Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bathroom Update: The Vanity Installation

The bathroom remodel continues. We waited for over 5 weeks for our new vanity, found a scratch on the side that would remain exposed, returned the vanity and waited another month for the replacement. Here is my DH finally installing it today. He wore that bluetooth all day. Sometimes, he forgets he has it on . . .

Then, when we tried to install the sinktop, we realized that the backsplash came up higher than the old one, so the outlet had to be moved up. More plaster repairs . . .

Two steps forward, one step back . . . It's now been a year and two months, since that fateful Labor Day Weekend 2009 when we took the old bathroom apart . . . My father used to say that to have truly lived you had to accomplish three things: Plant a tree, have a child and write a book. I'd like to add one more item to the list: Live through a major remodeling project.

It's getting closer, though. The light at the end of that long tunnel is getting brighter . . . After the plastering is done, there's still the plumbing for the sink, the wood trim installation, and a few other things, like putting up the towel bars and toilet paper dispenser . . . But one thing at a time . . . (deep breath . . .)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tea Bread Tuesday: Halloween Spice Cake

I found this recipe on the Food Network months ago. I couldn't wait for Halloween to try it out. Then, I read the reviews and there were several comments about the cake turning out dry. I couldn't bear another dry cake after last week's muffins, so I altered the recipe.

I left out the applesauce and oil, and added 1 stick of butter and 8-oz. of sour cream.

The resulting cake was so moist! I followed Giada's spice quantities to the letter. Oh, my! Cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves . . . and a most delightful surprise . . . cocoa powder. Watch out for little gobblins eating this all up!
Have a slice of this cake with a cup of Twinings Lady Grey tea. You are in for a treat!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Best Hot Apple Cider Drink Ever!

I worked with Kim for many years, and her Hot Apple Cider Drink was a staple at our gatherings during the Fall.

I've planned parties around this beverage, always trying to come up with reasons to entertain in cold weather, just so I could serve this yummy, warming cup.

Here's the recipe:

1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon whole cloves
3 cinnamon sticks
6 cups apple cider
3 cups orange juice (without pulp)
3 cups cranberry juice or cranberry juice cocktail
½ cup granulated sugar

With a piece of cheesecloth, tie a small bundle with the allspice, cloves and cinnamon.

Measure all liquids into a crockpot. Add and stir sugar until dissolved. Add the bundle of spices. Simmer until hot. The crockpot will make it effortless to keep the drink warm . . . if it lasts, that is . . . Be prepared to double the recipe.

This can also be prepared in a regular pot.

Wouldn't this be great for a Christmas Caroling party . . . ?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A TRUEBLOOD Tablescape

TRUEBLOOD is an HBO show about vampires, and I'm told, quite popular. I have never seen the show because the only vampire that doesn't make me cringe is The Count from Sesame Street, but I was awarded this premium from HBO through work. Seriously, how did they know about my little tablescaping hobby? I mean, what are the odds that I would end up with one of these? So, in honor of Halloween, I've put together what I imagine a sexy vampire dinner might be like . . . First, it would have to be a candlelight dinner . . .

With a nice fire built up in the fireplace . . .

Everything on the table was provided by HBO with the exception of the tablecloth, the flatware and the clear crystal wine glasses . . .

The studly vampire brings a rose to his beautiful, ethereal victim . . . It must be a red rose . . . What else . . . ?

The flatware is stainless steel and iron . . . no silver for this bad boy . . . The pattern is called Treble Clef, by Gourmet Settings . . .

Here's the underside of the plate . . .

Candlelight refracts through the crystal glasses evoking the shape of Gothic arches. The pattern is called Chartres by Atlantis . . . We've had these since our wedding, 26 years ago. I believe the pattern is now discontinued.

What will the vampire and his lady have for supper . . . ?

Will he use the napkin to wipe his fangs . . . ?

No garlic on the menu . . .

And the most important question of all . . .

Who's going to do the dishes . . . ?

I'm joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday. Please stop by to visit so you can enjoy some wonderfully creative tablescapes. Here's the link:

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Tea Bread Tuesday: Country Applesauce Muffins

Uh . . . nope. Didn't like this one. Too dry. Eh . . . I'm done with apple breads . . . Apple pie: yes . . . Apple turnovers: yes . . . Apple juice: yes . . . Apple bread: not so much . . .

Fortunately, Creepy and Spooky are back . . . and they have voracious apetites!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Falling leaves

My uncle, Ricardo, passed away yesterday. He was one of my mother's three siblings and her only brother.

What a sweet, gentle man! He called me "Mi rayito" - my little ray (of sunshine). He never married or had children, so his sisters' children became his own. I remember the story of Ricardo being arrested in Cuba for getting caught with 5 lbs. of sugar that he bought in the black market. He did it so my aunt could bake her son a birthday cake (the charges were dropped after the arresting officers were bribed, despicably, a common practice in Cuba).

I also remember when he came from Cuba during the boat lift that took place in 1979. Castro emptied his jails during this mad exodus, but some very decent, hard working people also managed to get out, my uncle among them. The stories he told of the harrowing 90-mile trip on a storm-tossed little boat were terrifying. The thing is, he didn't want to come. Ricardo was always perfectly content with his circumstances. He came because he felt he had to watch out for his sister, Olga, and that was that. Two days after arriving in Chicago he was working. At one point in those early days, he held as many as four part-time jobs at a time. That is my most vivid memory of my uncle: He was always working.

He gave the biggest hugs. He loved olives. He adored me.

He may not have had children of his own, but those genes will not be denied. My brother's son, Colin, looks so much like Ricardo!

He has been preceeded in death by my mother, the youngest sister, and my Aunt Olga, the oldest. Only one sibling left on this branch. ¡Adios, tío querido! Good bye, dear uncle! I will miss you.

Loving son, brother and uncle
Rest in peace

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Melancholic Autumn

I CRIED over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts.

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper
sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds.

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes,
new beautiful things come in the first spit of snow on the northwest
wind, and the old things go, not one lasts.
—Autumn Movement, Carl Sandburg

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tea Bread Tuesday: Apple Cake

I wanted to try apples on a tea bread, to immerse myself in the season - Apple Loving Season, that is . . . This one came from Ms. Paula Deen. She calls it Uncle Bob's Fresh Apple Cake . . .

It was good: The cake was dense and the Granny Smith Apples provided that sweet-tart combination that seems to work so well in tea breads. It tasted fine at room temperature, but I cut a piece while still warm and . . . it was sublime . . . Hmm . . .

My husband and taster par excellence, Leo, has been rating the breads lately. He rated this one a 7.5 out of 10 points. Then he experimented with a different rating system - 3½ teaspoons out of 5. He is committed to practicing until he gets it just right. What a guy! Here's the link:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tea Bread Tuesday: Hazelnut Muffins with Strawberry Jam

Simple and uncomplicated goodness . . . yum!

I didn't wait long enough to take the muffins out of the tins and some of the strawberry jam oozed out on the kitchen counter . . .

So I refilled some of the centers with a little more jam . . .

There was a lot of finger licking going on this time around . . . A tough job . . .

Monday, October 4, 2010

Early Fall Downtown

We are a 15-minute drive from the downtown district . . . Downtown Naperville, that is . . .

Lots of places to eat . . . Some dressy, and some casual enough to just pop in without a lot of planning . . .

Now why didn't I think of these when I went out looking for new Salt and Pepper shakers . . .

Naperville has developed a delightful riverwalk along the west bank of the DuPage River . . . .

Peaceful, beautiful . . .

It may not be the bridges of Madison County, but it has its own charm . . .

It was a nice way to say good bye to summer . . .