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:


Monday, April 11, 2011

Tulle and Ribbon

Three years ago, when the young Duke and The Countess de Couv were planning their wedding my mind was on all things fancy and floofy.  Toile, pearls, ribbon, sparkle and of course, tulle occupied my mostly feeble mind.  Helping plan a wedding on a budget for nearly 400 of your nearest and dearest is taxing, people.  Fun, but taxing.  The liquor and chocolate requirements at the Manor were increased by several-fold (is that a term?  several fold?  You get the idea).  Eeeenyway, besides wine and chocolate by the truckload (in addition to not a small number of orders of McD's fries), I also bought 200 yards (or more) of tulle.  It's really super cheap for all the effect you get from it, but still.  More than 200 yards is a bit much.


We floofed the guest book table

We floofed the front of the church.  Notice any flowers?  We didn't even miss them.  The huge screen in back was the scene of hilarious snaps of the Duke and Countess growing up shown just before the ceremony began.
We floofed some little patootie all there were 5 petite Ladies-in-Waiting
We floofed the aisle for the wedding party bravely led by 2 handsome barefoot Knights

And we floofed nearly every corner and crevice of the reception.  See the guest book bouquet making its second appearance?  It's sitting on top of a milk crate I had on my deck, lit from underneath with Christmas lights and beautifully draped by the Countess' clever aunt.  Each table had a centerpiece of a cake pedestal (Craigslist) topped with 3 mis-matched glass candlesticks (Goodwill).  The plan was to have ivory tapers in each candlestick, but silly us, we didn't think of fire regulations.  It seems that nearly 100 lit and unprotected candles could be a problem.  Ahem.  Sooo, back to Goodwill, scouring the shelves for clear, glass votives - the kind from the 70's and 80's that have the little pokey thingie on the bottom that sits in a sconce or something. The votives sat atop the candlesticks, a friend of the Earl's made dyed to match tealights for them and it was beautiful!  Of course, there was tulle wrapped around each candle arrangement, and pearls.  So pretty.  I wish I had a picture of the groomsmen putting all of them together at the reception hall while us girls were primping and posturing back at the church.

Even with all of that, I still have nearly a full bolt of beautiful ivory tulle just waiting to floof up the Manor.
To that end, I've had a springtime wreath on my mind and the Countess du Greece, Princess Po
oalot and Duke Zeus and I made a trip to Michael's yesterday afternoon.  The Earl stayed home to guard the Manor in our absence.  He's not a fan of "standing in one place and looking at the same thing for an hour" style of shopping that I may or may not practice.  I picked up a simple styro wreath to be tulle-ized, along with some cute ribbon and ball fringe...
Look at that cute little ball fringe.  It makes me smile.
I wrapped the form in a long strip of tulle, pinning it in just two places in the back...
Next, I added ribbon and the cute little ball fringe, wrapping and twisting until I liked what I had like?  I do....

Still, it needs something.... 
Sooo....not one to shy away from adding just a little somethin' somethin'....

My little flowers are simple layers of circles (I used the ribbon spool for a pattern) that I scrunched in the center, and because I'm lazy I didn't even hand sew the scrunchie part, I just pinned it to the wreath form.  I added a ball from the fringe that was laying on my worktable for a flower center, looped some ribbons and decided that I liked what I'd done....
My happy little wreath took its place in my Easter vignette, adding some spring cheerfulness to the Manor.  In spite of the dreary Northwest weather, it's spring at Fairfield Manor!

I linked here:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Some Craft....

I did a teeny bit of crafting today. I've been inspired by all the spring stuff I've been seeing around the internets.  I'm all refreshed after a lovely weekend at the coast with some lovely women, so I put together some things that have been on my mind.  One of them SO didn't work out, and when I recover from the hilarious humiliation I may let you see it.
As I mentioned before, this is Princess Pooalot's first Easter and when I saw this and knew Princess P had to have something similar.  Char used her Silhouette.  I have one, but we're not that friendly yet.  Every time I use it, it's like it's the first time I've seen it and it takes me three times as long  to accomplish anything.  So I decided to try the more labor intensive and more familiar route.

I had a piece of this chenille-ish fabric and I thought it would make perfect chicks.  I free-handed a chick-like creature for a template/pattern (what's the difference?)  You can see that I was having second thoughts about the size of my chick as I cut it out.  I'm glad I did, it turned out to be a really nice size on the little onesie.  After cutting it out, I pinned the chenille chick to a freshly pressed onesie with about 75 pins (I thought I had some Wonder Under, but couldn't find it) and sewed a zigzag stitch around it, as to applique. Well, yeah it was actually an applique. Since I was attaching a woven to a knit, I used a fairly wide zigzag stitch, not wanting to add a bunch of thread to the onesie.

I decided to use a stencil and fabric paint for the letters.  I mentioned my fear of my Silhouette, right?  In the end, I think I should have gotten over myself and tried the Silhouette. Still, I'm pretty happy with the results...
I think Princess Pooalot will like it, too.  I love it when they're still so young that they have to wear the stuff I make them.

I also had the opportunity to put another idea together.  Whilst I was away this weekend, my dear Earl did the laundry.  ALL the laundry.  Even that which should have gone to the cleaners.
So, yeah.  Here's my sweater.  I shouldn't wear horizontal stripes anyway.  But Princess P can...

Baby legs!

Here's a peek at another project as it begins...
We'll see how this turns out.

All in all, a good day at the Manor, I must say.

Thank you for your kind comments!  It means so much to hear from you.
I linked here: