March 15, 2014

I didn't think it would ever happen, but the temps have moderated and there has been an abundance of sunshine the past week or so. The frozen banks of dirty, gritty, icy "snow" are disappearing. I can see grass! Well, it's filled with snow mold, mouse tunnels and frozen rabbit droppings, but it is still grass, promising better things to come. As you can see from the photos snapped around Maison Newton this morning, it's a mess! The backyard is littered with peanut and nut shells. The shrubs out front suffered some windburn, but nothing that can't be pruned away. Everything needs a good clean-up! There are twigs and branches, large and small, ALL over the place. But, the ground is still frozen rock solid. First yard waste pick-up is not until mid-April. That clean-up will have to wait. Mother Nature is also reminding me that in southeastern Wisconsin, melting snow does not necessarily signal "spring." Tonight the temps will drop down to 7 degrees F, with a "high" tomorrow below freezing. Sigh.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Shopping for a New House: House 1

Scrreeeeeeccccchhhhhh!  The sound of smoking brakes as Jan's plans for Maison Newton do a 180 and - I'VE SOLD MAISON NEWTON.

OHMYGODDESS.

The house was NOT on the market. I got an offer out of the blue and, well, here I am. Desperately looking for a new place to live.

I had planned on downsizing - at age 65.  I'm still 2 1/2 years away from that.

Let me tell you, darlings, after the horrid experience I had with certain listing brokers in 2009 when I listed Maison Newton for sale, I was really really gun shy about ever using a broker again.  My sale - no broker involved. It's totally private.  Totally fell into my lap from -- probably the Goddess Hera (a mother goddess of family and the hearth in the most ancient times) had a hand in this.  Maybe a not to subtle kick in the butt from the Goddess that it-was-time.  Sooooo, thank you, Hera. I think.

Here is the house I'm putting in an offer for (not at the list price of $169,900, which is too high considering what else is on the market in the immediate area).  A one level Milwaukee style ranch, partial brick with siding.  Kitchen and bath totally redone. All floors natural hardwood refinished, not a speck of carpeting anywhere.  Tile in the bathroom and kitchen/dinette.  It is not a large house -- 1073 square feet, three bedrooms (no pics of them published here but they all have redone closets with good space) and one bathroom (small, but beautiful, shower over tub). No lower level rec room or separate laundry/furnace room or bath/half-bath. It's an open basement, clean clean clean.  Potential for future build-out is there:

The front.
 
The front from an angle.

Back yard patio view.
 
Back yard rear view of house. I would put in a patio door where the
large window is to the right (dinette window).
 
Living room view from the entrance.
 
Bathroom totally redone.  New vanity (check out that hardware), mirror,
light fixture, and on the opposite side, fully tiled shower over tub with glass
doors and a 6 inch wide strip of glass accent tile.  Tile floor.  Quartz countertop.
All in neutral tones.
 
Bathroom view 2, showing tub/shower.


Kitchen - totally redone.  Maple cabinets, check out the drawer pulls,
stainless steel appliances, tile floor. Back lighting on top of cabinets.


Dinette area, view toward kitchen.


View of dinette area toward rear door and stairway to basement. Yes, I
think that window wall on the right is begging for a patio door that
would open to the backyard.  The back door opens to the driveway.
 
It's a lovely house. About 500 square feet smaller than Maison Newton but then, I don't need all of this space, just me rambling around here now that Mr. Don has passed.  The yard gives me enough space for beautiful flower beds, but is much more manageable to mow (front and back).  There is a generous 2.5 car garage, bigger than the 2 car standard I have now.  The curved patio area is new within the past year.  There is a nice sized Norway maple which will grow huge and shade the entire yard unless I stay on top of it and have it pruned out once a year.  There are only 3 entry streets into the subdivision.  There is no through traffic, only local residents, so despite being 2 blocks away from busy South 76th Street and my Walgreens, Pick 'n Save and bus stop that takes me downtown (about half a mile to the south), it is peaceful and quite here.

Fingers crossed!  I electronically signed the offer papers this evening when I got home from the office.  My buyer broker is not feeling well, so I don't know if she was able to submit the offer this evening.

I do have a Plan B, and even a Plan C, if necessary, but Plan C -- oh my!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Gump's Silk Florals Sale!

Hola!

I normally do not do two posts in one day, but I'm itching for spring to finally spring around here.  Flowers at the grocery store - way too expensive these days.  Sigh.  I still have my post-Christmas deep of winter decor up, because for the most part, that is where we've been weather-wise, until recently.

As you know, I love Gump's (in San Francisco).  They have the most beautiful home decor items!  But, Gump's is high-end.  They don't chintz around on quality.  I cannot afford anything Gump's unless it is on sale.  And I have to tell you, Gump's does have great sales!

I have often looked at their silk floral displays and sighed.  I have purchased floral arrangements on sale as gifts for others, but never for myself.  I've always coveted a (faux) orchid for myself.  Maybe this is my chance?

If you're interested, you can visit Gump's orchids sale.  I will not mislead you.  You can get a good bang for your buck when you shop the sale and/or clearance sections that are not advertised:


The orchid above is the White Meadow Orchid, originally $98.00, now on sale for $48.99.  Here is the description:

With their white petals and ruby-red centers, our phalaenopsis stems look festive during the holidays and elegant throughout the year. The handcrafted blossoms, faux grasses and lifelike greenery are set in a rustic ceramic container, artfully finished to resemble traditional weathered-wood vessels.
  • 24" High
  • Imported

  • The orchid below is the Asian Accent Orchid, originally $38.00, now on sale for $24.99.  I have purchased similar white orchids (when on sale from time to time, not this incarnation of white orchid) as gifts for others and they have been incredibly beautiful and arrived in perfect condition each time I ordered one.  Maybe it's time I ordered one for myself.  I have to tell you, the orchid has shrunk in size (from 15" tall overall to 13" tall overall), in the number of flowers and the size of the vase, over the last few years.  Alas.  But, as currently offered it would look so pretty on my chou style coffee table in the front room. I think it is still a good deal.



    The stand is NOT included.  Description:

    A masterpiece of simplicity and proportion, a single orchid stem arches gracefully from a glazed ceramic vase with a traditional bird motif.

  • Overall: 13"H
  • Vase: 4 1/2" diam.
  • Made in the USA of imported materials
  • White or Pink orchid
  • Stand sold separately
  • Dreaming...The Rosewood Hotel, London

    Last week (March 20, 2014) I saw an article in the "Personal Journal" section of The Wall Street Journal about a new breed of luxury hotel suites.  I was much struck by this beautiful room:


    It is one of the rooms in a suite at the "Grand Manor House Wing" of the Rosewood Hotel in London. 

    Oh my!  I want this space!  I cannot quite put my finger on what it is that so draws me to this room (and the dining area beyond), but there is just -- something. Is it the hint of the soft leather wing chair in the corner?  Is it the sofa with the perfect pillows set all in a row?  Is it those all the way to the ceiling bookshelves flanking the doorway?  The subtle checkerboard pattern of the wallcovering?  Is it the chrome lamp on the sofa table?  Not a fireplace in sight, either!  I've no idea, actually. 

    I was so curious, I looked up the hotel on the internet.  Ooooooohhh!  It's so gorgeous!  The website intro page itself gives me shivers:

    Guests arrive at Rosewood London through an archway that opens into a grand Edwardian courtyard, in a little oasis of tranquillity unique among London luxury hotels. It is the perfect start to a memorable stay in a timeless heritage hotel, set just steps from Covent Garden...

    I'm sold!  I wanna be Georgia, a woman too shy to pursue her dreams, now blowing her 401(k) money at an exclusive Swiss resort, arriving by helicopter no less, in what she thinks are her last couple of weeks on Earth, as she was (falsely) diagnosed with a terminal condition (The Last Holiday, 2006, starring Queen Latifah, one of the best, most fun and wonderful movies I've ever seen).

    Alas, I haven't been diagnosed with an illness that will kill me within two weeks, so I've got to keep my 401(k) money.

    The Grand Manor House Suite is one of nine exclusive suites offered at this hotel (you can check them out under "Accommodation").  I was pretty darn sure the price of just a "regular" room would give me a heart attack, but I needed to know, and so --

    This is a description for the hotel's "Deluxe" room (notice the "e" at the end of "Delux" -- that's the British way of making an uncouth chick like moi know it's like, really high end, dude):

    Offering plush comfort and elegant style in equal measure, Deluxe Rooms capture the heritage and charm of a modern London residence. The airy urban refuges are among the largest Deluxe Rooms in the city, averaging 31 square metres (334 sq. ft.), and also among the most luxurious, with sumptuous bespoke furnishings and handsome Italian marble bathrooms.

    Source.

    Mind you, earlier today (playing hooky from the office), I watched an episode of House Hunters International on Hulu Plus (trying out my free one week subscription) and a one bedroom - one bath apartment in a desirable area of Paris that was about the same size as this hotel room was on offer for about $1.8 million USD. It was not a current (2013 or 2014) episode, either.  Yikes!

    According to Orbitz, the average rate for the "Deluxe" room is $346 a night. (I'm used to paying around $60 a night for a European hotel room, tiny but functional if you don't have large hips that can knock furniture over or accidentally blow out a shower wall. Oops.)

    So, I guess I'll just keep on dreaming about coming back in my next life as an uber rich-beyatch, daughter of an English duke, or maybe a descendant of a long-deposed Italian prince, who also happens to resemble Audrey Hepburn, or Katherine Hepburn...

    BTW, this is not a paid advertisement for any of the places or products mentioned. Just me day-dreaming (but I do own a video of The Last Holiday). 

    Sunday, March 23, 2014

    The Look for Less -- Copy the Cover: HGTV Magazine April 2014

    Hola darlings!

    Did you see the cover?  So cute!  I was immediately drawn to the color. It looks so fresh and spring-like, and just what I want to see after the long hard bitterly cold and icy winter we endured in southeastern Wisconsin, and so many others of you did in your own home towns, too! 
    
    The magazine at Barnes & Noble online
    The "Copy our cover!" article in the print edition focused on (1) the fabric Roman shade; (2) the yellow pouf; and (3) the pillows.  The window seat in the cover is built-in, but the article made a point of noting a "built-in storage bench look" could be achieved by using a pre-made storage bench the width (or wider) of the window, flanked on either side with ready-made bookcases.  So, I threw that into the mix for good measure :)

    The Roman Shade

    The fabric used in the cover shade is "China Seas Nitik Grande in  French Blue," by Quadrille.  It is a light blue on white with darker blue centers (looks like a navy blue).  HGTV hired a seamstress to create the Roman shade used in its cover (and I assume, the cover for the bench cushion, too, since it is made out of the same material).  The magazine recommended either doing so or hiring an online producer of such shades.  Cha ching

    I checked out some of the larger producers of such shades online.  I didn't see anything I could afford in the kind of print I was looking for!  I gave up and focused, instead, on Etsy.

    Here is one Etsy option I found:


    I like the addition of the yellow because it ties in so beautifully with the throw pillows and pouf.  This pattern, Bluebird, is one of many offered by Mallory's Home Decor (if you are in the market for a ready made Roman shade, I recommend you take a few hours and view all of the lovely patterns).  This shade measures 30" wide by 66" long, priced at $180.  Mallory Home Decor offers this fabric pattern in many different color ways, some featuring primarily blue. 

    I was also drawn to this particular fabric, offered by Ideal Window Fashions,  It is called Pom Pom Play:



    It measures 24" wide by 60" long, priced at $178.49.  This is very narrow and would not fit a standard window.  This Etsy shop owner does custom widths/lengths in the same fabric.  It is a somewhat different take on the design aesthetic of the magazine cover, with lovely blues and a sunny yellow/gold color, and I like the more expansive background of white; there is a bit of what looks like an olive green, too, and those grey swirls or tendrils -- I love them! 

    HGTV's feature article offered three different fabric options for a "make your own" faux-Roman shade, aside from the fabric used in the unpriced cover photo:  (1) Bonnie Phantasm Fan Linens in blue, from $17.50 per yard, at spoonflower; (2) Rosella Monaco in blue, $21.00 a yard, at warehousefabricsinc; and (3) Tibet Monaco in blue, $18 a yard, also at warehousefabricsinc (see image, right, for the sample fabrics chosen by HGTV Magazine). 

    To save some money, I would make my own faux Roman style shade and cover for the cushion on the storage bench that would go underneath the window.  I can sew, but I know there are tutorials online that show you how to use iron on heat-activated glue-tape to create flawless hems and seams, and rod pockets, etc. I would forego using a Roman shade kit to raise/lower the shade and opt for hand sewn-on ties to roll-up the shade during the day and lower it down to whatever length I wanted to at night.  When rolled up during the day, the excess fabric from the ties could be tied into a bow and/or pinned up to minimize bulk. 

    In the "old" days (back in the 1970s-1990s) I relied upon sheets purchased at Marshall Fields to give me great looking washable fabrics at a fraction of the cost I would pay for it in a fabric store.  I used sheets to make simple rod-pocket top curtains and table cloths.  That was well before the internet.  These days, pattern selection in sheets has become rather - blah, to put it bluntly.  That leaves shopping at your favorite fabric store in person or shopping on line to fine something that rings your chimes.  I did visit a few discount fabric websites but did not find a pattern I thought suitable at a modest price.  Maybe I was putting in the wrong search parameters, though.

    So, I had a brain storm and made a quick visit to Ikea, as I know Ikea offers fabrics as well as kitchen cabinets, lighting, bedding, rugs, and lots of other home furnishings, odds and ends.  Ikea's website continues to amaze me. 

    That visit revealed some interesting fabric possibilities.  The one below, for instance, is a lot darker blue than the cover shade, and has a lot less white in it (so it is opposite, featuring primarily dark blue with white accent, rather than primarily white with blue accent), but it is so pretty:


    This is Ikea's Blavinge blue and white fabric, at a price of $5.99 a yard.  Did you get that price -- $5.99 PER YARD!  It is 59" wide, 100% cotton, and machine washable.  What's not to love???

    Sadly, it is NOT available for sale online, for this is surely one of the most interesting fabrics I've seen in a long time.  Using the close-up feature at Ikea's website revealed that it a botanical and biological print, combined together.  Absolutely lovely.  The advantage of using this type of print in a Roman shade is that, as it is laid out flat, one can fully appreciate the intracacy of the print and its pattern.  At a whopping 59" 2-1/2 yards would be more than enough to make a sufficiently long roll-up Roman shade and more than enough to cover a 48" wide window; the extra material on either side of the length once hems were put in could be used to make the tie-up strips.

    Then, there is Ikea's Angsruta white and blue fabric:


    It is also 100% cotton, 59" wide, and machine washable.  Not available online, must be purchased at an Ikea store.  Angsruta's pattern looks delicate and tiny in this image (above) but when seen on some throw pillows at the Ikea website, it has a large scale.  It could be just the thing, made into a basic faux Roman shade, with ties tacked on to roll the shade up/lower it down.

    Here's a different idea.  What about buying an Emmie roll-up shade from Ikea ($19.99 for a generous 39" wide by 70" long, in white, and doing some stencilling in the colors of your choice?  Or stamping with stamps made from materials of your choice?  With a ready-made roll-up blind, the time spent on the artistic side putting in the perfect geometric print and colors would be up to you!  Best of all, it would be totally - and hand - custom-made, giving you 100% bragging rights.

     

    Saturday, March 15, 2014

    Bathroom Blues, Part 6: Never Buy Anything From Lowe's

    Hola darlings!

    I will NEVER EVER EVER buy a single thing from Lowe's for the rest of my life.  I had the most horrendous experience with Lowe's -- simply unbelievable!  I even went so far as to file a complaint against Lowe's with the Better Business Bureau, not that it will do much good.  Here is what happened:

    As I mentioned in one of my prior posts on Bathroom Blues, I had found a faucet for the bathroom sink I really liked and thought would look great in my main floor powder room/bath make-over.  I found it at Home Depot, but it was out of stock online.  That was made VERY clear at the Home Depot website.  The cost of the faucet (not including shipping) was $42.76.  Soooo, I went looking for that faucet elsewhere.  I found it at Lowe's, at a cost of $71.88.  I ordered it on February 2nd.  I paid quite a bit more for the faucet at Lowe's but I wanted to get going on my make-over.  I'd ordered the mirror and the new light fixture, and had wallpaper picked out, along with new flooring.

    Nowhere on Lowe's website did it tell me that the item was out of stock.  I received an acknowledgement email from Lowe's that indicated shipment would take place on or about February 9th.  Later the same day (February 2nd), I received an email indicating that the order had been delayed and would ship on or about February 10th.  On February 10th, I received an email from Lowe's informing me that the item had shipped and estimated arrival date was -- February 10th.  Huh?  On February 11th, $71.88 was deducted from my account. 

    When I had not received the item a week later, I emailed Lowe's customer service on February 18th asking where my item was.  In an email response on February 19th, I was informed that my item was, in fact, on back order and had not shipped!  I was given the option of cancelling the order at that time, which I did immediately by reply email.  THE ORDER WAS CANCELLED ON FEBRUARY 19, 2014On February 20th I received an email telling me that my order had been cancelled and I would be contacted within four days to follow-up on my refund.

    I did not hear anything further from Lowe's, nor was my account credited the $71.88 Lowe's had taken out of it (I am told this is illegal because the item had not shipped prior to Lowe's helping itself to my money).  Finally, after not hearing anything further from Lowe's, on March 3rd I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

    Lo and behold, on March 4th, I received an email from Lowe's telling me that they had "tried" to cancel the order, but the item had shipped directly from the manufacturer on March 3rd, and it was estimated to arrive on March 7th.  I was told that if I did not want the item I could return it to Lowe's.  I also received a telephone call from Lowe's in which I went through the entire sequence of events, only to be told from the other end that Lowe's had no record of my cancelling the order!

    Lowe's had between February 19th and March 3rd to "try" and cancel my order.  One night, a box was on my porch when I got home from the office.  It's the faucet I no longer want.  Now, maybe I'm crazy, but why do I have this overwhelming feeling that if I attempted to return the box to Lowe's, it would somehow "disappear" never to be seen again, and I would be without my $71.88 and without the unwanted faucet??? 

    Dear readers, you can make up your own minds about Lowe's.  I KNOW WHAT I THINK!

    Sunday, March 2, 2014

    My Bargain Round Pedestal Style End Table

    Hola darlings!

    This winter season - never ending (well below zero again today, and I spent 40 minutes this morning clearing a path from the front door to the road after the latest snowfall) has DEPRESSED me to no end.  Everyone around here (in southeastern Wisconsin) is at the end of their ropes.  We are used to winters, but this one - well, let me just say that this winter has sucked big time. Meteorological spring may have arrived, but physical spring is probably 3 months away.  Sigh. 

    To cheer myself up, I decided that I'd finally had enough of the cheapo inexpensive fiberboard table with the screw in legs that is meant to be covered with a 70" round table cloth that has been placed in various rooms throughout Maison Newton for the past 24 years.  I wanted something different.  Something more elegant, something in a finished wood that would "go" with the mish-mash of wood finishes (and styles) I have in the front room!

    No small task.  I have different eras of oriental, I have Queen Anne, I have an American interpretation of an English traditional mantel and firebox surround.  I have finishes that range from a rustic pine chou (chow) leg coffee table a massive 36" inches square to a burl-wood inlaid desk to a rosewood finished curio cabinet, and more. I love each piece so much, I cannot imagine parting with any of them so, the mish-mash remains.

    I shopped online at Wayfair.com.  Oh my, oh my!  I saw so many gorgeous pieces of furniture, most of them far away from my budget.  Here are some of the tables that caught my eye:


    This beautiful table is by Stein World (above) and is currently listed at $390 with free shipping.  It is 31" tall and 32" wide! It is not solid wood, but made of wood (unspecified) and MDF with a gold-painted finish on the accents. I love the "Empire" look!  But -- too large for my space, and too expensive for my budget for one table.  The black would also introduce yet another finish into my front room and, well, I just don't need any more (gee, ya think so, Jan???)

    This Wayborn end table is lovely, but also a little too large for my space.  I liked the finish, but I thought the styling on the feet was a bit wonky, like they were too small for the size of the table, something about the proportions didn't strike my eye as quite right.  29" tall, 28" wide.  The table apron is finished along the bottom edge.  Nice!  No specs were given so I have no idea what material this table is made out of, only that it has a "hand Mahogany finish."  It is priced at $189.49 and comes with free shipping, but shipping is between 1-2 weeks out from order date:



    I thought the table below was pretty, but was unsure about the overall quality, as there was only one review and it was "luke-warm."  This is the International Caravan Windsor Hand Carved End Table.  It is $158.39 with free shipping.  I like the color and the curvy styling with the additional little "curves" at the end of the legs.  Dimensions are 25" tall and 22" diameter.  I liked the added shelf at the bottom.  The bottom part of the table apron is also nicely finished with a slight round lip.  It has a "dual Walnut stain finish" (I've no idea what that means) and is carved "wood" - type of wood unspecified:



    Carolina Cottage has several lines of reasonably priced tables.  Here is one that caught my eye, the Gilda end table in a chestnut finish, and the price is nice at $112.  It is 25-1/4" tall and 19-1/2" wide.  It is wood (unspecified) and MDF:



    I liked the height, but I wanted something about 25" wide.  I thought the pedestal feet would complement the curvy legs on my Queen Anne console table, and the finish would blend with the other wood finishes in my front room.  I liked that this table had a finished edge at the bottom of the apron.  I also thought the pedestal itself might be a little too "country."  The Gilda table comes in three finishes:  the one shown here (chestnut), a distressed cream, and a distressed black.  The chestnut finish comes with free two-day shipping.  Notice the nice finishing detail of the "ball" at the base of the pedestal. 

    Here is the Mega Home Large Burl End Table, although I cannot attest that this is actually made of burl wood. As far as I know, actual burl wood is expensive these days, and is usually veneered because of its cost and relative scarcity -- real burl wood, that is.  It is a nicely-designed table, though, and I liked the "walnut" finish. It is 26" tall and 24" wide - good dimensions for where and what I want to use it for.  Priced at $103.29 with free shipping.  The design is "contemporary," but I thought the curvy feet would nicely complement my Queen Anne console table.  The only drawback was that it did not have a finishing "edge" at the bottom of the table apron, I thought that would have added a lot to the look:




    After looking at many more end tables (until my eyes felt like they were about to fall out), here is the table that I purchased:



    This is the Hazelwood Home Early American End Table in a "mahogany finish" and, hold on to your hats, it is priced at $55 with free shipping.  For this price you do not get a table made from 100% real wood.  It is wood (unspecified) and MDF.  It is advertised as 25" tall and 24" wide.  I measured the table once I had it assembled.  The height is 25-1/2" tall and it is 23-1/2" wide.

    It arrived at my doorstep in two days as promised, for free, was delivered on February 28th. I unboxed it and let it rest in the warm air of the house for a few hours before assembling it.  All I needed was a Phillips head screw driver and my hands.

    The table went together easily just following the single line drawn image on the "instructions" that came without words (probably a good thing, considering this is made in China).  I made sure I gave the columns (legs) some extra twists to tighten them up after I'd put the feet on and screwed them in.  I then retightened the screws that hold the feet on before flipping the table right side up.  The table is very sturdy, and not wobbly like some of the reviews at Wayfair noted, so perhaps those buyers did not take the extra step of re-tightening everything once it was "all together."

    I am very happy with my $55 table:






    LOVE this table!  I think she's very pretty.  She fills the space just right and is a good height for both my taller recliner and the shorter English rolled-arm love seat.  You'll notice that the feet on the table are darker than the rest of the finish.  It's not noticeable at night but in daylight, oh my!  I believe that is because the feet are solid hardwood while the rest of the table is MDF.  So the "mahogany" finish came out two-toned.  That's okay, I rather like it, actually, LOL!  The feet almost look like they've been "dipped" - all the rage right now, n'est ce pas?  I think the table's style and finish "go" very well with the other wood in the room!  Just what I was aiming for. 

    I put my own 24" glass topper on, which added another quarter-inch of height and protects the top finish (which one or two reviews said was "easily scratched").  I expropriated the glass round from the cheapo inexpensive table meant to be covered by a round tablecloth that I will now donate to the next charity that calls indicating a truck will soon be coming through the neighborhood. 

    Sunday, February 23, 2014

    Fly By the Seat of My Pants Italian Chicken

    Friday night I had a taste for something tomato Italian, and I didn't want to make Ragu spaghetti.  I had a frozen chicken breast that I wanted to use, too, as it went into the freezer back in November.  I was a nice chunky breast, probably 8 ounces!  Enough for two meals, as I cook for myself and no one else.

    While the chicken breast, tightly wrapped in tin foil, was defrosting using the cold water method, I rummaged through my cabinets.  Not much, hmmm!

    No garlic!
    No onions!
    Hardly any extra virgin olive oil left!

    I quickly scootched around the internet for some easy recipes, but didn't find anything EASY enough!

    So, I gulped and decided to wing it on my own, with NO RECIPE!  I said to self, "Jan, how many cooking shows have you watched over the years?  How many Hell's Kitchens?  How many Master Chefs?  How many Cooking with Julias? How many Jacques Pepin?  You can do this, woman.  Just do it!"

    What I had on hand was:

    A half-empty jar of small pimento-filled green olives (store brand)
    Three-quarters of a jar of Ragu spaghetti sauce with green peppers and onions (they are so small and so few you need a magnifying glass to see them)
    Garlic powder
    Italian seasoning
    Dried oregano
    Other spices, including salt, pepper and dried parsley

    Chicken:

    After the chicken breast was thawed, I rinsed it well under cold water and then dried it with paper towels; cut it lengthwise, being very careful as I was working with a large sharp knife that scares me half to death, and then trimmed away the fat and the small ends with a smaller knife.  I then cut both halves into roughly 1/2" thick "medallions." 

    In a plastic grocery bag, as I did not have any "shake and bake" bags on hand, I mixed up some all purpose flower, salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried parsley, and a wee bit of Italian seasoning mix, about 1/4 teaspoon.  I tightened up the bag opening and shook the ingredients to mix them, and then tossed in the chicken medallions and tossed away until they were well coated. 

    Meanwhile, I added a couple of tablespoons (rough measure, as I was just pouring from the bottle) of vegetable oil into a skillet, and added about a tablespoon of olive oil.  Brought to about medium heat.  Then I shook off the excess flour mixture on the chicken medallions one by one and added them to the hot oil, being careful (1) not to burn myself, LOL! (2) to maintain the bubble of the oil around each piece as it was added by temporarily increasing heat (gas stove) as necessary, and (3) working quickly so that some medallions would not finish cooking well before the others!

    I cooked then all for about a minute, then did a "slide-shake" of the pan to redistribute the medallions from around the hot spot in the center of the pan.  Cooking time on the first side was about 5 minutes, then turned them with tongs, checking to make sure the first side was browned.  Success!  Nicely browned, YES!

    Second side was cooked a scant 3 minutes and I did the shake/slide thing with the pan a couple of times.  The last minute or so I added some chopped green olives and a little of the juice from the jar to add some brine, did a couple more shake/slide things with the pan and then turned off the heat as I  was removed the chicken and olive bits to a bowl; covered with tin foil to stay warm while I did the sauce.  This is what the chicken looked like after I removed it from the pan -- try to imagine it not blurred:



    Sauce:

    I have no idea where the thought to make a roux came from, but when it entered my brain I instantly went with it.  In a little bowl I mixed a bit of all purpose flour -- and yes, I did a major sin, I used some of the left-over in the plastic grocery bag from coating the chicken medallions!  Since I'm still here to write about it, I did not kill myself with ptomaine poisoning.  Added more salt and pepper.  Dumped a couple tablespoons of cold butter into the frying pan and turned on the heat.  When the oil that had been left in the pan and the newly-added butter was bubbling, I slowly added the flour mixture with one hand from the bowl and frantically stirred with a fork in the other.  Let's just say my technique leaves something to be desired.  But it worked because I REALLY whisked that fork around and was careful not to add too much flour mixture all at once.

    Brought the roux to a foam, while stirring constantly:


    I let it foam until it turned a rich golden brown color and started slightly smoking, added some dried parsley (I have no idea why):


    I turned down the heat and added about a cup of the Ragu sauce, a wooden spoon-full at a time, stirring each in well before adding the next.  This is what it looked like after I finished putting in the spaghetti sauce:


    You can see that using the roux made the sauce very thick!  And it added a layer and depth of flavor, not sure how to describe it, but remember when I said it was smoking just before I added the first of the Ragu spaghetti sauce, I was reaching for a certain subtle smoky flavor I've seen done on those t.v. cooking shows, but didn't want it to taste burned!  I thought it tasted really good and turned out well, but I am well aware I was treading on dangerous ground!

    By the way, that is a genuine Grandma Newton wooden spoon.  She died in 1960.  Afterward, as the old family home was cleaned out and Grandpa went to live with my Aunt Laurel and Uncle Verne, the possessions were divied up amongst my dad and five aunts. This spoon and other things ended up in our family stash.  When I moved away to my first apartment in the summer of 1969 after graduating high school, I took with me an assortment of odds and ends, including a beat up (even then) old tin kettle that I'm pretty sure came from Grandma's house, a relish dish, a fancy glass bowl, some knick-knacks, and Grandma Newton's wooden spoon.  That wooden spoon, and the other much loved items, too, have been with me ever since.  I remember she had a set of wooden spoons that she kept in a glass jar on one side of the sink. They were worn and stained.  I loved those old spoons because Grandma Newton made magic happen with them!  Now my old, inherited wooden spoon is like Damascus steel, it's indestructible!

    How well I remember sitting on a tall stool on one side of the butcher block island in her small kitchen, watching her cook.  My nose was never far away from the bowl, LOL!  She NEVER used a recipe!  So, this wooden spoon is, at a minimum (if I date it from the 1950s), about 70 years old now. Likely older.  Who knows?  Maybe Grandma Newton got those spoons as a gift from her mom (Mathilda Forsythe Belanger, 1861-1943) when she married Grandpa Newton.  Holy Hathor!

    After I stirred the sauce into the roux for a few minutes, I put the chicken back in:


    Then I let it all simmer on very low heat for about 5 more minutes, covered. 

    Meanwhile, I prepared a single serving of fetticini for myself.  When the chicken was done, I spooned a good helping over my fetticini and added some shredded parmesan cheese. 



    Popped it into the microwave for 30 seconds to slightly melt the parmesan and then had at it!

    Very good!  The chicken was moist and tender, easily shredded with my fork. The sauce was thick (which I like) and stuck to everything,  very tomato-y, and had that little "extra" flavor (slightly smoky?)  As a last second garnish, I tossed on a few more chopped green olives, which added a bit of saltiness, because the dish otherwise was not salty (I have to watch it on the salt for health reasons).  I will make this for myself again.  It is probably an abbreviated version of chicken parmesan but without the black olives :)

    I have left-overs for one more supper, just have to cook up some fresh pasta.