January 30, 2013

Building Character – Lancaster, PA


Heard about a place called BUiLDiNG CHARACTER, and set aside a day to go. 
 It's located in downtown Lancaster, on the historic Uptown 300 block of North Queen Street.


It's nestled in an alley that slides off of Queen Street.
That along provided a gravitational pull for me!


Picture a huge warehouse marketplace filled with a conglomeration of over 35 shops.
Greenery-filled bathroom fixtures were a quirky and fun way to usher me in!


Architectural salvage is abundant. Vintage clothing. Attic treasures. Handcrafted works of art. 
I just knew I'd be in heaven.


Trays, serving pieces, vases. I could have chosen something from every shop to take home with me.



Every corner I turned, I met up with another charming vignette!


Oh, that cash register!


These tin wastebaskets in soft muted colors had shabby chic written all over them.


The feel of a little boutique! All pink and inviting. Lovin' that lamp on the left!


Retro tin stacking canisters. Notice the rustic brick wall in the background.



Skirts in a wide variety of colors, patterns, textures, and lengths.


Old framed art layered in the rafters. So inviting!


More lamps with pretty shades. A perfect cottage look.


Wooden forms for children's shoes.



Letterpress trays. Oh, the possibilities.


Luscious hand-woven wool.



Interesting hardware...


The columns, shutters, more rugged brick, exposed pipes. Just wonderful!



We're talking old windows, industrial gears, cogs, and who knows what!


These old balusters were beautiful in their heyday, 
and will live again someday when they're lovingly included in a DIY or restoration project.


Hooks with attractive patinas stand ready to hold your hat, or your robe, or an apron, or...


Stately iron corner pieces. Salvaged doorknobs. 


Chipped paint, tarnish, so many shapes and sizes. What a selection!


Lovely jewel-tones. Like candy displayed in a candy store!


View my earlier post on The Belvedere Inn, where we dined that afternoon!

Read more about BUiLDiNG CHARACTER and the Historic Uptown 300 Block
of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

January 28, 2013

Onion Fennel Soup


"To feel safe and warm on a cold wet night,
all you really need is soup."
~Laurie Colwin

Winter means soup weather. Here's a recipe that I adapted from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa.

I'm crazy about Ina. In fact, she has forever been my favorite Food Network Chef. I love not only her recipes, but also her personality. I want to be her friend, her neighbor, and mostly...her dinner guest!

She calls her recipe Onion Fennel Soup Gratin. It's from her book How Easy is That?. Since I did some tweaking, I did the same to the title. I think my version is a bit more mild, but every bit as delicious!


I've been making French onion soup for years. Never once did I think that there was room for improvement in my basic (very basic, I came to realize) recipe. I'd ordered French onion soup at many, many restaurants, never thinking it could get any better. Enter, Ina.

I share my passion for Ina Garten with Aunt Norma, a stupendous cook. She who owns every one of the Barefoot Contessa cookbooks! We love to look at them as one would peruse a magazine. I first tasted this soup while vacationing in Siesta Key, Florida, with Aunt Norma & my mother-in-law, Dot.
Dear memories of times spent together.

Have you eaten fennel? I had never tried it until many years ago, my father-in-law, Dante offered some to me. Referring to it in the Italian "finocchio", he taught me to eat it raw, as you would celery. He dipped it into olive oil which was heavily seasoned with salt & pepper. I enjoyed the mild licorice flavor.

In recent years, I've discovered my love for roasted fennel! Something entirely different! Mmmmm.
So, here we have the addition of fennel to onions to provide another delicious layer to this soup.


4 T unsalted butter
1/4 cup olive oil
3 lbs Spanish onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 lbs fennel, tops and cores removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup cooking sherry
1/2 cups wine
1 C water
5 cans beef broth
3 bay leaves
2 t salt
1  t freshly ground black pepper
1 loaf crusty French or Italian bread
8 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated

Heat butter & oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions & fennel.
Of note: Vidalia onions were in, so I did a mix of Spanish & Vidalia. 
                  Also, when trimming my fennel, I also removed the tough outer layer of “leaves”.
 Cook over medium heat 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown.
Add the sherry, scraping off the brown bits in the bottom of the pan, and simmer uncovered about 10 minutes.  Add the wine & water and simmer for 20 more minutes.  White or red? I didn’t specify, because this originally called for dry white. I only had red, so I used red.  The results were fantastic, so I won’t be arguing over wine choice. 
 Add the beef broth, bay leaves, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. 
Meanwhile, cut the bread into cubes. I leave the crusts on for a more rustic bite. If the loaf is small, you can slice it in such a way as to have crust on one side of each cube. My personal preference here. Preheat the broiler on low.  Toast the cubes until light brown, stirring to toss halfway through.
Remove the bay leaves. Ladle the soup into heat-proof serving bowls.  Top with the toasted bread cubes, sprinkle generously with cheese, and broil for 3 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.


The cheese of choice here is Gruyere. In the past, I've tried muenster or mozzarella,
but have to conclude that Gruyere is the way to go.



Look at that topography of lusciousness! Bon appetit!

January 25, 2013

Faber Castell Spiral Art by Chan Hwee Chong


"Girl with the Pearl Earring", by Johannes Vermeer, is a popular painting. 
As is the case with many other classics, it has often been re-interpreted. 
Never before, I'd guess, quite like this. 
Get ready to be astounded! 

This YouTube video shows artist Chan Hwee Chong, from Beijing, China, doing his thing.

Using one of the art world's favorite tools, a Faber Castell pen,
he re-creates a masterpiece in just one long spiral stroke. 

Now look at his completed version of "The Girl with the Pearl Earring".



Here's Vincent Van Gogh's "Self Portrait", and then Chan Hwee Chong's spiral version.



He even manages to include the swirls in the background.


How about the very well-recognized "Mona Lisa", by Leonardo da Vinci?



Faber Castell is known for the precision of its pens; 
this art certainly puts to rest any arguments to the contrary.


I don't think I've ever said "Wow" so many times in a row!

 I picture Vermeer, Van Gogh, and Da Vinci looking over the shoulder of 
Chan Hwee Chong as he draws their respective works. 
Can't help but wonder how they would react!

January 23, 2013

Crochet for Cancer

When cancer patients lose their hair from chemotherapy treatments 
and are faced with many emotions...self consciousness, worry, fear. 
A loving gift of a hand-crafted hat can help them to regain confidence and hope.
Does this sound like you'd like something you'd like to be involved with?

Crochet for Cancer is a non-profit, Christian organization that is volunteer-based.
Crafters from all over the world make caps, then mail them to Crochet for Cancer
who distribute them to doctors' offices, hospitals and cancer centers. 
They not only donate hats, but also scarves and blankets.
What a perfect way to share our time and creative talents! 

This video will give you more information.

Crochet for Cancer chapters are located in 10 states: 
California, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, 
Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, Texas, and West Virginia.  
There's also a chapter in Quebec, Canada.

Here's their philosophy:
"We believe that providing a cap or other handmade item to someone undergoing treatment for cancer is a privilege and should always be done so with respect, understanding, and in a gentle manner. It is an honor to use our time and talents to uplift and show God’s love to someone in need. Our hope and prayer is that the God will use the handmade gifts tagged with biblical scriptures to open someone’s heart to have a life changing connection with Christ."

Visit their website- CrochetForCancer.org

You'll find patterns for hats and size charts for children, women & men.
Great for those of us who have lots of leftover yarn from past projects.

Don't crochet? There are instructions & video tutorials so you can learn.

Prefer to knit? They also have knitting patterns.

Detailed information is given on how to create and donate.
Read what inspired the co-founders to start this organization.
Learn how you can form a chapter in your area.
You can also make a monetary donation if you'd like.

They have a gift shop to purchase tote bags or stickers like this one:

You can also find them on Facebook

Be sure to pass the word about this very worthy cause!
We've been blessed with so much - Isn't this a wonderful, crafty way to give back?

With appreciation to co-founders, chapter leaders, 
and all of the crocheters and knitters involved,
as you "show love to others, one stitch at a time"!

All photos courtesy of Crochetforcancer.org.