Wednesday, April 23, 2014

And Then There Were Four

Well, hello there!  It has been a while, but I assure you it has been for good reason.  Our trio has grown into four and there has been a good bit of bustle around here lately.  

Though I am sure that there are fantastic stories to tell you about the last few weeks, I am in a sleepy 'hey-he's-only-three-weeks-old-so-no-one-is-sleeping-longer-than-six-hours-now-let-me-just-take-a-nap-on-this-here-keyboard-for-a-quick-sec' stupor and can't honestly remember any of them.  So you will just have to settle for a couple of pictures for now.  

Nathan Emory James

Yes, we put him in a basket for Easter...because he is tiny, and we could.

P.S. Every time I hold him, I am thinking this in my head...

I think in Pinterest.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Busy Hibernating, Be Back Soon...

Lately, my favorite books with Court have been about bears.  I Love You, Daddy by Jillian Harker; Little Cub by Olivier Dunrea; Red Sled by Lita Judge; Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson; and several others have been on regular rotation.  I think it is because I am getting ready to hibernate.  I know, I know...Hey crazy lady, it's finally Spring!  But folks, Baby Boy is going to be here in a week (!), and I have been a machine lately making this den as cozy and ready as possible.  I am ready for a rest and some sweet baby cuddles!

On the business end of things, Whitehall Shop will be open and ready for your orders.  Luckily my den is also my office, so no need for taking leave.  However, you may not hear from me on this little ol' blog for a couple of weeks. Sorry about that friends.  When I return, I will bring brownies and sweet baby pictures (well, you may have to make your own brownies unless you are within visiting distance).

Hasta Luego!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy Saint Patrick's Day

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!!!

In honor of one of the greatest men who ever lived...because he banished snakes from Ireland, of course...we will be eating Lucky Charms for breakfast (don't judge, green beer isn't Irish either), wearing green, talking in ridiculously bad Irish accents when the fancy strikes, and plating up the corned beef and colcannon for dinner.  

How will you celebrate today?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Because A Great Mantle Needs Great Art

We have a big fireplace and mantle.  We do not have a big living room, but that just makes the fireplace seem all the bigger.  And for the first three years of living here, we didn't have any artwork befitting such a fireplace.  I love the painting that we put there (done by my grandfather based off a newspaper clipping he found), but it was nowhere near the right scale for the enormous mantle. 
Remind me to show you this painting up close though, it really is something special.

It was driving me mad.  We even found a large frame at a garage sale that fit the space, but had nothing to put in it. So in a fit of gumption, I got out the paints and a piece of cardboard.  I figured that I would paint something simple and geometric and slap it up there until I found something better. 
Inspiration piece

Well, it turns out that after drawing countless circles with my trusty compass, geometric patterns are not as easy as they seem.  Madness was sneaking up on me again. 

So I turned to my Art board on Pinterest, hoping to find some inspiration.  I found a painting that I really liked.  "Sure, I can whip up a landscape painting with a cute little white building with no previous experience doing any such thing...and all in an hour before I need to make dinner?  Yeah, no problem."

Well, as it turned out...

First ever painting (that wasn't simple geometric or craft painting)!
In all fairness, Jonny made dinner that night.

Now that it is done, and I love it, I wish that I had done it on something better than thin cardboard (it was only supposed to be temporary).  I gave the cardboard texture by mod-podging on some crumpled-then-flattened phone book pages before I attempted the geometric design (Oh, did I mention I was using acryllic craft paints? Please no comments from the professionals), and I really like the way it looks under the new painting. 

There are plenty of technical flaws in the painting (uppity critics need not elaborate), but I learned so many techniques while working on it that I can only say embrace your fits of gumption.  It is not a great masterpiece hanging in a gallery, but it is perfectly befitting for a big fireplace mantle in our little living room.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Every Girl Needs a Good Tea Shop

I strongly believe that every girl needs a good tea shop (at least the tea obsessed such as myself).  Unfortunately, mine is in a different state.  I am lucky enough to get back to English Tealeaves at least once a year, and every time I am in Colorado, my mom and I partake in our ritual trip that has become tradition (She is far luckier and only lives down the road from this sweet place).

A gift from the shop.  I call her Mrs. Potts...
because I am from that generation.
The shop is in Parker, Colorado, and if you are ever in the area, I promise that it is worth the visit.  My mom and I began going years ago because it was a good place to sit and talk for hours with a warm beverage and just-the-right-size scones with devonshire cream (oh...the cream!!!).  We have been there during sad times when you just need some cozy comfort, and happy times when you can't wait to try a new tea from a far away place, and a lot of 'just to visit' times (and, funnily, that devonshire cream seems to fit so nicely at all times).

The owners are a lovely English couple who exceed all expectations of the perfect Engligh tea shop proprietors.  Lynn is quiet but sweetly polite and helpful.  Rob is gregarious, with just enough cheek to keep you on your toes. 

Their selections and varieties of tea account for more than I could drink in 6 months time.  Every imaginable flavor of black and green tea, along with strong pure brews that will warm you from within. 

These are my two current favorites from the shop:
Rose White and Caramel Nut.
One of my favorite parts is the atmosphere.  This is no stuffy victorian tea room.  The shop is light, clean, and modern, and the chairs are perfectly comfortable for the marathon conversations that we always seem to have while there. 

The best traditions always seem to happen on accident, don't they?  I never have good luck if I set out to find my new favorite place or demand to start a new tradition, but they always seem to pop up when I least expect them.  Maybe the surprise and spontineity of it all is what makes them so good. 

Do you have a favorite tea place?  I haven't found one closer to home yet.  It is one of the businesses that I am always starting in my head.  Don't you think it would be fun to own a tea shop?  I will have to start working on my accent.

There is no sponsorship or exchange of money for kind words here.  I just genuinely love this place and think you should go.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Creamy Chicken Tortellini Soup Recipe

If you like Chicken Noodle Soup, and you like creamy soups, and you like tortellini, you need to make this soup.  If you somehow did not answer yes to any of the above, then you may need to come over so we can have a talk; I am worried for you.

On to the soup!

Chicken Tortellini Soup

2 Tbsp. Butter
1 medium Onion, diced
4 Carrots, diced
2 Celery Stalks, diced
8 Mushrooms, diced
1 cup chopped Kale
3 cloves Garlic
1 large Chicken Breast, cubed
4 cups Chicken Broth
2 cups Water
1 pkg. frozen Cheese Tortellini
1/2 cup Flour
1 cup Milk
Salt & Pepper

1. In a large soup pot, on medium high heat, sauté onion, carrot, celery, and mushroom in butter, until slightly softened.
2. Add in kale and garlic and sauté one minute more.
3. Season mixture with a sprinkle of salt and pepper
3. Push veggies to the sides of the pot, and add chicken to the middle.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.  Cook chicken on all sides, until it is golden brown.
4. Add broth and water to the pot and mix all together.  Bring to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Add frozen tortellini to the pot.  Increase the heat back to a boil, stirring the soup to keep the tortellini from sticking.  Boil for five minutes.
6. In a separate bowl, make a slurry with the flour and milk (slowly add the milk to the flour while mixing to prevent clumps).  Add a dash of salt and pepper to the slurry.
7. Pour the flour/milk slurry into the soup pot while stirring.  Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. 
8. Serve and enjoy!

Prep/cook time: About an hour.
Serves: 5-8 people, depending on how many times you go back for seconds. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What happens to Hibiscus plants in the frost

As a PSA, I ask you to save yourselves the heartache, and pay attention to the planting zones, people. 

I have said this before,  but we moved into our house a little over a year after Hurricane Ike hit the area.  After Ike damaged everyone's gardens, it was a race to replant things that grew quickly enough to make people forget they lost their favorite plants.  Enter tropicals.  Tropical plants grow very well in coastal Southeast Texas during the summer, and even in winters without frosts.  They grow fast and put on a nice show. 

When we first moved into the house, the previous owner had planted these beauties everywhere:


But after a frost (which happens every couple of years), the hibiscus now look like this:

They will only grow back from the roots, all those branches are essentially dead wood.

Meanwhile, the camellias, which are rated properly for our zone (zone 9), are putting on a fabulous February show this year! 

So the moral of the story is that good things come to those who wait, and the instant gratification of hibiscus just isn't worth it in zone 9 (no matter how many times the garden nurseries put them on sale). 

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