Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Orchid Heaven

  The American Orchid Society has a Visitors Center and Botanical Garden in Delray Beach, Florida that is truly worth a visit. The Greenhouse has 5,000 orchids and tropical plants set off by a 14-foot-tall waterfall, footbridge and cork tree that add dimension to the ever-changing floral display. 

The grounds include a Jungle and Florida native plants garden as well as a gift shop loaded with orchid swag. I particularly like that you receive a "Plants in Bloom" guide sheet dated that morning - you know exactly what is blooming.

Have you ever bought a simple Phalaenopsis orchid? They are easy to care for and bloom for months - perfect for a formal living room.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Art is Relative: Using Dollhouse Seed Packets as Art

Last week I put one of my favorite tea sets out on display. The set is called The Vert by Villeroy & Boch and it is a beautiful shade of green. 

I also framed a collection of dollhouse seed packets and placed it on the tea cart. Yes, you read that right. 
Those are tiny seed packets that can be cut, folded and displayed in a dollhouse greenhouse. 

I love how graphic they look on black and think they make a beautiful piece of art. 
I think you'll agree, art is relative.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Book Sculpture

For years I have been interested in the art of turning old books into sculpture by making exact repetitive folds in the pages. The examples I have seen are truly spectacular - little works of art. Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion had an article full of beautiful examples of book sculpture along with some basic instructions.  If there was a link, I'd share it, but no such luck!

 Someday when my library has a book sale, I will try to find an old copy of Nancy Drew and make one for myself. Yesterday, for the first time, I saw some of these sculptures for sale...price tag $500 each.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Architectural Detail

Welcome home! 

Can you imagine pulling up the driveway for your reservation at a...castle? 

Now run as a hotel, Chateau des Monthairons, is 12 km south of Verdun in the French countryside. I stayed here before the season began and it was practically deserted. 

I was free to roam about taking pictures and I was in seventh heaven. Lace panel windows, grand staircases and architectural details everywhere. 

From my window, you could even see stripes of yellow mustard fields (hence the town named Dijon on our route) blooming in the distance. During World War I, this chateau served as a French field hospital. Framed black & white photos from that era line the sitting room walls. Just imagine.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Outdoor Dining

Everything tastes better outside. I took this photo at the Amazon Grill on Westheimer in Houston. A super-cool casual Latin American restaurant with a huge outdoor patio. Have you noticed all of the magazines spotlighting Houston just after I returned? Lucky (Dec '07) and Domino (Feb '08, page 15-17) are the latest to pack pages full of cool new shops in Houston. Now I'll have to wait a whole year to check them out. To stay organized, I keep a city file of stores that I want to visit. My Houston folder just got a little thicker.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Zen Garden

I love the lines and the elements in balance in this picture. I took it of a zen-like garden just outside of the Japanese tea house at the Morikami museum.

I also love how a simple rain chain can dominate a picture. Have you ever seen one of these? It is a waterfall of sorts, directing rain water from the roof down to a reservoir below. Enjoy the peace.

Card Catalog

I saw this magical catalog card generator and I thought you would think it was cool. You simply go to and you can make your own. I hope to be published soon and have a real library listing, but for now...

Needlepoint Sandals

I have to tell you about something really neat that I am working on...needlepoint sandals. They have a Dr. Scholl-style wooden base and I am stitching the flowers in shades of pink, apricot & green with a vibrant orange background - so cute! They are made by a company called Birds of a Feather

The link takes you to the one I am working on called "Summer Sandals." I started this project in a class taught by Shay Pendray here in Michigan and I have been taking my sweet time stitching them. 

 The plan is for them to be complete by June, so if you see me this Spring...look at my feet!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Charm Bracelets

Yesterday there was a package on my doorstep! The book Charmed Bracelets finally arrived and it is fantastic. Full of beautiful charms and loaded with inspiring photos. At this point, I think I am collecting entire charm bracelets, instead of just the charms. I have one of Hawaiian symbols (My favorite is the Outrigger canoe) and another of silver travel icons. I started my first charm bracelet at twelve, when my parents & I visited my brother who was studying overseas. I bought a little gold-plate charm for each country as we drove around Europe. My latest is all purses, which I started in 2003 when I founded my purse brand, ANA. Do you have a charm bracelet? It is time to get it out and wear it. They spark wonderful conversations and truly tell a story. As I was looking up this link for you (65,000+ charms on Amazon!) I started shopping again...uh oh.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Women Entrepreneurs

Start making your plans. The Country Living Women Entrepreneurs event in Chicago is exactly 2 months from today and I think you should come. I really enjoyed this event last year - a great guest speaker (Barbara Baekgaard of Vera Bradley), 2 panels giving practical business/web commerce advice, a room full of women entrepreneurs/business hopefuls...and you get a super cute gift bag, I mean, come on!
After applying, I was chosen to participate in the "Pitch Your Product" segment and was selected by the Country Living editors as one of the nine winners - what an amazing experience. So, Country Living makes me happy and I'm coming back for more!
This year, the guest speaker is exquisite paper & gift designer, Anna Griffin. Coincidentally, I sent one of her designs, a paper mailbox, to my subscribers (Subscribe To Delight) back in April 2006. I cannot wait to meet Anna Griffin and tell her myself! She understands delight.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Virtual Bookshelf

I had so many books on my "to do" list that I had to move the stack off my nightstand just to stop freaking myself out. When will I have time to read all these wonderful books? I want to point you to a neat website for readers, Shelfari. It gives you a place to sort & store the books you've read/are reading/and hope to read. Finally a place to keep the list of "must read" titles and a way to remember your faves from 2008. I especially like that the "bookshelf" shows a color picture of the book jacket. There is an extensive networking aspect, too, where you can review & recommend books to your friends etc. But for now, all I need is a tidy little virtual bookshelf. Thanks for showing me, Kerry!

This is a snapshot of my Shelfari bookshelf...

Monday, January 14, 2008

Rosemary Powder

I have a terrific dinner recipe to recommend: Rachel Ray's Citrus & Rosemary Grilled Pork Chops. I serve it with roasted red skin potatoes and fresh sauteed spinach and it's a hit every time. I just bought rosemary powder (have you ever seen rosemary powder?) from an amazing spice resource, Penzeys, and I am going to substitute it for the rosemary in this recipe. I think it will imbue more flavor than dried rosemary leaves, and it will be easier to have on hand than fresh.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Tea & Tapioca

An unexpected way to serve tea...with tapioca! I first went to Teavana on King Street in Charleston in 2005 and had my first Bubble Tea (iced tea with tapioca pearls floating in it.) Bubble Tea is served over ice and comes with an extra wide straw to suck the tapioca pearls through - the pearls absorb the flavor of the drink and become like tea-flavored gummy bears. Truly strange and kind of fun. Now I am seeing tea & tapioca all over the place, so I know the trend is spreading. The Teahouse on Westheimer in Houston serves iced tea drinks like "Pineapple Gel Green Tea with Cream", "Lavender Green Tea with Gelatin" and "Herbal Jelly Green Tea" - the menu, the drinks, the flavors all seem very comic book to me. After the drink is blended, the cup is literally sealed shut with a graphic plastic disc. I wish I could have stayed longer and tried them all! What was my choice? "Ginger Lemon Green Tea with Tapioca Pearls."

Thursday, January 10, 2008


What's on your walls? Posters used to mean a group shot of Duran Duran or a palm tree back lit with a Hawaiian sunset, but those days are over. This rose (an "Eden" climber) is hanging in my office - a glorious 20 x 30 print of a photograph that I took in 2005. Nothing could be more inspirational or beautiful to me. Photo posters are a simple, fast & inexpensive way to customize your space - I make mine online at Kodak Gallery. You will be surprised at how dramatic a simple photograph can be - try it! I guarantee it will be the one thing your guests comment on.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sushi in Paris

For Christmas, I received an unexpected gift. A sushi making kit ("Simply Sushi" by Steven Pallet) complete with dishes, little bowls, chopsticks, cookbook & DVD. I am not sure how often I will make my own sushi, but I love this gift and the information in it is filling in some gaps for me. The first time I had sushi was at the rooftop restaurant (Georges Restaurant) at the Museum of Modern Art in Paris. The restaurant is very cool with molded plastic banquets and clear glass tables. The restaurant's glass walls look down at the Pompidou Center piazza below - what a view! One time, I was seated next to a Japanese couple as the woman's sushi arrived. I smiled and she burst out, "I know, I am in Paris and I am ordering sushi like I am at home!" I answered that I had smiled because her lunch looked so beautiful. I told her that I had never had sushi before because I was reluctant to try raw fish. She encouraged me to order the vegetarian sushi (below) and it was delicious.

It has become a tradition and every time I'm in Paris, I have sushi on the roof! Now as for any sushi making, I'll let you know how it turns out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Vacation Spots

Need a vacation? What about escaping to your living room? The latest Ana's DELIGHT magazine cover features the article "Vacation Spots: Places to Relax in Your Own Home." I believe that creating beautiful areas in your home to "rest your eyes" can offer a type of vacation. A moment of beauty can restore you more than you know. Would you like to walk around with this sentiment? Get yourself a DELIGHT tote and you can look at something beautiful all day long. Planning a real vacation?
Travel & Leisure just published their list of the 500 Best Hotels Around the World. Paris, anyone?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Jane Austen Film Festival

Ahhh...winter with Elizabeth, Emma and all the girls from Jane Austen's six most popular novels. Masterpiece Theatre on PBS brings "The Complete Jane Austen" collection to our television sets starting with Persuasion on January 13th . This movie series (Jan 13 - March 30) will encourage some cozy winter nights...start a fire, pick up some knitting and settle in for a satisfying whirl of love, misunderstandings and, of course, foolish pride. My pick? The unparalleled Pride & Prejudice starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy showing Feb 10th - perfect for The 12 Days of Valentine's Day.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Kappa Alpha Theta Article

My sorority alumnae group (Kappa Alpha Theta/Michigan State) has written an article about me in their latest publication. It talks about my Country Living award, how I started my first business, ANA, and what I hope the future brings. They did a really nice job. The entire interview was conducted by email - it was kind of like doing one of those "friendship surveys" (Beach or Ski Trip? Real tree or Artificial?) only you know your answers will go in print! Fun, eh?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Simple Salt Scrub

For years I planned an annual "Winter Weekend" getaway in Northern Michigan for my girlfriends. I made travel packets, planned shopping itineraries, arranged dinner reservations - I was a regular Julie McCoy. It was really fun - one year we had 21 women participate. Our "Welcome Party" was always late on Friday night. We'd gather in one condo for ice cream drinks & a simple craft that I had arranged. A big hit was the "Simple Salt Scrub" and with the dry winter months ahead, I wanted to share it with you. Enjoy!

Mix 3 cups coarse kosher salt, 1 cup safflower oil and 8 drops of your favorite essential oil (I like rosemary or lavender) into a paste. Transfer your salt scrub into a glass or plastic container & store in a cool, dry place. To use, massage approx. 2 Tablespoons of salt scrub into your hands and cuticles. Rinse off with warm water & pat dry. Your hands will be so soft. (Do not use if you have a small cut, as the salt may sting.)

Friday, January 4, 2008

The 12 Days of Valentine's Day

I am mentioning this now so that you can start thinking about it...The 12 Days of Valentine's Day are coming. Every year I celebrate my favorite holiday with a string of lovely days. One day I might make heart-shaped waffles. Another day I'll mail vintage-style valentine postcards to friends out of state. Simple & inexpensive gestures to make myself and others happy. Sound fun? All it takes are a few cute items that are showing up in stores now and the spirit of celebrating love & friendship. Heart-shaped paper clips on your out-going office work - tell me that your co-workers won't love it! Or make some strawberry muffins and share them with your neighbor. Have fun with it and keep your eye out. It all starts on February 3rd. Pass it on!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Warm Up America

Have you got a yarn collection? You can make a quick difference by knitting or crocheting 7 x 9 inch squares and mailing them to Warm Up America, a volunteer organization that makes and distributes handmade blankets to those in need. Michaels has joined the effort and provides instructions and collection bins in-store. Find out more about contributing through Michaels here. This small gesture can literally make someone warm all over. Happy New Year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Helicopter Shots

Today had to be the day that photographers buzzed Michigan in helicopters and got their January & February calendar shots. It was the perfect winter day...clear & cold. I stayed indoors with a cup of English Breakfast and poured over a Christmas present, The Design Encyclopedia from the Museum of Modern Art. 132 pages of design history compiled in one place. I'd say it was the perfect gift for me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Winter White

The first twelve hours of 2008 brought us 12 inches of snow. The spotlight in the front yard was lost under the drifts and heat from the beam of light melted a beautiful pattern. This is winter white. Fresh snow always reminds me of Laura Ingalls Wilder and how her family made "Sugar on Snow" after a winter storm. Have you tried it? Sticky and sweet, it turns a blizzard into a special occassion.