Wednesday, December 28, 2011


It's been 364 days since we handed out the ugliest sweaters we could find. Culled from the pristine racks of Goodwill and St. Vincent DePaul's thrift shop were eighteen  of the ugliest Holiday sweaters a buck ninety-nine could buy.To the amazement of all, not a sweater was lost or left unadorned during that one year incubation period when ideas were hatched and the birth of the ugliest of the uglies was given wings. The efforts of all were truly enormous. Where some might have failed to rise to the challenge, all eighteen competitors put on an exhibition of outstanding creativity showing you can take ugliness to an all-new level.
Here are some of the results:
WORTHY-OF-A-NOD was a tie between Maggie for wanting to get that monkey off her back
and Bonnie for showing what a nutcracker she can be.
HONORABLE MENTION has to go to Grandma, all dolled up as The Christmas Hygiene Queen. Snowy white snowmen pranced on a coif of squeaky-clean snow-white hair. Boxes of soap bubbles danced around her waist. She wore a sash proclaiming her immaculate hygiene and not a soul challenged her right to wear it. It was Christmas after all.
HONORABLE MENTION must also go to Rick for the fight he's waged all year: his dilemma of which Santa to listen to. With Good Santa on one shoulder and Bad Santa on the other it's been a struggle to do the right thing but the results are in and although it was touch and go Good Santa seems to have his ear more often then that Bad one.
SECOND PLACE, runner-up had to go Maddie. Unfortunately, there was no cash prize for this also ran but the effort and ingenuity couldn't go without notice. Having collected all the discarded items from last year's dumpster dive Maddie made something out of absolutely nothing, a baby-doll all decked out in Christmas pj's with a Seth Thomas clock right were her heart should have been. It was creative. It was smart. It was a little too "Chucky" to make it to the top.
THE WINNERS: Cody and Dylan. Their costumes might not have been the most ingenious or intellectually challenging but their courage to wear them was what won them the accolade of ugliest of the ugly. Their vests were meticulously covered in undusted plastic poinsettias petals, the height of chic. Below their vests they wore grass skirts fashioned from table skirts. dyed in festive holiday colors. Kudos to the boys for finding a way to make all of us smile.

Who knew this would be the first present picked in our dumpster dive diversion. Sandy was the luck one to have drawn the number one pick. Picking number one means you get to pick from all the gifts assembled at the end of the game but the first wrapped gift she chose to open from the pile had the enclosed note:
"To collect on the enclosed Target gift card you must put on this brassiere and be willing to be photographed wearing the brassiere knowing the photo will be posted on the Pleasant Living Home blog. If you do, the gift card is yours and the gift card is no longer in play. The gift becomes the brassiere only. If you decline the gift card remains with the gift until someone else chooses it or we come to the end of the game. If no one decides to pose the gift card comes back to me. What will you do for ten bucks?"
Happy Holidays
Sandy chose to keep the gift card so here she is.

It's now official; we've come to our one year anniversary for the Pleasant Living Home blog. We've kept to our goal of publishing once a week. We even had a couple of times when we made more than one posting in a given week. Thursdays are our weekly goal date. We've not always hit our mark. We've been known to push the posting into Friday and on a few occasions we've been as late as Saturday. We hope you all understand.
Our goal for the number of friends who've signed up didn't hit the mark we were looking for but with over 23,000 hits in one year we feel we did okay. We know we have a ways to go in getting all the bells and whistles you see on the major sites but we're working on them.
Lets all have a great 2012. We can feel it.
Happy New Year.

Snow, NYC
Ciaran Tully, Photographer

Friday, December 23, 2011


Ginger cakes can be traced all the way back to the early Greeks. Wealthy Athenian families would make their way to the Isles of Rhodes to savor the delights of the island's ginger honey cakes. The development of gingerbread found its way into Europe with each country or region putting its own mixture of spices into the batter giving it its own signature zing. In the 1600's the bakers of Nuremberg, Germany came up with a recipe they called Lubkuchen, the flat shaped bread we associate with gingerbread.  They added spices like cardamom, clove, white pepper, cinnamon, anise and of course ginger to give it its flavor. Eventually, the master bakers of the Lubkuchen guild started using the bread as the structural material for their elaborate houses known as Knusperhaeuschen, "houses for nibbling at". In the nineteenth century the Grimm Brothers brought out their collection of Germany fairytales and we all know the one where Hansel and Gretel find a gingerbread house that almost hastens their demise.
Today there are kits for making your own gingerbread house, contests for amateurs and professionals and bakeries all over North America displaying beautifully crafted renditions of Knuperhaeuschen. When Emmy was a little girl I tried several times to use my architectural skills to make our own little gingerbread house. Even with the aid of a kit I was no Frank Lloyd Wright. I'd get three sides attached and as I'd reach for the fourth side the house would slowly pull apart and collapse like the barn walls in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The roofs were impossible. I could stay for hours trying to prevent the painful slide of the gumdropless undecorated panels from their decent off the forty-five degree slant of the peaked roof line. My Knusperhaeuschen were certainly not works of art. They were just a mess, but this year was different.
Our friend, Julie Moskal whose talents as a seamstress, manual laborer, florist and baker have been touted throughout the year in previous posts once again earned her title of Jack-of-all-trades. For the past two decade Julie and her family have hosted an annual gingerbread making party. It started out as an event for her own kids but soon spread to the kids of her brothers and sisters and Julie has a large family.
Now family and friends gather at the long table stretching down Julie's media, dining and living corridor, a good thirty feet to work on one of the twenty houses she makes ready for them to decorate and then devour. Like the Rose Bowl floats having to be made from real flowers, Julie's rule is everything you put on your house must be edible.
Here's her recipe for the houses:
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar - beat together
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg - add & beat well
3 cups flour
1 tspn ground ginger
1 1/2 tspn cinnamon
1/4 tspn ground cloves
1/4 tspn salt - add & beat until thoroughly mixed
Press 1/2 dough into a very well greased mold and bake at 350  for 20 minutes.
Now repeat this process 40 times for 20 houses.
For frosting Julie make 2 kinds: Royal icing is made with meringue powder (you can buy this at most craft and kitchen stores) and will start to harden within a few minutes.  She uses this for sticking the houses together and for decorating them with candy.
Royal icing:
1 2# bag of powdered sugar
6 tspn meringue powder
Mix these together. While mixing the sugar and meringue powder slowly add 3/4 cup of warm water. Put the mixture into a pastry bag with a medium sized tip and you are ready to work. This tasty glue is the magic tool that makes putting together and then decorating your house a breeze. It's a tip worthy of a Martha Stewart gold star. No more having to worry about having six hands to hold your gingerbread roof in place while the watery slow setting icing of normal cake decorating oozes out from between the cracks and your roof pieces tumble and crumble before you even make it to adding those jellied gum drops.
The other frosting is a soft frosting that Julie finds works well for kids. The Royal frosting can be a little hard for a kid to handle. It's kinda stiff and after a few minutes of trying to squeeze it out of your pastry bag even an adult's hand can start to cramp. This frosting is also easy to add color to, Julie usually mixes up bags of green, red, yellow and blue.
It's called Decorating Frosting and here's how to make it:
1 cup shortening (Julie recommends Crisco as it is very white and makes good snow) You want to beat well and break down its consistency then add and continue to beat
1 2# bag of powdered sugar. You can, of course do this by hand but we highly recommend a good stand mixer
4 tbspn water - keep beating and adding one tablespoon at a time until well blended. For stiffer frosting decrease the water
Put your decrating frosting into a pastry bag and add any tip you want.  Here Julie uses disposable bags for the kids so the clean up is easier.
This past weekend Julie used 20 pounds of flour, 12 jars of molasses, 28 pounds of powdered sugar and 24 cups of shortening
Twenty-four hours after the last gingerbread house had disappeared out her front door, Julie was still scrubbing frosting off the tables and floor.
The upside, twenty sets of families and friends had some of the best gingerbread houses I've ever seen. Sharing traditions like this is what makes Christmas a joyous and memorable holiday.

I couldn't have had more fun and it couldn't have been easier. Of course, I didn't have to make twenty of them and I didn't have to scrub the floor. Thanks Julie for a true holiday lesson in giving.

December 17th, the first snowfall of the season, not a big one but enough of a dusting to turn frostbit lawns to white wool blankets. Those first snowfalls of the season are the most beautiful. The biting cold of winter and the icy slushy streets haven't turned our joy to depression. This year's first snowfall came late in the season, just in time to give us the hope for a white Christmas, but the thought of having to go to our store to shovel the front walk was starting to turn my euphoria to a nagging regret, and then I saw my salvation, a bearded angel with stretch hoops in his ears, out in front of his house with a Wovel. He was gliding down the sidewalk, hands held high guiding his Wovel well past his own sidewalk and onto the neighbors, tossing loads of snow as if they were loaves of airy bread fresh from the oven.
Throughout time man has seen where two good ideas could be combined to make one better one; we've breed a donkey with an zebra to make a zonkey, we've grafted an lemon with a tomato to make a lemato, now man has combined a wheelbarrow with a shovel and made a Wovel.
Using leverage to magnify your effort the Wovel provides a healthy, economical, earth-friendly alternative to the traditional snow shovel or expensive gas-guzzling snow blower. Testimonials abound with praise for the efficient way the Wovel reduces the amount of time it takes to rid your sidewalks and driveways of piles of snow. The reduction in strain on a person's heart and back are even regaled by the Surgeon General making shoveling a safe form of moderate physical activity. Throw away that New Year's "I'll join a gym" resolution and buy a Wovel, your body will thank you. It's just three easy steps: scoop, lift and throw. You'll thank me later.


Old Man and Deanna, 1986
Joyce Tenneson, photographer
Represented by Photographers Gallery, Los Angeles

Thursday, December 15, 2011


In years past Christmas was a living room filled with gifts shoehorned in from wall to wall and stacked three layers high; it meant licking over 300 stamps and attaching them to hand-written cards going all over the world; it meant Christmas Eve with my family, Christmas week with Rick's family and then a final affair with our closest friends on New Year's Eve. It meant thousands of dollars in gifts, travel and food. We had the money. It was fun, but now things are different.
We still hang out the quilted stockings my mother made when she could remember all our names but now we draw names for three relatives and limit the stocking stuffers to $10 each.
We no longer buy gifts for all our siblings and close friends; it's only the kids under 18 who luck out with wrapped boxes under the tree. The Christmas Eve dinner still happens although I'm not flying in crab cakes from the North Carolina shore, but what we do is more fun then anything I can remember from those halcyon days of just a short time ago. Here's the rundown of Christmas with the Melahns.
Christmas Eve starts early in the afternoon with the gathering of the cooks at my sister's house, the participating chefs are assigned tasks. Those that can't cook, and they know who they are, are assigned parts of the meal that they can purchase rather than make. My middle sister's assignment always has something to do with dinner rolls, the pre-baked ones you can purchase in the grocery and heat up in the oven just before dinner. The rest of us take on more ambitious tasks, although last year's Potatoes Anna ended up starting an oven fire before they got baked all the way through. The goal is to have the meal ready by six.
This rarely happens to the dismay of my cousin, Maggie, who runs her life on a very tight schedule. If you say six, you better mean it. If you knew my cousin Maggie you'd understand the importance of promptness and the consequences of tardiness.
When the kids were really young they were allowed to open their gifts before the meal was served. There's no point in torturing the young. Now since the girls are all teens and tweens we're hoping they've learned the attribute of patience and if not cousin Maggie will set them straight.
Our Christmas Eve meal is typical Midwest German, only foods that are either brown or off-white are allowed. We've tried to introduce some verdant greens, a touch of hot red but the best we can do is a bit of yellow and then only in the form of some Wisconsin cheese.
After the meal is cleared and before dessert, it's stocking time. The stockings my mother made all had embroidered names on them but as the family grew and changed and my mother's memory began to fail we've resorted to pining post-its of new members over the names of those no longer with us.
Now this year will also have a new twist and I'm not sure how this will pan out, but last year I gave everyone a ridiculous looking Christmas sweater. I scoured the thrift stores for months picking up a two-dollar gem here and a fifty-cent steal there. This year we're holding a competition to see who can make their ugly sweater ever uglier. We asked for a $10 donation from each family, that'll give us a $70 pot, to be used as prize money for the contest winners.
We've decided on a Survivoresque method of prize distribution. Each member will be allowed to cast one vote for the person they believe created the best of the ugliest. Just like on the Survivor finale it's the one with the most votes that will win the million dollars or our equivalent of a million dollars. We'll probably break for dessert after the sweater competition. I know Maggie will require a line item mention of this, so here it is.
After dessert there are two more gift exchanges we'll do to fill out the evening. The first we refer to as dumpster diving. The requirement here is that you bring one wrapped gift to the party. This gift has to have been purchased for virtually nothing or retrieved from the dump for free. These gifts are placed in the center of the room. One adult is responsible for writing numbers on little slips of paper that correspond to the number of guests at the party. One of the kids then goes around with a hat from which each person draws a number. The number will establish where you land in the queue for gift selection. The higher your number, the better. Here's why. The person with number one chooses first. They pick out the gift they guess to be the most desirable. It's kinda like "Let's Make a Deal", you've no idea of what's behind curtain number three. They get to unwrap their gift and everyone gets to ooh and aah or laughs hysterically. Now the person with number two gets to pick their gift. Here's the rub. After unwrapping their gift if they decide they like what number one got better than what they picked then they can trade with number one and number one can't do a damn thing about it. We've had people run off into adjacent rooms in a fit, trying to protect their original selection. Now see why going last has its advantages. You get to survey the whole crowd and pick whatever you want.
Our last game is called "Regifting". This is something that some of us prepare for all year long. It's the opportunity to get rid of everything that didn't sell at the summer tag sale or those gifts you've received throughout the year that you never wanted or needed. This game requires that nothing be wrapped. Again all items are placed in the middle of the room. We use a pair of dice for this one. Gambling was never a sin in my family. Everyone gets a turn at throwing the dice. If you get doubles you can select an item. As in the previous game, once the items begin to get picked you can trade your selection for someone else's pick under the assumption that there would be anything here you'd really want. Some of us pray we never roll doubles and have to take something home we never wanted in the first place.
We've made the price of entry into our recession conscious Christmas pretty low on the financial scale, but the humor and joy of the evening can't be matched. When tears are running down your face because you're laughing so hard at two people fighting over a pair of size fifty-four triple EEE brassieres and granny panties you know you've had a priceless Christmas.

Late last summer we got a call from a graduate student in journalism at the University of Wisconsin. She had seen a piece on us in another magazine and wanted to know if she could do an article on us for the "Curb", a young magazine produced and published by the communications department at the University of Wisconsin. The magazine appears both in print and online. Our cub reporter did a great job of chronicling our transition from Manhattan to Madison. Here's the link to the online article:

Chicago, IL, 2005 (Toys)
Brian Ulrich, photographer
Represented by Julie Saul Gallery, New York

Thursday, December 8, 2011


Food plays an important part of the holidays and our Holiday Party was no exception. Our tradition of Holiday Parties began back in Andes, New York. Back in 1998 we opened a very country inspired version of Pleasant Living where the emphasis was on painted furniture, barkcloth drapery panels and vintage fifties glassware.
Our home in Andes was always filled with friends, especially on the holidays. Every other Christmas we traveled to Wisconsin to spend the holiday with my family and on the alternate years my family would make the pilgrimage to our house for some holiday cheer. After we had opened our store we added a new holiday tradition: we opened our house to the community for wine, champagne and desserts. On those evenings hundreds of people from the town would stop by for some holiday cheer and caroling. Being up in the mountains there was usually a beautiful blanket of snow on the ground, the front porch would be lit with candles in hurricane shades and as Emmy grew, her friends and she, would play an ongoing game of hide-and-seek covering all three floors of the house.
Rosalie Glauser owned a slow food café behind our store and Rosalie and Rick would work for days preparing Coconut Cakes and Spitzbuebe a cookie from Rosalie's Swiss-Italian childhood. The spread was so magnificent that Country Living photographed if for their magazine and included it in their book, Merry & Bright.
Here in Madison the word is still having to get around but last Thursday we opened the doors of Pleasant Living and did a smaller rendition of our Andes open house. Our good friend, Julie Moskal, took over Rosalie's role and spread out gingerbread men, toffee squares and Kolaches, a Czechoslovakian pastry made from a dollop of preserves wrapped in  a puffy pillow of supple dough.
Just as we had done in Andes, we pulled out the Fostoria stemware for the champagne, white wine and sparkling cider. By the time the clock struck six the rooms were packed with guests squeezing through our narrow alleys of Christmas ornaments and gifts. By then my camera was stowed away on a shelf behind the counter and I forgot to take any more photos of the crowd. I was so glad to see so many people turn out for our first Holiday party, may it continue to be an annual event filled with more new friends


Makes 20 servings
Working time: 40 mins. Total time: 2 hrs., 20 mins.
5 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/16 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup whipped cream, optional
Timesaver: Substitute a jam, such as Felix's Lingonberry Jam, for the lemon curd.
1. Make the meringue: Heat the oven to 200° F. Whisk 4 egg whites, 1/2 cup sugar, and cream of tartar until mixture is frothy and warm to the touch in a large metal bowl set over a pot with 1 inch of simmering water ? about 3 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and beat to stiff peaks using an electric mixer on high speed. Set aside.
2. Shape the meringues: Line two baking pans with parchment paper. Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip with the meringue and pipe 2-inch coiled rounds onto the prepared pans. Pipe small stars around the rim to form flowers. Bake for 1 hour in the middle rack of the oven. Do not open the oven door. Reduce the temperature to 175° F and continue to bake until meringues are hard and dry ? 35 to 45 minutes. Cool completely on the pans on wire racks. Store in an airtight, moisture-proof container up to 2 days.
3. Make the lemon curd: Whisk the remaining 4 yolks, egg, lemon juice, and remaining sugar together in a heavy saucepan. Set the pan over medium low heat and stir constantly until thickened ? about 13 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain into a clean bowl. Add the butter in 4 additions, stirring between each. Cool completely and chill until ready to use.
Fill the center of each meringue with 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon curd. Garnish with fresh whipped cream, if desired.

1 large package(8oz.) cream cheese
1 cup butter  -  beat together the cream cheese and butter
Add 2 cups flour  -  and mix well
Jam or preserves of choice
Wrap ball of dough and refrigerate at least 4 hours and up to 4 days. Divide dough into 3 or 4 balls and roll out on well-floured counter. Cut in 3" squares (a pizza cutter works good for this).  Put about 1 teaspoon of jam /preserves in center - our favorite is apricot or raspberry, do not use sugar free as it will just melt and run all over the pan.  Pull all 4 corners and pinch them together - we usually moisten the edges with water to make them stick together better.
Bake 10 minutes at 375 degrees
Let cool completely, sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving or storing.
(This recipe came from my Mother-in-law she always made them at Christmas
time and I have been making them for the last 30 years for my kids)

I'm fascinated by the creativity this time of year can produce. Here are some ideas I've seen out there for trees that go beyond the traditional. With real trees running anywhere from $50 to several hundred I'll allow those frugal Santas the option of creating a non-traditional Tannenbaum as long as it's not a Wal-Mart special made from non-biodegradable substances with twinkling multi-colored lights.
The pinecone tree is always a favorite when space is limited and the budget is on the thin side. I had to get into the sexual activities of fir trees to verify that the male cones are the ones that drop to the ground usually in the spring after they've distributed their pollen. So if you want to collect pinecones you've got to plan ahead. Otherwise you can go to your local crafts store and pick up a bag of cones for a couple of dollars.
I love a flocked tree. Bringing the feel of snow inside by the fire is always a beautiful contrast. The problem with flocking is the mess of doing it. Buying an already flocked tree can be very expensive but when you've tried to do it yourself you'll begin to see the wisdom in having a professional do the work for you. We flocked last year and I spent weeks pulling that flocking snow out of places it should never have been in. the results are beautiful but the process is flocking ugly.
Sometimes ingenuity provides the key to getting what you really really want. I don't know whose charge card this went on but I'll bet some parent was a wee bit surprised when little Johnnie's request to purchase a tree for his fraternity showed up on his American Express statement under Big Al's Liquor Store.
You have to hand it to these parents, no messy needles, no blaming each other for forgetting to water the tree, no need to untangle miles and miles of little tiny lights to find out only half the strand is working, and they don't have to rearrange the furniture to make room for a standard three-dimensional version. I've seen more and more versions of the 2D tree this year. I don't know if it's the economy, laziness, a lack of space, or the desire to just do something different but I have to hand it to those creative souls that have thought up these unique alternatives to Christmas' biggest December 26th mess.
Even with all this imaginative Tannenbaum tomfoolery sometimes Mother Nature can leave us all in awe of the beauty that exists naked of lights and fancy ornaments just standing there majestically dressed in a nightgown of snow.

Image HFR-0308-039-12
Rodney Smith, photographer
Available @

Friday, December 2, 2011


We've decked the halls with silver beads and wire trees in hopes of a little bit of retail activity. I filled the CD basket with tons of Holiday music from Bing Crosby crooning a "White Christmas" to Alvin and the Chipmunks warbling through their "Hula Hoop" Christmas song.
We painted birch limbs to go in our outside urns and wrapped them in tiny white lights. We scrubbed the floors and dusted the shelves. We worked like a dozen little elves making everything bright and festive. Our only goof so far has been our gift boxes. Who knew they'd take six weeks to order, but we'll do our best to find something to wrap a gift in.
We brought out our Christmas stockings and hung them on the walls. We're still hoping Santa will bring us that bio-ethanol fueled ventless fireplace with its own mantle, we're going to need a fire to get us through the winter.
We've got Christmas ornaments by the dozens, candles and candlesticks, soaps and bath supplies for both men and women,
beautiful perfume bottles, coffee table books, and art to hang on your walls. We've got throws to wrap up in when the weather gets really frigid and hand-blown glass from around the world. The store is set and so are we, we hope to see all of you for this our first Pleasant Living Christmas.
"We can hardly stand the wait
Please Christmas don't be late"
Alvin and the Chipmunks

When I was a kid the Christmas countdown began right after the Thanksgiving dishes had been cleared and my dad had woke up from his nap. We'd all gather in the living room, the kids sitting on the floor, my sisters seated in their tip-and-rocks. My dad would fiddle with the knobs on the RCA Victor TV going back and forth between the two UHF stations and the one VHF station until he found the channel broadcasting "Miracle on 34th Street".  This movie may be the seed most responsible for my love of retail. From the first moment when Kris taps his cane against the window of that small shop where the shopkeeper is trying to arrange Santa's sleigh and his eight tiny reindeer display I knew I could do a better job at merchandising.
Then there was all the drama and pathos of Kris speaking Dutch to the little girl whose adoptive parents had just brought her back from Rotterdam. Their singing duet of "Sinter Claes" had me crying like a baby and the tears kept coming until the end when Natalie Wood made Uncle Fred stop in front of that perfect house with the swing out back. Maybe the pursuit of things isn't everything but I have a lot of wonderful memories wrapped up in finding my first two-wheeler next to the tree or being able to give a VHS players to each of my siblings after that first year I'd moved to New York when I thought I was rich. My favorite CD is the one my daughter gave me and I'll never let go of the gold cufflinks Rick gave me that I keep tucked away in the drawer on my bedside table. Some gifts nay be worth thousands, some may have a value of only a few pennies, it's not the cost of the gift that matters, it's the memory it leaves that counts.

Go Home, a vendor with terrific vintage inspired home furnishings, giftware and accessories is sponsoring a contest on trends for 2012 and we're one of the 20 finalists. Please go to:
and vote for Pleasant Living.

I love to cook and consider myself a fairly decent one; I even went to culinary school and considered cooking as a career. That was many years ago; now my skills are a bit rusty and my knowledge a little faded and somewhat old school (I couldn't whip up a foam if you put a gun to my head). I now find myself having to refer to recipes something I never had to do before. I used to read cookbooks like novels and I was able to put all the recipes to memory. Now things have changed.
Since we moved to Madison I have reborn my love for cooking, found the change in lifestyle has given me time to start cooking again, not to mention the joy I've discovered in unpacking all my skillets and mixing bowls.  Here in the Midwest I shop with certain meals in mind and buy for multiple ones.  We even have a chest freezer in the laundry room I've stocked with whole organic chickens, salmon steaks and curly seasoned French fries.  However, there are times the planned meals are used up and I find I have to rely on my antiquated skills and knowledge and whatever I can find in the cupboard, frig or freezer. Here's where ingenuity takes over and sometimes something great unfolds from a pile of leftovers and ingredients on the verge of being food for the garbage disposal. Here's what I came up with this week
SHRIMP AND RICE ...It's very nice!
We always keep a bag of shrimp in the freezer and a container of rice in the pantry.  So I usually have the prime ingredients.  The rest is up to you and what you've got.
Today I had onions, celery, a bit of leftover red bell pepper, some frozen tomatoes my sister-in-law gave me a year ago, a handful of arugula that was about to go bad and some parsley. From  the spice cupboard, besides salt & pepper, I added a tablespoon of paprika and a teaspoon of chipotle chili powder.
Start by sautéing diced onions, celery and pepper in about two to three tablespoons of olive oil.   Just as the vegetables are turning soft add 2 cups of rice, the spices and stir for a couple of minutes without letting the rice brown. Now add the (thawed) tomatoes roughly chopped, 4 cups of water, and a teaspoon of salt. Bring this to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 minutes. Now add the shrimp and chopped parsley, stir and cover for another 5 minutes. If you have a lemon squeeze it now and adjust the salt and pepper.
Dinner's ready.


Christmas Tree in Living Room, Levitown, L.I., 1963
Diane Arbus, photographer
Represented by Alan Koppel Gallery, Chicago