January 31, 2014

Kitchen Auction

Well, sort of. A few weeks ago, Christie’s in London held an auction called “The Art of Food and Drink”, and I am actually pretty happy that I didn’t know about it until after it was over!image

Seriously, there were so many fun things up for bid that I would have gone broke bidding! I will show you some favourites, and then give you the link to the e-catalogue so you can spend some time being wildly mad that you weren’t there either!

Early 20th Century French Oyster Signs, est. $2,000


Extinct Elephant Bird Egg, est. $33,000image

Fossilized scallop shells from Southern France, est. $3,300image

Copper Jelly Moulds, est. $4,100image

Victorian Tole-painted tea caddies, est. $12,000image

Four Fornasetti “Whimsical Recipe” plates, est. $1,300image

1920’s fitted English Picnic Hamper, est. $3,300image

French Mahogany Champagne Table! est. $4,900image

THhree lithographs on linen, $17,000image

Six angled decanters in ebony case, est. $17,000image

Here’s the link to the entire catalogue. It’s fun to look through and imagine what you’d buy!

January 29, 2014

Lithophane Lighting

I was looking at something on line and they mentioned updated Lithophane lighting. I wasn’t exactly sure what this was, so I did a wee bit of research and thought I’d share what I learned. image

From the Lithiphane Museum:

Lithophanes are three-dimensional translucent porcelain plaques which when backlit reveal detailed magical images. First created in Europe in the 1820s, the largest collection of this 19th century art form in the world is now on view at the Blair Museum of Lithophanes.

Lithophane is a term derived from the Greek litho meaning stone and phainen meaningto cause to appear. This Greek derivation has proven confusing to people who might know some basic Greek, but do not know that lithophanes have nothing to do with stone or a stone product, but are made of porcelain.

Here’s a more detailed explanation, talking about how it has to do with the translucence and the depth of the surface. Sounds like something for a 3D printer! It is argued that this process was derived in China with the ultra-thin Blanc de Chine porcelain, and how the artisans manipulated it. Lithophanes are between 1/16th and 1/4 of an inch thick!

When the lamps are not lit, there’s very little evidence of what awaits you when they’re turned on. This is a piece without being lit:image

and this is the same piece lit from behind. image

Lithophanes are used in nightlights, candleholders, globe lights and much more. Their primary function is their beauty and not their lighting ability. They’re sort of old-fashioned now, although I did find these contemporary ones, with scenes of the London Skyline and a beach. (top image)image

Here’s an example from Wedgwood.image

And a votive light from Lladro.image

This nightlight is fun!image

I love learning new things.

January 28, 2014


Isn’t that a great word? Roll it around in your mouth and say it out loud. Now do you know what a murmuration is? I am sure you’ve seen one at some point.

A murmuration is a collection of starlings, and it’s always starlings, who swoop and loop in the sky in perfect formation. image

Are they chasing something, or is something chasing them?image

Are they following the wind currents and shifts, or is there some inner sense that makes them move as one?image

Thousands, possibly millions of these birds move in perfect synchronization and syncopation. image

And scientists have no idea of how or why they do it. That’s a murmuration.

This video of two girls paddling on a river in Ireland gives you a great view of a murmuration. It almost doesn’t look real.

That’s what a murmuration is.


I totally forgot to write a blog post last night. I am working on two big projects with short-term deadlines, and with that, writing a post just slipped my mind.

Here’s a little eye candy to cheer you up. image

I don’t know the source – I saw it on pinterest and tried to track it back, but the links were gone.

January 26, 2014

Candied Pink Grapefruit Peel

I love pink grapefruit to eat and I love the scent of it, too! I had gotten some delicious grapefruit the other day and remembered a recipe my mother used to make for holidays. I had a long computer project to work on, so I decided to multi-task and made some candied grapefruit peel since it’s pretty much a hands-off project.

One of the main tips about making this recipe is making absolutely certain that when you’re peeling the grapefruit (or oranges) that you don’t get any of the inner white pith along with the rind. The pith makes it incredibly bitter. To alleviate the possibility of getting a lot of pith, I use a parer to take the skin off the fruit.

I have had a ceramic-bladed peeler from Williams-Sonoma, but it broke while I was peeling the grapefruit. Luckily, the Chefs had given me an industrial commercial grade peeler and I continued with that.

Add the peel to a heavy bottomed pan and cover with water. The other critical tip to this recipe is bringing the grapefruit rind to a boil, straining the peel, dumping the water, recovering with cold water and repeating this four times. The repeated boiling in fresh water helps rid the peel of any bitterness.

After the fourth boil, drain again and reserve the peel in the strainer. Add equal parts sugar and water, about two cups of each to each fruit you use. Heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the peel and boil gently until the peel turns translucent. The recipes I reviewed suggested anywhere from 40 minutes to two hours. I chose to boil it for about an hour. You will notice the syrup getting thicker as the peel becomes more translucent.

Strain the peel and reserve the liquid for later use as a simple syrup in cocktails. Let the peel cool for a few minutes, and add about a half a cup of sugar to a ziplock bag and then add the peel.

Shake until the peel is coated with the sugar. Lay the peel out on a rack to finish drying and dump the extra sugar (or save it for baking). Store the peel in a cool, dry place and it will last for a few weeks.

I realized after everything that I should have cut the peel into smaller pieces, or strips, before I cooked it, but I cut it into smaller pieces after I’d sugared it, and it was fine.

A lot of people think of candied peel as a holiday treat, but you can use it for a lot of things – a garnish on a cocktail, decoration on a cake or cupcake, snacking and more. Chef Cat cut the peel very finely and put it on top of orange cupcakes and it was fabulous! Best part is that it’s sort of a grown-up treat, since children might not like the tartness and slight bitterness. It’s also a great way to use the rinds you generally toss.

January 23, 2014

Burns Night

When I lived in the UK, I spent some time in Edinburgh, and had the opportunity to attend several dinner dances and a traditional cĂ©ilidh. The dress was black tie, and I managed to scare up a swath of our family’s tartan in Edinburgh to wear as a sash. Not what I’d have chosen if I had my choice, but…imageWith all this, and my family’s Scottish roots, I feel like I am somewhat qualified to talk about Robert Burns Night which is being celebrated this year on January 25th with the very traditional Burns Night Supper.

There is a fairly specific menu associated with the Supper, and it revolves around the traditional Haggis. If you’ve not tried it, but only heard about it, haggis is actually not too bad. There are much worse things to eat. image

It can be accompanied by neeps and tatties, or if you’re feeling a bit modern, a Swede mash. Translated, that’s turnips and potatoes, or a turnip mash. I can’t tell you how comical the conversation was when my housemate tried to tell me what Swede was in the vegetable family. If you want a soup course, you can have Cullen skink, which is a smoked fish and leek soup, and is quite good. Another traditional soup is cock-a-leekie, which is a chicken and leek soup.

When the haggis arrives, it’s usually piped in by a group of bag pipers and a traditional Robert Burns poem, Address to a Haggis, is said over it. imageYou can see “me” recite Address to a Haggis by clicking on the image below.image

To end the meal, one might have Cloutie Dumpling, followed up with the completely revolting Tablet (it’s like really grainy fudge, without the chocolate). image

Naturally, there are lashings of whisky served throughout the dinner, and of course, you’re going to drink Scottish whisky, such as Glenmorangie or our old “house” whisky, Scapa. image

You should start the dinner with Burns’s Selkirk Grace:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit.


At the end of the evening, everyone joins hands and sings Auld Lang Syne, a song reputedly penned by Robert Burns.

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

Ice Music

The Norwegian Ice Music Festival has just concluded and when I saw a video of some of it on the Guardian, I thought you’d like to see it, too. The winters in Norway are long and dark, so there’s plenty of time to plot something fun like this. image

A group of ice carvers and musicians get together to make each of the instruments, including horns and other newly invented instruments. image

Blocks of ice, bottles of water and chainsaws are all used to create the instruments. image

During this time of year, there are about four hours of sunlight, imageso most of the work, and of course, the performances, take place in the darkness. image

To watch the Guardian’s video, click here. Or to visit the Ice Music site, click here.


January 21, 2014

Another Snow Day

Although we didn’t get snow like we did in 2010 when we had 25+ inches in one day, today was still a snow day. And since I live at the bottom of a valley close to a semi-major road, I could hear the cars struggling to make it up the hill all day long. So I was thrilled to get an early morning e-mail saying not to come into work. 2014-01-21_12-13-21_421

I decided to make the most of the day and “accomplish things”. I made a cashmere cover for a pillow that will be one of the auction items at the annual Groundhog Day Party we’re hosting in a few weeks to benefit the Baltimore Architecture Foundation. 2014-01-21_12-01-19_298The cashmere is a chocolate brown in a moss pattern. It feels fabulous and will look even better when I add some leather buttons to the reverse. I also did a lot of reading and made some gingerbread, which made the house smell amazing.

Connor loves this weather! At least five times, he went outside and sat in the snow until I couldn’t stand it anymore and made him come inside. 2014-01-21_12-51-20_2412014-01-21_13-09-05_659IMG_20140121_1404142014-01-21_19-06-37_138

It kind of freaks me out that he sits out there, but since it makes him happy, why not?