Ghost stories

31 Oct
October 31, 2014

I’ve always loved a good ghost story. I’ve culled together quite a collection of paperbacks that tell stories about New England’s hauntings. Little did I know I could write a book on my own experiences….because little did I know twelve years ago, when we moved into our new old house (c.1767), that we would be co-habitating with a 200+ year-old dead guy (and company).

Yes, it’s true. I wish it wasn’t, but it is what it is. Friends who are sensitive to this sort of thing have felt the undeniable energy that circles from the dining room with the big cooking fireplace through the parlor and back into the hallway and stairwell.

The “presence” in the back hallway and stairwell is where quite a bit of the unexplained occurs.

Back when we first moved in, I could smell apple pie baking in the middle of summer. One night, after turning off the lights and trying to get to sleep, we were startled by the loud sound of someone (an adult someone) falling down the stairs – right outside our bedroom. Our son Conor was fast asleep in the bedroom right across from us. Murph and I were so startled, and such cowards, that we quickly pulled the covers over our heads and pretended that we didn’t hear that!

Since then, there’s been a man’s voice coming from that direction, as well as a glimpse from my peripheral vision of a tall blonde young man with a white high collared shirt walking into the parlor. My knees buckled at that one.

One of my sensitive friends says she sees/feels the presence of two people – one large burly gentleman in a heavy coat, and a younger man. She said that they don’t really understand what I’m doing (they must be referring to my obsessive re-styling of the place) – but that they like it! I’m so glad.

….to be continued.

Happy Halloween!

Love, Nora

Simply sunflowers

28 Oct
October 28, 2014

I have to confess I can never resist a sunflower.

Whether they’re from my garden or local market, just one look at them and they make me smile. I’ve found that I’m not the only one. There’s something about their yellow-orange silver dollar or dinner plate-sized faces that makes everyone take notice…and just plain happy.

Now’s the perfect time to find them at your local market. And if you find sunflowers with very thick stems and big green leaves – all the better!

I love them as a solo flower or bouquet. When I add them to any mixed bouquet, they instantly elevate the presence of the entire thing.

It’s a simple little way to add a little more “happy” into your home this time of year.

Love, Nora

A bug’s life

20 Oct
October 20, 2014

So what do you get a little boy on a business trip to Paris? Why, a bug of course!

Quite simply that’s how our bug collection was born.

For me, trips to Paris wouldn’t have been complete without a stop at Deyrolle and buying one very cool bug. Since 1831, Deyrolle has been a house of curiosities located on Rue du Bac, one of my favorite streets in Paris.

I love the curious nature of an insect. Up close they’re fascinating – and beautiful. Whether they’re boldly grouped as part of a collection, or featured as a simple solo piece or two, they add a certain je ne sais quoi……actually the more I think about it, the word would be elegnce.

Love, Nora

Discovery

13 Oct
October 13, 2014

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”         – Marcel Proust

Happy Columbus Day!

Love, Nora

Foodie Friday: Country House Harvest Soup

11 Oct
October 11, 2014

Even though the kitchen garden, and our local CSA (a.k.a. Community Supported Agriculture) share is winding down, they’re both still gifts that keep on giving. The basketful and big wooden bowlful of hodge-podge veggies that are taking over the kitchen island just cry out “Soup”!

Good idea. 

Besides, what’s more perfect for a chilly autumn afternoon than sipping on hot comforting soup made from the best harvest of the day. We call this divine autumnal concoction, Country House Harvest Soup.The ingredients listed below happened to be what we had on hand this week. But come to think of it, I don’t think we’ve ever made this soup twice using exactly the same veggies! I think that’s the beauty of it.

Country House Harvest Soup

1 medium eggplant

2 medium onions

4 medium new potatoes

1 medium yellow squash

1 acorn squash

2 green peppers

2 quarts chicken broth

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  • Put 1 ½ quarts chicken broth in large pot, set temperature on low.
  • Wash and cut off ends of eggplant and yellow squash, and cut into 1-inch cubes.
  • Peel onions, cut into ½-inch thick slices.
  • Scrub potatoes, leave skin on, and cut into 1-inch cubes.
  • Quarter acorn squash, scrape out seeds with a spoon.
  • Quarter green peppers, clean out seeds.
  • Cover two cookie sheets with aluminum foil, then lightly oil.
  • Distribute vegetables evenly over both sheets, they may touch but try not to crowd them. Spray lightly with cooking oil on top, and liberally salt and pepper.
  • After about 1 hour, check the two sheets. As veggies brown and caramelize, use tongs to pull them out and place into the chicken broth. Onions and peppers will cook quickly. Check the veggies every 20-30 minutes and repeat process with all but acorn squash.
  • When the acorn squash is soft and a teaspoon easily slices through to the skin, remove and let cool. When cool enough to handle, scrape out squash with a teaspoon and add to the soup pot.
  • Once all veggies are in the pot, simmer at medium/low for about 20 minutes.
  • Ladle broth and veggies into a blender until blender is ½ full. Put top on tightly and blend until creamy. Placed blended soup in large bowl and repeat the process. Return blended soup to pot and adjust seasonings. If consistency is too thick, add more of the reserved chicken broth.

To read about creating the perfect autumn setting to serve this Country House Harvest Soup in: http://noramurphycountryhouse.com/magazine/autumn-2014/country-house-celebrates/#.VDhzyShhodc

Enjoy!

Love, Nora

 

Autumn is officially here!

26 Sep
September 26, 2014

“Summer ends, and autumn comes, and he who would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night.” – Hal Borland

Well said Mr. Borland.

Good-bye summer…loved you. Hello beautiful autumn…hope to love you more!

It’s time to move onto the newest Nora Murphy Country House Style Autumn issue.

www.noramurphycountryhouse.com

Hope you enjoy…love, Nora

 

Carpe diem!

23 Sep
September 23, 2014

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.” – F.Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Happy fall…let’s make it a memorable one!

Love, Nora

Foodie Friday: Preserving summer

19 Sep
September 19, 2014

Corn and tomatoes…two of the best things about summer!

I’ve got so many ripe tomatoes on the vine that some just split and fall off. (Breaks my heart!) We’re trying to include them with every meal, as well as give them away to friends, but still too many! So last weekend, as we puttered in, out, and around the house we were slowly roasting and drying tomatoes of all kinds and sizes in the oven, including our little yellow cherry variety. If you love the sweet taste of cherry tomatoes right off the vine, then you’ll really love them smeared on your next nibble of cheese and crackers….pretty fabulous.

We also love our summer corn. Murph ordered a freshly picked sack of corn from our local organic farm. That same puttering afternoon, he set up a corn cleaning station right outside the kitchen door, and shucked the whole bagful, cleaned off all the silk, placed them in a huge stock pot  filled with 3-inches of water and steamed them for 5 minutes. After rinsing them with cold water for a minute, the corn was cool enough to handle. With a sharp knife he cut the kernels off each cob, and filled multiple ziplock bags (3 ears per bag), marked each with the date, and  stored them in the freezer…perfect for a mid-autumn or winter corn chowder.

Late Summer Oven Dried Tomatoes

Tomatoes (any variety and size)

Olive Oil

Cookie sheet lined with foil

  • Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Cut tomatoes into halves or quarters (depends on size), and spread out onto oiled foil.
  • After about 2 hours check for doneness and be sure to keep checking every half hour – but don’t touch! You can also do multiple batches using all your racks.
  • Let cool and place dried tomatoes in an airtight container – fill with olive oil to cover.

Best to do this on a day you’re around the house, because the whole process takes about 5-6 hours (depending on the size of the tomatoes) .

Enjoy!

Have a great weekend!

Love, Nora

 

 

 

A late summer show

08 Sep
September 8, 2014

The entrance to the old house was lingering in an in-between state. All summer the rustic twig basket hanging by the door was the perfect scale and spot for a big dramatic hanging pot of bright pink and purple petunias.

Sadly, it’s inevitable…the pretty petunias are now way they’re past their prime, and really need to go into the compost. And since I’m not ready to commit to a fall look just yet, I’m replacing the dying petunias with a very much thriving perennial – Clematis Paniculata, also known as Sweet Autumn Clematis.

The first beautiful thing about this fabulously frothy climber is that she’s a late summer bloomer (I can relate) and is covered in drifts of lightly fragrant pure white flowers. Once I got her home, I didn’t even have to take her out of the pot. I just popped her into that big rustic twig basket and voila!  Instant showstopper!

The second beautiful thing is that once she’s done blooming, she’ll have a new home either climbing the old stone wall in the front of the house, or make her presence known by turning up the volume on the white picket fence of the kitchen garden. Both spots are partly sunny and would work well with what’s already established.

Which spot would you choose? 

Love, Nora

 

 

Simple Stuff: Spotless glasses

03 Sep
September 3, 2014

It’s the simple stuff in life that gives me great joy. And the simple joy of crystal clear glasses is right up there with picking the season’s first ripe red tomato!

For you folks who (like me) wash their drinking glasses by hand, start with a sink filled with hot soapy water and be sure to rinse with very cold water (I learned this little trick from friends in the catering business).

As for drying a boat-load of glasses? For years, I would over stuff my dish drainer and leave glasses in very precarious positions. Then there were the days of drip-drying the glasses up-side down on countertops lined with layers of kitchen towels, only to wait forever for them to un-fog.

Finally, I stumbled upon the best simple solution (a big-duh and why didn’t I think of this before moment?!)…why not lay out sheet pans and cover them with my cookie cooling racks?

Don’t you just love things that multi-task so beautifully?

Keeping it spotless in Connecticut!

Love, Nora