Saturday, January 31, 2009

Everything's a Picture

You know by now that I love to make little displays around the house. Over the years I have gathered quite a collection of this & that and I am ever drawn to antique shades - particularly light blue.

When my best friend comes over, she walks around saying, "Everything's a picture - look!" and then she'll point to my latest vignette. Well, the other day it happened by accident.

I have my teacup full of bulbs growing on the sideboard (where they can get bright light), I set out my new aqua train case (future jewelry box?) and I had left my latest knitting project on the sideboard when the phone rang. When I came back, I "saw" the picture and started arranging. The paper butterfly in the bulbs matched the yarn, the brown dirt repeated the lining of the train case and it all just looked lovely together and I had to show you.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Girl Heaven

If I could imagine the perfect girl lunch, this would be it. After touring Swan House, I drove through the grounds of the Atlanta History Center and stumbled upon a tearoom, gift shop and art gallery called Swan Coach House (the building itself was the estate's former garage and coach house).

Heart-shaped timbales filled with chicken salad, frozen fruit salad and a basket of mini-muffins all served on Swan House formal china (see the silver swan on the aqua band of my bread plate - love it)

And to drink? Punch! Seriously, when do you ever see punch on the menu these days?

There were fresh roses on every table, fabric-upholstered walls, and the place was packed. I was lucky to find a spot among the grandmothers, bridal shower bunch and friends meeting for lunch.

As I sat at my little table soaking it all in (and inspiring the next table to also photograph their lunch), I reminded myself that this is delight.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Swan House

Ah, to walk out onto the terrace with your morning cup of coffee and see this view. Your first request of the day, "Jeeves - Turn on the fountains!"

I was able to take a private tour of the Atlanta Historical Society's Swan House when I was in town last week. Sweeping lawns, tables set with fine china and opulence at every turn. It was like walking around inside a dollhouse and I loved it.

Tomorrow, see what caused me to text: "I am in girl heaven."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Food Lovers Paradise

Would you believe that this is only one of three cheese cases at the amazing Star Provisions in Atlanta? What a beautiful selection.

This amazing space combines fresh artisanal foods (cheese, seafood and bakery) with specialty items (an entire cupboard of honey products), housewares (be still my heart) and a "Provisions To Go" cafe all under one roof. There was so much to see, I continually looped the store in slow motion.

My lunch (eaten at the window counter) was a Shrimp Po Boy sandwich. It was the perfect combination of fresh & hot - absolutely delicious.

I thought I had resisted the bakery when I heard one proud employee tout his favorite cookie: a Rose Water & White Chocolate macaroon. Did someone say macaroons?

I did a quick pivot and ordered a Pistachio French macaroon from behind the glass case. It was one of the best cookies I have ever had. Chewy, sweet and nutty with a meringue-like crunch. Exceptional. I ate it on the way to the car and by the time my seat belt was fastened I wanted to go back in for another. It was that good. Maybe I need to try my hand at macaroons...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ballard Designs

I have been ordering from the Ballard Designs' catalog for years. It's loaded with fresh beautiful items for the home, plus it's a great source for 90 inch rounds. But, like most of the world, I had never seen their wares in person. So I was thrilled when I got the chance to visit their outlet in Atlanta, Georgia last week. (My Mom has been to their retail store in Tampa - jealous!)

Of course I wanted everything, but as my suitcase was dictating my purchases, I settled on one fabulous item (which didn't end up fitting in the suitcase, after all).

I bought a wire manor house. That's right. The structure of an Italian manor house (walls, windows roof) made out of dark bent wire. I am going to set a few wispy green plants inside as "furniture" and use it as a tabletop display. I actually hope to find a small indoor vine that could cling to the wire walls as it grows. I promise to show you once I make it to the garden store. It is going to be so cute.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Paint Your Own Pottery

Recently, I had the chance to spend a Saturday morning at a "paint-your-own-pottery" shop. It was a social event hosted by the Junior League of Birmingham to build bonds between the membership and I had so much fun! Inspired by some paper butterflies I brought from home, I thought I would try my hand at making a "pretty little dish." After finishing the butterfly, I painted thin blue stripes up the outside of the bowl and covered the pedestal with polka dots. It is clean and simple and I really like it. I figure I can float a hydrangea in it, fill it with pastel M&Ms or even leave it empty to show off the inside - look for it on display here in the coming weeks.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

10,000 Feet

I do some of my best thinking at 10,000 feet. While some fasten their seat belt and hunker down with a magazine, I always start any flight with a brand new notebook.

It is somehow easier for me to brainstorm designs, plot lines and color palates when I literally have a "bird's eye view" of the world.

Where do you like to think?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Ben and Bernice

Do you know what stands out to me about this picture? The smooth snow. There are no bunny tracks yet. The snow storm ended and the sun came up on this morning before Ben & Bernice made it out of their homespun hutch to investigate.

Years ago, I named the rabbits that live in our area Ben & Bernice (and dubbed their sons, Robbie & Ralphie). In the Spring and Summer they lounge on our lawn nibbling and listening, but in the wintertime, only their footprints give them away.


I have been crafting a children's story about them and the trials of learning how to "be" a rabbit. Sort of a cross between Uncle Wiggley and Anne of Green Gables - a story full of muffin baking and gentle lessons.

I hope to have it published one day...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Santa & Rachmaninoff

As we were lingering in the lobby after the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's incredible rendition of Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini," I started chatting with one of the other patrons.

My new friend opened the conversation with:
"Rachmaninoff played here, you know."

"What?" (Seriously...what!?)

"He performed here with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra back in the 1920's."

"I can't believe it," I said, "I don't even think of (Rachmaninoff) as real, you know. I think of him more like Santa."

To which he replied, "Hey...Santa's real."

"I know, I know," I said, "It's just they are both so mythological and I haven't met either one of them."

***You can see concert pianist, Olga Kern (who performed Rachmaninoff at the concert I attended) perform Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 on YouTube here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Morning Muffins

I wanted to bake a delicious muffin (full of vitamins & minerals) to add variety to my morning routine. The problem is, these are so delicious, I want to eat them all day long! I hope you think so too...

Morning Muffins
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup oats
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 Tablespoon wheat germ
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (preferably Vietnamese cinnamon )
2 cups shredded carrot
1 shredded green apple
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/2 cup broken pecans
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened natural applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Shred carrots in a food processor (measure out the 2 cups after shredding). Shred apple (including skin) in the food processor. In mixing bowl, combine flour, oats, sugar, wheat germ, salt and baking soda together. Mix in carrots, apple, raisins and pecans. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, oil and vanilla together. Stir egg mixture into carrot mixture and then spoon into muffin cups. Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The 12 Days of Valentine's Day

I am telling you now so you'll have a chance to plan...The 12 Days of Valentine's Day starts in 2 weeks.

What does this mean?
It means it's time to get out your red placemats, buy pink sprinkles at the grocery store and start thinking of ways to express your love to those around you. Friends, family, neighbors - everyone can celebrate with you.

I absolutely love Valentine's Day and could not possibly fit all the heart-shaped food, flowers and decorations I desire into just one day.

Want to see how I celebrated last year? Take a peek at my blog posts from February 3 -14, 2008.
Come celebrate The Twelve Days of Valentine's Day with me...you know you want to.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Music is a Gift

I was at the symphony on a very special night. The theme was "From Russia with Love" and I was drawn there to hear Glinka's Overture to Russlan and Ludmilla. The excitement came, however, when Alla Borzova, composer of the cantata "Songs for Lada," came on stage with Detroit Symphony Orchestra music director, Leonard Slatkin. She announced that this was the first complete performance of her cantata "Songs for Lada" (including a children's choir, soloists, symphony orchestra, poetry and Belarusian folk instruments) and that her daughter, for whom it was written, had flown in to be in the audience that night. She spoke of the themes, instruments and language of the piece before rushing up to the balcony to sit beside her daughter and listen.

Can you imagine? What an incredible moment that must have been for both of them. To begin composing music in Minsk, Belarus just after your daughter is born and then, years later, to sit and hear it performed in its entirety for the first time with your grown daughter at your side. What a gift.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Carved from Butter

I knew that I wanted to buy some roses for the house...but what color? I went in thinking lavender and came out with the most gorgeous pale yellow roses I had ever seen. They looked like they had been carved from butter.
Then I chose a teapot ("Loves Me" by Deb Moore) from the cabinet, put an empty jar inside it to hold the water and flower food and started arranging. 

I like using a jar inside because it keeps the teapot clean and food safe for tea on another day. This arrangement really brightens the living room. Love it!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Edible Art

I have a 3-tier white wire plate rack that sits on the island in my kitchen. I stack it with the fresh produce I have on hand - usually lemons & limes on the top rack, apples & pears in the middle and red skin potatoes, squash and onions on the bottom. It looks lovely and always inspires me to cook with something fresh.

What I love is that everyone mentions it when they come in the kitchen. I think they are taken aback at how pretty everyday produce can look on display. I always try to "eat around the rainbow" and keeping the color out where I can see it makes the task far easier. Are you eating enough vitamins and minerals?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

An Assumption in Crafts: When My Knitting Doesn't Improve

I love to knit. But I want to be perfectly clear...I knit scarves. My knitting varies in color, texture, weight, pattern, purpose, season...but my project are always scarves and I am okay with that.  I can do the "knit stitch" back and forth and find it very relaxing.

There is an "assumption in crafts" that all skills need to be advanced. I disagree. The counting, shaping, decreasing of more advanced knitting projects takes all the fun out of it for me. I don't want to learn more right now. Maybe in twenty years I'll feel differently, but right now I love love love to knit (scarves).

So if you are like me and find your audience slightly disappointed when you answer their "What are you making?" question, remember this...

They asked because they are interested. Maybe they'd like you to teach them how to knit (scarves).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Candlelight

I think that candlelight is so pretty on a Winter evening. I have been lighting a candle every night to add a little something extra to dinner or coffee on the couch.

That being said, I have also been wanting to try making candles. Not a production line of pillars or anything. Just a few.

What could be better than transforming a favorite item into something that glows?

Do you remember this "dishes by the pound" treasure that I bought last June? I have breathed new life into it with pale pink wax. A "Soy Candle Kit" from Michael's included everything I needed: wax, candle-making thermometer, wicks and even scent & color cubes. It was easy and I must confess that not long after it set, I was trolling the house looking for other items to convert. Do you like candlelight?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Planet Sushi

I thought you might like to see a little whimsy today. Enter...smart cars with fins. These adorable pink cars zip around Paris delivering take out orders for Planet Sushi. I think this is an example of marketing at its best. California roll, anyone?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Detroit Institute of Arts

Looking for a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon? Plan a visit to your local art museum.

My husband & I went for the special exhibit "Monet to Dali" (loved it!) at the DIA and really enjoyed our afternoon wandering through all of the collections.

An unexpected moment (and surprisingly my favorite part) was entering the Great Hall. The museum had hung hundreds of mirrored discs from the ceiling on clear thread. As air currents moved in the grand room, the area twinkled. It was breathtaking and I managed to capture a moment on video to show you. Remember, art is everywhere.


video

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Window Shopping

A friend had told me that the next time I was in Charleston, South Carolina, I had to make time for breakfast at Poogan's Porch. She told me that the restaurant was in an old house with a big porch and was a favorite spot of celebrities (Paul Newman, Barbara Streisand and Lauren Hutton all dine there).

So the next time I was in Charleston, I made it a point to go and believe me, the french toast is worth it! On my way to the restaurant, I passed by this darling house and had to take a photograph. It was all so well done. The shade of the house paint, the texture of plants in the window box, the fact that the tiny coral blooms reinforced the paint color, all set off by crisp black shutters. It was a little work of art and it made my day.

There is nothing like a little window shopping.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Peanut Butter Pecan cookies

In my book, Moments of Delight, I mentioned discovering a delicious peanut butter pecan cookie at a little bake shop up north and I was determined to recreate the deliciousness in my own kitchen. I finally mastered the recipe and I am sharing it with you today.

Peanut Butter Pecan cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup JIF reduced-fat chunky peanut butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon 2% milk
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup, chopped raw pecans (chop pieces to the size of chocolate chips)


Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat butter, salt and peanut butter together. Beat in white and brown sugar and eggs until fluffy. Beat in milk. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and chopped pecans together and add to butter mixture. Beat until incorporated. Using two spoons or a 1 ½ inch cookie scoop, place dough onto Silpat or parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for 12-14 minutes. Allow to cool on a baking rack.

After baking, you could glaze some pecan halves in a saute pan with butter and brown sugar and then "stick" one to the top of each cookie. In this photo, I simply topped each cookie with a plain pecan half to make it pretty. These cookies are chewy and addictive! Enjoy.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

See, Hear, Do

I just turned to July 2009 on my calendar and wrote "Lavender Farm" in an open space at the top. I also wrote "Sheep Festival" on the May page and "Black Raspberries" at the top of August.

Time goes so quickly and the day-to-day bustle can make it easy to miss the really special events that only happen once a year. What do you want to see, hear, do this year? Figure out when it happens and jot a note to yourself on the calendar. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sunlight & Fertilizer

The other day I asked my friend about her community's Garden Club. She talked of casual meetings held monthly in member's backyards. Glasses of iced tea and conversation surrounding sunlight and fertilizer.

She went on to say that they still meet in the Winter - mostly to look at pictures in garden catalogs. "It helps," she said simply. And I was reminded of the kinship between all gardeners off season.

So today I am featuring a photo of my David Austin English rose, Abraham Darby. I have loved this variety for years and can't wait to see it "in person" again.

I hope it helps.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Cath Kidston

Do you know the British designer Cath Kidston? Soft colors, pretty florals and polka dots tend to be her signature look and I love it.

This darling mint green cupboard is from her only retail store in the United States. This morning as I was drinking my coffee from one of her floral mugs (similar to those hanging from the row off hooks on top) I realized that I should show you this lovely display.

Everything tastes better on pretty dishes, don't you think?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Delight in Paris

I look at the calendar for 2009 and all I can see is Paris.

I am registered for a small week-long cooking class with award-winning cookbook author and teacher Patricia Wells and I am so excited I can hardly see straight.

The markets, pastries and windows of Paris are calling - but I will have to be patient untill May.

You know what is funny? I can't wait to see my own photos!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Monogrammed Scarf

What do I do on a snowy Saturday morning? Embellish!

Last October, I walked into a discount clothing store (TJ Maxx) and was handed a small gift bag with this amethyst scarf inside. As a promotion to highlight their new "high-end" fashion section, every customer that afternoon was given a scarf. I've been considering how to make it my own for months. Then last night it struck me - a beaded monogram would be subtle, but beautiful. I printed off a giant "R" on my computer, drew it free-hand in ink and started sewing on beads. The trick is attaching about 20 beads, then tying off. It makes me feel better knowing that if one thread breaks later, the entire letter won't fall off and I'll be able to repair it. I may use something on the back to secure the stitches...Fray Check?

I love how this looks!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Color of the Year

The color yellow "Mimosa" has been selected by Pantone as the Color of the Year for 2009.

I am sure that you will start to notice splashes of yellow everywhere now. Yellow rain boots, stationary, cardigans and totes are all showing up in stores and online. Have fun with it - yellow is meant to inspire and uplift.

I've got an idea...when you are hosting friends for brunch this Spring, serve mimosas! You can tell everyone that they are drinking the color of the year.

Cheers!