The Witch Is In...

I just love that sign! I've seen them around at lots of places over the years, but I purchased mine from Cabin Creek Farms in/near Elizabethtown, KY after Country Living did a feature article on them quite a few years back. They had the cutest signs and primitive items. One year I kept the sign hanging above the fireplace long after Halloween had passed...the witch is usually in.
Edited to add: I just did a search on Cabin Creek Farm. I knew that the people featured in the magazine article no longer lived there. The google search led me to the Farm Girl Connection (MaryJane's Farm) and the current owner has the magazine article scanned into a comment on the message board. The artists...Art and Hannah Stearns now have a shop in Greensburg, KY called Hannah's. Sounds like a cute little town to visit for a day trip.


Another Sunday Rolls Around...

Streamcliff Farm, photo from website

Does time seem to be flying, or what? Yesterday at work just blew by...and the evening virtually disappeared (could it be because I went to bed at 9 o'clock?). I have all of my school materials out and I'm ready to tackle this upcoming paper; what that really means is that I will find almost anything to do but work on the paper...a little light cleaning, toilet scrubbing....anything but settle down and finish the paper.

So, about that time thing...I can't believe it's less than 2 months until Christmas, and way less than a month until Thanksgiving. My parents are coming here for Thanksgiving and my brother may be coming if he can find a reasonably priced flight from Arizona. We haven't all been together since my daughter's high school graduation in 2005. At least the menu planning is pretty much of a no-brainer. Traditional Thanksgiving food...made so much easier since my daughter dropped vegetarianism after a 5 year stint.

This year I plan on brining a turkey. I had never heard of this process until I visited Streamcliff Farm six or so years ago and attended a cooking class on holiday foods. The chef's brining process included Southern Comfort, not a favorite of mine, but if it can add any flavor to the turkey I'm all for it! Visit their website for a list of programs they offer. The farmhouse and grounds are just beautiful, especially this time of year.


What a good day to be at home...

We're experiencing yet another gloomy rainy day here in Southwest Indiana. This week has been the kind of week that really makes one forget about the extremely high temperatures and extra-dry weather we experienced all summer long...actually up until a week or so ago. Today is the perfect day to stay inside and putter about. I have books to read, a paper (boo-hiss) to write, and some kitchen tidying to do. Now that my night of company is over, I can smooth out some of the rough edges around the house...things I should have done before yesterday but didn't. It's a no-cook Friday; my daughter is going to a Halloween party after work (I did spend a little time concocting a skirt out of multicolored layers of tulle for her Fairy Princess costume), so we won't be dining together. I have plenty of leftovers from last night, and that dessert plate of cheesecake posted under the recipe is calling my name!

Potatoes au Gratin with Caramelized Shallots and Smoked Gouda

This recipe is from a cooking class by Cindy Vescovi at Kitchen Affairs. It could also probably be called --Artery Clogging Spuds--but that name isn't nearly as appetizing. As far as I'm concerned, anything with potatoes and cheese is a "good thing."

5 pounds potatoes
9 shallots
3 cups heavy whipping cream
2 cups shredded smoked Gouda cheese
2 cups shredded Havarti cheese
olive oil

  • Using a mandolin slicer or food processor, slice the potatoes as thinly as possible. Chop the shallots. Saute the shallots in a little olive oil over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the heat, strain off the oil, and set the shallots aside.
  • Shred the cheese using a food processor or coarse grater.
  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • Oil or butter a baking dish liberally. Place a single overlapping layer of potatoes into the pan. Sprinkle the slices with salt, one layer of each cheese, and some of the sauteed shallots. Pour a small amount of cream over the top. Repeat, layering the potatoes, salt, cheeses, shallots, and cream until the pan is full. Press on the sliced potatoes to remove any air. Fill the pan as completely as possible. Bake for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours, until the potatoes are tender throughout. Cover with foil when the top starts to brown, after about 45 minutes. Can be baked ahead, covered with foil, and held for a couple of hours. Serve hot.


Brownie Latte Cheesecake...from this wonderful book. Yum!

Brownie Latte Cheesecake (this was fabulous!!)

Brownie Base:

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsley chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1 TBSP instant espresso powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 3 springform pan. Cut an 18 inch square of heavy duty aluminum foil and wrap around the outside of the pan.

In the top of a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the butter over barely simmering water, stirring occasionally. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl, and stir in the espresso powder, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk in the sugar until combined. Whisk in the eggs one at a time, until blended. Stir in the flour until no traces remain.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer. Bake the brownie for 25 minutes, until a toothpick into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Place the pan on a wire rack and let cool while you make the filling. Leave the oven on.

Or do as I did and use a plain brownie mix...following package directions, but substituting butter for the oil. Add in espresso powder.

The Filling:
1 1/2 pounds of cream cheese softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 TBSP vanilla extract
2 tsp. espresso powder, dissolved in 1 TBSP hot water (I used 1 TBSP hot coffee instead of hot water)
2 TBSP Kahlua or coffee liqueur
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1 TBSP cornstarch
4 large eggs

In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese at medium low speed until creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat until blended. Add the vanilla extract, espresso mixture, Kahlua, salt, sour cream, and cornstarch and mix until well blended. At low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Scrape the batter onto the brownie base. Place the pan in a roasting pan or large baking pan. Pour enough hot water into the roasting pan to come about 1 inch up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cake in the water bath for 70-80 minutes, until the center is set but slightly wobbly. The cake will continue to set up as it cools. Remove the pan from the water bath and cool the cake completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Refrigerate the cheesecake for at least 4 hours before serving.

To serve, slice the cake with a thin-bladed sharp knife, wiping the knife clean after each cut. Garnish each slice with a dollop of whipped cream and a few chocolate-covered espresso beans.

This recipe comes from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle. There are so many great recipes in this book...from coffee cakes to cheesecakes and mousses. My only complaint about the book is that there aren't many photos...I like to see what it's supposed to look like! There is a great photo of this cake on the Cream Puffs in Venice blog.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner..

My Bunco friends, that's who...here's what were having (since I know they won't be reading this before they get here):
Herb and Garlic Marinated Pork Loin with an herbed stuffing
Potatoes au Gratin (featuring Smoked Gouda, Havarti, and carmelized shallots)
Green Beans and Mushrooms with garlic butter
Home made dinner rolls with herb butter
Grand Marnier Cranberry conserve
And for dessert...Brownie Latte Cheesecake from The Cake Book.

Pictures to follow!


Clutter Queen...the queen's chamber

I found this crown at Hobby Lobby a few months ago. Don't know why it caught my eye, but it did...and I wanted it to hang on my bedroom door. What's behind the door? Oh.my.gosh. Too much stuff. I've been using this huge room as a warehouse since we moved here nearly four years ago. I gave myself two months to get it organized/thrown out/given away, but it's almost all still there. It's organized chaos...I can put my hands on anything in there. The question is...just what all is in there? It's a wonder I can even go to sleep at night!

Where's Autumn?

Throughout the summer I longed for autumn...the crisp weather, the slanted rays of sunshine, the beautifully decorated porches and yards festive with mums and pumpkins. It seems that in the wink of the eye we've gone from scorching summer lethargy to way-too-cool dark, rainy, gloomy pre-winter. All of the magazines are featuring Christmas motifs and I'm just ready to settle into a nice, long fall. Shall I just hope for Indian Summer?


Friends of the Library Bookstore...

My local library has a fabulous bookstore run by Friends of the Library. It is stocked with donated, withdrawn, and some new items. Hardbacks are $1.00, paperbacks .50, and magazines (new) are .25 (what a deal for a magazine-aholic!). Here are my finds from shopping this week...Mary Carol Garrity's new book Nell Hill's Feather Your Nest, Country Living 500 Quick & Easy Decorating Projects & Ideas, Knitting Never Felt Better, Taste of Home Holiday & Celebration Cookbook 2007, and finally Cath Kidston's Dream Home Journal...all for $5.00. Christmas shopping has started.


From Penny at Lavender Hill Studio

I stopped at the Post Office yesterday to pick up my package from Penny at Lavender Hill Studios...she had a giveaway last week and I was the very lucky recipient. After some cooking and housekeeping chores, I settled down with a glass of Merlot and the Everyday Dining with Wine cookbook. Here's what I've picked for our Sunday evening meal:
Bean and Black Olive Bruschetta with Rosemary
1 15 1/2 oz. can cannellini, garbanzo, or other firm white beans, drained and rinsed.
1/4 cup brined black olives, drained, pitted, and chopped fine.
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TSP fresh rosemary, finely chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
One baguette or French or Italian bread
2 TBSP fresh parsley, finely chopped
In a medium bowl, stir together the beans, olives, garlic, olive oil, and rosemary. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow flavors to marry.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Slice the baguette on an angle into about 20 1/2 inch thick rounds. Place the rounds on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 5 minutes. Spoon the bean mixture on top of the toasted bread slices, arrange on a serving platter, and garnish each slice with parsley. Serve immediately.
Sunday evening is just about the one night in the week I can count on my daughter being home with me and we usually spend the time doing homework. I try to fix quick and easy to eat meals for our Sunday sessions. Since I've been a "good girl" and have spent free time in my week to 1) listen to Hamlet on my IPod, 2) read Hamlet along with listening to same, and finally 3) watching the Mel Gibson movie of Hamlet (version recommended by instructor), I will probably enjoy my meal with a glass of wine.
Thank you, Penny!


An Award...

First thing this morning I had an email from Carrie at Oak Rise Cottage bestowing a "You Make Me Smile Award." I'm so honored...I started this blog as kind of a journaling exercise, and even though it's a public forum, I was so surprised to see that people actually visit and read my ramblings. Thank you Carrie; I really appreciate your kindness.

I realize that I'm supposed to nominate 5 people for the award, but it's so hard to choose; there are so many talented women out there in blogland that amuse, inspire, and and influence me in some way. Here is but a small listing of my favorite almost-daily reading:

  1. The Inspired Room-Sweet Escapes (especially the current one) are wonderful!
  2. Cherry Hill Cottage-For home dec, recipes, and decorated letters from Mika.

  3. My Cozy Home-great writing, and she's a mystery lover!

  4. Notes from A Cottage Industry truly inspiring; Tracey's ideas are wonderful and she's so talented. Her weekly "words to live by" inspire...

  5. My Romantic Home - Cindy has a wonderful decorating style; her blog is always an interesting read.

  6. Daisy Cottage-I love this house...Kim has such a creative decorating style with bold colors and her pictures of Dear Daisy Cottage are exceptional.

  7. Chez Fifi- Good Fifi or Bad Fifi, she's always an interesting read. How does this woman do it?
  8. French Poppy-Nice art, good writing...a joy to read.

  9. The Feathered Nest-Manuela has a lovely blog with great photos...and a wonderful new screened porch.

  10. Hedgerow Hollow great fall photos from Canada

  11. Little Red House I love the book quotes Mary pulls from those old books. Very amusing! Her tour of her town was wonderful.
  12. The Decorated House - Donna has some gorgeous items in her Etsy shop; I love the Cottage Fairy and her Halloween items.

  13. Lavender Hill Studio-Penny creates beautiful cottage-y chic mosaics. Her blog and website are beautiful.

  14. Fresh Vintage-You must watch this woman's Vlog...not only does it make you smile...you actually laugh out loud! Her weekly yardsale/thrifting finds make me a bit jealous; we never have anything that good around here!

Thank you for the inspiration!


Along the Ohio River...

Earlier this week I took a short trip to Newburgh Indiana, a charming little town along the river. Newburgh has several unique shopping venues. One of my favorites is The Heart of Newburgh, a small mostly primitive shop near the edge of town.
The shop has lots of vintage-y holiday decorations...and many of the items are actually produced there in the shop. I helped out there for a few years when I lived in Newburgh...and my main activity was filling old chocolate molds with squishy papier mache pulp.

Most of the items available are from outside vendors...the usual MidWest items, Bethany Lowe, Nicol Sayre, Dee Foust, and Salem.

Each and every nook and cranny is filled to capacity...it's almost hard to walk around and take everything in.

I'll post my latest purchases tomorrow after I place them in their new home.


A little light reading...

My issue of Victoria arrived this afternoon. I still can't believe it's being published again. So exciting!

Last night in class, the instructor talked about a book she just loved...I've heard a few other good comments about the book, but didn't really know what it was about...I just remembered it had an interesting cover (an aside...when you work in a library, you get all kinds of requests for "I was reading a book awhile back...it had a green cover and a picture of something or other on the front near the corner"...it becomes 20 questions in book descriptions/characters/etc.). Anyway, this morning on my way home from running errands, I stopped at Borders and picked up a copy...this after checking our catalog and discovering the book had 36 holds on the 8 copies we have in the system. So...my new acquisition is Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I read a bit during my break this afternoon and it is really well written.

A new hold came in for me today...The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones. When it rains, it pours.

Welcome to my world...

This is my entryway redo...featuring the BOO letters from Cherry Hill Cottage. The entry isn't crooked...I guess I am! The drapes in the livingroom are coming along; I decided to line them with muslin, so that process took a bit longer than expected. Pictures will be forthcoming. Exciting news...I won a Blog Giveaway from Penny @ Lavender Hill Studio!! Visit her studio
to see some beautiful mosaics and shabby chic cottage charm. My Queen of the Pumpkin Patch is a piece from Nicol Sayre's collection. I just love her pieces. Mr. Pumpkinhead, a candy holder, is a Dee Foust piece. Now that Hoffman publishing has brought Victoria back (and I still haven't received my magazine...), I wish that Dee would bring back her Holly Berry Hill catalogs. I would always get the best ideas from them.


Waiting for

Some people have already received the long-awaited new issue of Victoria Magazine...I can't wait to receive mine. It has always held a special place in my heart...I received the premiere issue of the original Victoria while I was in the hospital delivering my first -only- child. The friend who brought the issue to me thought it would be something I'd enjoy. I always looked forward to the arrival of the newest issue and would savor it. I still have all of the issues...they've survived several moves since 1987, and even though they take up lots of room I can't bear parting with them.


Countdown to BUNCO...

The panic sets in...I have always chosen October as "my month" to host BUNCO. I do this partially because if my guests spot a cobweb or two I can sluff it off as Holiday Decorating. Another fine feature of hosting a party in October is that it gets dark early. By the time the guests arrive it really doesn't matter if the windows are sparkly clean. As much as I'd like to get all of the windows clean, I know it isn't possible to accomplish this in the time off I have between now and Wednesday evening. This is a working weekend, and a got-to-get-ready for a test on Monday weekend. The good news? I have my menu ready. That in itself is a major hurdle. My BUNCO mates are good cooks; everyone generally goes "all out" to provide a wonderful meal, from snacks to desserts. Other than a random holiday meal, it's my only real opportunity to entertain. I have my lists of "To Do's" ready...so I'm off to accomplish something today!


Crisp Weather, Beautiful Mums

Just came in from attending to the flowers...the cool (almost cold) temperatures overnight really perked up the mums. Everything looks so bright, crisp and clean. I love the angle of the sunlight this time of year. There was a hint of woodburning stove outside. Me? I'm just happy to turn off the A/C!


A chill is in the air...

...and the crockpot is ready to cook! It's finally time for cold weather comfort food and nothing does it better than a crockpot. I love walking into the house after a (long) day at work and smelling those comforting food smells. I picked up a few things at the grocery after work this evening so I can throw them into the crockpot in the morning and come home to a wonderful meal. Stews, soups, roasts...in the crockpot, one of my favorite kitchen items.


School Days

Reading and understanding William Shakespeare is so much easier when you have a movie to watch. I can read and re-read the play and I always get confounded by those pesky footnotes. Over the weekend I watched the Kevin Kline version of A Midsummer Night's Dream and it was so helpful. This evening in class, our teacher ran clips of the same movie starring Mickey Rooney...as a childish Puck...it was a very old movie. At least now I have a firm grasp of the characters and trickery of the play. On to Hamlet...

Now that the Monday evening class is over, I can get back to fretting about my BUNCO menu and getting my drapes finished. Not too much more work to do on them, but it will be at least Wednesday before I get a chance to work on them again...and I'll need to take pictures of my Halloween "finery."


SOS - or - Sewing On Sunday

I'm so jazzed about making draperies for my livingroom!! I visited Lowe's this afternoon and purchased a dropcloth 12x15. That will be enough fabric for both windows in the livingroom. All I have to do is cut the fabric and run a hem down the long side. I have some really cool iron curtain brackets with a cutout for a wooden shelf, but I think I'm going to do this the quick way and use upholstery tacks. Grapevine has been pulled off the back fence; I'm using it for tie-backs. I'm sure I can find some fall floral picks to fill it in with.

Really nice pots of mums were on sale at Lowe's for $1.99. Hope I can keep them alive for a few days inside...we're expecting cooler temps by mid-week.


What I Learned from Reading Blogs This Week...

The big idea this week comes from Present Past Collection . It never occurred to me to use canvas dropcloths to make curtains. I have a huge window in my livingroom...and the ceilings are 13 feet, with the window hitting within a foot of the ceiling. I've searched for draperies, but they're too cost-prohibitive to buy for a rental. Even the thought of purchasing fabric to make the draperies is expensive. If I can spend around $28.00 and cover that huge window, it would be spectacular. To further the idea...one of those dropcloths would provide plenty of fabric to make a slipcover for a wingchair. What a deal! The slipcover would be in the style of the chairs at Daisy Cottage .
In the "good recipes" department, I found a wonderful recipe for Stewed Red Cabbage with Italian Sausage and White Beans from Champaign Taste . Too hearty for our current 95 degree temperature, but it will be a --good thing--later in the week.

Weekend Stuff

Another weekend has rolled around; fortunately I feel so much better than I did last weekend. Lots of "chores" piled up in the interim...could my kitchen floor look any worse? I spent quite a bit of time on hands and knees actually scrubbing the floor. The Swiffer just wasn't cutting it!

I received my BOO letters in the mail from Mika at Cherry Hill Cottage. They're so cute...I'm going to redo the entryway tomorrow with Halloween things.