If you’ve ever driventhrough the English Village tucked behind Lower Merion High School in Wynnewood, you know it. It’s a cluster of 29 houses built and organized on a couple of narrow, winding streets that was designed by the Love brothers to evoke the feeling of Shakespeare’s home village of Stratford-On-Avon. While built between 1925 and 1928, they are modeled after Tudor homes of a much earlier period. The houses, which include nine single family homes as well as ten twins (most attached by their garages) are quirky in their individuality. In order to best fit the challenges of each lot, the houses are not identical. There are unique nooks and crannies in each and the facades display inventive use of stone and brick to fill in gaps between the connected homes. Additionally, the local materials, including Mercer tiles, stained glass, locally-quarried stone and reclaimed lumber ensure that these are not “cookie cutter” dwellings. The brothers included a space for a studio in many of the homes, and several artists have lived in them over the years. Lower Merion Township has designated the houses in Arthur’s Round Table, as the village is known, as Class 1 historic buildings, which means that owners must maintain the original style of the exteriors, so we will be able to enjoy their aesthetic for the foreseeable future.
Jen LeBow’s Red Pepper Soup Recipe
Jen LeBow’s Red Pepper Soup Recipe
My daughters LOVE this and it even freezes IF you omit the cream.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Toss in very large bowl:
3 pounds red bell peppers, cut into 1” wide strips
2 lbs. ripe plum tomatoes, cut into 1” pieces (or used canned and include the tomato juice)
3 medium carrots, cut into 1” pieces
2 large sweet onions, cut into 8 wedges
6 torn up basil leaves (or about 2 t dried)
3/4 t dried thyme
1 t paprika
Salt and pepper (go light/ you can always add when you taste it at the end)
6 T olive oil
Once well-combined, dump onto 2 foil-lined cookie sheets and spread out to avoid as much overlap as possible. Bake 45-50 minutes, turning every 15 minutes.
3 cups vegetable broth (I use the bullion paste plus water)
Once the vegetables are cool enough to handle, put about 1/3 of them into a food processor with 1 cup vegetable broth. Repeat twice (for a total of 3 cups of broth and all the veggies).
Place all of the soup in a large bowl or pot.
Add & combine:
1 ½ T balsamic vinegar (reduced is best, but regular will do). I go heavy on this step.
Optional: ¼ cup heavy cream, mixed thoroughly
Cheap Cleaning Can Net You a Nice Profit
Unless your home is brand new, recently remodeled or in otherwise pristine condition, chances are that, when you have a realtor in to discuss listing it, you will be furnished with a list of repairs/improvements to make. No matter how much cash you have lying around, I would caution every seller to consider the return on investment of any improvement. For example, putting in a $100,000 in order to sell the house is not a good idea. Why? You might get $50,000-$65.000 more for the house than pre-update. That’s a pretty big loss to take voluntarily. Roof leaking? If so, get it repaired, because few buyers will be interested in buying a house with a leaky roof, plus, it may suggest that the property is in bad condition in general–that kind of blanket assumption by buyers can result in appreciable lower offers. So, there are certainly repairs that have good enough return on investment to merit doing. That said, what if you don’t have the cash to paint the entire interior or put new countertops in the bathrooms?
Make it as tidy and CLEAN as possible. Have the carpets cleaned. You can save some money by renting a carpet cleaning machine from a home center and doing it yourself. Lots of people don’t like carpets (and it may not be financially possible for you to tear yours out and start refinishing the hardwood floors underneath). Clean carpets will certainly go over better than dirty, stained ones, though. Power wash the exterior. Dirt, leaves, moss and general grime do not create your house’s best look. Clean (or hire someone to clean) the windows–dirty windows make the house look dingy and depressing. Make sure your gutters are clear–clogged gutters are the number one cause of roof leaks, aside from the fact that they make the property look ill-cared for. Finally, obviously, clean your house (or have it done professionally). No buyer ever preferred a dusty, cobweb-filled interior over a clean one.
U.S. Postal Service’s Pre-Radar Navigation–Concrete Arrows?
As strange as it sounds, sometimes the simplest solution, while not elegant, may suffice. When the U.S. Postal Service began to use airplanes to deliver mail, radar had yet to be invented. They flew mostly de-commissioned WW1 planes and many of the pilots were ex-Army or -Navy. Beginning in 1924, in order to help the pilots navigate at night, towers with lights (powered by generators) were installed every 3-5 miles along the transcontinental route between New York and San Francisco. At the base of these beacons, the government installed 50-70 foot long concrete arrows (painted bright yellow for greater visibility) to guide pilots and keep them on the route. So, both during daylight and dark, flights carrying mail to a demanding American public could make their way across the country without getting lost en route. While this system was only in use for about ten years, by which time the earliest form of non sight-based navigation had been developed, it grew to include about 1500 towers and was considered a success. While most of the towers are gone, some of the concrete arrows are still visible today. For more information about their locations and history, read this well-researched article.
Multi-generational living is exactly what it sounds like–several generations of families living together. This trend grew during the recession: many young adults had trouble finding jobs and moved back in with their parents after college. Additionally, seniors who might have been relying on some help from their children for living expenses might have given up their residences and moved in with their kids to save money (as many of those home owners suffered job losses of their own). Additionally, seniors who are not working outside the home can help care for grandchildren and, if they drive, can run errands and help with meal preparation. Young adults can participate in those tasks as well as cleaning/house work and minor repairs, if they are handy.
Apart, though, from the financial benefits of sharing a home, Americans (a little late to the game, in my opinion) are discovering that there are some major advantages to multi-generational living. The opportunity for grandparents and grandchildren to see each other on a daily basis forms very strong familial bonds. It also means that there is less traveling for visits on weekends or holidays when many people would prefer to use the time to relax. Having young adults around with younger children may provide them with a confidante/role model (obviously, it depends on the young adult!). I also think that multi-generational living has the effect of strengthening the bonds and demonstrating the value of family. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues…
Jen LeBow’s Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
Jen LeBow’s Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Let it be known that I am not a gadget person. That said, there are few tools that I swear by. One of them is silicone muffin cups. I would never go back to a regular muffin tin because, even if you can get them all out without decapitating several of them, who wants to clean a muffin pan? For this recipe, I use the mini muffin cups which are available on Amazon and several kitchen websites. You certainly can make these using traditional metal muffin pans. One more thing: this is a “basic” muffin recipe which simply means that you can switch out the raspberries for another berry or for chocolate chips, or nuts—use your imagination.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. If you want regular size muffins, increase the oven temp to 425 degrees and they’ll probably need closer to 20 mintues. (Most muffin recipes instruct you to use lower temperatures. For a quick, great explanation of why a hotter oven makes better muffins, as well as a side by side photo that leaves no question about it, click here. )
In a standing mixer, cream:
1/3 cup softened, unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, one at a time, beating until well combined.
Add and beat until combined:
1/3 cup water
1 ½ cups mashed bananas (about 4 medium) (I peel them and put them in a Ziploc bag and vent my frustrations from the day to get them to the proper consistency.)
In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients:
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
¼ t baking powder
¼ t salt
Stir in, by hand:
1 cup chocolate chips
Scoop batter into muffin cups so they are just under ¾ full. Place muffin cups on cookie sheet and bake 18 minutes. Allow them to cool at least 10 minutes and then gently remove the muffins from the cups (you will be amazed at how easily they come out!). Cool on a wire rack a couple of hours before sealing in an air-tight container.
Fabulous Fall Festivals
We are very fortunate to live between the city and some of the nation’s best farmland when it comes to celebrating fall. Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary’s Terror Behind the Walls has long enjoyed its status as the country’s largest and best haunted house. It is, by far, the most popular single Halloween event in the area. Haunted houses not your thing? How about Ardmore’s Oktoberfest, with beer tasting, food and music and games for the whole family? Looking for more of an outdoor, harvest-themed way to celebrate fall? Besides several pick-your-own farms for corn mazes, hay rides and apple and pumpkin picking, there is the (uniquely Pennsylvanian) Kennett Square Mushroom Festival. If you are all for fun and games, but don’t mind indulging your shopping muse, try the Radnor Fall Festival. Harry Potter Festival sound interesting? Head up to Chestnut Hill. Don’t miss the Paoli Blues Fest, if you enjoy blues music. For more on leaf viewing and other fall celebrations, events and activities, click here.
Jen LeBow’s Thin Chocolate Chip Cookies (w/secret ingredients!)
There are plenty of chocolate chip cookie recipes out there, and, to be fair, this particular treat can, indeed, be interpreted across a fairly wide spectrum as far as flavor and texture. Personally, I like them paper-thin and crispy. The recipe below is the result of my food science research and countless experimental batches. Note: they are incredibly fragile and don’t travel well, so if you intend to bring them to someone, make sure you pack them up carefully!
Preheat oven to 375.
In standing mixture, cream:
2 sticks (1/2 pound) room temperature butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
Add & combine:
1 1/8 cups bread flour (I sometimes substitute 1/4 of the total bread flour amount with 1/4 finely ground pecan meal)
2/3 cup oats
1 cup (not packed) sweetened, shredded coconut
2 t vanilla extract
1 t coffee extract (really affects the flavor)
Add and gently combine:
1 1/2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
Using about 2-3 t of dough per cookie (really, don’t use more), smash the cookies as flat as you can with the heel of your hand onto the cookie sheet (the chocolate chips should dig into and hurt your hand if you’re doing it right!). It’s fine if some of the metal of the pan shows all the way through the dough of the cookie. Don’t put the cookies too close together or they will melt into each other.
Bake about 9 minutes.
Let cookies rest no more than 3 minutes before removing them (or they will break!) with a thin spatula to cookie racks to cool.
For some resources on troubleshooting cookies, try:
Crafty Baking Problems and Solutions
Fine Cooking Troubleshooting Cookies
Ulitmate Cookie Troubleshooting Guide