Sunday, September 28, 2014

Colorful Crockpot Bean and Ham Soup

Doesn't Fall just whet your appetite for soup? When the leaves begin to change color and the air cools down, there's nothing better than a crockpot full of hearty soup and a crusty loaf of bread to make the perfect lunch or dinner.

Because my hubby and I are not always the healthiest eaters, soup offers an easy way to pack lots of nutritious ingredients into a one-pot dish. My version of bean and ham soup is loaded with fiber, protein, calcium and vitamins with its combination of legumes and vegetables. Best of all, after doing a little chopping, dicing and sautéing, the crockpot does the rest of the favorite kind of cooking!

Here is my recipe for Colorful Crockpot Bean and Ham Soup:

1 can light red kidney beans
2 cans Great Northern beans
1 can cannellini beans
2 cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup water
4 scallions
3 celery stalks
2 carrots
2 Roma tomatoes
3 sprigs fresh thyme
12 oz lean ham, diced
oil or butter

Chop scallions, celery, carrots, and thyme. Heat oil or butter in a pan. Add vegetables and thyme and cook until partially softened, about 5 minutes. Drain beans. Put all beans, vegetables, including diced tomatoes, and ham into crockpot. Add broth and water, then stir all ingredients together. Cook on medium heat for a few hours or on low heat all day.

Serve with warm bread or crackers.

Soups taste better and better as the flavors meld together. Mr. Merman and I especially enjoy our soups on the second or third day...that is, if there is any left by then!

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Monday, September 22, 2014

A Warm Welcome

What a gorgeous Autumn season we are experiencing right now! The colors are vibrant, the scents are warm and the sky is as blue as can be. I have decided that I am going to do a (mostly) wordless post of my front porch and entryway. Who really needs to read about how I made the wreath, why I didn't use mums or white pumpkins in my display, or how the traditional Fall colors pop against the green of our front I right? I'll just let these photos speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy this glimpse of the warm welcome I have created on our porch.

Here's hoping you're savoring this beautiful season and spending some time with Mother Nature!

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Seasonal Subtleties

Are you feeling the Fall vibes yet? The weather has been very fickle here in the day it's 90 degrees and the next, it's 55! It seems that Mother Nature is having some serious mood swings this year.

But everywhere you look, the season's wares abound. Sweaters and boots are appearing in the stores, Fall decor overflows in craft and gift shops, and pumpkin-spice drinks are being served in coffee shops all around.

This year, I stayed with a fairly conventional approach in decorating my family room mantel, using orange pumpkins, gourds and leaves. But for the rest of my seasonal decor, I took a more subtle approach.

In the living/dining area, where the color scheme is neutrals with green, I interjected metallic pumpkins, pinecones, and hydrangeas into my vignettes.

Here, you can see that I created a centerpiece using vertical shapes - finials and faux thistle in a wire cloche. Varying heights, shapes and textures give visual interest where bright colors are absent. Soft green hydrangeas from my garden and faux gourds invoke a seasonal feeling.

On the coffee table, a shining metallic pumpkin rests on a bed of dried beans and peas to further the theme of texture and quiet color. Greenery adds interest and movement, while large pinecones compliment the bronze color of the pumpkin. The silver crown is one of my favorite accessories and often travels from place to place in our home. I enjoy the juxtaposition of shiny metallics with heavy texture for lots of visual appeal.

Another favorite accent, this hand holds a glittery green pumpkin for Fall this year. I love the whimsy it adds to every season when a special item is placed in its palm.

A greenhouse continues the room's subtle seasonal story as it shows off more gorgeous hydrangeas and a silver pumpkin. Our hydrangea bush has been very generous this year, and I am reaping the rewards in my Fall decorating. More pinecones echo the texture of the tabletop, and the "home" message adds a cozy touch.

Back in our family room, where orange is in the spotlight, the wall vases are dressed sparingly with pheasant feathers, branches and faux flower pods.

And I have to add one more photo of the mantel in here because I brought in some gold gazelles and just needed to show them off.

It's almost time to light some apple- and cinnamon-scented candles and get won't be long until the nights are chilly and the air is crisp.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Bigger is Better

Often, the best things come in small packages, as the saying goes.

But there are definite instances where bigger really is better. Take interior design, for example.

There is a mistake that I repeatedly make when purchasing home accessories, and I wonder if any of you do the same? I tend to buy small items...too small to make much of an impression. This habit most likely developed because I am frugal to a fault. It's true...I have a hard time parting with my money! Consequently, Tammy Tightwad (yours truly) ends up buying lots of modestly-priced, small accessories. The problem this has created is that my home lacks the visual impact that a few larger, statement pieces would create.

The first step in changing an undesirable habit is recognizing it, right?

Alrighty then...Step One...check!

Step Two would logically be to keep my goals in mind while shopping, and resist that old urge to look only at the small, inexpensive pieces.

If you follow my blog, you know that I really enjoy a good estate or tag sale. It just so happens that I recently scored this wall plaque (above) at an estate sale for $8. OK, I know what you're thinking...$8 is still inexpensive! But stick with me for a minute... As with most of the pieces I pick up, I take them home without a solid vision of where they will go. I shop with my heart, not my head. Yes, it's true..."Impulse" is my middle name.

Tammy Impulse Tightwad.........mmmmm hmmmm.

This time, though, as I carried that wall plaque through my house, considering the options, I made a happy discovery. The plaque is very similar in style to the one I had made and hung in our master bath. Except the new one looks SO much better. See the difference? It's bigger, brighter, and fills the space...perfect!

I'd love to be able to say that this was orchestrated by the "bigger is better" plan, but honestly it just happened.
At any rate, I'm working on training my eye to shop for more dramatic home accessories from now on. Is anyone with me on my mission?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Fall Color on the Mantel

Where did summer go?

I recently read a tip from Sarah Ban Breathnach, in her book "Simple Abundance", that suggested that you write a list of all of the things you wanted to do over the summer but didn't accomplish. Then you are to save the list and open it on the first day of next June and make the postponed-items a priority.

Well, I would need an entire journal for my list! Seriously, I don't feel like summer even came this year...

We didn't take a vacation, or even a stay-cation...we hardly ate any grilled foods, melon, or corn on the cob...and I didn't put a bathing suit on once! How sad is all of that? (OK, maybe I'm not that sad about the bathing suit part, haha.)

And here we are in September already!

But the good news is that Fall is probably my favorite decorating season, so I decided to quit crying over spilled lemonade and get a start on re-fluffing the house over the long weekend.

The fireplace mantel in our hearth room is usually one of the first spots I decorate in our home. I often like to use an asymmetrical design because it tends to be a bit more casual and non-traditional. I decided to go with one wreath rather than two (sometimes I hang one on each window.) This twig wreath was one I had made last year, but I added a few orange berries to punch up the color just a bit.

The wreath's height was balanced by using an urn filled with long stems of leaves and branches.

This piece of art was bought at a local consignment shop last year. I like its masculine feel and dark-edged frame and matting. (At first, I wasn't a fan of the shape of the mat board...I felt like it was trying too hard or something, and I considered changing it. But I think it might be growing on me.)

The faux pumpkin and large faux gourd bring out the pretty seasonal orange tones, and the spray of leaves and berries add some texture and deeper reds. And speaking of texture, this large pinecone really echoes the masculine feel of the artwork and the smaller pinecones in the wreath above it.

Now that the mantel is dressed for the season, I'm ready to move on to the living room and front porch.

Happy decorating, everyone!

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