Thursday, September 30, 2010

Window Shopping at Saks

Window Shopping at Saks
Pastel Pencils, 7 by 9 inches
                                                                                                                                                        Window Shopping at Saks is my September submission for the Virtual Paintout blog.  Each month Bill Guffey selects a city for a virtual paintout using Google Street Map.  This month's selection was Manhattan and there was a good response to his challenge.  The rule is the subject for painting has to be found using Google Street Map.

After traveling virtually all over Manhattan, I chose a window display at Sak Fifth Avenue, I loved the composition of the three manniquinns.  The drawing measures 7 by 9 inches, using pastel pencils it was drawn on steel gray Mi-Tientes paper.

Can't wait to see what location Bill selects for October's Virtual Paintout!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tabouli Salad

Tabouli Salad
Double Click to Enlarge

Tabouli, taboule, tabbouleh ... however you spell it, is a salad of  "Middle Eastern origin" consisting chiefly of cracked bulgur wheat, tomatoes, parsley, mint, onions, lemon juice and olive oil.  There are other additions that can be added to the salad but I prefer the more traditional style.

To begin, I used a box of Far East Taboule Wheat Salad Mix.  I prepared the package ingredients according to the directions on the package, listed under #1.

After it had been refrigerated for 30 minutes, I added 1 cup chopped fresh tomato, 2 tbsp lemon juice (1 tbsp is listed but I wanted it more tart), 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber (seeded), 2 tbsp finely chopped green onions and 1/3 cup freshly chopped parsley. That's it!

For the past 20 years I have been making tabouli. Most of my family members like it, as Clint said, he loved the tangy taste. Besides being healthy, I find it light and refreshing.  You can't go wrong no matter what you add or leave out, there are plenty of suggestions on the box or at their website.

Monday, September 27, 2010

First Impressions

That first impression.
A step closer to my beloved Tennessee!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   There is the old saying about not getting a second chance to make a first impression.  There is something about that saying that bothers me.  Sometimes it does not matter how earnestly we try, things just don't work according to our plans.  Something out of our control should not be held against us in forming an opinion about us.  I am thinking now about a first impression one gets when visiting a home, particularly my home since it is for sale.  Yes, in our front yard is a beautiful sight, a "For Sale" sign, only to be made more appealing when we see the word "Sold" attached to it.

Our house has been on the market for several months now.  We have been "on call" from 9 AM to around 7 PM, every single day.  I have lived for months with my cell phone in my shorts' pocket.  We have had calls for showings while the realtor was parked in front of our house.  "Yes, you may ... just give us five minutes."  Has anyone ever tried to hide a large cast iron skillet with remains of dried scrambled egg in it?  I have hidden our dish drainer in the same area of our garage for showings.  Just yesterday I asked Clint if he had seen the dish drainer, I could not find it.  He replied:  It's in the car. THE CAR!  I had to laugh at that one.

Getting ready for the showings.  Whew!  Today we had a preview from a realtor.  When we returned home, out of curiosty, I counted how many lights, fans and lamps we turn on and off with each showing.  I counted 33 times.  I wonder how many water spots I have tried to eliminate or how many times I have mopped this white kitchen floor? While waiting for a showing, one of us sits "guard" at the dining room table with the shutters open enough to see the realtor pull up with the potential buyers.  Clint makes his "turkey gobble"  call which is the warning to run out the back door into the garage and take off as they are coming in the front door.  This does not always work as planned.  Sometimes they have parked a little out of our vision, sometimes they are parking in front of our house to visit a neighbor and sometimes they are passers by who are just stopping to look at the house. After we leave the house, we park down the street and watch the house until the realtor and others leave. (These sightings and observations are enough for another blog.)

Then there's the all-important task of "staging".  I'm sure we all know most of the staging tips, the baking of bread or chocolate chip cookies before a showing.  Mulling spices are mentioned often to make the kitchen smell "homey" like grandma's.  What about a roast?  One Sunday afternoon we had a beef roast in the Crock Pot and received a call for a showing.  The realtor and the potential buyers stayed a record amount of time in the house this whole hour!

Oh, not to forget the "advice".  Lots of people seem to know the "best" realtor that we should try.  One morning not long ago I was in my front yard working when a neighbor acquaintance stopped by.  She told me the name and location of a realtor I should call because she (the realtor) was "aggressive".  I can think of nothing worse than having someone pressure me when I am making one of the biggest investments in my life.  We politely smile at them and thank them. We already have a wonderful realtor.

Some painful aspects, do I dare share this with the world?  Feedback. My goodness, they like the open floor plan, they don't like the open floor plan, they wanted an upstairs (why did you look at this one level?), they like the light wood, they don't like the light wood, formal area too large, blah,blah,blah, etc.

And now for the painful stab in our souls:  One realtor wrote in the feedback report:  May I suggest Febreze?

P.S.  We have gotten objective opinions about an "odor" in our house.  This is a non-smoking home with no pets.  We have been as clean as possible in keeping up this house.  Oh well, Clint and I joke about it now...that "suggestion" will live on as part of the Hensley-Ellison lore!  :-)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Portrait of my Mother

                                                                                                                                                               Today I completed this pencil portrait of my mother.  It was drawn on medium drawing paper and measures 11 x 14 inches.  The reference photo was made of her in the early 1950s. I hope she likes it when she sees it.  It is a surprise, she does not know I am doing her portrait.

As I am fond of saying, the medium is pencil with some blood, sweat and tears, especially this one of my mother. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Latte Cookies Recipe

Latte Cookies, finalist in Dallas Morning News-Central Mkt Holiday Cookie Contest
October is not just crisp air and colored leaves for me, it also means it is time to start selecting my recipes for the Dallas Morning News-Central Market Holiday Cookie Contest. I mail in my three recipes in catagories that include Family Recipe Cookie, Decadent Cookie, Bar Cookie, Incredibly Easy Cookie, Decorated Cookie, and The Cookie Man Cookie which is judged just for appearance.  The entry fee, 100% of it, goes to The Dallas Morning News Charities. I take the prepared cookies to the Dallas Central Market for judging, I always make new friends there and we get to take home samples of all the entries.  It is a most enjoyable day to make new friends who love to discuss such things as the virtures of one type of flour over another. (They have not heard of White Lily!). 

I have entered three of the past four years, have always been a finalist (10 are chosen from each category), won first place one year, last year won 3rd place. 

This recipe I am sharing on here was one of my first entries, it was chosen as one of the ten finalists in the Incredibly Easy Category. 

Latte Cookies

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup shortening
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp instant coffee powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix together sugars, shortening, egg, milk and vanilla extract.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Shape dough into 1 inch balls.  Place about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Flatten to 1/8 inch thickness with greased bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.  Bake until light brown, 7 to 8 minutes.

Note:  Medaglia D'oro Espresso Coffee can be found at most major grocery stores.  It is instant dried coffee and comes in a 2 ounce jar.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Elusive Fountain of Youth

Don't we all remember our history lesson of how 16th century conquistador Juan Ponce de Leon went in search of The Fountain of Youth?

The latest figure I could find from a recent Google search put the estimate as high as $50 billion dollars spent in 2009 on anti aging products.  It seems many of us are not aging too gracefully.  I have made my own little contribution to that $50 billion dollar amount spent on anti aging products, not realizing how much until I gathered some of them up for this blog photo. 

It's sad that many think they can find immortality or perfect skin in a cream, potion or elixer.  I admit I think some products do make a difference in improving one's skin condition, mostly by moisturizing.  When I worked for a high end cosmetic company, we would demonstrate a cream on the back of one of our hands. After repeatedly doing this for a period of time, there was a slight improvement in the hand that had the creams applied compared to the other hand. How can we not notice that it seems every company has The One cream that will eliminate wrinkles.  They all can't be right!

If God allows us to live long enough on earth, we will have some wrinkles.  It's a sign that hopefully we have lived a long, productive and healthy life. Truthfully, who has time to worry about wrinkles?  Let us be reminded of James 4:13-14:

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that."

P.S.  Juan Ponce de Leon, in 1513,  was one of the first Europeans to set foot on the American mainland, he never found the Fountain of Youth.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Daily Predawn Walks

Walking "equipment"
                                                                                                                                                              Clint and I have always briskly walked for exercise.  It just so happens we were naturally fast walkers before our life together.  It does work out in a good way, to walk the same speed naturally as one's spouse.  June 27th we began walking everyday, well ... almost everyday, I have missed only six days since that day, two and a half months ago.  We walk two miles in 40 minutes.  That means I have walked approximately 134 miles since that day in June when we began.

It has been so hot this summer in Plano, TX,  our favorite time to walk is around 5:30 AM.  We walk our usual route which takes us over a small bridge and through a shopping center. 

There are the predictable sights and scenes on our walking route.  This routine is not boring to me, sometimes I am comforted by the familiar. We get the best of both worlds, we see both the moon and the sun by the time we finish.

We see so many rabbits they have become commonplace. There's Carleton the bagel baker and the usual crowd at the bagel shop that we pass. Usually the Enterprise truck is in front of Kroger's, being unloaded.  Around six, Ismael is seen slowing driving through the parking lot, parking in his same spot.  He keeps the sidewalks and parking lot clean and he always greets us. We have to dodge the cars avoiding the speed bumps as they drive through Dunkin Donuts. We still search for coins as we walk and have a special bank for the coins that we have found.

Walking is the best exercise for me, one I seem to be able to stick with on a regular basis.  I can tell a difference in my energy level, mood and the best benefit ... weight loss!

Our walking "trail".
I will admit, there are some mornings we can barely move but we make ourselves do it.  There are also the mornings we don't have much to say to each other.  My favorite time is when we walk down our alley to home, come into our cool house, press the coffee maker button and know we have our walking behind us for another day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Coffee, please ...

My now favorite "Deadwood" mug.

Copyright Cafe Du Monde
                                                                                                                                                                     Who doesn't love the aroma of freshly brewed coffee? Having always enjoyed the smell of freshly brewed coffee, I did not drink coffee until the early 80s. My grandparents lived next door and I still remember that aluminum coffee pot on their stove. They would drink their coffee with a little evaporated milk, I can also still see that little can with the two holes punched in it. I slowly developed a liking for coffee while visiting them. This was in the days when coffee was "percolated"

Since those days I have grown to love coffee but drink it in moderation. As soon as Clint and I return from our two-mile morning walk, it's coffee time! This quote comes to mind when we return from walking:

Forever: Time it takes to brew the pot of coffee in the morning. ~Author Unknown

We have been known to program our coffee maker before we head out for our walks. Now we just have the coffee pot filled and ready, mugs sitting by the pot. The minute we get back, we now have to push two buttons on this coffee maker, the "gourmet" and "on" button.

Speaking of mugs, there's another story. Funny how we get attached to "our" mugs. For years I loved my Nicole Miller mug with a black and white leopard design. I had bought it many years ago at Big Lots for 99 cents. A problem developed with this favorite mug, it has a crack in the handle. Not a good thing involving a hot cup of coffee. (The hoarding instinct in me still has the mug, a reminder to myself to put it in the trash today and move forward :-)) Since last December, I have formed a new emotional attachment to another mug ... my Deadwood mug.

Last December, on a whim and to strike one item off of Clint's "Bucket List", we headed on a ten day journey to Mount Rushmore, Devil's Tower and Deadwood, SD. Two days of planning and we were on the road, a trip that ranks among one of our best. Did the danger make it our best? I am not sure but we were in blizzard conditions for most of the trip, not sure how we made it over the roads in icy and white out conditions. I digress, I know, but my new favorite little mug is a small one I got in Deadwood. While there those three days, I don't think the temperature rose above 5 degrees. How cold is that? We laughed because Clint's Tempur-Pedic pillow that he took froze into a small solid boulder. My London Fog coat froze and sounded like paper being crinkled. Every morning I can't help but think of our wonderful trip as I drink my coffee.

My favorite place to ever drink coffee? Cafe du Monde, the Original French Market Coffee Stand, located in New Orleans' French Quarter. We enjoy the chicory coffee and those delicious beignets, puffy square French doughnuts covered in powdered sugar. A great place to people watch as the city comes to life for the day. An added treat, at our favorite table, is sitting right in front of a couple of street musicians while they play and sing. Just thinking about this makes me long for a vacation.


Friday, September 10, 2010

It's better to light a candle ...

                                                                                                                                                                 It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
                  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt    

                                                                                                                                                             I love candles!  Always have, always will.  I can remember making candles at a young age.  I must have driven my mother nuts with my melting of parafin on the kitchen stove.  She would constantly stand there and warn me of the fire hazard. Looking back, I know I must have driven my mother nuts with so many of my hare-brained "creative" ideas.  She was sweet enough to let me experiment and I am forever grateful for her understanding.

Candles are one of the best ways to create mood and ambiance in your home.  I even like to use them when I have had special breakfasts, brunches and lunches, a few simple white votives (unscented of course around food).  Sunlight does not keep me from lighting a candle.  I have really appreciated the dimmer switches we had installed on our lights.  Lowering the light a little in daytime makes more contrast for the candlelight.

One can't stress enough safety when using candles.  I was reading one tip of writing down the locations of lit candles in your home so after a dinner party you can go around and extinguish them.  Another tip is to to turn off all the lights in a room to see the lit candles so you can extinguish them.

Lately I have decided to use only good quality candles, I want to be able to smell some of the scent.  The ones of higher quality have much better scents, more like a faint perfume.  I have an Estee Lauder candle scented with the fragrance of Pleasures, I am anxious to use it.  Other favorites brands are Trapp and Niven Morgan.

Want a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to taste even more delicious?  Eat it by candlelight!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Tale of Three Mirrors

                                                                                                                                                            Mirror mirror, on the wall ...

Recently I realized three of the mirrors in our home all had stories behind them, a personal history...not like a mirror you would purchase at a bricks and mortar store.  Beginning with an old ornate, gold leaf mirror in our dining room, this treasure was purchased several years ago at a rummage sale.  Chunks of the gesso corners were missing and broken. The mirror has some age spots and streaks which adds to its charm and character, I would not dream of having it "resilvered".  I restored the missing pieces by sculpting them with one of my favorite products,  a made-in-Japan product called Paperclay.  After this phase of restoration, I completely redid the the gold leafing using a gold leaf composition.  A clear coat of satin varnish finished the mirror.  I might add how shocked I was at the cost of moving this mirror when we relocated considering I bought it at a giveaway price. :-)

One of my favorite mirrors hangs over our mantle.  This "frame" was bought about 15 years ago at a yard sale in Clinton, TN.  I put it back in a corner and knew someday it would be a mirror.  It became a mirror when we moved to Plano, TX.  I repainted the frame using a cream color, "antiqued" it with some variations of burnt umber colored paint.  After getting a piece of mirror cut, it was ready to hang over the mantle.  I feel this mirror was made for this spot!  The cost of the frame pre-mirror?  $2.00  Who would ever guess?

The third mirror with a history came with our house.  It is one of those that were somehow permanently attached to the bathroom walls.  Just a plain piece of mirror, some choose to frame it with wood to give it a new look.  I decided to frame it with paint, I painted a "gold leaf frame" around it in a "trompe l'oeil" style.  It was rather difficult to get a good photo of it in its entirety but maybe the photo will give you an idea.  Get tried of the "frame"?  It can be easily be painted over.

For great decorating pieces, I don't think you can beat some beautiful mirrors that make the rooms more spacious by catching and reflecting light.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Melanzane al Forno (baked eggplant)

Several years ago I had to "downsize" my large cookbook collection.  I cut out some recipes from an old 1970s cookbook, selecting recipes that I thought I would like to make in the future.  About four years ago I started making this recipe and have had many compliments on it.  It is a meatless dish, melanzane is Italian for eggplant.  The Italian phrase "al forno" means "at/from the oven." Unfortunately, I do not have the recipe creator's name.

The recipe calls for mozzarella cheese, I used it on Clint's since he is doing a version of the Adkin's Diet.  On mine I used fresh grated Parmesan cheese.  Clint is a "meat and potatoes" guy but he loved this dish.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

One Way to Get Thin

Photo by Cindy Ellison

The one way to get thin is to re-establish a purpose in life.

                          ~ Cyril Connolly
                             The Unquiet Grave

There is a lot of truth to the above statement.  Many times we have food as our purpose in life.

Anyone ever noticed the word "diet" is "die" with a cross after it?  I have given a lot of thought recently to the word "die" being in the word "diet."  Parts of me have "died".  Fourteen pounds to be exact.  I am on a die+t.

The origin of the word "diet" is from the Greek word "diaita" which means "prescribed way of living."

It is not easy being on a diet, it's hard work.  There are rewards as a result of dieting.  To use the old cliche, "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels."

Ain't it the truth?