Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Monet's Kitchen - The Play Version: Part 2 Hautbois and Trumpet Fanfare

Ta-Da.... The Monet Play Kitchen. The refrigerator and hutch will come later in the fall, but this is the main part.

Building this was the most fun ever. Miss T. would have been quite happy with something more modest, but her mom and I laughed constantly while making it. I wouldn't have missed it for the world.

The second shot shows it in situ, for scale.

The backsplash of Delft tiles is paper. We created the whole thing in Photoshop, using a disk of tile patterns from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and printed it out on 8 1/2 by 11 sheets. We painted the plywood underneath a grey grout color, so mistakes wouldn't be glaring. We used Mod Podge to stick them on and provide a protective surface. It turned out so well that I'm trying to figure out how to do the same thing at home.

The dish drainer is simply cut down from a full-sized Ikea one and painted white. The country sink is a salad bowl from Target (before the boycott) and the counter is faux marbre done by me. The gold supports are from a broken antique table Daughter of COG had lying around.

I love the way the country stove turned out. The brass escutcheons add the final touch to the doors, but we put the brass hinges on the 'wrong' way so they'd show. And the brass trim around the doors is wood strips, sprayed antique brass, with brass screws for additional 'brassiness.' The brass knobs at the back of the top are also from the reuse center.

This is a better shot of the faux marbre counter. Those are black coasters from Ikea forming the rings on the stove, glued and screwed with brass screws.

Monet's Kitchen- The Play Version: Part 1

Perhaps you recall that last Spring Daughter of and I started to build a modest play kitchen for Miss T. What we had in mind was something like this charming example from Ikea Hacker.

Then, we saw this picture

and The Monet-at -Giverny Play Kitchen was conceived.

I'll show you pictures of the final product tomorrow, but here are some details.

Daughter of deconstructing the entertainment console we used for extra wood. Notice the feet which got cutdown for the refrigerator.

Before painting, tiles, faux marbre counters, country sink, stove parts etc.

The refrigerator with its 'shelves' in place and the decorative border on the top.

Miss T. enjoying the refrigerator before the top was put on and the shelves installed. Note, especially, the decorative feet on the fridge cut down from the entertainment console.

Some of the brass pieces we used - the ornamental escutcheon is one of two I bought at a reuse center for extra decoration.

The copper batterie de cuisine - Ikea aluminum kid's stuff, sprayed copper.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Early Color Film of England

Vivi has an early technicolor clip at Cattus Dommuswhich reminded me of a wonderful program we saw on BBC a few years ago.

In 1924, William Friese-Greene, a photographer from Brighton, made a color film called 'The Open Road.' It was a tour of England from Land's End in Cornwall to John O'Groats in Scotland filmed in 'kinecolor,' an early color process. This littlr clip shows the beginning of the trip -fascinating to see people and landscapes as they were. The whole film was shown on BBC a few years ago and you can still watch the whole thing in parts on YouTube. As with Vivi's film, it's best to click on the picture to go to YouTube, then click again on the picture to watch it full screen.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


French Kate posted Toulousan angels today so I thought I'd post one, too. I love this doorway.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


These little minature babies are made of some kind of plasticine like Fimo or Sculpey. They're a little creepy, but I love them. I want them.

The Good News Just Keeps On Coming!

Research published by Boston University Medical Center indicates that moderate wine drinking may help cognitive functioning, at least for women.

The prospective study looked at over 5000 men and women from Tromsø, Norway over 7 years. The study found that women who drink 'moderately' - 4 to 5 glasses of wine in 2 weeks - scored significantly better in tests of cognitive functioning and had a lower incidence of dementia than women who drank too much (no surprise there). However, they also scored better better than women who drank nothing.

Sure, you say, but that's because people who drink moderately are different in a lot of other ways from those who drink too much or those who don't drink at all. And that's true, but the study did control for age, education, weight, depression, and cardiovascular disease (all of which are known affect cognitive functioning).

And, there are 68 other studies, representing nearly 150,000 people that suggest an association between light to moderate alcohol consumption and better cognitive function, including a reduced risk of dementia, both vascular dementia and Alzheimer's Disease.

So... that's enough proof for me, I'm off to buy wine and chocolate. I take my health seriously.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Good News from Today's Guardian!

"Chocolate can be good for women's hearts".

A team of Swedish researchers, using a sample of 42,000 Swedish women aged 48 to 83 has found that one or two servings of good-quality chocolate may reduce the risk of developing heart failure by nearly a third.

The bad news is that while moderate chocolate consumption (19 to 30g a week) significantly reduced the risk of heart failure, the benefit was diminished when subjects ate more (1 serving a day) or less (1 to 3 servings a month). But, still, their risk was 26% lower than those who ate none at all.

Life is good.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Small earthquakes in Brighton

Years ago some journalists at The Guardian in the UK had an office contest to come up with the most boring headline. The winning one was 'Small Earthquake in Chile, Not Many Injured.'

I think of this everytime I read The Argus, the Brighton newspaper. I love reading it. Here are my favorites from today's headllines"

Headline 1: Tile falls from Worthing shop

9:00am Monday 16th August 2010
Firefighters have cordoned off a section of a street after a tile fell from a shop roof.
The tile fell from the roof of the Phones4U mobile phone shop in Montague Street, Worthing at around 5.30pm last night.
Firefighters from Worthing have cordoned off a small section around the shop to protect passersby.

Headline 2: Dung pile in Sompting catches fire accidentally

6:52pm Monday 16th August 2010
Firefighters were called to a pile of dung which accidentally caught fire.
A West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service crew from Worthing attended the blaze in West Street, Sompting, 10.08am today.
The pile covered about 30ft of ground and it took firefighters about an hour to extinguish the blaze.

Headline 3: Book starts Crawley kitchen fire

9:50pm Monday 16th August 2010
A neighbour put out a fire which started after a book fell on to the gas ring of an oven.
Fire crews from Horsham and Horley were called to Salisbury Road, Tilgate, Crawley, at 4pm today after smoke was seen issuing from the kitchen window of the home.

A West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service spokesman said no one was at the property when they arrived and that the neighbour had broken in to put the blaze out.

There were lots of pets inside the property but they were unharmed. The oven, hob, splashback and extractor hood were all damaged by the fire.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Not simply Superb, but Splendid, too

This is a male Superb Fairy Wren, in his beautiful blue mating plumage. You can see how hard it would be to refuse such a handsome guy.

I have also discovered that a close cousin lives on the west coast of Australia. They have even bluer mating plumage and they are called Splendid Fairy Wrens.

So sweet and such a beautiful color. And what a wonderful moniker.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Slutty Birds

The Son of has an academic interest in the Saltmarsh Sparrow, which is a pretty little bird in a kind of ordinary, girl-next-door, way. One of the interesting things about these birds is that they are famous for being promiscuous - in a single nest they have eggs from several different fathers. In a third of nests each egg has a different father, the average is 2.5 fathers per nest. Unlike most songbirds, they do not pair bond and the fathers are Deadbeat Dads. They take no part in rearing the young, their role being pretty much limited to wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am. The proper scientific name for this type of behavior is 'extra-pair mating,' and there must be some survival mechanisms at work that explain it.

In my studies (reading Wikipedia and another source online) , I learned that the Saltmarsh Sparrow just might be the sluttiest bird in the Northern Hemisphere. There are two in the Southern Hemisphere who are just as slutty - the Greater Vasa Parrot of Madagascar and the Superb Fairy Wren of Australia.

I'll say that again because I love it so much - the Superb Fairy Wren.

Now the COG and I are going to paint the ceiling of the upstairs hall. Which we have managed to not do for 8 hours already today.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


There were tomatoes for the first time this year in our CSA share today. Yippee! They have started selling their own eggs this year, too, so now I can start making mayonnaise again. And we got 2 watermelons (the little round kind). They aren't shown, but look at the lovely round eggplants on the left.

Tomatoes are especially welcome because last year there was a horrible tomato blight across the state and we saw almost no local tomatoes. So far the blight hasn't affected us here this year, though that could change. There are some farmers west of here who have seen some. Much depends on the weather now. If it's stays hot and dry, it's good for tomatoes.

12th of August

Here is is the 12th of August and I have once again forgotten to post (yesterday). I wish I could give you updated pictures of the new roof, which is coming along nicely.

However, the depressing fact is that you can't see it. They are doing the top part of the roof - the part that is liable to leak and was in terrible shape. So there's nothing to see except ladders and a dumpster etc. Even when they finish it will make almost no difference to the appearance of the house because we are only having the top done this year.

Because of the way the house is built, we have 4 times the usual roof of a house. There's the top of both the main house and the part of the house over the garage. Each of these covers the footprint of a moderately sized house. Then, next year, we'll do the gambrel sides which are the roof space of another 2 houses. We are also this year having the roof over the one story entry that connects the two parts done. So we will be able to see that.

However, the contractor warned me today that the place where this connects to the side gambrels will look not so good because they'll have to replace flashing and shingle along the bottom edge. So it won't match.

It's really sad because this is fabulously expensive to do. The problem with any kind of prevention/replacement is that there's no fun in it. Of course, if the roof weren't there, or it were leaking terribly we be deleriously happy to be getting a roof. But, it's not.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


It was so hot again today that they couldn't start shingle-ing. They removed the old roof from the North side of the house and put tar paper on it. Then they left about 2:30. They will be back early tomorrow to start the shingles before the heat of the day. Apparently they are fragile when it's too hot.

The rubber membrane thing has been applied to the back and they have started to build the railing around it. Clearly, we need a fence there for safety, but it will interfere with the view. Too bad.

We aren't quite sure what we'll do with the area now. We've asked for an estimate on a deck. The roof isn't strong enough for a green roof - which is too bad. I don't know if it can support a deck. It's a very long span without support inside, so it might be difficult - too expensive and too much trouble to do - they'd have to remove the whole roof the wooden panels as well and reinforce every one of the cross beams . You can buy black rubber cushion-y panels you can get so that you can walk on it safely. We may do that, for the time being. And next summer we might buy the Ikea deck panels to lay on top of them. Or maybe not.

Monday, August 9, 2010

When imagination fails....

So I forgot to blog yesterday and today I don't have much to say, but I'm determined to say something. It was 95 degrees this afternoon and the roofers were working in full sun on the south side of the house. I was so worried about them. I kept offering iced water etc. but they had brought their own. It was too hot to do anything. I should have driven in my air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned library and read or cruised the internet in perfect comfort. But it was too hot to think of that.

The other fail today (the first being forgetting to blog and then blogging about nothing) was the mayonnaise I made. I had poached a chicken according to a recipe in the Guardian, meaning to make Poached Chicken in Dill and Basil Mayonnaise, with new potatoes and tomatoes.

I used a Nigel Slater (3 egg yolks, 1/2 tsp dijon mustard and 1 cup oil) recipe that was different than my usual recipe (one whole egg, 1 TBSP mustard, lemon juice and 1 cup oil) and it just stayed yellow goop. So disappointing. I don't know what happened. I went online to try to find out just what had gone wrong and whether there was anything I could do about it. But there was no help there. I could possibly have tried adding 2 TBSP of boiling water, but I didn't.

Nigel Slater (usually so dependable) didn't add the lemon juice until after the mayonnaise had chilled for a while. And he used 3 egg yolks instead of 1 whole egg and much less mustard. Did those proportions mess with the emulsification?

Was it the heat?

I've never had mayonnaise fail before, and I've made it many times.

Whatever,I started all over with my own recipe, which worked as usual. Then I stirred in lots of chopped basil and dill. In the end, it was much ado about nothing, but with piles of oily blender pieces and measuring cups to clean.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Home-made Grenadine Syrup

Grenadine is a red syrup added to drinks like the Tequila Sunrise to color them. It's high fructose corn syrup with red dye added, but (as I recently learned) it started as a pomegranate syrup. It seems 'Grenadine' is from the French for pomegranate, 'Grenade.' And when I discovered that, I also discovered that it was very easy to make. So I made some.

I bought a 16 ounce bottle of Pomegranate juice (available everywhere nowadays) and simmered it to reduce it by half. Then I added a cup of sugar, and stirred until it dissolved.

Finally, I dumped the Grenadine we had into the sink and washed the bottle out - leaving the attractive label. And I put a label saying 'home made' on the label in case I forgot. I filled the bottle with the syrup and stored it in the fridge. It's a beautiful color.

Last night I added it to some white wine as an aperitif - it was kind of like Kir. Tonight I took some Sangria to a party and I used about 1/4 cup of the grenadine in the Sangria. It was really nice. I wish I had discovered this when my kids were small so I could have used it to color/flavor their party drinks.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

We are having our roof done. Or, at least part of our roof. And we are having to decide on the color of shingles which will cover a gigantic portion of our house from a little tiny square of material. To make matters worse, the tiles are not unvaried in color - that is, there is shading on the edges of some tiles and also different tiles in a panel are lighter or darker. The ultimate effect is to make a varied look that mimics cedar shakes.

Oh, and did I mention that each shingle, no matter whether light or dark, is composed of zillions of little beads of different colors.

So, we want dark grey. The contractor said that he'd buy a bundle of each and lay them out so we could look at them. I asked him to see if he could just get bigger samples first, before going to that effort.

And I'm torn between Pewterwood and Driftwood - but much depends on the total effect on the roof. The top one is Pewterwood, the bottom is Driftwood. I just told the contractor I was leaning toward Pewterwood, but looking at these I'm liking Driftwood better.

Sigh. A really important decision, but kind of boring at the same time.

Note added later: We've gone with the Driftwood. It looks lovely and soft next to the new siding, which we will put on the house maybe next year. We currently have it along part of the back of the house only.

And here's a picture of the final choice on a house which is entirely unlike ours:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Question Answered

Peaceable Tate wondered what they ate in the Old World before the discovery of the New World. An interesting question.

Here, courtesy of the internet, is a partial answer.

Foods That Originated in the Old World: apples, beets, broccoli, carrots, cattle (beef), cauliflower, celery, cheese, cherries, chickens, chickpeas, cinnamon, coffee, cucumbers, eggplant, garlic, ginger, goats, grapes, honey (honey bees), lemons, lettuce, limes, oats, okra, olives, onions, oranges, pasta, peaches, pears, peas, pigs, radishes, rice, sheep, spinach, tea, watermelon, wheat. Plus lots of fish and seafoods

We know what they ate on the Mayflower and in their first year at Plymouth because Edward Winslow, a passenger, described it in his diary. On board the ship they ate dried and salted meats and fish, dried fruits, hard cheeses, gruel, and hardtack which was dipped in broth to make it soft enough to eat. They had pease porridge hot and cold - this is rather like split pea soup. They had hens, ducks, and geese on the Mayflower, so they probably had eggs and ultimately, chicken, duck and goose. They also had goats, so they had goat milk and cheese.

They did not have cow milk, fresh cheese from cows, butter or cream until 1624 when cows were brought from England.

By the first Thanksgiving, they had received a lot of help from the Native Americans so the meal included some New World foods: They had:

From the Ocean: cod fish, lobster, clams, seals, and eels
From the Land: wild turkey, duck rabbit, deer, partridge, goose, eagles, plums, pumpkins (stewed or fried) wild grapes, beans, onions, lettuce, carrots and leeks. They also had wheat flour and Indian corn. Also walnuts, acorns, dried currants and chestnuts.

My source said they had olive oil - I'd have to hear more about that before I believed it. It could be true of course, but... it seems odd as it was sold in Chemists Shops and considered medicinal in Britain until after WWII, as far as I know.

We also know what the Roman legionnaires ate because of studies done of bones found in Roman cemetaries (as well as written records). Their diet was mostly grain: wheat, barley, and oats, and also spelt and rye. They were given an amount equal to 3.5 pounds of grain per day. Each of them carried their own little frying pan to make their own bread or porridge. They probably also carried preserved meat - early versions of prosciutto, speck, bresaola and sopresso etc. They also foraged as they went, for meat and fish mostly.

They ate less meat than grain, but when they ate meat it was ox, sheep, goat, pig, deer, boar, and hare, in most places and in some areas, elk, wolf, fox, badger, beaver, bear, vole, ibex, and otter. Broken beef bones suggest the extraction of marrow for soup. Alongside the animal bones, archaeologists found equipment for roasting and boiling the meat as well as for making cheese from the milk of domesticated animals. Fish and poultry were also popular, the latter especially for the sick.

And wines, beer, ale, mead, hard cider or other fermented beverages were what everyone drank, even kids. Water was too dangerous. Men in early America also drank rum and gin as a beverage with meals.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


My Dad once told me that the top 5 foods eaten world wide are all from the New World. I think they are: tomatoes, corn, potatoes & sweet potatoes, beans, squash. OK that's 6, maybe sweet potatoes and potatoes are one group.

Then, of course, there are peanuts, bell and chili peppers, avocados, pumpkins and a lot of fruits: banana, mango, grapefruit, pineapple, and blueberries among them. And turkey.

And chocolate. We can't forget chocolate.

But I've just learned that vanilla is also from the New World. First cultivated in pre-Columbian Mexico, it was brought back to Spain along with chocolate. Vanilla is from the Spanish word meaning 'little pod'. It has a complicated pollination process involving symbiotic relationships between a local bee and the vine producing the pods. It wasn't until a 12 year old slave figured out how to hand-pollinate them that they could be grown world-wide.

The picture is vanilla pods on the vine, did you guess? I got it from the internet.

Dear Martha....

Dear Martha,

I suppose you always knew about this fantastic Japanese masking tape. (each of these stacks is 3 rolls of highly decorative masking tape -click on the picture to enlarge for a better look).( And, by the way, this tape is supposed to be superior to our masking tape as it comes off easily and can be reapplied easily.)

Martha, I've even found an online source, Ginko Papers and I desperately want some.

But what on earth am I supposed to do with it?

That's why I'm writing to you for help, Martha.

I need a project -one of your Good Things - that's easy, produces something useful and beautiful, and uses lots and lots of georgeous Japanese masking tape. I saw the idea about making your own twist ties with pieces of wire and Japanese masking tape, but I don't think that's The One. How often do I need decorative twist ties?

Please, pretty please with sugar and cream all over it (and by this I mean, of course, Vanilla sugar created by placing vanilla beans imported from Reunion, in sugar in an airtight glass canister that looks marvellous on your marble countertops for several weeks, and creme frâiche imported from France, bien sûr), and with a homemade maraschino cherry on top - please figure out a Good Thing made from Japanese masking tape. So I can buy some.

That's all,

Yours, devotedly,

The Bride

Monday, August 2, 2010

The sunflowers have started coming with our share at Appleton Farm again. This week we got 1 stem. So lovely.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Does anyone know what this is?

This little gizmo is china, about 4 inches tall and 3 inches square. I have no idea what it is and I'm curious. I found it in a dollar bin of a junk store and I intend to make something cool from it for The Monet Kitchen (to which I shall return later this month).

The top and bottom parts are held together by a screw - which is longer than it needs to be but it looks old. I think the top and bottom parts may have had something in between them which has been broken.

They are both hollow. At first I thought the whole thing might have been a cover for something, but the bottom of the piece is rough and it isn't shaped like something that would be a cover. So I don't think that's it.

Any ideas? Does it look like anything you've ever seen?

The Theme for August is Green

I'm doing NaBloPoMo again for the month of August. That's National Blog Posting Month, for those who don't know. And it means that I am intending to post everyday. My posts have been so sparse lately that this is simply a way of jump starting myself again.

So, the NaBlaPoMo theme for the month of August is Green. I'm going to post on whatever I want, but if I am having trouble I will resort to green as a topic.

I'm not counting this as my first post of the month, I think this is a large-minded attitude which will propel me through the month easily.