Monday, September 5, 2011

Well good grief.....

Where have I been? Oh, I don't know. Here and there. Doing this and that. It's been a cool (not in the hep sense, but weather-wise) summer at the Manor and environs. Now that September is here and I'm looking forward to Fall, my fave time of year, we have temperatures approaching 100 degrees. Approaching, not hitting, but it's still too hot for boots and sweaters. And that's what I'm ready to wear. And clogs. I must have 10 pair of clogs, and I just bought another pair of cloggish kind of shoes. I saw them on Pinterest and fell in love. Do you know about Pinterest? It's a fabulous waste of time. Truth be told, that's mostly what I've been doing this summer: pinning. That and buying sewing machines off Craigslist (one for The Countess du Greece and one for The Countess de Couv), sewing, teaching a little sewing - remind me and I'll tell you about the hilarious crib sheet incident. I helped my dearest friend with a 90th birthday party for her father by doing all the food - a smashing success if I do say so myself, spent some time at the beach, finally read Into Thin Air, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns. I marveled at Princess Pooalot and her super fabulousness, missed the brave Knights of Rochester and the Princesses of Pittsfordbury like mad and got an iPad - about which I know very little and haven't yet figured out how to post pictures with. I'll get it. Be patient with me. So, for the immediate future, we're welcoming a new tiny princess in about 6 weeks and the Earl and I are anxious to meet her! Oh, and Princess Pooalot is walking. All over the damn place. The Manor is being gated as we speak.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Upcycling at the Manor

I made a random stop at the Goodwill the day before yesterday.  I'm a lurker at all the local Goodwill stores and have some stunning GW Collection pieces in my closet that I am constantly getting compliments on.  Well, not constantly, but often.  Well, sometimes.  You know what I mean. While I was at GW the other day I found this:
I was taken in by the texture, color and feltedness of this sweater.  The size, however was a different matter.  It was a size S from Talbot's, so it was really weensy.  I decided to spend the $4.99 on it and give it a new life as a felted bag.

Last year I created this one out of upholstery scraps.  It turned out to be a really handy bag and I've been thinking of making more.  Enter:  Talbot's size itty-bitty sweater.
I dug through my box of homemade and printed patterns, which is a heinous mess and found what I was looking for.  I thought that I had devised this pattern myself, but it appears that it was printed off of the internet.  I have no idea where I got it, I should have marked the pattern so I could give you credit (but who knew I'd be blogging about it?).  So whoever created this pattern, thank you!  
These pattern pieces are marked 1 & 2 because each piece fit on one piece of paper.  After printing, I cut them out and taped them together.  The numbers have nothing to do with construction.  Just trying to keep it all clear.
1.  Cut from fabric (in this case the sweater): 1 front, 1 back, 2 side pieces, 2 straps, each  2"x35" (I didn't have enough sweater for 2 straps, so I just did one.)
2.  Cut from lining:  1 front, 1 back and 2 side pieces
3.  Cut from fusible fleece:  1 front and 1 back
4.  Cut from fusible interfacing:  2 side pieces, 1 strap length

Fuse all fusible pieces to their corresponding fabric pieces (i.e.:  fusible fleece fused to the front and back pieces, fusible interfacing to sides and strap length(s)).  You'll be fusing to the actual fashion fabric, not the lining.  Just trying to keep it on the up and up and all clear.

1.  Take the strap length(s) and press each long edge under 1/4 inch.  Fold the strap(s) in half the long way with the pressed under edges meeting.  Stitch the full length of the strap, stitching the folded edges together.  Set aside.
2.  Begin with the lining.  Sew the two side pieces together at the center bottom.  Pin, right sides together, the side (now one piece) to one of the front (or back) pieces.  Be sure to pin.  I used eleventy hundred pins to ease in the fullness of the front (or back) pieces.  It all fits in the end, but you have to pin those curves:
See the center bottom seam?  And how the side pieces are a little narrower at the top edges?  This gives the purse some shape so that it's not just a square-ish bucket.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.
3.  Repeat for the other front (or back) piece.
4.  Time to start the main fabric event.  Simply repeat what you did for the lining with the main fashion (sweater) fabric.
5.  Turn the fashion fabric bag right side out and as best as you can press the seams on the right side:
Just look at that texture!  Also, make sure that when you buy a new ironing board cover at Ikea that it fits, so you don't have to show the world your skanky old cover.
5.  Next, pin the strap to each side top edge, letting the strap go under the bag.  Don't pin it and have it going across the top as if you could put it over your shoulder.  You want it under so that when you turn the whole thing out it's where it should be:
Don't judge.  The aqua tips seemed like a good idea at the time.  When I was 12.

6.  Place the fabric purse inside the lining purse, right sides together.  The wrong side of the lining is going to be facing you, and the strap will be inside, between the lining and the fabric.  See:
7.  Sew around the top edge of the bag, leaving an opening of about 5 inches to turn.  Pull the fabric to the outside, finger or iron press, remove bulk in the curves, sew a final topstitch around the top edge and you're done!  It's easy to add a snap closure; add to the front and back of the lining pieces before sewing the lining and fashion fabric together.

This should be perfect for fall.  Or spring here in the NW, since it's fall weather anyway.

You could easily create your own pattern and make it any shape you want, using these instructions as a guide.  This bag is approximately 14 inches across the bottom and about 11 inches high.  The side pieces are 2 inches wide at the top, angling out to 4 inches at the widest point where the two sides pieces meet at the center bottom.


This is my very first time trying a CSI Project and I'm excited to give it a go!

Somewhat Simple


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Scrap Happy

'Member back here when I said I had some scraps to use up?  Well, in fits and starts I've begun to diminish the gargantuan scrap bin.  I can't seem to toss any scrap out.  I was even keeping selvages for awhile until I thought that my hoarding may be becoming a problem.  Now lookie what I could have done with them.  Alas, I threw them away before I saw any of this brilliant-ness.  Now I'm keeping everything.
I started with a mini version of a rug I have in the Manor loo.  We'll call this a hot pot rug....
I started with this:
I tore 2 inch wide strips from large scraps of leftover fabrics.  I wanted the edges to be funky and shabby and thought that after it was all crocheted most of the edges would be tucked pretty tightly anyway.  I don't know the size of that crochet hook, I just got the biggest one I had.  It probably could have been even a little bigger, but it worked fine, really.  Next I tied a slip knot in the end of a strip, chained 4, 2 SC in the 3rd chain from the hook and proceeded that way (2 SC in each chain) until I came to the end of that first row.  It was then 2 SC in each stitch from the previous row, making rounds until I used up all of my strips.  When I came to the end of a strip I simply either tied a new strip on or looped the new strip over my hook and continued crocheting.  I'm going to make more, and might even make one big enough to have a replacement for the loo rug that was my inspiration.
This beauty was made by a 92 year old client of mine.  It's so adorable, and so was she.

While I was flopping around on the internet the other day I came across this.  A perfect idea to use more scraps.  My ladies' bible study group is beginning a study that requires lots of reading and flipping and flying around the bible and our workbooks.  It seemed to me that we could all use a cute bookmark.  So the toile and polka dot fabric that flirted with the idea of becoming a quilt for Princess Pooalot (she was over the toile by the time she arrived) became ruffled bookmarks for a lovely group of ladies.
Get the tut here.  Easy peasy.

Years ago I figured out how to cover hangers with crochet.  I thought there must be a cute way to do the same with fabric.  Crocheting with fabric strips around a plastic hanger just seemed more trouble that it was worth, plus I think I'd end up with a really fatty hanger.  So I wrapped hangers instead.  Again, I tore about 2 inch wide strips, folded the end of one strip over the end of the hanger, wrapping the remaining over that end to hide and secure it.  I continued wrapping until I came back to the place I started and slipped the tail into the final wrap, pulling the tail tight.  Cute and the shoulders of my shirts don't flop off.

Do you guys know about Pick Your Plum?  It's fantabulous!  Look what I got for almost no shillings:

Bunches of ribbons with it's own little distributor box.

Last week I got vinyl for my Cricut for .25 a sheet.  Every day or so they have a new bargain that's unbelievable, and they send you an email so you can get in on it before your neighbor does.  It's worth checking out, people.

Cheers to you!


Linking to:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Sicks at the Manor

I don't know if it was something I ate at the Royal Wedding, realizing that even at my skinniest my hiney never looked like Pippa's, or a real live virus but I've been sick.  I won't go into ugly deets, but oh. my. goodness.  I'll just remind you to wash your hands after reading this post.

There were some benies from the sicks, though.  I lost 6 pounds, and I'm a couple of days into feeling "normal" and it's still gone.  And, oh yeah, I got an awesome get well gift from a friend that I've done some things for:  a spanking new Ipad!  For reals.  The "some things" that I mention include stuff like sending emails, making business-ey phone calls (where I try and sound like an attorney/doctor/accountant/CIA agent or something), writing letters (again, putting on my attorney/doctor/accountant/CIA agent hat) and the like.  My friend, although a very successful business woman who got where she is by the seat of her cute little pants speaks very broken English and doesn't feel confident making her point with professional types.  And, something in me likes to go toe to toe with those types.  Anyhoo, I have an ancient laptop that I use at work that is slower than slow and generally a piece o'crap so she gifted me with a new IPad.  Incredible, I know.  Oh, and then she took me out to dinner to top it off.  I'm going to make her a Quiche Lorraine to thank her.  I think that's about equal, right?  Really, how do you respond to a gift like that?  It'll be here in 5 weeks (I know, can't they build those faster?) and then I'll need total silence while I figure it out.

I did do a little crafty thing the other day.  A friend's daughter is having her first baby.  It's a boy, so I wrapped the gift so that it looks like a little business suit.  Here's how I did it:
Since I was still feeling pukey when I actually did this for real and didn't take pictures, I'm using what I could put my hands on for demonstration purposes.   For the real gift I did use tissue because it was the only gift wrap I had in the house that wasn't wedding or little girl, and I didn't think Luke would appreciate either.  So, lay the gift in the center of the paper you'll want to be the shirt.  Fold one side to the center.
Fold the opposite side to the center, folding the edge over (2X) to create a button placket.  I can't remember which side buttons go on for boys and girls, but you'll know.
After you've folded the top and bottom edges of the shirt under to the back of the package, lay it in the center of the suit paper.  Now fold the edges at an angle (again 2X) to create lapels.  Fold the top and bottom of the suit to the back, as you did the shirt.  Of course, tape as you go.
Add a tie and perhaps a pocket that you could put a little gift enclosure into and there you are!
Of course, tidy up the corners and edges.  I was trying to save .29 worth of tissue, so I didn't actually tape this example.  You could use regular gift wrap which would give you some really crazy cute options or even receiving blankets.  I haven't tried this on different shaped gifts. Since this idea came to me in my fevered state, this is as far as I got.  Anyway, it was cute and the Lord of the Manor thought I was a genius.

Yesterday when I finally felt like I had some umph I decided to clean and organize a couple of the Manor kitchen cupboards....I'll fill you in on that another day.  It was epic.


After re-reading this I realize that the little suit looks like a lounge lizard suit.  Very nice.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Wills and Kate

I must say as Lady of the Manor, I fully expected my invitation to the royal wedding to arrive well before now.  I can only assume that there has been a snafu of sorts with the USPS.  I'm sure that it will arrive shortly, and when it does I'm ready to go.  While I'm waiting for the forthcoming invitation, I'll continue to ponder which fascinator to wear:

Which one?
internet image

Princess Beatrice took my first choice, drat the luck:

Taupe is not my color after all.  Is it hers?
internet image

Again, while I wait to travel across the pond to take part in, albiet late, the wedding festivities (I'm sure that I can re-live the whole affair on my own, no?), we're celebrating at the salon with scones, lemon curd, cherry preserves and tea.....

See the happy couple right behind the paper plates and out of season napkins?  Such a beautiful couple.

She is so....queenly.  And he seems like such a nice chap.  (chap=Britspeak).
internet image
(lest you think I snapped these myself)

I am thoroughly enthralled with all the pomp and circumstance and celebration.  I await patiently my summons.  Fascinator in tow, I'll be there.  It will be a triumphant return for me. 

.....this time I won't be so freaked out by the attacking squirrels at Kennsington Palace....but that's a story for another time.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter at Fairfield Manor

I had intended to take lots and lots of pictures of Easter this year.  The table, the food, the drink, the lovely people, but I realize that I mostly stood around with a silly grin on my face (partly the wine, no doubt - although this morning I realized that we didn't even open and offer the white that our lovely guests brought.  What a couple of doofuses. You all should have just said something, people!  Wait, did you?) so happy to have a Manor full of family and friends.  I did take a few pictures, a spotty representation of our day.

Duke Zeus did most of the cooking, giving us a sampling of what would be served at a gathering of family and friends in Greece.

Marinated pork chops grilling on the good!
Dip these in something called cheese salad or tzaziki and oh my! Cheese salad isn't what you might think.  Well, I don't know what you think of when you think of cheese salad, but I expected something other than what it is.  Which is:  a mixture of feta, olive oil and sweet red pepper all whirled in a food processor or blender.  It's  a little similar to tzaziki in texture and oh. so. good.

Princess Pooalot was giving directions from on high regarding the turning of the meatballs.  And a fine job she did.  We simply couldn't have done it without her.

I rounded out the display of cured and fresh meats with a glazed ham.  Some at the Manor couldn't imagine Easter without a ham and au gratin potatoes, so we enjoyed a meat-heavy Easter meal to say the least.

One of the nicest things that I contributed to our Easter feast was Strawberry Lemonade.  Our Countess de Couv is expecting a Prince or Princess in the fall, and we also had two dashing young knights among our guests, so I wanted to make something yummy that they would enjoy (who knew one was highly allergic to strawberries?  Note to self:  always ask about pesky things like throat closures, neck swellings and sudden death).  Anyhoo, here's the recipe.  It's just as gorgeous as it is good.  Great picnic fare:

Strawberry Lemonade
4-6 generous servings

2 c water
1 c sugar
1 1/2 pints fresh or frozen (thawed) strawberries
1 c fresh lemon juice
1 T (or so) lemon zest

Water (still, sparkling or seltzer)

In a medium pan bring the 2 c water and the sugar to a boil.  Reduce the heat a little and stir to dissolve the sugar, making a simple syrup.  Add the lemon juice and zest.  Let cool. 
Meanwhile, puree the strawberries in a blender or food processor.  I was reminded again yesterday, that if I'm using the blender, do the pureeing in small batches.  Methinks you could do larger batches in the food processor, but it was buried in the corner behind various meat courses in various states of preparation. 
When the mixture is cool, strain it into a large pitcher and add the pureed strawberries.  Chill well in refrigerator.  When your ready to serve, pour a couple of ounces (taste test) into a 8 oz glass and fill the rest with water (still, sparkling or seltzer).  We used club soda yesterday and it was very good.  Garnish with mint.  Very refreshing!
Our bar area after things were underway.  I show you this because there on the right you can see the pitcher of strawberry lemonade concentrate.  Such a gorgeous color, I must say.  You can also barely detect a gerbera daisy there behind everything.  It's sitting in the O of B-L-O-O-M.  I told you that once I figured out the Cricut vinyl cutting capabilities, I'd go a little crazy.  The crazy is starting....

I can't neglect mentioning that our day started at church with wonderful worship, baptisms, new faces and old friends.  Ken delivered such a great message about whether Christ's death on the cross matters to us today.  Does it matter at work, at the store - the places we really live?  It makes you think and I'll give you the answer to the question:  yes.

We ended our day cracking red eggs in Greek tradition.  The object is to choose the champion egg which will be the strongest as you smack it against the ends of the opponent's egg....
Duke Zeus was the champ this year.   Once again, I believe.  I'm starting to think he has some inside knowledge on how to hold the egg.

Today, I am tired but happy.  Easter day was all that I wanted it to be (picture taking failure and silly grinning not withstanding), worship was fulfilling, food was delicious and the folks gathered at the Manor were delightful.  And next year we'll have one more around our table.  Or two, the jury is still out on that question.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bake Fail

Go ahead and laugh.

I was feeling uppity after Sunday's relative baking success.  I forgot that I shouldn't try cookies on my own.  

It all started out looking promising....
and in fairness, the peanut butter cookies turned out.  But really, how hard are they?  They're off to the salon this morning for my co-workers.  They are under the impression that I can bake due to repeated appearances of these babies.

But for those of you coming to the Manor for Easter, I'm dreadfully sorry.  You'll have your choice of a navy blue wrinkly butterfly, an institutional green chick or various burnt bunnies, eggs and tulips.  
Beg pardon, the Earl has eaten the burnt bunny.
The Earl:  That's crispy.
Me:  Shut up.

Thankfully, the Manor guests are upper crust and are bringing lovely provisions, and I believe a dessert is in order.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Princess Pooalot came to the Manor today.  She came with her Mummy and Daddy, the Countess du Greece and Duke Zeus and her Yia Yia's recipe for Koulourakia, a traditional Greek Easter cookie.  As I mentioned before, it's Princess Poo's very first Easter. She's still toothless, but is that a reason to miss out on important holiday cookie baking?  I think not.  Others surely can eat her share this year.  I'm certain we can all pitch in and help her out.  Yes?  I thought so.

Here's the cast of characters according to Yia Yia Katie's recipe:
Mostly it's the cast.  I notice that the flour and baking powder are absent.  But the important parts are posing there very nicely...butter, eggs and sugar.  The oranges are sitting there smugly, looking very...well...smug aren't they?   They provide a lovely fragrant and irreplaceable nuance to the finished cookie, and vitamin C of course.  
You aren't able to see, but the recipe is in Greek so Duke Zeus was imperative to the process.  The Countess could discern bits and blurbs, but this is an exacting task and we needed the Duke's expertise.  To tell us when we had added "enough flour that the dough looked nice", or just exactly what a "medium" oven is, for instance.  You know, the finer deets.  Yia Yia Katie is one of those born cooks and bakers.  She bakes by feel and the position of the stars, using not much more than a coffee cup for measurement.  Me?  I'm not so comfy with baking.  I can come up with some kind of hot mess, people.  Consider the Parmesan Knots for yesterday's dinner...lovely golden on the outside looking very promising and completely raw on the inside.  And these were concocted from a tube of biscuits.  Oh, and the muffins for church yesterday?  I watched a friend peel off the cute little paper (which admittedly looked a little scorched, but I didn't have time to do an inspection before rushing out the door for crying out loud) to reveal what looked like a Kingsford Bricquet.  So yeah, baking is a bit of a mystery to me.  In addition, Yia Yia Katie has this wonder called a Thermo Mix.  I think it mixes and bakes all in one or something.  It makes my sexy red KitchenAid look like something out of a Fisher Price kitchenette.
But we must make do at the Manor, for the sake of the children.....
It's too bad I don't have a picture of the egg fluffing, because it was a sight to behold.  Three whole eggs and 3 yolks beaten with 1 cup of sugar until the mixture was beautifully yellow and fluffy.  Above, you can see where we almost got into trouble...the adding of the flour.  The recipe called for 9 cups of flour.  Now, that's alot of flour in anybody's book, no?  We later found another recipe for Koulourakia from Yia Yia Katie calling for far less flour.  Here's where you need to actually need to know "when the dough looks nice".  You can just barely see Princess Poo's weensy foot in the lower left of the picture.  Something in her tiny little Greekness was shuddering (hence the blurry weensy foot) at the abandon with which I added 8 cups of flour to the laboring mixer.

Me:  Do you think that's right?  That's alot of flour.
Duke Zeus:  That's alot of flour.
Countess:  Is that right, honey?
Duke Zeus:  I don't know.  I don't bake.   (me:  WHAT?)
Princess Poo:.................
Me:  We can throw it out and start over.  Really, it's okay.  (this is how I handle things)
Here's where I went next.

After some hand wringing over the flour situation, we decided against throwing out $10 worth of dough and let it rest while some among us had a bottle to calm ourselves.

When it came time to bake, we decided that a medium oven was 350 degrees (after the first batch, we upped it to 375 and that seemed just right).

Grab a wad of the dough in your arthritic hand about the size of a small egg.

Roll it into about a 10 inch snake.  Yia Yia Katie does this between her hands, but I simply couldn't get that down.  So I polished my counters with the dough.

Fold the snake in half and twist.  Make sure you have a mani before you make Koulourakia, and do choose a nuclear pinky purple.  It's so springy, you know?

My proudest moment (and we could only go up from the Parmesan Knots) was when Duke Zeus observed the finished product and said.....
"....this row here, I could not separate from my mom's."
Me:  contented sigh.
I should point out, he was speaking of the row in front, not the row in back.  Those little fatties didn't get glazed.
Personally, this one is my favorite.  I can't help but think of a plump little lady laying there with her legs crossed.

Yia Yia Katie's Koulourakia

3 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 c sugar
1 c butter (melted)
zest of 2 oranges
9 c flour (I'm saying 9 because that's what Yia Yia Katie wrote, but full disclosure - methinks 6-7 c)
8 t baking powder
1 t  salt
1/2 c milk
glaze:  1 egg yolk & 1 spoon of milk 

Beat eggs, yolks and sugar at high speed until fluffy.  With the mixer running, slowly add the cooled butter.  Add zest and milk.  Mix.  Add the salt and baking powder and begin adding the flour.  You want a moderately stiff, but not terribly dry dough.  Let the dough rest for 15 or 20 minutes.
With small egg sized balls of dough, roll into a snake, fold and twist.  You can also make the snakes into spirals, if you like.  Place on cookie sheet (I used a seasoned stoneware, so I'm not sure about greasing issues on a metal sheet - I probably wouldn't for the first batch) and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.  They should be lovely golden brown.

Koulourakia are wonderful with coffee (or tea, I'm told).  They are slightly sweet with just a hint of orange.  They will keep in an airtight container for a couple of weeks apparently.  I highly doubt if they'll last before the Earl and I eat them, so I won't be able to confirm that.

Okay, you'll notice that there is no vanilla and no sesame seeds in Yia Yia's recipe.  Others I found on the internets had both, the sesame seeds being sprinkled on top.  These are delicious as is, I really wouldn't change a thing, and this is what Duke Zeus grew up with.  And that's what I was hoping for, to help replicate what was familiar, for him and his wife and tiny beautiful daughter.

Friday, April 15, 2011

WhyohWhy do you do it?

I've been getting that question some lately.  Why?  Why do you blog?  Underlining queries:  a:  what on earth could you have to say? (plenty, honey)  b:  Oh goody!  Are we going to talk about me now? (er, no Tracy Lords, this isn't The Philidelphia Story) c:  who gives a crap?  (I don't know, but  4 or 5 people leave comments and I so love that.  I really do).

Truth be told, and I like to do that - tell the truth, I mean - mostly - the night I started my blog I just wanted to see if I could do it.  Anything I know computer/technology/slightly mathy stuff  (and I do see this as a little math-like) is self taught, and I do so love to learn new things.  The Countess du Greece will object to my description of being self-taught, however. 
   Me:  Jeeeeez, I just clicked on this thing and now I have the blue screen of death.
   Countess:  What did you click?
   Countess:  Mom, what did you click?
   Countess:  What window did you have open?
   Me:  er...the kitchen window is open, I think...

That was several years ago.  Like maybe 10 or so.  Right about the time I destroyed a hard drive by pouring a Diet Coke on it.  On purpose, people, I could think of no other way to get rid of it safely. I still don't know what the blue screen of death is all about, but I haven't seen it in years.  Did they get rid of it?  Anybody know?  With tutelage from various Dukes and Countesses far and wide, I've come to this.  A blog.

For me, my blog is a place to talk 'til I'm blue in the face without interruption.  Hence, I talk and ramble on just about anything.  Is it a craft blog?  No.  Yes.  Is it a foodie blog?  Ditto.  Is it a creative outlet unlike other things that I do creatively?  Oh, yes ma'am.  I have always liked to write.  Side note here:  my oldest and dearest friend and I once wrote a novel of epic proportions about us and The Beatles.  It was voluminous.  We were like, 13, so it was back when we wrote on stone tablets.  She still has her copy.  So, see it's in my blood and I've had vast experience.  I had a college writing teacher tell me that my writing was reminiscent of Garrison Keillor.  He said that at about week 9 of the class.  The first week what I got from him was my paper being used as an example (to the entire class) of "atrocious" writing.  I much prefer his later analysis, and I mention it in case my voice is hauntingly familiar to you.  Not for bragging purposes at all.  That's not my way.

So...I blog to speak.  I speak about life at Fairfield Manor, my haven and an ever-changing (unless the Earl convinces me otherwise) work in progress.  Life at Fairfield Manor revolves around my delicious family, good food, crafty/sewing/gluing/nailing stuff, Irish whiskey, a Pinot that I fancy, good books, my very astute observations on life and my bumpy spiritual journey.  And I learn new stuff every minute. My next thing to learn is how to put a button right on the post.  If I can't figure it out, I may deem it unimportant.  So you see, it is a crafty blog, a foodie blog, a daily life blog, a spiritual's life at Fairfield Manor with the Lord and Lady in residence.

I've linked here:

(Lookie, I know how to do it now.  Thanks, Terry!)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Jamie's Pesto...sort of

It's week 2 of getting naked with Jamie Oliver over at IHCC.  We're celebrating April showers, something we have no shortage of here at Fairfield Manor.  There was no shortage of March showers for that matter.  Ideally, April showers will bring May flowers and all that.  I have a feeling that the Manor gardens won't be lush with anything except slugs and mud in May, but we'll see.  Back to my story:  being naked with Jamie.  This week, the challenge is to prepare one of Jamie's recipes that focuses on in veg (Jamiespeak) or fruit (I'm not aware that he calls fruit anything but fruit, but if you know differently, let me know?)
The other night the Earl and I joined friends for happy hour at a local Italian restaurant and for a mere 5 sheckels I had incredibly good pesto.  It was served over very nicely cooked pasta with a skewer of shrimp.  I've been thinking of it ever since.  I love that, when you have a dish at a restaurant that stays with you, you know, in a good way.  I've never made pesto at home.  I don't know why, except that I rarely have pine nuts around.  I decided to take this opportunity to leave my pesto virginity in the dust.
Jamie's recipe is fairly ambiguous, measurement-wise but it didn't seem to matter.  I still didn't have pine nuts in the Manor larder, but I did find some pecans in the freezer and thought "how bad can that be?"

First step:
Lightly toast the pecans (or pine nuts, or just about any nuts apparently).  When you just begin to detect their aroma, get them off the heat.  My measurement was one overflowing handful.

Next, rinse and pat dry 3 good handfuls of basil.  Seriously, these are Jamie's measuremental terms.
Measuremental isn't a word, by the way.  Take the leaves off the stems.

Toss the leaves in the food processor and give them a good whack (or pound, both Jamiespeak), along with a clove of garlic and a little sea salt.  Add the nuts of choice and whack again.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add a goodly handful of grated Parmasan and mix with olive oil.  I ended up using about 1 cup of olive oil....all that I had so the Earl is off to the Greek deli tomorrow for replenishments.  
This whole process took about 5 minutes.  Seriously.  Had I known that pesto was this easy, I surely wouldn't have let a small thing like the lack of pine nuts stop me.  You could even leave the nuts out entirely and it would still be smack.  (That should freak out the various Dukes and Countesses - smack.) heh heh.  Back to the finished product, which admittedly, isn't all that attractive.  There's something about vibrant green food that's slightly off putting, unless it's in it's natural state, like broccoli or something.  But this stuff is amazingly good.  I hope you try it.  I served it over mushroom ravioli, but it would be good over any pasta, I should think.
Pesto, serves 4
Jamie Oliver

1/2 clove garlic (I used a whole clove, in case of vampires you know)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 good handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked
a handful of pine nuts, very lightly toasted (I've explained the nut situation here at the Manor, so go ahead and experiment)
a good handful of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
extra virgin olive oil
a small squeeze of lemon juice

Pound the garlic with a little pinch of sea salt and the basil leaves in a pestle and mortar, or pulse in a food processor.  Add a bit more garlic if you like, but I usually stick to 1/2 clove.  Add the pine nuts to the mixture and pound again.  Turnout into a bowl and add half the Parmesan.  Stir gently and add olive oil--you need just enough to bind the sauce and get it to an oozy consistency.
Season to taste, then add most of the remaining cheese.  Pour in some more oil and taste again.  You may like to add a squeeze of lemon juice at the end to give it a little twang, but it's not essential.

Completely unrelated news flash:  Remember when I said I had a Silhouette?  Well, it turns out I really don't.  I have a Cricut.  See how friendly we are?  I don't even know her name.  So, anyway, a while back I bought some vinyl because I like to do things like that, you know, buy stuff I might like to maybe give a try out someday and then put it somewhere where I'll never find it, thereby  necessitating another trip to the store for the same thing....and on and on it goes.   Aaand we're back.... so this morning was apparently the morning I was going to finally try to cut some vinyl.  I gingerly pulled Ms. Cricut out and pressed the open button (which is awesome in itself), spent 15 minutes rummaging around and found the vinyl (I was positive it was black, but turns out not, it's brown).  After reading the rule book one more time (it's hell getting old....mind turns into a sieve, and not in a good way), I pressed some buttons, slapped the vinyl on the cool sticky mat and voila, I have a big ol' F!  So easy.  Stay tuned...I'm pretty sure I'm about to go crazy with this stuff.  For now, I had to find a place for my F, so the only likely spot I could quickly find (because I have to get to work to pay for more vinyl) was the old door we have randomly leaning against a wall in the Manor living the East Wing of the house.

I've linked here: