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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Branding Irons and Hyacinths

Branding irons and hyacinths? 
What prompted this post? 
  1. Use what you have.
  2. Honor your heritage.
  3. Recognize beauty in design.
  4. Celebrate success.
  5. Promote worthy endeavors. 
The Clay Pigeon is a relatively new restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas.  When the new owner/executive chef leased the vintage building on White Settlement Road, the previous tenants left behind a collection of old, maybe antiques, but probably not, branding irons. 

The kitchen in the background is state-of-the-art where the staff creates delicious meals using fresh ingredients and mouth-watering combinations of flavors.  But the view that greets patrons as they enter is this stunning display of old branding irons that reflect the history of Cowtown, USA... Fort Worth, Texas is the beginning of the Wild West known for cattle drives and BIG ranches. 

What a great combination of textures!  White painted brick wall to showcase the irons, a partially wainscoated wall with molding to frame the irons above, an old weathered wooden table, a rustic basket, a trio of hyacinths...   Yet not cluttered... 

There is a lot to learn about design from this simple showcase of branding irons including...  
Symmetry in the placement of the irons and in the vases of hyacinths... 
Contrasting wall paint colors with white to highlight the branding irons... 
Overhead spotlight that creates a focal point on the branding irons... 
Filling the vertical space so the tall ceilings are grounded...  

How did I discover this restaurant with its eye-catching display of branding irons?  A former colleague organizes periodic lunch outings for 8-10 of us retirees who worked in administration over the years at a high school in nearby Arlington, Texas.  She discovered The Clay Pigeon and suggested one of our lunches be there.  When we learned that the Executive Chef/Owner graduated from the high school where we all worked, we all wanted to eat at The Clay Pigeon to help celebrate the success of a former student that most of us knew when he was still in high school. 

Marcus Paslay, Executive Chef/Owner, studied in well-known culinary schools and had been an assistant chef in very successful restaurants from New York City to Alaska, before deciding to open a restaurant in Fort Worth.  He returned to his roots in North Texas to raise (rear) his children near his extended family and to offer "the best from scratch dining in the Fort Worth metroplex".  

If ever you are in the Fort Worth area, I recommend eating at Marcus' restaurant. 

The Clay Pigeon
2731 White Settlement Road 
Fort Worth, Texas 

Visit The Clay Pigeon website for more information, 
including Marcus' personal journey to become a chef. 

Celebrating success and promoting a former student who recognizes his heritage... 

On a personal note...  
Thank you to all my readers who 
have written such comforting words at the loss of my mother. 
Your comments and emails have been such a blessing to me at this time.

As we work to settle Mother's affairs in Alabama, 
I will once again be without Internet access for an extended period. 
Thank you, dear readers, for understanding. 
I look forward to returning to blog writing late this summer. 

Please join me at these inspiring sites. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Wild Alabama Blackberries

A tribute to my mother 

Annie Elizabeth
1930 - 2015 

Wild Alabama blackberries ripen in the warm June sunshine and have been part of my life as far back as I can remember.  My grandmother, then my mother, were the true blackberry pickers in our family.  With nimble fingers stained purple, they picked the berries each summer, filling bucket after bucket, while keeping a wary eye out for hornets and snakes that also were attracted to the wild tangled thorny bushes found in the hedgerows that separated cotton fields. 

Summer dinners and suppers sometimes included fresh berries in milk or sometimes just simply a bowl of fresh berries dusted with sugar that formed a sweet syrup.  

In the South, dinner is the midday meal, and supper is the evening meal. 

Wild berries are small and packed with intense flavor not found in the large cultivated blackberries sold in grocery stores.  Just as you've never tasted a real tomato until you've eaten a home-grown one, you've never tasted blackberries until you've tasted ones growing in the wild. 

Hydrangeas grown in my mother's flower beds bloom during blackberry-picking season.  Hydrangeas and blackberries... one tame in the yard and lovingly tended all year; the other wild and lovingly harvested in June.  Both staples of my mother's southern home and hospitality.  

There were always more than enough berries to share generously with extended family members, neighbors, fellow church members, or "anyone who slowed down long enough" to receive some. 

None went to waste.  What wasn't eaten, was canned for the dark winter months.  Some jars were filled with berries in sugar syrup for cobblers; other jars were filled with sweet blackberry jam to spread on homemade biscuits for breakfast. 

Most of the time, blackberry cobbler was how we ate the fresh blackberries.  Mother made a simple cobbler.  First, butter melted in the pan, followed by a batter of flour, milk, and sugar, and then topped with blackberries in a sugar syrup thickened by boiling.  The batter rose through the berries as the cobbler baked, creating a browned crust on top of the juicy berries. 

This June was Mother's last blackberry season, but she did not pick any.  Rather, after a full week filled with puttering in her garden, planting yet another hydrangea to fill a bare spot, going out to lunch every day with me visiting from Texas, celebrating her 85th birthday with her favorite coconut cake made by her sister-in-law, visiting with her three brothers, having her last supper with my brother's family and me, and going to bed upbeat, happy, and feeling good, she passed from this life as she wanted... peacefully in her sleep.

The loving southern Christian hospitality she exemplified and taught all of us lives on.

My sister-in-law is the keeper of the family tradition of blackberry picking now.  As she picked wild Alabama blackberries growing on her farm this June, she shared them with everyone "who slowed down long enough" to receive them in the true southern-generosity tradition.  

These two jars are ones I gave my dear friends who lovingly cared for our cats while we were in Alabama saying our goodbyes to Mother. 

Blackberry Winter now includes another dimension to its definition for me. 

Please join me at these inspiring sites where I am honoring my mother with this tribute. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Wish for a White Flower

Sometimes I think I may have a fairy godmother, 
or perhaps, a tender-hearted angel, who watches over me 
and hears my heart's wishes. 

With all the unusual amounts of rain in May, 
the roadsides are still green into June and, for us in Texas, 
even could be called lush with blooms. 
For the first time, I noticed a large wild shrub 
with graceful fronds loaded with white flowers 
all along the roadsides and near wooded areas.