Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Easter Decorations

I have given in to "cute." It started when I found the porcelain Mother and Father Bunny shown on the far the right (you can read the story of where I got them here) and I add a little something wonderful each year.

Pink paper grass, egg-shaped candles, fuzzy chicks and a pink glass bunny dish full of Jordan almonds. This year I found some paper eggs covered with vintage images. When people enter my kitchen this time of year, the response is always the same..."Ohhhh."

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Baby Chicks

What could be cuter than this? I was roaming my local cake & cookie supply store (find your own by Googling "cake supply store, (your hometown)"), when I found these baby chicks made of frosting!

They are sold sets of 12 for about $2 and can be used on cupcakes, candies or anywhere you want an Easter touch. I am using them on sugar cubes and they will elevate my after-dinner coffee to super cute!

I simply "glued" the chicks to sugar cubes with a bottle of Wilton cookie icing - I found my bottle of icing on the shelf at Michaels. Voila!

Do you take one lump or two?

Monday, March 29, 2010

London Calling

Well, actually, it is "David Austin English roses" calling. I am taking my first trip to England in June!

Having celebrated several seasons with me in my blog, you know that my favorite roses (Abraham Darby, Heritage, Lillian Austin, Graham Thomas) are propagated by David Austin. I am taking a pilgrimage to Albrighton to see his garden (of 800 rose bushes!) in person and hopefully meet the rose master and his son. Can you stand it? I am so excited I can hardly see straight.

That is where you come in. I need your "I loved it!" suggestions for sights/shopping/dining in London (we'll be there at least 3 days) and anything wonderful near Albrighton (North/West of Birmingham).

Think of the photos! I will be doing an entire blog series on Spring in England when I return.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Are you hosting Easter dinner? Why not get yourself some primulas to brighten up the living room?

I love getting the house ready for company. In addition to Easter, I am also hosting my euchre group and book club in the next few weeks! New hand towels, a good Spring cleaning, a pile of fresh lemons in a bowl, stocking the fridge with all kinds of drinks. I love it.

I often buy 5 or 6 primulas and display them together on a big tray in the living room. An inexpensive, but happy, display like this becomes "all people can see." What a delight.

Friday, March 26, 2010

After School Snack

Tah-dah! My niece came over this week and we made the best after school snack ever!

With Easter right around the corner, we decided to make bunny cookies! We used my darling Wilton Bunny Cookie Treat pan, the recommended "sturdy" cookie recipe (so the cookie can be held on a stick!) and some white cookie sticks. Before we knew it, we were smiling and chewing.

The ears are powdered sugar frosting and coconut, the eyes are chocolate chips, the nose is half a malted milk ball, the lips are a cinnamon red hot and the whiskers are strands of coconut! Yum...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Family History

When my husband & I moved into our first home, my parents gave us the dining room table & chairs that I had grown up with. How wonderful.

I was suddenly "dinner party ready" and have been filling our dining room with people ever since.

Because my mom had given me the table pads & table cloths too, I have mostly kept the table covered over the years and haven't done much as far as waxing/polishing.

I thought that it was time to do some protective steps and asked my Mom how I should polish it. She turned up on my doorstep with this can of Johnson Paste Wax.

This was her mother's can and it is at least 50 years old. An antique itself, notice that the price stamped on the lid is 89 cents! We opened the can, got out some cloth diapers and lovingly buffed on some family history. By the end, the table looked gorgeous and had that faint wood polish smell.

Today I am sending the beloved paste wax can back to my Mom's house and am going shopping for some formal placemats for Easter dinner.

This is the beauty of every day life - this is delight.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

All Ears

I've got Easter on my mind and everything is starting to look like a rabbit to me - even my green tea mochi ice cream!

Thanks to Facebook, I reconnected with a dear friend from elementary school last night. We live SO CLOSE to each other and decided to meet for tea & sweets.

We talked a mile a minute and it was so nice. She even brought along a cookbook (chocolate desserts!) that her mom wanted to pass on to someone who would love it - that's me!

Today's inspiration is for a Bunny Sundae. Take a scoop of vanilla ice cream, add two chocolate chip eyes, a marachino cherry nose and make mint leaf ears! Adorable...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


It is officially Spring and I am craving color!

I have been working on painting beads for some super cute necklaces & bracelets.

Dots and stripes in colors that will drive the girls crazy.

You've got to have something to compliment your Lilly, right?

Look for them next week in the ANA Limited Edition store in the sidebar of my blog.

Love it!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monogrammed Heating Pads

Okay, I admit, heating pads are not typically thought of as a great gift. But once I got my hands on one, look how cute it turned out!

It was Christmastime and I wanted to make a gift that was cozy and inspired reading books in bed. While hot water bottles with cute knit covers are all the rage,
1) I can't knit shapes.
2) I am still not convinced that a hot water bottle really works.

But add electricity and I start to believe. I bought a basic heating pad, sewed together some pink chenille and pastel floral and tied it shut with pink ribbons. The "piece de resistance" was the pale pink monogram.

I love my Husqvarna Viking sewing machine (The Rose) - it is reliable, has a great selection of stitches and (when I can get up my courage) does monogramming. The hardest part of monogramming is judging "the stitch placement," but when it works, it looks fantastic!

I made two of these monogrammed heating pad covers and they were a hit. A toasty gift to warm up some cold afternoons. Maeve Binchy, anyone?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream

What happens when you make a really delicious batch of ice cream? Everyone eats it before you can take a picture for the blog!

This is the last 1/4 cup of my Strawberry Vanilla ice cream. I have been experimenting with my new Cuisinart commercial-style ice cream maker!

Patricia Wells had an ice cream maker like this in the class I took with her in Paris and I talked about it so much my husband gave me one for Christmas!

This recipe would work in any ice cream maker that can make 1 1/2 quarts of ice cream.

Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream
Stir 1 cup whole milk with 3/4 cups of white sugar. Add 2 cups of Half & Half and 2 teaspoons high quality (like Nielsen-Massey) vanilla extract.
I also added a shake of pulverized vanilla bean which is hard to come by in the States, but a fun addition if you have it.
Pour in ice cream maker and turn it on. About 25 min in, when the mixture was starting to look frozen, I added 1 cup smashed strawberries (you can use frozen (but defrosted) strawberries off season. Frozen strawberries often have more flavor, as they were picked & preserved at their peak).
Serve when the ice cream is soft-serve consistency - it lets the vanilla sing!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Make A Terrarium

For years I had a terrarium in this little glass & wood container in my family room. It was a lovely living touch and looked beautiful. But as with all things, it eventually looked "tired," so I removed the plants and put it away for almost 2 years.

Last month I decided to bring it out of storage, paint the wood trim with silver leaf (gorgeous!) and replant it.

I lined the interior tray with a plastic bag, poured in a layer of charcoal (to help with drainage and to keep the soil "sweet"), added potting soil, water and 4 plants (baby tears, ivy, fern and a pink leaf polka dot plant) and then covered the open dirt with dried moss. The final touch is my butterfly.

The little boy next door kept asking me where the butterfly was and had to say he was on vacation in Florida! Well vacation is over, and he is happily flying over the plants once more.

With snow in the forecast, I am so happy to have a little bit of Spring indoors.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Easter Candy

When I was growing up, my grandmother kept a lidded glass dish on her sideboard. When we dropped in for a visit, we would always find it filled with Hershey kisses.

Around Easter, she filled it with their pastel foiled-wrapped chocolate eggs. I always left with a pocketful of foil wrappings and as an adult, I realize (with so many of us dropping in) she must have refilled that dish daily!

I have my own little candy dish on the piano in the living room. I keep it filled with peanut M&Ms and it was only recently that I realized my nieces & nephews enter & exit the kitchen via the dining room door. It is the most direct route to the candy, you see.

When I saw this display, I decided to go a little overboard. Today I am going to fill an apothecary jar with Easter goodies. If I don't, who will?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hear Ye, Hear Ye

"Hear Ye, Hear Ye, I now present...the Oscar for Best Costume Design!"

I had heard there was an exhibition of wedding gowns worn in famous romantic films on display at The Somerset Collection and I simply couldn't resist.

Do you remember Keira Knightly and Ralph Fiennes dressed like this? These beauties won Michael O'Connor an Oscar in 2009 for "Best Costume Design" for the movie, The Duchess.

I also photographed Meryl Streep's wedding gown from Out of Africa, the dress Gwyneth Paltrow wore in Emma and even a vintage treasure worn by Amy Irving in Yentl. But as they say, "the mall got in the way" and the setting in most of the pictures just didn't translate.

These two, however, look like they are about to hold court. "Hear Ye, Hear Ye!"

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I can't think anymore...I simply have to make. I usually walk around with my mind whirling with ideas of things I want to do/see/write/make (and I have the notebook to prove it!).

Then a day comes along when it is all too loud and I have to give in. Today is that day. I will be painting balls for some necklaces, sewing ribbon into watchbands and making some photo tiles. The music is on and I can't wait!

What do you do when do your creative juices overflow?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Coffee & Conversation

I really enjoy a cup of coffee after dinner. At home, it is a nice time to move into the living room and talk over the day.

At a dinner party, I find it is when everyone truly seems to relax.

I thought I would share a recipe for homemade kahlua. I keep it in a pretty glass bottle and then decant it into a small pitcher for pouring when I serve coffee.

Everyone is always intrigued to find out that I made my own small-batch kahlua and enjoys having a little something special to add to their coffee.

Homemade Kahlua

Boil 2 cups of water. Stir in 3 1/2 cups of white sugar and 4 Tablespoons of instant espresso powder. Cool. Stir in 2 cups of vodka. Decant in a glass bottle with cap, drop in a split vanilla bean. Keep in a dark cabinet for 1 month. It will mellow and become silky and delicious. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Appetizer Tray

I've tried lots of recipes over the years, but this time I wasn't sure what to make. We were heading to our first dinner club and since I was bringing the only appetizer, I wanted to make something that would satisfy a lot of categories.

Sweet, salty, crunchy, savory - then it came to me. A rustic country sampler! I made 2 dips (a hot mushroom dip and a bacon/blk olive cream cheese spread) and surrounded it with red grapes (sweet), green olives (salty) and nuts (crunchy).

What was my favorite part of this display? (Wait for it...) The wooden bowl! I know, it really should have been my food, but what can I say. Midwest-born stylist Katie Brown has a new collection housewares and I had to have this little wooden salad bowl to make my savory dip look "rustic."

It worked. The appetizer tray looked as good as it tasted and we had a wonderful night making some new friends. What's your "go-to" appetizer?

Friday, March 12, 2010

Travel Bug

I've got the travel bug! I am plotting and planning a trip to Washington, D.C. and I simply can't wait to pack my bags and be on the road again.

I took this photo one Summer in northern Michigan, near some barns that I love. The sun was setting and it was the perfect quiet afternoon.

I knew that someday I would use this photo to represent travel, but everytime I see it I can only hear my Mom saying "Okay, that's enough, come on," because she didn't like me standing in the middle of the road.

Can you hear her too?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Architecture & Sugar

I've had several lovely trips to Charleston, South Carolina over the years and was happy to see it featured in the latest issue of Southern Living magazine.

I couldn't get enough of 2 things in Charleston: architecture and sugar. I snapped photos all day long of the shuttered buildings, church steeples and carefully planned gardens. Look at he blue sky!

But the sweets you can eat in Charleston, my oh my. When I went in an ice cream shop and asked the girl behind the counter which flavor was best and she looked right back and said she hadn't tried them all. What?

"Let's get to work!" I said. So she and I sampled some flavors together and gave our opinion. When we got to pralines & cream I said, "Sold!"

Every venue seemed to put their spin on pecans, pralines, brown sugar and butter. And I didn't argue. Yum!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ribbon Watches

Tick Tock! Can you hear Spring coming? I just love to see a happy girl in a new watch.

Like a robin chirping on the front lawn, the first sign of Spring in my wardrobe is a new watchband.

I have been pouring through my stash to find just the one for today - I think this one will look great with khakis and windbreaker.

If you need a ribbon watch, I have made some gorgeous ribbon watchbands for my ANA online store.

Now, anyone want to go fly a kite?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Marzipan Vegetables

Do you know about marzipan? Popular in Europe, it is an almond paste candy that is sold in a variety of shapes. One of the best features of marzipan is that it lasts forever! I have had this set of Spring Vegetables since 1995! Every year I bring out my little baggies of vegetables, arrange them in a tiny market basket and wait for Spring. You see, I am not a marzipan eater, I am a marzipan admirer.

If you'd like to buy some marzipan fruit and vegetables, I found this online source (in the United Kingdom that ships internationally). Or maybe you've always wanted to try your hand at making some yourself! This little mold looks like just the ticket. Neat, eh? My advice is to buy pre-made marzipan and then tint & shape it from there. I figure the easier the process is, the more likely we'll do it.

Yes, I said we'll. I am hoping to try my hand at marzipan in the next few weeks. Stay tuned and Happy Spring!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lemon Yellow Rose

Can you stand it? This gorgeous porcelain rose was a Valentine's gift from my dear friend, Dana. I received a small box in the mail on February 13th and nestled inside was this yellow rose and a note about her recent find. An antiques dealer had taken apart a grand (but broken) treasure (a chandelier?) and was selling the roses from it.

Dana was sure that I would love one and voila! I do! Now I'm sure she didn't expect me to display it in my kitchen in a bowl of lemons, but isn't it fantastic? I assure you, art is everywhere.

Thank you, Dana!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mood Music

Wear earplugs and sing your heart out.

That is my concert-going advice. Music plays such a big part of my life - I like many different styles and seem to having music playing all the time. I think the right song can do a lot for our mood.

With just a few days notice, my friend Polly called and asked if I wanted to go with her (and another friend of ours, Ann) to the Elton John & Billy Joel "Face 2 Face" concert. Another friend of theirs was unable to go to the concert and Polly said she had a ticket "with my name on it" - joy!

We had so much fun - there is something to be said for going to concerts where you know all the words. I loved it. We sang our hearts out and I felt so grateful that this "moment of delight" had fallen right into my lap.

And did I mention that we ate Sanders Hot Fudge sundaes as our concession fare? Beer and nachos didn't stand a chance when we saw that Sanders had a "sweet treat" booth. I'm sure we didn't look like we were "with the band," sitting shoulder-to-shoulder eating ice cream and catching up with each other, but it was the perfect concert experience.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Individual Cherry Gateau

I love homemade desserts, especially ones that look as good as this! In the height of cherry season, I wash and pit fresh cherries and then freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet. After they are frozen, I transfer them to a Ziploc bag and store them in the freezer. When I want to bake, it is just a matter of defrosting! Try this preservation technique next Summer - you'll be glad you did! For now, buy some cherries in the freezer section of your grocery store.

This recipe is adapted from the tried & true Blueberry Gateau recipe that was featured in Country Living magazine as a specialty at The Blueberry Hill Inn in Vermont.

Individual Cherry Gateau

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
approx. 2 cups fresh cherries, washed and drained (or defrosted)
*enough cherries to place 3-4 cherries per muffin cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a Texas-size (giant) muffin pan with vegetable-oil cooking spray.

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy and light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and continue to beat until blended. Reduce mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour mixture.

Put 1/3 cup of batter into each muffin cup. Nestle 3 or 4 halved cherries into the batter in each muffin cup. Bake for 30 minutes.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Yarn Technology

Have you seen the latest in yarn technology? Lion Brand Yarn has released "Ruffles" - a knit tape that creates a ruffle out of a traditional stitch. The tape has little holes in the weave - you slip your needles into the holes and knit as you normally would. The tape drapes as if some elaborate stitching is happening - love it!

It will be a short Winter White scarf with ruffle detail on both ends. I can't wait to wear it with a cream sweater - gorgeous!

I love technology.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Silk Rose Necklaces

My mind will not "let go" of silk rose necklaces. A popular new item for Spring - you can see really pretty ones for sale in the Sundance Catalog and at Anthropologie.

I thought you would find it interesting to see where I think it this trend began.

Millinery shops in the late 1800's! This photo is from Greenfield Village and The Henry Ford museum. A must-see educational (and entertaining) destination in Michigan, Greenfield Village is a life-size town made up of actual buildings and landmarks of the late 1800's (the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop and Thomas Edison's original laboratory are both here!)

A favorite of mine was, of course, the millinery shop. These antique hat decorations (in a display case on the main floor) are so similar to the new bib necklaces of today, don't you think?

It all makes sense really. Roses, silk and getting dressed up is a timeless pursuit. What's a hundred years between girls, right?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Timeless Bouquet

Have you noticed that more and more design elements are made of unexpected materials?

I've made purses from newspaper. Bought sushi made of soap. So it wasn't a stretch for me to make roses out of fabric. I thought it would be beautiful and voila!

It brings a new meaning to the phrase a timeless bouquet - ha!

What I like best is that I used a brown & mint toile fabric. A solid pink or red would have been so predictable - but this combination looks just as good, don't you think?

What is your favorite thing that is made from something unexpected?

Monday, March 1, 2010

European Touch

I absolutely love this picture I took in Lucerne, Switzerland. This day I was on my own, scouting the town trying to find the best spot to photograph some of the painted facades. Take a look at the building's simple window frames and realize that every bit of trim, arch and column is actually created with paint!

When I entered Weinmarket Square, I stood waiting for this tour group to move on so that could have an unobstructed shot of the building.

Then the more I looked at them, the more I liked the appreciation and "interest in history" that they represented. I found myself rushing with my camera/lens to capture it all before the group decided to move on. Got it!

Don't you just love their hats?