Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sun Protection

I give you my latest find...sun block that is modern, cute AND offers great protection!  I was so happy to find Physician's Formula "Healthy Wear Powder Foundation" which boasts an SPF of 50!

This is the kind of thing I can keep in my purse and "dust" on myself, my parents or my nieces/nephews if we get in a pinch and are caught out in the sun.  The perfect spot at the 4th of July parade can stay perfect when the only obstacle is that someone forgot a hat.  "Here, put on a little of this powder."  Problem solved.

And I really like that because it is in powder form, anyone can benefit from it. No one is willing to smear sunblock cream on their face when they have make-up on.  But when it is a powder compact - a quick puff-puff on the face and we are good to go.

And talk about cute!  A cool orange case, full mirror and hot pink applicator makes it very 2011.  So before you head out of town this holiday weekend, swing by the drugstore and pick up a little portable sun protection.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Vase Crazy: When A Souvenir of Jam Become the Perfect Vessel for Flowers

You know by now that I am "vase crazy."  Anything that holds water is fair game for flowers - and why not?  A flower arrangement can spark a conversation as well as anything, and I think the ability to take the moment beyond reciting the flower variety is gold.

(But for the record:  David Austin English Rose "Abraham Darby"; Trailing Verbena "Lanai Peach", Stock "Vintage Mix")

Sometimes the "story" of your unusual vase can be particularly compelling.  This treasure was originally a jar of raspberry jam from one of my favorite places in Paris, the restaurant and patisserie Laduree

When the last sticky drop of jam was consumed, I washed out the jar and covered the outside with contact paper to protect the label.  It has been two years now and the vase looks as good as the day I covered it.  So the message of this post is two-fold. 

1) Use unusual containers to enhance a simple bouquet. 
2) Buy jars of honey or jam on vacation and let the memory of your trip live on.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Souvenirs From Paris

These are some of my favorite souvenirs from Paris.  Postcards featuring templates that you can cut out, fold and tab together to create 3-dimensional buildings.  The company that makes them is called Instant Durable.

Honestly, since they are sold on postcard stands as "mailable projects," the buildings, tabs and slots are very small.  In my mind, they are better suited to being framed and hung as art, than actually constructed into tiny buildings. 

They are perfect examples of what I love to show you...things that are beautiful and interesting.  Magnifique!

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Art of Ice Cream

I was showing someone my book, Moments of Delight, yesterday and when we flipped to this page, she reacted.  "Ahhp" 

Now I have been designing and selling accessories long enough to "know" that squeak.  The audible gasp means that I've struck a cord with someone.  It happens when people open my cigar box purses and see the fabric lining;  it happens when someone starts to admire my necklace and realizes that the spacers are buttons; and it happens when they look through my books.  The fun part is that I never know which page will get which person.

Yesterday, it was the ice cream.  The idea that normally we reach in this case, choose a flavor and move on.  To stop and recognize that, as a collection, the ice cream department was gorgeous, blew her mind. 

She "saw" the every day beauty of it for the first time.  This is delight.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Floating Flowers

The simplest flower arrangements need hardly any "arranging" at all.  I filled a Revere bowl with water and floated 2 Clematis blooms in it - Voila! 

The secret is in a simple (and genius) tool called a Floral Float.  It is a green cork ring that helps to keep blossoms from sinking in a water-based floral arrangement.  Get yourself a packet (it includes 4) and have fun floating peonies, roses and more in any vessel you choose.

I really like how the flower, surrounded by silver, grey and white, stands out.  The violet blue petals add the perfect touch of blue to my Swedish-style family room.  Remember my display of Spode's Blue Room dishes on the plate rack?  This flower arrangement is on a table on the other side of the room and ties it all together.  So pretty!

Friday, June 24, 2011

City Series: Atlanta, Swan Coach House

While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, repetition is too!  A trip to Atlanta just would not be complete without a visit to my all-time favorite "girl's lunch" place - The Swan Coach House

I like to stay as long as possible, this is not an experience to rush.  The first thing I do is wander through the art gallery.  It has blown glass, pottery, paintings and sketches to help open your mind - I always feel inspired after a peek in there.

After that, I sit down for a leisurely lunch (see above!) surrounded by mothers, daughters and granddaughters in a pink, peach and white room that feels a bit like being part of a grand needlepoint scene. 

Now have you ever seen a prettier lunch?  The highlight this year was a chance to try their famous Strawberry Soup. I was in girl heaven. I am working on my own version of their frozen fruit salad (above left) and I will post the recipe soon. I am convinced that 0% fat Greek Yogurt will make a creamy, but far healthier frozen salad and I can't wait to share - stay tuned! 

I finish my visit by shopping in the Swan Coach House Gift Shop.   The multi-room store (it is set in a house, after all) has monogrammed cutting boards, silver cake servers, candles, bookmarks, cookbooks and serving pieces all there to inspire your next party.

If you are in Atlanta, you must indulge your inner girl and spend a few hours at The Swan Coach House.  It is an experience I know you will want to repeat.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

City Series: Atlanta, Bella Cucina

It was a challenging week for the staff at Bella Cucina in the Virginia Highlands area of Atlanta.  I happened to visit the store in the last few days of packing up the current store and moving (only a few doors down) to a brand new location. 

They felt flustered, but I was having a wonderful time.  Boxes, sale signs and general commotion could not sway me from studying every beautiful product and making a few commemorative purchases. 

I bought a beautiful cherry wood spoon (you can see it above) and a glass container of Aromatic Savory Parsley and Porcini Salt (I used my last vessel of this salt on everything - yum). 

I love the Bella Cucina brand (especially their Artichoke Lemon Pesto - it is SO delicious, but better bought locally, than to try to fit in my suitcase!) and was happy to be able to visit in person again.  Remember my first visit?  I only wish I had come a few weeks later, so that I could have been able to see the new store.  But never fear, I'll be back!

Congratulations, Alisa Barry, and best of luck on your delightful new location!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Love of Blogging

Want to bring me delight?

I just nominated my blog, Moments of Delight for the "Blue Ribbon Blogger" Award at Country Living magazine.

This is not a contest, but a selection of the best blogs out there. Country Living is asking for nominations from blog readers.  You can nominate blogs through August 1st

If you would please: Click this Country Living link, type Moments of Delight and a few words about why you like my blog.  After 4 years of blogging 6 days a week (over 1,200 posts to read!), I feel that I really have fun, interesting and inspirational content for my readers. 

It would mean the world to me to be recognized.  Thanks!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

City Series: Atlanta, Nicholas Kniel Ribbon

To say I was overwhelmed, would be an understatement.  When I finally found the Nicholas Kniel ribbon shop in Atlanta (a small shop tucked on the upper floor of an unremarkable shopping center), all I could think was "hidden gem!"

Twice, I had torn out a magazine article about Nicholas and his fine European ribbon collection (most recently here in Victoria magazine) and I knew that someday I would visit his shop in Atlanta, Georgia.

But nothing prepared me for the selection.  Nothing.  It is the finest collection of ribbons I have seen anywhere on the planet.  And you know how many ribbon resources I have seen in my day.  I actually asked the saleswomen if they provided oxygen for customers who felt woozy (she didn't get my humor), the collection was that gorgeous.

In the end, I settled on just a few yards to play with.  The pale coral print will become a watchband, to match a Summer sweater I love.  The narrow taupe and pink stripe is to make a ribbon-wrapped bouquet of pale pink roses and the mulberry plaid will become a ribbon-band bracelet with a crystal buckle cuff for the holidays.  After deciding all that, my mind exploded and I had to leave. 

To my great relief (and discovered just today), Nicholas Kniel offers most of his collection (by-the-yard!) online here, so I do not have to have any regret about "the one that got away."  Do you love ribbon too?

Monday, June 20, 2011

City Series: Atlanta, Flip Burger Boutique

I flipped when I realized that I was finally going to be able to eat at one of Richard Blais' (winner of Bravo TV's 2010 Top Chef All Stars) restaurants in Atlanta!

Known for his adventurous cooking style (and love of liquid nitrogen), the dishes he prepared on the show were always the ones I wanted to try.  And now I have!  I went to the Flip Burger Boutique and devoured a blackened shrimp burger with a fried lemon slice on top - yum!  I'd order again in a second.

And I couldn't leave without having a "Turtle" milkshake (with caramel ice cream) made when the waitress pours liquid nitrogen into the glass full of ice cream base.  It was delicious, of course, but the "dry ice" fog and the frosted nuts was what really made it.  Next time, I'll go for a complete sugar buzz and order one called "Captain Crunch."

If you get a chance to visit Atlanta (or Birmingham, AL) I highly recommend a visit to Flip. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

City Series: Atlanta, Always A Bridesmaid

What makes me happy?  Driving through Buckhead and seeing a giant glass-walled showroom of mannequins wearing candy-colored ball gowns.  

Do I need a ball gown? No.  But it was after hours and I couldn't resist photographing some of these life-size Barbies.  
Doesn't her expression say: (sigh) "Always a Bridesmaid, never a Bride."

Friday, June 17, 2011

City Series: Atlanta, Ballard Designs

Oh, Ballard do I love thee? Let me count the ways...

One of my favorite furniture/design catalogs has an outlet store in Atlanta!  It was wonderful to be able to see some of the pieces "in person" and imagine new items mixing with what I already have.  

It is a moment like this that reaffirms my decision to decorate my house in neutrals.  It lets me reinvent the rooms over and over again by changing pillows, accessories and flowers.  I love this kind of decorating and it makes it seem like my decorating budget is far greater than it is.  

The principal design premise of Ballard Design seems to be the same as mine.  Neutral furniture, accent pieces in black or cream distressed paint, touches khaki (in woven rugs, coffee bean sack pillows) meaningful accessories.  Metal birds, terrariums, skirted tables and maps of Paris.  If this sounds good to you, be sure to visit and order yourself a catalog.  

You are bound to be inspired to feather your nest.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Ice Bucket Bouquet

This bouquet was assembled with peony donations!

I've been having a bit of a peony panic in my yard.  I went from having 6 happy and productive plants, to one plant that gives me 3 blooms - tops.  Is the soil in my bed too wet?  Did the plants get diseased?  I had the same problem last year and now that I'm in the same boat, I'm taking a leaf/soil sample to the garden center for some advice.  You can see my only peony in this photo: it is called "Gay Paree" and has magenta petals with a creamy center.

The rest of this gorgeous bouquet (I'm a florist at heart) was made with peony donations and a few "Royal Amethyst" roses.  My neighbor and best friend both offered up some of their blooms so that I could still make flower arrangements.  Thank goodness!  I couldn't miss having something this wonderful in the house.  And I discovered a distressed silver ice bucket in the basement - it must have been my mother's mother's from long ago.  I gave it a good shine and it is perfect.  

I'm making flower arrangements fit for a movie star.  Love it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Strawberry Pot

I am finally using something for its original purpose!  For years, I have planted my strawberry pot with herbs.  It is a wonderful way to have a container garden full of a variety of herbs by the kitchen door.

However, the pot keeps the plants small, so the supply of basil is limited.  This year I am giving my herbs more room and planting them where they can grow larger.  

All of this left my strawberry pot empty, so I transferred some little plants from the garden to the pot and they love it!  When at least 10 are ripe, I'll make a dessert and sprinkle them on top.  Viva la Strawberry!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Pyrex Love

Can you believe my luck?  I just started collecting vintage Pyrex and the first two pieces I bought (different places, but for a whopping $1 each) are featured in the May 2011 issue of Country Living!  

What I love about Pyrex is how it represents American home cooking.  Classic dishes made by your parents or grandparents.  Sturdy and dependable - but so pretty too!  I am picturing a small wooden cabinet with a screen door (painted pale pink) to display my pieces in.  Wouldn't that be cute?

What is interesting, is that a few days ago I was at a garage sale looking for old Pyrex (no luck) and the woman liked my quest and had to show me the large blue Pyrex bowl that her brother always made and served banana pudding in.  She treasures the memory and the bowl and I told her that was exactly why I loved it.  To me, Pyrex symbolizes the love that comes out of the kitchen.

What is spooky is that I am about to visit my friend in Alabama and she told me on the phone (the day after this garage sale lady) that we were having a special dinner on Saturday night and we needed to make banana pudding!  I feel like the stars and moon are aligning!

Do you have Pyrex love?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pop Art

Do you remember my trip to the grocery superstore, Jungle Jim's and my foray into the pop can aisle looking for vases?  I bought this beautiful pink can (some exotic flavor from Thailand?) with this display in mind.  But the peony from my friend Kim's yard is so full, you can hardly see the design!  I promise to fill this soda can with lavender roses later in the Summer and show it to you again.

Even though the can doesn't show, this simple flower arrangement took my breath away every time I came into the kitchen.  If you have friends or neighbors with peonies in bloom, ask if you can have just one.  Look at the delight it can bring!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Vitamin Regimen

Whenever I am doing something that looks beautiful I stop myself and say, "Oooohhh, they've got to see this!"  I'm talking about you, my dear reader, and I think you will love this!  I looked down on my bathroom counter today and my vitamins looked like art!

When I travel, I've started carrying my vitamins and allergy medicine in little plastic Amec boxes.  I can't resist the size and colors, so the last time I was at the Container Store I bought one of each.  At less than a $1 each, they are a great (and pretty) way to transport what I need, don't you think?

Now, are you taking your vitamins?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Imaginary Friend

This is one of my favorite tablescapes -  it looks like I'm all ready to have lunch with my imaginary friend.  I say imaginary because this lunch is an illusion.  The "sushi" is actually soap!

I love so many things about this display - the roses ("Lilian Austin") that just started blooming.  The Japanese-style tea set.  The ceramic dining pieces that came with a "roll your own sushi kit."  So many of the things I love in one place - plus the tongue and cheek aspect of the imaginary lunch. 

Interior design is so much more than couches and fabrics.  Right now, this vignette makes the room.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Caller ID

I was told the nicest thing today.  And on top of that, it includes a wonderful suggestion that I can pass on.

I called a friend of mine today on her cell phone.  We see each other once a month at our book club, but don't talk on the phone very often.  If I call, I usually call the house. 

Today she answered her cell and she said, "I am looking at the most gorgeous flower arrangement - one you gave me in a polka dot vase!"  

Last year at this time, she hosted our book club and I brought her a bouquet (similar to the one above) in one of my painted vases.  Apparently she liked it so much that she photographed it with her phone and then "attached" it to my cell phone number as my Caller ID.  

She was so funny today describing her reaction.  "I saw this gorgeous bouquet appear on my screen and thought to myself "that's beautiful!" - it took me a few seconds to realize that I was seeing it because you were calling!  I just wanted you to know that your art lives on!"  Isn't that nice?

Do you have the type of phone that allows you attach photos to a person's phone number?  Wouldn't it be fun to use a picture of their birthday cake, a flower in their garden or some other signifying object as their "Caller ID?"  I think it is a delightful idea.  Thanks, Suzanne!  You made my day. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Party on the Patio

This is the season for parties on the patio.  Some are picnic-casual, while others make you say "Ooohhhh." 

A few years ago, I helped to plan a "get to know us" recruitment night for the Junior League of Birmingham and my committee and I thought that the patio of Meadow Brook Hall, a historic building in the suburbs of Detroit (built by Matilda Dodge Wilson, widow of automotive pioneer John Dodge) would be the perfect spot. 

At the time, our league didn't own a building, so all of our events had to be held at different locations.  To my knowledge, we had never held an event at Meadow Brook Hall.  The grounds and gardens alone are worth a drive out there.  When you get inside and see the art and antiques, you'll swoon. 

We decided that it was important for the event to have a woman's touch.  There are so many networking events out there - this was a membership event and we wanted it to feel different.  The patio looks out onto a golf course and if you follow a path to the left, you can wander around in the rose garden.  What could be better?  And when I stepped on the patio the night of the event and saw this fruit and cheese display, I knew we had chosen the right place.I mention all of this because you might not have considered an historic home/small museum in your area as a possibility for hosting an event.  The small staff was thrilled to partner with us, the food was perfect (Who doesn't love a melon swan?) and the setting felt very special.  When it comes to a party on the patio, try to make history.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Teacup Bouquet

There is something so very charming about a teacup bouquet.  A sweet display of color on an end table or nightstand.  Gardeners know that sometimes a teacup bouquet simply means that there aren't enough flowers blooming for a whole bouquet!  But that's okay, cute comes in small packages.

The secret to stable arrangement is using a floral foam called Oasis.  You use a knife to cut a block to fit your teacup, press it into the cup (you'll be surprised how it forms to the shape when you press a bit) and then soak it with water.  The foam will hold the water and weight down the cup.  Now you can gently press the stems of your flowers into the wet foam.  The flowers will stay just where you place them - I just love that!  Every few days, pour more water into the cup to keep everything hydrated.     

Monday, June 6, 2011

Cooking with Charred Tomatoes

I have been thinking about charred tomatoes ever since I went to a little family-run Mexican restaurant that made table side salsa with charred tomatoes.  We ate every drop. 

It reminded me of a charred tomato and bacon salad dressing that I made last Summer.  I remember reading a recipe in a magazine on an airplane and improvised from there.  You basically cook olive oil-brushed tomatoes on a charcoal grill (hence the char) until they are a bit black and softened and then pulse them in a food processor with garlic, cooked bacon, a smig of fresh rosemary and olive oil.  Wow is it good.  You can see I added 2 pieces of fresh rosemary from the herb pot to the grill.  It didn't do much for the tomatoes, but the scent was heavenly!

My quick and easy way to char a bunch of tomatoes (that doesn't involve my husband, charcoal bags or the fire department) is to light a disposable camping grill ($2.00) and 15 minutes later my coals are ready to cook.  No fuss, no muss.  And if the heat from the coals lingers past your pile of tomatoes, you can char other vegetables too, like red peppers and onions.

This is the Summer of "eating more vegetables" and charring is a good way to start.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Simple Desserts

My friend and I went out to dinner to catch up.  It had been far too long since we had been able to look each other in the eye, talk about our lives and really hear each other.

So we ordered drinks and dinner and launched right into talking.  We had so much to say that we didn't even notice that our meal was taking forever.  And ever.  Suddenly the manager came to our table and told us to start thinking about dessert because it would be his treat.  There had been some mix up in the kitchen, which explained the delay.

And we didn't care one bit.  We were getting a chance to talk and were right where we wanted to be.  Which brings me to this sweet and sticky, warm and chewy brownie sundae and my suggestion that you make this for your next cook out.

I've come to this conclusion: brownies + ice cream + raspberries = happy guests.  And if you want to go all out you can drizzle the whole thing with chocolate sauce (I bought squeeze bottles like this at Walmart for a song) and top it with a mint leaf from the garden.  

This is a reminder that dessert doesn't have to be fancy, it just has to be good. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Travels with Flowers

You had a sneak peek at this beautiful bouquet in yesterday's post.  A variety of fresh lilacs that I brought home (on a 5-hour car ride!) from the cottage.

I am notorious for not being able to leave the garden wherever I am and cutting bouquets to take with me.  When I leave for the cottage, I cut all of my roses and put them in the car.  When I leave the cottage for home,  it is the same story in reverse.  So much so that my Summer name is "Travels With Flowers" - ha!  

And this has been going on for years.  One time I won a limbo contest in Florida (don't ask) and brought my "prize" home on the plane - an enormous bouquet (3 feet x 3 feet at least) of tropical flowers, like bird of paradise.  The stewardess took one look at me carrying my tropical trophy in a giant clear shopping bag and "safely stowed" it in the First Class lavatory for the trip! 

Do you travel with flowers?  

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Custom Placemats

Don't you love it?  A beautiful tablescape based on placemats that I made from an old Cavallini & Co. calendar!

I love to dress up the kitchen by using a tablecloth.  It is a wonderful way to add a splash of color and can really breathe life into the room. 

The table in your kitchen is the design equivalent of the couch in your family room.  Being able to change tablecloths to suit your mood is like being able to reupholster your couch when ever you want to - the effect can be that dramatic.

That said, one splash of milk from the cereal bowl can spoil the look of a cloth and make you wonder why you tried at all.  So...

I've made myself (and you can too!) some paper placemats out of an old but beautiful calendar.  I trimmed the day/date section and the torn spiral bound edge off and suddenly had a picture suitable for framing. 

I bought a roll of clear contact paper at the hardware store and covered each picture (a process I affectionately call "plasticizing") with a plastic barrier - just unroll a bit of contact paper, line it up on the edge of the picture and slowly unroll as it makes contact with the picture.  Smooth out the bubbles as you go and then trim off the excess.  Cover the back of the paper image too, which will ensure greater longevity. Repeat that process a few more times and the result will be a set of custom placemats. 

My table looks gorgeous and actually eating there is no longer a problem.  Voila! 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Cute is Timeless

I wanted to stop for a moment and remind you that cute is timeless and tell you that the effort you put into crafts can last a long long time.

A few years ago, I posted the idea to make a clock out of a favorite box of food (at the time it was a Swedish Pancake Mix).  It is a fun light-hearted way to have a clock in the kitchen.  A super easy idea that is full of delight. 

That same week, I made this clock out of a box of tea that my friend, Heidi brought me from Japan.  Isn't it sweet?  I found it hiding on a shelf at the cottage this weekend and I brought it home with me.  I put a fresh battery in it and it is as good as new!  I love it just as much now as the day I made it. 

Sometimes crafters aren't given their due. If you like making things (and love the result) - that is all we need to know.