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The second installment of tips from the Houseproud homestead

This is a little glass pumpkin that I bought from a glass studio in Townsend, MT (Goose Bay Glass).  We didn't have a lot of decorations up for Thanksgiving, just little touches like this ...

This is a little glass pumpkin that I bought from a glass studio in Townsend, MT (Goose Bay Glass). We didn’t have a lot of decorations up for Thanksgiving, just little touches like this …

Thanksgiving at the Houseproud homestead was wonderful:  there were five of us, and we talked and ate and drank and looked at travel photos and talked with the Mister’s parents and drank some more and then we ate some pie.  We didn’t take pictures of the groaning table of food, but trust me when I say that it all came together as a warm and lively family dinner should, thanks to help from all comers (a special shout-out to Edna Louise, who helped prep endless amounts of food at the start, and to Michael Michael Michael, who helped dry an entire kitchen’s worth of dishes at the end).  The stars of the dinner were the wines from Yorkville Cellars (one of which was an amazing sparkling petit verdot) and from Sean Thackrey (two Pleiades of differing vintages, both jammy yumminess).  The carnivores feasted on braised heritage turkey (in a chile-tequila braise) and the vegetarians feasted on cheese and roasted mushroom tarts.  Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving from the Houseproud Homestead

Assorted leaves collected from our neighborhood, rinsed and ready to be used as decorations.  I've decorated a shelf in the IVAR unit in the Houseproud living room with natural leaves comme ca, and I'm planning to collect more to make a spray to hang on our apartment door ...v

Assorted leaves collected from our neighborhood, rinsed and ready to be used as decorations. I’ve already decorated a shelf in the IVAR unit in the Houseproud living room with natural leaves comme ca, and I’m planning to collect more to make a spray to hang on our apartment door …

Hello, my pets!  I’m just slipping into the blog for a few minutes to wish you and yours a warm and happy Thanksgiving, and then I’ll go back to fussing about our digs in preparation for Thanksgiving.

And what about you?  Are you running through the same list of questions that I am?  Do you have your menu planned? Is your shopping done?  Have you started prepping food yet, or will you wait until the day before or even the day itself?  What are your guests bringing, and where will you put it when they bring it?  What dishes will you use to serve the food, and are they clean?  Do you have enough dishes that match – or sorta match?  What about napkins?  Oh, what will we do about napkins … Continue reading

Sometimes only soup will suit.

Cell phone camera shot of the tables at the El Semental food truck in Tucson, AZ.

Cell phone camera shot of the tables at the El Semental food truck in Tucson, AZ.  It was rather cold in AZ when the sun went down.  On this particular evening it dropped from the mid 70s to the low 60s in about 45 minutes.  At night it would drop down into the low 40s in Tucson, and the low 30s at the Grand Canyon.  That’s cold for my thin CA blood!

The winter quilt is on our bed.  We’ve started closing the windows a bit at night.  I’ve worn boots for the last five days straight.  The weather forecast promises rain showers today.  My summer tan has faded away, including the little bit of color I gained when we were in Arizona.  And … and I’ve been craving soup.  It wasn’t quite cold enough in Arizona to sample soups there, but as soon as we returned to the Bay Area I felt it:  it’s time for soup, glorious soup!  There are few things as warming and nurturing as hot soup, especially if that soup includes a spicy kick of hot peppers.  Yes, yes – soup would be lovely, but you say that you haven’t the time to make soup.  It takes ever so long to make decent soup, you say.  But I say until you:  fiddlesticks.  Homemade soup’s easy, and I’m gonna prove it to you with three fabulous soups:  black bean soup; chicken broth and hot peppers; and a link to Deborah Madison’s winter squash soup (via one of my fav mags, Sunset). Continue reading

The Grand Canyon is Beautiful, too …

Ravens cavorting at the Desert View  watchtower (photo taken by the Mister).

Ravens cavorting at the Desert View watchtower (photo taken by the Mister).

My first trip to the Southwest was a few years ago – we went to Bryce Canyon for a long weekend, and got to explore some of the surrounding area while we were there.  That visit was all it took:  I was hooked on the naked, raw beauty that is the Southwest.  Last week was my second visit to the Southwest.  In the previous post I talked about Tucson, the first part of our trip.  This post is about the glory that is the Grand Canyon, which we visited for a few days at the end of our trip.  Stay tuned for the next post, which will be about some soups inspired by our recent trip to the Southwest. Continue reading

The Sonoran Desert is a Beautiful Place

Saguaro cactus in the Sonoran desert.

Saguaro cactus in the Sonoran desert.

I’ve been to the Southwest two times in my life, and both visits were made during the colder months (in November for this trip, and in April a few years ago).  The weather in the colder months must be why people move to these places:  it’s just about perfect.  The winter mornings are crisp and cool, the afternoons warm up, and then the cold creeps back after the sun’s slipped away.  We were in Tucson and the Grand Canyon last week, and got just enough of sunny warmth and icy cold shade to make us happy, happy people indeed.  There was also some good beer and food involved, which is guaranteed to make us very happy people.  Here’s a post about the Tucson portion of our trip, which will be followed by a post about the Grand Canyon portion, and then a third about soups inspired by our trip. Take a look at the pictures below, check out some of the links, and start dreaming of a winter visit to Arizona … Continue reading

A few tips from the Houseproud homestead

Assortment of plants on the Houseproud homestead's kitchen window

Assortment of plants rooting and growing on the Houseproud homestead’s kitchen window.

Houseproud Homestead Tip No. One:
Why not have a small assortment of green or living things perched on a windowsill in your home?  We do, and every time I look at our kitchen window ledge, I get all sorts of happy.  It reminds me of the windowsill above my friend Tina’s kitchen sink, where she often has some flowers or green plants in tiny vases.  It’s very refreshing to look up from chores or cooking and see green growing things, isn’t it?  From left to right in this picture there are two cuttings of lemon geranium, an oregano sprig, and a tiny pot of catnip (which lives inside to keep it safe from the catnip-loving animal that sneaks up to our porch when we’re not home).  The containers themselves make me happy.  Continue reading

That’s kinda cool, innit?

Et voici:  the fixings for a damn fine Bloody Mary:  house-infused hot pepper vodka, a sake cup's worth of picked garnishes (house-cured lemon, green bean & jalapeno), and a glass of tomato juice to which has been added the juice of one lime and one lemon (and a shot of red onion-infused vinegar for good measure).  It ain't a subtle drink, but it is most assuredly a good one.

Et voici: the fixings for a damn fine Bloody Mary: house-infused hot pepper vodka, a sake cup’s worth of picked garnishes (house-cured lemon, green bean & jalapeno), and a glass of tomato juice to which has been added the juice of one lime and one lemon (and a shot of red onion-infused vinegar for good measure). It ain’t a subtle drink, but it is most assuredly a good one.

This is what I will be drinking tonight when the Mister gets home.   And what, pray tell, will I be drinking?  I will be drinking a mighty fine Bloody Mary, that’s what I’ll be doing.  Check out the ingredients in that caption, people!  That’s a kinda cool list of house-made ingredients, innit?  This Bloody Mary will be the last one I make this season from fresh tomato juice.  In fact, it might be the last I make at all this season:  Bloody Marys are such seasonal drinks for me, and we’re at the tail end of that season, which is coincides with the height of canning season.  Soon the rains will start and my taste for Bloody Marys will wane.   (Oh, how poetic of me to rhyme rain and wane – and that was before I started drinking!)  Once my taste for Bloody Marys wastes away, I might concoct another hot-pepper vodka tipple.  I have this idea that hot-pepper vodka might go well with something chocolate, and before you shriek with alarm, view the loveliness below, which I offer as proof that some of my ideas work out very nice indeed:

I made a lovely little flower pin out of some of the yellow burlap flowers that I have been playing around with (the burlap flowers that will eventually turn into a fall-inspired wreath for the Houseproud homestead's living room).  The back of the pin looks almost as finished as its front.

I made a lovely little flower pin out of some of the yellow burlap flowers that I have been playing around with the last few weeks. The back of the pin looks almost as finished as its front.

Continue reading

Hmm. Well, I’m not sure about that …

Work in progress - a pile of burlap flowers, waiting to be assembled.

Work in progress – a pile of burlap flowers, waiting to be assembled.

Have you ever made something that doesn’t quite turn out the way you thought it would?  Haven’t you ever had that moment when you look at the thing you’ve made and thought, “Hmmm, I’m not sure about that”?  I have, oh have I ever …  My latest moment of “hmm” involved the hard cider and fermented hot peppers mentioned in last week’s post: the hard cider won’t sparkle and the fermented hot peppers might have fermented too much.  Deep sigh.  I call moments like this “project-fail”.

The interesting thing about project-fail are the lessons you can learn, hmm yes?  Making hard cider has taught me that sometimes wild yeast is not your friend.  The cider doesn’t taste bad, but it certainly doesn’t taste good.  The Mister thinks that wild yeast got into the mix, so the next batch that I make will be under much more sterile conditions (I’ll keep the air lock in place until I bottle for secondary fermentation).  As for the peppers, I just caught them before they succumbed to mold, which taught me that ferments need to be decanted as soon as signs of vigorous fermentation abate.  (The peppers are fine – I put them into a clean jar, covered ’em with vinegar & tucked the jar into the fridge.  I’m going to make hot sauce from them later this week.) Continue reading

This, That, and Another Thing

Pickles and tomato sauce and kombucha and hard cider and dried zucchini, oh my!

Action shot of me arranging preserves: pickles and tomato sauce and kombucha and hard cider and dried zucchini, oh my!

Thing’s have been hopping at the Houseproud homestead: it’s canning season!  Well, technically, it’s preserving season at the homestead, and I’ve been at it to beat the band.  Observe, s’il vous plaizzzz, the bounty that our kitchen (and local farmer’s markets) have produced!  From right to left, there’s a batch of wild yeast sourdough starter brewing; bottles of hard cider and kombucha; jars of tomato sauce, a small bowl of hot peppers fermenting, and a large bad o’ dried zucchini slices. Not in view is a pint bottle of hot pepper-infused vodka (it’s lurking on top of the fridge, out of view of the camera, but not to worry – there’s a close up of that bottle of firewater below).  I say unto you, Houseproud household will be eating well this winter. Continue reading

Banner days and an easy summer squash salad

Houseproud homestead project - made from an upcycled map and a long crochet chain.

Houseproud homestead project – garland made from an upcycled map and a long crochet chain.

Oh, the last few days have just been heartbreakingly beautiful here in the Bay Area, really they have been.  It’s been just the right balmy temperature, with clear skies and some dramatic gusts of wind to make things interesting.  It’s the end of our summer here and the living’s easy, so with that in mind, I present to you two easy-to-make garlands to decorate your digs, and a lovely end-of-summer salad that will take you next to no time to make.

Let’s start with an easy garland, shall we?  Take a look-see at that photo above.  It took me longer to take, edit and post that picture than it to make the garland.  (Really, it did.  First I had to remove all of the curtains from the bedroom windows in order to get enough natural light to take the photos, and I also had to rig a camera set-up that wouldn’t shake when I took the photos in said natural light.  This itself took a good amount of time.  When you add the time it took to put the bedroom back into pre-photo shoot order, and then the time it took to select, edit and post the photo, the result is more time spent getting a picture of the garland into this post than in the making of the thing itself.  Go figure.)  All parentheticals aside, would you like to make a garland comme ca for your home?  Sure you would, so let’s start!  I made this garland before I started my mania for documenting projects with photos, so you’ll have to make do with written instructions this time around.

***** Continue reading