February 28, 2011

St. David’s Day

March 1 is St. David’s Day (Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Sant), and St. David is the patron saint of Wales, where I lived.  Wales is one of those very under-the-radar places, but it’s spectacular. Let’s have a little geography lesson, shall we?P1010083 Wales is to the left of England, when you’re looking at a map. england It is separated from England by the Severn River, as well Offa’s Dyke, a linear earthworks. It is surrounded on three sides by water – the Bristol Channel on the south side, the Irish Channel to the west and north. Wales has more than 700 miles of coastline. Because of how far north Wales is, it has major tidal swings – often 30 or more feet between high and low tide.beach Wales is surrounded by the Ring of Iron – all of the castles that protected Wales from invaders via the land and sea.  There are 400 castles, or castle ruins in Wales, and about 100 of those are still intact. I worked at St. Donat’s Castle, built in the 1200’s along the south coast of Wales. st. donats 8One of other castles I visited regularly was Caerphilly Castle, the second largest castle in the UK after Windsor Castle.  With the late summer sunsets, I used to drive the 10 miles to Caerphilly and do a walk around the perimeter of the castle’s property and listen to BBC Radio 4. caerphilly castle at dusk Another castle that I visited often was Fonmon Castle, owned by one of my colleagues and her family. It was just a “small” castle, but it had been in her family for 600+ years. It was covered with a veil of Virginia Creeper, which turned an amazing scarlet colour in the fall. You can see it just beginning to change below.fonmon_castle_main The national symbols of Wales are the daffodil and the leek. At rugby games, where there would be 60,000 people yelling and singing – mostly Tom Jones’ songs – they would be waving inflatable leeks and daffs. If you’ve never tried a leek, they’re like mild onions, and look like huge spring or green onions.leeksHere’s a great and simple recipe for Welsh Leek Soup or Cawn Cennin (serves 6-8)

  • 4 slices of raw bacon
  • 6 thick leeks, trimmed of the roots and dark green, then chopped
  • 10 cups chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. In a large soup pot, sauté the bacon over medium heat until crisp -then remove it from the pan, drain on paper towels, and reserve it for the garnish.
  2. In the soup pot, reheat the bacon grease over medium heat and stir in the leeks, turning to coat them, and sautéing for several minutes, until they take on a little golden color.
  3. Pour in the stock, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Purée, solids first, then pour back into the pot. (I use an immersion blender for this task.) Season to taste.
  4. When ready to serve, reheat the soup over medium high heat, then ladle it into bowls and top with crumbled bacon and fresh circles of leek.

Garnish: Crumbled crisp bacon and a few circles of sliced leek per bowl. You can also add diced potatoes and cream for a more hearty soup.

Happy St. David’s Day!

February 26, 2011


And the winner of the BAKE! cookbook is:BAKE! Winner I’ve never had that happen before! The random number generated is usually in the middle of the the group somewhere, so this was funny to see.

Oh, you want to know who number 1 is? Why it’s Nelle, the writer of local blog, Stone Hill Farm! nelle   johnIn addition to writing about her lovely cottage on Stone Hill, she writes about cooking and baking. So, Nelle… what are you gonna make for me?

February 25, 2011

American Craft Council Review

I am always so impressed with the sheer number of vendors who present at the ACC Show each year. To be in the presence of so many talented people makes me really appreciate what they all do.

As we strolled through the show this afternoon, I was so taken with all that I was seeing, that I was distracted from taking lots of pictures.  But here’s a sample of some things that we saw.

While this teapot looks like a shaggy dog,ACC2011 001 when you get close up, you can see what it actually is.  Dollar bills!ACC2011 002 I was fascinated with this necklace.ACC2011 004 In addition to my friend Liz at The Felted Garden, there were a number of other felters there. This gal had added silk to her wool to make this gorgeous scarf.ACC2011 005 Local crafter, Caitlin Phillips and her Rebound Designs, makes handbags out of old books. They’re so clever!

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I remember this clay-master from last year and just love the colours and shapes of his works.

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One of the most fun things about attending the ACC show is seeing everyone wear the pieces that they have purchased in years past. This gal had on the most striking cape.ACC2011 014 I was quite taken with this artisan who casts everything from items found in nature. 

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This wall was pretty incredible! These reminded me of Madonna’s cone bra.ACC2011 028I was at a friend’s house for lunch the other day and she had the most amazing collection of old buttons. I thought these pieces were very clever.

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The colours in these glass jars really caught my eye.ACC2011 032 The American Crafts Council show in Baltimore runs through Sunday.

February 24, 2011

Reminder: Win the BAKE! Cookbook

Just a reminder to let me know by midnight Friday, February 26th, if you’d like to win Pastry Chef Nick Malgieri’s new cookbook, BAKE!Bake!The winner will also receive two of Chef Nick’s recipes that are not in the book. One is for the fabulous Chocolate Bourbon Cake, 2-20 050 and the other is for the Roman Anise, Almond, And Hazelnut Biscotti. 2-20 051 I can personally attest to the fact that both of these recipes are fabulous!

If you are a baker, I know that you will want this autographed copy of BAKE! for your culinary library!

American Craft Council 2011

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the American Craft Council, and in Baltimore, we’re lucky enough to have one of the major ACC shows. Every year, around this time, the 700+ vendors come into town with their amazing wares, and I always attend the show on Friday evening. It’s generally less crowded at that time, and you can get a few minutes to speak with the artists and craftspeople who are exhibiting.

For the third year, my friend Elizabeth at The Felted Garden is coming. I have one of her rose scarves, and it’s just gorgeous. ACC1 Shaari Horowitz, who was just featured on Libby Wilkie’s great blog, An Eye For Detail, will be showing her amazing painted bowls. ACC3 I always love looking at the stunning jewelry at the show, and this year, I am going to make a beeline for Lush Metals (love the name!) and see her other pieces, since I like this one so much.ACC4 Observatory Place is a new exhibitor this year and I love the use of colour in these ottomans. New this year are several different sections:

HANDMADE UNDER $100: A perfect category for people just starting their addiction to craft! Don’t miss out on this fabulous collection of items for $100 or less.

LAWN & GARDEN: Features artists who craft furniture and decorative accessories to compliment and withstand the fluctuations of the great outdoors.

GREEN CRAFT: As a reflection of our social responsibility to the environment, this category features artists who incorporate recycled or found materials and use eco-friendly techniques into creating their work.

ALTCRAFT:  The Council invited artists whose work illustrates the innovative techniques and materials of the burgeoning new handmade craft movement to apply to a special section of the show.  The Council is proud to present a national stage for these artists who tend to exhibit at smaller, local craft shows.

DEMO STAGE: Lively demonstrations, with topics ranging from ceramics, glass, fiber, jewelry and wood techniques, will be presented by local experts.

Tickets are available here.

February 22, 2011

Suggestions for David

My terrific friend, David Wiesand is heading to London and Paris. We spent a few fun hours the other day talking about places to visit, but as always, the best recommendations come from friends.pinky 006You’ve seen David’s amazing work on my blog and on his, so you might have a sense of his aesthetic. 01-27 010 My list for David includes the Sir John Soane Museum, LASSCO, LasscoBattersea Liberty, and Heals in London. heals1And in Paris, the Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt, E.Dehillerin,edehillerinand of course, Shakespeare and Company Books. shakespeare and coWhat are your suggestions for David?

February 21, 2011

House Hunting

I was in a neighbourhood in Baltimore where I’ve not been before and discovered some really gorgeous houses of the style that I like so much.2-20 008They’re about the same era as the one where I was raised, or maybe a little younger. This area has similar architectural and landscape qualities to it, sitting on the edge of one of the largest urban parks in the country. Unfortunately, it’s also where everyone knows that you stash the bodies.

But it was a lot of fun to see the dozen or so houses I spotted!

I love the way the two wings on this house work with the central piece, and I love the front porch. 2-20 003 I am a sucker for a shingle cottage style house with a porch, and the railings on this one, especially with the picket fence (in the top picture), are just wonderful.2-20 009 I love the Palladian-style window with the Juliet balcony. I am curious to know whether it’s original to the house or not. Also love the stone ground floor.2-20 004This house needs some shutters and a little more pizzaz to it, but I am quite taken by the way the arch over the front door is echoed in the small eyebrow window on the roof.  2-20 006 I love the entrance on this house with the paneling and the windows on either side of the front door. I wish they’d done something else with the mailbox though!2-20 010x This is the house that is in the park. Unfortunately, it’s all but abandoned. The city has a program where you can become a guardian of some of their properties, and this would be a perfect place for someone. 2-20 014 I love how the shed out back echoes the main house. 2-20 016  The garage has a cupola like the main house. 2-20 015 2-20 017 I love discovering new places in Baltimore. I thought I’d seen them all!