Archive for November, 2010

turk2My recent posting about my family’s heirloom Turkey Platter got me to thinking about purchasing new Thanksgiving related tableware to start a new tradition.

I saw this Thanksgiving butter dish and accompanying salt and pepper shakers on Gump’s website and think I have found just what I need.

Gump’s is San Francisco ’s landmark purveyor of finer things, and I just fell in love with these items described as such: “Bring more than one turkey to your harvest table. Displaying the iconic turkey gobbler, our covered butter dish and salt and pepper shakers are fashioned from earthenware with embossed details, then glazed in warm autumn shades.”

I hope to hear my great niece or nephew one day say “we have the butter dish so I guess we are stuck hosting Thanksgiving dinner.”

turkey_platterSeveral years ago while looking around one of the many closets in my parents’ house that was stuffed with artifacts, I came across a giant platter with an image of a turkey on it. I pulled it out, showed it to my mother, and asked her why we were not using it every Thanksgiving.

My mother saw that platter and was instantly sentimental. “Where did you find that?” I told her. “That was one of the few things I have from my mother’s family.

My mother went on to tell me a story about her mother and her aunt, her mom’s sister. Apparently they were very close, but had a volatile relationship. My grandmother would get mad at her sister and then break anything she could find that was related to her.

The platter was handed down from at least two prior generations, and oddly, came from Italy . Anyway, somehow it made it to my grandmother via her sister and was spared the fate of so many other would-be family heirlooms.

In modern times, the platter has been reintroduced to our family and comes out every year for thanksgiving. For most of the past several years, that dinner was held at my parent’s rural New Hampshire country home. That was up until last year when we moved my parents to a more convenient adult community.

Somewhere along the way I lost track of the platter, until recently when I was talking to my teenage nephew about where we were going to have thanksgiving dinner. He said, “Well, my mom has the platter, so I guess we’re hosting.”

Thus the family heirloom turkey platter passes to a new generation.

lib.11.2010We are back in Argentina for a little vacation in November for the second straight year and we continue to be surprised by this hectic and quirky city.

One new place we discovered on this trip is a book store.  Book stores may not be a destination for many while on vacation, as they are not normally tourist destinations.  But we read about a book store in the Recoleta neighborhood that we just had to check out — El Ateneo Grand Splendid.

Located on Santa Fe, one of the city’s main shopping streets, El Ateneo Grand Splendid is the flagship store of the El Ateneo chain – think the Barnes & Noble of Argentina. This bookstore is amazing. It is pretty much like any other large bookstore as far as inventory – but this place is special as it is located inside a glorious old theater. Picture a theater with the seats removed and a bookstore put in.

The place is absolutely wonderful. Pictures do not do it justice. Basically the interior is as it was when it was a theater – complete with a café behind the curtains where the stage once was. We browsed around for a while – and bought a couple of books.

But we were truly impressed with an amazing setting for a bookstore. Places like El Ateneo Grand Splendid make you feel good – in a time when websites and e-readers threaten libraries and printed text – that there are still places that celebrate books in a grand fashion.

We are back in Buenos Aires for some rest, relaxation and exploration.IMG_0748

We visited last year and were delighted by this busting metropolis’s spirit of renewal.

In the coming days we will be making a few posts about our adventures and finds before we head back to the States to celebrate Thanksgiving and get ready for Christmas and the holiday season.

So stay tuned!

moonshine1I will admit that when I wrote about Tuthilltown Spirits’ Hudson Four Grain bourbon recently, the thought crossed my mind that I thought that bourbon could only be made in Kentucky.  After all, all the bourbons I ever had had come from there.

But apparently the Federal code – the Feds regulate such things – states:

“Bourbon whisky”, “rye whisky”, “wheat whisky”, “malt whisky”, or “rye malt whisky” is whisky produced at not exceeding 160 proof from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent corn, rye, wheat, malted barley, or malted rye grain, respectively, and stored at not more than 125 proof in charred new oak containers; and also includes mixtures of such whiskies of the same type.

It has nothing to do with location, as like Champagne for example.  So I guess we are all free to make bourbon wherever we are.

After the Tuthilltown posting, I was turned on to another New York State maker bourbon – this one in New York City no less: Kings County Distillery.  Kings County Distillery  calls themselves, quite cheekily, “New York City’s oldest operating whiskey distillery” as it has only been licensed since April 14, 2010.

Kings County Distillery is the first licensed maker of whiskey, bourbon, and moonshine in New York City proper since prohibition.  Very cool. 

I will be tracking down some of this Kings County bourbon, but it may be a while since they are so new.  It seems the moonshine is the first product to market.

yhst-65633669773184_2128_4588541These are the coolest postcards I have seen in some time:  The Make Cities Postcards and Papercraft.  These cut-out and fold cards feature icons of London , Paris and New York , respectively and are quite unique.  I would love to be sent one of these or send them myself to friends and family who I know would love them. 

Sophie first saw these in a shop in Sydney and did not purchase them.  She found them on the shop’s website but they did not ship internationally.  But thanks to the good folks at Yahoo search we found them for sale in the US! These cool postcards are available from a few retailers, but we found a complete set at Architect Gifts Plus – where you can find other fun stuff as well.

About Make Cities Postcards: “The three original Make Cities Postcards and Papercraft sets are London , New York and Paris . Designed by Keisuke Saka, each Make City set has five cards that can be cut and assembled into miniature models of famous city icons. You can make them or mail them! Make City cards are packed in a clear plastic sleeve with a cover showing the completed models. The New York set includes the Empire State Building (with King Kong), the Brooklyn Bridge with the Staten Island Ferry, a Yellow Taxi Cab, a Bagel & Coffee and the infamous street Lunch Cart. A Bit of London has the Tower Bridge , a Double Decker Bus, a Buckingham Palace Guard, an electric guitar sporting the Union Jack and Fish and Chips with a Pint. Un Peu de Paris includes the Eiffel Tower , the Moulin Rouge, the Arc de Triomphe, a charming carousel and an accordion.”

My favorite is the Empire State Building cut-out, complete with King Kong and a miniature Faye Wray.  Very cool!

Architect Gifts Plus

MachineTop-GenesisI drink a ton of soda.  Too much some say.  But I love the stuff.  Although I drink mostly Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi (I am not brand loyal) I also love a good seltzer. 

Every time I go to the supermarket my cart fills up quickly with the various beverages.  I usually have four or five twelve packs of cans, another five or six two liter bottles of diet cola, and a bunch of one liter seltzers.  More often than not the cashier will say something like: “thirsty?” – to which I pretend it is the first time I ever heard it.

Then of course I drink the stuff which results in a bunch of empties – which in Massachusetts (where I live) are returnable for a 5 cent deposit.  Even with the volume of my empties, I can’t be bothered to return the bottles, so at home I save them up until I have a big bag full which I put out for the recycle truck – but more often than not get taken away by someone who is willing to do the leg work.  I am fine with that.  At the office, I put my returnables in a donation box which goes to help some local charity.

Anyway, I often think about this endless cycle of consumption and waste and think to myself:  “there has to be a better way!”

Well, I think I have finally found the alternative – make my own soda and seltzers at home. To accomplish this, I have recently ordered a home soda maker from Soda Stream.

About Soda Stream“Making carbonated water and soft drinks is simple! Turn tap water into sparkling water in under 30 seconds, with no clean-up. Enjoy the freshness and convenience of homemade soda and protect the environment at the same time. No heavy bottles to carry, store at home or throw away. Fizz to your taste and add the flavor of your choice to make your favorite drink. Simple to clean and reuse. With a variety of colors and silhouettes, you’ll be sure to find a soda maker to match with any decor.”

Of course seltzer bottles have been around forever and this is just a twist on that – but I love how they make it so easy and offer a few different cool styles of the product.  I will provide a complete report.  This could be the next slow cooker or bread machine!

beejhiveYou just have to love the great pieces made by the artisians of AS Baxter.

Like this great beehive hinge finial.

About SA Baxter: “SA Baxter designs and manufactures custom and semi-custom door hardware, custom cabinet hardware, custom window hardware, as well as completely custom hardware designs of stunning complexity in the industry’s widest selection of finishes and alloys for high-end residential homes and buildings. From door knobs and door pulls, and window levers to cabinet knobs, all of SA Baxter’s hardware are manufactured by world-renowned artisans end-to-end in its upstate New York foundry and atelier.”

See all the custom and semi-custom hardware of SA Baxter here.

hudsonI am preparing for the concerned notes from friends and family when I yet again talk about one of my favorite things that some may classify as a “vice.” I have said it before and I would say it again, I like Bourbon!

It’s true. I love everything about it. As a non-drinker well into my 30’s, I have recently developed a taste for bourbon, go figure. Not the cheap stuff either – the finer the bourbon the more I love it. Thankfully (Mom!) I do not drink it very often, so on those special occasions I can justify spending a little bit more than the cost of the average beer.

I have been trying to track down as many of the small batch bourbons as I can. There has been quite a revival in the bourbon world, and it is not just Kentucky anymore.

I just discovered Tuthilltown Spirits based in New York . In business for the past several years, Tuthilltown has been making destilled spirits in New York for the first time since Prohibition. One of their products is Hudson Four Grain bourbon whiskey, which I can’t wait to get my hands on to try.

About Tuthilltown Spirits‘ Hudson Four Grain bourbon whiskey: “Hudson Four Grain bourbon whiskey brings together the distinct characteristics of corn, rye, wheat and malted barley. Each batch starts with 800 pounds of grain which is ground at the distillery, cooked and fermented, then distilled twice. It is aged in our signature small barrels. Our Four Grain Bourbon is a rich full-flavored spirit. The grains are perfectly suited one to the others so that the end result balances the soft richness of corn, the sharp peppery notes of rye, all the smooth subtlety of wheat and the sweetness of malted barley. Each bottle is hand numbered.”

I love the whole idea of this bourbon – made in New York , small batches, and I love the look of the bottle and labeling. I will report back on what I find. I may even (gasp!) smoke a fine cigar while I sip my bourbon.

matchstickI had a container garden on my back deck this year as I have for the past several years. I love tending to it all season long. I usually start from seed inside the house and then transplant to containers that line one side of my deck in an area that gets good sun. I usually go to a local nursery to purchase some flowers and other plants to supplement what I grew from seeds.

I have done this many times to varying degrees of success. This year I made a fatal mistake of growing a ton of soybeans. I have no business growing soybeans but I though it might be fun to have some fresh edamame. I devoted maybe half of my container space to the soybeans and had excellent growth. The soybean plants were healthy, had great blooms and are still going strong. However, my yield was exactly one soybean pod. One!

I did not have much luck with the tomatoes or peppers either. I have plenty of basil, which is nice. Most of all I enjoyed tending the garden, but it is a lot of work. I admire anyone who can successfully manage a productive garden, it is not as easy as it looks.

This experience with my container garden was in the back of my mind recently, when I came across the Herb Matchstick Garden from the Modern Garden section of Aha Modern Living.

The Herb Matchstick Garden is described: “Join the green revolution with Matchstick Garden . It’s your own portable garden that fits in your pocket. Simply tear off a matchstick brimming with various herb seeds and plant it in the ground, or container, and add a little water from your favorite water bottle. The herbs are Basil, Chives, Parsley, and Thyme.”

Oh, it looks so easy! Next year I am just going to go the way of the matchstick garden and see if I can beat my record yield from this season.