Saturday, February 25, 2012

I've Made the Switch

Hi Everybody,

This is my letter to those of you who follow Pretty Old Houses to let you know that I've switched over to a different web address; www.  .  If you subscribe to the email feed, you should be redirected there automatically, but if you somehow got here, please click the link to be directed to the new site.
I hope you'll like its new snazzy setup.  It's much more colorful and I hope appealing. There are some new pages that will connect you to my Real Estate information, and I hope better display of the ongoing renovations.

I truly appreciate all my readers and followers and those of you who somehow find me through Google searches or links from my online blogger buddies. Anyway, please pop over for a visit and leave me a comment letting me know what you think.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cooking Class for Valentine's Day

One of the reasons we moved from the 'burbs into "town" was so we'd be close to lots of things to do.
Not that there's nothing to do outside the perimeter (OTP they call it here in Atlanta) but we wanted to do different stuff.
So here we are. Doing different stuff.

Last night we participated in a cooking class at Cooks Warehouse at Ansley Mall and had SOOO much fun--much more fun than going to a restaurant.

I feel like I'm writing a commercial--maybe I am, but no one at Cooks knows it.

Anyway, this class was lead by a real chef with several assistants. Rosemary, the chef--I'm not making that up-what a great name for a chef--was knowledgeable and down to earth. Her explanation of the recipes and techniques was so easy to follow and entertaining she actually had me believing I could make all this stuff.

Since it was Valentine's Day and we were at the Dinner for Sweethearts class we worked in couples.  Each course on the menu was prepared by two couples along with an assistant and Rosemary keeping an eye on everybody.

The menu:

Creamy Roasted Wild Mushroom Soup with Sage Croutons
Crab-Stuffed Shrimp with Champagne Beurre Blanc Sauce
Ginger & Sweet Potato Gratin
Sauteed Haricot Verte with Caramelized Shallots
 Mini Baked Alaska

Is your mouth watering, yet? It should be.

Steve and I worked on the Creamy Roasted Wild Mushroom Soup.  We don't know diddly about wild mushrooms so thought we might actually learn something--we did.

Thankfully nobody judged us and our sad lack of "knife skills" when we somehow turned an onion into a pile of choppings. I do not claim to have "chopped" the onion--it takes skill and know how to do that.  I made a whole onion into little pieces.
We combined several types of mushrooms with olive oil and a little salt and roasted them on large cookie sheets. They smelled heavenly--I highly recommend roasting wild mushrooms the next time you want to impress somebody--it's easy and looks really classy.
The roasted mushrooms were cooked with vegetable stock, shallots, thyme, Madeira and cream--really there were 15 ingredients including 3 kinds of mushrooms. The soup came out just fine. It tasted great and nobody choked or keeled over.

The Crab-Stuffed Shrimp with Champagne Beurre Blanc Sauce was a thing of beauty.
I could have eaten the whole pan of Ginger and Sweet Potato Gratin all by my little 'ol self it was that good.
Some people didn't show up so the Haricot Vertes were on their own--actually I think Rosemary did them on the sly. They were delish! Caramelized Shallots are almost burnt when they're done--learned that, too. They were just wonderful.

Now the Mini Baked Alaska;  this was the most complicated, difficult, wrought with peril dish on the menu.
I think something went wrong and they had to start over on part of this one.  All this was happening as I was turning a whole onion into little pieces with a very large sharp knife so I'm not entirely sure what was going on over there.
In the end they came up with a lovely Italian Meringue which is different from regular old meringue. It involves cooking Karo Syrup and a candy thermometer.  I'm not so good with candy thermometers as evidenced by the batch of divinity we threw out at Christmas so I'll probably pass on making this at home.

Anyway, after we were allowed to pipe (with a star tip and piping bag) the meringue on our cake and ice cream Rosemary cranked up the blow torch and the couples browned the meringue "as evenly as possible" according to the directions.  I was worried ours would look like a giant roasted marshmallow--you know--burned on one side and raw on the other.  But, Steve was careful and meticulous so it was darn near perfect.

THIS IS NOT OUR BAKED ALASKA ours just looked a lot like this.

Imagine pistachio ice cream instead of chocolate.

This is really Janis' Baked Alaska. She includes the recipe on her blog.

About 8:30 or so we all took our places at the lovely festive dinner tables set up by the very talented assistants and dug in.
What a wonderful Valentine's Day Dinner.

If you have an opportunity to take a cooking class in your town, or if you live in the Atlanta area and want to sign up at Cooks Warehouse, I highly encourage you to do so.  It's different and lots of fun and nobody expects you to know a thing.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

I'm Getting Spring Fever---Virginia-Highland garden

Back in the last century when Steve and I started attending the Gardens for Connoisseurs Tour (yippee!! I finally learned to spell it without spell checker!!) this is one of the first-- if not THE first--garden we visited.

I was totally smitten--head over heels in love--and knocked for a loop.
Since then I've seen this garden published a number of times.  Truth be told I almost cyber stalk it.

Install Flowerbeds or Plantings

I can honestly say this garden is what got my attention and attracted me to living in town;
especially living in Virginia Highland and Morningside.

The houses were small enough to manage and there were such incredible gardens.
This is the home of David Ellis, owner of landscape design company, Ellis Designs.

When landscape designer David Ellis bought this Virginia-Highland home in 1997, the front yard was filled with dead shrubs, poison ivy and crab grass. "There was nothing worth saving," said Ellis, of Ellis LanDesign. He added the rustic fence and uses topiary-like holly trees, foxgloves and flowering vines such as clematis and roses for a decidedly English touch.
You just don't do this in the suburbs.  For one thing this is the sidewalk in front of the house and most neighborhoods in the 'burbs don't have sidewalks and for another thing, the neighbors might think you were loony if you landscaped like this.

source: me

Not saying you can't, just most folks just don't.


This is the front yard garden.
You have to really study this picture to "see" it.

Nearly every inch of Ellis' property is planted with vignettes of succulents to trees to colorful perennials, like these roses and clematis. "I like it if a person comes here and spends time zeroing in on little sections," said Ellis, 46. "If they span for 30 seconds and walk out, they didn't get it." STORY: KATIE LESLIE PHOTOS: MIKKI K. HARRIS / AJC  source




This is the driveway for crying out loud.

source: me


I love this next picture.
The gates, the dog statue, the azalea blooming in the rustic pot, the tiny fern peeking out from under the stone step... umm, umm, umm

These temple doors, which Ellis found at Scott Antique Market in Atlanta, lead to an Asian-inspired shade garden. "The back garden is completely different from the front -- it's the ying and the yang with the house in between," he said. The canine yard ornament is an homage to his late dog, Amos. STORY: KATIE LESLIE PHOTOS: MIKKI K. HARRIS / AJC source

 (He's cute, too, don't you think?)
Ellis said his backyard garden was designed around this seating area. When he first moved into the house, he placed three lawn chairs in this spot because of the way the afternoon sun lit the area. "This became the center of everything I wanted to do," he explained. From there, he created privacy by planting trees and shrubs along the border of his property. Next, he planted trees and built pathways within the garden itself. STORY: KATIE LESLIE PHOTOS: MIKKI K. HARRIS / AJC source
 This view from the back porch into the shade garden is Ellis' favorite. "Part of a garden is walking into it and forgetting the space outside of it," he said. "My efforts were to make it otherworldly." STORY: KATIE LESLIE, PHOTOS: MIKKI K. HARRIS / AJC source
To read the whole article and see a few more pictures please visit the link below.

Gallery | Linger in this Virginia-Highland garden |

I so hope this garden will be on tour again soon.