Thursday, November 27, 2014

Styling The Seasons - November

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    The season of rain here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon is in full swing.  When it's raining, the sky becomes one big mass of clouds that sits over this valley like pea soup, and can last all day, for several days, or for weeks on end.   

As I watched my garden turn from its brilliant wind swept autumn colors to its stillness of bare branches and decomposing leaves, I turned my attention to cutting and collecting hydrangea blooms from the one bush I have in my yard.  I wanted to save them for a rainy day, so to speak, so that when they dried I could make a wreath.  I first learned about this do-it-yourself project last month while reading Katy Ormes' blog Apartment Apothecary, where guest blogger Tamsyn of The Villa on Mount Pleasant demonstrated how to make it.

One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had made plans to make a large hydrangea wreath to hang over an old wooden table on my front porch, together with another, smaller wreath for the door, and to fill the basket on the table with all manner of autumn goodness.  A potted mum (shown in last photo), and my front porch is not only stylin' the season, but rockin' it!

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Below are a few more detail photos of the door wreath, the basket on the table, and the chrysanthemum.  

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Thank you for viewing this Styling The Seasons post.  If you would like to know more about Styling The Seasons, visit Katy Orme at Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte at Lotts & lots, and of course a Google search will bring up even more bloggers and Instagramers who also love to style the season.  And look for my own version of a do-it-yourself for both the hydrangea wreath and the door wreath in the very near future!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Made In Japan: Kawaii

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    Kawaii (pronounced Kah-wah-ee) is known in Japan as the 'incredible cute syndrome'.  Dating as far back as the Late Shogunate Period (mid 19th century), this concept is applied to literally all aspects of Japanese culture, especially to the appearance and manner of women and girls.  However, its meaning also heavily influences industrial product design in terms of size, shape and overall appearance, and is a primary design theme in a broad range of products.

My collection of vintage Japanese ceramics includes many pieces with this Kawaii quality.  I am drawn to these ceramic creatures because of that cuteness, but I also love the colors and shapes of these adorable 'friends'.  That pup above, for example, has the cutest face, but what I really like are the paint colors used and the technique with which the paint was applied - some of it very neat, and some of it haphazard, or even Wabi, in a way.  You may agree that the other pieces below also posses this Kawaii quality as well:

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 made in Japan, Japanese ceramic, vintage Japanese ceramic, salt shaker, kawaii salt shaker, vintage Japanese kawaii salt or pepper shaker

That pig is actually a piggy bank.  On the top, where the money slot is, it says "Cash Only - No Refunds".  And the whale is an ashtray - you can see the place for a cigarette to rest in the middle of that metal bar running around its mouth. That pink figure?  I think it's a flop-eared bunny.  It's a salt or pepper shaker and can you guess how much would I love to find its soul mate?  I wonder what color it is (I'm guessing baby blue!), and whether its shape is the opposite of this one?

Thank you for taking a look!  And if you love vintage, tell me about it!

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Autumn Gardening

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    There is always something to do in the garden, especially when the seasons change.  And now that autumn is in full swing here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, I recently spent some time harvesting the last of the green tomatoes, planting spring bulbs (crocus and muscari), potting a chrysanthemum, and cutting the last of the hydrangea blooms.   

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And of course when I am in my garden, I can't help but notice what this wonderful change of season has brought into my little part of the world.  I love to photograph these fleeting glimpses of what will soon be a memory and share them here.  I hope you enjoy this photo gallery:

A myriad of leaves to be raked:

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The shelf fungus is active again:

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The birds, like this wren, are returning for their winter stay:

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(photo by Editor James Aōyama)

The absolute last of the dahlias:

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The hydrangea before the cutting:

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And lastly, I love to 'bring the outdoors in' and so I made a little bowl of flowers for the kitchen table, and the vase of dried hydrangeas is a previous cutting from the same bush shown above:

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Do you like to garden?  Or maybe do you like to photograph flowers or other plants or animals in your local park or wildlife refuge?  Tell me about it!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Pear and Cranberry Crisp

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    As I watch the leaves on the trees in my town turn from the lush green which provided much needed shade in summer, to the reds, yellows, oranges, pinks and browns of fall, my mind begins to shift from the fresh tastes of summer to the warm comforting foods of this autumn season. 

A few years back I subscribed to Martha Stewart's Everyday Food magazine, and while it is no longer in print, I've saved my copies and still turn to them when I need cooking inspiration.  I like the idea of being able to throw a recipe magazine into my pack on the way out the door; it's much lighter than a cookbook!  That's how I came across this recipe.

I'm fortunate to live in a region where pears are grown, and because of their abundance and variety, I was drawn to this particular recipe. It suggests using Bartlett or Anjou - I used Anjou, and as soon as I started cutting into them, I realized why this variety is suggested.  They are very similar to an apple in that they are a firm fruit; perfect for baking into a crisp on an autumn day.

Pear and Cranberry Crisp

3/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/4 cup blanched almonds, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3 pounds pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou (about 6), cored, peeled, and cut into half inch pieces
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
1 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons cornstarch

1)  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine oats, 1/3 cup brown sugar, flour, almonds, cinnamon, and salt.  With your hands or a pastry cutter, work in butter until large clumps form. 

2)  In a large bowl, gently toss together pears, 2 tablespoons brown sugar, ginger (if using), cranberries, and cornstarch.  Transfer to an 8-inch square baking dish and sprinkle with oat mixture.

3)  Bake until juices are bubbling and topping is browned and crisp, 20 minutes.  Let cool 10 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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If you are contemplating whether to use the crystallized ginger, I would suggest adding it.  The ginger and the cranberries are the perfect compliment to the sweetness of the pears and the brown sugar.  In fact, I would suggest cutting back on the brown sugar to just less than the 1/3 cup and skipping the extra 2 tablespoons that are mixed into the pears.  Those are just my personal preferences.

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I'll close with a photo of the Anjou pears so you can see what this variety looks like when they are ripe.  Some pears turn yellow when ripe, but the Anjou maintains its pale green color and is firm when ripe.  Enjoy!
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