weekly photo challenge: inside

Would you like a closer look inside the doll house???  Don’t mind the dust…

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…a hobby my daughter and i shared when we were both…younger…

………hugmamma.

cee’s fun photo challenge: houses

The dollhouse built for our daughter by her dad…and lovingly furnished with her mom’s help. Loving reminders of…a time that lives on in our memories…and our hearts. 

...preparing for halloween...

…preparing for halloween…

...expecting company...

…expecting company…

...the family room's a mess...

…the family room’s a mess…

...where dreams are made...

…where dreams are made…

...time to watch "hgtv"...

…time to watch “hgtv”…

...bathroom break...when ya gotta go...ya gotta go!...

…bathroom break…when ya gotta go…ya gotta go!…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…where has the time gone?…

………hugmamma.

 

 

weekly photo challenge: create

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Furnishing dollhouses was a hobby my daughter and I shared as she was growing up. The first dollhouse was a gift for her which my husband assembled from a kit. We painstakingly finished it off with paint, wallpaper, roofing tiles, and electricity. We were quite pleased with the finished product, as was our daughter who squealed with delight upon seeing it Christmas morning.

The following year my husband’s aunt and uncle visited from California, bringing with them a surprise for our daughter. Driving their trusty trailer the 3,000 miles to our home in Redding, Conncecticut, they eagerly presented her with a dollhouse that uncle had built with pride. He’d built dollhouses for 3 granddaughters as well.

To our great surprise uncle had built the exact same dollhouse that we’d presented to my daughter! There was a slight difference, one that made his more convenient for 360 degree viewing. Attached to its underside was a turntable. This dollhouse could be placed anywhere, unlike the first which had to be situated so that the front of the house and the inside could be seen at the same time. Displaying it took some creativity on my part when trying to incorporate it into our home furnishings. A dilemma not easily solved in a 100-year-old, 1500 square foot, Victorian farmhouse. But I managed.

Now there were 2 dollhouses to display and furnish. Over time, the one built by uncle  was furnished with pieces selected by my daughter. She lovingly arranged each as she imagined a house should look…lived in. Miniature food was left out on the table, pumpkin carvings on newsprint on the floor, magazines and games strewn about.

The one my husband had built became a haven for the vintage finds I favored. I was delighted to have another outlet for my insatiable passion for antiques…of any size. Normal size or miniatures, originals or replicas, none of that mattered. The “look” is what I obsessed about. This dollhouse began to resemble the feel of our house…only in miniature.

What fun my daughter and I had creating comfortable dwellings for imaginary people. And she and friends spent countless hours playing house like the wee folk…thanks to 2 creative geniuses…

…her father…and great uncle…

………hugmamma.   🙂

365 photo challenge: browse

Thought you might enjoy browsing through my dollhouse, with its replica, vintage furnishings. It was a project of love, begun in Connecticut…and continued here in Washington. It was this hobby that introduced me to then neighbors, Sylvia and Jim…miniaturists extraordinaire! As a team they have worked wonders with several dollhouses, large and small, an English pub identical, except in scale, to one that sits in Sylvia’s hometown, a dress shop complete with a magnificent inventory of dresses, lingerie, hats, umbrellas, shoes, and a Tudor home with Henry VIII and several of his wives in residence.

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Sometime soon I’ll take you on a tour of my daughter’s dollhouse, decorated more to her liking when she was a child. Using her imagination to provide the stories, she would play with its furnishings…for hours on end.

I’ll also take some snapshots of Sylvia’s dollhouses and share them with you. I’m certain she’d enjoy making them available to miniaturists and fans, alike. I promise they will astonish………hugmamma. 

our christmas “explosion”

My daughter’s favorite description of what our home looks like right now is that “Christmas exploded!”  We literally can’t walk an inch without brushing up against a tree branch, heavily laden with ornaments, or having our eyes come to rest upon any surface not awash in Christmas.

Because we didn’t need to make our usual holiday trek to our daughter’s home for Thanksgiving this year, I found the energy to begin the gargantuan task of decorating for the holidays. I figured if I started ahead of time, unlike last year, I’d be okay removing it all some time in January. Last year’s decor didn’t get taken down until April, about 7 months ago. In fact, when we began the ritual of bringing bins in from the garage, my husband said “Didn’t we just put these away?”

I incorporate Christmas in with my everyday furnishings, antiques, and vintage collections, so it’s a monstrous task piecing together what is literally a household puzzle. Every item finds a new home, somewhere. My brain is agog with a choreography of minutiae. Somehow everything comes together for the holidays. And I try not to repeat the same scenario from year to year. In recent years I’ve used 5 or 6 artificial trees of varying widths, heights, shapes, and styles. Their adornments are changed each Christmas, because I couldn’t possibly remember their exact configuration, even if I wanted.

Holiday vignettes are everywhere, adorning the tops of an antique dresser and an immigrant’s chest, several painted cupboards and a pie safe, lining the shelves of a green bookcase, and an assortment of tables. Open shelving which frames the kitchen window showcase my santa collection, the overflow keeping my husband company in his office. Meanwhile the snowmen are gathered together in a cozy corner of my daughter’s bedroom. Vintage toys rest along the mantle, and before the fireplace. While Christmas stockings line the staircase bannister leading to the front door

I’ve always transformed our home into a magical place for the holidays, whether it’s Easter, Halloween or Christmas. And it was always for my daughter’s benefit. The delight in her eyes, the smile that lit up her face, the love she shared in thanking us, made the time and energy it took, so worth it. No matter that she’s now 24, I still work my magic, and she continues to be delighted, and gratefully loving. Its still so worth it!

sending you hugs for a holiday full of hope, and love…hugmmamma.

any day, pancakes

Sunday morning is when we usually savor a breakfast of pancakes and all the trimmings. These depend upon what’s in the refrig. If you’re ever able to find Portuguese sausage, serve it up sliced and sautéed. Yummy…my mouth’s already watering. An egg, fried, over-medium, is nice, or eggs scrambled with chopped onions, red peppers, mushrooms is very tasty. But the piece-de-resistance is the following recipe for the smoothest, easiest-to-make pancakes. And I don’t like making this usually, difficult-for-me-to-get-right food. My husband’s way better at it, although lately, not so much. We’ve now been opting for pancake houses, like the International House of Pancakes, which can be found in many cities. An absolute favorite is Pancake House in Nashville, where you can breakfast on southern cooking at its greatest. There’s always a lineup of customers, but it moves pretty quickly, and the wait’s worth it. Soooo worth it!!!!!!

But if you’re in the mood for pancakes, and really don’t want all the fuss and bother of watching, and waiting for the right number of bubbles to form before flipping these oft-times, temperamental delicacies, then this is for you. I know there’ll be some of you, maybe many, for whom pancakes is a “no-brainer.” Well then, you’re really, really blest. Wish I had a “white thumb” when it comes to cooking, but sometimes I’m just “all thumbs.” And pancakes is definitely one of those times. I usually blacken them before the insides are cooked. So if you are inclined to share some tips for getting them right, feel free. Like I said, my husband’s not even doing so well with making great pancakes these days. Maybe my lack of “white thumbs” has rubbed off on him. Forty years together, these things happen.

The beauty of this pancake recipe is that you combine all the ingredients in an iron skillet, put it in the oven, and forget about it. Well, not literally, more like 15-20 minutes. But no checking every few seconds to decide when they need flipping, removes the stress, and replaces it with unbridled enthusiasm to sink your teeth into what will taste like a “heavenly cloud,” baked “cotton candy,” French pastry. And you can take all the credit, even though your iron griddle and oven did all the work. Well, okay, you put all the stuff together. Hey! That’s work!

After this buildup, hope this recipe doesn’t fall short. But I don’t think it will.

OVEN PANCAKE

 Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Ingredients: 1/4 cup butter, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup milk, 2 eggs ( beaten), salt and nutmeg to taste

Melt butter in iron skillet in oven. Combine flour, milk, eggs, salt and nutmeg in bowl; mix well. Pour into skillet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Garnish with confectioners sugar. Serve with REAL maple syrup which keeps the dish “light,” not heavy. But hey! Whatever suits your taste buds, go for it. Even “Mrs. Butterworth” tastes good, as does blueberry jelly. My favorite way to serve up these pancakes is with a handful of fresh blueberries, lovingly distributed over the powdered sugar.

any-day-of-the-week pancakes, for my family…and now yours…hugmamma.

“stretching” meals

Because there were so many mouths to feed when I was growing up, my mom was adept at “stretching” meals. I’m sure she wasn’t the only single parent, or married parents for that matter, who learned to enlarge meals by adding fiber, like oatmeal, or veggies. I was reminded of this when I tried a new meatloaf recipe the other night.

It wasn’t so much that the recipe made more, there were just added ingredients that I wasn’t accustomed to using, like grated potatoes, grated carrots and white rice. The recipe was entitled “Juicy Meatloaf.” Well it really wasn’t juicy. It was more like our dried out Thanksgiving turkey. What really struck me though, was the denseness of the meatloaf. Unlike the one I normally cook for our family, there was no “give” to this meatloaf. Each slice stood firm, and solid. And that’s how it tasted, firm and solid, not moist and juicy. It did last a few days, showing up as left-overs, alongside something else I’d cooked. So I guess the additional ingredients did “stretch” out the meatloaf. It was so dense that half-a-slice went a long way in filling my belly.

A favorite meal I serve my family is steak and onions. This dish can definitely be increased to serve more by adding items like sliced mushrooms, corn niblets, red pepper slices, and I guess anything else that’s to your liking. I’ll often look through the refrig for leftovers, which can be added. Of course everything has to be sliced thin, so they can blend while stirring. Just pour a little oil, perhaps a mixture of a couple pats of butter and canola, into a fry pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onions and saute. Toss in the thinly sliced steak pieces. It’s best to use the best cut you can afford, so cooking is quick. When the meat and onions brown, toss in the remaining ingredients, if any. Saute all, stirring every so often. Season with salt, pepper, and soy sauce to taste. Cover, and lower heat, cooking for another 15 minutes or so. It’s delicious served over rice, white or brown.

The same thing can be done with ground beef. I’ve never tried it with ground turkey, but it might work just as well. Serving a simple salad alongside either entrée, makes a nice meal. In these economic times, foods prepared simply can still satisfy the gourmand in all of us. By the way, one-and-a-half pounds of either meat will serve 3 adults. The more extras added, the further the entrée will “stretch.”

bon appetite!…hugmamma.

crestor, beware…

For some time now, statins have been touted as an “elixir” for lowering cholesterol. Since February the FDA has also approved their use in helping to “prevent heart disease and stroke in people with normal cholesterol levels.” In a recent AARP article, Dr. Mehmet Oz explains that the decision was a result of a 5-year study of men 50 years and older, and women 60 and older, whose cholesterol was normal but who suffered high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP). “People with high levels of CRP have a greater risk of heart attacks, strokes, autoimmune disorders, and other maladies.” In the study, those taking the statin Crestor for approximately 2 years were 44% less likely to have heart attacks or strokes, than those who didn’t. Based on this finding, the research ended, and the statin was offered to the remainder of eligible adults.

The FDA’s decision isn’t without controversy. While statins can lower the level of LDL, bad cholesterol, they do little to raise the level of HDL, good cholesterol. Meanwhile they could cause “severe muscle pain and a 9 percent increase in the risk of type 2 diabetes.”

About 10 years ago I was put on the statin Lipitor to lower my cholesterol which stood at 195. Moving to another state 4 years later, I saw another doctor who took me off that statin because my liver enzyme count was slightly elevated. He put me on Crestor instead. Subsequently, I began experiencing an increase in muscle pain. I’m unsure when, but after that I heard on the local news that Asian women were at increased risk of severe muscle inflammation when using Crestor. I mentioned this to my doctor who had no measurable reaction, so I didn’t pursue the matter. As the pain became chronic, my doctor prescribed muscle relaxants which I took periodically. Their only benefit for me was that I got a good night’s sleep, but  awoke in the morning to the same pain.

When I moved back to my permanent home state, I started seeing a female, Asian internist. She too kept me on Crestor, despite my information of its debilitating effects on women of our ethnicity. After a couple of years, I switched to a doctor with whom I could communicate more effectively. 

I found such a physician in General Practitioner Dr. Kinnish, and I’m very fortunate to be under his current care. When I expressed concern that Crestor might be to blame for my ongoing muscle pain, he immediately ordered blood work and insisted I stop taking the statin. Surprised, I didn’t realize muscle pain could be analyzed by drawing a blood sample. When the results came back, Dr. Kinnish was astounded. The normal range for the CK, Serum test is 24-173, mine measured 1228!!! Needless to say, he kept me off Crestor and began re-checking my numbers regularly thereafter. In the ensuing months my levels dropped to 497, rose to 738, dropped to 419 then to 330 and finally to 223. I was headed in the right direction, so the doctor recommended I continue my regimen of healthy eating, exercising, and visiting the chiropractor and massage therapist as needed. I’m due for a follow-up next week, and am keeping my fingers crossed for a good report. (xxxxxxxxxxxxx)

Without the help of drugs, I’m working at reducing my cholesterol the old-fashioned way. Like Kinnish, “my other” doctor, Oz, recommends going back to basics. “Many of my patients have reduced their cholesterol levels (and blood-sugar levels) without the use of drugs by adhering to a diet low in saturated fat and by exercising regularly. …Statins remain a good option for people who, despite a sensible diet and ample exercise, can’t lower their LDL. But statins or no, a healthy lifestyle is the best way to fortify your heart.”

can’t go wrong with 2 great doctors…hugmamma.

a treasure trove

Deciding to enjoy a day in the sun, hubby and I briefly visited friends to see what goodies they were selling in their neighborhood yard sale. I snapped up a set of 4 square, etched glass lunch plates with matching mugs for $10. While there I did a little rearranging, bringing to the front items that would catch the eyes of passers-by. I left, hoping the changes would increase sales.

Residential communities and shopping plazas behind us, we found solace in the wide open spaces the farther along we drove. Heading toward a favorite restaurant for lunch, I saw a street sign out the corner of my eye. I immediately asked my husband to “Go Back!” Turning the steering wheel, he made a quick right turn. It put us on a road that was sure to connect with the one we’d passed. After a short drive, we came to a stop sign. As we turned left, I knew we’d been here before. It was deja vu.

As buildings came into view at the bottom of the street, I squealed with delight. Ahead lay the historical train depot with its museum, the bookstore that carried “out of print” titles, and the restaurant/bakery that served up “to-die-for” home cooked meals and baked goods. We’d eaten there 12 years before when we first moved West. At the time it seemed we’d driven umpteen miles in search of a haunt favored by the locals. 

Impatient to see if the inside looked the same, I jumped out the door as soon as the car was parked. Not waiting for my husband, I entered the restaurant. It seemed more spacious than I remembered; but it had the same, comfortable vibe as before. Looking around, I saw people smiling and chatting as they munched away at their food. I was so happy that we’d found this “hidden gem” again.

After dining on a hearty meatloaf sandwich, coffee and lemon meringue pie, I was ready to explore. Contentedly burying himself behind his e-book, my husband waited while I browsed the nearby shops. He helped carry an armload of old books, mostly biographies, that I’d purchased for “pennies.” (Compared to what I pay at big retail bookstores.)

Expecting to make a quick stop at the train station museum, I did so only because it was there. I half-heartedly hoped that the antique shop I’d visited before was still housed within. But I was pretty sure it had gone out of business a while ago. Walking through the front door, I felt I had traveled back in time.

An avid collector of vintage items, I’ve searched for treasures from Hawaii to New England to Venice. But I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming inventory of memorabilia I saw before me. Wherever I looked there were walls of old black and white photographs, wedding certificates, baseball uniforms, tools and so much more. There were glass cases displaying old typewriters, a mannequin dressed in a vintage wedding gown, hats, dolls and a miniaturized train depot complete with trains, tracks, landscaping, and the like. There was a bank safe and a phone booth. Both looked like they might still service customers. There was a grouping of old Singer sewing machines, and a small cart that might have been a child’s or one used for delivering goods.

I couldn’t stop “oohing” and “aahing” as I marveled at several vignettes. One was of a barbershop; another of a classroom with children sitting at old school desks, filled bookcases alongside. A third showed a kitchen complete with all sorts of cooking and eating paraphernalia from bygone days. For me, the most significant find stood at the foot of the stairs descending to the basement, a ringer-washing machine. I smiled remembering my childhood encounter with that antiquated contraption. 

At 9 or 10 years of age, I helped my older, married sister put the washed clothes through the ringer of the machine, ridding them of water. In shocked horror I watched as my hand got caught in the rollers. I probably waited to see how close my fingers could get before letting go. Blood curdling screams brought my sister, and everyonelse in the house, running to see what had happened. I’m happy to say I escaped, fingers, hand and arm completely intact. I made sure not to tempt fate a second time.

The curator couldn’t have been lovelier, allowing me to snap some pictures, as well as sharing tidbits about preserving the antiques and explaining how they came to be in the museum. We parted friends, deciding to keep in touch via emails, blogs and Facebook.

I rejoined my husband,  who was patiently sitting on a bench just outside. He listened as I recounted all the details of the past hour or so. He hadn’t realized that more than train artifacts were on display. He might have come inside had he known. Well there’s always the next time, for we’ll be back.

trust me,we will return…hugmamma.

lemon drop martini to the rescue

Talk about ATTENTION TO DETAIL! Establishing a blog is hard work. So it didn’t take much to convince me that I had earned a well deserved break. Of course it was an excuse to indulge in another of my interests, miniatures.

Friends who share my appreciation for doll house furnishings, informed me they’d be attending a high caliber show of vendors selling their wares today. How right they were! Items no bigger than a thumbnail took my breath away.

Beautifully adorned delicacies such as hats, shoes, umbrellas, and satchels made me gasp with delight. Gourmet desserts like red velvet cake with slices cut and served on accompanying plates looked yummy enough to eat. I couldn’t resist purchasing a German crafted Singer table sewing machine with moving parts.

Primitive antiques, and their miniature counterparts, are another of my passions. Choosing from an array of painted furniture whose  patina was worn to show aging was a difficult task. After painstaking deliberation  my hand reached for a blue step-back cupboard, then a mustard-green corner cupboard with double glass doors, and finally a green, square drop-leaf table and matching chairs with upholstered seats in a pretty, checked, green/beige fabric.

Having traded one project requiring so much ATTENTION TO DETAIL for another left me comatose, or nearly so. So when we joined our friends for a drink afterwards at a nearby lounge, I was more than ready to be tantalized by a lemon drop martini.

Relaxing with a good drink, good friends and good conversation was the respite I needed. Although someone reminded me that I would soon be returning home to  more “self-induced pain.”

And so with brains “fried” I’m off to bed for it’s nearly midnight. But you know I’ll be back at it in the morning.

please let me dream of something other than this blog…hugmamma