Friday, June 26

*Whats cookin'*

Today was another day of my vacation and my goodness, I love it. I set up many of the trinkets I found for the basement bedroom, read, talked to friends, and then decided to indulge. It has been overcast and somewhat stormy this afternoon, so I pulled out some of my favorite recipes and chose to make a rich french onion soup. This is a recipe that I got when taking a cooking class at Sur La Table and I had never realized that the true key to a marvelous onion soup is taking absolutely ages to caramelize the onions. So if you want remarkable onion soup without too strong of an onion flavor, go low and slow. My pot full of 4 large onions took an hour and a half or more to reach their golden potential. By this point, the bay leaves and thyme had fully permeated the onions. Later I tried my hand at a lemon meringue pie. Yummmm! Go ahead and try out the soup recipe and tell me what you think!

French Onion Soup

2 lbs medium onions, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced lengthwise.
3 springs fresh thyme (if you use dry as I did, just know that it is more potent)
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 stick butter
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp all-purpose flour
3-4 cup dry white wine
4 c reduced sodium beef broth
1 1/2 c water
1/2 tsp black pepper
6- 1/2 in slices of french bread
1 1/2 pieces Gruyere, Comte or Emmental
2 Tbsp finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

6- 8-10 oz flameproof soup crocks or ramekins

Cook onions, thyme, bay leaves, garlic, and salt in the butter in a 4 to 5 quart heavy pot over moderate heat, uncovered, stirring frequently, until onions are very soft and deep golden brown. At least 45 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in wine and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in brother, water, and pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.

While soup simmers, put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350*

Arrange bread in 1 layer on a large baking sheet and toast, turning over once, until completely dry, about 15 minutes.

Remove bread from the over and preheat broiler. Put crocks in a shallow baking pan.

Discard bay leaves and thyme from soup and divide soup among crocks, then float a piece of the toasted bread in each. Slice enough Gruyere to cover tops of crocks, allowing ends of cheese to hang over the rims of crocks, then sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat until cheese is melted and bubbly, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remember that the longer the onions caramelize and the soup simmers, the better. This recipe is easily doubled to keep half until later.

Thursday, June 25


There is something so magical about decorating. The best part of designing a room is the creation of something out of nothing, so today, I spent the day in a wonderland of my own making. I headed into a local design shop (Alice Lane) and spent hours invisioning the possibilities. It is a special time in a gals life when trusty and somewhat rusty Ikea couch and other and furniture disappear, and a feminine couch with sinuous-springs and kiln-dried hardwood take its place.

To decorate a space, first I go ahead and find an inspiration piece. When Mamie and I decorated Lucy's room, we started by taking a darling spode plate and pulled the colors into the rest of the space. Then, we threw together a basket full of items that "seized" her, and after pulling together a large pile, we began to see a theme emerge. After getting to her home, we just went nuts! We turned a wire wreath frame into a darling floral mobile above the bed, took old curtains and pulled them apart to line silky pink new ones, we swapped out the toddler bed for an cleaned up antique twin that Mamie grew up sleeping in, and created some beautiful spaces where Lucy could thrive. I had so much fun working to pull together that room and delighted in seeing how a newly created space could add such pleasure in a home.

As I have pulled together my own finances, I have seen what possibilities a debt free lifestyle can afford. I have pulled together files of inspiration photos for months and a week ago, the decorating stars aligned. Finally, I found a kindred decorating spirit out here. It can be hard though to come into my life and offer suggestions. Yes folks, I am aware. I know what I like and I have no interest in paying someone to come into my space to infuse their personality and taste. I have my own style that I love and am comfortable and confident in. What I am looking for is more of a consultant than a designer. I want someone to show me options, which rug companies have better prices than others, what textures to consider, and then have them step back as I pull it together myself. Suzanne does just this for me. It is amazing what life can be injected when someone comes into your space for the first time. The way they are able to see things dispassionately, and suggest a fresh perspective on furniture placement is so intriguing! She sketched out quick ideas of rooms for me to play with. I have taken these sketches and am now matching up pieces of furniture to the pictures in my head.

To start, I took my own advice and brought in a pillow from a crib bedding set I bought years ago that I absolutely adore as my inspiration. It was important for me to have each of the rooms in my home relate to each other as my house is small, and besides, I have a budget! I need for everything that I bring into the home to relate so that if I grow tired of a look, I can reach into a closet or another room and switch it up! So today, I polished off the look I want for my bedroom, and found the perfect touches for the girls' room in the basement and began my decorating binder. I will post some before and after pictures so that it ends up a bit of a collaborative effort. What about out there? Are any of you doing spaces that you are particularly proud of? Feel like sharing?