joy of nesting

joy of nesting
Shiree Hanson Segerstrom Design and Wellness for Women with Arthritis and Other Chronic Pain.

CHANGING Shiree's Turkey Chili

The eastern United States in fall is something to behold. I have seen Cape Cod, Washington DC, Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Pennsylvania in the fall but never Vermont.

The fall colors, the people, the history, and the architecture of this part of the world require more attention than I am prepared to give right now so I will just share with you some images that struck me as beautiful.

Fall for me used to represent a sad time. The end of the summer weather, messy yards and streets. But now fall means fires in the fireplace, all my favorite soups, homemade breads, and stews. It means our families coming together for Thanksgiving and of course my October birthday.

My husband Jim loved the fall and I think that's how I learned to embrace it. I'm grateful for letting go of that old dread and among other things, am looking forward to chilly morning walks with Riley and Mr. Spreckles in their new plaid jackets.

Shiree's Turkey Chili

This is a healthful, flavorful meal in a bowl. I often make it for myself as a high protein, low calorie dinner.  

1 lb. ground Diestel's turkey
1 1/2 T. ground mild chili powder
1/2 T. ground cumin
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/2 chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 to 6 T. olive oil (I prefer more because turkey is so lean)
vegetable broth
small can kidney beans, rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stock pot sautee' onion in olive oil. Add ground turkey and chopped garlic and brown well. Add remaining seasonings and enough vegetable broth to barely cover turkey.  Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes till liquid is reduced by half.  Note: you can add more olive oil if needed.

Serve with grated white sharp cheddar, chopped tomatoes, and low fat sour cream or low fat Greek yogurt.
Serves 4. Double the recipe for leftovers.

NATURAL AUTUMN chicken rice soup with red cabbage, lime, cilantro, and avocado!


Being outdoors is the greatest joy of living in California. If you are lucky enough to have a great yard, it is an added bonus.  There are plenty of outdoor pleasures to be found in winter and summer, but fall and spring are by far the most inspiring.


Floral arranging with fresh greens and flowers from one's own garden is very satisfying with such a bevvy of materials to choose from.  You will need a few vases to start and some inexpensive materials. A list of greenery that works best in floral arranging follows.

Here is a simple list of things you will need, most of which you probably already have in your kitchen or tool kit...
1.   sharp garden clippers 
2.   frogs (little glass or metal things you put in the bottom of your vase to keep the stems in place)
3.   floral tape
4.   bamboo skewers
5.   a variety of vases with large and small openings, tall, short, clear glass, ceramic
6.   novelty containers
7.   baskets
8.   floral preservative powder
9.   vase inserts (I like large cottage cheese tubs) for non-water tight vessels and baskets
10. a hammer
11. reindeer moss and Spanish moss
12. "Oasis" (the one that holds water!) at most floral supplies and craft stores


The easiest way to do fall floral arrangements...

1. fill your sink or a big bucket with water
2. gather your cutters and fill vase with water, preservative, and frog
3. cut your arrangement materials at a sharp angle
4. keep them cut side down in water while working
5. start with the materials that have the firmest stems as they will provide structure
6. hammer the ends of branch-like stems well so they can absorb water
7. fill in with remaining greens and flowers

To determine the length of the stem before cutting, simply place the vase next to the end of the counter and hold the branch or flower up next to it at the preferred height. Eyeball the spot where the bottom of the vase ends and cut your branch there. Err or the long side and re-clip as needed.

Stand back and look at the arrangement from different perspectives. Does it have balance, symmetrical or asymmetrical?  Are the color and texture contrasts pleasing? Is the vase interesting and of good quality?  Trim off any extra long twigs that will catch on clothing as people pass by.

Conditioning plant, shrub, and tree cuttings for fall arrangements...

bear breeches-dip in boiling water before arranging
maple-hammer stems, place in water
laurel/bay- hammer stems, place in water
Michaelmas daisy-crush stems and dip in boiling water before arranging
barberry-crush stems, place in water
birch- hammer stems, place in water
dogwood-hammer stems, dip in boiling water before arranging
ferns- char stem ends with flame and place in water
privet- hammer woody stems, place in water
olive- hammer woody stems, place in water
cotoneaster- hammer woody stems, place in water
kumquat-hammer woody stems, dip in boiling water before arranging
nandina bamboo- just cut and place in water
pyracantha- hammer woody stems, place in water
pomegranite- hammer woody stems, dip in boiling water before arranging
fig- hammer woody stems, dip in boiling water before arranging
persimmon- hammer woody stems, dip in boiling water before arranging

The floral tape is for loose hanging fruits. Choose dark, natural green to blend in with stems and leaves and use as a support to keep fruit from falling off. I also like to use masking tape to criss-cross over the opening of the vase which adds extra structure to the arrangement.The skewers are for heavy flowers like sunflowers. Reindeer and Spanish moss are excellent fillers in baskets and other wide mouth vessels.

Chicken and Rice Soup with Red Cabbage, Lime, Cilantro, and Avocado

This soup is absolutely delicious and very flavorful! I love to make it for myself when I feel I'm getting a cold.

1 32 oz. organic, free range chicken stock
1 32 oz. organic vegetable stock
3 chicken breasts
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 C. long grain rice

place the following ingredients in bowls and let guests serve themselves...
red cabbage
fresh  lime juice
avocado slices

In a large stock pot bring to a gentle boil chicken and vegetable stock, chicken, and garlic. Let simmer until chicken is cooked. Remove chicken and shred.

Add rice and cook covered 25 minutes, stirring only once.  Add water or more stock till desired consistency. You now have the basis for the soup and guests can decorate their soup bowls with as much cabbage, lime juice, avocado, and cilantro as they prefer.

Serves 4

FAVORITE BIRTHDAY CAKES...cocoa apple. glazed meyer lemon. refrigerator cake.

I turned 52 yesterday. One of the things I love about having a birthday mid-October is the weather is practically perfect here in Northern California. Today, for instance, it is in the mid-80's with a light breeze. The sun is out. All my doors and windows are open and there is a quiet fan humming in an adjacent room.

On Saturday my family will gather in my garden for a birthday celebration.  It will be a joint effort. I know, you aren't supposed to cook on your birthday but what if it's what you want to do? I am preparing Jim's jambalaya and bread pudding. He found the recipes many years ago and made them for special occasions.

My mom and Jim's mom will be here, David's daughter and her boyfriend, my brother, sister, and their spouses. My good friend Melanie and her husband Van will come too.  Melanie loved Jim's jambalaya and had several opportunities to enjoy it over the years. 

Ruby will be here! She turned 2 last month and she left me a happy birthday song on my cell phone. Her singing voice is especially high and sweet. I wish my son Christian could come. He called me yesterday and has promised he will make the 7 hour drive for Thanksgiving in Yosemite.

So many cakes, so little time. I actually prefer pie and bread baking but will make exceptions for cakes done in tube pans and oblong baking dishes.  I also have a favorite traditional strawberry shortcake recipe from one of the Palo Alto Junior League cookbooks done from a basic sour cream biscuit recipe to which extra sugar is added. It is unlike the more common pound cake and angel's food cake combinations used today.

Silver Palate's Glazed Lemon Cake...Tested, phenomenal with Meyer lemons!!!

1 C. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    plus extra for greasing the pan
2 C. sugar
3 eggs
3 C. unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 C. buttermilk
2 tightly packed T. grated lemon zest
2 T. fresh lemon juice
Lemon Icing (recipe follows)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease a 10-inch tube pan.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.
3. Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Add the lemon zest and juice.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared tube pan. Set the pan on the center rack of the oven and bake until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 5 minutes. (note: my oven requires an additional 15 minutes)
5. Cool the cake in the pan, set on a rack, for 10 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and spread on the icing at once, while the cake is still hot.
   8 to 10 portions

Lemon Icing

1 lb. confectioners' sugar
8 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 tightly packed T. grated lemon zest
1/2 C. fresh lemon juice

Cream the sugar and butter together in a mixing bowl. Mix in the lemon zest and juice; spread on the warm cake.
   Enough icing for 1 to 2 cakes.

When Jim was a child, his mother, my mother in law Mary Etta would make something called Refrigerator Cake. The name didn't sound very appealing but the cake is as unbelievably delicious as it was forty years ago.

It is made with the same dark chocolate wafers used in Grasshopper Pie and other recipes requiring a chocolate crust. There are few ingredients, just the wafers, heavy cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar. I have done this cake for Christian's birthday since he was about six or seven. Since he is a July baby, I always serve it topped with strawberries and blueberries.

Refrigerator die for!!!

1 box Nabisco chocolate wafers (narrow, yellow box)
Make sure to find a box that's not too broken up.
heavy whipping cream
powdered sugar
See box for quantities

1. Whip the cream with the vanilla and powdered sugar.

2. In an 8 x 12 oblong baking dish, 8 wafers are lathered with whipped cream, placed together side by side in the pan, like a wheel.

3. Create five or so rows till most of the wafers have been used.

4. Crumble the extras and any broken ones on top of the cake.

5. Let set in the refrigerator for 6 hours till wafers have softened. Serve topped with fresh berries.

My mom used to make this moist, chocolate cake with lots of walnuts and cinnamon. The apples add the moistness and the cinnamon is unbelievable with all the chocolate! I don't know where the recipe originated but our good friend Cheryl Ratzlaff passed it along to Mom all those years ago.

Cocoa-Apple Cinnamon Cake with Chocolate Chips

3 eggs
1/2 C. water
2 T. cocoa
1 t. vanilla
1/2 C. semi sweet chocolate chips
1 C. coarsely chopped walnuts
8 T. butter
2 C. sugar
2 1/2 C. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. allspice
2 C. grated pippin apples
powdered sugar for dusting

1. Cream together butter, eggs, sugar, and water and set aside.

2. Sift together flour, cocoa, soda, cinnamon, and allspice.

3. Combine butter mixture and dry and ingredients and stir in nuts, chocolate chips, apples, and vanilla.

4. Spoon into a greased and floured tube pan.

5. Bake at 325 for 60 to 70 minutes until cake pulls away from sides of the pan.

Cool on a rack. Dust with powdered sugar. Serves 8 to 10 portions.

Let them eat cake...have your cake and eat it too...piece of cake!
Images via .

BOOKWORM'S BLISS plus...the most satisfying pumpkin soup!

Books add so much to life. They teach us, they transport us, and they inspire us. If you are lucky enough to have a library in your home it is no doubt one of your favorite retreats.

It seems my whole house is a library specializing in interior design (no surprise there), World War II novels and biographies, English murder mysteries, and business.  You will find them in every room, scattered about, stacked in baskets, on tables, dressers, beds, and the floor.

Reading is truly the perfect year round activity and books are one of my favorite decorating tools.  I would rather decorate with books than knick knacks. I like knowing the things I am surrounded with are more than just the newest accessory.  Image Assouline Books via Magazine C.

As much as I adore books, reading is not the only activity that should take place in the library.  Three o'clock tea. Evening cocktails. Les Dangerous Liaison. Slid that by you. Supper for two.  Or four.  Even a light breakfast tray if the library has enough natural light. 

The room above was a tricky decorating job and it was pulled off beautifully. It is light filled, crisp, yet worn in. Often we think of libraries as dark and intimate but in truth, the lighter libraries are much more functional.

The bookcases above anchor this library cum workspace. The over sized white work table is a fine, modern day twist on the classic library table.  The natural finishes and texture give the room its artsy intellectual vibe.

Above and below are some interesting accessories for various library decor. Lamps by Roost.

When designing a library within a house's floor plan, the room should be located away from the main part of the noise. I love libraries that have French doors leading to a secluded, personal patio. Depending upon your book collection you can choose to do one, two, three, or four walls of built-ins broken up by doors and windows.  Michael Smith Design. Image via Elle Decor.

Built-out or free standing bookshelves are options as well. Image via Country Living.

This Miles Redd design features some wonderful bookcases. Displaying books can be a daunting task. I display mine in clumps or groups of similar topics rather than alphabetically. 

This library is truly to die for but I have yet to find an ikat fabric (such as the one of the chair) that I like.  Library design by Markham Roberts.

This Todd Klein design (above) is special because of the great tufted leather sofa.  Ralph Lauren room below.

Library faux pas...don't remark on the quantity of someone's book collection and ask if the owner has read them. Of course we have!

Shiree's Pumpkin Soup
     Created for Ruby Sabine Killian

My little two year old niece Ruby loved this soup I created especially for her!

30 oz. pumpkin puree'
10 oz. butternut squash puree'
organic free range chicken stock
Two 7 oz. cans mild Ortega chili's, chopped
One 15 oz. can kidney beans rinsed
6 T. butter
olive oil
2 t. mace (the spice, not the spray)
4 garlic cloves
brown sugar, salt, and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a large stockpot. Add chick broth to desired consistency...more for thinner soup, less for thicker.  Simmer about 30 minutes.  One of the most satisfying pumpkin soups I've had.


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