Saturday, November 29, 2008

Advent Calendars

With only a few days until December 1st, I thought I would talk about advent calendars. Each morning you open a numbered flap on the advent calendar to reveal a Christmas image. There are so many sweet designs to choose from in retail stores, but I also want you to see a few unique examples at Blumchen, an online resource for Old World holiday papers and ornaments.

This advent calendar is actually a house by Martha Stewart Crafts. Behind each numbered panel on the roof is a compartment for candy & prizes. It was easy to assemble and I absolutely love how it looks in my dining room. I've actually decided to count down to Christmas on another advent calendar in my kitchen...I just can't bring myself to alter this roof line!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Vintage Teacup

What am I planning for January? Tiny blossoms in a vintage teacup! The man at the garden center told me that these Muscari "Valerie Finnis" bulbs need 6 weeks of cold sleep and then can be brought out into a warm room to grow. I have planted them in this vintage teacup (look at the unusual cup shape!) and it is now tucked away in the refrigerator. Just after New Years, I'll bring it out and let the warm sunshine in my family room work its magic.

It is my own little Secret Garden.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sugar Cubes

Aren't these sweet? I found little royal icing sugar decorations at our local cake supply store (featured last year as Sugar Secrets) and "glued" them to sugar cubes with Wilton white cookie icing. I am bringing them to my sister-in-law's house for Thanksgiving. Who wouldn't love to drop one of these in their coffee?

Would you like to make your own set for Christmas? You can buy similar royal icing decorations here. You may want to use sugar tablets, which are bigger and offer a little more real estate for your decorations.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Grocery Shopping

Today is my favorite day to go grocery shopping. Seriously. There is a real sense of community in a bustling store the day before Thanksgiving. It is the only day that everyone has generally the same items in their cart: canned cranberry - check. pumpkin pie filling - check. french fried onions - check. The similarity makes me smile.

And there is always one person staring at an empty shelf in disbelief. They are incapacitated by the thought that they can't get (insert food item here). You can tell there is no "Plan B" for their recipe and they don't know what to do. I try to offer alternatives when I can.

I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and may your store shelves be full!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Listen Carefully

You know the old adage that if you hold a seashell to your ear you can hear the ocean? It is a wonderful metaphor for the power of listening. As you head out into the hustle bustle of travel, turkeys and timelines, remember to treasure what you hear from family and friends. The jokes, stories and trials of life have "time to be told" over a long dinner. Although it may seem like everyday conversation, stories told in person are treasures. Listen carefully.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Beautiful Leaves

I wanted to show you that even teeny-tiny leaves can change color for the season. Can you believe how small these leaves are? I placed them next to my covered matchboxes to show some scale (Brooklyn postmark is the size of a quarter!).

Speaking of leaves, I wonder if you have ever used French Cheese Leaves on an appetizer platter? If you are scheduled to bring an appetizer to your holiday feast this week, you can find French cheese leaves in many housewares stores (like Bed, Bath and Beyond). Select a pretty platter, scatter a few leaves and then place bunches of grapes around your appetizer (I am imagining something like this easy, but beautiful, Baked Brie).

Remember, in many cases, presentation is everything. Make them ohhh and ahhh.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Swedish Christmas Fair

I was so lucky to be able to go to a Swedish Christmas Fair! I happened to notice a sign for it last night and by 10AM today I was drinking glogg and buying a pale wooden tray (featuring a tangle of blueberries & branches) from a woman dressed head-to-toe in traditional Swedish garb.

And these cookies! A mother/daughter team were decorating these beautiful gingerbread heart cookie ornaments. Yes, ornaments. See the hole at the top? You can buy smaller versions of these cookies at IKEA and bedeck your own tree this year.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ginger Cakes

Mmmm...Ginger Cakes with Cream Cheese frosting. I make these super-delicious cakes with Betty Crocker gingerbread cake and cookie mix. When I got married, my everything-from-scratch grandmother told me that she always used this mix to make her gingerbread cookies. She said that this cookie dough (follow the roll & cut instructions on the side) could not be beat. So naturally, this is the mix that I use every year to make my scores of gingerbread men. Until the year the stores ran low. Seriously, I had to scour the local markets looking for (what felt like) the last 6 boxes of Betty Crocker gingerbread mix. So now I buy them when I see them and always have a few on hand. If you go to the Betty Crocker website, this mix is strangely absent. Is it limited edition? Seasonal? Top secret? All I know is that in addition to gingerbread men, it makes wonderful ginger cakes. Follow the cake instructions, bake in a mini-cupcake tin at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, frost with a swirl of cream cheese frosting (also compliments of Betty) and then sprinkle a few Australian Ginger People candied ginger chips on top. It is a dessert they won't forget.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Laundry Day

How many people really love their laundry room? I do! It is a tiny room right off the family room (which means it is in plain sight of any company when the door is ajar) so I did I few extra things to make it cute. I covered the walls with Laura Ashley check wallpaper and hung a Ballard Designs shelf over the washer & dryer. Can you see how the lidded dish matches the wallpaper? I was invited to a team-building event at a paint-your-own-pottery place one year. I thought to myself, if I'm going to have this chance to make custom pottery, I'd better make it good! So I modeled the color and spacing off a scrap of my wallpaper and it has been enhancing "laundry day" ever since.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dining at Monticello

I have always loved fine china. Covered vegetables, soup tureens, cake plates and formal tea services are so pretty on display. Every year I tell myself that I will entertain more with the dishes that I love so much.
For Thomas Jefferson, every day at Monticello was a special occasion. This photo (peeking into the Tea Room) shows the table set for afternoon tea.
It was a beautiful day and I love how the arched detail of the walkway reflects trees into the room.
I have added, Dining at Monticello, to my cookbook collection, so that I can learn more about the recipes, china patterns and traditions of dining at Jefferson's magnificent estate.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Air Traffic Control

This morning, my Dad & I went to a "meeting" of a radio-controlled flying club. My uncle is a model plane enthusiast who has been making and flying for years, so we went to see his club "take off." At least fifty men were on the sidelines and in the stands watching ten or more radio-controlled airplanes fly over an enormous indoor soccer field. It was fascinating. Time stood still for these men as they discussed engines, rudders, props and wings while tiny planes whizzed by. It was easy to imagine them as eight-year-old boys discovering model airplanes for the first time. They were happy then, and have enjoyed it every day since. Delight is everywhere.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Isn't this amazing? A bright Nevada sky reflected in the windows of The Venetian in Las Vegas. I took this picture last Spring when I tagged along on my husband's business trip.

Want to know what icon says Las Vegas to me? Not showgirls or slot machines, but hotel rooms (The Venetian has over 4,000!). Think of the guests staring out these windows wondering when they're going to "strike it rich."

Did I hit the jackpot when I was in Las Vegas? Yes, in my own way. I discovered golf ball-shaped lip balm by Ballmania, took photographs from the city's "Eiffel Tower" and ate aqua M&M's at the M&M World store. How could I not consider myself a winner?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Secret Source

I was drooling over this creme brulee photo (from a luncheon I attended) and realized that I hadn't mentioned my secret source for making beautiful creme brulee at home.

Dean Jacob's Creme Brulee Quick Mix works like a dream and is delicious. The sugar is included and the caramelizing can be done under the broiler or with a culinary torch. You can even buy a Dean Jacobs creme brulee kit that includes four ramekins and a torch!

Add fresh berries, a swirl of ReddiWip and top with a Pirouette cookie. Voila! Your secret is safe with me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Artfully Arranged

Can you imagine serving this at your next party? What a grand presentation. Perfect slices of fruit & meat artfully arranged in tiers. I took this photo at Fauchon on the Place de la Madeleine in Paris. This particular day we went inside and bought fancy boxed lunches (mine had a hard-boiled quail egg sliced atop the sandwich) and had a picnic outside. After lunch, we strolled the flower stalls and I took this photo. What a day!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Pumpkins to Pilgrims

Thanksgiving is 2 weeks away and things are slowing changing from pumpkins to pilgrims. It's time to hang a bay leaf wreath in your kitchen. Have you seen one? It is a beautiful way to add a "holiday meals are coming" feel to the kitchen.

It's also fun to pull off a leaf and drop it in a big pot of soup on the stove.

Once your wreath is hung you'll want to put bay leaves in everything, so I'm including a bay leaf cooking link.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Charmed, I'm sure

Viva la Girl Scouts! I had so much fun teaching the "jewelry making" badge to my neighbor's Girl Scout troop. I designed a charm necklace that incorporates the symbols and traditions of the Girl Scout organization. Plus we used buttons, ribbons and beads to tell a "story." A pearl for leadership, a bead for each brother or sister, a "bee" for their years in the Brownies. The charms could symbolize whatever the girls wanted. I overheard someone ask, "What did we say the button stands for?" Her friend replied, "Buttons stand for friendship, because a circle never ends."

Is that cute, or what?

I had imagined the project, the tools, the parent participation (even my Mom came!), but I had not thought through to the end. When 21 girls stood for a picture all wearing their new Girl Scout charm necklaces. Priceless!

Monday, November 10, 2008


Have you heard of scherenschnitte? It is the art of paper cutting that originated in Germany & Switzerland in the 1500's. This Summer, I was able to meet artist Marie-Helene Grabman and see her scherenschnitte work up close. Each framed piece of paper cutting is a "moment" relayed in tiny paper cuts - it was breathtaking. You can see at another artist's scherenschnitte here.

I chose this photograph because the trees look just like scherenschnitte.

Life imitating art.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Country Living Entrepreneurs

I have loved Country Living magazine for almost 20 years, so it was an enormous thrill to be selected as one of their 2007 Women Entrepreneurs after pitching my business to their editors. Want to see something cool? My profile is part of Country Living's web page! Click this link to see (or type Anne Reeves into their search box - so cool!).

The current issue of Country Living announces the Pitch Your Product winners for 2008. Congratulations to this year's Country Living women entrepreneurs!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Jewelry Making

The Garden Club Girls asked me to teach a badge at their Girl Scout meeting this month! What fun. I have been pouring through my baubles and have come up with the perfect project for 12-year-old girls. A charm necklace! I am going to submit the design for publication and when it gets published I will link you to it. I think the girls will love it. As I was shopping for the supplies, the ladies at Micheals saw what I was up to and were all a-buzz. That's my specialty, you know, making accessories that "drive girls crazy."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Lavender Roses

I love how this looks. The placemat is made of laser cut wool felt, which has been the rage in Europe for a while now. I bought just one placemat to use as a "stage" for flower arrangements and little vignettes. You can shop for similar placemats here.

Remember how I said grocery store flowers would have to do since my garden has been put to bed? These antique lavender roses (in a Laura Ashley crock) were purchased on a milk run last week. They looked so pretty in the gray light of November, I wanted to show you.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The United States of Jello

After such a big election, I wanted to encourage you to have a patriotic dinner. Maybe you could even make the United States of Jello. Seriously. My Mom has a mold of the continental United States that she makes every year for the 4th of July. It is the size of a 13 x 9 pan and has indentations that show the borders of each state. The kids crack themselves up by eating "the Midwest" or by trying to take a serving of just Colorado. Anyhoo, it doesn't look like the Jello website has that mold anymore (it looks like this), but you could order an American Flag.
Democracy never tasted so good. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Meet my new living room pillow.
Did I get your attention with "new" and "pillow?" This is obviously an old painting, right? You are actually looking at a postcard from 1909. I bought it at an antique store and I think you'll get a kick out of the message.

"Dear Sister, Received postal. Was glad to hear from you. I am coming to Sparta (Michigan) Saturday. Ma said Ellen Wilson has a white sweater jacket. Answer soon. From, WS"

Ah, girls haven't changed so much in 100 years. We still love clothes and want to talk about what's in style. However, it was the beautiful pastoral scene on the front that grabbed me. I have scanned this postcard and printed it on a piece of 8.5 x 11 ink jet fabric. By tonight, I'll have a small pillow with velvet backing in my living room. It is a modern way to have a vintage touch.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Sort & Share

Is your armoire overflowing? As I sort and organize for the holidays (I really turn the house upside-down with my Christmas decorating), I have started to accumulate a pile for donation. There are many ways to put resources back to the community and thought you might be interested in what I have found in the magazines. Domino magazine spotlights these organizations for shoes, clothing and media donations. Real Simple magazine has a long list of charities that could use old shoes, eyeglasses, even business suits. This week I am sorting and sharing.