Anthropologie rocks!

(file this under stuff kind of related to gardening)

I love this store. Love it. Anthropologie. It is so beautifully merchandised, with beautiful merchandise, groovy merchandise, the hip stuff, bitchin music (Be Good Tanyas doing Prince’s When the Doves Cry), and displays that leave me with my inner child partyin’ down. What is it about this place that stirs my soul? That so appeals to me and makes me want to touch everything in the store (yes, I am a tactile junkie and a cowgirl junkie). There is a very strong thread of the natural world running through the fabric of Anthropologie’s displays. It’s the flora that rocked me. In every form: chopped wood, paper flowers, cotton bolls, you name it.

The cotton boll as art. Matted on burlap and framed.
The cotton boll as art. Matted on burlap and framed.
Burn after sleeping?
Burn after sleeping?
everyday items ARE a form of the natural history of man
everyday items ARE a form of the natural history of man
I'm a sucker for these. Yes. I am.
I'm a sucker for these. Yes. I am.

The definition of Anthropolog-y with a Y is the social science that studies the origins and social relationships of human beings. In keeping with our material world (sadly), it is our stuff that often tells who we are. Anthropolog-IE got that right and nailed it in merchandise display. I fell for it hook, line and sinker. And keep going back for more.

So, the other day, when I was in the store and found myself face to face with a larger than life ostrich made of paper, I decided I had to talk to someone about how all this coolness came to be.I did not chat up the ostrich.

Cecil
Cecil

He’s made out of newspaper without the news. Nobody seemed to miss the words.

I had a nice long chat with Lisa Arnold, the Display Manager, the gal in charge of all this creativity. The store teams are actually divided up into sales and visual teams. This allows for great execution of duties and ideas, particularly when they pull in talented designers like Lisa. Display concepts are developed in the main office, with merchandise buyers and display artists working together to brainstorm the concepts. They are encouraged to put their own local riffs on the displays they create. Lisa and her team receive photos of the prototypes, step by step instructions and go from there. All this is created in the workshop/basement of the store. Yes, they get paid to create.

Anthropologie is in fact, a very hip Cabinet of Curiosities.

Here’s more reading about their Director of Design/Executive@ Strange Closets.

Heirloom Garden, up close and personal

As promised, here is a better look at the incredible Tinsley House, on the campus of Montana State U in Bozeman. The home was moved to this site about a decade ago and the gardens were planted with the appropriate heirloom varieties. Its all part of the Museum of the Rockies.

To see the slides in a bigger format, just click on the show. Also, you can see the captions by hovering your mouse over the slide.

My favorite outdoor kitchen

cabana-kitchen-1

This is my all time fave outdoor kitchen. We call it the Cabana Kitchen.

It is steps away from the Pacific Ocean. Steps. Maybe 25 steps. I have seen the Pacific Ocean wash into this kitchen during one particularly high tide and storm. Yes, I was scared spitless.

It was built as an outdoor cooking spot for some friends who used to park their motor home a few feet away. Over the years, we have made several, um, improvements. For instance: party lights. We always have a string of party lights ’round the roof. A few weeks ago, we put a new string up, all white. I can tell you now, this is NOT going to work. All white is NOwhere near as festive as the multicolored Christmas lights we have come to adore. (Note to self, take several strings of multicolored party lights to beach next time you go.)

There’s plenty of hot water. Yes, Virginia, HOT water and running water. There is a hot water tank under the sink. We have a sink. It drains into the shrubs. So, of course, we use biodegradable dishsoap. We have a two burner camp stove and propane tanks to keep the fire going. We have a campfire ring because we accept no substitutes when it comes to making ‘smores. We have power so you can fire up the blender or cook under the lights or sizzle up an electric frypan. We have pots and pans and dishes. No Wolf or Viking or Aga here. No Subzero. Ever.

At the right time of year, you can catch Dungeness crabs in the surf and cook them in the pot on the stove. Campfire grilled oysters and clam chowder, anyone?

I share this kitchen with you because I love outdoor cooking. I have seen a lot of outdoor kitchens the last few years, and yet I know of none better used or loved than this one. You need a roof to keep you safe from the elements, rain or too much sun (this cook can be a delicate little flower), some running water (garden hose will do), a big ol’ dishpan/washtub for cleaning up, a place to chop, fire and power. Oh, and people to feed.

More rhubarb cocktails

For my pal Cindy, in smokin’ hot Katy, Texas: girl, you need this to cool yourself down!

I am not even gonna lie about it, this recipe is straight from page 69 of Jamie Oliver’s Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life. Thank you for sharing, JO.

Rhubarb bellini
makes 6

300 g rhubarb, trimmed and finely sliced (this is equal to about 1 and a half cups)
75 g sugar (equals 1/3 cup sugar)
a bottle of bubbly, such as Champagne or Prosecco

Get yourself a small pan and throw in the rhubarb, sugar and a couple tablespoons of water. Put a lid on top, bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for a few more minutes, stirring occasionally, until you get a thick compote consistency. Whiz up with a hand blender or regular blender until you have a lovely smooth puree. Leave to cool, then stire again and divide the puree between six glasses. Pour over your Prosecco or Champagne, stirring as you pour, with a long spoon or something similar, until the glass is three-quarters full. Top it up with bubbles and you’re done/ Cheers!

Best recipes for garden vegetables

I know, I know! How boring is that post title? It is SO NOT me.

When I went to Amazon.com in search of the best vegetable garden cookbooks, I could pull up more than 200 and sometimes 600 matches. There’s a new one for sale about every other day. I should know, I own a few dozen cookbooks in this category ALONE. I decided to look no further than my own cookbook shelf. Here’s are my absolute faves:

“The Mother of all Vegetable Garden Cookbooks!” Hubba Hubba Bubba, now we are cooking. I am talking about the original Victory Garden Cookbook, by Marian Morash, published in 1982. Take a look:

img_0399
If you wanna know how loved that book is, try picking up my copy. Use both hands, please. The cover is no longer attached, it just has to go along with the book. The binding glue is cracking and falling all over the place. The book itself is trying to break into two or three booklets.

The Victory Garden Cookbook was a companion piece to the television program, the original Crockett’s Victory Garden, produced by Russell Morash. Turns out, Russ’s wife, author Marian Morash was executive chef on the Julia Child and More Company show. Russ is credited with discovering Julia Child in the 60’s and putting her on the tube. A star is born. So, having been clever enough to link together the Victory Garden Cookbook and Julia Child just days before the movie, Julie and Julia makes its nationwide debut, I best be sharing with the reasons I love this book.

It covers 37 vegetables. Anytime you have a pile of fresh zukes, eggplants, kohlrabi or leeks, open this book. The simplest of preparations are laid out for you, as well as a dozen or more straight forward delicious recipes for each veg. Under “Finishing Touches for Hot Snap Beans” is our all time favorite …”With Warm Salad Dressing.”

You will find page 111 all puckered with dashes of olive oil, red wine vinegar and the no doubt the juice of fresh tomatoes. This is the page for our beloved Caponata, a cold eggplant salad that is also fantastic over hot pasta. Fresh cold tomato basil sauce for pasta is a 15 minute wonder. The page with “Tabbouleh with Tomatoes” is also dog-eared. Corn? If you find yourself with a bushel of corn, this is the book for you. Dressings for raw celeriac? Right here. I discovered I loved fresh celeriac salad 15 years ago, in Los Angeles. I could get celeriac in Boise, but how to make it into a salad? This was before Google was a household word. I turned to Marian.

Second on my list, or the brother from another motha, is Jamie at Home, Cook Your Way to the Good Life. Yes, I have the DVD as well and probably the last season or two spooled up on TIVO. I like to drink and watch him cook mushrooms on a bed of straw in the forest. As many times as I have seen this episode, I am – every time – convinced he is going to set the woods on fire. I covet his handmade stone oven and his gardener Brian. At least he confessed to having a gardener. And that little garden hut, where he cooks up a storm? I want one of those, too. A blob, a mash, a nob, some lashings and gobsmack me right on over to the dinner table.

jamie-at-home

I am taking the fixin’s for Jamie’s (we are on a first name basis whether he knows it or not) Rhubarb Bellinis to a party tomorrow. Rhubarb juice, champagne, sugar and mint. Regular readers know my passion for rhubarb, and I have a nice batch of rhubarb juice all made up and resting in the freezer. If any rhubarb survives my penchant for reducing it to juice for cocktails, I might try making rhubarb and sticky stem ginger crumble. Someday. Maybe.

This cookbook is all about the seasons. It includes recipes for fresh spring lamb, chickens raised at home (or elsewhere if you must), preparations of fresh fruit and pickles. Make the Ultimate Mushroom Bruschetta, Amazing pickled and marinated veg, and someday, if it ever cools down, Italian bread and cabbage soup with sage butter. Promise me you’ll try the bread and cabbage soup. Its all about the good life.

Start with these two books. You’ll be glad you did.

ps, the idea for this blog template was borrowed from Jamie Oliver’s TV show. I love the notebook paper background he uses for his handwritten recipes.