Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Meet The Duchess

I have two small obsessions.

#1 The color Green 



#2 Alice in Wonderland





For Christmas, I got something that combined the two:


6 quart Dutch Oven
The green part is pretty obvious. But you're not getting the Alice connection, right? I'll get to that.

A year or two ago, this little (big!) beauty popped up on my Amazon.com home page and I gasped at the gloriousness of its bright green color. I put it on my wish list, not even knowing what a "Dutch Oven" was. I simply knew that if I had something as beautiful as that, it could prove to inspire me to spend more time in the kitchen. My husband secretly agreed (he loves my cooking way more than I like to cook) and the next time he bought something from Amazon, he bought this too. Not wanting to give me a cooking pot in the middle of the year for no reason, he taped up the box and wrote "For Heather, Christmas." In the last year I have moved the very heavy box from place to place in the house. What is in that heavy box?, I repeatedly asked him. His lips were sealed. My curiosity never got the best of me, but it was close! Christmas finally came, and I opened it, completely surprised and delighted. It's even more beautiful in person, and has pride of place on display on our stove top 24 hours a day.

*sigh* Isn't she pretty? Of course, another thing that inspires me to cook a lot is that oven/stove... it's so fancy and high tech that I'm convinced you could launch that thing into outer space!

So back to Alice. We have a way of naming things around here. Of course, when I say "we" I mean me. And I felt like this beautiful girl needed a name. Since I love green and frequently say things like "Green, Green, I'm a Queen," I thought Queenie would be a good thing to call it. But after I cooked my first meal in my first Dutch Oven, Queenie didn't sound right. That day I'd been hanging some Alice in Wonderland art in our dining room, and I came across one of my very favorite pieces.

This comes from a book published in 1916, given away to children from the Hancock-Nelson Mercantile Company in Saint Paul, Minnesota. It was illustrated by Gordon Robinson. I love the artwork, with its prominent use of green throughout. While researching where it came from, I found the book here, listed for $200. Like so much of my Alice collection, I received it as a gift when someone gave it to me from their dusty old study (Side note: If you have a dusty old Alice in your collection, I will give her an excellent home and she'll be in good company, on prominent display!).  

I especially love this piece, representing my favorite part of the Alice story. Alice meets the Cheshire Cat for the first time in a kitchen where a cook is using way too much pepper in the soup, and the Duchess sits holding a frightfully ugly baby, which later turns into a pig in Alice's care. Curiouser and curiouser indeed!

While looking at this picture, and smelling the amazing baked potato soup that was simmering away in my new Dutch Oven... it dawned on me. What else could she be called but the Duchess? The boys and my husband agreed it was a fitting name (they indulge my quirkiness). So the Duchess it is. And now I'm collecting and trying out recipes that are perfect for cooking in a Dutch Oven, which as it turns out, is a type of cooking vessel that has been around hundreds of years!  And I'm just finding out about it now. Goes to show you, the kitchen is close to the last place I'd want to spend my time. But I must confess, my beautiful Duchess is doing her best to draw me in! Recipes to follow!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Our 2010 Christmas Card


For the first time ever, we had something other than the self-timer button on the camera to capture our family photo for our annual Christmas card. The lovely and talented Danielle of Danielle Kanka Photography captured this shot (and a lot of others, click on her link to see more) on the campus of William Carey International University in Pasadena, California. If you've seen our past Christmas card photos, you know we can never get away with just a simple, traditional shot without someone saying they are disappointed (to see past years, click here). This one was fun and perfectly captures us as a family. I've already got the 2011 idea ready to go!