Saturday, September 16, 2017

Crafts & Keepsakes from Martha Stewart Living

A year ago, while visiting a used book store in California, I found this wonderful binder that contained some of Martha Stewart Living's best crafts and keepsakes.  I had never seen it before, but I was told by several friends that it was worth owning.  While looking through it I found it to be wonderfully organized and appealing, so I took the advice of my friends and bought it.  At five dollars I don't think you can blame me for treating myself.  

I love being inspired by things from the past.  This special-edition binder contains some of the best crafts and keepsakes that have graced past issues of Martha Stewart Living magazine.  No doubt many, if not all of these crafts, have made it into the subsequent craft encyclopedias published by Martha Stewart Living.  Still, it's so nice to have a few memorable crafts in this flax-colored bookcloth binder.  

I love this idea of using eggshells to start seeds in one's home.  It's a great project to involve the kids in.  All you need are eggshells, potting soil or germinating mix, seeds, paper for tags, glue, coffee stirrers and an egg carton.

A set of collectible plates can be hung on a wall using annealed iron wire (18 gauge), plates that appeal to you and wall hooks.  The great thing about employing this technique is that you can make the hangers to size, rather than having to rely on store-bought ones that are already premeasured.  

Candied citrus peel is very much of the holiday season.  It's so easy to candy orange, lemon or grapefruit peel and either roll the finished strips in sugar or leave them in their own syrup.  This is a perfect gift for people that like to bake with citrus peel.

A grouping of framed silhouettes can provide such an interesting focal point for any wall.  I like this idea very much.

The easy project has you photographing the subject against a neutral background.  Each print photo background is then painted in white acrylic, while the actual person is filled in with a black marker.  The doctored image is then photocopied onto quality paper, which can be framed and arranged on a wall as shown.  This would be perfect for the pets of the family.  

Every year for Christmas I tell myself that I will make gingerbread tags for people's gifts, but somehow I forget to!  I really want to do this for friends and family that live near me, because it's such a charming way to personalize a gift. I have just the perfect mini alphabet cookie cutters for this project.

Pipe cleaner wreath ornaments are fun and festive for any tree.  I can see a grouping of these for a white feather tree or for a small tabletop Christmas arrangement.  Perhaps having several along a mantle or a single one attached to Christmas stockings would be nice too.


I've seen this Crafts and Keepsakes binder come up for auction every once in a while, so look for it if you don't already own one.  It's the perfect reading material to get you in the crafting mood this coming holiday season.

Happy collecting and crafting!

Monday, September 4, 2017

That Day in September

The leaves of brown may come tumbling down in September, but for me, it's all about taking down the yellowware bowls from the shelves and giving them a prominent place in my kitchen.  I've told you before that these bowls are among my favorite pieces of stoneware to collect, and to this day, that remains true.  What better time to start using them than now?

September is also the perfect time to begin planning for the Fall and Winter months ahead.  I can already distinguish a few changes in the landscape as I take my walks around our home and throughout the neighborhood.  One may still be harvesting the last of the tomatoes or eggplants from the garden, but if you look up at the trees, at least it is the case here in Pennsylvania, you can already detect changes, however slight, in the foliage.

Yes, the months ahead are going to be very busy for me.  Requests for baby shower cookies are already noted, a Yom Kippur brunch that my friend wants me to help her with is in the works, endless cookies for the cafe are a given, the Halloween treats for my niece and nephews have to be planned,  my dear friend's destination wedding after Christmas that I am flying out to, is already booked! Let us not forget the Fall conundrum that many of us will face: do we host Thanksgiving this year at our home or will we attend someone else's? These are all things on my checklist for the rest of 2017.

More importantly though, is what we plan to honor our dear Lion with at the site of his resting place. I've been sharing my wishes with our gardener as to what I want the area to look like.  Not only do we want perennials so that they bloom year after year, but we really and truly want to capture the spirit and color of our little guy that we loved so much.  I'm thinking of bright-orange azaleas, and perhaps some tiger lilies, but the lively display of the dogwood shrub, 'Anny's Winter Orange' is also something I've been thinking.  Whatever we decide on, September is the month in which to do it.

Have you thought about what you will be doing before the year's end?

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Vintage Enamelware Bowls

I have a penchant for mixing bowls, all types of mixing bowls.  Bowls are a must in any home because they are practical and helpful with a number of tasks in the kitchen.  From holding items for your mise en place and mixing batters, to serving portions at the table and storing leftovers, a good set of mixing bowls will always be welcomed in the kitchen.

Vintage enamelware bowls have slowly started to make their way into my home, because I find them to be charming and a perfect fit with the other vintage kitchen items that I love to collect.  I first took notice of them while visiting flea markets eons ago, but I never really inspected such pieces up close.  They were "filed away" in my memory under a future maybe/maybe not.

To put it simply, it didn't take long for me to get the first set of vintage enamelware bowls into the kitchen before they started to multiply.  It was instant attraction. 

Enamelware began to be manufactured in this country in the late 1800s, and continued to be produced right up until the end of World War II.  What made enamelware such a sought-after kitchen must-have, was its durability, its practicality, its affordability, its light-weight properties, and its usefulness in homes throughout the country.  No longer was it necessary to deal with heavy, stoneware bowls and pans that could chip, crack or break, because enamelware was virtually indestructible.

Made from light steel and coated with a colored porcelain enamel, each piece was then baked at very high temperatures.  This created a very durable finish, that was smooth and shiny.  Enamelware became a staple in many kitchens for this simple reason.  Bowls, ladles, pots and pans, basins, pitchers, percolators, mugs, plates and a number of other kitchenalia, were manufactured for decades by several American companies, such as the St. Louis Stamping Company (this later moved to Granite City, Illinois; hence the name 'graniteware'), Vollrath, Lalance and Grosjean of New York (they made blue-colored agateware), and the Bellaire Stamping Company.  One might venture to say that enamelware could be found in just about every American kitchen at the turn of the twentieth century.

In terms of colors, white was the most popular.  White pieces were often given a contrasting color along the rims of the vessels, with blue, red and black being the predominant colors.  Graniteware, which was given a speckled finish, became another popular type of enamelware; these finishes were often found in blue, red, and gray.  Other colors that were made during this time include orange, green, brown, purple and pink.  Many pieces meant for cooking, such as pots, pans, roasters and molds, were given contrasting colors on the insides.

The manufacturing of enamelware took a break for about twenty years, before starting up again in the 1960s.  Manufacturers around the world have been producing beautiful, utilitarian pieces using these traditional methods for decades.  Among my favorite of these international brands is Kockums of Sweden.

Of late, before I even reach for one of my prized stoneware bowls off a shelf or for some of my jadeite bowls that are in my cupboards, I will grab an enamelware bowl.  I love not having to worry about being extremely gentle with these bowls when I'm preparing food or desserts. 

Since enamelware, especially the vintage variety, is prone to cracking or chipping, I make it a point to look for pieces that aren't too damaged.  A little bit of scratching on surfaces is normal, a chip here and there is not uncommon.  If the pieces are used for display purposes only, then chipping and rusting shouldn't present any type of dilemma.  If, however, you plan to use your pieces for food preparation, then I strongly suggest that you find those which have no chipping on the inside surfaces, where food items will sit.

Vintage enamelware isn't for everyone, I know, but if you do in fact want to start a collection, visit a flea market and see what catches your attention.

Enamelware's bygone style and appeal is something that makes them suitable for our old home.  I love how they look sitting in my colonial kitchen ready to be used for the next job.  Because my bowls are old pieces, I do treat them with great care so that I can enjoy them for many years.  The bowls don't get placed in the dishwasher and they are not scoured with stiff pads or sponges.  I like to hand wash each piece in warm, soapy water, using a natural sponge or a soft bristle brush.  Metal whisks, spoons and spatulas are not used for food preparation whenever I use my vintage enamelware.  Instead, I use silicone spatulas and wooden spoons.  

I hope I've sparked an interest in enamelware for you.  Utilitarian, charming, and undoubtedly useful, are just some of the virtues of enamelware from olden days.  Don't overlook it the next time you're out antiquing, because you may find yourself wanting to use it just as much as I do. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

'Holiday Cookies' by Elisabet der Nederlanden

Holiday Cookies by Elisabet der Nederlanden is a book that every baker is going to want to have in their kitchen this year.  It's so nice when I can preview a book that I know all of you are going to like.  Best believe that you will be pleased with this one the moment you get it!  

The compilation of classic holiday cookies will have bakers everywhere reaching for their aprons and carefully measuring out flour, sugar, butter and spices, for baking year round.  It's great to have "new" recipes to turn to during the holidays, especially when we want to gift homemade baked goods to friends, neighbors and family.

Elisabet cleverly divides her chapters with Very Merry Classics, Cookie Exchange Party ideas and suggestions, Warm Holiday Spice, baking from Around the World, classic Holiday Confections, and Decorated Delights.  I'm already looking forward to baking some Icebox Pinwheel Cookies, Fruitcake Shortbread, Glazed Eggnog Madeleines, Hungarian Kiffles, Chocolate Caramels with Bourbon and Vanilla, and some Candy Cane Cookies.  I can't wait for the aromas of spice to permeate my home in the coming months!

The ingredients, the step-by-step instructions, and the beautiful photography found throughout the pages of this book make it an instant classic.  Keep in mind that the cookie and confection baking book published by Ten Speed Press is due to be released on September 5th.  Order several copies today!