Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chili Night

I have a new favorite way to serve chili. I make it on the stove in an oven-safe pot (I love it in my Le Creuset French oven) and then top it with corn bread batter and bake it in the oven!

It is like a cowboy version of Shepherd's Pie and it is delicious!

My chili recipe is a little of this and a little of that, but I will list the ingredients and you can tweak it to your taste.

Shepherd's Chili

  • ground turkey, browned & drained
  • 1/2 an onion, chopped
  • few stalks of celery, chopped
  • large can of Dei Fratelli chopped Italian tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • can of red kidney beans, drained
  • can of corn, drained
  • chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, garlic powder
  • beef broth, add enough to reach desired consistency

  • sliced green onions - white and green rings
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 box of Jiffy corn bread mix (plus egg & milk per the box)

Brown the turkey and drain, if necessary. Add onion and celery and saute. Add tomatoes through beef broth and simmer. Mix up the Jiffy corn bread batter per the instructions on the box. Top the chili with sliced green onions and shredded cheddar cheese. Top with uncooked corn bread batter, spread gently to cover surface, place on a cookie sheet (to catch any drips) and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until corn bread is ready.

Serve with hot sauce & sour cream. Yee haw!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Charger Management

Years ago I followed a simple pattern from Martha Stewart Living magazine to make myself a "travel management" system for gadget chargers.

All you need is a cute dishtowel, some ribbon and a sewing machine. There is no measuring, cutting or skills required. I whipped one up and have used it on all of my trips for the past 5 years. When something "from the outside world" is so reliable I have to pass it on.

I use the 3 main pockets for my chargers (BlackBerry, Ipod, Camera) and can know in a glance that I have everything that I need right in my carry on.

Thank you, Martha!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Winter White

In the snowy North where I live, "winter white" is a reality, more than a design style. A snowstorm this week brought 12 inches of snow and all the world is white.

My couches are off-white duck cloth which I reinvent every which way with pillows, blankets and such. They are the perfect choice for our "Swedish Beach house" inspired decor.

But right after a blizzard, it is white inside and out! That is what makes a burst of color so refreshing. Long live the violet! A happy (and inexpensive flower) that can "warm up" any room.

Do you grow violets?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Blank Slate

When I was in Washington, D.C., my hotel room overlooked an office building. While I was unpacking, I noticed eight completely empty rooms with the lights on. It looked very stark and I wasn't sure what to think.

Not 6 hours later I returned to my room and voila! Eight perfect offices ready for business. From my vantage point, it looked more like an architect's scale model. A diorama with cardboard cutouts of men in business suits.

Then I started to think about the people who would work here tomorrow. Were they excited? Nervous? Wherever you work, I hope that the blank slate of this office reminds you of the thrill of "getting the job" and inspires you to be especially productive today.

Remember, inspiration is everywhere.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Trying Decoupage

I make things, all kinds of things, all the time.

I like the look of layered paper images - clip art (like this Birds & Butterflies), foreign stamps, fortune cookie fortunes etc. John Derian decoupage plates have inspired me for years and lately I have been brainstorming about what my plates would look like.

When I tried my hand at decoupage, the plate above (intended for my living room) was my first attempt. I took this photo after the placement was determined, but before the decoupage step.

Unfortunately I was overzealous with the glue, the inks ran and it became "antiqued" in a hurry. I am telling you this because I want your crafting to go well. Whenever you a making your way through a new craft, consider photographing your progress. Because I took this photograph, I can recreate my plan, but with restraint this time. I can also look back at it objectively and see that the "woman" must go. She brings a little too much Victoria to the plate. I think I can find something better - a statue of a woman, perhaps?

Decoupage is all about layers, spacing, mood and message. What could be more fun?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Always a Girl Scout

I was so happy when I saw an article on collecting Girl Scout memorabilia in the February issue of Country Living magazine.

I am really "keeping" rather than "collecting" Girl Scout memorabilia. I still have my beloved sash, some Girl Scout jewelry and even a green camping flashlight.

I loved every minute of being a Girl Scout. I attribute the success (and longevity) of our troop to our dedicated leader, a bevy of happy Moms and loads of fun-loving friends.

To date, my only photography training has been earning that glorious badge on the right. I wrote about the fun we had learning to take photos here.

I secretly would love to be a Girl Scout leader. Can't you see it? Me teaching the girls about Madeleine tea cakes, tapping trees for maple syrup and above all finding delight in everyday moments. Love it!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Paczki Party

My parents and I had our own little "Paczki Party" when our friend brought us some authentic paczki from a local Polish bakery.

A traditional pastry eaten on Fat Tuesday (or Fat Thursday in Poland) - it is a custard or jam-filled bit of fried dough heaven. Yum.

I inhaled a custard paczki with my tea and we laughed about how the remnants of powdered sugar on my face and sweater would surely give me away.

A million calories later, I say it was all worth it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rose Catalogs

This time of year, gardeners are biding their time by pouring over rose catalogs. I seriously want something from every page of the David Austin Rose catalog.

As I look back at my photographs, I am trying to decide which color and shape blooms I should add this year.

I loved making bouquets with "Honey Dijon."
And am thinking about adding another rose in the lavender family, like my "Royal Amethyst." Space is limited, so I have to choose wisely.

I am looking forward to Spring mornings when everything in my busy schedule is put on hold because "the roses are blooming."

As I pour over the possibilities, do you have any suggestions for me?

Thursday, February 18, 2010


There is a gorgeous full-page Chapstick advertisement in the magazines right now. A row of every type of Chapstick available by color/flavor/feature. Have you seen it? It really made an impression on me and made me want to revisit this classic brand. So off to the drugstore I went.

But you know how I like things to be beautiful and interesting. Well, Chapstick has the interesting part (I like the new flavors, Green Tea Mint and Vanilla Mint, plus some have a little color and shimmer, which never hurts!) but the packaging just doesn't look like something I want to pull out of my purse.

My solution? Super-cute packing tape. The craft stores are starting to stock interesting packing tape for dressing up your mail, but why stop there?

Simply use an X-acto knife (be careful) to slit Chapstick's plastic wrapping, peel it off, and recover the tube with a piece of packing tape. If the packing tape overlaps and seals the cap on, just use the X-acto knife to slit the seam between the cap and tube. Now the little extra edge of overlap tape can be peeled right off the cap. A perfect fit!

And in terms of a bargain, I found a 3-pack of classic Chapstick for less than $2.

This Winter, let your lips be beautiful and interesting.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Channeling France in Detroit via La Danse

A few friends and I were channeling France last weekend. We had heard that the Detroit Film Theater would be showing a matinee of La Danse, a 3-hour documentary on the legendary Paris Opera Ballet.

We started the afternoon across from the Detroit Institute of Arts at Good Girls Go To Paris creperie. We each enjoyed our own "savory" crepe for lunch and then split this masterpiece named "Fay" for dessert. It is a warm swirl of bananas, pecans, caramel, salted butter and brown sugar. (Sigh)

It was a clear, bright and cold day as we walked next door to watch our film. The documentary was more than I had hoped for. Yes, 3 hours is a long time, but I fell right into each scene. The gorgeous crunchy white skirts. The "hard-to-believe-they-are-real" ballerinas practicing in classic leotards and toe shoes. The luxurious auditorium being cleaned and prepped for a performance. The attention to detail in this film was intoxicating.  The sweep of the broom.  The lacing of the ribbons.  I loved it all.

My ballet experience is really limited to this Ballerina Barbie I had growing up. She was lovely, regal and everything I knew a ballerina to be. I named her Barbara and found that she was never silly or ridiculous like the other girls (ha!). Seeing this magnificent dance company was relaxing, informative and it brought back some childhood memories to boot! What a delight.

And we had a surprise, too. Remember when I told you about the honey that is collected on the roof of the Opera National de Paris and how I bought some when I was there? They showed the roof and the honey in the movie!

If you get the chance, I recommend that you channel France.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Black & White

Black and white is a timeless color combination that is especially effective in check. I have seen it everywhere in interior design (fabrics, wallpaper, kitchen tiles), but rarely is it used outdoors.

After attending the ordination service for a friend entering the ministry, I wandered outside to admire the gardens before the reception and immediately loved the geometric design of this gorgeous courtyard.

It reminded me of MacKenzie-Childs, a fanciful design brand specializing in dishes, glassware and pieces for the home. Their look is distinct and one theme of their brand is dedicated to black and white check ("Courtly Check").

I have followed this brand for years and instantly thought "MacKenzie-Childs" when I saw this walkway.

Can you see what I mean? Gorgeous.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Winter Olympic Pins

Isn't this a neat collection? My parents were lucky enough to attend the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid and the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary - jealous!

Did you know that "pin collecting" is a major passion for attendees & athletes? They buy, trade and receive pins throughout the Olympic Village, often wearing them on their hats with pride. My favorite pins are of "Roni" Raccoon, the mascot for the 1980 Winter Olympics - shown here in a bobsled, on a luge, speed skating and cross-country skiing.

You can see (and buy) some pins for the Vancouver Winter Olympics here.

I love the Olympics - the passion, the competition, the team outfits. I'll be having fun this week watching and cheering on the athletes. Join me?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!

I just finished making these homemade sugar cookies (my grandmother's recipe) and plan on going to the movies (The Young Victoria) with my Valentine this afternoon. It will be a lovely day.

Still looking for some last minute Valentine's Day ideas?
  • How about ordering a heart-shaped pizza from Papa Romano's?
  • Going to the library and checking out a movie (A Room with a View; Crossing Delancey, Ladies in Lavender)?
  • Making chili and baking the corn bread in a heart-shaped pan?
I hope that you have a delightful Valentine's Day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 11

The luxury of having a real conversation.

That is my wish for you this 11th day of Valentine's Day. Make a cup of tea and call up an old friend. Is she busy? Settle on a time that both of you can talk in the next day or so.

No texts, no status updates, no "drive by" moments...a real conversation full of love and friendship.

You may not be able to see her smile, but you'll be able to hear it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 10

Make this Valentine's Day super-cute with homemade cupcake toppers!

Simply place a toothpick between 2 adhesive foam hearts and stick them back-to-back. Voila! They are ready to be placed as you wish.

Cupcake toppers are all the rage in baking, but they can be expensive and hard-to-find. This method couldn't be easier and can take your box mix muffins from basic to beautiful!

Day 10: Make your own cupcake or muffin toppers from inexpensive foam stickers.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Strawberry Muffins: Valentine's Day 9

I love celebrating the 12 Days of Valentine's Day. And I think nothing is better than having sweet treats to share. I like to make these delicious (and simple!) Strawberry Muffins. They are great for breakfast, delicious with tea and work wonders on my state of mind. Who wouldn't want a pink muffin?

Strawberry Muffins
1 box of streusel coffee cake mix (and ingredients listed on box - usually eggs, water & oil)
1 tub of frozen strawberry slices in sugar, defrosted
3 fresh strawberries
pink cupcake papers
Read the instructions on the box mix, and when you mix the batter, replace the "water" amount with the "strawberry slices/liquid." This will add some color and flavor to the batter. Follow the rest of the instructions regarding eggs and oil. Mix well.
Fill cupcake papers half-full with batter, sprinkle a tablespoon of the enclosed cinnamon/sugar mix (included in box mix) onto each muffin and place a slice of fresh strawberry into the batter. Top with a little more batter. Bake at 350 for approximately 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 8


On this 8th day of Valentine's Day, consider adding a few pretty touches to your bedroom. I love pretty sheets, blankets and quilts and enjoy putting together combinations that look inviting.

This week I used iron-on rick rack trim (in pink) to embellish a plain white pillow case. It couldn't be easier - first buy some iron-on trim-by-the-yard (1.5 yards), iron the pillowcase to warm up the fabric, lay the rick rack on the pillowcase and iron (pressing and lifting - no steam) until it adheres.

I just love how this looks. Seeing my valentine-inspired bed makes me want to buy more pink rick rack. I could easily make matching handtowels for the adjoining bath.

Day 8: Do something to dress up your bed. Flip the comforter, add some pillows, buy pink pillow cases. Climb into a cozy bed and have sweet dreams of your valentine.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 7

Do you wear your heart on your sleeve? I do!

I made this heart pin with some vintage clip art, scissors, an adhesive pin back and a liquid medium that dries to look "like glass."

When this clear liquid medium dries, it makes any paper image sturdy enough to wear! I think it is the coolest thing ever.

I make pins in batches (like for Valentine's Day) and in the middle of the process, my brain is always whirling with ideas of what to do with this glass-like medium next (perhaps it's the fumes?)
Are you inspired to craft?

Day 7: Think about crafting/knitting something to wear that is inspired by Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 6

Yes, sweet treats are a big part of the 12 Days of Valentine's Day around here. I've had an assortment of cake decorating stencils in my baking stash for a while now and decided this was the year to show them off.

I am so happy that a simple box cake (Betty Crocker "white" cake mix) and a tub of dark chocolate frosting can be elevated to this with just powdered sugar and a stencil!

I made this cake in the evening, and the next day, my father, brother and 3 of his kids ended up staying for dinner (I had made soup!). Suddenly 7 people were sitting around our dining room table, all eyeing this cake. That is what I love about baking - there is always someone willing to dig in.

And the hot pink glass cake plate? I bought 3 in varying sizes last year (at a bookstore, no less! You never know where you'll find something fabulous.) and love them more than I can say. Wait till this Summer when I float a peony on top!

Day 6: Bake cupcakes or a cake with box cake mix and a tub of frosting. Decorate with pink sprinkles, red hots or white chocolate chips. You'll be surprised how fast they'll disappear!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 5

Wouldn't you like to find this in your mailbox?

My Mom has a collection of Valentines sent to her mother between 1910-1912. They have simple inscriptions and are charming little pieces of love.

I was able to scan them into my computer, and then return them to my Mom so that she could frame them. The best of both worlds. We have the antiques safely under glass, but the freedom to reproduce them as we like.

If you like the idea of vintage valentines, stop in a large bookstore this week and look for this Valentine Postcard book. It is full of reproduction valentine postcards that are ready to detach and mail!

Day 5: Make a list of who would love to receive a Valentine in the mail this year, then have fun selecting just the right ones.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Flowers Flowers Flowers

Today is Day 4 of the 12 Days of Valentine's Day and that means flowers!

I am a fan of making little bouquets. They can add interest to a quiet corner, brighten a nightstand or even be a sweet surprise in the powder room.

This year I am putting together a collection of bouquets for the kitchen.

I'll top a white tablecloth with this Valentine-theme paper runner and gather red & white "jam jar bouquets" in the center.
Sure, I guess I could wait to see if I get flowers on Valentine's Day...but why chance it?
Day 4: Find a way to bring flowers into your life this week. You'll love them every time you see them.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Love your jewelry

Today is the American Heart Association's Go Red Day, a movement that encourages women to wear the color red to promote heart health.

So today, in addition to my red sweater, I will be wearing this necklace. A beauty I designed with an antiqued chain, wooden beads and a gorgeous "I ski in the Alps"-style heart.

Feel like making a heart necklace of crystals? Check out my simple instructions here.

Day 3: Dig through your jewelry box and wear one of your heart-inspired treasures.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Twelve Days of Valentines Day: Day Two

I'm "Blue For You!"

Remember, everything that represents Valentine's Day doesn't have to be pink. I found this beautiful stencil at a scrap booking store, chose a Folk Art fabric paint that complimented my kitchen (#4422 Azure Blue) and went to town with a foam stencil brush. I will let this air dry for 24 hours and then "heat set" it with a pressing cloth and hot iron. Voila!

I love the Swedish influence in the design and can't wait to see this (once humble)dishtowel draped by my kitchen sink. Love it!

Day 2: Highlight beautiful colors in your heart-shaped world.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

12 Days of Valentines Day: Day 1

Today we begin celebrating The 12 Days of Valentine's Day! I want this to be a fun time for you. Talk with your friends and family about this celebration. When they realize that this is a mix & match series of fun moments, they may jump on board and start celebrating too!
The 12 Days of Valentine's Day is about expressing love and friendship to those around you.

Here are some suggestions that might help you celebrate:

Gestures can be as big or small as you like
Recipients can be anyone you know - friends, neighbors, family
Wearing red & pink "counts" as celebrating

Celebrating this way should make YOU (and everyone around you) feel good and light-hearted.

I will give you an idea here each day, but it is just to get you in the mood.

Would you believe that this gorgeous cake is from...IKEA!? I found it in the freezer section of the IKEA grocery department (read: buy it and keep it in the freezer until you are ready to celebrate). It is called "I love you gateau" - light sponge cake, vanilla custard, raspberry fruit filling covered with a delicious marzipan fondant. This delightful cake comes with a powdered sugar heart dusted on top! Love it.
Day 1: Plan on having a fancy dessert one night this week.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Night at The Met

This Saturday I am doing the coolest thing.

I am going to the The Met in New York City...sort of. The latest in modern entertainment is a series of events called "The Met: Live in HD."

Matinee performances are streamed live from The Met to movie theaters across the country (follow link above to see if it is playing near you).

Opera in real time. Is that cool or what?

Apparently it is filmed so that it seems like you are actually in the audience and movie viewers get so enthralled in the performance that they applaud as if the can be heard, cute eh?

So this Saturday, I am "going to The Met" to see Simon Boccanegra, starring tenor Plácido Domingo.

I've never been so excited to go to the movies! Join me?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Collecting Chelsea

How does a collection begin? Often it starts when someone shows you something that they know "you will love."

My Mom has known about the "Chelsea" pattern for years...seeing it now and then at antique shows or estate sales. Chelsea is a delicate white china with a raised blue-lavender decoration, often enhanced with a touch of lustre (an iridescent glaze).

One day we were at an antique show, and she saw the plate above and together we agreed that I had to have it. (You remember that I have a shelf in my laundry room filled with objects that are lavender.)

Well ever since, my Mom has been finding me these gorgeous pieces for my collection and I love them! Now when I am "out and about" I always keep my eyes open for Chelsea. It is so much more fun to go antiquing when you are searching for a speciafic pattern or style.

Design Note:
I want you to notice the lavender hounds tooth "fabric" that my dishes are displayed on. That is actually 3 sheets of scrapbook paper (!) under a glass shelf. Any glass-covered tray or table can be transformed with paper. Love it!