Decorating isn't just about the stuff, it's about the labor that makes it happen. I'm lifting my glass, toasting the decorating community.
Happy Birthday day in advance, Lynne (RMS's Decorator101)!
Friday, August 29, 2008
When we moved, I stashed everything in the basement. Meanwhile, I went through the house, room-by-room, hitting the high points and leaving the details for later. I called this plan "temporizing."
Finally, I was ready to temporize the basement. The night before the big makeover, I took a picture and studied it. It seemed pretty hopeless.
I couldn't chuck it out and start over. The sofa and chairs are made by Ashley, and they'd been in a model home, so I'd bought them on the cheap years ago. The microsuede fabric has been durable. The coffee table is an oldie--it's the weirdest thing I've ever seen. When my son moves into his own house, he's put dibs on that coffee table. Men love it--because they can move the sections into all kinds of shapes. I started moving things around, borrowing from other rooms.
The next day was Super Bowl Sunday. So I took a bunch of pictures and mailed them to two design-loving, football hating friends. While the men watched pre-pre game activities along with regular pre-game stuff, we decorated by email, using stuff I already had.
In my mind, I had a sort of inspiration picture. I love any designer who has a decorating dog. Nina Campbell's London living room served as an inspiration.
I loved how she'd artfully blended the contemporary and the classic. That said, it was more formal than I had in mind (if you can't relax in the basement, then where?).
I've got a big Husky, Chuchee, who loves to sleep on that sofa,
along with Emma, the Pom
and the dogs and I like to hang out there when we're mad at Mr. Gollum.
So the room had to be dog and people friendly. But I liked the Nina Campbell picture for ideas on how to combine mod fabrics with more traditional ones.
A modern rug like Nina's would have added so much to this room. At Shades of Light, I spotted this rug. It reminded me of the rug in "Something's Gotta Give."
But it was Sunday, no time to dash off to the mall. I had to use my old rug. And I love a challenge. As always, I put the cart before the donkey and started hauling in boxes from the garage. I unpacked and auditioned them. The afternoon blended into night, and I snapped pictures and emailed them. My wonderful friends emailed back with suggestions. I can't think of a better thing to do during the Super Bowl. :-)
Following Nina Campbell's advice to **always** add an "off" color on purpose, I brought in the bronze pillows. Boy, that rule was made for me...it loosens up a room and makes it interesting. However, this space had a way to go. And the pillows were more than a tad off. So I looked around for accessories that would pull the color around that side of the room. This is one time where it pays to be a packrat.
The placement of the bronze accessories somehow made the pillows work. Meanwhile, my friends kept emailing ideas, and before long, the room had been "temporized." :-)
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I love playing house. Few things are more satisfying than ripping apart one tablescape and creating a new one.When we moved in, I made a silk arrangement for the sideboard. Then I called it a day.
Then I made a fall arrangement--very traditional, and it worked with my Noah's Ark Syndrome.
I don't have a hutch or china cabinet, and I missed seeing my dishes.So I used them in a vignette. This is my favorite. I love anything with dogs.
Here's an early spring look with Ironstone and white pottery:
I put together tulips and green apples when I posted the room on RMS.
Here are some Gollumy Bloopers:
I couldn't stop adding stuff. :-) Had a wonderful time, though.
I tried everything on the wall beside the sideboard, and it only looked crowded. So Mr. Tom hung the art. I'm looking for a low chest to put under it.
I'm prowling for new ideas.I like the way this is slightly off center. It's fresh and striking. The parrot tulips are gorgeous.
Three vases on the dining table look great. This fall, I'm planting tulips in Mr. Gollum's garden.
inspiration photo credit: House Beautiful
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Gollum's Porch, 2007
The other day I walked through Home Depot's garden department and was shocked to see mums. With the weather still unbearable--and knowing that I'm death to all plants--I made a note to buy them later, even if they're picked over (pardon the pun). I'm not sure which color I'll go with this year.
We planted pumkins in the garden this year, so I should have plenty of home grown decorations.
I've been looking at inspiration pictures.
Friday, August 22, 2008
The names went into a pot, and Honey picked....Homer! Thanks to everyone for helping us name the little jack foal.
Someone commented on the dark dorsal "cross" across the mother donkey's withers.
According to Wiki, "Legend has it that the cross on the donkey’s shoulders comes from the shadow of Christ’s crucifixion, placing the donkey at the foot of the cross."
Thursday, August 21, 2008
All of my relatives had at least one cast iron skillet. The skillet was the color of unlit charcoal, with a slick, hard finish. It was either left on top of the stove or stored in the oven.
I never questioned my relatives about their cookware. I knew that the pans, like our food and our men, were "well seasoned"; as for the patina that Mama treasured so much I assumed the pans had been bought that way.
There are many ways to season cast iron, but the main formula seems to be vegetable oil plus heat plus time equals patina. It's basic kitchen chemistry. The multiple oilings, when combined with heat, fill in the microscopic "pits" in the cast iron. Over time, these pits harden, producing a smooth, black surface.
The oil creates a barrier, preventing oxygen from reaching the iron and causing rust. It also forms a virtually non stick surface. The more you use your pan, the more it will blacken. And cooking in cast iron is healthy--it's a sneaky source of dietary iron.
Cast iron has man virtues, but seasoning isn't one of them. It requires time, oil, and a hot oven. Store-bought pans come with instructions, but they skip over the important parts, like, it's not going to happen in a day. Be prepared to spend time with your new pan.
The seasoning is acquired slowly. You will have to "oil and bake" for many hours, when your time and schedule allow you to cook an empty pan. :-) You are serving up nothing; not only that, you will wonder how many centuries it will take before your pan acquires a rich, black patina.
How To Season A Cast-Iron Pan
Step 1: wash the pan in soapy water.
Be sure to use a scouring pad. This will remove the protective coating that inhibits rust. The is the one and ONLY time your skillet will touch soap.
Step 2: dry the pan. (I love easy steps.)
Step 3. Grease your pan.
This is not the time to be sloppy or fainthearted. Finicky souls use a pastry brush; earthy people prefer to grease with their fingers. Me, I use a scrunched up paper towel that's been doused in oil. I have also just poured oil directly into the pan, about 2 teaspoons, then swished it around with a paper napkin.
I take the paper towel and rub it all around the inside of the skillet. Cast iron is somewhat porous, and it will absorb the oil. Get into every crevice. The motto of seasoning cast iron is less is more--thin coats are best.
I don't oil the outside of the pan, but some people do.
Now is a good time to discuss oil. The type is debatable--some cooks use safflower, others prefer Crisco, or even lard. I have talked to people who won't use oil, claiming it leaves a residue. My mother has used olive oil. I've had the best results with peanut oil (it has no flavor and it's stable at high temperatures).
Don't use butter.
Remember to use small amounts or your skillet might develop sticky splotches. Some cooks believe that this gummy stage is the beginning of the curing process, but there's a difference in coats. A slightly tacky, amber sheen means you're making progress, but a sticky sediment means that you've used too much oil.
Step 4: Bake
Put the pan in a 275-degree oven for about five hours, periodically checking to see if you need another coat of oil. Think of it as a slow layering, the way an artist layers colors on a canvas.
Cooks also disagree about temperatures and baking times. I have tried everything. A small amount of smoking occurred at temperatures over 400 degrees however, in about three hours my pans were noticeably darker. Paul Prudhomme cures his new pans with low heat, about 225 degrees, leaving them to bake for hours.
The best pans, of course, come from relatives or garage sales, although you can still find them in antique malls.
After a couple of five-hour sessions, you'll begin to notice a metamorphosis. You'll know when you are making progress: Your pan will acquire a thin hard layer; it resembles shellac--shiny and transparent, the color of caramel flavoring, and faintly tacky.
I hate to tell you, but one or two hours of "curing" won't create a black, non-stick pan. Six hours won't do it, either. It takes about 10 sessions.
During the curing process, the oil hardens to a varnish-like finish. The pan loses its steel-gray color and turns progressively browner until it finally attains the famous black "crust."
I like the way an empty, slow-cooking pan smells--old fashioned and metallic,, the way water smells when it trickles from an iron pump. The aroma reminds me of meals past and present, a whole heritage of women who conjure food for their loved ones. If you don't like the aroma of baked iron, you can close off your kitchen, open a window, or burn a vanilla-bean candle.
Achieving patina takes the patience of a saint and the finesse of a landscape painter. Try to think of it as an adventure.
After the pan cools, wipe it down with the barest coat of oil. Do this every time you use the pan for the first year. A paper towel patted down over the skillet seems to inhibit rust in humid areas.
Of course, you can cheat and buy a new fangled cast iron pan--and you can buy them in adorable shapes
and in designer colors--plus, they don't require seasoning.
This is what happens to a pan after washing it in soapy water.
** Never soak, never scour! A full sink of soapy water will undo years of care.
** Never wash in the dishwasher--it will rust the pan and remove the seasoning.
** Until your pan is well seasoned try not to cook sticky things--sometimes this causes setbacks.
**the acidity in tomatoes can have ghastly consequences in cast iron, unless you are using other ingredients, like in a stew or spaghetti sauce.
Large, coarse salt acts as a gentle abrasive, and helps keep your cast iron "bump" free.
**Clean with a little hot water and a nylon pad, sanding the surface gently.
**After cleaning, dry the pan thoroughly. For the first year, keep it lightly oiled. Store in a dry place. (I keep mine in the oven.) It will tend to collect dust and cat hairs.
**If scrubbing is needed, sprinkle sea or kosher salt into the skillet. Use a Tuffy pad to gently scour.
**For heinous messes, heat the pan, adding a bit of water. Use a Tuffy scrubber, and salt, if necessary. Dry, then set in a warm oven.
Remember that cast-iron cookery is part art, part science, but mostly it is an ancient culinary tool. Pat yourself on the back because you've been patient; you've fretted and coddled and oiled and baked. Remember that you aren't just cooking supper in your cast iron--you are continuing to season it. You are also creating an heirloom, a piece of culinary history to pass down through the generations.