Friday, April 30, 2010

The First of May...

"You can never achieve anything in a house...

...unless you have things that have been passed down,
and you find a place for them for yourself.”  
 ~ Sister Parish

Cassandra's 1830 Cherry Pennsylvania Dutch Cupboard
passed down from Grandmother Lavenua Ann

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Let Books...

Let books be your dining table,
And you shall be full of delights
Let them be your mattress
And you shall sleep restful nights.

~Author Unknown

Dutch Oven Cooking

Pot Roast with Mushrooms

This favorite pot roast recipe includes onions, fresh mushrooms, garlic, and herbs, along with other seasonings and ingredients.

1 beef pot roast, about 3 to 4 pounds
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper
2 medium onions, halved and sliced
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup tomato paste
½ cup red wine
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried leaf thyme
1/4 teaspoon rosemary, crumbled
1/4 teaspoon ground marjoram
1 small bay leaf
8 oz. fresh sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon flour blended with 3 tablespoons cold water

Trim roast then dredge in flour. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat; brown the beef on all sides. Season with salt and pepper. Add onions. Combine the water, tomato paste, wine, garlic, seasonings, and bay leaf; add to the pot. Cover and cook over low heat for 2 1/2 hours, or until tender. Add mushrooms and heat through. Remove meat to a warm platter. Skim fat off pan juices. Stir in flour and water mixture, cooking and stirring until sauce is thickened. Serve over the pot roast.

Serves 6 to 8

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Beloved Doll

I received my beloved Queen Elizabeth II “Alexanderkins” doll for my seventh birthday. She was purchased by my parents from a stationers’ store in the small Indiana town of my childhood. From a very young age, I had been an ardent fan of the British royal family, collecting every photo and article I could find from local newspapers and national magazines and pasting them in scrapbooks. How thrilled I was to have this wonderful little eight-inch-tall Queen E!

The creator of this doll, Madame Alexander, was born Bertha (later changed to Beatrice) Alexander in 1895, the daughter of Russian immigrants to the United States. Bertha grew up living in an apartment over her father's doll hospital, the first one in the United States, located on Grand Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side. As a child she often played with the mainly German- and French-made dolls left for her father’s attention.

After her marriage, Madame Beatrice Alexander Behrman founded The Alexander Doll Company in 1923. Working out of her kitchen with only $1600 worth of operating capital, she adopted the title of 'Madame' and started a cottage industry business which eventually moved to a studio in downtown Manhattan. There, Madame Alexander conceived the ideas for new dolls, assisted in sewing the dolls and their costumes, and developed shop accounts.

Madame Alexander initiated a series of “firsts” in the doll industry. She created composition dolls with painted features and sleep eyes, using distinctive face molds; brought feature baby dolls to market; and pioneered the use of hard plastic as a new medium. She also created the first doll based on a licensed character (Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind), which led to the widespread production of dolls based on characters from popular books (i.e. Little Women and Alice in Wonderland) and motion pictures; and was also the first to create dolls modeled after famous people or celebrities, such as Queen Elizabeth II, the Dionne quintuplets, etc. In 1955, Madame Alexander's company produced the first fashion doll with an adult figure (Cissy) -- a full four years before the appearance of the "Barbie" doll.

Madame Alexander believed that dolls should engage the imagination and contribute to a child's happiness and understanding of the world. These fine quality and beautifully crafted dolls continue to be favorites for children and doll collectors throughout the world. Beatrice Alexander Behrman, “Madame Alexander”, died in 1990 at the age of 95.

Monday, April 26, 2010

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d...

In the dooryard fronting an old farm-house near the white-wash'd palings,
Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom rising delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle--and from this bush in the dooryard,
With delicate-color'd blossoms and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig with its flower I break.

From: “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” by Walt Whitman

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


The tulips make me want to paint,
Something about the way they drop
Their petals on the tabletop
And do not wilt so much as faint,

Something about their burnt-out hearts,
Something about their pallid stems
Wearing decay like diadems,
Parading finishes like starts,

Something about the way they twist
As if to catch the last applause,
And drink the moment through long straws,
And how, tomorrow, they’ll be missed.

The way they’re somehow getting clearer,
The tulips make me want to see—
The tulips make the other me
(The backwards one who’s in the mirror,

The one who can’t tell left from right),
Glance now over the wrong shoulder
To watch them get a little older
And give themselves up to the light.

A.E. Stallings

Cassandra's Front Door

Monday, April 19, 2010

♥ ♥ ♥ Krakow ♥ ♥ ♥

View of Krakow's Old Town from the Bell Tower of Wawel Cathedral

Prague was fabulous...if you have not yet seen some of my photos of Prague, see below my four Prague blog postings: March 22, and April 6, 7, & 13.

But...Krakow is the BEST! For centuries Krakow was the capital of Poland and the seat of kings, drawing great scholars and artists from the entire world. What a beautiful, richly historical, cultured, and friendly city!

Bonerowski Palace on the Left Corner

Our hotel, The Bonerowski Palace (, was wonderful . Located in the heart of Krakow in the Old Market Square, the hotel is actually a historic, meticulously restored and richly refurbished manor house from the Middle Ages and is an easy walk to the Renaissance-era Royal Castle at Wawel on the Vistula River, Krakow’s most magnificent cathedrals, and the best shopping, galleries, concerts, museums, and restaurants/cafés.

The gothic St. Mary’s Basilica (site of the recent funeral mass for Poland’s President and First Lady) and the historical trade pavilions of the Cloth Hall (site of the Easter Markets during our visit) were right outside The Bonerowski Palace’s front door. Since Krakow’s Old Town suffered little damage during World War II, the original edifices are still standing and have been or are currently undergoing extensive restorations.

Although foods of many nationalities are served in Krakow, Polish cuisine was our top choice! Our favorite restaurant, where we enjoyed two dinners and a lunch, is Miód Malina ( lovely restaurant, located in a 14th century building, was selected last year by CNN for production of a film that will promote healthy Polish foods. The restaurant’s walls are decorated with hand- crafted and beautifully hand-painted rustic wreaths, as well as bunches of dried and fresh flowers, herbs, flax, various corn, and Polish catkins. In the main dining room there is a huge old wood oven in which dumplings, roasts, sizzling ribs, and pork knuckle are prepared according to old Polish recipes. We especially enjoyed their delicious roasted fresh mushrooms, pierogis (cheese & potato or saurkraut & mushroom-filled dumplings), and bigos, a kind of Polish hunters’ stew.

Detail of hand-painted wreath at Miód Malina

My photos below picture some of the highlights of our too short time in this very special city:
• Attending weekday morning mass at St. Mary’s Basilica - the church was FULL!
• Taking a guided historical tour of Wawel Castle and Cathedral
• Shopping in the Easter and flower markets
• Enjoying an early evening lager at a cafe on the Old Town Market Square and hearing the Hejnał Mariacki (a.k.a., the Cracovian Hymn), the hauntingly beautiful trumpet tune played four times consecutively every hour on the hour from the top of the taller of St. Mary's two towers. The tune breaks off in mid-stream, to commemorate the famous 13th century trumpeter, who was shot in the throat while sounding the alarm before the Mongol attack on the city. (
• An evening string quartet concert at the baroque Church of the Twelve Apostles

Church of the Twelve Apostles

View from our Café of St. Mary's Basilica at Dusk

A Polish Amber Necklace

Detail of Rose, a Krakovian Symbol, on Plaque

A Polish Eagle on St. Mary's Basilica

Easter Market

Flower Market I

Flower Market II

Inside the Wawel Castle Gates

Teddy Bear Shoppe near St. Mary's Basilica

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Gather Ye Violets While Ye May...

Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. ~ Mark Twain

Violets are a lovely early spring flower currently blooming profusely in many areas. I have many fond memories as a child of gathering large bouquets of very long-stemmed, large-blossomed purple and white violets, which grow still in the fertile Indiana soil. A wonderful bonus is the fact that these blossoms are not only beautiful, they are edible! Popular recipes include sugared violet blossoms for use on cakes and cupcakes; use of the blossoms in salads; violet blossom ice cubes for special cold drinks; and, last but certainly not least, violet jelly. Here follows is a traditional recipe for jelly made from purple violets to serve on biscuits, croissants, or scones. This recipe makes four or five half-pint jars. Enjoy!

You will need:
• 2 heaping cups of fresh purple violet petals
• 2 C boiling water
• 1/4 C well-strained, clear lemon juice
• 4 C sugar
• 3 oz liquid pectin (Certo)

The best time to gather violets is in mid-morning after the dew has evaporated. Gather from a pesticide-free area 2 cups worth of fully opened fresh violet petals, not partially opened buds, for better color and more intense flavor. Carefully wash using a spray attachment on a kitchen sink, remove all stems, drain and place in Pyrex cup or bowl. Pour boiling water over petals and let steep from 2 to 24 hours.

Strain through a fine sieve, reserving the clear, purplish liquid. If not using immediately, refrigerate up to 24 hours. Prepare 5 half-pint jelly jars by washing the jars, rings and lids in hot, soapy water and then sterilizing them by boiling for 10 minutes. Dry on a rack until ready to use.

To make the jelly, stir lemon juice and sugar into liquid in a two-quart stainless steel pan. Bring to a full rolling boil. Add the liquid pectin and continue to boil two minutes, skimming any foam that may rise to the surface.

Ladle quickly into clean boiled jelly jars, and place flat lid and ring on each before filling the next. Screw band on tightly and invert jar on tea towel for about five to 10 minutes. Jars should seal and lids should pop shut within 10 minutes as they cool. If they do not seal, you can place them in a hot water bath for 10 minutes or place in the refrigerator. Sealed jars will last up to one year in a cool, dark place. Unsealed jelly must be put in the refrigerator, and lasts up to a month.

Cassandra's Antique Violet Jelly Pot

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Flowers at Dawn

Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed. ~ Walt Whitman

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Prague in the Details...

For all to enjoy...more photos taken on my recent trip to Prague, a city of contrasts and, oh, so much art and culture!

Beatrix & Friends...

Frolicking Lambs

Cassandra Follows...