Mar 11, 2011

Rediscovering Life's Aromas

I'm not totally off my rocker, only a little.
To find out what is going on!
Hello Again!

I am hoping this post finds you all well. I have been in the mood lately of throwing things out and cleaning things up. Sort of an early "spring cleaning" that actually started in February. Actually, I think it all began with my Rustic Mushroom soup recipe that was featured in February on the Where Women Cook's Amuse Bouche. I made this wonderful soup on such a cold day (recipe and photos of table design tips at end of post!) and that got me all "domestic"so I started to clean the house and then one thing led to another and before you know it, I am throwing things out. Sometimes it is easier to just throw things out than to clean...have you discovered that? Mainly, it is the basement that I am so sick and tired of. It is (was) filled to the brim of stuff/junk/boxes/and old things that just needed to be sorted through, but instead, I just threw them out. When I married my barber husband, and moved into his tiny bungalow of love, I just had no place for my "things" and my boxes, and so down in the dusty, unfinished basement they went. And stayed. And as I moved in over time, things just piled up in that tiny basement, and after a while, I just couldn't even stand to look at it any longer. 

So, in just one day, I have thrown out two full truck loads from our old pick up truck and I am still throwing. I actually removed the window screen from the basement in the front yard, and my barber husband tosses the giant trash bags out onto the front lawn, instead of dragging them up the stairs. We make great amusement for our neighbors. As they walk by our yard, it looks like our lawn is burping up giant trash bags that come heaping up out of no where from the edge of our home. It is still a very ugly basement, but at least I can move around now. My barber husband is actually talking about a "man cave." If that happens, I will be sure to do a "before and after" photo session. So back in February, as the house filled with the scent of simmering soup, I also empty the house with bags and bags of stuff that I just didn't want to sort out, so I just sort of tossed it out instead and stuffed myself silly with soup! 

So, in the meantime, while my lawn continues to "burp" out trash bags from no where, I thought I would share some photography of the latest Where Women Create as well as some photography of my French table top design from my Rustic Mushroom Soup recipe I did for Where Women Cook website's, Amuse Bouche.

I believe I mentioned that I shot some photos of  2 Martins in a Nest for this issue. Here are some extra photos that didn't make the publication, but I thought you would enjoy it. This paper company's owner, Rachel Martin, designed her own wedding using only paper. Yes, paper!

I was asked to photograph Rachel's wedding's decorations, all made out of paper, and I enjoyed the assignment so much. It was a hot June day, but a beautiful wedding! Please enjoy the photographs and stop by her website and enjoy her creativity. And, in my prior post of my book signing in NYC, the beautiful brooch I am wearing is a gift from Rachel - all made out of paper and a vintage button. Enjoy looking at all the goodies before it was set up and then after....

The brides mom, Cecile is a pretty a blossom herself on the day of the wedding....

And here is the bride herself, Rachel...and owner of 2 Martins in a Nest!

I am not a wedding photographer, but I enjoyed staying and taking a few photos (and trying to stay out of the way of the real wedding photographer). It was a beautiful wedding!

I hope you enjoyed the little paper wedding tour - I know I enjoyed being there. And congrats to the newlyweds...a beautiful couple.

And now on to my little Rustic Mushroom soup table top design and recipe. 

Most people don't know how much I enjoy cooking. And how much I really enjoy cooking for my barber husband. I get immense pleasure in feeding my "Edward Scissor Hands". Mainly because, he is very appreciative and shows it. One would think he is married to Julia Child to hear his little happy "grunts" as he munches down my Spanish rice, or bites into my sour cream pound cake, or as he cuts into my medium-rare strip steak with red wine sauce and finger potatoes. I might share with you some of my favorite recipes in future postings, and maybe take photos. I haven't decided, but I did enjoy this little assignment below and of course, my barber husband loved the assignment probably more than I did...!

Below is our little dining area - my favorite room in our home. We eat breakfast here every morning and yes, I really have a white table cloth on the table almost always. It is a treat that adds elegance to our really simple life and it is so easy to do, so why not do it?

This particular cloth only cost me $5 and is vintage French. We have spilt just about everything you can think of on it. I wash with old fashion Biz. Yes, powder Biz for whites. I may soak it in a sink if we got really happy with a spaghetti dinner, but normally, tossing it in the wash is all I ever do. I usually have three tablecloths washed and ironed and ready to go - hanging on hangers. They are so simple and chic and make everything so special - even peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Having lived in Europe for so long, I just got used to white cloths and fell in love with them. The cheaper the better because you don't think twice about messing them up - and we do mess them up!

Below is a little set up for a buffet style soup party with portobello mushroom sticks and bread sticks as well. I used my vintage ironstone tureen and other ironstone dishes as well as my English soup cups. The key is to keep the table rustic with a little elegance.

I love my antique French trivet and antique grain sack that I use on the table to protect it. I wrap the cheese in a linen napkin and keep the ladle on a dish. I put the dried hydrogenous (from my friend, Renee's yard!) in a vintage French milk can for a rustic feel. Simple white linen, grain sacks, milk can, and elegant tureen makes for a chic, but simple table.

Ironstone custard cup is perfect for bread sticks or portobello sticks and the crazing adds warmth.

Adding old books for height and interest is easy and adds a rustic feel as well. 

So here is the final look again. You can see how simple it really is. Soup is the main course, bread, mushrooms, butter, and grated cheese. Below are the photos of the soup and ways to serve it and then the recipe. This is by far, one of my barber husband's favorite meals that I make for him. He just laps it up...I don't think we ever have any left overs now that I think about it :-)

I love using my old oval ironstone platter as the main plate, antique soup spoon, vintage salt and pepper shakers, and French soup bowl. A Belgium linen napkin and suddenly, a very simple rustic soup becomes a 5-star meal!

Below is the recipe for my Rustic Mushroom Soup. It all started out years ago with a can of mushroom soup - the healthy kind. Then over the years, I kept adding things to it, and now, well, it is more full But I still keep the can of soup in the recipe because that is how it all started out and I believe it does add some consistency and the flavor we are familiar with as well. I also really, really, really, love and use only cracked pepper and a LOT of it. This does not add a "peppery" flavor, but it does add GOOD flavor, so don't skimp!!

Bon Appétit! 

Total time: Prep and cooking time: 20 - 25 minutes 
2TBL butter
2 TBL olive oil
1 White onion, chopped
2 TBL chopped garlic (from jar) or 2 cloves, chopped
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cracked pepper
1 PT heavy cream
1 - 1 1/2  LBS of mushrooms (washed and stems removed)
2 large portobello mushrooms
3 TBL of chicken bouillon granules  or 2 cubes
2 TBS of dark red wine (not cooking wine)
1 can Campbell’s healthy choice condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 - 3 tsp cracked pepper to finished soup
salt to taste
8 Qt pan
2Qt sauce pan

Tip: Cut onion across, but not all the way through, with the root of the onion down.

Then turn the onion and cut across, and then turn on the side and slice off the little cubes.

When butter is foaming in the oil, add the onion and gariic.

In  8 quart pan, on medium to high heat, melt butter to foam and add olive oil. Add chopped onion and chopped garlic and sauté and add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper. (Regular pepper may be used, but cracked pepper is more flavorful.) Cook and stir for three or four minutes and reduce heat to medium.

Slice mushroom very thinly and add to melted butter as you go.

In the 2 quart pan, pour in the cream and add the chicken bouillon granules. And turn on medium to low heat. Heat this to dissolve the granules. Make sure you do not boil the cream. While this is heating, you may begin with the mushrooms.
De-stem washed mushroom and slice the caps of the mushrooms very thinly and add to the butter and onions mixture and stir. Keep slicing several mushrooms and add to the onions and stir. You do not have to slice all the mushrooms at once then add them when done. Adding mushrooms as you slice allows the sauté mushrooms to seep out their juices. (Check the cream, make sure it is not boiling. You may turn off the heat once the granules are dissolved.) Once all the mushrooms are sliced and sautéed with the onions, stir several times to coat. 

After you make the cream mixture add it to the mushrooms.

Add the wine to the cream mixture and stir to blend. Pour the cream into the mushroom and onion mixture and stir. Add the can of soup and blend. You may add some water if you want the soup a little thinner. Add 2-3 teaspoons of cracked pepper and salt to taste. Lots of cracked pepper gives this soup a lot good flavor - it does not give it a pepper taste, just wonderful flavor. Reduce heat to low and keep warm while preparing the table and slicing the portobello mushrooms.

Lots and lots of cracked pepper will really adds wonderful flavor!

This serves six people. While the soup is simmering on low heat, slice the bread and portobello mushrooms. 

There is something very comforting about a bowl soup and even more soothing if it is homemade. I especially enjoy hearing my barber husband walk through the door, after a long day on his feet, and take in the scents and hear him call out how good the house smells. Hearing that fills my heart more than the soup fills my stomach. I personally think we have lost the simplicity of eating a real dinner at a real dinner table. It doesn't have to be much. It can be a simple sandwich and a bowl of chips. But the act of sitting at the table that is set with real dishes, not take-out boxes, eating without the television on, and slowing down to eat a real meal is an act that seems so yesteryear, but it isn't. 

Reconnecting at the end of the day with loved ones for an electronic-free hour is something that shouldn't be nostalgic, but a relief. We create and design the life we want for ourselves. And if we complain we don't have time, or we can't, or we have too many activities, then we must ask ourselves who agreed to fill our time in ways we don't find it fulfilling? Who agreed to have us participate in activities that don't add value or joy to our lives? And who forced us to eat food that isn't tasty, good for us, or at the very least adds beauty to our table? 

We know the answers.

We create our lives the way we want to live. The key is this: we just simply stop for a moment, take a breath, and decide what kind of life do we want to live? I mean, how do we really want to live our life? With real joy? Sometimes, we just go, go, go and we just need to get things done without even thinking about all those things we are getting done and if they are even the things we want to do in the first place. I know I get caught up in the rat race and have to stop and breath. And cooking helps me to slow down and rethink how I am living my life. And while I am cooking, I end up with a good meal, a pretty table, and good conversation that allows me to rethink how I am spending my precious time and where and how I am sharing my very valuable self.

Cooking can serve up more than just a good meal - it can serve as a good reminder to slow down and to take in life's delicious aromas.

From my house to your house,



Brenda said...

Elizabeth, I love the photos of your rustic table. It reminds me of the photos of your wonderful wedding. The decor at your wedding/reception was over-the-top fantastic/rustic; I go back and look at those photos from time to time just so I can enjoy the visual feast of them.

I'll have to try your mushroom soup; it looks delicious. I have a great recipe for clam chowder if you like cream soups. It uses canned soups, but it tastes amazing!

I need some tips on photographing a table with a window in the background. Your photography is always delightful.

Thanks for sharing all your amazing talents.

cathypentonatelier said...

Simply amazing as always my friend XXXXXX

Anonymous said...

Good Morning Elizabeth,
I always look forward to your posts...they're always so beautiful and filled with words that make me stop and think about the beauty in my day and life. I love to cook also but you make it look like a gorgeous affair! Your table setting is stunning and I can imagine a hour there with some mushroom soup would do my spirit some good. :)
And the wedding - I sure wish I had all these beautiful ideas years ago! It looked beyond lovely.
Hope your spring is off to a good one...Enjoy!
Sarah xo

Lori @ Katies Rose Cottage Designs said...

Oh my goodness, I am sitting
here with my mouth hanging
open at your gorgeous pictures ~
Thank you so much for sharing such beautifulness with us!!!


Unknown said...

The wedding photos are simply adorable. What lovely details.
But I'm drooling over the Rustic Mushroom Soup! Oh how I adore your table setting. I want to copy every element you've displayed here, in my home. It's truly divine. The chandelier is so unique in this room. The grain sacks are gorgeous at the table with the ironstone. I love all of your photos, and could look through them all day.
Thanks for sharing this meal with us, will have to try it :)
Becky C

Curtains In My Tree said...

Well first I want say I hurt knowing you threw out treasures from your basement. I just know there was some good stuff in those black garbage bags and I would have come over and rescused some if you would just have told me so.
(really) LOL
Knowing you only keep good stuff.

Loved that sweet wedding I noticed all the old spools on the wedding table. Loved the entire theme.

I am hungry right now and could eat a bowl of your soup. I seen you in Where Women Cook I know you enjoyed that


Claudia said...

Love all your photos, Elizabeth. And I especially love what you wrote at the end - about slowing down, cooking, taking time to do what we want. Thank you.


Gail said...

Well said Elizabeth! I just bought the latest "Where Women Cook" and can't wait to sit and read it...I find it very inspiring and boy does your soup recipe look great! I'll have to make it for myself as my husband won't touch a mushroom (poor guy!) and I adore them.
Loved your story of cleaning out your basement, wish I had been in your yard, I would have taken all the bags without even looking inside....:).

Summerland Style said...

We never had mushrooms growing up -- my mom is grossed out by them. But a few years ago I was participating in a soup exchange with some friends and someone made a mushroom soup. To this day it ranks as one of the best soups I've ever had. So, I am DEFINITELY going to try yours! It looks scrumptious.

Can't wait to see what you do next!

tina said...

As always your posts make me sigh, smile, and give a Happy Jolt. I live quite near you----- tea and scones?

[my word verification is "being", quite appropriate for you I think}

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi BB,

Thank you for the photography comment. Taking photos with windows in the background can be tricky. I purposely try to take them in a way to "blow out" the window (make them bright) so I can use the photo year round - so you don't see the season of the year outside. This is done with the camera settings and sometimes, with some help with the computer program.

If you want the outside to show, then you need the inside bright enough to match the light temperature outside, or close to it. Otherwise, you will have a dark inside, and bright outside. To experiment, focus your lens on a tree outside while standing in the room. Now, look and see how dark your room looks. Now, focus on a chair in your room and see how the light outside changes to brighter. That is because you are opening up your lens more to allow more light in for your darker room. Which in turn allows more light in from the outside, making it appear lighter outside. The key is to find a balance between the lens opening and the light inside the room if you want both the room and the outside to show up. Or, keep the room fairly dark, open your lens up more, and the outside will be brighter or "blown out" like you see in my photos.

Hope this helps!
Elizabeth :-)

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Cathy!

Always good to hear from you - miss you!

xoxox to you too,
Elizabeth :-)

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Sarah,

Thank you for stopping by...and yes, an hour with soup does the spirit good! The table does look nice, thank you, but I will be the first to admit, that it really is very simple. Anyone can do it. My oval platter is chipped, and the spoon is stained...truly, none of the ironstone tones even come close in colors. That is what makes it so simple - you can toss anything together and it will go, creams, tans, whites, off-whites, beige, you name it, it will go.

Take care
Elizabeth :-)

Elizabeth Maxson said...

I am glad you left comments Becky and Lori - I have said it many times and will say it again, I am always flattered when someone takes time out of their busy day to drop me a line. Thanks again for the lovely comments.

And yes, try the soup and let me know what you think!

Big hug
Elizabeth :-)

Elizabeth Maxson said...


You are so funny - first of all, when I say "trash," trust me, it was TRASH. That stuff belonged in trash bags. Broken items, or old papers (not the good kind, like old business junk) tons of fabric samples - gotcha! fabric samples, just wanted to make you gasp - haha!

I am glad you wrote though - I got busy with other stuff and need to get busy in the basement again and your comment reminded me that I have more tossing to do.

Have a great week!
Elizabeth :-)

Elizabeth Maxson said...


My favorite blue-glasses-gal! I love that you now have a PHOTO with your name on the comments!! So now, don't have to think, "Claudia? Claudia?" And then click on your site (I still do anyway) and see your photo and then say, "OH! CLAUDIA! With the blue glasses!" Hahaha...I always LOVE getting your comments.

Miss you and big hug to you and Riley,

Elizabeth Maxson said...


I think you will LOVE WWC book - it is a one-of-a-kind book with all sorts of recipes and stories.

Let me know how you like it!

Thanks for stopping by,
Elizabeth :-)

Elizabeth Maxson said...


Don't you love mushroom soup? I used to not like it so much growing up. My mom wasn't a great cook and her spice rack consisted of salt and pepper (not cracked either!). I discovered soups while living in Germany. This is by far one of my favorites.

So glad you stopped by!
Elizabeth :-)

Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Tina!

I have been to your site before and love the knitting! Yes, please email me, and would love to meet you. I am always up for a good pastry...scones, muffin, gooey butter cake, .... nice to know someone is so close!

Thanks for the invite!
Elizabeth :-)

Beth West said...

We have home made soup almost every Sunday evening. If we miss it Sunday, I'll usually make it Monday night. There are so many delicious varieties. The possibilities are almost endless.

Your table is beautiful. I love the colors you chose. Thanks for this lovely post. Much beauty for the eyes to feast on.

Lisa said...

The whole post was excellent, and the mushroom soup...I always doctored it up peasant style, I tried yours and it was sooooo good!!! Thanks so much.


Richard Cottrell said...

Just a fast note to tell you that Victorian Homes Magazine with my house will be out in the May, June issue. Be on the news stands the end of April. I will get copies around the 19th of April. I am thinking about having a little party and have copies for sale as we are in the middle of no where here and can not buy one. I will keeep in touch. I made your soup. was really easy and really good.RC

Burlap Luxe said...

Elizabeth, can it get any better then following you!!

I adore all that you create and bring to us in all that you do. Bought my latest Where Women Cook, and of course you are there :)

It such a wonderful book/Mag to escape in following the advice and inspiration of all who share.

Elizabeth I too cook with the All-Clad pots, and pans...Do you just not love them!!

Keep on inspiring all things of soulful interest, and let the beauty you inspire live well with you.

See you soon inspirational friend.

Curious Sofa said...

Love the new blog design honey and the food pics are so devine!! Reminds me of your flawless wedding display. XXOO

Elizabeth Maxson said...

I am so glad you all tried the soup! I will admit, I wasn't a big fan of mushroom soup growing up - my mom did the out of the can soup thing, and that was it. Not very good! But, after doctoring it all up, not to bad. Richard! Congrats on the Victorian Homes spread! I will have to stop by! As soon as I am better - I have been really sick - something going around. Maybe I need more soup! I miss you.


Elizabeth Maxson said...

Hi Debbie!

So glad you stopped by - always a thrill, girlie. I know you are busy, but glad you took a moment to take a peek at your biggest fan :-) Must get together soon and catch up.

Miss you and Pearl-girl.

Big hug
Elizabeth :-)

Elizabeth Maxson said...


Thanks for the info on the page-wall! I just may try that in our bathroom - I just love what you did. You are generous with your instructions. If you readers want to see what I am talking about, click on her site and see her walls.

Big hug to you,

paperjunk-lc said...

Love the beautiful table, the lovely setting and the yummy recipe. I love mushroom soup.
Your comments about making the effort for dinner ring true to me. That's what my daughter wants most when she comes home is a family dinner with her parents and her sister. Turn off the TV and unplug for dinner!
Thanks again for a lovely post.

clustres said...

I had a special treat tonight when I checked your blog and there were 3 I had not read! I'm having a hard time keeping up with blogs, but just wanted to say that your table is just so inviting!

Gayle said...

Hi Elizabeth, I loved seeing your "spread" in WWC. Your sense of style is unique and "so you"!! Today I posted a photo of my black cupboards that were inspired (copied!!!!!) from your kitchen years ago. I still love them today. Thanks !!

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