Thursday, April 30, 2009

Garmin Europe

I love my Garmin Nuvi. It is a pocket-size navigation system that clips to your car dashboard and gives your location, travel routes and even area landmarks. I love it. I type in an address of a house or store and can drive worry-free to my destination. No more having to call "DanStar" (my husband-version of the automotive help system "OnStar) when I am lost.

But the Garmin Nuvi can also be unclipped from the dashboard and dropped in your purse for navigating cities on foot. So with our trip to Paris coming up and maybe some international business trips on the horizon, we thought that we should buy the Garmin component for Europe.

This is it. A tiny black piece that holds all of the streets of Europe on it. It is simply amazing and I just had to show you.

What do I answer to now? "Bond...James Bond."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Purses & Shoes

Ahhh...a modern interpretation of an old style rule...
"Your handbag must match your shoes!"

On April Fool's Day, my friend, Corinne, called and asked if I wanted to have lunch and run some errands with her. She needed to go to Gayle's Chocolates in Royal Oak (You don't have to ask me twice!). She wanted to "fool" her Mom by giving her a pair of chocolate shoes tucked inside a real designer shoe box.

We ended up sipping mugs of hot chocolate at a cafe table and using her iPhone to photograph my Delight tote ("Loving Roses") with the chocolate shoes the store had on display. Can you believe these are made of chocolate?

I'll say it is everywhere.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Travel Notes

My big trip to Paris for cooking school is next month and my dear friend Polly looked at me recently and said, "I am very concerned that you will forget to tell me everything."

Problem solved! I found the prettiest pocket notebooks ever at a Borders bookstore yesterday.

A set of 2 Moleskine Volant blank journals in the very "ANA" shades of raspberry and pink. Now I have a place to jot down the names of flea market vendors, the olive oil I must buy and the street corner with the best crepe cart, all while I am on the go!

Don't worry, Polly, I promise to remember everything.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Country Living, Pitch Your Product tips #3

I was there, I pitched and I was chosen!

My company, Subscribe To Delight (a surprise gift subscription service), was a 2007 Pitch Your Product winner - see the Country Living write-up here.
To be one of seven honorees out of the hundreds that applied to Country Living magazine's "Pitch Your Product" event was an incredible experience.

I have decided to post a series of hints & tips (from my perspective) to make your "Pitch Your Product" experience the best that it can be.
(Click here to read: Part One and Part Two)
Part Three: The Day of the Pitch

Pitches are in the morning and you will be assigned a time. Don't let nerves (or the nerves of others around you) freak you out. If you think about it, you have been telling friends, relatives and customers "micro-versions" of your company for ages. These sound bites are the bones of your story and should help you formulate what you are going to say to the editors. There may be up to 45 minutes of waiting before you actually get to pitch.

Others will be nervous, don't follow their lead.

I want you to realize that a lot of the women there will be highly nervous. Perhaps they are unprepared, or have talked themselves into being scared of the process. I noticed that a lot of women were trying to expend their nervous energy by "making friends" with everyone there. I don't recommend getting wrapped up in the other women and their products before you pitch. (There is plenty of time for that at the conference when you will both be relaxed and have a lot more fun). The other women are essentially "practicing their pitch" on those around them and it can be very draining - that won't help your pitch or focus. Other women will see your product and want to "size you up" by asking about your company. This is another distraction that can throw you off. Be polite, but you can respond to any direct solicitation with "I need to think about some things, let's talk afterwards." It worked for me and I can tell you that I walked into my pitch as calm as a cucumber.

Smile & Introduce Yourself
Part of your job is to assure the editors that they did indeed "call back" the right companies. Smile and the editors will be at ease. If you put yourself in their shoes, you'll realize that there are multiple rooms of editors listening to more than 100 pitches. Each team is hoping that they get to hear some of the creme de la creme pitches - a company that sounds so good that the other editors will be interested too. So be sharp, be happy and tell them how much you love what you do.

Be Prepared
Once you have pitched, you can really mix and mingle. Attending a big event catering to women entrepreneurs is a really cool experience - one that you will look back on for years. Make the most of it by being prepared. Have lots and lots of business cards with you and take the time to meet and chat with other attendees. I like to carry a clipboard to events like this, it gives me a surface to jot down notes on and is handy for holding a pen. Meet other women entrepreneurs, find out about their businesses, (Do they blog? How do they communicate with their customers?) and share stories. I have made many friends at this event and still communicate with them regularly. The keynote speaker and entrepreneur panel will give tons of great advice. I recommend bringing along a notebook to record their suggestions. The websites and advice you hear may not apply to your business right now, but could be very valuable in the future. Capture it while you have the chance.

Most of all I want you to have fun...and tell me how it went! Good luck!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Country Living, Pitch Your Product tips #2

(Click here to read: Part One)

I was there, I pitched and I was chosen!

My company, Subscribe To Delight, was a 2007 Pitch Your Product winner - see the Country Living write-up here.
To be one of seven honorees out of the hundreds that applied to Country Living magazine's "Pitch Your Product" event was an incredible experience.I have decided to post a series of hints & tips (from my perspective) to make your "Pitch Your Product" experience the best that it can be.

Part Two: Preparing your Pitch

Don't memorize. I do not think that you should memorize a pitch. Although three minutes is fast, no time is so short that you want to sound like an over-rehearsed sixth grader. Adults can explain a concept in a short amount of time and passionate people speak from the heart. That being said, I do think you should think in "sound bites." If you have a few expressions that sound interesting and are memorable, that is something that the editors can take away with them mentally. For example, it is important to me that everything about my company is beautiful (the photography, ink color and message). Therefore when I showed them my "Subscribe To Delight" gift card (that announces that someone has been given a subscription to delight), I told them that it was designed to be "refrigerator-worthy." Meaning that this gift is so special that the announcement of it should be pretty enough to hang on the refrigerator for weeks. They laughed, "got it" and I guarantee that they did not forget the message that Delight was something special.

Little things mean a lot. If you have a "hang tag" that you tie on your product, bring it along to show the editors. If the ingredients in your soap are all natural, perhaps you should bring a glass shaker of herbs & flowers to illustrate your "secret recipe." If you make accessories, some 8 x 10 color photographs of the pieces on models or artfully displayed can enhance the editors' understanding of your style. Don't be afraid to hand them your samples. It makes the experience and evaluation more "real" if they can see the quality of your work up close.

This is not a bank meeting. They are not going to evaluate your bank statement or approve a small business loan. The editors are strictly looking for a great mix of new products or ideas that can enhance their magazine. Remember that your company existed before this opportunity and will be just as solid tomorrow. The pitch is simply a chance to expose your business to a wider audience - if the time is right.

Next time I will discuss interacting with the other women entrepreneurs.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Country Living, Pitch Your Product tips #1

I was there, I pitched and I was chosen! My company, Subscribe To Delight, was a 2007 Pitch Your Product winner - see the Country Living write-up here.

To be one of seven honorees out of the hundreds that applied to Country Living magazine's "Pitch Your Product" event was an incredible experience.
I have decided to post a series of hints & tips to make your "Pitch Your Product" experience the best that it can be.

Part One

First of all, do not be scared. You have a business that you love and are proud of it! A big thing that I noticed pitching is that the editors have great respect for the women who have forged ahead and established a business of their own. Approach this with confidence – no one is a more qualified expert on your company than you!

Remember that Country Living was impressed by your submission - that is why they want to hear more! So be proud and calm. They have already reviewed your paper proposal, looked you up online and are expecting you - all you have to do it show up and fill in the blanks of who "you" are.

Magazines are always looking for fresh content to wow their readers. Stop and think about what makes your business unique. Is it your target audience? What motivated you to start your business? Your vision for your company?
The mental road map you follow for your company could be very interesting to the editors.

A great example from Barbara Baekgaard (of Vera Bradley) is that she named the company after her mother, Vera Bradley. All decisions from that point on were held up to “would mother like her name on this product?”  A fascinating and real example of how her brand decisions were made. Think about how you make decisions and how you want your company to be remembered.
Tomorrow I will give suggestions for preparing your pitch.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Super Cute Tote

When I was in Florida last month, the moon and stars aligned and I was able to see my brother-in-law and his family who live in Houston, Texas. I know, it was very unexpected that we were in the same place at the same time - what fun.

During the few days that our vacations overlapped, we shopped, went to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner and generally spent some much needed time together.

When my sister-in-law and nieces (11 & 6 years-old) went shopping with me, the youngest said, "I have an idea for my birthday, Aunt Anne."

She had been "looking me over" all week and enjoyed figuring out which accessories I had made. She particularly liked a tote that I had slip covered with bright Lilly-like fabric, covered buttons and a touch of ribbon. She asked if I could design one for her and voila! It is going in the mail today. A super cute tote for a super cute seven-year-old. Happy Birthday, honey!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Why haven't I posted any dessert or candy recipes lately? I am saving myself for Paris! Nothing compares to the pastries and sweets made the City of Light and I am gearing up to try one of everything! This beauty is an Eclair a la Pistache at Laduree.

Now do you see what I mean?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rita Farhi Marshmallow Rolls

I am drawn to things that are Beautiful and Interesting at the same time. So when I saw a clear box of "Marshmallow Rolls" by Rita Farhi, I stopped in my tracks.

What could be more wonderful in a mug of White Hot Chocolate? What kind of genius decided to make marshmallows in multi-circle pastel rolls?

Be on the lookout for Rita Farhi marshmallows and sweets in candy shops & confectioneries near you.

What am I going to do with them? I think I'll make a sugar cube house with a marshmallow roof line for Christmas next year. Love it!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Azaleas and Architecture

It is "Historic Garden Week" in Virginia and boy do I wish that I could be there. Sponsored by the Garden Club of Virginia (an association of 47 garden clubs around the state), this year marks their 76th anniversary season. In addition to more than three dozen garden tours, visitors can also enjoy flower arranging demonstrations, cello duets and floral quilt displays. I am completely jealous!

I visited the University of Virginia for the first time last May and the campus is beautiful. "The Rotunda" (shown above) was designed by Thomas Jefferson to represent the "authority of nature and power of reason." Participants will meet on the steps of The Rotunda this week for a guided tour of the gardens.

Azaleas and Architecture?
Hmmm...guess where I want to go next April!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Garden Center

I do love a garden center! I can't resist all of the color. It is a lot like going to a fabric store for me. I find that I have a hard time keeping up my end of the conversation when I am in a place like thoughts are simply too loud. This year my list includes "Green Envy" zinnias, "Heavenly Blue" morning glories, snapdragons, foxglove, delphinium and more lavender.
I'm going to need another cart!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Iron Chef

For years each Summer, my parents and I held "camp" at the cottage for the grandchildren. One week for the girls; one week for the boys. I have never had so much fun as when I could be "Aunt Anne" all day long. We baked cookies & cakes. Swam in the lake. Ate ice cream cones and did crafts. I have lots of stories from this era, but today I want to tell you about how we re-created "Iron Chef" at girls' camp.

The girls divided into two teams (the 8 & 11-year-old challenged the 13 & 15-year-old) and poured over children's cookbooks to create three dishes from scratch. The "Iron Chef" ingredients they had to incorporate were chicken, chocolate and sour cream. My Mom provided paper chef hats (which the girls wore the entire time they were cooking!) and I was to remain in the kitchen with each team as a consultant.

The morning of the competition, my Dad took them to the tiny grocery store in town to shop for the meal. While they were off grocery shopping, my Mom and I drove to the next town to pick up a few things and ended up stopping at a local carry-out lunch spot for a ginger lemonade. Guess who was standing next to me waiting to order lunch.

(Wait for it) Mario Batali!

I knew that this famous chef had a vacation home in northern Michigan, but I never thought I would actually run into him. I couldn't think of anything to say, so I simply smiled. When we got home, the girls had started cooking and I burst into the kitchen with my exciting news.

Now what did they say to me?

"You didn't ask him to judge our Iron Chef?!?!?"

Ooops. The one day I actually had something relevant to say to Mario Batali and I had blanked. The girls were sure that he would have come if I had only asked. I must say, the whole thing made the cooking competition even more "real." My mom set the table with beautiful Caspari paper goods and we all ate 6 courses that night (2 appetizers, 2 main dishes and 2 desserts). The food was judged on everything from taste to appearance and it was wonderful. The younger team won (see their Minted Pea soup above) and everyone was happy.
If only Mario had been there...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Pretty Powder Room

I am loving my first floor powder room and I wanted to show it to you.

Now when you see an unfinished wood tissue box at the craft store and read that you can "decorate your own," it sounds awful, right? I imagine rubber ducky decals and foam stickers - trust me, the world does not need another marginal craft project.

But, no, look. It can be as simple as covering it with scrapbook paper. I used 2 sheets of "crackled wood" paper, some Sobo glue and a X-acto knife. The whole project took less than 10 minutes and I think it is perfect. I would never be able to find a Kleenex box (or cover for that matter) that would "go" in my powder room. Now I have exactly what I need. Love it!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Antique Teaspoons

I treasure my grandmother's collection of souvenir teaspoons and for a while now, I have been trying to figure out the most beautiful way to display them.

They are mostly from towns in New England (like Bethel, Maine) and they look really lovely now that I have "shined them up". I decided that a Martha Stewart shadow box would be perfect - it is more modern than a spoon rack, and lets the beauty and history of each piece shine through. Plus, I like having them safe and sound under glass. Love it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

April Showers

"April showers bring May flowers!" That is what I keep telling myself as the rain pours down.

Isn't this little vase of wild violets sweet? Little green "wellies" or rain boots are the perfect container for a tiny Spring bouquet.

Maybe you are looking for some cute rain boots? Look at the darling choices here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Book Signing

Do you remember the page "Pilgrimage to Pemberville" in my book, Moments of Delight? The pilgrimage is to Beeker's General Store in northern Ohio where I love to shop for interesting and nostalgic gifts. I will be doing a book signing there on Saturday, April 25th as part of a progressive tea event. Love it!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter

Sending you
my best wishes
for a
delightful Easter.

Love, Anne

Friday, April 10, 2009

Easter Bunnies

I can't resist having an Easter basket in the kitchen - a pretty little display for guests to nibble from. Can you see my porcelain bunnies? Put an apron on a mother bunny and I am a goner. I found them years ago (for $1 each!) at Cost Plus World Market. I was hosting the family for Easter that year and I put a mother or father bunny at every place setting. It looked so cute and was a wonderful "party favor." Considering the number of people in each family, each household got at least 4 bunnies to take home. I like knowing that they would bring Easter cheer for years to come.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Hostess Gift

Daffodils! These sweet flowers are all over the supermarkets & home improvement stores right now - so pretty!

I want to show you how to make a simple (and super cute) "pot" for spring bulbs. You only need 4 items: oilcloth, scissors, a hole punch and 2 brads.

Take a 13" x 13" piece of oilcloth and center a 4" pot on the unprinted side. Bring the four corners up (you see them as the peaks in the picture). As you pull them up, you will see that the rest of the oilcloth can easily fold into flaps.

Make the corners of the folded sides overlap each other. Temporarily clip these flaps together with a paper clip. Repeat this on the other side and you will be able to see that it looks like an open take out container.

With a hole punch, punch a hole through both layers where the paper clips were. Then feed a brad (mine is green so it is hard to see) through the holes and fold the prongs open (this secures the 2 flaps together). Repeat on the other side and your plant wrap is finished!

I think this is the perfect hostess gift to bring to Easter dinner.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Chocolate Molds

I couldn't believe my luck when I turned the corner at the Ann Arbor Antiques Market last year and saw this.

It was the Dad's Follies booth - purveyors of antique ice cream and metal chocolate molds. Their collection has thousands of chocolate molds - rows and rows of Santas arranged by size. Visually, it is spectacular.

I had read about their company many times in magazines as they are considered THE source for antique chocolate molds. I never dreamed that I would be able to see their collection myself, but there I stood in awe.

Now, antique chocolate molds are an investment. A 2-sided mold was out of my reach, but half a rabbit (shown here) is pretty much worthless if you are a collector...but priceless if you are me. I am going to frame him on blue velvet and love him forever.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cutie Pie

What is my favorite thing to make for a baby shower? Embroidered burbcloths.

First I wash a cotton diaper, then I machine sew a pretty grosgrain ribbon along the edge. I love my Husqvarna Viking sewing machine ("The Rose") - it has a built-in embroidery feature!

Then I select a design and invent a message (like "Cutie Pie" or "Sweet Baby") to embroider on the front.

It is a gift made with love, but perfected with technology. Love it!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hot Cross Buns

Yesterday was Palm Sunday and I felt compelled to do some "Easter" baking. I had a box of hot roll mix in the cupboard and was inspired to make Hot Cross Buns for the first time - yum!

I followed the directions on a box of Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix and simply added 1/4 cup sugar and 1 cup chopped fruit bits during mixing. They taste delicious, but I realized after the fact that 1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg and cinnamon would make them perfect (next time!). I made the icing from 1 cup of powered sugar mixed with a few tablespoons of hot water.

The box made 18 hot cross buns...and we've already eaten 6! Happy Easter.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Final Four

My alma mater, Michigan State University, is in the Final Four basketball championships this year! And by a stroke of luck, the championship playoffs are being held in Detroit, Michigan. Thousands of Spartans crowded Somerset Mall for the largest pep rally I have ever seen. The fans sporting our team colors (green & white) cheered, the coach thanked the crowd while the drum beat of our fight song thrummed through the open space - it was incredible. The crowd was given hot dogs and vanilla (white) Haagen Dazs ice cream with green sprinkles and were rewarded with an appearance by the entire basketball team onstage. As a series watched on television, these fans have been cheering from their living rooms for weeks.

Now imagine being those college players, finally able to hear the cheers.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Anne of Green Gables

Want to know what is making me really happy? Introducing the book, Anne of Green Gables, to one of the Garden Club girls. You see, although she is 12 and I am not, we often recommend books to each other. In our chat this week, I realized that she had not read the book or seen the spectacular Anne of Green Gables video series starring Megan Fellows (which, yes, I have on VHS). So we made a plan: she'll read the book and then we'll have a family movie night at my house and watch it all together. What fun.

How do I know it will happen? Her mother told me yesterday that her daughter walked up to her in the library, held up Anne of Green Gables and said, "I've got to read this." So it is going on vacation with them and life is good. What are you reading?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Grass Is Greener

Like all gardeners, I am excited to proclaim that, "Spring is here!" While we rake the yard, distribute the mulch and trim back the dead, I keep images like this in my mind.

In a few short weeks, our bright green grass will be back. This pathway (between the deck and patio) is favorite spot for Ben & Bernice, the rabbits that live nearby.

To me, this is living green.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bunny Lovey

Are you planning on having a beautiful Easter basket this year?

I wanted to show you a new item that is beautiful and interesting.
Edible Easter grass.

I found it at Walmart in a magnificent display of color-coded candy. A section of candy that is all pink. All peach. All blue. It is just gorgeous. Among the choices is edible Easter grass from Germany. I bought a bag of pink (strawberry) and took this photograph before gifting the Garden Club girls an Easter basket of treats.

Edible Easter who could resist nibbling this sweet treat?