Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Had two leftover ham hocks in the freezer and lots of pinto beans.  I found this recipe on Pioneer Woman Cooks and boy, was it good.  I used one ham hock with plenty of meat still attached.  And I know how many of you like to tweak recipes and this one can be tweaked away and it won't hurt a thing.  Mark Bittman supplied the sweet cornbread recipe, amen to that.

Also, I soaked the beans for 20 hours and changed the water several times.  This made the beans well-mannered beans if you know what I mean.

Ingredients - Pioneer Woman Cooks

  • 4 cups Dry Pinto Beans
  • 1 whole Ham Hock
  • 1 whole Onion, Diced
  • 2 whole Red Bell Peppers, Diced
  • 4 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 whole Jalapenos, Sliced
  • 2 teaspoons Salt, More To Taste
  • 2 teaspoons Chili Powder (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons Black Pepper, More To Taste

Preparation Instructions

Rinse beans under cold water, sorting out any rocks/particles.
Place beans in a stock pot with the ham hock and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot and simmer for 2 hours, checking occasionally to make sure the water level is fine. Add more water as needed.
Toss in diced onion, red bell pepper, garlic and jalapeno. Cover and continue cooking for another hour or two, remembering to check the water level.
Add salt, chili powder (if desired) and pepper, then cover and cook for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until beans are lovely and tender. Serve with cornbread as a meal..

CORNBREAD - Mark Bittman

  • 4 tablespoons butter, olive oil, lard or bacon drippings (I used butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups medium-grind cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups milk, more if needed
  • 1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put fat in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or in an 8-inch square baking pan. Place pan in oven.
  • 2. Meanwhile, combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix eggs into milk, then stir this mixture into dry ingredients, combining with a few swift strokes. If mixture seems dry, add another tablespoon or two of milk.
  • 3. When fat and oven are hot, remove skillet or pan from oven, pour batter into it and smooth out top. Return pan to oven. Bake about 30 minutes, until top is lightly browned and sides have pulled away from pan; a toothpick inserted into center will come out clean. Serve hot or warm.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Raise your hand if you're ready for a new movie with some of our favorite British actors.  Judi Dench - check.  Maggie Smith - check.  Tom Wilkinson - check.  And lots more including Penelope Wilton, aka Isobel Crawley to you and me.  Looks darling.  Fingers crossed that it is worth seeing because sometimes, as we all know, these ensemble movies tend to be over-hyped and under-whelming. But, I'm keeping a positive thought--and really, who am I kidding?  I will see this movie regardless of the reviews.

Plot summary:  A group of British retirees are enticed to move into the newly remodeled Marigold Hotel. In India.  Not Cornwall.  Sounds like a promising premise.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel released this May.  Yea! 

Monday, February 20, 2012

THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES - Hawthorne - Book Review

Have you ever started a book without really knowing what it's about? My friend, Leslie, picked up this book while traveling through Salem, Massachusetts which triggered for me the recollection of its creepiness.  But I didn't really know what it was about and thought it was high time I read something by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Hawthorne has popped up in a couple of biographies I've read recently: he was part of Louisa May Alcott's circle; and his time in Paris was mentioned by David McCullough.

The story is definitely the creepy, gothic type but there is romance which isn't obvious until the end.  I would like to reread again with the romance in mind since I was concentrating on the spookiness.

 Here's a sample of Hawthorne's brilliant writing: "NEVER had the old house appeared so dismal to poor Hepzibah as when she departed on that wretched errand. There was a strange aspect in it. As she trode along the foot-worn passages, and opened one crazy door after another, and ascended the creaking staircase, she gazed wistfully and fearfully around. It would have been no marvel, to her excited mind, if, behind or beside her, there had been the rustle of dead people's garments, or pale visages awaiting her on the landing-place above."

Description of a brother and sister: "He had a winged nature; she was rather of the vegetable kind, and could hardly be kept long alive, if drawn up by the roots." Paints a picture, no? It's a classic for a reason.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


I won a giveaway! Isn't that fun? Look at that gorgeous cover.  And the interior is just as pretty. Carol Sheehan, the author of The Birding Life, was featured on The Skirted Roundtable, my favorite podcast.  Three interior designers interview interesting people somehow connected to the design world and it is always great fun.

You may be familiar with our three hostesses:  Joni from Cote de Texas; Megan from Beach Bungalow 8; and Linda from Surroundings.  These three compliment each other very well and get the best guests!  Charlotte Moss? Yes.  Suzanne Rheinstein? Yes.  Suzanne Kasler? Yes.  Kathryn Ireland?  Of course.  The list goes on and on and there are more design icons to come.

Thank you to Carol Sheehan and the ladies at The Skirted Roundtable for my lovely book--prettily displayed in my library.

Thursday, February 16, 2012


I love an epilogue and a sequel is even better.  England's grande dame mystery writer P.D. James has written a follow-up to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Checking up on old friends is always fun and Baroness James provides a bit of an update in her prologue.  Then we are off and rolling with the family and staff of Pemberley preparing for the annual ball. Trouble is not far off which is where Baroness James really excels.

At times, James sounds just like Austen, "She consistently congratulated him on qualities he did not possess in the hope that, flattered by her praise and approval, he would acquire them” and at other times the lines don't quite ring true--but who cares?  It is good writing, a good plot, and a wrap-up that was more than I expected.  There is also a little Emma and Persuasion interwoven into the story which made me smile. 

P.D. James is 91 years old and her wit is reflected in her writing. The author added this note at the beginning of the book:  "I owe an apology to the shade of Jane Austen for involving her beloved Elizabeth in the trauma of a murder investigation, especially as in the final chapter of Mansfield Park Miss Austen made her views plain: “Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody not greatly in fault themselves to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.” No doubt she would have replied to my apology by saying that, had she wished to dwell on such odious subjects, she would have written this story herself, and done it better."

Bravo to Baroness James.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


I love bowls.  Both my sister and I do.  Look what I just stumbled upon from a gorgeous little Etsy shop called Rou:

I can only justify this purchase by stating that I have nothing like this in my cupboards.  Nothing.  Look at how creamy and smooth.  And don't you just want to run your finger around the top? There is just one available.  Very clever of them.  If 20 had been available I would pass and think about it.  But one available?  I have to click to purchase immediately just in case someone else is thinking or obsessing about this bowl.