Sunday, June 30, 2013

Feast-testing for the Fourth of July!

Before I tell you about what's going on next week to celebrate the
fourth of July, let me tell you what happened this weekend...
Turns out that I was able to make excellent use
of that new television we added to the kitchen...
Because on Friday I spent sixteen and a half hours creating cookies there!
But not just any cookies... You see, a friend and coworker at the Dream-job
asked if I would donate cookies to the Bike MS bake sale coming up soon!
Normally I wouldn't think twice about helping a friend or supporting
such a worthy cause. However, normally I'm not in a leg cast either...
Which unfortunately is where I find myself after consulting a doctor about
pain in my heel and ankle. Long story short, the MRI showed a tear in the
muscle around my heel and a tear inside my Achilles tendon. The best news
is that surgery is not indicated. The bad news is I'm in this hot, heavy and
unattractive cast for at least six weeks and perhaps as long as nine weeks!
Nevertheless, the bake sale must go on. So I enlisted the help of an amazing
friend and fellow cookie enthusiast and together we mixed, rolled and cut out
cookies from six o'clock Friday morning until noon when she had to leave. After
a short rest and a sandwich, I continued alone until 10:30PM. I didn't get as far
as I might have sans cast or  had my friend been able to stay; however, the final
cookie count was 224 of the 400 cookies I promised to donate. Not bad for one
day of work. By the way, how great are these bike cut-outs? They are possible
because donated their Bicycle cutter to this project, which
is item #3142. Now if you popped over to look at it, you may have noticed the
bike is facing the other way. But I wanted my bike for the Bike MS bake sale to
roll left, so I asked Beth if her beloved husband and coppersmith would kindly
tweak his design to accommodate me. And, as usual, Ray came through perfectly!
Although the Bike MS bake sale is still a few weeks away, I had to get started
on this project right away. Fortunately Bridget's recipe freezes very well
so these cookies will wait until I'm able to get back to them. Why the rush?
Well, it's because our Ranger is on his way home next week! And, not only
will he be with us for the holiday, he's also bringing his Texas-girl home!
We cannot wait to meet her. Although his visits home are always somewhat
bittersweet because they always precede a deployment, I prefer to focus on
the having him home part. Which brings me to what I've been up to today!
I am testing this recipe creation of mine for dark brown sugar, honey and
bourbon spareribs. If it turns out well I'll add them to the feast I planned
for next week's fourth of July celebration! First, I rubbed paprika, crushed
garlic and salt all over slabs of pork ribs. Then I let them rest overnight!
This morning I added fresh cracked black pepper, a little sea salt
and a generous amount of Dixie Crystal's dark brown sugar!
Drizzled with sweet, golden honey...
And splashed with American bourbon. I chose Woodford Reserve
Just because I don't enjoy drinking alcohol doesn't mean I can't cook with it!
Now, I could have thrown my ribs into my crockpot or into one of my LeCreuset
dutch ovens but I decided to let these ribs pan-roast low and slow in the oven...
While we roasted low and slow in the pool all afternoon!
It was a beautiful day to lounge in the pool and to enjoy the gardens!
The hydrangeas are in full bloom!
I couldn't resist bringing a few into the kitchen with me!
Oh, look there... My ribs are done!
To finish them off, I transferred them to the
grill with just a touch more dark brown sugar!
Because a little extra brown sugar never hurts!
While my ribs finished, I enjoyed the blooming view on the deck!
It's obviously summer time in North Carolina!
It's also rib-time!
I can already tell these ribs will be on the menu next week! Also,
my rub and honey, dark brown sugar and bourbon concoction
might just make it into my baked chicken plans as well!
What about your Independence Day menu...
What will be on your plate?

Friday, June 28, 2013

Michael Bonne 2013

As you know, my copper cookie cutter collection, specifically those hand-crafted by Michael Bonne for Martha Stewart and sold through her now defunct Martha by Mail catalog business has been featured quite a bit here on my blog and over at my Facebook page.

The fact that I cherish my collection and enjoy using them to create little individual works of cookie-art to share with you, comes as no surprise, I'm sure. However, what may surprise you is that over the past several months I have had the pleasure of getting to know and work with Michael Bonne and his wife and partner in business, Teresa!

American artist Michael Bonne has earned the title, "world-renowned coppersmith" because his work is exceptionally unique and authentically American. During their early years as antique collectors and dealers in Indiana, the Bonne’s developed an appreciation for cookie cutters from a bygone era. Rustic and primitive cutters especially captured Teresa’s attention because of their simplicity and charm. Disenchanted by contemporary designs and the rising prices of 19th century examples, Teresa asked Michael to make a few copper cutters for her kitchen. That was the “Aha!” moment for Michael as he recognized the value in creating cutters fashioned from real copper, combining both the time-honored tradition of American craftsmanship and the Bonne’s own unique design concepts.

So Michael Bonne Coppersmith was launched in 1982, eventually and forever transforming the world of cookie cutters, and garnering a strong following of loyal fans. As his passion and customer base grew, so did Michael’s creativity and expertise. A landmark event for Michael and Teresa was the 1988 acquisition of Cape Cod Copper Works, which ironically was the source of the copper trays and serving pieces used by Martha Stewart during her early years as a caterer in Westport, Connecticut. This development gave Michael Bonne Coppersmith another more contemporary copper line to compliment what until then had been mainly a vintage nineteenth century look. Little could anyone guess at the time but it would also introduce this humble coppersmith from Indiana to one of America’s best-loved lifestyle personalities.

In the summer of 1996, Martha Stewart’s business empire expanded to include a mail-order business in her magazine that would later develop into Martha by Mail. After a strong response to some of the Cape Cod cutters from her home photographed for a spread in Martha Stewart Living magazine, Martha took note. Very much wanting to feature copper cookie cutters in her mail-order catalog, Martha charged her creative team with locating a coppersmith in the tradition of Cape Cod Copper Works. To Martha's delight, she found that Michael and Teresa had acquired Cape Cod Copper Works and were producing copper cookie cutters too! It was a match made in heaven and later that fall the very first edition of Martha by Mail copper cookie cutters was born!

First Generation Cutters

Several thousand sets of Star and Moon were delivered to customers just in time for Christmas. When demand exceeded supply, Michael Bonne and his team of elves literally worked around the clock with Martha footing the bill for overnight shipping to fulfill every order so no one would be disappointed on Christmas morning.

Following this initial success, collaboration between the Michael Bonne Coppersmith Shop and Martha by Mail continued, ultimately producing numerous innovative copper cookie cutter designs that enchanted the masses and remain highly collectible nearly two decades later.

Before the sad demise of Martha by Mail, the Michael Bonne Coppersmith Shop also made exclusive cookie cutters for other companies you may know… Such as Williams-Sonoma, Eddie Bauer, The Walt Disney Company and institutions like The Smithsonian and The Museum of American Folk Art. Michael’s even produced pieces for The White House!

In 2003, the Bonne’s sold their business and left Indiana to pursue other interests. They relocated their family to sunny Florida with no further plans to continue the Coppersmith Shop chapter of their lives.

Although I had already amassed a large collection of Michael’s copper cookie cutters from the Martha by Mail line, I wondered about those who hadn’t.  This is precisely what my friend David and many other readers kept asking me as my blog began to incorporate Michael's oeuvre. We both feel Michael’s exit created a void for those that missed out on collecting his work while it was still available and who still longed for new Michael Bonne cutters.

So David and I set out to find Michael Bonne and begin a dialogue with him. If you've been reading for a while you might remember this post after I located the Bonne's and Teresa parted with her personal set of Martha by Mail cat cutters in memory of our sweet Bing.

When we caught up with Michael and Teresa they had begun to take note of increasing interest in vintage Coppersmith work. Teresa had been dealing in original Michael and Martha items for a few months and Michael was making a new cutter here and there.

David and I were eager to encourage the husband and wife duo to begin creating new copper cookie cutters for a whole new generation of Michael Bonne fans. As evidence of the current demand for his craft, we pointed to auction sites such as e-Bay where Michael’s vintage cutters command astronomical prices and continue to captivate collectors all over the world. Sadly, the most coveted of Michael's Martha by Mail cutters remain financially out of reach for most of us longing to create cookies with them and that’s why we needed Michael Bonne back!

David and I have followed with extreme interest the Michael Bonne cookie cutter market and are constantly astounded by the prices his cutters end up selling for. However, what isn’t surprising is why collectors want to gather and cherish these copper cookie cutters from Michael and Teresa’s “Coppersmith” days. They are truly iconic American treasures meant to be used and passed down for the next generation to enjoy.

This brings me something I'm very excited to share with you today.

Introducing… Michael Bonne 2013!

Yes... The world of collectors and bakers are in for an exciting treat and, it begins now!

David and I are delighted that Michael has agreed to return to creating copper works of art that are both functional and beautiful for use in our homes! We couldn't be happier to share this piece of news to all of you, because as you are well aware, we have been fans and collectors of Michael's work for more than two decades.

It also delights us to announce that every one of you once again have the opportunity to create new traditions in your own homes using a brand new era of Michael Bonne cookie cutter collectibles!

Working from their Florida studio, the Bonne’s are introducing new and exciting designs as well as cutters that pay homage to the vintage designs. This new generation of copper cutters will become instant heirlooms and have everyone baking artful and delectable cookies to share with family and friends.

With a new Etsy store and Facebook fan page now in place, Michael is showcasing his new work that is available for purchase today. You'll want to keep checking back because Michael and Teresa launch new designs every few days! Further, Michael also accepts requests from his fans to create one-of-a-kind pieces. Perhaps you have your child’s artwork that you wish to preserve forever in the form of a cookie cutter or sculpture... Michael can do it for you!

You may contact Michael directly through Teresa, who not only does a lot of creative design work but also manages the business side and keeps up their new Facebook page and store. The Bonne’s love to hear from collectors and their fans. Feel free to send them a message to welcome Michael back and to of course, let him know which copper cookie cutters you want!

I also invite you to stay tuned to my blog and to David's blog for some exciting news about copper cookie cutters that Michael Bonne has created from our own personal designs which will soon be available exclusively through our blogs.

We hope you'll you'll join us in welcoming Michael Bonne back and making his unique works of copper a part of our homes.

Happy Baking and Collecting!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A television for my new bathroom... Almost!

Last night, as I admired the wall shelf in my new Spa-bath I mentioned
how great it would be to add a television for those long soaks I enjoy so
much. After a little discussion, I thought I made some progress chipping
away at his zero-interest in having a television in the bathroom. I even
took his, we'll see what I can do as a promise that I might find a new
television waiting for me when I got home from work this evening...
Well, I found a new television waiting for me after work this evening...
Only, it's not in the bathroom!
Clearly, he'll do anything to not give me a television in the bathroom! I
can't be too cross with him though... After all, he knows I have a huge cookie
project beginning this week and the last time I created cookies until 3AM, I
did say that having a television to keep me company would have helped... So
maybe this is a good thing. What wasn't such a good thing was hearing him
say he believes I asked for a television in the bathroom just to get him
to install one in the kitchen for me. Ha! If only I was that cleaver...
Honestly, he's way off-base there; however, seeing how quickly he
installed a television in my kitchen and how this piece I've been
asking him to hang for months got put up too... Does make me
wonder what else I might get accomplished around the house...
By pushing the bathroom television issue a little while longer!
What about you... What's on your honey-do list?

Monday, June 24, 2013

DIY Spa Bath Update... Finally final!

Although I'm thrilled with our Blah-bath to Spa-bath
DIY project, there was one area I just couldn't get right...
While finding a storage cabinet for the tub and shower wall was
relatively painless, finding the right storage solution for the wall
by the sink proved to be a whole lot more difficult. Everything I
ordered on-line or dragged home was vetoed. All the wall cabinets
were too deep, which made the space feel tight. Finally, I ordered
this recessed medicine cabinet; however, when we opened the
wall, we discovered the studs were less than 16" apart. Sadly, since
the wall is load-bearing, there was no way we could make it happen!
After the wall was put back together and painted for a third time since
this project began, I was told to stop shopping because all he needs is
something to hang a towel on. The next day, I came home to find this!
That's when I threatened to renew my original plan to install a towel
warmer. You see, during the dream phase of planning this bathroom, I
spent a lot of time with where I fell in love with a
whole list of fun accessories for my new Spa Bath. Accessories such as
a television designed specifically for the bathroom and these amazing
Acova radiators. In fact, this one had my name on it! Warm towels
and a little extra warmth in the bathroom sounded like a good idea to
me. Add in the fact that won't be beaten on price,
has been in business for two decades and they offer quick delivery and,
I'm telling you, the order for a television and towel warmer was on!
But not wanting to hire another electrician, Army dad finally agreed to
toss his granny towel ring. He fixed the wall one more time and let me
take another stab at finding the perfect wall system to satisfy us both...
And, thanks to Pottery Barn's Jenner wall shelf, I did it!
It features a chrome mirror finish that matches the faucet on the great
sink I found, two thick tempered glass shelves to hold some of my bath
and beauty goodies and, there's even a few hooks for his hand towels!
It's exactly what we needed. Besides... Everyone,
knows soap love-birds can't perch on a towel ring!

Full disclosure: After stalking their website every evening for the past three months, asked me to share the good news of their products with you. Although I was compensated, all opinions expressed about them are absolutely my own. From furniture to faucets and everything in between, is the place to start your bathroom redo!  

Friday, June 14, 2013

Rolling with Mother Nature... Drama in the High Trees!

As soon as I noticed the black sky rolling into view from the 5th
floor at the Dream-job yesterday, I knew where it had already been...
One of the many interesting things about the people who live in the estates along
famed Seventeen Mile Drive in Pebble Beach and in Carmel is that they name
them. My favorite in Pebble Beach is Wit's End, once owned by cartoonist Jimmy
Hatlo and his wife Lois. Although I love where we live now, every time a storm
blows through our neighborhood, I think about hanging a Wit's End sign out on
the fence along the driveway. Although, Storm Canyon might be a better fit!
Surveying the damage, we know we were fortunate to have lost only the tops of
two trees. Even better, if trees can fall correctly, I'm happy to report that this
tulip poplar did... Missing our garden lantern and gazing balls by just inches!
Whew, that was close!
It's amazing how abruptly the landscape can change. Now that
the top of our walnut tree is missing, there is so much less
shade covering the hostas and Japanese maples planted below!
What a mess! On top of it, power was cut to our area for nearly 20
hours. We own a generator so we fared a bit better than some of our
neighbors who are replacing all the food in their refrigerators today!
Despite everything, we are mostly grateful. Especially because
the creek didn't rise enough this time to flood the yard and wash
away all the new koi we stocked into the pond last weekend!
Remember the woodpecker I talked about a few weeks ago here?
I'm about to tell you a sad story with a happy ending...
However, before it gets happy, the story involves a snake. So while
you're looking at my pretty flowers and a bee's butt right now, I
want to warn you that if you hate snakes as much as I do now is
the time to click away and find something prettier to look at!
If you're still with me, I know you'll be as upset as I am to learn that
just before yesterday's storm, this was the scene in our yard... That's a
very large black rat snake feasting on one of my beloved woodpeckers!
I didn't know what kind of snake this was but when I posted the photo to my
facebook page, my sweet cousin in Arkansas identified it as a black rat snake. She
also let me know my woodpecker was a Northern Flicker. Army dad did his best
all night to convince me this wasn't the woodpecker I watched from the pool that
day. At one point he even said it might have been a hawk. Like that would make it
better... All night I couldn't sleep, wondering what this would mean to her babies
in the nest if this was my woodpecker. The first thing I did after our WIFI came
back up this morning was to research whether or not the babies would have been
mature enough to already have flown away... If this was indeed my woodpecker!
Army dad and I have a deal... He will cut the head off any snake he believes
might hurt us or the children next door. He did that for me last year here
The only thing that saved this snake from meeting its maker yesterday is that
one of us thinks it is beneficial to the landscape because it is supposed to eat
voles and moles that destroy his plants. However, now that I know this snake
also eats innocent woodpeckers hopping around the ground collecting ants and
other bugs to feed their babies, it better not catch me with a shovel in my hand!
This morning while watching the clean-up I kept hearing a bird call I
thought might be a woodpecker. As I walked around looking up at the
trees I prayed it wasn't a baby calling for its mommy, especially since
this is the exact area in our yard where the snake ate the woodpecker!
But it was!
Just above the spot in the yard where the woodpecker died, we located her nest!
How could Mother Nature be so cruel? Of course, I began to cry and
begged him to bring over his ladder so we could rescue this baby bird!
I got really insistent about it after seeing there was more than one!
Finally, someone took me seriously and kicked out
the ladder. But just as he was about to make the climb...
Daddy woodpecker swooped in to feed his babies!
And, that's how Mother Nature redeemed herself with me today!
Happy Father's Day, daddy woodpecker!