Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Belgian Design - Catch the Excitement

Who knew??? There's a name and a source for the style that I gravitate toward...Belgian Design. People will often ask what style I like or how my home is decorated? Swedish just didn't hit the style that I's something else.... not modern, not traditional, eclectic doesn't do it....

I am of two minds (if not more) about a set "style." Before I entered design school I called a local designer and asked her if she found it difficult to work in a style other than what she personally liked. Occasionally her answer will pop into my mind again, giving me a gem to turn over and around and think about when my mind has time and space to drift.

She said "I do have a style that I personally like and am drawn to, but as a professional, I can work across all styles, applying the principles of good design."

In my professional career I have worked across a wide range of styles. Cleveland, Ohio is primarily a traditional market, with some splashes of more progressive design around our fair city. There have been projects on all of our coasts with a wide range of styles.

I have created designs for more traditional clients that I think are very nice and that the clients really enjoy - that's a success. It's not my personal style but they are client spaces that I am happy with. I have designed some very clean, modern spaces, and those are wonderful too.

But I do wonder...about that niche thing....

If designers are working in the "style" that appeals to them most, that which most makes their heart skip a beat, then would the finished product be so much better?? It's conceivable. What do you think? Would our designs be that much better if we deeply developed or worked within one "style?"

Restoration Hardware Salerno Street Lamp

This brings me back to the source of my excitement - Belgian Style - and a recent post from a blogger that I love, Joni Webb from Cote De Texas. It's a wonderful post Joni has done on Belgian Design and the new fall offerings from Restoration Hardware. Seems Restoration Hardware may be choosing a new path for it's stores - and I think it's beautiful! Yeah!

Restoration Hardware

For me, I like a wide mixture of styles and objects...modern, antique, some traditional, campaign, stone, glass, natural soft woods, neutral natural fabrics, dark's a little bit of many styles, but it has a certain feel.

And now I can put a name to that feel - Belgian Style.

Wonderful new blog with more Belgian Design - Belgian Pearls

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Late Summer in the Garden - Tomato Soup

Jax taking a break from munching on the catnip. Doesn't he look a little scary??
I thought it might be time for a garden update and time to share a delicious tasting fresh tomato soup recipe. It's time to start using the tomatoes as they ripen.

Sadly, my garden has been seriously neglected over the past month or so. We have been harvesting cucumbers (first successful batch in 3 years), broccoli, squash, some beets, green beans, and potatoes.
The weeds have run wild due to my experimenting with straw as a mulch. While straw may have kept the moisture in, it also made it impossible to use a hoe and work around the plants and rows. If I tried to pull the weeds they became tangled in the straw. Weeding turned out to be pretty frustrating, so I didn't spend any time fussing with the weeds.

Note for next year - no straw!! Or weed block first and then straw. On second thought - just forget the straw.

The tomatoes are just starting to come in. The cherry tomatoes picture above, Sugar Lump, taste WONDERFUL!!! We just stand in the garden and pop them in our mouths - like little pops of sugar.

These tomatoes are the Big Beef variety. They are okay but not my favorite. They are large and that's nice, but they are a little mealy inside. It's not the firm flesh variety that I like. I'll search on and try another type next year.

They make great soup though....

The Roma tomatoes are lagging behind just a bit. Aren't they just perfect?

Kitty Jax in the garden. It's nice to have company while I am in the garden.

How pretty are these??? LOVE the color!!

Eggplant pizza in my future.

The giant carrot.... that ate the village.

The cabbages turned out very well this year. I have made a batch of coleslaw with one and it was very yummy. They are totally ready now so I'll have to make more coleslaw soon.
I am searching for a really good recipe. Do you have one?? Please send it to me, thanks!
Maybe I will make a batch for the high school football post game party on Friday.

We have picked green beans several times and have perhaps one more time to go. I love fresh green beans. As always, the Blue Lake Beans are good producers and have very few rust spots on them.

Butternut Squash - vounteer seed from last year

Strange thing happened with my butternut squash this year. The Waltham seeds that I planted this year grew but had no squash on the vines. I guess it is a good thing that I didn't pull the seedling above out just because it was in the wrong spot in the garden. It's taken over the peppers but I am glad to have a few squash for making fall soup.

Great marigold this year from seed. I planted Inca II Yellows and they are blooming profusely with giant flowers.

Rosemary happily growing away.
I plant a lot of rosemary because I like to use the stems as skewers for shrimp or scallops on the BBQ.

Basil - smells sooooo good!!

Pumpkin Patch - note the mildew on the leaves.

Yesterday's harvest for dinner. I grew two varieties of corn, one that I selected, Silver Princess Sweet Corn, and one that was sent to me from the seed company as experimental. The Silver Princess grew well and was disease resistant. I have experienced quite a bit of trouble with disease in my soil over the last few years. The Silver Princess was outrageously delicious!!! To die for...

This year when I planted the corn, I buried fish heads from our local fish market, right in the ground with the Silver Princess seeds. I had some problem with the birds pulling up the tender new seedlings in the spring, so that reduced my yield a bit. Next year I will repeat the process of using the fish heads as fertilizer and I'll find a way to protect the emerging seedlings with netting - and of course - plant more corn!!!

The experimental corn, no name - just experimental on the label - was not very successful. I netted two very yummy ears from the three rows that I planted. The rest of the batch was deformed and pretty yucky looking. So I think that I will stick to the disease resistant variety and try to exend my fenced area.

Nasturtiums that I use for decorating my salads and desserts.

I planted several varieties of sunflowers this year. Note the bee on this sunflower.

Tomato Soup Recipe

2 cups chopped carrots
2 cups chopped celery
3 cups diced onions
2 cloves garlic (more if you love garlic)
12 cups skinned and seeded tomatoes
2 tbs. olive oil
2 cups water or chicken stock
2 tbs. salt
2 tsp. sugar (if needed)

Chop all of the veggies to about the same size so that they cook at the same rate.
In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and saute the veggies about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the prepared tomatoes and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
Remove from the heat and cool a bit. Puree the soup and return to the pot. Add salt and sugar if necessary. Serve with a spoon full of sour cream or pesto on top and garnish with a basil leaf. Enjoy!
*Note: to skin tomatoes, place in boiling water for 1-2 minutes or until skin begins to split. Cool and remove skins and seeds. Skins should slide off tomatoes easily.