At Home with John Newman

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Friday, December 9, 2016

Stamps from Zazzle.com

One additional post today because I found something online that is so wonderfully over-the-top that I just had to share it with you.  What am I talking about?  Postage stamps from Zazzle.com.


I ordered a set of twenty of these gorgeous ornament themed stamps.  The selection for Christmas stamps is pretty extensive.  These are called "Snowflakes Christmas Postage" but there are plenty more designs to choose from.  So I will use these in conjunction with the Peanuts characters themed stamps to get my cards out the door.  If you are not finding what you like at the post office, visit Zazzle here and just type in the search box "Christmas Stamps".
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Holiday Decor at The Watergate

On one of my lunch time walks this week, I made my way to the infamous Watergate building on Virginia Avenue, NW. The building had fallen into disrepair over the years. But the management company has been working very hard these past couple of years to make necessary repairs and upgrades and it is looking quite nice this year all decked out for Christmas. Take a look.


The main concourse of The Residences at The Watergate has seen many changes. Where once there was Saks Jandel now resides a very small branch of the D.C. Public Library. Not to be confused with Saks Fifth Avenue, Saks Jandel is independently owned by the Marx family of Washington. Their niche is high style and high fashion from well-known names like Valentino, Yves St. Laurent and Yohji Yamamoto. Their new location is 5510 Wisconsin Avenue, NW in tony Chevy Chase, Maryland.


My walking tour started with this old-fashioned sleigh carefully positioned inside one of the many waterfall basins at the complex. This is an outdoor area but extensively covered, so there is no worry of the packages inside the sleigh being damaged due to weather.


On just the other side there were two more sleighs, each positioned inside waterfall basins. Such a clever idea.


Along one of the many walkways were hung these most attractive vertical wreaths. I was really impressed with the beauty of these wreaths. And a perfect fit for this location.



Here, a beautiful garland around one of the light poles in the outdoor seating area on the lower level. This area is filled with small round, wooden-topped tables that seat four. There is a deli and a Mediterranean restaurant on this level. It is a delightful place to pick up lunch on a sunny spring day and enjoy alfresco. I saw William Kennedy Smith in the Mediterranean restaurant on a recent visit.


Of all the decor, I was most impressed with these beautiful garlands along the handrails leading to the business office complex. These are really extraordinary. I stopped for a while to examine them because I would love to put together something similar for Crest Avenue.


And finally this photo of those same garlands leading to the office complex. They added two more of the vertical swags here which was just the right thing to do. I say the new management at The Watergate has it "goin' on!!" The buildings look as beautiful this year for the holidays as any year I can remember.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A New Nightlight for the Kitchen

I don't know about you, but sometimes during the night I get up and make my way to the kitchen for a glass of water, ... or Coke Zero. Probably more often for Coke Zero, but we won't talk about that right now. I was in desperate need of some sort of lighting in the kitchen during the night. I wanted something more than just a little "plug in" nightlight. On a recent trip to HomeGoods I found exactly what I needed. Take a look.


I found just the right spot for this cute little lamp with an Edison bulb on the kitchen counter. (That is an agave in the foreground that I bought at the annual plant show at the D.C. Arboretum several years ago.)


As is the case at HomeGoods, what you see is what you get. And what is there today will not necessarily be there tomorrow. You pull off the shelf the items you want. There are no boxes are any of that. This little lamp was sitting amongst a bevy of other lamps, rather lost on the shelf. But I saw him and decided he would work just perfectly for my intentions. Sort of like Charlie Brown and is infamous Christmas tree. The cashier was kind enough to wrap packing paper around the bulb before placing this lamp in my shopping bag.


I loved the Edison-style bulb that came with it. It is very much like the Kichler bulb we installed in the front lamp post a few weeks ago.


They call it a "vintage" light bulb. "Edison", "vintage" - they are both adequate descriptors.


I wanted to set the lamp on a timer so that it would stay on during the night hours and turn off during the daylight hours. I have several of these timers in my arsenal. I particularly like this style of timer.


You will see in this picture that these timers can be set to turn on and off at multiple times of the day and night simply by depressing the outer rings of black buttons in succession. So you could have a lamp turn on and off innumerable times with one timer. Perfect. Especially useful at this time of year.

If you would like night time lighting in your kitchen, consider adding a little style to your decor and pick up a small lamp of your liking and set it on a timer.  It's a great look.
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Friday, December 2, 2016

Our Trip to Nemacolin

We recently took a long weekend trip to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, PA. Actually, it was my birthday trip. It was about a three hour drive through the beautiful Laurel Highlands in far western Pennsylvania. The weekend was delightful.


This was our first welcome to the property. I was happy to see that they had already begun decorating for the Christmas season.


Here, another shot of the entrance to the resort. These ornament sculptures were magnificent. So beautiful and over-the-top.


As we made our way up the winding drive I got this shot of the main building, called Chateau Lafayette. This beautiful building was inspired by the Ritz Paris, in France and is a tribute to the grand hotels and resorts of Europe.
 

This is the entrance to Chateau Lafayette. As the weekend progressed it was fully decorated for Christmas and was just stunning.


Of course, Baxter wanted to go too, so we made arrangements for him. Here, in the car on the way, in blissful slumber.

There is much more to share with you about our stay, so be sure to come back next week for more on our stay at this wonderful resort.
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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas Cards

I know it is hopelessly old-fashioned of me, but I still send Christmas cards through the U.S. Postal Service. I can't help it. I just think there is something about preparing and sending Christmas cards through the mail that is impossible to replicate with "Jib-Jab". Click here for more on Jib-Jab if you are wondering what that is. Don't get me wrong,  I like Jib-Jab. I think it is very funny and cute. But I still like receiving cards in the mail. That said, let's take a look at my Christmas card preparation this year.


I am sending two varieties this year. The first is this really cute angel card.


And the second is a Santa card. They are both from the same company named "The Gift Wrap Company". I pay less attention to the company name and more attention to whether or not I like the card. I keep a list of address labels in my document directory on my computer labeled "Christmas card labels ____(and the year is inserted so that I know it is the most current list). I print the labels and affix them to the envelopes.


To help with this process, I use a 3" x 5" index card. I decide where I would like to place the address label on the envelope.


Then I line up the index card on the bottom of the envelope using the inked lines as a guide. I carefully peel off each label and place it on the envelope using the top edge of the index card as a guide. This way your labels are perfectly level on the envelope.


Then there is the stamp selection. I try something different each year. Some years I use religious themed stamps. Some years I use Christmas themed stamps maybe with a picture of a wreath or a Christmas tree. This year I used this series celebrating the Peanuts characters from the half-hour animated "A Charlie Brown Christmas" which first aired on December 9, 1965. I thought these were very cute.


They look nice on the envelopes. I do not have similar advice to give for applying the stamps to the envelopes as I did with applying the address labels. I just "eye" it and that seems to work. You are working in a corner with 90 degree angles so it is easier to get the stamps affixed squarely without the use of a guide of any kind. I have limited vision in my right eye, so if I can do it, you can do it.


And here they are, ready to go to the post office. Any time after Thanksgiving is perfect to send your cards. Of course, you do not want to wait too late. I find the long Thanksgiving weekend is the perfect time to prepare your cards for mailing. And you will already have the cards because you will have bought them the previous year at the after Christmas sales. That's what I do. That way I have them and they are ready to go. You can buy your Christmas themed stamps anytime during the year at www.usps.com.  Saves time standing in line at the post office just to find out they do not have any Christmas themed stamps or they do not have what you are looking for.



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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Wonderful Thanksgiving

Time spent with family on Thanksgiving day was wonderful. My niece and nephew are amazing human beings. Both of them so talented and creative. My mother is still going strong at 77 and my sister and her husband are the best parents ever. It was a fun day.


My day started very early. Here, my kitchen counter loaded with everything I would be taking. Well, maybe not everything, but a good many of the the things I was taking on the trip to my sister's house.


I bought two baguettes for the day. These would be sliced and served with the artichoke dip, which was slightly warmed in the oven before setting out for everyone to enjoy. The paper sleeves that are traditionally used to hold the baguette in the store are not appropriate for storing them once you get home. They will go stale and hard very quickly. So I cut each baguette into three sections and placed them in large ziploc bags. I placed the sleeve they came in inside the bag, folded, so we would know which was which. I don't suppose it mattered because they were both delicious, but it certainly did not hurt to do this.


A beautiful arrangement of flowers is always nice to take to your host or hostess. This arrangement was especially beautiful with all the colors of fall.


We took scenic route 301 through Maryland and then over the Harry W. Nice bridge which spans the Potomac River.


It was still early morning when we crossed the river from Maryland into the Old Dominion. Beautiful blue waters and truly "sky blue" skies. There wasn't much traffic on the bridge at this hour and that it just how we like it.


I brought this wonderful homemade pumpkin cheesecake with sour cream topping. I cannot imagine Thanksgiving without a pumpkin cheesecake. It would be like having the day without turkey. It looked beautiful on the table in this high domed glass pedestal cake plate.


I believe my sister made the broccoli casserole this year. This is an old favorite of ours. My mother has been making this for many, many years now. But I think my sister has taken over this masterpiece. It was extraordinary as always.


We took this board of genoa salame and a mild blue cheese. Crackers were a standard buffet/cocktail assortment.


The turkey was quite delicious. Here is a large plate beautifully sliced and ready for the table. In all the chatter that was going on my mother informed me that it was a "natural" turkey. I assume a free-range, antibiotic free bird or something along those lines. All I can say is it was very delicious. I enjoyed it that day and have enjoyed several sandwiches of it on toasted English Muffins with a little mayonnaise and cranberry salad. That is an extraordinary taste sensation.


We spent the day with my brother-in-law's mother and sister also. They showed up with this beautiful pan of golden dinner rolls. Heated to perfection and with a slather of room temperature real butter. Over the top delicious.


They also brought this lovely pecan pie which, for reasons unknown to me, I did not try. It looked magnificent.


Here, my homemade pumpkin cheesecake with the cover removed and ready to slice. If I do say so myself, this was perfect. It was not overcooked. If you overcook cheesecake, the top splits and it is dry and tasteless. Not the case here. It was the perfect consistency. I cooked it NOT in a water bath, but rather on the middle rack of the oven with a water bath in a separate glass baking dish on a lower rack. Many recipes suggest placing the springform pan into the water bath. I do not do that. The steam from the water keeps the filling moist and also prevents the top from cracking.


Another goody prepared by yours truly was this divine chocolate chip cheese ball. My nephew requested this specifically and I could not let him down. It is the simplest of recipes to make and quite beautiful on the buffet table rolled in diced walnuts. I served it with honey graham crackers, Social Tea biscuits and freshly made palmiers. (Freshly made, ... but by the folks at Wegman's!  Not me.)


We talked briefly last week about taking the kitchen torch because my sister had requested that I do so. I told you in that post that I did not ask any questions when she asked for the torch. My only duty was to bring it and see what happened. Well, what happened was she presented these most beautiful pumpkin brulees that she made herself. We were all so dizzy from the various foods we had sampled that we did not take the kitchen torch to these. We all just grabbed spoons and started eating them. Extraordinary. I donot think using the torch would or could have added a thing to them. She needs to save this recipe and we will try it again next year using the torch.
 

Last, but certainly not least, was the prime rib with au jus. This was quite wonderful. Steven did a very good job preparing this this year. I had several pieces at lunch and have enjoyed sandwiches a few times since.

The road trip, the time spent with family, ... everything was just perfect.  I certainly hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving time with family and friends also.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Everyone Needs a Kitchen Torch

A couple weeks ago I received an email from my sister in which she asked if I had a kitchen torch. My answer was "yes". "Be certain to bring it with you on Thanksgiving," was her answer. Of course, I was intrigued, but I did not ask. So I will bring my kitchen torch tomorrow and see what happens. It needs to be filled with gas, so I ordered a new can of butane which was delivered today.


This is a Williams Sonoma Exclusive, Item No. 27-9561838. It sells in their stores and online for $49.95.



The torch detaches from the base which makes it really easy to handle.


The base has two small magnets.


The bottom of the torch has a metal ring which attaches to the magnets on the base, That is also where you will find the nozzle to fill the butane tank.


Filling the torch is both easy and messy at the same time. Do it outside. You simply turn the torch upside down and place the tip of the butane canister over the nozzle on the bottom of the torch and push down. That's the easy part. As you are pressing down, butane gas will fill the tank inside the torch. But gas will escape and flow over the handle. That's the messy part. Be certain to wash your hands thoroughly once you are done before using the torch. And wipe down the handle with a paper towel sprayed with a general household cleaner like Formula 409.


This little window in the handle will show you the level of gas in the tank.


After filling the tank, it is just a matter of a few button clicks and EUREKA!! You have your flame. Let us see what my sister has in store for us tomorrow,
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