Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A few days ago I mentioned that I was giving the house a once over in terms of straightening, organizing and placing objects to their advantage.  I will be reviewing a few different strategies I use for evaluating each room; I call it a "Refresher Course," because we are freshening up the house.

I know that lamps can easily be overlooked.  But a simple way to enhance a room is to change/rearrange the lamps.  It has been a long time since I had a lamp on this glass table in the corner of my family room.  The fireplace (to the left of this photo) has two spotlights overhead, so lamp light isn't necessary.

No, it isn't necessary, but it looks beautiful!  I had forgotten how soothing it can be to have lamp light in a room on a dim winter afternoon.  It really warms up the room and makes the house seem lived in.  Do you know what I mean?

I brought this 20-year-old Laura Ashley lamp base (cream porcelain with a raised oak leaf pattern) down from the guest room and removed it's tired lampshade.  It was wonderful in it's day (a craft paper shade with oak leaf cut outs) but the "Coolie" shape looked very outdated and I thought the base could look new again, with the right shade. 

While I was out and about doing errands, I started looking at lamps at home stores, discount stores and the like.  When I found this oval drum shade in linen, I knew it was right.  It makes my table look cozy and perfectly balanced.  What a difference!  I found this lamp primer online that can help you to judge size, style and hardware for different lamps.

Step Two of my "Refresher Course" - reevaluate your lamps and their shades.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Starting Over...a Gardener's Tale

I love peonies and a garden mishap is causing me to have to start all over - (sniff).  I had a bed of peonies for ten years that gave me season after season of delight.  But the bed started to show signs of disease the year before last, and then they failed to produce at all last Spring, which was the result of a soaker- hose-gone-wrong that flooded the bed and caused them to rot. 

This is the life a gardener...sometimes things have to change in order to flourish.  The flooding prompted us to move a row of hydrangeas and they loved the change and looked terrific the rest of the Summer.  So this Spring I am starting from scratch and planting a peony bed.  I know it will be some time before they will produce blooms, but I need to get them started the sooner the better. 

My favorites from my last bed were:
"Raspberry Sundae" - which looks like a scoop of vanilla ice cream with raspberry sauce on top and in the bowl.
"Gay Paree" - that my husband bought and planted while I was in Paris with my parents.  It is magenta with fluffy cream petals in the center.

Do you have any peonies that I should consider?  What is your favorite?  Thanks and wish me luck!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Homemade Cookies

No, my kitchen isn't quite this antique (though I'd love to have an enamel-top baking table...), but I thought I would use this photograph to represent the ritual of baking cookies from scratch.

A friend broker her arm over the weekend (darn that ice!) and I am doing some baking in hopes that oatmeal chocolate chips cookies are, in fact, medicinal
Have you ever made the recipe from the inside lid of the Quaker tub?  I always skip the cinnamon and use chocolate chips in place of raisins and they always turn out delish!  

Friday, February 24, 2012

Living Green: Wallpaper that Makes A Room

I love House Beautiful magazine and this month they are celebrating "Living Green."   The issue showcases the use of green paint, wallpaper and accessories for the home.  On their Facebook Page, they've asked readers to post a photo showing how they have decorated with the color green.

Well, I couldn't resist showing them my dining room.  I had an entirely different color scheme in mind when I flipped to this page in the wallpaper book a few years ago.  I remember seeing this paper and saying, "Oh no." 

Nothing about it worked with the plans or fabrics I was thinking of for the space, but I gave in to it and said, "I'm papering the dining room Wellies green."  I loved it and I had never felt so sure of a decorating choice.  The wallpaper is "Oriental Spring Blossoms (GG4721)" by York.

We recently covered the 8 chair pads in a Ralph Lauren plaid that I found by chance and it looks as if they were part of the same collection.  Success! 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

2012 Color of the Year: Tangerine Tango

Tah-dah!  I have been scouring my photo archives looking for the perfect image to represent the color "Tangerine Tango" - Pantone's Color of the Year for 2012.  I finally found it in this gorgeous Poppy in my parent's garden.

As the color of the year, this shade will appear as popular touches in fashion, interior design and lifestyle accessories.  A wool blanket on a porch chair.  A silk scarf paired with a classic trench.  Bright napkins on a kitchen table. 

The first way that I've added a touch of tangerine to my life was to fill a ceramic bowl to the brim with actual tangerines.  It looks bright and cheery on the kitchen counter, all while making the room au courant. 

How will you incorporate tangerine into your life this year? 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Really Homemade Tomato Soup

Welcome! I write about the beauty of every day life: design, travel, collecting, crafts. Follow me on Facebook to get links to my blog posts in your FB news feed.

I was inspired to try this recipe for canned tomatoes when I saw an episode of Laura Calder's "French Food at Home" on the Cooking Channel last year.  So in August, I filled 4 jars with "Sweet 100" cherry tomatoes (from my pot of tomatoes on the patio) and off I went, with hopes of homemade tomato soup in the Winter.

Now fast forward...I opened my first jar yesterday!  To my relief, it gave a satisfying "whoop" when I broke the seal; my first time canning was a success.  The recipe calls for sealing small tomatoes, a piece of onion and a sprig of thyme in the jar.  When I poured the contents into the soup pot, I only had to add a bit of milk and salt, heat and then puree it into soup with an immersion blender. 

It worked like a charm and gave us 2 satisfying bowls of soup for a snowy Tuesday.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Sand and Shadow

Yes, the view was indeed spectacular.  All sky, sand and water.  My husband and I were at the scenic overlook at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore and I took some fabulous shots, that I shared here.

But today I wanted you to see another photo that I took that day.  It was a surprise to me when I took my eyes off the lake and really looked around.  A sweet silhouette that I couldn't plan if I tried.  It's graphic, romantic and interesting all at the same time.

The next time you are taking photographs on vacation, see if you can capture a shadow or silhouette of your loved ones.  It might just be your favorite picture.  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Quiet Winter Morning

I feel very lucky  - I am home and I have a plan.  My first priority has been to "freshen up" the house with thoughtful accessories placed just so.  All clutter has been removed, and I have been thinking of the areas of the house in layers.

I will expand on my approach in the coming days, but for now I want you to relax, as I have, on a quiet Winter morning.  I was having a cup of coffee this morning and was already enjoying the little changes I have made.  I thought you should see it. 

I brought this small lamp down from a spare room upstairs and placed it on my Carl Larsson "Flower Window" tray, along with a shell box and newsprint-covered bird.  They objects themselves don't really tell a story, but they work together to give a sense of calm, don't you think? 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Books As Art

In my life and business, I have always emphasized "looking at what I love," whether it is making watch bands with French ribbon (which makes checking the time so much more enjoyable) or turning my photographs into cover art for a modern tote (see here) - I like to use the materials that inspire me. 

It was this principle that inspired me haul all of my coffee table books into the living room this weekend to make an arrangement of "books as art."  I have sooooo many coffee table books - on gardening, decorating and cooking.  They were relegated to a shelf upstairs a few years ago and it feels wonderful to have the best of the best within reach. 

When decorating your home, I think it is important to have your collections on display.  They will lift your spirit and keep your home interesting.  And the best part about collecting books is that I can pick up one of these gems at any time and be inspired all over again. 
Do you use your books as a design element in your home?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Home Sweet Home

I am happy to be home-sweet-home after travelling most of Janaury and February.  It has been a wonderful (did you see my posts from Hawaii?), but it also feels good to be back.  I have read one too many decorating magazines while I was away and I can't wait to rearrange things in the house.

So today I am "getting out everything I own and putting it on the dining room table."  That's what I told my husband I was going to do when we were on the plane last night.  Picture frames, vases, tea sets, candles - I want to look at all of my accessories and find just the right spot for them. 

Whole businesses have been founded on this concept - "staging", "rearranging", "use what you have."  A team will come into your home, move rugs, exchange lamp shades and breathe life into your home.  All with what you already have on hand.  I would love having that job!  I think it is really fun to move objects around and highlight pieces in a new way.

Anyhoo, that is what I am doing to day.  Rearranging my home-sweet-home.  Join me?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!  I hope you have enjoyed celebrating the 12 Days of Valentine's Day with me.  A little extra frosting, a pink scarf, a loving gesture can only help to make us all "feel the love."  Wishing you a delightful day, Anne 

Monday, February 13, 2012

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 11, Romantic Dinner

It's Valentine's Eve and tomorrow is the big day.  Are you making your famous spaghetti sauce for a quiet dinner for two?  Are you sneaking off to an early dinner and a movie?  Or is Valentine's Day you night to rent "When Harry Met Sally" and enjoy a truly great movie.

Whatever you do, clear everything off of your kitchen table, get out some pink placemats and find something you can use as a centerpiece. 
Make your kitchen table look pretty for Valentine's Day and I guarantee that even your cereal will taste better tomorrow morning.   

Sunday, February 12, 2012

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 10, Love Letters

Don't we all walk to the mailbox with the hope of finding some real mail.  The day that I receive an actual postcard, card or letter is a banner day.  Don't you feel the same way?  And we save these treasures, don't we.  A hand-written note is something special.

Can you tell where this is going?  A one-of-a- kind gift from the heart.  Write a letter to someone that you treasure.  Tell them what you remember.  Tell them what you are looking forward to.  Then put a heart-shaped sticker on it and drop it in the mail.  Make this Valentine's Day a banner day.

Happy Day 10: Put some love in a letter.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 9, Molten Chocolate Cake

My oh my!  There has to be chocolate somewhere in your Valentine's celebration, right?  I made molten chocolate cakes for the first time and adapted the recipe from Epicurious.  What did I change?  I dropped the almond extract, used Hershey Special Dark cocoa powder and Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips and topped the individual masterpieces with a simple scoop of vanilla ice cream, instead of homemade coffee whipped cream.  It was delicious!

And of course, I crafted and made a set of heart-topped picks to dress up dessert and reinforce the Valentine spirit.  Just find some cute scrapbook paper and "punch" out hearts with a Martha Stewart heart craft punch.  Then glue them back-to-back onto toothpicks and Voila!  A custom pick worthy of the 12 Days of Valentine's Day.

Happy Day 9: Make sure to incorporate some chocolate into your week.

Friday, February 10, 2012

12 Days of Valentine's Day, Day 8: Heart Shaped Treats

I have always loved theme food, I can't help it.  Football-shaped brownies for a homecoming game tailgate, "Jell-O" beans at Easter - I think it is fun and I see no reason to limit myself.  But we don't always have time to make theme food, so this post is all about supporting local businesses that are trying to have some fun.

Did you know that Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme have heart-shaped doughnuts for sale through Valentine's Day?  I love that!  Time to pick some up on your way into the office or that volunteer meeting - it's just fun.

I found and bought this heart-shaped loaf of bread for Mother's Day (so cute!) and put it out to share during tea time with my parents.  The funny thing was that my mom didn't want to eat it, she wanted to keep it.  So it became our edible centerpiece, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Happy Day 8: Find yourself a heart-shaped pizza, doughnut or whatever seems fun. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

12 Days of Valentines Day: Day 7, Orchid Fever

It is Day 7, and you might be looking for a sugar-free way to spread a little love this Valentine's Day. May I suggest an orchid?

The most common orchid is called the phalaenopsis - it is the easiest to care for too. Just place 3 ice cubes on the moss once a week.  I saw a huge selection of orchids at the grocery store and identified this one as a phalaenopsis - oops!  I am glad the experts are helping me out - I've had 2 suggestions of the proper name and it looks like this particular orchid is a cymbidium.  The grocery store where I took the photograph was in Hawaii, and I realize now that it is on the mainland where I am so used to seeing phalaenopsis for sale, my mistake. 

I love orchids because each bloom lasts several weeks, and when one bloom is spent, several more will open up farther down the stem. They are lovely. The perfect gift for your parents, a roommate or your best buddy. Come on, everybody wants flowers!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

12 Days of Valentines Day: Day 6, Order Dessert!

Oh, come on, we're celebrating! Who doesn't need a slice of cake with pink icing?

I think that part of the 12 Days of Valentine's should be spending time with your friends. Call someone up and invite them out for coffee and cake. In the middle of catching up, you will both feel the love that makes Valentine's Day so important.

Happy Day 6: While you are ordering, get some cake!

This cake? Oh, this is the signature cake at The Royal Hawaiian resort on Waikiki. They describe it as "pink haupia cream layered between coconut-soaked sponge cake," - what a delight!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 5, Love My Purse and Everything in It

This 12 Days of Valentine's Day post is about putting things that you LOVE in your purse, like this package of heart print tissues or a new Revlon lipstick in "Love That Pink". 
Today someone actually asked me if I had a Kleenex, and when I handed them a heart-covered tissue, it was well received.  Why wouldn't you want something fun and whimsical?  Sometimes it is the little things that can brighten your day the most.
Speaking of brightening your day, what do you think about my new purse?  It is clear neon yellow and pink and gets a lot of attention whenever I carry it.  Dare I say that I love it?  Yes, yes I do!  I had told my friend that I was looking for an old fashioned "Queen of England" type purse in an unreasonable material.  When I saw this on the shelf and rushed over, I could see that she couldn't believe that I had found what I had made up.
I bought it at Forever 21 in Honolulu, but I can see that it is available online, so I assume that it is in shops across the country.  Are you feeling daring enough to carry a clear neon handbag, old chap? 

Monday, February 6, 2012

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 4 Conversation Starters

I found these darling conversation heart melamine plates last year at Michael's Craft Store, and was pleased to see that they have them in stock again this year.  I leave the kitchen table "set" with four aqua placemats and one of these plates in the center of each one. It makes the whole kitchen look cute.

Happy Day 4: Buy a little Valentine's whimsy at the craft or grocery store.  You'll be surprised at how good you will feel every time you see it.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 3, Heart Necklaces

Now is the time to pull out your heart necklace and wear it!  Is your heart pendant crystal, metal or glass?  My friend, Corinne, fell for this lovely koa wood heart that was hand-carved by a craftsman in Hawaii.  Koa wood is the second most common tree in the Hawaiian islands and is used for making exceptional ukuleles, guitars and jewelry.

Happy Day 3:  Find some Valentine-inspired treasures in your jewelry box and wear them.  Every outfit could use a little love. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 2 Sweet Sherbet

Two ingredients can make a big impact when served on a pretty plate.  This is raspberry sherbet (the kind that is only $1.64 for an entire round tub, plus it is delicious) softened a bit and then scooped into a heart-shaped tin mold and frozen.  I quickly ran the sides under hot tap water and let it release onto a heart-shaped mound of Oreo cookie crumbs that I had arranged on a "Royal Collection" tin plate from Windsor Castle.  Voila! 

Sometimes, presentation is everything.

Happy Day 2: Mold ice cream or sherbet into a heart-shaped delight.

Friday, February 3, 2012

12 Days of Valentine's Day: Day 1

When's the last time you knew you were going to have fun for 12 days straight?  I know, we don't often look at things that way, and that is precisely the beauty of celebrating the "12 Days of Valentine's Day".  It's a time when you do little things to show love for family, friends and while you're at it, yourself. Wear pink one day, make a cake, put out red placemats - everything counts when you are celebrating the fact that you love a lot of people. 

There is no set schedule; Nor is there a "number" relationship, meaning you don't have to sneak 10 Hershey kisses into a loved one's pocket just because it is Day 10 (but what a great idea!).  Nope, you just do what feels right (and fits into your schedule) on any particular day leading up to Valentine's Day.  When someone compliments your pink scarf, just smile and say that its in honor of the 12 Days of Valentine's Day.  If your neighbor questions your sudden gift of 6 muffins, cite your inspiration, The 12 Days of Valentine's Day.  Have fun with it.

I will post a suggestion, recipe or idea each day to inspire you.  Remember, this is a gift of the heart, so any gesture, no matter how small, will be appreciated.  You can also look up my blog posts from prior years to get ideas.
Happy Day 1.  Make a batch of muffins, just because. Then share them.