Monday, April 30, 2007

Schoolhouse Pork Loin

Pork loin is a standby here for feeding a crowd. Compact, inexpensive, easy to serve, and completely delicious, it's the perfect company dinner. If you want to be Southern, be sure and serve it with cheese grits and sauteed greens. But you don't have to.

*Schoolhouse Pork Loin*

Place any size boneless pork loin, fatter side up, in a pammed roasting pan with a good-fitting lid.
Juice a lime or lemon, and an orange, and pour the juices over the meat.
Sprinkle generously with Jane's Crazy Salt. Grind pepper over.

I swear that's it. You don't even need garlic.

Cover and put into 300 oven for 3-4 hours. No uncovering to brown--it browns nicely under the lid. The meat will be moist, and falling apart tender. And you'll have lots and lots of delicious pan juices, so serve that starch!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

A Birthday Trifle

Clara made me a birthday trifle instead of a layer cake: chocolate cake, whipped cream, and raspberry jam, with fresh raspberries on top. It tasted just as good as it looks.

Farewell to Company

Sal and I packed as much fun as we could into her visit--we purchased vintage breadboxes, handkerchiefs (she's taking home a taupe-colored one with a calendar of 1955 printed on it), tablecloths, wastebaskets, and more. We ate pastries, made donuts, and browsed the gardens. Fun can wear you out!

We said goodbye this afternoon and have planned to meet next spring in New York City. That will be delicious, I'm sure.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Clematis and Phlox

I love the way these plants set each other off--same color, different shapes.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Detail of a Strawberry Purse

I made a purse from a vintage strawberry tablecloth and some polka-dot scraps for the trim and the lining. This zipper tab is my favorite part:


I am in girly heaven as I have my very own Company come to stay for three days, my best cousin Sal. I picked her up at the airport and we went out and had a girly lunch in a museum cafe where all the menu selections were strangely fruity. Traditional Caesar salad with apples, anyone?

So now we've cooked, walked, and discussed preganancy (hers), babies, husbands, relatives, food, Cath Kidston, clothes, and other essential items.

Tomorrow we are headed out to Tiny Town to fill the car with treasures. Total hooky!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Peonies on a Tabletop

Shore Birds in Texas

Royal terns:

Great egret and a baby:

Looking for piping plovers:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Felix Birding

Felix is taking his Christmas trip this week--several days of birding along the Texas coast, where many migrating birds have landed in exhausted gratitude after flying over the Gulf.

These photos are so evocative to me of flat, salty land and quiet air.

Everything goes into his field journal--good thing we picked up the new Prismacolors this week. This year's new colors are perfect for nature drawing--all soft browns and pale blues.

A hummingbird.

Yesterday they stumbled on videographers from Cornell University taking footage for their archives. Felix got along with them really well.

(photos by the Composer)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Another Wedding Shower

Sunday we hosted another wedding shower--this time for the brother of the bride we showered in January. Such a dear family!

I kept the food and decor on the manly side, since both men and women were invited. So a tailored cake made by my talented friend Carol (I provided the sliced pear garnish, although it was an apple spice cake--I just couldn't resist the brown and cream colors).

Instead of flowers, a giant vase of oak leaf hydrangea branches and a fishbowl (that's Bella's fish Chester showing off in there) decorated the table, along with a few river rocks.

Lots of lemonade:

And a very nice time.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Book Review: Garlic and Sapphires

I wouldn't have expected that this impulse pick-up tossed in the library basket would have been such a hit around the house, but Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise is the most excitement we've had all week. I wrestled it away from Giles, took my turn, then passed it to Felix's waiting hands.

Ms. Reichl's accounts of her adventures as the New York Times food critic--a job for which she assumes various disguising personas--are fascinating. Her writing is warm and rich, and as she describes the arcane-to-us world of high-end restaurants, we feel like anthropologists exploring a new culture. But even more compelling are the truths she learns about herself and others--petty, generous, pretentious, merciful--as she goes about her business in various disguises.

One unfortunate paragraph contains extremely crude language, but otherwise: engaging and delightful.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Spirea in Bloom

Thursday, April 19, 2007

To Do

Reading to Daisy

Right now we are all about Richard Scarry.

All the time.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Schoolhouse Chicken Pot Pie

And they said you couldn't make a dairy-free chicken pot pie! I am very happy to have come up with this one because creamy and comforting casseroles are hard to come by without cheese or cream . . .

*Schoolhouse Chicken Pot Pie*

1. The chicken. You can go with a whole chicken, parts, or boneless breasts. For 6-8 people I put maybe six breasts in the pot and add chicken broth to cover. Simmer gently, covered, until chicken is just cooked through. Remove chicken from broth and let cool, then shred or cut. Save broth.

2. The veggies. Dice an onion, and thinly slice 5-6 peeled carrots and several stalks of celery. Also mince a clove of garlic. Heat 2 T. olive oil in a large skillet and saute your veggies until onion is transparent and vegetables are fragrant. Stir in one or two cups of frozen peas. Salt and pepper, and sprinkle with thyme if you want.

3. The sauce. Now bring your broth back up to a boil, and mix up thickener as for gravy. For a thinner sauce, whisk 1/3 cup flour into a cup of cold water, and add this to your simmering stock. Whisk until thickened. If you want thicker gravy, reduce your stock first and/or use more flour. Taste for seasonings.

4. The biscuits. Heat oven to 425. Pam a large pan (I use a roaster because this recipe makes a lot) and fill it with the chicken, vegetables, and sauce gently stirred together. Mix up a batch of biscuits, keeping them on the wet side. Drop the dough randomly over the top of the casserole--depending on the size of the surface most to all of it will be covered with dough. Slide into oven and bake until appropriately browned.

5. Your family will thank you.

6. I always associate this with an al fresco dinner I served to the neighbors on a perfect evening in May. We all gathered around a large table, and during the entire meal persimmon blossoms dropped from the tree into our glasses of iced tea.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Forgotten Flowers

At my favorite abandoned homestead the narcissi have come into bloom under the apple trees--so this afternoon the kids and I set out with baskets and buckets to take advantage.

Notwithstanding the piles of junk.

Daisy sported a breezy new dress:

Her flowers are picked especially for their short stems, perfect for a tiny bouquet in her windowsill.

I went for longer stems on mine.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Cotton Dress for Clara

Clara has outgrown--both in style and size--last year's dress patterns, and we were not being inspired by the patterns at the store, so we did some looking at vintage styles, and found a couple of pleasing ones to try in her size.

This is an Ann Adams pattern from the thirties, I believe. Check out the faux bolero with the scalloped edges, and the decorative button detailng! Other than that section, the pattern was extremely simple, with minimal shaping which was okay because . . .

the pattern called for a belt, and I made my very first one!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Beauty in the Laundry Room

Padded hangers:

Ironing board with a vintage linen cover:

Cosy couch:

School space:

Laundry detergent in a vintage bowl:

Thursday, April 12, 2007


The mythical Mildred sets a high standard for the weekend road trip . . .

"She wouldn't think of starting, even on a dog day, without throwing a couple of coats into the rumble. She also takes a handy little clean-up kit which holds soap, wash cloth, cleansing cream, tissues, eye cup and lotion. Speaking of eyes they have sun glasses which were fitted, and which they never leave behind! The rest of the luggage is light and compact. A small overnight bag holds toilet articles, slippers, robe and nightgown. 'I try to choose a wrinkle-resistant material for my motoring costumes,' Mildred confided. 'Something that can stand sitting down!' She prefers a lightweight dress with matching jacket. simple enough for a sandwich at a lunch wagon, sophisticated enough to dine at a smart road side inn.

As head of the commissary department Mildred also sees to it that there is some food in the car, even if it's only a few chocolate bars. She stocks up on cigarettes and matches, and usually takes along a thermos full of something to drink . . ."

"Vagabonding", Friday to Monday, Irene Parrott (1941)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Summer House Dress: Vintage Simplicity 1778

I have done one more version of this favorite: a house dress in crisp aqua cotton with purple flowers and purple piping.

I love these unusual color combinations!

What is a house dress? A comfortable cotton dress that's easy to put on and take off, roomy enough to work in, pretty enough to hang out at home in. Not street wear, for me.

Love the wrap tie--and couldn't help but notice this *exact* style dress, in a solid linen, for sale in the Garnet Hill catalog this month!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Color in the Kitchen Window

Today was cold and gloomy and I didn't even poke my nose out the door, but I did find a little bright color in the kitchen window--some grocery store tomatoes and a Gerber daisy plant past its prime florally but still energetically green.

Monday, April 09, 2007

My Usual Plan

1. Check the Filofax before bed and again first thing in the morning. If I have court, I want to know about it. The Filofax (mine's red) goes out and about with me and no appointment or hearing gets scheduled without its knowledge and consent.

2. The list--everything that needs to be accomplished in the day gets written down in a spiral notebook that sits on my little table in the kitchen. School, music practices, cleaning plans, exercise, phone calls, sewing goals, dinner menus.

3. Get going. We eat breakfast, clean it up, do our cleaning chores, and start school around 9:00. While the four school children do their work, I check, advise, answer questions, and do my house projects for the day. Always laundry, prep cooking, baking, work phone calls, tidying. Cannot concentrate during these hours, so nothing involved. We try to finish school by lunch, but Giles, who is completely independent, often has hours more of work.

4. Children are cruelly forced after lunch to practice their instruments and expose themselves to fresh air. I clean up the kitchen, start dinner if possible, and then go for a walk. Children are often also cruelly forced to babysit Daisy during this half hour.

5. Usually by 3:30 or 4:00 the list is almost accomplished. This means that I can often sit down for half an hour or an hour and sew, embroider, or (rarely) read.

6. I start cooking dinner around 5:00. That snowballs into our meal together, then we mess around til Daisy's bed and bath. She's usually down by 8:00. I do my law practice paperwork (please! no more than an hour!), then sew, or read if I'm wiped out.

7. I usually have court one, two, or three mornings a week. If I do, the kids do their schoolwork while I'm gone, with supervision from their father. Chores get pushed to the afternoon, and the day at home rolls on as usual.

Spotting Herons

Felix has discovered a pair of nesting yellow-crowned night-herons. They live in a tree in a swamp near the trail where the Composer runs several times a week. Just keeping an eye on them here.

Sunday, April 08, 2007


"If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep." (I Cor. 15:19-20)



Dinner and dessert--

Blood orange garnish on orange marmalade cake--

Pale eggs--

Clara and Daisy--

Giles and Felix--

" . . .And just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." (I Cor. 15:49)

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