Thursday, January 30, 2014

Beautiful Finds

While in California I visited a few of my favorite antique shops and malls as I tend to do, but I finally managed to make my way to the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena.  I had heard from many individuals that this was "the" flea market of all flea markets in southern California, so as luck would have it, my trip coincided with the day it was being held in January.  Knowing full well what these places can be like I decided to go very early.

I have to say that it was a bit overwhelming to walk through the market because there was so much to see.  Vendor after vendor selling everything from kitsch to gorgeous collectibles could be seen for miles.  These types of places can either wear you out right away or they can invigorate you to find what you're after.  My strategy was simple.  Look for anything in a milky green and quickly inspect it.

A few pieces of jadeite did manage to capture my attention, yet I used caution with a few vendors after examining several items, because I felt that they were overpriced or else they were reproduction.   Thankfully, and I hope that they can forgive me, I do have several friends who are 'experts' at collecting jadeite. With my phone in hand I was either dialing them up or texting them throughout the country to get their thoughts (thanks for putting up with me!) on certain things.   

Not all of what you see here was bought at the Pasadena Flea Market.  Others were purchased at King Richard's Antiqueswhich is a frequent stop for me when I'm in the area.

Here are a few beautiful finds that I have now integrated into my home.  I couldn't be happier with  these additions.

Take a look.

This cake stand has eluded me for years.  It was made by Fenton over a decade ago and is no longer in production.  Several friends of mine have it in their homes and use it on a regular basis, so you can just imagine how I felt when I saw it behind a display case.  I had to examine it for any flaws.

It's profile is simply stunning.  The faceted stem of the cake stand has such beautiful streaks of whites and greens (all part of the glass-making process) and the base itself has a scalloped edge that is truly remarkable.  

 The under plate is even more breathtaking.  Look at the intricate pattern!

You can see that this was clearly made in a glass mold.  There are four lines perpendicular to the center of the plate, which indicate some type of mold was used during the manufacturing process.  

My bowls!  The swirl bowls on the left are quite common and the beaded edge bowls on the right are not.  Both were made by Fire King.

Made from the 1940s-1960s, this particular set was well marketed.  I have the 6", 7", 8", and 9" bowls in the swirl pattern.  According to experts, however, there was a fifth bowl from this set.  The 5" bowl is not quite so common to find these days because so few of them survived over the years.  If you do find the 5" bowl (yes, it is small), expect to pay a premium for it or for the entire 5-piece set.

These bowls had me stumped when I looked at them.  They have no markings, yet they are indeed vintage, not reproduction.  After consulting my 'experts' and looking through the Keller & Ross book, I concluded that they were made by Fire King.  This set includes the 4-7/8" bowl, 6" bowl and the 7" bowl.  There was an 8" bowl that was a part of this set, but again, it is rare.

 My miscellaneous items include a reamer, a small tumbler of sorts and two small pots.

I was most excited about this McKee reamer because it was such a good find and deal.  While examining it I almost felt as if it had never been used.  I found no scratches, nicks or chips on it.  

You have to understand that I did not go to these places with the intention of buying any particular item.  Really and truly, it was fortuitous that I stumbled upon these finds when I did.  Months ago I did a post on tips and recommendations when shopping at flea markets and antique shops.  The basics are always with me.  I still go to these places with my heavy canvas tote bags ready for anything.  Click here to revisit that post.

In the meantime, Happy Antiquing!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Flying Home

Traveling to Southern California during winter is such a pleasure for me, because I always have a good time.  Whether I’m eating delicious food with family and friends, antiquing at some of my favorite spots with my younger brother or just spoiling the niece and nephews, Los Angeles County and Orange County seem like a second home to me.  One is never bored when visiting the vast urban areas of this part of California.  However, it’s nice coming back home to my house, my immediate family (including kitties of course) and the familiar spaces that bring me comfort.

Flying cross country from Los Angeles to Philadelphia is quite a journey, and if you happen to be traveling by day, the views of this great country of ours can leave one in awe.  The terrain changes drastically from coast to coast.  I have been fortunate enough to have made this journey by plane dozens of times and by car once many years ago.  However, by air it can be something else.  

While sitting on my assigned seat toward the front of the aircraft, I kept the camera ready to photograph anything that caught my eye.  In between some light reading and lunching on airline food, I took a few photographs during the 5 hour flight back home to Philadelphia.  It’s 5 hours heading to the east coast because of the jet stream, but it is 6 hours going to the west as we fly against the current.

Take this flight with me and see how my journey back home took no time at all.

Here I am in seat 3A looking forward.  The flight attendants had already instructed us in the safety procedures of the airplane and had strapped themselves in for take off.  That compartment at the front of the aircraft is the main galley.

Being told that we were #1 for take off, the Airbus quickly taxied onto one of the busiest runways.  Los Angeles International Airport is the 6th busiest airport in the world, serving over 63 million passengers each year.  That is a lot of people!  You can see some international airlines in Terminal 2, such as Air Canada, KLM, and Air New Zealand.

Runway 24L (left) was our gateway for take off.

As the airplane straightened out and the pilot asked asked the flight attendants to please be seated, the engines roared to full throttle.  One can see the new control tower and the famous Theme Building which houses a bar and restaurant overlooking the entire airport.

This small building in the middle of the photograph is the original control tower.  

Our aircraft quickly accelerated westward on the runway and just past the hangars where airplanes get serviced, the airbus began to rotate: meaning our plane was lifting off the ground.

Lifting off the ground and climbing toward the Pacific Ocean, the day was absolutely gorgeous.  It was a bittersweet moment for me because I was leaving this wonderful weather, beloved individuals, yet I was heading home to my own family and pets.

The beach was simply spectacular.

As we banked toward the left, heading south, the mountainous peninsula of Rancho Palos Verdes was visible.   

Here is a broader view of the Los Angeles basin.  On a clear day one can see for miles towards the mountains.

As you can see here, our flight path took us over the vast sprawl of southern California.  The Long Beach airport is visible.

The skyline of downtown Los Angeles.  

Here we are flying over Mt. San Antonio, which is part of the Angeles National Forest. 

Can anyone guess what city this is?  It's Las Vegas.  Although I've never had the pleasure of visiting Las Vegas, I know many people who love vacationing here.  

This was a spectacular site.  Flying over Monument Valley, Utah, the red mountains went on for miles, with the meandering Lake Powell cutting through rock and earth.

Icy, snowy, yet truly breathtaking are just some of the ways to describe the Rockies in Colorado.  Minutes after this photograph was taken we flew over Colorado Springs.

Then it was lunch time!  Don't knock it.  The food was tasty and satisfying with a glass of white wine.  After eating this, however, I had absolutely no room for dessert.

This is Kansas.  Plot after plot of land perfectly portioned out and planted is how this country feeds its people.  With winter clearly in our midst, the landscape is dormant for now.  Not too far from here is an area full of windmills which provides power to many of these farms.  I was impressed with the sheer number of them.

The mighty Mississippi River in Missouri is a sight to behold.  To think that this enormous river cuts through the entire country from north to south is quite impressive.  

At this point, I took a much needed nap.  

When I woke up we were over the Ohio/Pennsylvania border.  The pinkish hue of the sunset was really beautiful.  It stayed this way for awhile.  

Finally!  Our plane cut through the clouds as we began our descent into the Philadelphia area.  The Delaware river is the dark space on the upper right hand corner of the photograph.  

Luckily we were on schedule and I arrived at home to greet my kitty cats at a good hour.  These past few days for me have been about cleaning, doing laundry and putting stuff away.  Although I never return to a chaotic home, I still enjoy placing items where they ought to be and cleaning up those dust bunnies that seem to accumulate by the dozen.  I'm not sure what it is about airplanes, but every item in my luggage has to get aired out or cleaned to remove that odor of stale air when I unpack.  It's inevitable.

It’s so nice to be back!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

My Favorite Lentil Soup

I love the earthy taste of lentils in soups, salads, pilafs & when used as a main dish.  When I was a strict vegetarian many years ago, I developed a taste for these nutritional legumes and came to rely on them quite often.  Packed with a lot of fiber and protein, among other beneficial good things, lentils make a most comforting & delicious soup during the colder months.  If I'm making this particular soup I will get the largest stockpot I own and cook a big batch.  

Lentil soup is among my favorite things to eat for meatless dinners and it always manages to get devoured by everyone.  This particular soup gets its flavor and texture from four different varieties of lentils, but you can get away with using just two types and still make it delicious.  I've given you several optional ingredients to add to the soup, so pick & choose according to your preferences.  The best thing about this soup, other than the taste, is that it can be made with a minimum of fuss in the kitchen.  You can always serve it with some plain rice or orzo to make it even more substantial, but a crusty bread from a local bakery (or your own) and a nice crisp salad is all you need for a delicious meal.


The lentils, clockwise from top left.  Le Puy French Lentils are small & green in color; they hold their shape when cooked through (great for salads).  Black Beluga Lentils are the smallest & perhaps the earthiest of these four; they hold their shape very well when cooked.  Red Split Lentils range in color from salmon/pink to a deep orange and are great for curries; they are the quickest to cook & turn into puree when fully done.  Brown Lentils are the most common; they take the longest to cook, but are very meaty & quite tasty in soups.

The Ingredients
  • 1 cup French (Le Puy) lentils
  • 1/2 cup black caviar (beluga) lentils
  • 1/2 cup brown lentils
  • 1/2 cup red split lentils
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 medium sized carrots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 quarts (12 cups) homemade chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • salt & pepper

Optional Ingredients
  • 2 plum tomatoes, seeded & chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers, seeded & chopped
  • 2 large yukon gold potatoes, peeled & diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Note: if you're only going to use 2 types of lentils, make sure you use 1 1/2 cups of a solid lentil (green, black or brown) & 1/2 cup of the red split lentils.  To me, this soup needs the red split lentils to give it body and a rich texture.

Yield: at least 8 servings.

In a large stock pot (at least 6 quarts), add the chicken stock and all of the ingredients at the same time.  If you're including potatoes it's fine to add them at the beginning.  Bring the soup to just under the boiling point over high heat & lower to a simmer; add several pinches of salt & pepper.  Cover the pot well & simmer until all of the lentils are cooked through.  Each legume cooks differently, so check after 45 minutes for tender lentils.   

The finished soup is perfectly done; test for seasoning and add salt & pepper if needed.  The black, brown & Le Puy lentils have held their shape, while the split red lentils have pureed to give the soup a thick richness.  If you've added jalapeño peppers, the soup will have a bit of kick.  

Make this recipe and enjoy a bowl of my hearty Lentil Soup.  It's great to serve to vegetarians (using vegetable stock) and non vegetarians alike during winter, but it's also good to have whenever you feel like some wholesome goodness.  The soup freezes extremely well in individual portions and reheats wonderfully for work lunches or weeknight dinners.  As I said, add some rice to each serving for a heartier soup or serve with a good baguette. 

Bon Appetit! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

An Updated Pantry

In my effort to streamline the way I do things in the kitchen, I thought it was about time to redo the pantry that I rely on every single day.  One’s pantry, whether it is a large walk-in space or a simple cabinet or two, should have everything one needs within arm’s reach.  Here at home the pantry is nothing more than two cabinets with several adjustable shelves, yet it’s perfect for my family.  It is where I keep all of the essentials such as legumes, rice, pastas, sugars, oils, juices, teas, coffee, extracts and canned goods.  I’m always reaching in there for something whenever I’m baking or cooking (or snacking!). 

Updating the pantry was not as difficult as I had imagined, because it was simply a matter of moving shelves and placing items where I needed them most.  I had been wanting to do this for quite some time and finally the other day I did just that.  What prompted this you’re asking?  To be honest, the layout of these staples wasn’t working for me anymore.  I was finding myself getting rather annoyed at having to search while on a step stool for the baking ingredients I was now using on a daily basis.    

The first thing to do was to remove every single item from the pantry onto the counters and kitchen table.  After wiping the pantry shelves, walls & doors thoroughly, I moved the pegs around and measured bottles, ball jars, pasta boxes and whatnot so that they would fit perfectly.  It was then time to start placing my ingredients just so.

I’ll show you before and after photos.  

Before (left) & After (right).  As you can see, there is nothing dramatic.  I've changed pasta brands, have removed some tin containers and removed those collectible Martha by Mail 2 gallon apothecary jars.  You can see that the bottom shelf of the upper cabinet was moved up to make room for a steel wire shelf.

On the uppermost shelf I placed my legumes and grains which I keep stored in antique Ball jars.  It's a good idea to keep these items in clear jars so that you can see when they need to be replenished.  I also have old apothecary jars with narrow openings that hold a few ounces.  These have the smallest of grains.  The large bowl (Martha by Mail) has bags of rice from around the world ready to replenish my jars.

After changing brands I moved the tube pastas to the next shelf down.  Some of the Ball & Atlas jars on the other side of the bowl have legumes and some are empty.  

The next shelf has long pastas, such as spaghetti, fettuccine and linguine.  I also keep my canned goods, olives and starches here.

The shelf below that has various types of salts, peppers, French grinders, condiments and vinegars. If you look closely, the salt & pepper grinders are on a small tray to catch any bits.  As much as I love my pepper mills and salt grinders, these tools always leave a small mess.

I'm so happy with this bottom shelf.  What I did was place an adjustable steel shelf in here to make more room.  This is my small baking ingredients station.  

I wanted to fit one of my stand mixers next to it, but quickly realized that the pantry was much to shallow.  Trying to fit it sideways didn't work either.

This small baker's shelf has leaveners, cinnamon sticks, extra spices, extracts, some vanilla beans & paste.  Flavored sugars (vanilla, lemon & orange) are kept in old Ball jars and cocoa powders from France & Belgium are stored in other glass containers.  Oh, and if you didn't notice, the glass containers that have M&Ms and chocolate kisses are for me (don't tell)!  

Next to this I keep larger bottles of other essentials such as tomato juice, maple syrups, pomegranate juice and extra virgin olive oils.

The bottom portion of the pantry is very simple.  Shelf-stable milks (perfect for baking), small dishes and aprons and old tins (these are nice to keep twist ties, rubber bands and snack clips), are all within easy reach.

Below that I have dried fruits, nuts, cooking sprays, and other items.  The bottom shelf has multiple bags of brown sugars and confectioners' sugars as well as a jar of morello cherries ready for the moment I begin craving a Black Forest Cake.

These old-fashioned wire cooling racks are great for keeping my dried fruits together.  I can just pull the rack out or spin it around to find just what I need.

I'm quite happy with the way my pantry is now.  I finally have everything where I need it to be.  No longer do I have a hodgepodge arrangement where I have to search for an item.  That isn't to say that my former pantry was in disarray or a complete mess, but it did need reorganizing.

The set of bowls that I do so love are now front and center in the pantry and I can pull them down if I need to use them.

This whole project of rearranging and reorganizing the pantry only took a couple of hours over the weekend.  Why not put it on your list of things to do this year?  I guarantee you will feel infinitely better once you take care of your pantry and make it work for you and your family.  After all, you're the one cooking and baking in your kitchen, so you might as well arrange it to suit your needs.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Homekeeping Favorites

As we enter the New Year, everyone is looking to keep one's home clean, organized, free of clutter and stocked with the essentials.  I'm no different, because my home is where I like to have everything within easy reach and be able to do a number of projects at a moment's notice.  As much as I like to think every space within my home is organized, there is always room for improvement or change.  The new year gives me the opportunity to start with a clean slate.

Going through my various homekeeping posts I decided to give you a highlight from some of my favorite ones.  These are the tips and lessons that I adhere to at home since they have served me well over the years.  It's never too late to learn something new, return to an old favorite or think about tackling one of those problematic areas at home.

If you have a moment over the weekend, figure out what needs to be done around the house.  Make a list of those areas which need organization and then plan out how you want to do it.

In the next few days I am going to be reshuffling and redoing my pantry area.  It requires some attention and now is the perfect time to be doing this.  Over the course of this past year our habits and needs have changed somewhat from the status quo.

For now, let's go through my Homekeeping Favorites and see if any of them can be applied to your spaces.

An Organized Home Office
This is one of my favorite spaces because everything has its place.  When I'm done working here, I simply close the doors and the office blends in with the rest of the room.

With a lot of copper in my home, it's very important to keep it in top form.  I love using it to decorate,  but I really like to use it to create and share the sweetest things.

With several commercial polishing agents out there to polish copper, it's good knowing earth-friendly alternatives.  

I've reposted this particular story several times because it is important.  Let's make it a habit in 2014 to keep our wooden cutting boards properly cleaned and conditioned.

Storing Silverware
Whether I'm using it for a simple weekday meal or I'm going to set a nice table for a special occasion, I always make sure my silverware is cleaned and polished.  Storing it is just as important, because leaving it exposed to the elements or having it in the wrong container can seriously tarnish this wonderful metal.  Salt & pepper shakers are also beautiful additions to a table.  Go through that post and see how I keep mine. 

One of the most important things for anyone to know, whether you own a home or not.  Having a plan & knowing the basics to fire prevention, should a mishap arise inside one's abode, is essential for everyone.    

My pantry needs some attention and this weekend I plan on tackling it before I go on a trip.  I want to return to a clean and organized pantry so that I can work in my kitchen like any good home chef should.  I can't wait to do this.

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Even if you're just replacing the batteries in your smoke detectors, take a moment to redo a space, organize an area and maintain your home.  It's a good idea to start the year feeling like you've accomplished a little something around the house.  Enjoy the new year!