Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Long Hot Summer


It's not a news flash to us that live in the South that's it's hot!!  As a matter of fact it's been hot over most of the country.  We've had many days that have been in the upper 90s with the heat index over 100. 

The last thing I want to do when it's so hot is to heat up the kitchen.  In the summer I always like to make baked beans.  It just says summer along with great meals from the grill.  My old standby recipe requires heating up the oven.  This new (to me) recipe uses a slow cooker that you can prepare in your cool kitchen and still have a great dish. 

Hearty Baked Beans

 3 cans (16.5 oz.) baked beans
 1 pound of  lean ground beef
 4 slices of chopped bacon
 1 diced onion
 1/2 cup of ketchup
 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
 1 teaspoon of vinegar
 1/2 cup of brown sugar

Saute' onion and bacon until the bacon is done and a little crispy. Add ground beef and continue cooking until beef is done.  Add mixture to slow cooker along with  the other ingredients.  Stir it all until combined.  Cook for 3 hours on low.

This is a great dish to take to a covered dish dinner.  It would also be a great accompaniment to other grilled foods when it's not too hot to fire up the grill. 

It would not be summer if we didn't make homemade ice cream.  I have one of those electric Krups machines that makes 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream.  When our children were young, we had the old fashioned style machine.  Even though it was electric, we still had to prepare the ice cream outside with the rock salt and ice.  I like to make the custard for ice cream the day before freezing it.  My machine makes the ice cream in twenty minutes.  We've had chocolate (the only kind according to Grayden) and vanilla.  Of course you can add what ever you wish to vanilla such as fruit or candies.  Do you make ice cream in your home?  Here are the two recipes I use for ice cream.

French Vanilla Ice Cream

  3 eggs
  1 cup of sugar
  2 cups of cream
  2 cups of whole milk
  2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat eggs and milk together in a large saucepan.  Add sugar and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened.  About 10 minutes.  Mixture should coat the spoon. Cool, then add cream and vanilla.  Refrigerate overnight.  Freeze in your ice cream maker.

French Chocolate Ice Cream

  1 cup of sugar
  3 egg yolks
  1 1/2 cups of whole milk
  2 cups of cream
  1/3 cup of cocoa
  1 teaspoon of vanilla

Beat milk and egg yolks together.  Blend in sugar.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until thick enough to coat the spoon.  Remove from heat and gently sift cocoa into the mixture, then beat well until blended.  Cool.  Add cream and vanilla. Mix well and refrigerate overnight.  Freeze in your ice cream freezer. 

I hope you are trying to enjoy summer even though it's a hot one.  I'll leave you with some photos of the Crepe Myrtles that have been spectacular this year. The official spelling is Crape Myrtle, but here in the South it is spelled Crepe Myrtle because the flowers resemble crepe paper.  Mine is about to open.  These were taken one day this week in Williamsburg, where to me, everything always looks lovely. ♥

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Jane Austen

In honor of Jane Austen's death 200 years ago,  I'd like to take you back to Chawton.  Her last home. 

 Today is the last day of our wonderful adventure in the beautiful English countryside.  We have had a wonderful visit to England!  It has been nearly perfect for us.  We have seen and done more than one could imagine.  Today there is enough time to see Jane Austen's home in Chawton before we get back on the Queen Mary 2 in Southampton this afternoon.  Come along with us as we visit the last home of Jane Austen in the village of Chawton.

Jane Austen lived in this house with her mother, and sister Cassandra, from 1809 until 1817.  Jane revised her manuscript for Sense and SensibilityPride and Prejudice and Northanger Abbey and wrote Mansfield Park and Emma and Persuasion while living in this home.

After buying our tickets we are directed to the back of the house to see the Bakehouse.


We then watched a short movie about the life of Jane Austen and then went around the side to see the kitchen.  Here are our clothes to put on while we work in the kitchen.

After working in the kitchen we need to go outside and see some of the garden before we enter the home.  It's a sunny warm day to enjoy walking around the lovely gardens that surround the home.

I'm looking forward to seeing the home of such an accomplished writer.  Of course, she received much more acclaim after her death, as is the case of so many writers.

"There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort." Jane Austen

 I love this chaise lounge in the drawing room of the home!  The wallpaper throughout the home is Laura Ashley.  It's not original to Jane Austen's time.  Here is a framed piece of some of the original wallpaper.

Also in the front parlor is a piano.  Jane entertained her family by playing pianoforte and reading to them.  Jane continued to take piano lessons well into her twenties which speaks to her love of music.  She often rose early to practice.  Like the characters she wrote about, Jane was an accomplished pianst.

In the parlor we see Jane's desk (table) she used to write her novels!  It's so small!!  I can't begin to imagine using this to write on!

“It isn't what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.”
 Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Going upstairs we see the bedroom of Jane and her sister Cassandra.  The two sisters were very close.  Cassandra must have been devastated when Jane passed away at the age of forty one.

Cassandra's Sampler

Wash basin and chamber pot that is housed in closet 

Laura Ashley Wallpaper

In the Admiral's bedroom there is a red and white quilt top on the bed.  Jane's brothers were in the Royal Navy.  Francis Austen became Admiral of the Fleet and was knighted by King William IV.

This amazing quilt was stitched by Jane, Cassandra and her mother.  Although the quilt is really a coverlet as it only has a top and bottom.  The pieces were made from material of their nieces cotton clothing.  The Caen lace shawl belonged to their niece, Fanny Knight.

The coverlet is behind glass and is no longer on Jane's bed.  If you are a quilter you will really appreciate the border and its intricacies!  They are so tiny!

Here are a couple pieces of Jane's jewelry that are displayed in cases.

The bracelet is so delicate and lovely.  It was passed down through the family.

Jane received the topaz cross from her brother Charles in 1801.  Jane was inspired to write about it in Mansfield Park as the amber cross Fanny Price receives from her brother.

Jane Austen's health became so bad that she had to seek medical care in Winchester.  It is believed she suffered with Addison's disease.  Sadly she passed away soon thereafter.  She was buried in Winchester Cathedral.  There is a copy of the inscription that is at Winchester.

There is also a plaque at Westminster Abbey in memory of Jane in Poets Corner.

JANE AUSTEN 1775 1817

She was the daughter of a country clergyman, George Austen, and his wife Cassandra (Leigh) and was born at the rectory at Steventon in Hampshire on 16 December 1775. In her books she portrayed the society and manners of the life to which she belonged: Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, Emma, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. The family later moved to Bath and after her father's death she lived in the village of Chawton. Although she had several suitors Jane never married. She died in Winchester on 18 July 1817.

As we are leaving Jane's home we see this charming cottage next door!

Cassandra's Cup Tearoom and Bistro is across the street from Jane's home.  I wish we could go for a cup of tea, but we have a ship we need to board!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

July in the Garden

July in Virginia has been quite hot and humid.  Every year I am amazed to see how quickly plants grow when the temperature rises.  In a very short time the small annuals that were planted in pots fill their spaces with foliage and flowers.

 Now that they are reaching their full potential, a daily dose of water is needed.  It's also time to give them a little fertilizer.  I fill all of my pots and my beds with rich compost, but a nice dose of fertilizer gives them some nutrients to continue to thrive the rest of the summer. 

"What dreadful hot weather we have!  It keeps me in a continual state of inelegance."  Jane Austen

I must admit to succumbing to air conditioning.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thankful for it, but sometimes it feels like winter when I don't go outside.  I do believe I am spoiled.  

Last week we received two inches of wonderful rain.  I don't do a lot of supplemental watering in my garden unless rain doesn't fall.  Most gardens need one inch of water each week.  We have county water that has been treated.  I find that rain is a more welcome refreshment to my plants than county treated water.  Of course it's not up to me when the rain falls, so we do get out the sprinklers when needed.

Our grape tomatoes are finding a home on our salads and for quick snacks.

  There is nothing quite like a tomato that ripens in the summer sun!  I have also planted four volunteer tomato plants that came up in the compost.  I'm not sure what type they will be, but I can't resist giving them a chance.

Remember the trailing vinca Grayden planted in the brick planter?  I'm so happy that it is thriving and spilling over the brick wall. 

 My favorite impatiens can no longer live in my garden due to downy mildew that returns year after year.  I have made notes about the trailing vinca in my gardening journal and will probably use it again in this planter.

The mint gives a nice flavor to iced tea.

 Basil is enjoyed on caprese salads and in other recipes.

  My old rosemary is looking a little old this year.  Perhaps I should plant another.  The oregano is also starting to bloom, so I should dry some for winter meals.

  Herbs are so easy to grow, I do hope you give them a try.  There really is nothing better to use to enhance your cooking than fresh herbs.  Don't you agree, Peter Rabbit?

We continue to see bunnies, frogs and a lot of different birds in our garden. Today as Grayden was grilling our dinner we spotted the tiniest of frogs.

For the last couple of years we have had a very friendly squirrel scampering along the brick ledge of our Florida room.  I found today that Sammy Squirrel is indeed Samantha.  She's quite curious and enjoys peeking in on our activities. 

Even though we live in a suburban area it's always nice to see all of the small animals that live and thrive in our garden.