In My Kitchen ~ December 2017

In My Kitchen… Gumby (my alter ego) lives on via a repeat photo I’ve posted through the years whenever I have less “gumb-tion” than time. ;) December is my busiest month “musically” and I thank you for bearing with me. I LOVE that lil’ green guy and his inherent enthusiasm; he mirrors mine about life, the forth-coming holidays, and FUN in general. Every day deserves the “Gumby wave!”

In My Kitchen… are more blessings than I could possibly count. A lil’ over a month ago a surprise “Boho” box arrived from my friend, Ally, of Ally’s Kitchenand I’ve been enjoying every goodie she sent me ever since. Table linens, towels, aprons, kitchen gadgets, and more. (Photos forthcoming soon.) What fun!

In My Kitchen…  holiday festivity is ensuing. Between practicing the piano, attending myriad rehearsals, volunteering to help those less fortunate (I feel SO blessed), and attending to family (isn’t that what it’s all about?), my days and nights are oft mixed up but I’m grateful for the inspiration and opportunity to “sleep in” whenever my creative limits exceed the clock. Plus, my son is about to grill his infamous burgers. Oh my! Did I mention blessed?

For additional merriment (or summer fun in the Southern hemisphere), please visit Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings for more IMK posts spanning the globe — or add your own kitchen doings by the 10th this month. Merry Christmas!

Enjoying every “Gumby wave” moment,

~ Kim

Boxing Day Memories

Memories or Memorabilia

When I look at the mementos I’ve tucked away through the years — gifts from family and friends, or reminders of special occasions — I realize they aren’t the memories themselves. The process of remembering is aided by them, but memories are intangible — and some are clearer than others.

Boxing Day some thirty-odd years ago was one of those occasions that left an imprint on my heart more than my mind — an overall “feeling” rather than total recall. What I do remember is warmth… hospitality… generosity.

After my whirlwind tour of England and Scotland, I was ready to settle down for a long winter’s nap and assimilate everything I’d seen, heard, or done. The guest room was quiet, cozy, and adorned with knickknacks and objects d’art twice as old as America (a fact that still boggles my mind) and it didn’t take long to drift off to dreamland under a layer of quilts with a heater at the foot of the bed.

The next morning, I awoke to the sounds and smells of a bustling kitchen. (Don’t you just love that?) The aroma of potatoes and onions mingling with sausage and bacon prompted me to dress quickly and join the muted conversations below. Coffee, tea, scones, eggs — a veritable repast — awaited.

Boxing Day brunch was a tradition the host family relished. As guests arrived at the front door, they were greeted with a heartfelt “Merry Christmas!” and directed to the dining room to indulge and imbibe at will. Champagne corks began popping and lively conversational banter continued throughout the day. The conviviality of it has stayed with me for life.

I learned that Boxing Day is so named because gifts are “boxed” and dispatched to household staff members on their day off (December 26th), having worked Christmas Day. The very thought of it brings to mind the over-sized turkey Mr. Scrooge took great delight in delivering to Bob Cratchit’s home — a sincere thank you for services well-rendered. Boxing Day is also designated as a day to donate to the needy, a tradition that hearkens back centuries.

Meanwhile back at the brunch… one dish that stood out in my mind (funny how I can always remember food) was a cheese soufflé the hostess described as: “not your classical soufflé, but reliable.” I describe it as: “cheese-flavored air.” Sigh…

In between sips and bites, I fielded queries from guests wondering about “the young American woman in England at Christmastime.” Their candor and humor was refreshing and I had to smile when someone asked: “Are you one of those liberated women?” Traveling alone wasn’t as commonplace then as it is now and I guess my adventurous streak was showing.

Another appetizer I enjoyed tremendously (recipe graciously shared by the hostess and later adapted by me) were Cheese Straws. Perfect with champagne — and Christmas. Sometimes simplicity is the ideal backdrop for festivity.

Cheese Straws

Cheese Straws

1 1/3 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
3 oz. cold butter*
4 oz. grated cheese**
1 egg yolk, beaten
1/4 c. cold water, divided

*Grate the butter first, followed by the cheese. Easy clean up!

**Per original recipe: “Use a highly flavoured cheese such as aged sharp Cheddar.”

Preheat oven to 450° F. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Rub in butter and cheese with your fingers until evenly distributed.

In a small bowl, mix the egg yolk with two tablespoons cold water. Work the liquid into the flour, then add enough remaining water (as needed) to make a stiff, yet pliable dough. (Best to do this with your hands so you can “feel” the consistency.)

Roll out dough thinly on a lightly floured surface; trim and cut into “straws.”

Bake on ungreased baking sheets until golden brown, about 7 minutes.

Note: I bake the trimmings as a “trial batch” to judge the amount of time. (They make a delicious snack with a glass of wine while you’re baking the rest.)

These can also be made in advance. Bake until just golden, about 5 minutes. Cool completely, then freeze. Reheat 2 to 3 minutes at 450° (watch closely) until browned.

Serve warm. Makes 4 dozen.

Boxing Day continues to be one of my favorite memories, and the lessons I learned about hospitality are ones I’m pleased to share in my own home.

 

Wishing you many delightful memories and a very Merry Christmas!

Enjoying reminiscing,

~ Kim

The Trip of A Lifetime (Memories of Christmas in England)

Boxing Day Memories

It was Christmastime and I was twenty-one. It was also the first time I’d traveled anywhere by myself, let alone internationally. A childhood chum had extended an invitation for me to visit while she was on break from university in London and when you’re twenty-one anything is possible.

With visions of A Christmas Carol dancing in my head, I stepped onto a plane with a passport, hiking boots, and a backpack — my suitcase got lost in Iceland en route, but that’s another story — and set off on the trip of a lifetime.

Once my plane landed at Heathrow, I tried to contact my friend but the number she’d given me was busy, or so I thought. I hung up and tried again. After repeating this process myriad times she finally answered, breathless from dashing down three flights of stairs every time the communal phone in her dorm lobby rang. Apparently ‘busy signals’ in the U.S. and British phone-rings at that time sounded remarkably similar. We laughed at my naivety and chalked it up to live and learn. The adventure had begun.

During the following week I did everything I’d ever dreamed or read about… toured the Tower of London, ogled the Crown Jewels, rode red double-decker buses, sipped High Tea at Harrods, whisked about on The Tube, traveled on trains, dined at a pub in Exeter where I had my first taste of Devonshire clotted cream (sigh…), hiked to Stonehenge, marveled at the Minster and made a side trip to Edinburgh, including an accidental foray over the Firth of Forth and back with bagpipes in the background.

Basking in history centuries older than the country I’d left days before obviously made a lasting impression on me.

Souvenirs

We were scheduled to arrive at our host family’s home the afternoon of Christmas Eve, but our train went missing (never did find out an explanation for that) and after waiting what seemed hours, a replacement provided by BritRail chugged into the station — an antique collection of cars attached to an engine reminiscent of “The Wild, Wild West.” Settling onto the leather-covered bench seats opposite three distinguished-looking gentlemen, my friend and I chattered excitedly while our compartment mates did their utmost to ignore us by immersing themselves in their newspapers.

Ten minutes from our destination, I reached into my coat pocket and discovered a sprig of mistletoe I’d tucked away during an entertaining evening at a club in Exeter a few nights prior. Nudging my friend, I nodded at the sprig covertly hidden in my hand; she followed suit and palmed her mistletoe. Grinning at the prospect of a surprise attack, we waited for the train to come to a stop.

When the compartment doors opened, we sprang from our seats, held our respective mistletoe over the gentlemen’s heads, and planted a good-natured kiss on their cheeks. The previous disdain they had displayed toward “giggly tourists” quickly dissolved into surprised smiles, and as I stepped onto the platform I was tickled to hear one of them exclaim: “By jove, my luck has changed!”

Following a harrowing car ride to our host’s home (apparently there was no speed limit and our young escort seemed to relish that fact), we drove under a brick-walled arch toward a quaint two-story cottage. I can only describe it as transplanted out of a fairy tale. Gables. Ivy-covered walls. A formal garden around back. Leaded-glass windows. Wisps of smoke curling upward from tall chimneys perched above a slate roof.

Inside we were welcomed warmly — like family — followed by an invitation to gather in the the study for cocktails. For some reason, sherry came to mind. Alhough I’d never tasted a drop in my life, it seemed like the befitting beverage for such an historic occasion and our host was happy to oblige. Strolling to a closet adjacent to the hearth, he swung open the heavy door to reveal Waterford crystal goblets and decanters lining the shelves, with rows of wine bottles in the recesses. Then he invited us to be seated in the wingback chairs surrounding the fireplace to get acquainted.

I don’t know which thrills me more — experiencing it or remembering it.

Our Christmas Day celebration included champagne and wine (before, during, and after dinner) followed by additional fireside glasses of sherry. Merriment was a high priority and imbibing was part of the deal. Who was I to question English hospitality? When you’re twenty-one…

Dinner was a formal affair (thank heavens I packed one “dressy” outfit in my backpack) and the antique crystal, china, and silver gleaming in the glow of candles on the linen-covered table was absolutely lovely. Each dish was carried in from the kitchen with great fanfare, one at a time, with hearty appreciation expressed to the cook amidst oohs and ahhs. Roast turkey. Chestnut stuffing. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Chutney. Plum pudding. I felt like I was a guest at the Cratchit’s and I can still “taste” every dish.

Gifts

Our hosts were mindful that my friend and I were having our first Christmas away from home, and following dinner, they thoughtfully surprised us with gifts to open as their family opened theirs. Although my paperweight and trinket box are a lil’ worse for wear (three decades later), they’ve found a permanent place in my home — and heart.

But, the event that stands out in my mind is Boxing Day December 26th — the British extension of Christmas replete with brunch, hors d’oeuvres, tasty leftovers — and yes, more cocktails. That aside, Boxing Day is best known for its benevolence — a time to bless the less fortunate — and y’all know how I feel about giving.

In the next week or so, I’ll be sharing appetizer recipes from my English hosts, along with my first-ever attempt at “flaming” a plum pudding. It’s been steeping for weeks — have your fire extinguishers at the ready!

Merry Christmas, sweet friends. And God bless us every one.

Enjoying the joy of memories,

~ Kimby

Have you been away from home during the holidays? What do you remember most?

A Totally Unedited Post (okay, a couple of times to proofread) and an Appeal…

6 December 2013

Dear Ones,

I’m sooooo at the mercy of my creative soul. (Inspiration comes in the most unlikely forms and at the most unexpected times.) Thanks for bearing with me, blog world pals and new friends! xo

Take our recent snowstorm, for instance. Some might view it as an inconvenience, but I look at it as a break from life… and blogging.

A much needed break. (Back at’cha next weekend.)

I’m talking slow-simmered, re-evaluate as you go, throw another log on the fire, take a NAP, think it over twice before you hit the “send” button (except now), and give it some serious consideration first.

Why are you blogging? What do you want from it? What do you get from it? What do you give? (Emphasis on the last musing.)

In this online world of pretty pictures (some? all? enhanced…) as opposed to the very real world of poverty around me, it gets to be a bit much at times. The dichotomy of it digs at me — deeply.

Folks are starving here… and not just here.

Frankly, I plain ol’ don’t care if my pictures are food photo worthy (or not) or if my recipes are on the cutting edge of trendiness. (Well, I do to some extent…if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy; refer to “creative soul” above.)

What I care about more is that hungry people are fed.

Staring that statement in the face, I guess that’s why I’m here.

No. I know that’s why I’m here.

To feed your soul (hopefully)… as well as the stomachs of those in hunger.

I love having a purpose!

Between the surreal (albeit blessed) world of posting about my latest kitchen paraphernalia (and/or recipes) versus the real need of donating to our local food shelf, I might just make a difference to someone somewhere. It’s not for naught.

My efforts matter… and so do yours!

O Christmas Tree

During this holiday season (often fraught with excess), please choose to make a difference to someone in need. Step up to the plate — not just those with artful backgrounds — and donate generously to your local food pantry.

That’s it. Thank you. Love y’all!

Enjoying more blessings than I can count,

~ Kimby

My “Boho” Blue Christmas

Blue Christmas

Sometimes I can be soooo serious when I’m pursuing my pursuits, I need to be reminded to have FUN.  (Plus I live with the King of Calm — aka The Man Of Few Words.)  He rubs off on ya after awhile. :)

Thankfully, someone came along out of the blue to shine their sparkle on the possibilities in front of my eyes and make me realize that I’ve settled for the same ol’, same ol’.  (Which is pleasant and peaceful, but it doesn’t accurately portray the party going on in my head!)

That special someone is Ally Phillips…

If you’re not acquainted with Ally, please head over to Ally’s Kitchenor better yet, check out her Holiday eCookbook series!  Chock full of sumptuous recipes and exquisite (yet inexpensive) decorating ideas, Ally’s ebooks are guaranteed to make any day (not just holidays) more sparkly — spontaneous — FUN!

After reading (and drooling) through Boho Holidays Sweet Treats and Boho Holidays Sides of Delight & Soulful Giving, I was inspired to go on a scavenger hunt for treasures with “Boho potential” in my own home!  Here’s what I found…

Boho bouquet

A vase full of silk flowers (from our wedding) with a lil’ added sparkle!

Boho frankincense and myrrh

Boho blue plates

Decorative bottles (which have starred in many a Christmas pageant as “Frankincense and Myrrh” holders), along with these plates I’d tucked away for a virtual baby shower earlier this year… just in case another sweet blogging friend o’mine had a baby boy. ;)

Then I added a few baubles…

Boho soup bowl

Boho bling

And while I was at it, I took down the drapes and hung ornaments from the curtain rods…

Boho danglies 2

Converted a bench into a serving table…

Boho side table

And followed that with a break!  (Gather ’round the tree…)

Boho "family photo"

After which, I dressed up the center of the dining room table…

Boho centerpiece

Rearranged “faux gifts” under the tree (I don’t shop ’til Dec. 24th!)

Boho gifts and tree

Set out my favorite Christmas decoration of all…

Jesus is the Reason for the Season

And called it a day!!!

Welcome to My “Boho” Blue Christmas…

A Boho Blue Christmas

(There’s food involved, too… more on that in the New Year!)

Wishing you blessings, memories, and FUN during the holidays. xo

Enjoying a lil’ inspired creativity,

~ Kim

P.S.  ‘Twas my own idea to to promote Ally’s ebooks.

Deck The Halls (A Teeny Tiny Lil’ Post)

Deck the halls... and chairs

Hi, everybody!  Just wanted to let you know I’m still holding down my corner of the planet… festively, I might add. :)

There’s something magical and exciting about decorating for the holidays.  It creates a wonderland of merriment and transforms ordinary days into “somethin’ special.”

Whether it’s putting the same time-worn trinkets out year after year, or setting the table “just so,” or trimming the tree (and/or walls, doors, & chairs…), there’s joy in the process and memories in the making.  Most importantly, there’s remembering loved ones, past and present.  “Deck the halls!” I say… with love.

Next up on my agenda is a guest post “coming soon” to a blog y’all know & love… thanks for staying tuned!

Enjoying festivity and memories,

~ Kim

My True Love Gave To Me…

It all started with a package of Portabellas…

And a trip to Lovera’s Italian Market

All, courtesy of The Man Of Few Words.

When it comes to gift-giving, he throws convention out the window.  (Gotta love a guy who knows nothing would thrill his wife more than quality ingredients and time to play with her food.)

This is one of the yummiest pasta sauces I’ve tasted recently, by it’s lonesome or served as a “side” with Portabella Pork Chops (which I’ll share in an upcoming post.)

Linguine with Gorgonzola Sauce

(adapted from the recipe on the back of the package)

8 oz. Dell’Alpe Parsley & Parmesan Linguine (or linguine of your choice)

2 Tbsp. butter

1/2 c. cream (I used half & half)

1/2 c. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

1/3 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Cerignola and Castelvetrano olives (for garnish)

Prepare pasta as directed on package.

Meanwhile, heat butter and cream in a small saucepan.  Stir in Gorgonzola and Parmesan until melted.  (I left a few “chunks” of Gorgonzola…)

When pasta is al dente, drain and return to pan.  (Reserve some pasta water to thin the sauce, if desired.)  Pour sauce over pasta; toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper and garnish with olives or what have you.  Serve immediately.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

An unexpected gift?  You bet!  I’ve learned to expect nothing less from my true love.

Wishing you peace, joy, and gifts that tickle your fancy,

~ Kim