Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Glittered Shells

I named my style of decorating, "Swedish Beach House" years ago when I was assembling furniture and linens for our new house.  Painted tables, oval back chairs and plate racks coupled with a seashore palette of cream, shell pink, and blue gray.

This holiday season I wanted to add some sparkle in unexpected places around the house.  I decided that if I am truly a Swedish Beach House, I should have more shells around!

I took an inexpensive container of shells from the craft store, painted Sobo glue on them and then glittered away with a collection of Martha Stewart fine glitter from Michaels craft store.  They dried in minutes and you can see that I have them displayed in an antique dish.

When the sun shines into my family room, this display actually twinkles! 

Trust me, if you want to add a little gentle fabulousness to your house this year, try glittering something.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent Calendars

Would you believe that this sweet paper cottage is also an advent calendar? 

I love to countdown to Christmas with an advent calendar and have decorated my house with many cute ones over the years.  Remember the one I made with scrapbook paper?
 
I bought this pastel advent house years ago (by artist Camilla Ashforth for her illustrated series about a bear named, Willow) and have resisted bending back the paper doors until now.  It felt too pretty to open (and looks so great with my "Swedish Beach house" decorating!) that I liked having it on display just as it is.  This year, though, I've decided to open each window and peek into the world of a teddy bear as he prepares for the holidays.

We have just two more days until we can open the window marked 1.  Does your house have an advent calendar?  If not, you can head to the nearest bookstore (or shop online for darling ones here!) and find one to help you count down the days until Christmas.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sheep Cookies

Every year I like to experiment with a few new cookie recipes in case I am missing something wonderful.  This year, these sheep take the cake! 

I have found that ever since my drive through the Cotswolds this Spring, I am drawn to anything "sheep."  I found this idea and recipe in an old issue of Country Home magazine in an article about farm yard-inspired cookies.  The magazine is no longer being published, but many recipes are still available online.  Print yourself a copy from the link above - who knows how long the content will be available.

Everyone loves the touch of powdered sugar (to emphasize the fluff) and many think the chocolate feet & face are the best part (for dough like mine, just add 2 Tablespoons of Hershey cocoa powder in lieu of the suggested food coloring).

What are your plans for holiday baking?

Friday, November 26, 2010

William and Kate

How wonderful!  Prince William has announced his engagement.  He will marry the lovely Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29th, 2011.

I can only imagine that little shops all over England will be celebrating with displays like this.  (I took this photo in Stow-on-the-Wold at the height of the World Cup!)  I love visual enthusiasm.

I have been an admirer of Princess Diana since I was eleven-years-old and have a collection of commemorative objects from the Royal Wedding in 1981.  I can't wait to add a small dish or glass that commemorates Prince William's engagement to my collection. 

When I was a girl enjoying the excitement of a Princess' wedding (and the years following with the birth of her children), I never looked ahead and realized that I would be able to watch her children grow and marry too.

As one of the millions of people that loved Princess Diana, I am here to send my Best Wishes to the happy couple. 

To Prince William and dear Kate, if you need anything just let me know.  I am a friend of your mother's.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Classics

You know that I call my stash of Thanksgiving recipes "A Salute to the 1950's."






















A Cranberry Jell-O mold, French's Green Bean CasseroleHoliday Sweet Potatoes...my inner "Foodie" takes a break this time of year and I resort to making the classics.  To me, this is comfort food at its best. 

I chose this picture to represent "the classics," because so many of the core ingredients for tomorrow's meal come from a can!  Mushroom soup, cranberry sauce, yams...I like to think of Thanksgiving as the "recycling" holiday.

No matter what you are cooking for tomorrow's meal, I hope it that it brings you comfort.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Candy Dish

This post is my pitch for the return of the candy dish.  There is something fun and generous about having candy out "for no reason."  When people discover this little display, I can almost hear inside their head, "Candy? For me?"  They act like it is a really big deal and a little unexpected chocolate makes them happy. 

I made this pedestal candy dish from an antique china dish, a candlestick base from the craft store and some Gorilla brand "Super Glue."  The quickest project ever (Open glue, run a bead of glue around the top of candlestick, center the bottom of dish over candlestick top and press together.  Allow to dry. Voila!) and I think it looks so pretty and old-fashioned.

My grandmother always had a jar of something sweet on her sideboard and it was Destination #1 when we stopped by for a visit.  This inspired me to put out my own candy dish and I tell you, these M&M chocolates are going fast!

True story:  Our giant grocery store (Meijers) has added a bulk chocolates section, including M&M-like chocolates in lots of colors.  I wasn't sure about the process - the item #, where you write that number, how it gets weighed etc., so I asked a nearby clerk for some help.  He was an older gentleman and was happy to walk me through the entire process.  Then he handed me an empty bag and I immediately started scooping out the gray candies.  He couldn't believe that out of all the colors available, I wanted the gray ones!  I may be the only person buying gray, but I think they look just gorgeous, don't you?  In design, context is everything.    

Monday, November 22, 2010

Advent By Candlelight

I think that a night with "the girls" is a perfect way to find some calm before the holidays.
Every year, our church holds a quiet service and dessert for women called Advent by Candlelight.  After the church service, the members and guests file out of the sanctuary singing "Silent Night."  The next 30 minutes or so are spent strolling the rooms and admiring the decorated tables.

Each hostess is given a table assignment, a table and cloth and invitations to send to her 7 guests.  The hostess provides the dishes, glasses, dessert and decorations to transform her table into something special.

I love everything about this event - the camaraderie, sweet treats, pretty dishes and license to talk the night away. 

I have been part of a Mother/Daughter table for years and I love it.  We take turns hosting the event and this year we are the guests.  Remember our "Marshmallow Snowstorm" from last year?

I wanted to show you another table (above) that my Mom and I decorated a few years ago.  Our theme was "Retro Kitchen" and the tree in the centerpiece was covered in tiny spatulas, whisks and cookie cutters - so cute!  The mint green & red tablecloth, napkins and touches on the petit fours made our table look fresh and bright.

We placed vintage houses around the base of the tree and gave our guests some old-fashioned ribbon candy as a treat to take home.

If you have the chance to participate in an Advent By Candlelight event - do it!  It is a lovely way to start the holiday season. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Swedish Christmas Fair

Don't you love these giant "Gingerbread Cookies" made of cardboard?  Seeing these giant decorations (3 feet tall!) is part of what I love about going to our local Swedish Christmas Fair.

A few years ago I met the woman who made them.  She uses big sheets of cardboard (from an appliance box) and paints them gingerbread brown.  If memory serves, I think she uses grout in a tube to make the 3-dimensional "icing."  Aren't they wonderful?  She made at least 12 of these and hangs them high on the wall all around the fair.

I drank some hot glogg with raisins & almonds, listened to live Scandinavian folk music and nibbled on Swedish Dream cookies while I wandered the gift area.  My big purchase was a homemade Cardamon Twist ("Vetebrod") coffeecake in the shape of a wreath.  I know it will be delicious, but my favorite part so far is the ingredient list on the tag:  mjol, smor, mjolk, socker, agg, jast, salt, kardemumma and kanel - isn't that fun?

I am going to freeze it and bring it out to serve with coffee on a snowy morning in December. 

God Jul! (that's Merry Christmas in Swedish)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cookie Walk

My church is having its first ever "Cookie Walk" fundraiser on December 4th and I'm a baker!

A cookie walk is a short term sale of cookies made by church members.  Homemade goodies are displayed on a series of tables.  Shoppers stroll the length of the table and have gloved volunteers add the cookies they choose to a box.  At checkout, the box is weighed and the cookies are paid for by the pound.  Fun, eh?  Who wouldn't want a big selection of homemade cookies at the holidays?

I offered to bake and decorate 10 dozen of my grandmother's famous sugar cookies for this fund raiser.  I started this week by making the dough and rolling, cutting and baking 92 cookies (so far) with the help of my 12-year-old niece.  The cookies are in the freezer and I'll frost them the day before the event (I've enlisted my parents to help with that!).  I think they will sell out quick.

From my cookie cutter collection (only the Christmas cookie cutters are shown above!), I chose to make sweaters, mittens, trees, reindeer, stars, candy canes and a string of light bulbs.  I'll show you a picture when they are all decorated. 

It was fun to talk about this event with my niece and explain that, as we were standing in my kitchen covered in flour, we were "volunteering."  That is delight.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turkey Tip

How can I make your Thanksgiving a little easier?  By making sure you know about the Stuffing Sack.  It is my #1 must-have item for cooking a Thanksgiving Dinner.

The Stuffing Sack is a cheesecloth bag that is inserted into the open cavity of a turkey and then filled with stuffing.  Once the turkey is roasted, you simply pull the stuffing sack out of the turkey and empty it into a serving dish and fluff.  It eliminates 100% of the anxiety related to removing the stuffing from a scalding hot bird in time for dinner.  Voila!

Note:  When you find these in the grocery store (packaged in a box), buy two or three.  Keep one for next year and give the other to your best friend.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Drinking Chocolate

I know it won't come as a shock to hear that sometimes I have an overwhelming desire for chocolate.

This normally results in my making a big pot of fudge, problem solved.  But yesterday, out of nowhere, my brain startd demanding, "Drinking Chocolate!"

I went to the fancy cupboard and pulled out my special occasion-only Marie Belle Aztec Hot Chocolate mix.  Tuesdays are special, right? 
All I needed was some boiling water and I had a cup of liquid fudge.  Ahhh...heaven.  If you are a Chocolate Girl, this is the magic potion for you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ribbon Wrapped Votives

You know how I feel about the beautiful ribbons of the world.  I wanted to show you another way to maximize the impact of ribbon, while minimizing the expense.

I purchased a yard of this gorgeous multi-dimensional tobacco-colored ribbon and have wondered how to "make the most of it."

At $17/yard (before my coupon), I didn't want a bit of it to go to waste.  
A few beads of Sobo glue was all I needed to transform these inexpensive poured glass votive candles into something you would find at the loveliest boutique.

Have company coming for Thanksgiving?  Maybe you'd like to make these simple ribbon-wrapped votives to add a decorator's touch to your living room.

There is nothing like the soft-glow of candlelight to calm everyone down.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Amaretto Diamonds

Are you ready for this?  I made these "diamonds!"  They are candy!   

Amaretto-flavored diamonds and I am over-the-moon about them.  This is what I love...things that are beautiful and interesting.

I used a gem candy mold, Isomalt, water and a smidge of LorAnn amaretto flavoring and followed the directions (on the Isomalt package) or listed in the text here.  Or you can purchase ready-made candy diamonds here.

Can't you see these scattered on a coconut cake?  When I showed my mom, she immediately suggested that I attach one to a pendant base and wear it as a necklace.

This takes "making my own jewelry" to a whole new level, don't you think? Ha!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Reflections

Isn't this gorgeous?  The lines and reflections in an empty boat house on a quiet Fall morning.  It made me wish for a chance to go out on the river with a travel mug of coffee and a camera.  I would have loved to get some more pictures of the yellow leaves reflecting in the water. 

This picture reminds me that everyone needs time to reflect.     

Friday, November 12, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg fruit

Do you know what I mean, when I say "Colonial Williamsburg" fruit? 

The area is known for decorating with fruit (in outdoor wreaths and swags) at Christmastime.  You can see some examples from Colonial Williamsburg here.

I have always dreamed of visiting that area during the holidays.  Think of the photographs! 

I love the Colonial Williamsburg "look" so much that I have a wooden plaque that hangs over the front door.  It is a semi-circle that comes with nails pounded into it in a pattern.  Every few years when I am inspired, I press apples, lemons and a pineapple onto the nails and hang this giant display over our front door.  It looks gorgeous, although sometimes my guests get a drop of pineapple juice in their hair when they cross the threshold! Oops!

All of this keeps coming to mind because of this display in my kitchen.  I have a multi-tier plastic tray (cream, grey and pink tiers!) that I found years ago at IKEA.  When I unpacked my groceries the other day and noticed that the fruit looked very "Williamsburg Wreath" = can you see it?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Travel Lifesaver

This is how I keep my sanity on an important trip.










I am a writer and photographer, but I am also a creative.  I physically make all of my own jewelry, scarves and purses.  When I am out & about, I want to look my best and showcase my designs.  It is really fun, but it takes some planning.

I found out early on that once I have packed a stack of scarves, a box of jewelry and lots of classic pieces, it is hard to remember all of the best combinations, particularly on a ten day trip!

So now when I am packing, I assemble the outfits on a hanging rack in my spare room.  I group the jacket/sweater, shirt and accessories together and take a digital picture of each outfit.  I find that this method also keeps me from wearing "too much black," as I can see the whole collection in one place.

Once I have photographed the outfits, I transfer the pictures to my computer and print them out on my color printer - 4 outfits to a page.  I tuck these sheets in the pocket of my suitcase and off I go.  What a lifesaver!  While I am on my trip, I can see what I have and what I have worn. 

I will never go back to my old hodge-podge method packing - taking all of the pieces I love and hoping for the best.  I hope this system helps you on your next big trip.  You will be "fool proof cute."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Foyle's War

I subscribe to Netflix, a mail-order movie rental service that let's you manage an online account of the movies/shows you want to watch.  After you watch a movie, you mail the DVD back and the next item in your queue is automatically sent to you.  I love it, mostly because I can get Independent Films and British movies/shows that aren't readily available at a video store.

Last night I was happily watching the latest DVD of the British television series, Foyle's War.  I have loved this gentle World War II drama for ages.  It has wonderful loving characters, fun detective work and the  beautiful scenery of rural England.  It revolves around a police station on the southern coast of England and the issues and crimes that happen in small towns everywhere.  The war and its effect on the homefront also features prominently.

So imagine my shock last night when the characters started "shutting down the precinct" because Winston Churchill was about to announce VE Day.  What?

The loyal driver was looking for a new job.  The steadfast Sergent was promoted.  The main character (and father figure to all) was retiring.  Good grief - what was going on?  It finally occurred to me that this must be the final episode!  I was reeling.  I actually had to pause the show and collect my thoughts.  I decided right then and there that Foyle's War would be today's blog post.  I have come to love this show (and its characters) and I want you to too.

And then as I was finding the links to write this post - oh joy!  The original series ended back in 2007 (who knew?) and fans devotion to the show caused them to write 3 new episodes this year!  They aired in England in Spring 2010.  I found out that PBS' Masterpiece Theater also aired Foyle's War.  Woosh!  So now I have another 3 episodes to enjoy and you can start the series from the beginning.  I know it will bring you delight.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Christmas Cake Stencils

Yodel Eh Hee Hoo....Okay, that may not be how you spell a yodel, but you get the idea.  In my mind, I am in the middle of Switzerland and I have the cake to prove it.

Actually, my dear friend just had a baby and I am bringing her dinner tonight, complete with this alpine-inspired cake.  I find that nothing perks up a gingerbread cake mix like a few cocoa reindeer.

This food-safe cake stencil is part of the new Martha Stewart holiday collection at Michael's.  If you can't bear to leave the kitchen during your pre-Thanksgiving preparations, you can also follow this link to purchase Martha Stewart Holiday Cake Stencils online.

I'll say it again, "Yodel Eh Hee Hoo..................."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Beet It

I always like to have a portable project that I can take along with me when I have to pass the time (waiting room, jury duty, airport).

I am in love with my latest scarf because of its cozy rosewater color.  I was drawn to it in the knit shop and was "sold" when I found out that it was dyed with beets.  Real grown-in-the ground beets.  Isn't that neat?

The color is gorgeous, natural and a great conversation piece - what more could a girl want?

If you are interested in seeing products by this small-batch yarn producer, visit Vibrant.  Or contact the store, Wool & Honey to see what they have on the shelves.

Did you notice the yard of silk ribbon coiled in the back?  I bought it to sew into a cluster of roses that I can attach at one end of this scarf.  So pretty!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Turkey Cake Pan

Last year was our best Thanksgiving dinner ever. 

We made all of the classic dishes, of course, but the star of the show was my Cornbread Turkey!  I am showing him to you now so that you will have enough time to get a pan for yourself!

My "classic turkey mold" is from Nordicware . You can order him online or call a shop that sells Nordicware to see if they have one in stock.  I followed the directions on 2 bags of Marie Callender's corn bread mix and my turkey baked up sturdy and delicious!

Isn't he fantastic?  I "glued" the two halves together with cream cheese frosting and nestled him in a cranberry-filled pie plate for stability.  He was the centerpiece on the table when we had appetizers and then we cut right into him on the buffet for the meal.

All I can say is, "Gobble! Gobble!"

Friday, November 5, 2010

Antiquing

I've always joked that someday my ancestors will take my things to the TV program, Antique Roadshow with high hopes of having some great historic piece. 

I smile, because I know the host will mutter, "Crate and Barrel" and turn them away. 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it doesn't matter to me whether a piece is old or new, cost $2 or $250.  I love what I love.

I have to say, however, I am having more and more fun antiquing lately.  Remember my collection of Chelsea china?  And my brand new obsession with vintage ornaments.

I am going to an antiques show with my mom this weekend to see if I can find some more pieces.  I think what I was missing all of these years was "the hunt."  When you have something specific you are searching for, it makes antiquing a lot more fun.  What are you on the hunt for?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lace Curtains

Now this is my idea of a lace curtain!  I love how "mere thread" can convey such a sweet vignette.  My imagination takes off and I hear voices in the kitchen and can smell the gingerbread cookies in the oven.

I found this beautiful lace panel online and would love to find a place for it in my house.  The natural and botanical images look "a little Swedish" to me and I think it would look beautiful with light streaming through it.  A delightful way to have a little privacy.  Do you have any lace with images woven in it?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sleeping Bear

I was able to sneak in a trip up north this past weekend.  The weather was quite damp and cold - perfect for plaid scarves and reading by the fire.  To break up the day, we decided to drive to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to see what we could see.  The dunes were deserted (no picnics or school field trips this time of year) and the view was spectacular.  Can you see the color variation in the water?  The darker the color, the deeper the water.  You can even make out a double sand bar running parallel to shore.

I took this photo from an overlook that is 450 feet above Lake Michigan (the world's 4th largest fresh water lake).  Visitors are welcome to explore the dune and climb all the way down to the water, if they so choose.  The trick is climbing up 450 feet of sand.  For every few feet you climb up, you invariably slide back half as much.

Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes is estimated to be about two thousand years old.  It is a wonderful destination for nature lovers, tourists and, of course, photographers.  What a sight!

Aside from the endless view, you know what else I loved about this visit?  The only sound was from the wind.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Skipping Stones


Can you imagine?  Look at this massive pile of stones that had washed up on the shore of Little Cranberry Island (Islesford) off the coast of Bar Harbor, Maine.

It may be hard to get a perspective, but this scene does not go "out" but "up."  The stones at the bottom of the picture are at my feet and the pile rises straight up - the ocean is on the other side. 
I had to ask our friend, Soos, to stop the car so that I could photograph this.  And while I framed the picture, I couldn't help but think of all the artists that would love to get their hands on this natural bounty.
Like to skip stones?  You would have a field day...

Monday, November 1, 2010

Osage Oranges

It can't be Fall without a bowl of Osage Oranges in the house.  This year, my mom's friends found a country roadside loaded with them and brought her a paper bagful as a present!  I love the kiwi green shade and they look fantastic in my living room as a companion to this display in the dining room.  So fresh and green! 

If you don't have any osage oranges (aka horse apples or hedgeballs) in your neck of the woods, you can buy faux examples at Crate and Barrel!  A bowl of these unusual fruits (not edible!) are very popular accent in design magazines - keep your eye out for them. 

Do you decorate with osage orages?