Archive for August, 2013

lyngria.1So, it is the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and I am finally getting around to posting about the perfect summer refreshment: Sangria. A couple of weeks ago, I asked my friend Lynda for her recipe for Sangria. She had made it in the past and it was very well received. I am not a drinker of Sangria (it is too sweet and too winey for my taste) but a good friend of mine was coming for a visit and I knew he would like it.

So Lynda sent me the recipe below which I followed exactly and it was a HUGE hit.

The Perfect Summer Sangria

Ingredients:

  • 2 large juice oranges, washed; one orange sliced; remaining orange juiced
  • 1 large lemon, washed and sliced
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar (I like to use superfine sugar)
  • 1/4 cup Triple Sec
  • 1 (750 ml.) bottle inexpensive, fruity, medium-bodied red wine, chilled

Directions:

  • Add sliced orange and lemon and sugar to large pitcher; mash gently with wooden spoon until fruit releases some juice, but is not totally crushed, and sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Stir in orange juice, Triple Sec, and wine; refrigerate for at least 2, and up to 8, hours.
  • Before serving, add 6 to 8 ice cubes and stir briskly to distribute settled fruit and pulp; serve immediately.

My tips:

  • I used a very inexpensive Spanish Rioja and it was perfect! I did not add ice to pitcher – I served it over ice in tall vintage cocktail glasses. Also, you MUST use a wooden spoon for the mixing – it is the traditional method and it looks cool in the pitcher.

When I praised and thanked Lynda for the recipe, and told her I was going to post about it, she wanted to make sure I gave credit where credit is due – and thank her source, the Recipe Girl website where she found the recipe originally.

Find the original recipe for Sangria on Recipe Girl here.

The recipe may not have been hers, but these pictures (above and below) are from Lynda’s own collection of past Sangria successes.

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As much as I lament the fleeting summer, I have chosen to celebrate the arrival of Labor Day and make the most of what is left of warm weather and carefree days. Today, I offer a few Labor Day finds to help make some good times.

FF: 4505’s Uncured Hot Dogs – The best hot dog ever?

4505Forget all the scary things you have heard about the traditional American hot dog. You have not had a quality dog until you have tried the Uncured Hot Dogs from San Francisco-based 4505 Meats.

About 4505’s Uncured Hot Dogs: “4505 Uncured Hot Dogs are inspired by the plump, juicy franks of Ryan Farr’s happy Midwestern youth. Using all-natural ingredients such as celery juice powder, the 4505 Uncured Hot Dogs are made with only the best hormone and antibiotic free meat. These dogs are fully cooked in a smokehouse and are studded with BACON, a tasty feature that is completely unique to the 4505 Dogs.”

Learn more about 4505 Meats, their hot dogs and other fine products, here.

FF: Lusty Monk “Original Sin” Mustard

lmmNow what is a hot dog without mustard? To make a special hot dog and even more special, you have to try the fine mustards of Lusty Monk.

About Lusty Monk: “Once you meet the Monk, you can kiss mediocre mustards goodbye, and say hello to a new world of hearty food. No more boring sandwiches. Bratwurst has never been so heavenly. It’s the pretzel’s best friend, the cook’s secret weapon, the perfect companion for lovers of spice and heat. Lusty Monk is a family-owned, quality-conscious company, devoted to the idea that condiments should never be boring. We lovingly craft the mustard in small batches, and we encourage our brethren to slow down and savor each bite.”

Of course the best is Lusty Monk’s “Original Sin” Mustard: “Lusty Monk ‘Original Sin’ Mustard: how mustard is supposed to taste. This old-style, coarse-ground, original recipe mustard will add a kick to anything you can put on a plate. We process our mustards to preserve the volatile oils that make mustard so heavenly. It’s habit forming. Really.”

Find all the mustards of Lusty Monk here.

FF: The Jams and Marmalades of the Blue Chair Fruit Company

FF2Of course Labor Day is the time of year when people start thinking about the long winter ahead and preserving the bounty of summer by canning jams and marmalade. I have always resisted canning for myself because there are many great commercially available products out there like the fine jams and marmalades of the Blue Chair Fruit Company.

About the Blue Chair Fruit Company: “Blue Chair Fruit Company is the premier artisanal jam and marmalade company in the United States. Located in Oakland, CA, Blue Chair Fruit has redefined preserving through our distinctive brand of modern nostalgia and our exacting approach to fruit and flavors. Our highest priority is using organic and sustainably grown fruit from local growers, and preserving that vibrant fruit flavor by utilizing traditional methods and modern taste sensibilities. In all aspects of our company, from the contents of each jar to packaging to our online presence to the definitive Blue Chair Jam Cookbook, Blue Chair Fruit has reinvented preserving for the modern age.”

I am trying the Blushing Key Lime Marmalade: “The Key limes in this marmalade are blushing with pride because they can’t believe they taste so good! We’ve taken Key limes at the height of their juicy ripeness and transformed them into a mouth-watering marmalade overlaid with the soft pink of strawberries. The coconutty essence of Key lime is pushed to the fore while the sweet bite of ripe strawberries haunts every bite. Our Blushing Key Lime Marmalade will transform your morning from ‘zzzz’ to ‘zzzzip!’”

See all the fine products of the Blue Chair Fruit Company here.

FF: Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Bourbon

OLDrI couldn’t let a collection of Friday Finds centered on good times go by without featuring a fine bourbon, like the spirits of Old Rip Van Winkle.

About Old Rip Van Winkle Bourbon: “The Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery has a four generation history. The Van Winkle family’s involvement in the bourbon industry began in the late 1800s with Julian P. ‘Pappy’ Van Winkle, Sr. He was a traveling salesman for the W.L. Weller and Sons wholesale house in Louisville, traveling around the state by horse and buggy. Pappy and a friend, Alex Farnsley, eventually bought the wholesale house and also purchased the A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery, which made bourbon for Weller. They merged the two companies and became the Stitzel-Weller Distillery. Their prominent brands were W.L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Rebel Yell, and Cabin Still.”

I like Old Rip Van Winkle’s Handmade Bourbon: “10 Year, 107 Proof – This wonderful bourbon is bottled as close to barrel proof as possible. We add just a splash of our Kentucky limestone well-water when we empty the barrels for bottling. Thus, this whiskey is as smooth as any you will find. The more water you add to whiskey from its natural barrel proof to its bottle proof, the harsher it becomes. This 107 barrel proof seems to be just right.”

Read all about Old Rip Van Winkle’s Bourbons here.

Let’s make this a safe and fun Labor Day Weekend for all. Cheers!

SAM_1820 (640x480)Last Saturday I posted about my plans for The Perfect Late Summer Saturday. I planned to spend the day touring various Fairs and Markets in Portland, Maine. Well, I am happy to report that I made it to the Portland Farmers’ Market, The 48th Annual WCSH Sidewalk Art Festival, and the Portland Picnic Music+Arts Festival – and they were all fantastic in their own ways.

I will be posting about some great artists and other vendors I discovered at the Sidewalk Art Festival and the Portland Picnic Music+Arts Festival in upcoming posts. Today, I wanted to share some of the pictures I snapped while walking around the farmers’ market – in full end of summer harvest mode.

I just love when the farmers’ markets are brimming with the bounty of summer. I was particularly thrilled to see several varieties of potatoes from the farm of Maine.

Check out the gallery of my pictures below – click on the thumbnail to see the full picture:

ACMI just finished the wonderful biography of Robert Ripley, A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley by Neal Thompson.

I have mentioned before that I love reading biographies of 20th century icons and this one fit the bill to a tee. I had of course heard of Ripley’s Believe it or Not, but had never really thought about where that brand started or who this Ripley was. Now, in this well-researched book, Mr. Thompson brings the life of Robert Ripley alive and like the legacy he built, keeps him alive for new generations.

About A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert Believe It or Not! Ripley by Neal Thompson: “Howard Hughes crossed with P.T. Barnum, Robert ‘Believe It or Not’ Ripley was a lonely, buck-toothed cartoonist turned eccentric millionaire and renowned world-traveler who in the 1930’s and 1940’s earned international fame by journeying to the farthest corners of the earth in search of the world’s most exotic curiosities. But for all his success in uncovering oddities, no piece of Ripley’s collection was as remarkable as the man himself. From his youth as an awkward young artist with an innate empathy for ‘freaks,’ to his golden years spent on a private island stocked with rare artifacts and strange pets, Ripley lived life on the kind of grand scale normally confined to fiction. Now with A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert ‘Believe It or Not!’ Ripley acclaimed biographer Neal Thompson has delivered a marvelously compelling account of this great American story, told for the first time ever—a thrilling tale of the underdog who taught us to believe in the unbelievable.”

Reading about Ripley one is struck by how the concept of media celebrity is as old as media itself. Ripley was as popular a media force – through his cartoons and related projects – as any figure in our media-saturated culture today – arguably more so. His niche of presenting the bizarre and interesting is still drawing crowds to museums and related attractions around the work that bear his name – and the newspaper feature he started is still syndicated around the world – more than 60 years after his death.

In the end, the story of Robert Ripley is a story of a 20th century American life, the tale of a man who made his way from humble beginnings to the top of his field. Ripley’s life is in many way more fascinating than the facts and stories he illustrated. Believe it.

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley by Neal Thompson is available from Amazon and other fine retailers.

Today in my “Summer Finds” series of things I have found while touring around church fairs, flea markets, arts festival, and country auctions over the past few months are the items I purchased at an estate auction a couple of weeks ago.

While attending the arts show I mentioned the other day in my post about artist Rick Barrett, I saw this painting by another artist that depicted one of the great joys of a New England summer: the traditional country estate auction:

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I was looking at the painting and thinking how much I wanted to attend a good old auction. My chance came a few days later when I was fortunate enough to attend an estate auction in nearby Tamworth, NH conducted by William A. Smith Auctions.

SAM_1661 (640x479)This auction was perfect. The day was perfect and the setting even more perfect – an old-school country estate auction under a tent in a freshly mowed field. There is no better way to spend a day.

The estate, an antique farmhouse loaded with goodies, had been the home of a couple who had lived there for decades and lived long lives, the husband living to over 100 years. 

Although I had my eye on a number of lots, I really did not win much. But I was happy to see spirited bidding and an overall festive atmosphere.

I did end up with a few treasures, like… this antique music stand (left) and this lot of vintage luggage (right) including a classic doctor’s bag:

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I also picked up this small lot of bookends, including these Egyptian-inspired bookends (left) and this gorgeous dog bookend (right):

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Last but certainly not least, I landed this great collection of four original prints.  Hard to see from this picture, but they are quite lovely:

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POBOXMy obsession with bicycles on my trip to epic trip to Italy a couple of years ago has been well documented.

However, I was equally attracted to the mailboxes I spotted throughout Umbria and Tuscany and have finally gotten around to curating them.

I am in the process of creating a gallery of the photos to post here.  In the meantime, I created a book of my post box photos on Shutterfly, which you can check out below. 

Click here to view this photo book larger

You’ll love award-winning Shutterfly photo books. Start your own today.

SAM_1607 (506x640)Next up in my “Summer Finds” series of things I have found while touring around church fairs, flea markets, arts festival, and country auctions over the past few months are the paintings of Rick Barrett (or the artist better known as “Key West Rick”).

I spotted Mr. Barrett’s work at the Artisans on the Green Festival in Sandwich, NH earlier this month. The Artisans on the Green Festival is part of Sandwich’s Old Home Week, which this year marked the 250th anniversary of this charming town’s founding.

Mr. Barrett, who as his nickname suggests, lives most of the year in Florida. However, he told me he was spending the summer painting in New Hampshire. The result of his efforts were many fine works of local landmarks.

RM1The local “landmark” that caught my eye was the wooden outhouse that appeared in one of Mr. Barrett’s paintings. The outhouse lives behind a true landmark, The Old Country Store and Museum in Moultonborough, NH – which is believed to be one the oldest stores in America and oldest continuing business of any kind dating back to 1781. The outhouse in back is somewhat of newer vintage, but is a well-known curiosity on its own and I fell in love with Mr. Barrett’s paintings.

Key West Rick also had a great painting of the Old Country Store itself, but I purchased his painting of the outhouse and drove the five miles down the road to take a picture of the real thing.

The actual “Top Rated” outhouse in Moultonborough, NH:

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Rick Barrett’s (“Key West Rick”) work as displayed at the Artisans on the Green Festival in Sandwich, NH:

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My summer-long love affair with Portland, Maine continues today as I will be heading over there to attend a couple of the small city’s signature summer events including the 48th Annual WCSH Sidewalk Art Festival.

Portland Farmers’ Market

PFMFirst up will be a visit to the Portland Farmers’ Market in the city’s lovely Deering Oaks Park. I visited the Portland Farmers’ Market earlier in the season and loved it. However, I can’t wait to get there today to see the Market in full late summer mode.

About the Portland Farmers’ Market: “The Portland Farmers’ Market is a year-round market featuring fresh, delicious, locally grown foods including vegetables, fruits, herbs, beef, pork, chicken, duck, goat, lamb, milk, cider, cheese, yogurt, eggs, kefir, honey, grains, jams, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, and tempeh. You’ll also find beautiful plants, flowers, and fiber, and so much more! We offer farm products exclusively and you can trust that EVERYTHING at our market was grown and produced in the great state of Maine! Our market has been in existence since 1768 and we are proud to continue to offer the Portland Community a place to come together and enjoy the bounty of Maine’s harvest! You can enjoy the market and support local farmers year-round at the Portland Farmers’ Market!”

The Portland Farmers’ Market runs Saturdays through the fall at Deering Oaks Park in Portland from 7:00am-Noon

The 48th Annual WCSH Sidewalk Art Festival

WCSHNext I plan to make my way over to the WCSH Sidewalk Art Festival which pretty much takes over Portland’s downtown streets.

I remember making the pilgrimage to this fair every summer when I was a kid and it was a highlight of vacation (even though it came in late August and signaled the end of summer and we would go back-to-school shopping while in the “big” city).

The WCSH Sidewalk Art Festival attracts artists from all over the country and is one of the nicest fairs of its type in New England.

Find a map of the 48th Annual WCSH Sidewalk Art Festival here.

Portland Picnic Music+Arts Festival

ppicMeanwhile on the other end of the city, the upstart Picnic Music+Arts Festival is a perfect complement to the more established Sidewalk Art Festival. Now in its sixth year, Portland’s Picnic Music+Arts Festival celebrates the more independent artisans (read: hipsters) and is a lot of fun.

About the 6th Annual Picnic Music+Arts Festival: “Hi everyone! The 6th Annual Picnic Music+Arts Festival will take place on Saturday, August 24, 2013! This juried indie craft fair will be held outdoors at Lincoln Park on Congress and Franklin Streets, in Portland ME. The festival will run from 11am to 6pm, rain or shine. The Picnic Music+Arts Festival will feature over 100 vendors selling clothing, jewelry, prints, accessories, bags, plush, stationery, photography, housewares, fine art, vintage goods, and more.”

See more about Portland’s Picnic Music+Arts Festival here.

Portland Flea For All

FFAWhile in town I hope to check out the weekends-only Flea For All which I had posted about in the past. When I discovered the Flea For All it was on a weekday so I made a note to check it out when I was next in Portland on a weekend – so today could be the day.

About the Portland Flea For All: “The Portland Flea-for-All is a vintage, antique and artisan marketplace located in the heart of Portland’s Bayside neighborhood. With a rotating cast of vendors, everything from antique furniture to vintage clothing to handmade jewelry to classic vinyl is on display. Whether or not you have a special item in mind, chances are you’ll find something at the Flea.”

See more about the Portland Flea For All here.

Acton Fair – Acton, ME

ACFAs if all these great events in Portland were not enough, if I have time at the end of the day, I hope to swing by the Action Fair on my way back to New Hampshire. The Acton Fair is the quintessential rural New England agricultural fair and is full of charms and entertainment.

The Acton Fair has everything you want in a country fair, including a midway, music, and plenty of prized livestock on display. But for me it is all about the competitions and the Acton Fair hosts an annual Women’s Skillet Throw and the ever popular Pig Scramble.

The Acton Fair runs through August 25, 2013 at the fairgrounds in Acton, Maine.

As always, check back here in the coming days when I will share with you all the great “finds” I uncover on my perfect Saturday in Portland, Maine.

Excuse the alliteration, but I can’t help myself…

…here are a few Fun Furniture Finds for a Friday.

FF: The Union Jack chest from Overstock.com

UJCI have featured furniture in the past that has been decorated with the Union Jack – a motif I really like. I have seen many treatments for the Union Jack emblazoned across a chest of drawers and even considered painting one myself.

However, like most things on my “to do” list there is always a better option… buying one. For example I love this “distressed” Union Jack small chest I found at Overstock.com.

…and its companion Union Jack cabinet.

See the Union Jack small chest from Overstock here.

Find the Union Jack cabinet from Overstock here.

FF: The Butler’s Table from Baker Furniture

bttbttStaying on the furniture theme, one of my favorite things is a vintage butler’s table that I inherited from my parents’ collection. It is a lovely piece and I use it all the time – mostly to help with my art show displays. I get a lot of comments about my butler’s table and have even had offers to buy it – but I decline them all. But now I can steer folks to an almost exact reproduction – this Butler’s Table from Baker Furniture.

About the Butler’s Table from Baker Furniture: “The Butler Table is one of those practical forms that is not only popular but finds a new application for every generation. Aesthetically clean, this version offers two flip-top panels essentially tripling its width, a removable tray, and the option to fold it up for storage in a closet. The top is a crisply-quartered walnut. Stylized brass horns, in lieu of brackets, soften the look. Brass feet. Embroidered felt sleeve with Baker logo included for storing removable legs.”

Visit Baker Furniture online here.

FF: The Spice Arlo Barstool from World Market

arloMeanwhile, my love or stools, and industrial-inspired pieces, led me to the Spice Arlo Barstool from World Market.

About the Spice Arlo Barstool from World Market:

“Crafted of metal with a vibrant spice finish, our Spice Arlo Barstool puts quick comfort in bar seating. Simple and sturdy, it’s a perfect dining or additional accommodation solution.”

The Spice Arlo Barstool is currently on sale at World Market.

FF: The Garden Stools of Décor Décor

ddsMoving outside, every garden needs a stool. The folks at Décor Décor have a nice selection of Garden Stools.

I like Décor Décor’s Hexagon Garden Stool:

“Hexagon garden stool with classic lattice design. Use as a decorative accent indoors or outdoors. Perfect as a stool, side table or outdoor patio accessory.”

Find all the Garden Stools of Décor Décor here.

See all the home and garden décor of Décor Décor here.

SAM_0614 (640x480)Next up in my “Summer Finds” series of things I have found while touring around church fairs, flea markets, arts festival, and country auctions over the past few month are these vintage doll heads I found at Brimfield in July.

The Brimfield Show is the giant antique and collectibles show that takes over the small town of Brimfield, MA three times a year. By the way, the third and final Brimfield Show for 2013 will be held Sept. 3-8, 2013 – which is coming up fast so if you can, make plans to go.

Anyway, at the Brimfield Show in July I picked up a few things that I have mentioned before. However, I never got around to talking about this small collection of vintage doll heads I purchased. The delay in my post about these gems may have something to do with the weirdness factor of such a purchase. That said, I have used old doll part in some of my assemblage works and I thought these doll heads had great potential.

Of course my artwork featuring doll heads (and other parts) are the ones I receive the most comments on. It is one of those things – either you love them or you hate them – but everybody comments on them.

I love the look of these doll head in the bowl just the way I found them:

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Learn more about the Brimfield Show and plan for the upcoming September Show (Sept. 3-8) here and here.