Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Pie 2008

What's my Halloween tradition? Baking a "Trick or Pie" with the Garden Club girls.

When the school bus drops off the girls on Halloween afternoon, the hours before dinner and trick-or-treating can seem endless.

A few years ago, I realized I could make some happy mothers if I channeled the girls' energy into baking. I asked them, "Have you ever made an apple pie?" With a nod from their mothers, the girls spent the afternoon in the kitchen with me measuring honey and grating nutmeg. And the rest is history. Every Halloween afternoon we bake and when darkness falls, they run to my house yelling "Trick or Pie!" Then parents and kids take a few minutes out of their route and join me on the driveway to eat a slice of pie.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Yellow Carpet

Today I spent the entire day gallivanting around Ann Arbor, Michigan with my Mom and Aunt Carol. We peeked in shops, told stories and laughed over hot cups of tea - it was wonderful. The town looked beautiful with a bright blue sky and there were Fall colors everywhere. This house, with its yellow carpet of leaves, caught my eye and I had to show you. Does your lawn have a yellow carpet?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On Hand

I like to have homemade chicken noodle soup "on hand."
When the unexpected arises, sometimes the offer of soup can make all the difference. Want my secret to always being ready? Keep these 4 items in your freezer: Mrs. Grass' Hearty Chicken Soup Mix, individually frozen chicken breasts, Raemes frozen home style egg noodles, and a bag of Grands frozen biscuits. Put a pot of water (about 8 cups) on the stove, pour in the soup mix, drop in 4 frozen chicken breasts and bring to a boil. Lower temperature and simmer an hour or so. The last 15 minutes, pour the bag of noodles into the soup, use 2 forks to shred the chicken breasts and bake the biscuits in the oven (per bag instructions). Voila...instant dinner.

Rachel Ashwell

A few years ago, Country Home magazine hosted a "Be Creative" event in New York City's Central Park. The day revolved around presentations from design icons, knitting classes, cooking demonstrations, live music and and design seminars. Rachel Ashwell (founder and creator of the design style Shabby Chic) gave a personal lesson on how to bring Shabby Chic style to your gift wrapping. Her suggestions and displays were beautiful - pastel wallpaper used as gift wrap, vintage images reproduced as gift tags, pink tissue paper shredded to become stylish "fluff" to nestle around treasures.

And most importantly, she stressed that gifts should be thoughtful. That price, labels and trends should not factor into gift giving. She emphasized that by considering the person - her style, her family, her interests - and finding some sweet object that you think she would love (a vintage ornament wrapped in a Chinese take-out box or a family photo preserved under glass) would be the greatest gift of all. Thank you, Rachel!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Great Pumpkin

Halloween is Friday and pumpkins are everywhere! Have you been looking for a great pumpkin? You can identify some of the more unusual varieties with this pumpkin ID chart. I love decorating white-on-white, so I always buy a "Casper White" for my front table.

This weekend, I baked pumpkin-shaped cookies for the Junior League of Birmingham's community event called Pumpkin Patch. They offer games, face painting, crafts and treats to help celebrate Fall. It ends with a costume parade around the town - so sweet!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sunlit Sink

I like to have a little container of flowers by the kitchen sink. It might seem frivolous, but I spend a lot of time there! Also, the kitchen sink is a magnet for guests, so I want it to look nice.

My mom found this darling blue & white piece (I think it is a covered sugar from a child's tea set) for just this purpose. I snipped a rose, salvia (look how it is in focus) and ginger mint from the garden and voila! It looked so pretty with the sun streaming in on it.

Now that Fall is here, I am going to rely on the supermarket for a fresh flower now and then. A girl's gotta have color, right?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Roasted Butternut Squash

Thinking about having a family dinner this Sunday? Make my favorite Fall-inspired side dish: Roasted Butternut Squash. I buy a bag of peeled & cubed butternut squash (I know, the hard part is done for you!) in the refrigerated fruit & vegetable section at Costco. Toss the squash with 3 Tablespoons of olive oil and then season with salt and pepper. Arrange cubes in a single layer and roast on a baking sheet (sprayed with Pam) at 400 degrees for approximately 20-25 minutes. Turn the squash once or twice during roasting to aid in cooking. I love this delicious "add color to your diet" side dish enhanced with a sprinkling of maple sugar. While you are out shopping, pick up a pork roast and bag of spinach and you'll have a delicious family dinner. Then make a big fire in the fireplace and enjoy a cozy evening together.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


What makes you gasp? For me, flowers get me every time. I drive along this country road quite often, but I didn't know that there was a field of sunflowers "lying in wait." Then one beautiful day in late August, I was whirling along when this field of sunflowers came into view. It was a perfect "American farmland" scene and I was startled when it saw it. I had driven by many times, but suddenly it was a completely different view. Simply gorgeous.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hostess Gifts

Want a great idea for a hostess gift this season? Make a collection of match boxes. A wonderful and simple craft, you can make a darling set for under $5. All you need is matches, Sobo glue, pretty scrapbook paper and some 3-dimensional trims. When choosing papers, stick to three colors, but vary the scale to add interest (I even added a map of Paris). Cut a rectangle of paper slightly larger than the matchbox. Brush glue onto 3 sides of box and carefully cover with paper. When dry, trim away excess paper. Highlight a few of the match boxes with a button or paper butterfly on top. Voila! You have a lovely one-of-a-kind gift. Present them to your hostess on a square black paper plate (cover with clear saran wrap to keep them secure) or make two stacks and slide them into a clear gift bag tied shut with a ribbon. If you make a few sets now, you'll be ready when party season hits.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Party Fare

Looking for an easy and delicious contribution to a party?
Make Pretzel Candy!
In this version, I used full size pretzel rods and kept the toppings all in the same woodland color palette: brown/camel/green. This is a wonderful casual "Fall" dessert.

Pretzel Candy
1 bag Snyder's Pretzel rods
1 (12 oz) bag of Nestle white chocolate morsels
1 (12 oz) bag of Nestle semi sweet mini 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 on separate plates. 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 rod 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 toppings. Double or triple the batch to have a bountiful display - it looks so pretty on a table at a party, your guests won't be able to resist! Enjoy!

Monday, October 20, 2008


Do you know about chintzware? My mom has collected a piece here and there over the years at antique shows and estate sales. Chintz teacups, plates and serving pieces are printed with an all-over fabric design. Highly collectible and very sweet, chintzware is perfect for an old-fashioned tea party. Want to know more? You can learn a lot about chintz here.

What? Oh, the rose is a David Austin English rose called Abraham Darby. Love it!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

John Derian

I have loved the precise and beautiful decoupage work of John Derian for years. On my first trip to New York City, I gave my friend Kerry a half hour monologue on his work before we entered his studio. Seriously. That day I bought a small plate that combines botanical images with script (shown here) and I treasure it.

Fast forward a few years, and (be still my heart) John Derian has a limited edition series at...Target! I went the day it was released and bought all four melamine trays in the series. The "butterfly tray" is shown here in my living room, next to a real sea fan. I must say, this vignette makes me very happy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Edible Art

Isn't this beautiful? I wanted to show you the prettiest lunch ever. And it was delicious too! Edible flowers (geranium and rose petal) with broiled cheese, kiwi and a bit of ligonberry jam on toast. I think it's unusual to describe an open face sandwich as beautiful. Every time I go to my favorite Swedish restaurant, Punzel, I marvel at the flavor combinations and promise myself that I will be a bit more daring when I make lunch. I tell you, inspiration is everywhere.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Driving Crazy

Ahhh...Nothing says fun like a whirlwind monument tour. My dear friend, Corinne, came along on my trip to Maryland and we stole a few hours in Washington, D.C. while we were there. She drove, while I hung out the car window capturing our trip for posterity. Little did I know that D.C. stands for "driving crazy" and that the honking was for us! I was so absorbed in composing each shot, that I didn't realize that Corinne was slowing way down to aid in the photographs. What a friend! This is our beautiful White House (it's very fun to plug "1600 Pennsylvania Avenue" into Garmin, by the way). Don't miss the Washington Monument peeking over the trees on the left. And did you know that every Christmas, the chef makes a gingerbread replica of The White House? Love it!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Needle Arts Studio

A few years ago, I was watching the PBS show "Needle Arts Studio with Shay Pendray" (Shay now collaborates on Knitting Daily TV). At the time it was the only needlework show on television (long before Knitty Gritty and Uncommon Threads) and I watched it faithfully. One day as the credits rolled I noticed that it was filmed in Detroit! I couldn't believe my luck.

I emailed Shay and asked if I could come talk to her (I had suggestions for show segments and I love needlework!). After a great visit, she invited me to watch the taping of her show a few weeks later at PBS. So cool! I sat in the "green room" section just off camera all day, chatted up the guests and had a wonderful time. What you see here is the set for her show - rows and rows of needlepoint thread. I was in heaven. Thank you, Shay!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sticky and Sweet

Come on, you know you want one. I am including a link to with steps to make easy "dressed up" caramel apples (nuts and chocolate and graham crackers oh my!) in a snap. These beauties are all over the magazines right now and I think you should splurge. Besides, we are supposed to eat an apple a day, right?

Monday, October 13, 2008


This is the United States lightship Chesapeake, part of the maritime museum in Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

Such a pretty sight against the bright blue sky. There was a woman on a bench just below the frame and she was concerned that by sitting there she was ruining my picture. "Oh no," I assured her, "I've got just what I need." Gorgeous, right?

So today is all about crab cakes, water taxis and breathing the ocean air.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Peek Inside the Cabinet

As promised, here is a peek inside my Swedish cabinet (shown here). An enormous light blue armoire with glass doors, it has 4 shelves overflowing with things that I love. I constantly pull things out and put things back, so it is an ever-changing work of art. See the stack of floral teacups in the back? I got those from the Easter bunny when I was in college! (Smart bunny) And the pink Fauchon tins that I brought back from Paris, those were full of tuile cigarette cookies and Brittany Kings cakes. You can see how I use them as vases here. My collection of teapots and beeswax, French salt and paper cake toppers live together in a cabinet of delight.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Bees Knees

A tray of just-made beeswax candles cooling on the porch of BeeDazzled, a store that specializes in "gifts from the hive." What I think is interesting about this photo is that the candles actually look like honeycomb. Do you see what I mean? A bee's life comes full circle.

These candles smell heavenly too - like wax comfort. As my husband would say, these candles are the "bees knees."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Jack Frost

Jack Frost has arrived here in Michigan, so the days are numbers for my beloved bouquets. I simply went and cut everything in bloom and put them in a sushi bowl. Gasp! It is stunning. I never would have picked "one of each" and made this arrangement in the height of Summer.

Jack Frost is a genius.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Man and Wife

Can you stand it? This happy "couple" has been on my mind lately. I keep these cookie cutters on a table near the kitchen and every time I pass by, I imagine a different frosting outfit on them. At Christmas, I'll make them in gingerbread (with a red gingham ribbon tied at her waist). So sweet! I found them in a little gift shop, but lucky for you, these Swedish cookie cutters are also available online here. "I'd like to propose a toast to the happy couple!"

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hot Cranberry Glogg

Are you ready for some cold Winter nights? I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this woodpile, my goodness. It makes me want to pull out a beautiful wool throw and make hot cranberry glogg to fight off the chill.

Hot Cranberry Glogg
6 cups Cranberry/apple juice
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar
6 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Ladle glogg into mugs (ignoring the cloves & cinnamon sticks) and enjoy.

Try this at your next card party or book club. Your friends will like trying a warm "wintry" its fun to say "glogg."

Monday, October 6, 2008

Indian Corn

A simple bundle of Indian corn can look so pretty tied to the front door in the Fall. I think it's a nice touch before the "ghost & goblins" of Halloween take over. There are so many beautiful varieties of Indian corn - I thought you'd like to see a poster of the "Indian Corns of America" here.

Once I was lucky enough to find a wreath made of Indian corn at the farmer's market. So cute! Until I stored it in the garage and a pint-sized friend ate every kernel over the winter. Alas, some things aren't meant to last.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Power of Three

The power of three. Color combinations to make your heart pound. I have been thinking about color lately. How three distinct colors repeated in anything...linens, dishes, flowers can really tell a story.
This flower arrangement (orange ranunculas, green button chrysanthemums and white freesia) was "all I could see" in an overloaded flower market on the Place de la Madeleine in Paris.
Shouldn't color make your heart pound?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Reflections on the Library

When the water is like glass, the whole world is reflected perfectly. Can you see the gray building on the left? That is the library in our little northern Michigan resort town (people can arrive by boat to check out books!). I used to tutor an eight-year-old boy there on Summer afternoons and one day they closed the library and forgot we were there - we got locked in! Big news in a small town. So today I am heading to my local library to check out cookbooks, magazines and more. When was the last time you went to the library? They'll loan you books for free, you know...

Thursday, October 2, 2008


In honor of school being in full swing, I wanted to show you a simple wall decoration that literally made me gasp. When I was in Chicago with my neighbor, Phyllis (and her Garden Club girls), her sister Maggie took us to a favorite Sunday morning breakfast spot called Flo's. As we made our way through the crowd to our table, we passed this amazing pencil display on the wall. I stopped in my tracks (paying no mind to the waiters and coat racks and patrons, oh my) and took this photograph. It was so simple, but so interesting I had to capture it.

Once we were settled, I was encouraged to order the egg sandwich (scrambled eggs, roasted red peppers and spinach basil dressing on brioche). When it arrived, it was so delicious I had a hard time keeping up my end of the conversation as I devoured my breakfast. Yum. What's your favorite breakfast spot?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Mirror Image

For years, designers have been using mirrors to make small rooms look larger. Occasionally, I like to use mirrors to make a dull room more interesting.

I love the look of antique quilts hung on the wall as art. This mustard and cream quilt is a beautiful example of the pattern called "Drunkard's Path" (hence the wobbling). One day I realized how neat it would look to have the quilt pattern reflected on the table. Enter a simple square mirror and a sushi bowl full of dahlias. The effect was stunning.