Monday, January 18, 2010

merely a trifle.

Clue is my favorite board game; it has been ever since I was a kid. Although I enjoyed the process of figuring out who "killed" who, I enjoyed much more imagining that I lived in the Clue mansion and could sit in my big Clue library or throw a dinner party in the Clue dining room.

I found this "trifle" at an estate sale last Saturday, and while I was thinking of putting them up on Etsy, I think I'm going to keep them for something. Looking at the cards took me right back to being a kid - I could just imagine hosting my dinner party with those pretty floral dishes...or talking to my BFF in the lounge on that awesome retro phone!

And while I have recently been going "treasure hunting" at estate sales, I've learned a good lesson about accumulating too much stuff - whether for a collection or just for sentimental reasons. The last few I have been to were sales of bona-fide hoarders.

It all ties together as I am reminded that one of the best quotes about organizing life comes from Sherlock Holmes...

"You see," he explained, "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones." (From "A Study in Scarlet")

So, my Clue cards are merely a trifle, but as Holmes also says, "It is, of course, a trifle, but there is nothing so important as trifles."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My crockpot hates me.

It's official.

My crockpot hates me. Or I hate it, rather. Doesn't matter - the bottom line is that it's just not working out between us.

It's been a rocky relationship from the get-go.

When I had my first experience with the crock pot, which I had eagerly registered for in a cheery red color and received at my bridal shower, I decided to make chicken and broccoli.

Do not, under any circumstances, put broccoli in a crock pot, especially not for 8 hours. My friend was laughing about it the other day and said, "Your house smelled for the rest of the time that you lived there!" - - putrified broccoli. Strike 1.

Then, I decided to cook a whole chicken in it, like mom used to do. I imagined it simmering away while I was at work, so juicy and tender with the carrots and the onions, know, like mom used to make! Lo and behold, when I opened the lid after I got home from work, there was no chicken left! It had disintegrated into a pile of herby mush. Strike 2.

Today, I had some butternut squash and a recipe for crockpot butternut squash soup. Woke up early, cut the apples, made the bouquet garni full of cloves and coriander, and came home to a very pleasant smell. Blended it up and poured myself a bowl. Ick. Just plain not good. Strike 3.

You're out.

Anyone need a crock pot?

Monday, January 4, 2010

cranberry upside down cake

Cranberries and those who sell them to us are really good at peer pressure. When winter rolls around, red and cheery bags of crans show up on grocery store shelves...and they make you feel like you *have* to buy a bag and do *something* with it, even if it just be cranberry sauce that nobody really eats.

This year was going to be different! Cranberries are not only delicious, but chock full of antioxidants and detoxification properties. Granted, the sugar content of cranberry desserts may nullify the good properties, but doesn't it feel good to think about all that while eating a big piece of perfectly spicy cranberry cake with homemade vanilla whipped cream? Let me tell you - it does! I took the cake to a Christmas party and it was well received.

I have a great holiday baking Everyday Food magazine that I've used for the past few years. You can also find the recipe online.

If you have a bag of crans lying around (although they freeze well!), I'd suggest giving this cake a try.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake
From Martha Stewart's Everyday Food Magazine
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 3/4 cups cranberries
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rub the bottom and sides of an 8-inch round cake pan with butter. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sugar with the cinnamon and allspice. Sprinkle mixture evenly over bottom of pan; arrange cranberries in a single layer on top.
  • With an electric mixer, cream remaining 6 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla; beat until well combined. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in three batches, alternating with the milk, until well combined.
  • Spoon batter over cranberries in pan, and smooth top. Place pan on a baking sheet; bake cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around edge of cake; invert onto a platter.
p.s. - Thanks, michael! This video made my day so I just had to share it!

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