On these warm summer days, what could be more refreshing than serving a beautiful cold soup?
iPhone photo by M. Hanson
This soup could not be easier. It requires only a few minutes of cooking and a blender. The nasturtium flower shown is completely edible, and gives such an elegant presentation. Its delicately-crunchy peppery taste is perfect for this recipe, and what a color combo! Makes a lovely, light first course at a ladies’ luncheon.
SPRING PEA SOUP
Requires a blender
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Small Vidalia or other sweet white-fleshed onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 (12 oz. to 16oz.) bag frozen spring peas or frozen baby peas
2 1/2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (no stems), rinsed.
1 cup crème fraîche, divided (recipe follows, so easy but takes 12 hours to set up)
In a medium fry pan, sauté onions in butter over medium heat until soft and golden but not brown, about 10 minutes.
In a medium large pot, pour in chicken broth and bring to a rolling boil.
With broth fully boiling, add cooked onions, then peas.
Bring back to a boil and cook for 2 or 3 minutes more. Peas should still be bright green. Remove from heat.
Working quickly, so that the pea mixture does not continue to cook and fade color, add about 3/4 cup of pea/broth mixture to blender. Place top on blender. Whirl a few seconds. Add mint leaves, salt and pepper. Place top on blender. Whirl again. Add another 3/4 cup broth mixture and whirl until smooth. With blender running, and with blender lid on but opened,
SLOWLY stream in remaining broth mixture, making sure that warm broth does not splatter. Blend until very smooth and velvety. Stir in 1/2 cup crème fraîche. Chill.
Before serving, drizzle with more crème fraîche.
Makes about 8 appetizer servings.
Crème fraîche recipe
(So easy you’ll never buy expensive ready-made again)
One cup heavy cream (supposedly the ultra-pasteurized brands do not work)
2 tablespoons buttermilk
That’s it. Stir together in a glass canning jar, and screw lid on.
Put in a warm place (I put under my kitchen counter-top lamp with the light on) for 12 hours until thickened but not solidified. Stir again until smooth and refrigerate up to 10 days. If mixture has become too thick, it can be thinned with a little more cream. Stir again before drizzling.
Ready for lunch!
To followers of “Southern Charm” on Bravo, or aficionados of Charleston, you will recognize the second photograph immediately, if not the first.
I assume that decorator Mario Buatta suggested the striking green for the new shutter color. Bravo, indeed.
She and my son shared the same birthday.
And, she hardly ever asked for a thing in all her 14 1/2 years.
Our youngish family of four brought her home from the Humane Society section of the pet store when she was just 6 weeks old. She was so tiny and so solid black, that I didn’t at first see that there was a puppy in her crate. She was lying down so sweetly, way at the back of her crate, and the volunteer handler brought her out for me to hold. Her little puppy smell was intoxicating, and her black fur felt like cotton balls.
She allowed me to turn her over gently on her back (always a good sign, meaning that they likely will be submissive to their humans) and rub her tummy. That was probably one of the first of thousands of tummy rubs that she received.
No puppy could have marched out from the back of the Petco shop to the front and out to our car, (on a brand new hot-pink leash) more proudly than this little girl did. She started out a princess, but she soon became a queen.
She always preferred being outside when it was cool, even cold, being —we think— half Siberian Husky.
This photo (below) was taken with me holding the door for her, asking her if she wanted to come in. She did not. And, yes, those are ICICLES on her fur.
The other half—again our guess—Belgian Sheepdog. She had the softest long brownish-black fur and gorgeous proud swooping black tail, which only recently began to be not quite as proud as in her beauty queen days. And soulful brown eyes which always seemed to say, thank you for taking me to be your pet. A splotch of Husky-dog gray fur had lined her back haunches since puppyhood, and in recent years the gray fur had begun to creep around her mouth area as well.
On an invisible fence, she had the run of a large yard, and she had many friends, both human and canine, who would step from the sidewalk over into the yard-proper so that she would not engage the invisible fence-line. She would casually bark a time or two at passersby, especially children or someone walking their own dog, wagging her tail, as if to say, come on over and say hello. Because I can’t get to you due to this darn shock-collar. Lucky for her, we live on the route from a nearby elementary school to the place all the children flock to for their afternoon snacks, a true old-timey soda fountain. Oh, she loved to be out when school let out, so she could get lots of “she’s so pretty” and “can we pet her?” There was never a happier place for a friendly dog to live.
Occasionally we would find treats in our mailbox with a note: These are for Pepper.
I will always treasure the memory of glancing out the kitchen window to see a very lovely acquaintance and her gorgeous Husky stop for a few minutes so that they could say hello. The lady gave Pepper such a fond pat and it just warmed my heart to see it. I ran into her at the grocery store some time later and she told me that she loved Pepper and that they always stopped for a visit if Pepper was out in the yard. I saw her many times from my window and I now want to tell her how much those visits meant.
Pepper ate so daintily that we let her “free feed” all along the day so she would get enough to eat. Once grown, she never varied more than a pound or two from her normal 38 pounds. Oh, but did she ever love lamb chops when we gave her a few bites of leftovers for a treat. And she adored salmon, probably hard-wired into the Arctic-breed portion of her DNA. And, a year or so ago, we discovered that not only is canned pure pumpkin great for a dog’s digestion, she absolutely loved a dollop of it over her daily kibble. And, woe if we ran out, because she would just look at me to say, where is my pumpkin?
We wanted a dog to sleep on the foot of the bed, but she never took to that tradition. She’d rather sleep on the living room sofa, so she could do her job: guard us at exactly the halfway point between the front door and our room. After an ACL tear on first her right back leg and then her left, and three grueling surgeries later, she began to settle for the floor, on the rug by the front window. Don’t think for a minute, though, that she let those surgical setbacks keep her from her daily walks. She seemed to bounce back just fine, even though the bounce in her step seemed a tiny bit crooked after the third surgery. A little side-winding just seemed to fit her breezy, regal style.
She preferred being within earshot, but not necessarily right next to us. She had an elegance, an independence, and a fierce loyalty to her people, especially our children. Here they are swinging in a vacation hammock at our family retreat, with Pepper at their side.
She was our Pepper. Pep-Pep or Pepperpot were our family’s two favorite nicknames for her. We loved her dearly, and she loved us. I can’t remember a time that she ever gave us a moment of trouble.
I would give just about anything to see that beautiful black head come out of the boxwood hedge where she liked rest (or hide) and to watch the world go by. We sometimes called her Hedge-Hat because the boxwood branches would rustle and pop up like a little green hat on her head as she came out to greet the car when we returned home.
Sadly, she had an apparent stroke on Saturday night, and could not support her weight to stand up. On Sunday morning, very early, she passed away. My friends now tell me how incredibly lucky we are that she died purely of age, and that she was rarely if ever sick, and that we never had to go through the agonizing decision to put her down.
I found a soft cotton pink and white striped beach towel that seemed the right thing to take with us for her final car ride on Monday morning. I made a necklace for her out of a pliable full-blooming spirea stem, and I tied some pink nonstop roses and the last of the camellia onto it with pink raffia ribbon.
My husband fitted my little homemade necklace gently around her neck, and tenderly carried her to the dog bed we had placed in the back of our car. She looked so incredibly peaceful and beautiful for her final journey to the veterinarian.
The staff came out to meet us, and I carefully placed the pink and white striped towel on the stretcher, which happened to fit perfectly. The vet tech respectfully lifted her onto the stretcher, and a second tech helped carry her on the stretcher inside the rear entrance. The rest of the staff stood solemnly in honor as they carried my fur baby away and inside into the holding area. Today a compassionate pet cremation service is picking up her little body, and will return her ashes to us along with a paw-print and a lock of her hair.
Rest in Peace, our beautiful Pep-Pep.
What do you do when a long-time friend tells you that the clock she recently inherited is going to be part of an exhibit opening in the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum?
‘The Artistic Furniture of the Gilded Age’….the American period from the late 1870s until about 1900.
And, that she is inviting me to attend the gala preview party at the Museum?
Well, you hop on a plane and get to New York, that’s what!
How many opportunities in life will there be to sip a cocktail and nibble caviar hors d’oeuvres with 200 museum patrons in the gorgeous Charles Engelhard Court of the museum? And, then have a private after-hours tour of the exhibit?
Here are some highlights of that magical evening.
This is the model of a New York City townhouse of the Gilded Age period, just off Fifth Avenue. This beautiful manse was demolished in 1938. Sadly, other similarly situated houses as elaborate and historically important as this one also have been razed in the name of progress.
Richly carved, dark or inlaid wood, and heavy, elaborate fabrics ruled the interiors of the day. Here is the piano in the exhibit, which was rescued from a church basement. It still has the original strings!
Two stained glass window panels, representing Morning and Evening, are stunning.
My friend, a native Alabamian living in Houston for years, by nature is curious and detailed (she is also very smart, as her C.P.A. designation attests).
Once she began researching the very unusual wall clock, she felt like it had a measure of importance. Here is the clock, so special and integral to the exhibit, that the director of the American Wing flew to Houston the next day after my friend called to tell him what she thought might have.
Let me backtrack a moment, now that you have seen the clock. The clock was actually inherited by a friend of my friend, who did not have a place for it. It was given to my friend, knowing that she adored the father who owned the clock, and out of generosity.
Truly, the clock is so ornate, and of such scale, that it needs just the right place to hang. And, I must say, it was sincerely offered back to the original family once its true provenance was learned.
After the clock was in the hands of museum curators, careful examination with mirrors into the clock’s movement yielded proof that the clock was signed Tiffany. This was very exciting news for both the museum and my friend! Furthermore, a surviving Tiffany logbook from the period records the exact serial number (only nine are known to have been made, this was the ninth) and a price of $187.50!
For some reason, George A. Schastey, one of the most important interior designers of the day, is not now a household name. His chief rival, the Herter Brothers Company, is more widely recognized, and also represented in this fascinating, strictly American exhibit.
Mr. Schastey’s great-great granddaughter was an honored guest at the exhibit, attending with her husband of 58 years!
A night to remember!
Thank you, dear friend L.B.D. for including me.
‘Tis the season!
On a whirlwind trip to New York, I had to play tourist and snap a few window photos.
A few diamonds with your gingerbread?
So many beautiful windows to see!
This little guy has chosen his home right outside my kitchen window. Always tippy top of the squirrel’s tail, that is his favorite perch. He is there almost every day, many times a day. It is fun to have something to look at outside, a nice focal point. This is my own secret focal point, because you can’t even see this from the street. You would have to walk up the drive and look behind the hemlock tree. Mister has been enjoying the dozen or so shelled, raw peanuts I set out for him every few days. What should I name him?
Camellias, the state flower of Alabama.Here are my first “White by the Gate” of the season, stems trimmed short and then floated in a vintage Wedgwood jasperware gardenia bowl (very shallow), which I found on eBay for
a song. Doesn’t it go nicely with an old tea-set my husband inherited from his Gammy?
Wishing all my readers a Happy Thanksgiving!
I hope your day is filled with love and blessings.
My friend Spence makes the most gorgeous macarons.
They are as delicious as they are pretty.
She made these for my study club’s annual luncheon.
Which was at my house this year. What a friend!
The purple are made with a lavender filling; the pink are strawberry; the yellow are lemon basil; the white (my absolute fav) are clover honey.
Have you ever?
Oh, and catch a glimpse of her “perfect” cheese straws to the upper left.
Here is the long table (actually three six-foot tables pushed together,)
set with my grandmother’s china, Sunnyvale.
Purple hobnail glasses give a lady-like vintage touch.
One of my favorite recent projects has been helping my young adult daughter with her very first apartment.
I am loving these Chris-Spitz look-alikes from Overstock:
Can you tell which, above, is the
Christopher Spitzmiller Aurora Double Gourd Marbleized Lamp
and which is from Overstock.com ($144.99 per pair)?
The color designer followed these rules:
The new sushi restaurant in Rosemary Beach, Florida, sports “PURE” glass counters.
The PURE countertop type is so new that it isn’t to be found anywhere on Google.
And, the only fabricating company that I know of installing this product is
in northwest Florida.
A quick check to the staff at Aqua Sushi confirmed that they all “love it.”
It just looks so fresh and clean.
I am going to say this new product is a keeper.
(A similar product that I have been keeping an eye on is called Nano,
but I am hearing that PURE is a better product).
Bossy granite is what I try to steer clients away from.
Bossy granite = lots of color and/or movement.
“Bossy” elements dictate every other design decision.
Even though granite was all the rage for the last 15 years (after the Corian trend played out),
More and more people are asking, “what can I use besides granite?”
Suzy, the owner of Z-Tile, where I first saw PURE, is Green-Certified. She says that PURE is
considered a very environmentally-friendly product.
I predict we’ll be seeing a lot more of PURE.
Still waiting for spring. It is still very cool and rainy here in Alabama.
I have a trio of Yoshino cherry trees in front of my house.
They are at peak, but need a little sunshine to set them off.
A Viburnum is just behind the pictured cherry.
Its lime-colored globes (which will later turn white)
are gorgeous in back of the pastel pink cherry.
The spring colors of nature.
If you have noticed that many shelter magazines are showing not one, but two,
chandeliers over a dining-room table, you are picking up on something.
And, that something is a trend.
Not just a trend, but a trendy-trend.
For a classic, timeless, look, stick with a single chandelier over your dining room table.
Save the pair for a long hall .
Trust me on this one.
This is a trend, it will not last, and in five years it will announce:
“I decorated my dining room in 2013.”
Save the two chandelier/two lantern look for something like the above.
That is a timeless look that never goes out of style.
THANK YOU, LORD,
for the gift of Your love.
May I be a shining
example of that love to others.
Welcome, Happy Morning!
My Easter Menu:
Honey Baked Ham
Crêpes with chicken and gruyère
Panna Cotta (click for recipe) with blackberry garnish
A French friend gave me her authentic crêpe recipe which I will share with you:
“CRÊPES de Laurette
1 1/2 – 2 cups flour [note from Ellen: I used 2 cups]
1/4 tsp. salt
2-3 TBS. oil
4-5 cups milk [note from Ellen: I used 4 1/4 cups]
Put flour + salt in bowl.
Make a well in the middle and add eggs.
Start beating and slowly add 1/4 cup milk.
Make a paste to get the lumps out.
With a mixer add the rest of the milk until well blended.
Let batter sit for 1/2 hour.
(It can last for 3-4 days in fridge)
Over medium high heat put vegetable oil in pan and pour
a little batter in center.
Swirl batter to sides of pan immediately.
In 1-3 minutes flip crêpe and cook side 2
for another minute or two.
Apply oil before you cook each crêpe. They can be stacked
Add cheese to cooked crêpe (swiss cheese) and salt.
Dessert crêpes can be room temp.
Laure can make 40 in one hour!
(or 2 pans 80 in one hour!)”
(recipe of Laure Graves)
I am no good with all the wrist-y finessing required for a stove-top crêpe pan,
but I can do pretty well with an electric crêpe maker!
Readers, what are your Easter plans?
Did you know that different types of marble have different densities?
The more dense the marble, the less porous it is.
Higher density means less staining.
Alabama White (quarried just a few miles from where I live) is one of the whitest, densest, most beautiful marble types.
It is considered equal to the famous Italian Carrara (frequently misspelled Carrera) marble.
Alabama White marble was used in the Washington Monument.
The bust of Abraham Lincoln at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda? Also, Alabama White.
(I believe this is the right one, there are several marble busts of Lincoln at the Capitol building)
The Lincoln Memorial? My source says that the ceiling is Alabama White. Not sure you can see it, though!
U.S. Supreme Court Building? Interiors are full of Alabama White.
Here is a marble top I just received in Alabama White.
To go on this antique French garden table.
It will be permanently outdoors. I consider it a little slice of history to have Alabama White.
Alabama White is prized for its crystalline structure. It will be fine outdoors.
For a table-top or small counter, ask your fabricator if there is a scrap piece
which is large enough. You will get a much better price than a slab price.
That late 1970s/early 1980s disco song keeps rummaging
through my head.
You see, we just installed this darling marine bell at the beach home of a family member.
We installed it to relate to the door, without being too close to interfere
with normal comings and goings.
It has the nicest, most welcoming cling-clang.
Adorable anchor-motif backplate.
Genuine marine-grade rope pull.
So much more “beachy” than a regular electric doorbell.
We set out light refreshments at my ladies’ study club meetings. Yesterday was my turn to host.
We learned about Diana Vreeland.
Our topic this year has been “Legendary Ladies of Style.”
It was also our topic last year, we just loved it so much we kept going!
Babe Paley, Dorothy Draper, Gloria Vanderbilt, Marella Agnelli, Lee Radziwill to name a few.
Someone said, Ellen, you should take pictures of the table.
(There were a few tarts and berries already gone by this point.)
I thought you would enjoy these photos of the offerings:
chicken salad and pimiento cheese finger sandwiches
mini-cheesecake bites topped with fresh blackberries (top photo)
Mrs. Vreeland would have approved of the huge strawberries.
She absolutely adored the color red.
Fascinating life, fascinating woman.
She “discovered” Lauren Bacall. Now, that was a discovery!