Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday Preparations

I love Christmas and I thought I would explain my approach to preparing for the holidays.

This system has worked for me for years and I thought it might help you to make the most out of the next 33 days. I think of everything in terms of whether it is: Visual, Edible or Givable. I realized long ago that taking care of the visual part of the holidays first always makes things run smoothly.

When the house is decorated, I am ready for unexpected guests, I can have neighbors over for a cup of tea, I can step in and "host" something if plans go awry. I do not bake, or shop or experiment in the kitchen during this first phase. If it doesn't get me closer to a decorated house, I don't do it. This time is dedicated to making the holidays beautiful. These few days go quickly and then I can sit back and enjoy the atmosphere.

So this week I will be posting some visual touches for the holidays. Think of me covered in glitter, dotted with glue and happy as a clam.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Advent Calendar 2009

Would you believe that this is a single piece of cardstock that I bought for $1?

December 1st is right around the corner, so today I am making an advent calendar from a We R Merry & Bright Advent Calendar die cut. The 25 days have pre-punched windows that open - what could be better?

I am going to cut a piece of poster board to be the same size as this house. Then I will affix a holiday sticker (sled, candy cane, ornament) behind each window and then glue around the perimeter of the house to attach it to the poster board. I'll staple a striped ribbon to the back of the board (at the corners) so my calendar can hang on the wall. Love it!

Have you found (or made) yourself an advent calendar?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Good Girls Go To Paris

Is that a great name for a creperie or what? I made my first trip to Good Girls Go To Paris (on Kirby near the Detroit Institute of Arts) this week when my friend and I went on a "field trip" to Detroit for crepes and yarn.
We talked and talked over a late breakfast (I had a jambon & fromage crepe that was perfection) and had every intention of ordering dessert crepes too, but, alas our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. We loved this little spot, though, and vowed to return another day for something sweet!
Then we made our way to City Knits, a shop that we had been hearing about for ages. We combed the store for treasures and I left with some kiwi green wool to knit (and then felt) a bowl for the living room. Fun! Now I just need to find a pattern for a simple bowl...and apparantly some double pointed needles - eek!
As the whirl of the holidays starts, make sure you carve out some time to be with your girlfriends. Thank you, Liz, for a lovely morning!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Wishing you a
delightful Thanksgiving
filled with family traditions,
great food and
a thankful spirit.

Love, Anne

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cooking with Martha

If you have been with me a while, you know that today (the day before Thanksgiving) is when I spend the day in my kitchen "cooking with Martha." I cue up my Tivo with some recent episodes of the MARTHA show and get to work.

In honor of today's tasks (3-D turkey made of cornbread, cranberry jello mold and green bean prep), I am posting a photo directly from the set of Martha's television show. I was in the audience a few years back and took this photo between segments.

Good luck with all of your holiday preparations and tell me, are you cooking with Martha?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Turkey Butter

Honestly, it all started with a lamb butter. My Mom has been buying "butter shaped like a lamb" to have on the table at Easter dinner my entire life. When my dear friend, Melanie joined us for Easter one year, she was floored. She had never heard of such a thing and started quizzing us for details. How long has this been going on? Do they do this for all of the holidays? Then she said it...Is there turkey butter?

We didn't know. Our butter sculpture stopped with lambs. Until the following November when we all started seeing turkey butter in the dairy section of some independent grocery stores. From then on, we've had to have a turkey butter too.

So when I was in my favorite cake & candy supply store last week, I noticed a turkey-shaped mold for making chocolates. Naturally I thought "Butter!" and here it is. You simply press one stick softened butter into the 3-D mold and place it in the freezer. After about an hour, pop the plastic apart and voila!

I am sending you my warm wishes for a wonderful Thanksgiving. And when you are in your little grocery store this week, ask them if they have turkey butter!

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Delightful Gift

I wanted to do my part to bring delight to your holiday shopping list.

My idea? Design something that would be lovely to receive, compliment many different style sensibilities and (most importantly) be reasonable.

My answer is a small silver watchface with a ruffle-edge black ribbon band. It arrives gift-wrapped in my signature clear bag with hot pink tissue & ribbons.

For $22 (plus $3 s/h), this could be the answer to your teacher/hairdresser/babysitter gift list. Available on my blog only - see sidebar.

It's a delightful gift...right on time.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Swedish Christmas Fair 2009

Oh happy day! I just got back from a Swedish Christmas Fair. I walked through the doors and was greeted with a "God Jul!" and a cup of glogg with almonds & raisins. Now that is how I want to start a Saturday.

My Mom & I made fast friends with a table of ladies and talked about Swedish baking and such while we snacked on the plate above (Drommar Dreams, Rye Logs and Cardamom Rolls). The smorgas (open face) sandwich had meatballs on a bed of beet/dill/apple/leek salad over limpa (caraway/rye/fennel) bread. Yum!

We browsed the collection of Swedish dishtowels & decorations for sale, scanned the selection of food items (they had my Swedish Pearl Sugar!) and left with a bag full of homemade Swedish baked goods. Right now I am eating a vanilla-butter taffy called smorkola this is so good I want to book my flight to Sweden right now! I started with a bag of 7 hand-wrapped pieces and there are only 4 left! I love Swedish Sweets!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cocktail Napkins

I made my own paper napkins. (pause)

Okay, I didn't really make the paper napkins, so much as I embellished them.

I bought an inexpensive set of paper napkins in gold and stuck 3-D stickers on them! Pure genius.

Now I have a set of cocktail napkins that look exactly how I want them to and are better than anything that I could find in a store.

It might seem a little crazy, but crazy beautiful, right?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Touches of Green

As the cold weather approaches, I shift my garden plan indoors. I think touches of green can do so much for the design of a room and I try to have a living plant in every room on the first floor.

But now that Christmas is coming, I am on the hunt for one of my favorite green touches...a rosemary tree!

I like to have a big one next to the sink in my kitchen. It smells like heaven, mimics the look of a Christmas tree and is fabulous in marinades! What more could a girl want?

This photo is of a gorgeous shop called Boxwoods Garden & Gifts. If I lived in Atlanta, I know that
a good portion of my Visa bill would read Boxwoods each month.
I literally wanted everything in this greenhouse! This garden mecca would have a rosemary tree for sure. Where is your favorite greenhouse?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fall Cookies

The ultimate "Fall" cookie - gingerbread cookies shaped like acorns!

For whatever reason, many people have stopped over this week and they all got a cookie. It feels great to be able to offer them something special with a cup of tea.

I made these cookies from a box of Betty Crocker gingerbread cake mix (instructions are on the side panel) and frosted the caps with a bottle (read: easy to dispense) of Wilton white cookie icing. You can find an acorn-shaped cookie cutter here.

Note: Stores often run low on the red box of Betty Crocker gingerbread cake mix.
Seriously, one year 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 (in the red box) is strangely absent. Is it limited edition? Seasonal? Top secret? All I know is that it makes wonderful gingerbread cookies and you should buy a box when you see it.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Doux & Delicat

Isn't this pretty tea packaging? My hotel in Paris gave us these herbal teas to try and I loved them on sight, strictly because of the packaging. Is that so wrong?

I want to shake hands with the person that proposed this color palette. It is very Laura Ashley meets House Beautiful and I love it! The one I am drinking today (center top) is Tilleul (Linden) which is described as doux & delicat (smooth & delicate).

Monday, November 16, 2009


I am a firm believer in paper invitations. Yes, Evites are convenient and perfect for say, a book club or a committee meeting. But if you are cleaning the house, making special food and having a party (no matter how small) I think you should send something that is refrigerator-worthy.

We are hosting a potluck dinner for fourteen this December. Our group had to "iron out" a good date via email, so they know the day they are coming over and why. But I won't be happy until this is in their mailbox. Something that says I'm excited that they are coming for dinner and have already starting planning.

Honor your parties by sending real invitations. It will make your guests feel special and be a wonderful visual cue for the fun times ahead.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Women Entrepreneurs

Remember when I had a book-signing for Moments of Delight as part of a progressive tea event in Ohio?

After the book signing, I was able to join in the fun and attend the last stop on the progressive (
a discussion on steeping & keeping tea) at Summer Kitchen Interiors.

Lots of ladies were gathered around the super-cute shop listening to the speaker and tasting tea and sweets. It was all very "girl-y" and I loved it. I am telling you about it today because I came across the favor we all received. A silverplate teaspoon tied with a teabag and business card (naming the tea on the back). Smart smart smart.
  • Mix & match silverware is very popular, so another teaspoon is always welcome.
  • The attendees all love tea and now they could sample one at home.
  • The tea & tag presentation was so cute I kept it "as is" all this time.
If you are a woman entrepreneur and are planning an event, you could learn a lot from the Summer Kitchen Girls. Bravo!

On another note, the amazing backdrop shown is a paper die cut from BoBunny. Although it is intended for scrapbooking, I use it as a doily! So pretty and dynamic on a wood tray.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Thanksgiving Tablesettings

I wanted to arrange this tray to show you a few simple ideas to enhance your Thanksgiving Table.

First, if you build the look around one showpiece (in this case, the salad plate) it is much easier to find your way. If you need a show-stopper, head to the discount shop (Homegoods, Marshals, TJ Maxx). Right now they are loaded with transferware-like salad/dessert plates with turkeys on them for $6-8 each. They are really handsome, inexpensive and a great way to update a dinner plate that you already own.

Second, I made a "napkin ring" out of laser cut scrapbook paper from Michael's. Just cut the sheet into strips, wrap a strip around a plain white napkin and tape the ring closed on the back.

Third, the placemat shown here is a piece of fabric that I cut in a rectangle and "serged" the edges. If you don't have a serger, my advice is to "pink" the edges with pinking shears and you are ready! This should keep the fabric from fraying and eliminate the need to sew anything.

Need matching glasses for eight? I bought the mocha-colored acrylic glass shown here at Target for $1.99!

My advice is to lay out the plates, linens and candles that you have, look for a color theme and run with it! Even using just one of my ideas could help make your holiday table feel brand new.

Happy Thanksgiving-planning from me to you.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shadows & Structure

I have a long back yard and I've always wanted a pergola to visually link my patio to the deck. I'd cover it with fragrant wisteria vines and make up reasons to cross under it many times a day.

When I was in Bar Harbor, I found this beautiful pergola in a park across from the main shopping area.

I walked the entire length of it, then pivoted and walked it again.
The combination of shadow and structure was so pretty I didn't want to leave.

This is a moment of delight.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Knitting Needles

I have added a new item to my standard packing list.
  • Clothes
  • Toothbrush
  • Knitting Needles
I am serious! Every time I go somewhere, I invariably hunt out the local yarn shop. Then I fall in love with some yarn, want to knit right away and realize I'll have to buy...needles. Again.

As a result of this, I have so many sets of knitting needles
that it's silly. I give a set away whenever I teach someone, but still! So from now on I am getting smart and bringing a set of needles along. If you hear me mention a trip on Facebook, remind me, okay?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November Roses

Can you believe it? Roses...real roses in my garden! I tip-toed outside yesterday morning when I saw these beauties from the window. I have them in a jam jar (that I coated with Mod Podge to protect the label) and placed them on my front table.

Do you like my marzipan vegetables? Fall is here!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Pumpkin Pancakes

I just want to put the idea in your head...Pumpkin Pancakes!

A friend of mine suggested brunch after church a few weeks ago. She said that everyone was talking about a local nightclub that serves breakfast (!) and she wanted to check it out. Hmm...okay, I'm game.

We found it (a little bar in Ferndale called Club Bart) and were seated at a high table with bar stools in the window. When we heard the specials, we were hooked. We picked the omelette-of-the-day and the pumpkin pancakes to share.
Just look! The syrup was a homemade brandy sauce (yum!) and we devoured every bite.

No matter where you live, it is very likely that the local breakfast spot is whipping up pumpkin pancakes. Maybe its time to invite a friend to brunch.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Whiplash

Now this is a room with a view!

When I was on Little Cranberry Island (Islesford) in Maine
, our new friend, Soos, drove us around the island on our own private tour. She loved that I was a photographer and went out of her way to make sure that I got every shot that I wanted.

Every time I gasped, she slammed on the brakes! It was like Happy Whiplash.

The crowning glory was a stop at her family home where I took this photograph.

Thank you, Soos, for making my first trip to Maine so wonderful.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Plant Tulips

Did you plant tulips this year? My greatest tulip achievement (man vs squirrel) was when I planted my bulbs in pots. I planted two large Martha Stewart for Kmart classic pots with Apricot Beauty and left them outside over the Winter on the sunny side of the house.

The trick was that I covered each pot with 2 layers of bricks. The squirrels couldn't get the bricks off to dig down and eat my bulbs! Hallelujah.

I have had my share of tulip-tastrophies too. Note to self: If you make custom-fit wire screens for the inside of your pots to keep the squirrels out, you have to remember to remove the screens from under the dirt in the Spring or your bulbs will be trapped! I kept waiting and waiting and couldn't understand why no green sprouts were coming up. By the time I realized my mistake, the bulbs were beyond saving. The next year I was back to bricks!

My point is, don't be discouraged if you have tulip challenges. Be creative...and then write yourself a note on your calender so you remember what to do in the Spring! The result is SO worth it!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Designer Matches

Looking for a little "wow-factor" in your living room? Cover your own box of large kitchen matches and have the prettiest accent ever.

I used
Sobo glue to attach lime green faux crocodile paper to the box. After the glue had dried, carefully use an X-acto knife to trim the extra paper off. I chose a flat gem set from the jewelry section of the craft store (you may need to cut off the attachment loop on the back with needle nose pliers so that it will lay flat - this particular piece was already flat.) Use Gem-Tac to attach gem set to the top of the box. So pretty, right?

When you are shopping for the gem set, start thinking about the holidays. If you find the perfect combination of paper and stones - get enough to make three! They make a unique hostess or teacher gift.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New Fall Show

On a quiet afternoon, I walked into my living room and the world was in technicolor. My front window looked like a giant flat screen television broadcasting the "New Fall Show."

The 5 trees in the cul-de-sac are Bradford Pear. The perfect landscape tree, they are beautiful in Spring, lush green in Summer and magnificent in Fall. What more could a neighborhood want?

Now sit back, relax and enjoy the scheduled programming.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lemon Knots

I saw a jar of lemon knots (on sale) at my local Williams-Sonoma and was intrigued. They were really pretty and I thought that (in addition to their main use as a cocktail twist) they would add a lot to a cup of tea or a glass of lemonade.

Later, when I tried to look them up online, I couldn't find them. It must have been a limited edition item. So...I made some myself!

I cut inch-wide strips of lemon peel off of the lemon. Cut that piece into 4 narrow strips and tied each in a knot. Any pieces that broke or were too small, ended up in a small jar of sugar for baking (blueberry muffins with lemon sugar!).

I made a batch of simple syrup, allowed it to cool, then poured it into a jam jar with the lemon twists. I am going to store the jar in the refrigerator. When I make hot cranberry glogg later this week, I will drop a lemon twist in each mug!

I think this would be a pretty and inexpensive hostess gift. What do you think?

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Sweet Couple

Can you believe that this couple is made out of Maple Sugar? When my parents took a driving trip through Vermont, I requested a maple sugar souvenir and look what I got! So cute.

Have you started planning your Thanksgiving table? I think one of these at each place setting would make a really neat favor. Or maybe you'd like one shaped like a maple leaf or a turkey. You can consider the entire collection online here.

Maple is the perfect flavor for a Thanksgiving meal and these two make such a sweet couple.