Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Wishing you a safe and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Darling Diorama

I never get tired of looking at miniatures and I thought it would be fun to show you a photo of one of the many diorama scenes that were once on display in the (now closed) La Samaritaine Department store in Paris.  I certainly hope someone saved the diorama series for a museum when the store closed - it is a handcrafted treasure.   

In this scene, a middle aged couple seems perfectly happy to read the morning paper in silence.  I can almost hear the rustle of the newspaper as Papa turns the page.  I love the heavy green velvet drapes and various framed paintings designed to give the room an air of opulence.  And have you ever seen framed wallpaper panels in a dollhouse?  This proves that a room can never be too small for good design.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Las Vegas: Pool Paradise

I am not a big fan of the typical Las Vegas activities.  However, when someone says Las Vegas in March to a girl in snowy Michigan, there is lots of appeal.  When Dan was sent to a work conference for a week at the MGM Grand earlier this year, I tagged along for fun.  We had dinner together each night and during the day I did some writing and explored many of the French patisseries in the area.  You can see all of my posts from this trip by clicking Las Vegas under the City Series section in the sidebar of my blog.

But in terms of the casino, I have to be honest, the smoke, fake strawberry air freshener and noise of the public areas was a lot to take.  I am lucky that I found sanctuary on the pool deck, which was deserted from early morning until about 11 am.

This gorgeous setting was where I spent my mornings reading, writing and blogging.  Neat, eh?  It was warm and quiet.  Not a soul around except for some lap swimmers in one of the other four pools.

When people asked me how my trip was, I say that I loved my time in Las Vegas, but probably not for the reason they think.  Sometimes you have to tweak things to make them right for you.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Flower Arrangement for the Stars

I have been taking "floral portraits" of my flower arrangements for years.  No background.  No distraction.  A photograph of the beauty of the composition.  This particular arrangement was for a friend's birthday and let two Paul McCartney roses and a sprig of oregano float inside a pale green hydrangea.  The vase is a one-of-a-kind vessel I decorated with crystals in grey and pink.

If I lived in Hollywood, California and made bouquets for the stars this is the type of arrangement that I'd want to be known for.  Pocket-size beauty.  A little piece of floral delight. 

Wouldn't receiving this arrangement make you feel like a movie star?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fall Cookie Cutters

Look what I'm planning!  The cutest Fall cookie ever!  Okay, a moose doesn't really represent Autumn, but if I am going to make gingerbread dough for squirrels, I want to get a few gingerbread moose out of the deal.

If you don't know by now, I collect cookie cutters.  They tug at my "love of baking" heartstrings and I simply can't resist getting a new one when I'm in a shop.  My next challenge is finding a cute way to display and protect them. 

The sweet pine tree on the left is my latest aquisition.  I see thick shortbread trees made with pale green cookie dough, with a chocolate chip for the trunk.

Do you collect cookie cutters?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Spice Puzzle

Wouldn't this make a great puzzle?  Last week I got a bee in my bonnet and decided to organize the cupboard next to my stove top.

Halfway through, the array of spices, salts and herbs was so overwhelming it almost looked pretty.  So I grabbed my camera and took this photo to show you.  This is real life - a combination of high hopes, wrong turns and a lot of spice.  

I was looking through my stack of Everyday Food magazines (December issues) to find a one-cookie-dough-many-ways recipe.  What I found was an advertisement by McCormick that said if you have any spices that were packaged in Baltimore, Maryland, they were at least 15 years old.  Yikes!  And the issue I was reading was from the 2006 issue, so add another 6 years to the past its prime calculation.  I had to know if any of my spices were 20 years old.

Yep.  I found 5 bottles from my wedding shower days!  I now know with certainty that I don't use: Allspice, Marjoram, Chervil or Savory.  Ha!  I pitched a few other bottles that seemed old and now I have more room on the behind the door adhesive spice rack for flavorings I do actually use and the rest of the containers are arranged by type in the cupboard. Victory.

Do you have any vintage spices?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hot Chocolate on a Stick

I was in shopping in Houston at a shop called British Isles when I found this product called Hot Chocolate Sticks.  I chose dark chocolate and the salesgirl told me that hot chocolate on a stick was a very popular seller lately.  She said that once her customers try them, they always come back for more.

When you take a block of Belgian chocolate and swirl it in a cup of hot milk until melted, how could you go wrong?  You can't; it was delicious.  I had been saving my hot chocolate stick for a chilly day and on a damp and rainy day last week it really hit the spot.

I think these sticks would be perfect kept in a jar and you could pull them out as a treat during book club or a knit night.  Hot Chocolate on a Stick, why didn't I think of that?   

Friday, October 19, 2012

Custom Timepiece

I don't scrapbook.  I make and sew and glue and play with everything under the sun, including paper, but in terms to "official" scrapbooking with papers and embellishments enhancing a photo album, it is not one of my hobbies.  That said, I love scrapbook stores.  I never know what I am going to find or how I am going to use it, but that is half the fun!

I have made little works of art by covering matchboxes with scrapbook paper and stickers, used scalloped paper as a doily and made my own cute clips using clothespins.  But this may be my favorite project of all.  A clock!  

I bought a sheet of Bo Bunny scrapbook paper that looked like a clock face and I   glued it to the front of a clock kit from the craft store.  It is as light as air and made of paper - but it is a real clock!  Now I have a custom timepiece hanging in my office that is just my style, beautiful and interesting.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pink Geraniums Leaves

How can it be?  Every time I look outside and see my pot of geraniums I am amazed.  The leaves are "turning" bright pink.  And I mean really bright pink.  I've never seen anything like it.  

I chose this variety (which now I really wish I had saved the label marker!) because of the pretty bright pink geranium bloom and 2-tone green leaf.  You can see how the leaves have been all Summer in this photo.  But would you ever expect, and have you ever seen, the leaves turn pink in the Fall?

It is an unexpected bonus in a plant that has bloomed for me for months.  Thanks, Mother Nature!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Brain Overload

My brain is overloaded.  I love it, of course, but I can hardly think straight.  I am about to finish my third book and I am deep into editing in an effort to keep my thoughts, photos and the feel of the book consistent.  I chose this photo because it is dreamy and beautiful, just like my book.   

First let me say that the contents are g-o-r-g-e-o-u-s.  I absolutely love it. The title is "Finding Delight - Ideas and Inspiration to Enhance Everyday Life."   And I am spending 8 hours a day reading, proofing and reorganizing my work so that reads and relays well.  

It will be available for sale in mid-November, in time for the holiday season, so stay tuned here.  I can't wait to show you!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Charleston: Historic Ironwork

Have you ever discovered something on a trip and then returned home to realize that it was only the tip of the iceberg?  In my walks around the city of Charleston, I noticed this beautiful iron gate with a gilded harp.  What an entrance.  The intricate ironwork of Christopher Werner is what made me stop and take notice, and upon reading about Hibernian Hall from home, I wish I could have known to go inside.  Flamboyant ballroom? Double Stairhall?

How I could I not know about Charleston's historic ironwork?  If I would have known, I would have done some research before I arrived.  I really enjoyed my time there - I was able to wander the city for the better part of a week a few years ago when my husband was in town for work.

I explored the beautiful shops on King Street, wandered an indie craft show and had my first bubble tea with made with tapioca pearls.  It was a lovely city to explore and I wanted to see more.  I would love to tour the gardens of Charleston one day.  Or be able to walk the streets when it is decorated for Christmas!  Have you ever been to Charleston?

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Last of the Garden

*Sigh* This may be the last bouquet of the season.  Isn't is gorgeous?  We have had a few frosty mornings and I went out to save the last few buds before the cold sets in.

For this bouquet, I took one of my hand painted glass jars (green polka dots!) and centered one reddish green hydrangea blossom and leaf over the opening.  This way I can use the hydrangea as a "frog" (a flower arranging tool that stabilizes an arrangement), and tuck the yellow and peach roses through the hydrangea petals and into the water.  It makes an arrangement of very few flowers look full and lush, don't you agree?  And the roses aren't going to slip or droop.  I added a sprig of ginger mint (green and cream variegated leaf) near the top for added dimension.

I love it!  And I'm not ready to give up on the roses, I still see buds coming!  If only Jack Frost can hold off a little longer...  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Make Your Own Snocaps

I was in the cake and candy supply store (Heinrichs in Centerline) when I thought of making homemade Snocaps or chocolate nonpareils.  I know it sounds a little crazy, but the ones at the movies are so small and I thought that they would make a beautiful candy to have in a dish at the holidays.  You know, when there is snow on the ground.

Anyhoo, I was talking to a saleswoman about how I would go about it when another saleswoman came by and blurted out, "Okay, here's what you do..."

She had tried this technique last Christmas (with a mixture of red, green and white nonpareils) and it was as if she had been waiting all year for someone to ask about it.

Her enthusiasm was warranted.  I just made them and they are fantastic!  Each piece of candy is a little bigger than a nickel.  They are the perfect size - big enough to look special and homemade, but not so big that you don't want to eat 2 or 3.
Okay, this is how you do it.

Homemade Snocap Nonpareils
Buy a pound or so of bulk Merckens Dark Chocolate Buttons for candy making and a container of white nonpareils at a cake and candy supply store.  Take a cookie sheet with sides and line it with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 200 degrees.  Lay out the chocolate buttons in rows and columns.  Turn off the oven and place the cookie sheet inside.  In about 5 minutes (watch carefully) the buttons will soften and become shiny, but still retain their shape.  Remove cookie sheet from the oven and set on hot pads.  With a spoon, sprinkle white nonpareils over the softened chocolate buttons until they are completely covered.  Set cookie sheet on a refrigerator shelf for a few minutes to help the candy set.  When buttons are hard, remove from refrigerator.  Remove each piece of candy, shake off any excess nonpareils and place in a storage container until you are ready to serve.  When all of the candies have been removed, pick up edges of parchment paper and ease extra nonpareils back into the nonpareil container to use for the next batch.  Put the parchment paper back on the cookie sheet, turn the oven back on and repeat steps.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Caramel Chocolate dipped Apple

I was wrong, completely.  I had seen these overloaded apples in stores for years and thought that they were more of a culinary gimmick than a treat.  That is until I tried one!  Someone brought one to us from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Company and with knife in hand, we stood at the counter eating it until every last bit was gone.  Yum!

I thought that caramel, 2 kinds of chocolate and pecans would be overkill for a simple apple, but she can take it!  If you are looking for a sweet hostess gift to bring a friend this Fall, consider getting her an overloaded apple.  She will either know instantly how smart you are or learn quickly, like I did. Happy Fall! 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Apple Peeler Corer Slicer

Hands down, this is my favorite seasonal kitchen gadget, an apple peeler corer slicer.

I was working a shift at our church's rummage sale and happened to find these 2 great pieces - a super cute kiwi green Pyrex bowl (remember my blog post about starting a Pyrex collection?) and a never-been-used apple peeler corer slicer.  I bought both of these beauties for $7 total.  The universe is telling me it's time to make my famous apple pie!

I bought my first apple peeler corer slicer at least 15 years ago at a Pampered Chef party.  I loved it and used it many times a year, to make quick and easy apple pies.  You basically jam an apple onto the spear end and then crank the lever as the apple spins past a peeler and spiral slicer.  It works like a dream and gives you apples ready for pies/tarts/muffins in no time at all.

My sister-in-law in Texas thought that this machine was right up my alley and gave me one for Christmas a few years ago.  I tucked it away in the basement and when my first machine grew tired and dull, I happily pitched it and pulled out the one in my basement.  

It feels good, after today's shopping success, to know that I have a perfect (and practically free) lady-in-waiting ready for the next swap out.  But honestly, I would pay full price for it any day of the week.  It is a fantastic tool that saves your hands a lot of work and it very fun to operate with kids around - everybody gets a turn at the crank! 

Don't you think it's time to make an apple pie!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Russian Tea

When I was growing up, one of my mother's friends often made me a cup of Russian Tea.  It was delicious, warming and made me feel very worldly and grown up.  As an adult, I have run into this homemade concoction every once in a while, but everyone calls it Friendship Tea.  I think that is because the ingredients can be assembled and given in a jar as a gift.  

I want to share this simple recipe with you and encourage you to mix up a batch.  It is a combination of dry ingredients that you can keep in a jar in the pantry almost indefinitely and make yourself a cup whenever you are in the mood to read Anna Karenina.  Speaking of which, have you seen the movie trailers for the movie, Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley set to debut this November? I can't wait!

I also love this hot drink because it have Vitamin C and a bit of caffeine (or not, depending on the instant tea you use) for a lift on a cold afternoon.

Russian Tea

1 cup of Tang (instant orange drink)
1 cup of instant Lemonade Mix
1/2 c of instant Tea (decaf or regular)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix all of the ingredients together.  To serve, place 1 Tablespoon in a cup and fill with hot water, stir and enjoy.  You may use more or less of the mix, according to taste.  

When I have one on hand, I add a slice of real orange to the mug.  It looks so pretty!  This mug is by Emma Bridgewater and is in the pattern called, "Black Toast."

Monday, October 8, 2012

It's So You

"And I have to have one of these, because it is so you."

The woman talking was a new customer at an art show.  I had never met her before and I hadn't explained anything in my booth to her, yet she seemed to feel very connected to me.  Did she read my blog?  Did she own my books?  Sometimes when you are an artist and you "put yourself out there," it's impossible to know the relationship you have with someone in their mind.

It was the end of the show and she was buying an armful of my petite flower arrangements in my hand-painted jam jar vases.  
And then she selected one of the vases that showcased an ANA Pineapple Sage DELIGHT jam label (shown above).  I had decided to design my own jam labels as if I had a jam company, had eaten all of the jam and was now repurposing the jar.  It amused me to no end and it was indeed my favorite vase.  But how did she know that it was so "me?"  A fun and flattering mystery.

What makes something in your house so "you?"

Friday, October 5, 2012

Palmolive Fresh Infusions Dishwashing Liquid

"What's that, Madge? I'm soaking in it?!"

Ha! I couldn't get that old Palmolive ad out of my head when I saw their new line of gorgeous dishwashing liquid called "Fresh Infusions" by Palmolive.  I saw this display at Target and bought one of each.

I am halfway through the Lime Basil (green) and I love the scent and am really impressed by how long the bubbles last.  I am that girl that likes to have a sudsy sink in the kitchen.  In the morning, I'll add a squirt of dishwashing liquid to one section of the kitchen sink and fill it with hot water, just for the heck of it.  It makes the kitchen smell good and I have a ready spot to put any dirty dish or spoon throughout the day.  Well, in this unofficial test kitchen, the bubbles smell heavenly and last a really long time.

The other choices are Lemon Thyme (yellow) and Ginger White Tea (Pink).  I hope that they come out with a special collection for the holidays.  I'd like: Gingerbread or Rosemary - what about you?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Shipshewana: Lemon Meringue Pie is a Show Stopper

I was on board the minute Barb mentioned Lemon Meringue pie.  Long before she started describing the 12-inch high meringue peaks and the gorgeous lemon filling.  I love lemons and I was ready for something sweet.

Would you believe me if I told you that I ate half of my "to go" piece before we got back to the car?  You see earlier in the day we had a nice homemade lunch at the Blue Gate Restaurant, and Barb showed us their famous lemon meringue pie in the bakery case next door on our way out.  I was a goner.

After a full day of wandering in and out of the shops in Shipshewana, we  did eventually stop back at the Blue Gate Bakery for a slice.  And Barb bought a whole pie to take back to her family - it is magnificent in person.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Shipshewana: Native American Feather Lollipops

Sometimes my blog posts just fall into my lap.  I mean really, as a candy lover, could I make up anything more interesting to show you?  Not a chance.
I was in Aunt Millie's Candy Shop in the Davis Mercantile (same building as the Lolly's Fabrics) in Shipshewana when I saw him.  A beautiful statue of a Native American man wearing a full headdress of feather lollipops.  It was as beautiful as it was unexpected.  I was so taken with the overall effect of the display that I didn't buy a handful of feathers.  

What was I thinking?  They would look so beautiful grouped on a Thanksgiving buffet. Or as a treat for kids who didn't want pumpkin pie?  I did include a link (click "feather lollipops" above) where you can buy an entire box of them online.  Are you thinking what I'm thinking?  If you want to split a box, let me know!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Shipshewana: Amish Cow or Gossip Girl?

Amish cows are fabulous.  Can you see the brown beauty that started walking toward me when we pulled off the road?  She "moo-ed" so much it sounded like she was trying to chit-chat and I'm sure she thought I could stay and gossip over the fence.  But alas, my friends were waiting in the car, so I took a few photographs of her picturesque farm and went on my way.

I had spotted this dairy farm on the way into Shipshewana and put it on our "must photograph" list for the day.  On weekends, Amish shops are only open on Saturday and they close promptly at five o'clock, so we needed to prioritize shops over cows.  Luckily the weather held and after a wonderful day wandering Shipshewana, I was able to capture the cows in the long shadows of afternoon sunlight.

Photos like this are the souvenirs that I treasure.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Shipshewana: Quilt Country

I knew that I was in the right place when I saw a wooden quilt, displayed as art, on a barn.  Isn't it fantastic?  I was in Amish country in northern Indiana with my friends last weekend and was on the hunt for fabric.  I was also looking forward to seeing some hand-crafted Amish quilts.

In my pre-trip prep, my mom told me that she had an Amish quilt! Who knew?  When she described it, I knew exactly which one she was talking about (she had been to Shipshewana with my Dad about 20 years ago) and I look forward to getting back up to the cottage soon to take a closer look at it. 

We had to fit all things Amish into one day (stores are closed on Sunday) and although I didn't get to a quilt shop, I did get to look at some wonderful fabric stores.  I bought 2 companion patterns of cotton quilting fabric at A Little Bit of Lolly's, both are by Lakehouse and have French pastries on a dreamy vintage pink background.  
This is a close up of the fabric scraps for sale at Lolly's. I thought that this would make a great puzzle!