Monday, November 26, 2018

Fireside Chat

 It's been a dream to own a fireplace and now it is here.
 Although we purchased the house two years ago, the house inspector had trouble starting the fireplace and told us not to do anything until a fireplace store had come to do an inspection and tell us how it operated. Chim Cherie (yes, they sweep chimneys) came and made a quick diagnosis:
 It's a gas fireplace from the 80s.
 They lit it with a long-nose firelighter and a turn of the floor key. Voila! We are ready for our Christmas theme: A French Reveillon that includes a French trivia quiz.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Bread and Beauty

Beauty to comfort the soul.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Perennial Parade

First, the scented lilacs, then the daffodils and peonies. Tulips. Daylilies. Iris.
It's the springtime flower parade.
Today, it's the last day of my ruffling iris.
Tomorrow, white hydrangea promise to show up in my garden..

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Morning Light

 I cut peonies in the garden at 5:30 this morning.
Festiva Maxima peonies have raspberry striations and a lovely fragrance.

I managed an arrangement under the dining stable chandelier (oh, look, the beads
 from Christmas are still hanging there) just as the morning light arrived.
Have a memorable Memorial Day weekend.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Faith Stitchers

I joined a company of knit-and/or-crochet fans at Faith Lutheran Church.
 Their mission is to produce and donate products for hospitals,
 a women's shelter, and the Polk County Senior Center.
I'm barely a knitter so I chose the simplest project: 8-inch squares
that senior-center attendees can join together for afghans or baby blankets
to sell at their annual fundraiser.
I visited the senior center when we delivered six months' worth of our squares.
We were also there to guide the seniors (who happened to be Burmese refugees)
 through the assembly of several afghan projects.
 Language was spare; mostly we used gestures, nods of encouragement
 and simple demonstrations about how to sew the squares together.
At another end of the room, a couple seniors were learning to use
two newly donated sewing machines.
I think I just might have to cook up a simple idea for a quilt-as-you-go blanket
 project for my next visit.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Ahhh, Spring

The daffodils are back! This time in white with bright yellow faces.
I think warmer days are here to stay!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday, April 15

Newly padded patio seats.
As I said before, "Where are you, Spring?"

Friday, April 13, 2018

Little Miracles

Three daffodils lifted their yellow heads today...
but snow is on the way tonight.
I took them inside where they'll be warm.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Looking for Spring

We thought the snow part of winter was gone...not yet! More for the next 24 hours.
Part of March Madness, I guess.
Soft, floating flakes.
 When we were kids, we put out our tongues to lick them from the sky.
Ice cream for the cows, we said.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Palmier  (pronounced palm-yay), is French for palm tree, the name given to puff pastry cookies shaped like hearts, palm leaves, elephant or pig's ears.
Rolled in sugar, the pastry gets puffed and carmelized in a 450 degree oven.
I could have left these just a bit longer, I think. At any rate, they are addicting!
Also, the quickest cookies I've ever made.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Cheese Straws

Paging through Barefoot in Paris by Ina Garten, I felt bold enough to explore puff pastry by purchasing readymade puff-pastry sheets from the grocery store freezer.
I also watched a few youtube videos with puff-pastry action.
First out: Cheese Straws.
A little egg wash on a rolled-out sheet of puff pastry plus a sprinkling of thyme,
 salt and pepper, and cheeses turned into these crispy appetizers.
Next up, Palmiers with puff pastry.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Bouquet Garni

It's been so cold that I left the puff pastry behind in the freezer to make soup and stew instead, flavoring them with a French standard: bouquet garni.
 I also filled a few appealing little sacks discovered at the grocery store
 with dried herbs.
 They'll make a fragrant hostess gift.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Light in the Dark

The Twelfth Day of Christmas, Epiphany, has passed,
 the last day for lighting the Christmas tree.
 Or not. 
Rising in the dark to live the first few hours of the day
in the magical light of the tree is calming.
A great time to sip coffee.
Listen to music.
Chat with Alexa.
Recline and resolve.
My new year's resolution: Learn a bit of French cooking.

Today I made Pommes Ana. A simple layering of waxy potatoes sliced on a mandolin. Salt, pepper, and butter are the only seasonings.

Tomorrow, I plan to try puff pastry for the first time.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Christmas Countdown

We're well into December's countdown
 to Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

December 1: Opening plan is to decorate a bit every day
 as ideas unfold, expanding the pleasures of anticipation.

A basket hung on a coat rack in the foyer.

December 2-5: Pleating ornaments from old sheet music purchased
 from a Des Moines antique store called The Picker Knows.

December 6: Switched out the CD player in the car to The Sacred Flame,
European Sacred Music of the Renaissance and Baroque Era
 featuring The Cambridge Singers and La Nuova Musica.
December 7: Pedicure at Sahar's.
 The guy next to me, getting cleaned up for Christmas, had blackened toe nails
 from dropping a six-pack of beer on his bare foot.
. "Red or white?" asked his pedicurist, as he settled into his chair.
"Red!" he said.
 Ordering nail polish for a festive look, I thought.
Turns out, he was only requesting a glass of red wine.
December 8: Replacing the beachwear on the hall rack with Saint Nick togs.
Mrs. Lachelt, my fourth-grade teacher, taught me to knit so I made Santa a scarf and joined Faith Stitchers, a church group that knits and crochets for charity.
The plan going forward: 
December 14:  Serve a social hour at our house for friends before attending our church's Soli Deo Musica concert, "Noels from Faith" featuring
The Jubilate Hand-bell Choir and the Ames Chamber Artists.
December 18: Faith Stitchers' Christmas Luncheon at Sue's.
Car-pooling from the church.
December 24; Mourn the Underwoods' loss of their Florida Christmases that we provided for the last 17 years by repeating similar traditions here in Iowa: A candlelight service at church, driving around to look at Christmas lights (this makes me remember when Blake, shirtless and in diapers, hung out a window to receive a giveaway teddy bear), eating light party treats in the kitchen created by Hunter and me, and competing in a trivia game written by Grandpa Al for joke prizes.
December 25: Celebrate Christmas with the Jerdees for the first time with a Christmas Brunch of waffles and fruit. We'll play a trivia game suited to Landon who is a decade younger than his Underwood cousins.
I wish you a merry Christmas
I wish you a merry Christmas
I wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Toasting 75

I survived a stroke to make it to my 75th birthday!
Here's to 75 and all its glories:
A celebratory glass from Seasons 52.
A day of spoiling by family and friends.
Beautiful flowers at a long, white dinner table.
Tres Leche cake to top off a delightful meal.
Landon sweetly singing the birthday song.
Red wine from the Biltmore.
New fur-lined winter boots and
sheepskin/suede Merrell clogs.
A Swedish massage at Sahar's.
Facebook greetings and a Maxine card that
said I was really HOT!
I am loved.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Happy Beggar's Night, Dia de los Muertos, and Harvest Season

These two white pumpkins will be my centerpiece all the way to Thanksgiving.
Tomorrow's Sunday night dinner will celebrate Oktoberfest.
Bratwurst and red cabbage slaw. Crinkle potatoes.
Paulaner Oktoberfest Weisn. Brewed and bottled in Munich, Germany.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Deck, Balcony, and Patio Renovation

Today, the guys finished off the job
by sodding over their tracks and power-washing our driveway.
Starting from scratch. Inserting steel poles into the ground on the patio level.

No nails or working on knees. Balcony floor is screwed in place with a drill that shoots screws automatically.

Main deck today. We won't put furniture out until spring.
We have plans for a large Christmas tree right in the middle of this space.

The patio will be dry, thanks to the interior roof that drains the rains.

I'm thinking a border of white hydrangeas will wrap the base of the patio.
Hammock time among the green splendors.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Deck Disappearance

Our three-level outdoor living spaces disappeared in just three hours this time for the rain that suddenly rushed in. Here we are with caution tape crossing our three sliding glass doors...warning us not to step over a ledge,
It was time to correct the cracked concrete of the patio,
 the leaning support posts for the main deck and balcony, the rotting planks.
Plus, we wished for a rain-protected roof over the patio level.
Two more days of rain before we dry out over the weekend.
Perhaps, Monday is the day when the old bricks and concrete disappear.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Saint Basil Soup

It's a soup kind of day~~rainy, drizzly, a sit-by-the-fire kind of day.
Time to open my Twelve Months of Monastery Soups book
and stir the pot.

Should I make "Provencal Rainbow Soup",
 "Gumbo Potage a la Creole" or "Red Bean and Rice Soup"?

I settle on "Saint Basil Soup" for the simplicity it implies.
Easy and earthy.

Vegetables sliced and ready to saute. Rainbow carrots for the sake of novelty.
 St. Basil the Great (c.330-379) organized a soup kitchen
during the 370 famine in Caesarea and donated his inherited wealth to the poor.
His recipe is basically a vegetable broth soup.
I'm adding paccheri pasta to flesh it out a bit.
Autumn has arrived. Chill is in the air.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Summer's Moving On

When cabbages begin to appear on florist shelves,
 I know what comes next...
...a dying of summer's colors.

Red-tailed squirrels scurry about in the trees, stocking their shelves.
And it's a little cool for dining on the deck.
(insert disappointed face emoji)

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Sunday Night Dinner: A New Tradition

Family traditions at our house are rare.
 Christmas wherever we happen to be together.
Birthdays by mail. Or not.
So I was surprised the other day...
 "What do you think about taking turns making Sunday night dinners?,
 our daughter texted. I replied with "I think it's a GREAT idea!"
I'm up first: September 3 during Labor Day weekend.
Hurray! A theme. An excuse to visit Pinterest for inspiring treats.
Simple crostini: Thin slices of brie baked on baguette slices for 6 minutes at 350 degrees.
 Decorated with strawberry slices, dribbles of honey over the berries,
 and narrow slices of fresh basil.

Easy lollipops. Small wedges of watermelon signal summer's end.
Hope your Labor Day weekend is filled with work-free hours
 (unless you're volunteering for Harvey's victims--bless you).
Our donations, thoughts and prayers go out for them.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Living in the Light

On these cool August mornings, we open windows and doors
 to welcome the freshly rained-upon air.
The sun upstages the clouds and the leaves of the trees
 flicker and whisper in the light.

Did I tell you we live along Woodland Avenue?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Good, Clean Fun

It took a month or more but our new kitchen is here at last
 and it comes with electricity and water!

Water for washing and energy for firing up the cooking pots are the elements we appreciate the most. Now that we have those, we can move into generous drawers, free-flying awning cabinet doors and wide, wide clean and white counter spaces.
Lots of LED lighting has me walking in pure white air. However, the upper cabinet lighting fails to light the lower shelves so I ordered glass shelves to replace the wooden ones. A good adjustment.
Awning-style doors make smooth and easy access to everyday dishes.

The galley view shows my triangular work pattern from sink to stove to refrigerator.

The silgranit sink is colored "Truffle" and
water is turned on and off with a gentle tap on top of the faucet.

Drawers instead of doors eliminate leaning or kneeling
into deep recesses of a cupboard.

White quartz "Misterio" countertops are created with
barely-there grey veining. 
A step back into the dining room gives you an overall look.
The island awaits galvanized metal counter stools.

Next: A trip to the store for drawer liners.
 Nothing like clean and fresh beginnings!
Today was our 53rd wedding anniversary.
We opened a bottle of champagne and clinked our glasses with great happiness.
Life is good!

August 10....update. A few adjustments:

Glass shelves replace the original wood ones so cabinet lighting can shine through.

Distressed metal stools from Target let me chat with guests while I cook.

One last overall view...