide taught me that this slat-back chair with its rush seat is one of the "...popular Colonial chairs of the 1700s (which) represented American ingenuity, quality of craftsmanship, and the understated tastes of early America. Each one remains a part of American chair vernacular to this day."

What a great resource!  And even beyond chairs, you can research your own sofas, tables, and more!  In short, I found this a really useful tool for educating myself in furniture styles, history, and terminology, and an easy way to make myself a better decorator of our home.  I encourage you to check out the resource for yourself by clicking here.

Thanks to One Kings Lane for making me aware of a great resource!

Granola Making

This morning was devoted to granola making.  I used King Arthur Flour’s recipe for Crunchy Granola found here.  So many delicious ingredients: oats, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, walnuts, wheat germ, and large-flaked coconut.

It’s sweetened with maple syrup and deliciously flavored with vanilla.  When it had baked on a low temperature for 90 minutes, I added dried cherries.

I can’t wait for breakfast!

Vintage Splendor

Whenever I’m back in southern California, I try to make a quick stop at Gilding the Lily in Fullerton. When I lived there, it was one of my favorite shops.  Whenever I travel anywhere, I keep my eyes open for velvet ribbons, especially ones in interesting colors.  (I use them for hangers for Christmas stockings in the shop.)  And no where is there a more dazzling array of vintage velvet ribbon than at Gilding the Lily, so I made a very quick stop there last November!  After choosing several yards of the most amazing green velvet ribbon, I moved on to searching for the rest of the store just for fun.  And I came home with this!

A stunning antique mother-of-pearl button set in a bezel and dangling from a slightly sparkly chain.  I’ve loved mother-of-pearl all my life, and to find a vintage piece that tied in my love of sewing…too perfect!
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