Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Recipe, Spring Projects Got Me Thinking... and A Shout Out

I hate the idea that you may be sitting at your computer reading my blog on an empty stomach. How can you concentrate if your stomach is growling? It's just not right! That's why I'm going to start with a recipe today. If you have the ingredients, it takes only minutes to make. You can whip it up in a flash and be right back here with something wonderful to eat while I drone on endlessly. I've got a lot to talk about today.

Warm, Filled Croissants

I guess it is a stretch to call this a recipe. It doesn't require making anything from scratch unless you make your own croissants (not crescent rolls, croissants). If you do, I'm impressed! They're not easy to make. I buy the cocktail size in a one pound box for less than $5 at the Sam's Club bakery. I didn't actually count them, but I think there are close to two dozen in a pound. You will also need cream cheese and jam.

Start by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. While you are waiting for the oven to heat up, slice each croissant in half horizontally with a serrated knife. Don't cut all the way through, leave a "hinge" (like a hot dog bun). Place the "open" croissants on a cookie sheet. Cut cream cheese on the long side into 1/8 inch slices and place one slice on each croissant. Spoon jam over cream cheese and "close" the croissants. Place them in the oven for 5 - 7 minutes, or until filling is hot and croissant is crisp on top. Serve immediately.

They will be warm and flaky, with a slightly crisp top. I used blackberry jam, but any flavor would be nice. They are pretty enough for an elegant brunch, but easy enough for a quick breakfast. In fact, if I were serving them for brunch, I would probably put them on a tiered plate, like this one. I could demonstrate how that would look, but then I would have to make a dozen croissants and have them go to waste, invite some people over to eat them, or just eat them all myself. I'm not going to do any of those, so just use your imagination, ok?

Spring Projects Got Me Thinking...

The weather is finally getting nice around here, and I'm starting to plan all the outdoor projects that need to be done. Our house has wood siding and it needs to be replaced or at least painted. We painted it about ten years ago, but it's looking shabby again. Truthfully, I would rather have surgery without anesthesia than scrape paint off siding.

When we moved in, the siding was gray and we thought it made the house look a little sad. I don't have anything against gray houses, but it didn't look right on ours so after weeks of mind-numbing scraping, we painted it yellow. We knew then that it would be better to replace it than to paint it, but it's the original siding and we were trying to preserve it.

I spent a few minutes really looking at the house this morning when I got home from taking the kids to school. I parked at the curb in front of the house, and stared at it. My intention was to start a mental inventory of all the projects that we need to do. Instead, I found myself wondering about the people who lived here before we did.

The records are a little sketchy, so it's hard to say with any certainty when our house was built. We originally thought it was around 1880, but then found out it was more likely built in the 1860's. Think about it, that was around the time of the Civil War. Is it possible that anyone living here actually fought in the Civil War? Was there an anxious family living within these walls awaiting letters from a soldier via the Pony Express?

What about births and deaths? It was not uncommon for women to give birth at home before the turn of the century, especially in a rural area like this. How many children were born here? Did they all survive? It seems unlikely that they did. I don't have any facts or figures about infant mortality in the later half of the 1800's, but it was certainly much higher than it is today.

I'm sure there must have been a doctor in town, but even so, I would think people died of common ailments and injuries back then. Influenza, for instance, took the lives of the majority of those who contracted it. In 1918 it was considered a pandemic. In later years, tuberculosis was common and deadly. How many men, women, and/or children might have died here? Was there a funeral home in town or did they hold their wakes in my living room? It's chilling to think about.

Weddings, christenings, graduations, birthday parties, Christmases and other happy occasions must have happened here, too. People laughed and cried and cooked and cleaned and went about their lives here. Do you suppose they ever wondered who would live here in the future?

The neighbor that lives across the street has given us some insight on who lived here in more current times. When he moved into his house sometime in the 1950's, the family that the street was named for still lived here. He tells us that the man sat on the porch and played a fiddle in the summer. I've often wanted to buy a fiddle and hang it on the wall for just that reason.

After they moved out the house was bought by someone as an investment. It was divided into a duplex at that point with the main apartment on the first floor and a smaller apartment upstairs. It was still like that when we bought it, though a previous owner had reopened a blocked stairway that divided the two. During the duplex period, the house was seriously neglected as tenants changed frequently. We've been told that the neighbors took turns cutting the grass because the owner and his tenants never did it themselves. It was not uncommon for the backyard grass to be a foot tall at times.

The oddest story I've heard, though, is that the upstairs tenants had a falling out with the owner so he refused to pay the heating bill. It got so cold up there that they filled the bathtub with stuffed animals and other things and lit them on fire. I'm not sure if this was for heat or to make a point.

Thinking back, it makes me laugh that our real estate agent referred to this house a "fixer upper". That's an understatement! She thought it might be exactly what we were looking for, though, and she was right. We wanted a place to repair and restore and we got that in spades. From the rotted roof and sagging floors to the outdated wiring and antiquated plumbing, we've fixed it. I was even able to restore the claw foot bathtub that was used as a fire pit.

No one told us we were out of our minds to buy this place, and I don't think we would have listened if they had. We've put heart, soul, and a lot of money into making it ours. Unless someone offers us a gorgeous oceanfront home in the Carolinas free of charge, we'll probably be here for a long time. I'd doubt I'll ever stop wondering who was here before us, though.

A Shout Out

Have you checked out Purple Hoodie Chick's blog yet? To refresh your memory, she's my son's girlfriend as well as my cooking/cutting demo assistant. She's looking for suggestions on some new books to buy with her gift card. If you've got any ideas, pop on over to her blog. She'd love to hear them. Even if you don't, you can always drop by and say hi.


thamesarino said...

your powst made me smile today because we live in a house that has a lot of history too. I wish we owned it.. because we could do so much for it... but alas we are just tenants. We still do a LOT of work around here, because that's who we are.. but anyway, the house was built sometime in the late 1800's, as well. It is an old victorian house that has a front and back(servant) stairway... and I find myself letting my mind wander to what and who has happened in this old place too. We live in the city and this place has been a beautiful decadent home, a bed and breakfast, and a dump... right now we are somewhere in between!: )
One thing I know for sure is that I now know why people had maids as par for the course.. this place is huge and HARD to keep up with! : )
anyway, nice post! : )

Willoughby said...

Thanks, Thames! It sounds like your house is larger than mine. I'd love to have your servants stairways! I don't know what it is about old houses, the history I guess, but I just love them.

Gracey said...

I loved your post. It was romantic, nostalgic and beautifully written. I myself live in an rented apartment now (about 20 years old or so), but I would love to have my own home someday.

In Greece, it is really unusual to buy a house, we just buy the land and build from scratch most of the time. Of course, there are some beautiful old houses that can be bought and restored, but we are talking about 7-digit figures here, so few people do that! Also, most old houses are donated to the municipal authority at some point, and are used as museums and display places.

Tattoos and Teething Rings said...

I love old houses, they have so much more character than the cookie-cutter neighborhoods of flimsy houses we see so much of now. My house is around 75 years old, and I'm hoping to eventually move into an old Victorian farmhouse or Spanish style farmhouse when I win the lottery :)

Talita said...

That filled croissant.... Hmmm.... delicious!! I love croissant! Even more filled.

L.B. said...

Great post.

My house is all of 20 years old and we are the second family to live there. Funny thing, someone died here. We didn't know until the sale had gone through. I believe it was the previous owner's mom, and that it was sort of hospice situation, and that she died in what is now my daughters' room.

It doesn't creep me out though. I mean its not exactly the Amityville Horror.

Just kind of strange the history our young house has. Oh, the stories your house could tell!

Lissaloo said...

I love old houses, they have wonderful character to them, and the croissant looks soooooo yummy :)

PurpleHoodieChick said...

I think a little boy wearing a blue shirt may have died in your house or previously lived there because I see him every now and then. Well, at least i think so. And im not the only one.

Donna-FFW said...

I LOVE your idea of filled croissants!! I am going to buy some today for the kids for tomorrow morning, counts as breakfast, no?