Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dick & Jane Baking Company

Today I spent the morning with my brother, Dick, working on marketing materials for SMART cookies. They feature the 50 states & their capitals and are made by the Dick and Jane Baking Company.

Yes, my brother's name is Dick, his wife is Jane (and she's a 2nd grade teacher) and they have their own line of educational cookies...how cute is that?

I like to snack on SMART cookies and say things like..."Florida is delicious." or "I ate the Midwest."

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Teacup Bouquets

Short and sweet, a teacup bouquet is the perfect arrangement for when you want to make a lot, out of a little. Say, when your neighbor's magnolia tree is in full bloom. You'll only need the courage to ask for 2 buds to make a darling old-fashioned arrangement. Thank you, Phyllis! A pretty little addition to any room, I plan on making lots of teacup arrangements this Summer. Care to join me for a cup?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Store Manager

A trip to the feed store this weekend was Step 2 in my quest for happier roses this season. I am going to try a recipe for a "radiant rose cocktail" that I tore out of a Mary Engelbreit Home Companion magazine years ago. Needing a variety of odd ingredients, I found this charming store that sells everything from Epsom salt to hummingbird feeders. I gathered everything I needed and at the checkout I ran into the store manager (pictured here). He reviews each sale and, I assure you, he doesn't miss a thing. I even think I heard him mutter something about sales tax.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Gift Wrap


Now is the time to let Spring take center stage in everything you do. To achieve this pretty package, take a tuft of Bradford Pear blossoms and wrap the stem with floral tape. Then attach it to the package with clear tape - voila! It will be the prettiest gift at the party and you'll have Mother Nature to thank.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tulip Time

Check your calendar - Tulip Time is May 3-10 this year in Holland, Michigan. A festival that celebrates Dutch heritage, tulips bulbs and community fun, Tulip Time is a major event in western Michigan that draws over a half a million visitors. "Klompen Dancers" dressed in traditional Dutch attire (handmade) wear real wooden shoes (ouch) and perform folk dances in the street. Cute, eh? What if I told you that over 1,400 dancers participate? Tulips are taken seriously in Holland, Michigan. An incredible 6 miles of city streets are planted with tulip bulbs in the Fall, so when Tulip Time arrives the streets are blooming. I really enjoyed myself last year - drinking lemonade, strolling the town & watching the occasional "klompen dance." It was the perfect Sunday afternoon. While in Holland, stop at the Veldheer tulip farm, where you can see 5 million tulips blooming, seriously.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring is like the Circus

Every year I say, "Spring is like the Circus. It only comes once a year and you don't want to miss it!"
I want to show you my favorite tree. It is part Bradford Pear and part Weeping Cherry and I purposely drive by every day in the Springtime. The trunks were grafted together long ago and I am sure that it was expected to be a sweet little ornamental tree by the front walk. But look! Over the past 30+ years, it has grown into a magnificent full-size tree that has billowy white blooms on top and draping pink blooms below. You can only see it blooming for about 10 days each Spring. I took the Garden Club girls here on a "field trip" last year. We simply rolled down the car windows and applauded.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tea & Cookies

My Mom was given the prettiest package of floral cookies for her birthday this week. We decided that they were the perfect thing to serve when my Aunt came for a visit. These sweet treats elevated "a cup of tea" into a little birthday party. We made a pot of English Breakfast, arranged the cookies on an antique plate and settled in for an afternoon of catching up. The next time you are considering extra-special cookies - get them! They can turn an afternoon into an occasion.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Violet

My grandmother loved violets. There were always ten or more plants growing happily on her table by the back door. One time I commented on the sprig of artificial violet flowers she had tucked into one of the non-blooming plants. She said that when they weren't blooming, she liked put the fake blooms in there to "give them the idea." As if the power of suggestion worked for plants too! I think she was onto something and whenever I'm in floral department of Micheal's, I'm tempted to buy myself a little sprig of violets...
Want to try growing violets? Read some care tips from the experts here.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pretzel Candy

I was going to a Euchre card party and I wanted to bring a snack that was delicious and easy to eat while playing. What did I make up?

Pretzel Candy
1 bag Snyder's Pretzel dipping sticks
1 (12 oz) bag of Nestle white chocolate morsels
1 bag CK Products Toffee Crunch
1 bag CK Products Toasted Coconut Flakes
1 bag CK Products Toasted Almond Crunch
(CK Products are available at many candy & cake decorating supply stores - you can search for a retailer near you here.)

Pour toppings into 3 separate dipping bowls.
Melt 1/2 bag of white chocolate morsels in the microwave for 30 secs (repeat as necc.) stir until smooth (careful not to burn it), dip 1/2 of each pretzel dipping stick into the white chocolate and then gently roll in one of the toppings. Place each dipped pretzel on a waxed paper lined cookie sheet. When the cookie sheet is full, place it in the fridge for a few minutes to harden. Repeat for all 3 toppings. Make some plain pretzel rods dipped only in chocolate. It is pretty to display these in a sequence that repeats (for example Toasted Coconut, Toffee Bits, Toasted Almond, Plain - repeat). Yum!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Monticello

Thomas Jefferson's estate in Charlottesville, Virginia is called Monticello. I have wanted to photograph it for as long as I can remember and I will finally have the chance next month! Jefferson loved Paris, cultivating fruits & flowers and the elements of design - a man after my own heart! Back in college, I began this octagonal building and grounds in counted cross-stitch. I was sure that it was Monticello (known for its octagonal rooms) and have been telling everyone that I wanted to visit it ever since. My question to you is: Have you been? Do you have any advice for me? I will be photographing architectural details, floral portraits and landscapes. What would you like to see?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Storybook Setting

I had been "oohing and aahing" at gardens all over Paris when my French friend said, "I want to show you something."
We drove down a narrow lane and as we turned into a gravel driveway, I looked up and saw this house! I assure you those pink hydrangeas are real. I had never seen hydrangeas planted in window boxes before and combined with the light blue trim work, it was simply gorgeous. I found it hard to leave. I was sure that if I peeked in the windows, I'd see a grandfather clock dancing with a teapot! You see, storybook settings really do exist.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Threads

In honor of the new Martha Stewart "Color" issue, I have taken a photograph of thread.
When I was 8 and first saw a Coats & Clark thread display, it was love at first sight. I remember feeling giddy when I realized that they were for sale...that I could choose color after color and have them to look at all the time. It was purely form over function. I didn't know how to sew, but I had to have that thread.
To add to the mystique, my maternal grandmother had small James Bond-inspired dresser in her bedroom. From the front it looked like a 4-drawer dresser, but when you pushed on it, the entire facade spun to reveal a secret place to stash your sewing supplies. Every chance I got, I'd push on the cabinet door to peek at the spools and thimbles and needles, oh my. Sewing was obviously very important and very special to have a cabinet like this. Yes, when someone says "color" I think thread. What do you think of?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Angelique

Would you believe this is a tulip? Similar in look to a peony, Angelique is a gorgeous double tulip that I simply adore. We are just beginning to get warmth in the air here and my tulips are up about an inch. Besides Angelique, what else am looking forward to? The grouping of tulips called "Easter Basket" that I planted in pots last Fall. The collection was loaded with pale yellow, rose pink and soft apricot tulips - all chosen because they look like dyed Easter eggs. I can't wait to see them!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Spring Risotto

I have the perfect Spring Risotto for you. It is an oven-baked variation, so the major challenge with risotto (stirring faithfully as the cups of liquid are absorbed) is eliminated. I think this recipe, which incorporates asparagus, fresh herbs and lemon, is simply delicious.
I cook this dish in a 2 quart Le Creuset round French oven. It moves from stove top, to oven, to table beautifully. Make sure to choose a pot that has a lid & can go from stove top to oven.
Anne's Spring Risotto

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 c. fresh asparagus, chopped 1 inch pieces
1 c. fresh red/orange bell peppers, chopped
3/4 c. arborio rice
2 c. vegetable stock
1/4 c. white wine
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon rind, grated
1 Tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped fine
1 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped fine
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1 squeeze of fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On stove top, place oven safe saucepan/stockpot on burner over med heat. Add oil & butter and melt. Add onions, asparagus & peppers - saute 2-3 min. Add rice and stir until coated - about 1-2 min. Add stock & wine. Stir in lemon zest, all the herbs and the coriander. Cover and place in the oven to bake for 25 minutes. When timer goes off, stir in a squeeze of lemon juice, remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter, parmesan cheese and salt & pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Food For Thought


Did you ever read 500 Words to Grow On? It is a visual dictionary for children with scenes (a kitchen, a neighborhood) in which each object is labelled. I vividly remember the country scene with a "meadowlark" sitting on a "fence" with hills, cows and farmland in the distance. I like to think that my Cavallini print of gourmet foods as a grown-up version of that wonderful book. I showcase it in different spots around the house depending on my mood in a lightweight 18 x 24 frame. If you like food illustrations, you might also want to check out Cook's Illustrated magazine. Bon appetit!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Floating Island

I just about dropped the dessert menu when I saw that "Floating Island" was offered at Brasserie Jo in Chicago. It is a childhood favorite that I hadn't had in years. The restaurant's version had a perfect meringue island floating in a pool of vanilla custard - delicious! Growing up, my grandmother's recipe for floating island was a homemade vanilla pudding topped with a meringue puff. I loved the name, the flavor, and everything about it. The next time you are scanning a French menu look for my favorite dessert or, if you are feeling adventurous, try one of the recipes for Floating Island here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Art Books

It worked! Remember when I talked about the art of book sculpture here? Well, today was the day I tried "3 repetitive folds" and I am really happy with the result. I was reading a memoir about a woman who fell in love with a Frenchman and rearranged her life to live with him in Paris. Sounds great, eh? Well, the writing was terrible and at some point yesterday I decided I would enjoy it more as art, then literature. Got a bookclub book you just can't make it through? I think this is the ultimate in repurposing. The process is surprisingly like knitting. Slow, repetetive and you can see your progress almost immediately. Try it!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Inspiration Everywhere

In Spring, you can find inspiration everywhere - the garden, the kitchen, and online! I have admired the work of designer & stylist, Matthew Mead for a long time. He has a light & fun approach to the holidays that is always beautiful. I loved the 2006 special issue "Country Home Holiday with Matthew Mead" and I just found out that he will have a Halloween issue on newsstands this Fall. His latest book, Easter Eggs: 40 Fabulous Projects for the Whole Family, is loaded with darling projects and his entertaining book will be out in November. Can't wait!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Bamboo & Bananas



















I am really drawn to the color banana right now. T-shirts, yarn, paper - you name it. My latest project is a scarf with wide cream & banana stripes - yum! I am going to wear it with a ivory t-shirt and a blue jean jacket. For the first time, I am knitting with Bernat's bamboo yarn. This 86% bamboo yarn feels like silk and is the perfect weight for Spring. Now, if only I had some banana bread in the house...

Friday, April 4, 2008

Mint Wagon

I have pinned this linen dishtowel up to remind me of all the glorious days in the garden ahead of me. After last weekend's blast of snow, the weather forecast for Sunday is 64 and sunny! It is finally time for the rose cones to come off, the burlap to come down and the evaluation to begin! I saw a very sweet garden planted in a wagon. Plants were trailing over the side and it could be rolled to a sunny spot when needed. Last year, I filled a wreath form with different varieties of mint (ginger, pepper, chocolate). It smelled divine, but it was a little crowded. Maybe a little mint wagon is just what I need!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Petit Dejeuner

Could this be where I found my love of blue & white china? A simple breakfast in the heart of Paris. This was set before me at the Hotel d'Aubsson and it looked like such a fairytale breakfast that I snapped a picture of it. When someone says "Petit dejeuner," this is what comes to mind. Are you dreaming of Paris?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Women Who Inspire

I was honored to return to the Country Living Women Entrepreneur event this year as a 2007 Pitch Your Product winner. It was there that I met the ladies of Make Mine Pink and was asked to be a part of the "Women Who Inspire" series at Make Mine Pink.com

You can click the "Women Who Inspire" link above to read my interview and get a sense of who I am and how I founded my business, Subscribe To Delight.