Friday, April 30, 2010

Oh, Honey!

One day my doorbell rang and my dear friend, Tracy, was standing at the door. My dear friend Tracy...that lives 3 hours away! At the time I had some big worries, had talked them all over with her on the phone and then it must have been a day or two later and there she was!

She had diverted her route (to visit family on my side of the state) to drop off something to cheer me up. She came with a ribbon-wrapped jar of honey. Not just any honey, but honey produced on her land, by her bees. Honey that was extracted from the comb by her family and carefully decanted into pretty little jam jars.

She said that she wasn't sure, but she was pretty sure, that her honey was medicinal.

Do you love it? Trust me, it was just what the doctor ordered. Love.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Moonlight Gardening

When we lived in our first house, my little rose garden was next to the front walk and I had a huge clematis vine that grew and bloomed on the porch post.

The blooms were as large as dessert plates and it made quite a show at the front of the house.

I loved that little front garden and since I had a 9-5 job, the only time I really had to tend it was in the evenings.

When we would garden on warm Summer nights, we often ran into the across-the-street neighbors and their small children. Too excited to sleep, I think a walk around the neighborhood was their attempt to wear the kids out.

I love children and always make a point to explain the flower names and have them touch the blooms etc. One night, when Daniel (about 5 years old) asked me what I was doing, I told him the activity was called "Moonlight Gardening." Sounds great, right? Well the name stuck and for years, Daniel would periodically ask me if tonight was a "Moonlight Gardening" night.

I work from home now and have much more time to tend to my plants, but every now and then, my husband and I head outside to do some "Moonlight Gardening" and I love it just the same.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Dollhouse Quilt

I think antique quilts are works of art. I love to have a quilt hanging on the wall as a decorating element in the house.

So naturally, my dollhouse needed one too! I have a sweet pink & white "guest room" where the grandmother doll lives and I made her this quilt to hang on the wall. It makes the pink and white bedding (with ruffle pillows!) look complete.

Do you know a little girl who would like a quilt for her dollhouse? Take a piece of white adhesive-backed stiffened felt (available at craft stores), cut it to the size of quilt you would like. Cut out a few 2 x 2 inch pieces of print fabric to have color and pattern in the background. Then cut out small squares and triangles of coordinating fabrics. On the table next to you, arrange the pieces in layers until you like the design. Starting at the lowest layer (larger background pieces), stick the pieces onto the sticky side of the stiffened adhesive-backed felt. Build up the design from there using fabric glue (I like Sobo). Glue white (or color appropriate) seam binding tape to make a finished edge. Use clothes pins to hold the seam binding tape in place as the glue dries.

Voila! You've made a mini-masterpiece!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Natural Beauty

You wonder where I get my "eye"?
When my Mom and I were out driving last weekend, she yelled, "Look! It's like a girl hanging her head into the sink to wash her hair!"

She was talking about this weeping cherry, of course. The main trunk is down the right side and the entire "weep" is to the left. I turned the car around and we went back to get this shot. She has brought it up a few times since and was sure I should put it "in the blog" - sure that you needed to see it as a sign of Spring.

It is that love of nature and joy in seeing the unexpected that made me who I am today, no doubt about it.

Do you see the girl washing her hair?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Gone to Seed: Botanical Interests Seed Packets turned Cute Accessory

I am ruled by the garden. I keep going out onto the patio to check on the roses (healthy and leafing, but essentially green sticks with potential). The peonies are nothing but 6 inch high tufts. I imagine bouquets, but I only have dirt. The weather is too dicey to plant annuals yet, so I did the only thing I could think of to soothe the gardener in me. I planted seeds.

I have always loved the packaging of Botanical Interests and now that I have planted the seeds in pots on my patio, I am going to try to make a business card case out of the empty packets. Seriously. If it works, I promise to show you.

Either way, I am sure to have columbine, Icelandic poppies and nasturtiums brightening my bouquets by July. Hooray!

*It worked! The cases are just darling and they are a wonderful conversation piece every time I pull one out of my purse.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ladies Lunch

The luncheon and boutique was a big success! I had such a nice time talking to customers, seeing old friends and signing books/selling accessories at the hour-long boutique before lunch. Many of my friends from my active years as a volunteer for the Junior League had never seen my book (Moments of Delight), so it was fun to show it to them in person. The pages are filled with lavender fields, sunsets and farmer's markets (all things I am looking forward to) and I just can't wait to photograph Summer 2010!

After the whirl of tissue paper and all things super cute, it was nice to relax in the club's dining room for a traditional ladies lunch. Popovers, big salads and iced tea - at a window table overlooking a Red Bud tree. What could be better?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hot Chocolate

When one of my brothers and his family came over on Easter, they gave me a goodie bag of sweet & salty treats they thought I might like. When I pulled this gorgeous chocolate bar from the tissue paper my brother said, "It's hot chocolate." Ha!

This Lindt Excellence dark chocolate bar called "Chili" is spiced with red chili extract! As someone whose ears turn pink if the salsa is too hot, I wondered just how hot it would be. I am happy to report that it is delicious. I think that a piece or two would be nice after dinner - sitting by the fire with a glass of red wine. Mmmmm...

Do you like hot chocolate?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Button It

When you are known for "making things," people will give you the coolest stuff! When my best friend, Kim, first moved into her house, she found scores of loose buttons in the basement. Years later, when she saw me working on this button necklace she dropped off at least a hundred old buttons. Do you see what I see in this photograph? I am thinking that this will become a gorgeous necklace for Fall.

Picture me touring a college campus with my nephew (he'll be a freshman in the Fall!), wearing a white dress shirt, Glen plaid pants, a navy sweater and the button necklace that we are both imagining.

Thanks, Kim!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Heavenly Bites, Butterscotch Cookies

Raise your hand if you have a stick of butter, 1 egg, brown sugar, vanilla, baking powder, baking soda, salt and flour in the house. See! You are ready to bake and you didn't even know it.

I promise you can bake the most delicious cookies today with these basic pantry items. These heavenly bites are just like "Blondies," baked in a square pan and then cut out with a scalloped biscuit cutter.

Heavenly Bites

1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. baking powder
1/8 t. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter (or use vegetable spray) and flour a 8 x 8 pan (I like to use a silicone baking pan, which eliminates this step). In a mixing bowl, beat melted butter and brown sugar together. Mix in egg and vanilla extract. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix. Pour the batter into the pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Cool, cut into shapes and enjoy with a friend. Yum!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Delightful Life

Spring is my favorite time for parties - graduations, confirmations, bridal showers. I love them all. The blooming trees (look at this magnolia!), pretty wrapping paper, chicken salad and invites on the refrigerator are all part of what make celebrating fun.

This Friday, I am attending a Junior League Spring luncheon and boutique at the same women's club where I was given a bridal shower eighteen years ago. It is the same location, the same rooms, the same month, the same blooming trees (although quite a bit taller!) - what memories it will bring back. I can't wait to be there and remember it all over again.

The interesting thing is that I am participating in the boutique - offering my "Moments of Delight" book, one-of-a-kind jewelry, ANA purses and totes for Mother's Day.

Eighteen years ago, I didn't have my own business, hadn't heard of a blog, a Facebook Fan Page, or a Twitter account. I could never have imagined this delightful life.

The Willard

I love to visit The Willard hotel in Washington D.C. It is a fixture in American history and has been the setting of countless potitical meetings.

Abraham Lincoln lived here in the days before his inauguration. Can you imagine? I stopped in my tracks when I saw his hand-written note of praise framed and hanging in a corridor. I just learned that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous "I Have A Dream" speech while staying at the Willard.

I have my own wonderful memories of the Willard from my dear friend, Erika's wedding. We were friends all through high school and then were roommates for two years at Michigan State. Everything was picture-perfect for her wedding - it was a gorgeous event filled with family and friends and after a night of celebrating, we retired to historic luxury. I loved it!

So a few years ago, when another friend (Jamie, another friend from college) asked where should we meet while I was in D.C., I proposed tea at the Willard! We relaxed in our own little sitting area (within what is called "Peacock Alley") and could talk in peace for hours with hot tea, scones and sweets. It was girl heaven.

Our favorite part was selecting our tea. They present a velvet-lined chest filled with glass test tubes of fine tea. The attendant uncorks each choice and offers you a chance to smell it and decide. Jaime and I ended up smelling every single choice (why not?) and then, although they all smelled divine, I had the guts to ask if they had English Breakfast. When she said yes, Jamie asked if they had Earl Grey. Seriously. We giggled to ourselves afterward that although "Vanilla Orchid" sounded (and smelled) great, we really liked the classics. Ha! I wouldn't change a thing. The next time you are planning a reunion with an old friend, why not have tea at a fancy hotel? You'll make memories that will last forever.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Dive Right In

Can you tell that this serving bowl is a swimming pool? With a goggle-wearing swimmer on the ladder peering into the vegetables?

I love this kooky bowl that my brother & sister-in-law gave us years ago. It just screams "Summer Fun" and brings some whimsy to the table. Probably the best part of it didn't make it into the photo, though. There is a small "jacuzzi" bowl for dip/sauce that has a swimming cap-wearing woman soaking in it. Goofy, but fun. Doesn't this picture make you want to dive right in?

Eat your veggies!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Magnolia Bouquet

Who is lucky enough to have magnolias for a flower arrangement? Me! My neighbor (Thanks, Phyllis!) has the perfect tree in her front yard and lets me pick freely.

There are only a few days a year when you can even hope to make an arrangement of magnolias and today was the day.

I took this darling antique sugar bowl and filled it with a few pristine magnolias and some Bradford Pear blooms (Note: Bradford Pear blossoms do not smell good. The photograph keeps the secret, but if you want to make an arrangement with magnolias for indoors, use a different accent flower).

This sugar bowl is the one that I found at the Country Living Fair in Columbus, Ohio last year! (FYI: Mark your calendar. This year's Fair is September 25/25/26 ). Have you ever made a flower arrangement in a sugar bowl? You should try it!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Artichoke Cheesecake

Tonight is Euchre Night, and I am making one of my favorite appetizers...
Artichoke Cheesecake!

It sounds unusual, even complicated, but I promise you it is simple and delicious!

Years ago, I gave this recipe to a friend. She made it for a big family party and afterwards, her Aunt (who was in town from England) came up to her and told her to tell me not to share it! She said that every woman needs some secret recipes up her sleeve that this should be mine! Isn't that cute? But I am sharing none the less. You just have to promise to tell me how much your family & friends loved it, okay?

Artichoke Cheesecake

3 (8 oz) packages 1/3 Less Fat "Neufch√Ętel" cream cheese

5 oz crumbled feta cheese (save a sprinkle for the garnish)

1/2 t. dried oregano

3 eggs

6 oz jar marinated artichokes (drained & chopped, please reserve liquid)

3 sliced scallions (green & white part) - save some for garnish

Some fresh tomatoes (Roma -sliced small or cherry/grape - halved), 1 small can black olive slices, more scallions, fresh basil.

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, feta, oregano and garlic powder. Add eggs, chopped artichokes, scallions and 2 Tablespoons of reserved artichoke marinade. Pour in glass pie plate and bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes. Cool and then refrigerate a few hours to let flavors meld. Before serving, garnish with chopped/halved tomato, black olives, more scallions and shredded fresh basil leaves. Serve at room temperature with a knife and plate of crackers.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Walking Tour

I did a walking tour of my neighborhood this morning. I was looking to capture some flowering trees in natural sunlight.

My neighbor Mary (with whom I share a birthday!) has a two-story weeping cherry in her front yard. It brings our street a glorious puff of pale pink and I am so thankful that she planted it all those years ago.

Look back at my favorite tree (a Bradford Pear and Weeping Cherry combined). It is putting on a show as we speak.

Spring is like the circus - it comes to town once a year to put on a spectacular show!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Growing Potatoes

Did you know I was going into farming? Well, baby steps.

For Christmas, my parents gave my brothers and me the latest advancement in garden technology: a potato grow bag. The spud "starter kit" arrived this week and I have 3 varieties sprouting in my kitchen. In a day or so, they get planted in the bottom of a porous drum-shaped bag and someday I will...have a lot of potatoes!

All in all, it should be a fun process and if you start to see a trend of recipes revolving around potatoes here, you'll know why!

My favorite quote from my Mom when we opened our gift was, "These are all the rage in England." Ha! Very cute and certainly blog-worthy. Potatoes here I come.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bradford Pear

Flowering trees are the epitome of delight. The short-lived blooms remind us to relish great moments as they happen. This photo is of a Bradford Pear tree in front of my house.

These petals have been open about 5 hours. Even a day later, they won't be this fresh, this pristine. I consider myself lucky to be home on the day of the bloom, lucky to have a camera and lucky to have an audience to share it with.

Are you been noticing the flowering trees where you live?
Happy Spring!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cute Pens

I'm a sucker for a cute pen. I think they really "add" something to my purse, are fun to loan when someone asks "Do you have a pen?" and generally enhance writing. There I've said it.

I've got quite a collection now and I don't regret a single one. When I was in the bookstore last week, I saw this new display and stopped in my tracks. Yes, I resisted, but aren't they pretty?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Lend A Hand

Cute, eh? I ran a leadership training seminar for the Junior League last week and brought cookies as a "training tool!"

My theme was "the hand" and all the ways that using your hands could support the membership and its mission.
  • Wave it in warmth & recognition
  • Give a "thumbs up" to encourage others
  • Offer it when someone needs you
  • Applaud volunteer efforts
  • Raise it when you need help

It was an excellent night and I was so happy to help these women connect and collaborate as they grow into their leadership roles.

(sigh) I love this stuff.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Make A Puzzle

This would make a great puzzle, don't you think? I absolutely love Switzerland. Everything's a picture, in my opinion. I took this photo in the little lakeside town of Weggis. I had left the hotel and was trying to catch up with my Dad, who had gone for a walk. I found him on the path, just past a wisteria-draped pergola, looking at this view.

We stood there admiring this little harbor and talking about how easy it seemed to keep a boat on Lake Lucerne. I could have looked at this view forever.

And maybe I should! If I made a puzzle of it, I could soak it up even more. Have you ever had a puzzle made from a photograph? I order them online from Kodak - it makes a wonderful gift. The puzzles are small, but the impact is big.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Honey Lavender Cupcake

Holidays are a strong magnet pulling my friends home to see their parents. The bonus is that I get to see them too!

Last year, my friend Barb moved to a neighboring state. When I heard she was coming home for Easter (and was free to visit on Good Friday), we arranged our schedules so that we could see each other.

It was her genius idea to go to "The Cupcake Station." Barb (and her darling 6-year-old) arrived before me and when I walked in, I was greeted with "I've already ordered. You're having the Honey Lavender's so you."

How great is that? When a friend knows you well enough to order your cupcake. And she was right, of course. It was delicious and of all the glorious choices, I would have picked that one for sure.

We talked and laughed and ate our frosting masterpieces (yes, those are dried lavender buds sprinkled on top!). She gave me ideas for our upcoming trip to London and we were smiling the whole time. Thank you, Barb.

I love the holidays.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Little Nest

I think it looks charming to have a small nest tucked among the leaves of a plant. It says "Spring!" to me and adds a little whimsy in an unexpected place.

You can find small branch nests and faux eggs at most craft stores. Once you take them out of the florescent lighting, away from the dusty fern fronds and faux bananas, they look fantastic.

I bought this little branch and egg set years ago and I love it just as much today as when I first bought it.

The branch is made with a dull gold cable, the nest is beading wire, the tiny eggs were painted gold and the flowers were created with glass beads. Knowing that, you could easily recreate this yourself.

I love how it looks on top of my orchid, don't you?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Jell-O Salad

Spring is here and I want you to make this layered Jell-O salad for your next party! It would be perfect for a graduation party, bridal shower, picnic on the deck - you name it.

This mini-masterpiece is made from 12 layers of Jell-o (6 of the layers have sour cream mixed in) and it was delicious! It requires no skill, just time to create.

At the last minute, my Dad and I decided that I should cut each serving with a scalloped circle biscuit cutter, instead of into squares. You get fewer portions that way (so plan accordingly) but what a gorgeous result!

If you try it, let me know!
Layered Jell-O Salad:
Boiling water
7 (4-serving size) boxes of different flavors of classic Jell-O
1 large carton of sour cream

Choose a glass rectangular pan, about 13 x 9. Spray with plain non-stick cooking spray.
Stir 1 1/4 cups of boiling water into 1 package of Jell-O. Stir until dissolved. Pour 3/4 of the mixture into the pan. Place in the refrigerator. Leave the balance of the hot Jell-O on the counter to cool to room temperature. When the Jell-O in the pan has set, it is time to make the creamy layer. Mix 3 Tablespoons of (room temperature) sour cream into the remaining liquid Jell-O on the counter. Whisk gently until the sour cream is incorporated and there are no lumps. Having both ingredients at room temperature helps this. Slowly pour the creamy mixture onto the set Jell-O in the pan. Use the bowl of the spoon to slow down the stream of liquid, so that the pouring liquid doesn't dent the layer below. Tip the pan to coat the entire first layer in creamy Jell-O, if necessary. Repeat until all of your layers are built!
Be sure to let each layer set before proceeding to the next. I make a few layers each day and it seems easier.

Buy flavors that are different colors so that each layer looks distinct. Lemon (yellow) next to Apricot (lt orange) is hard to see. Put blue (watermelon) in between. I love the "Island Pineapple," be sure to get that!

To serve, slice into squares with a knife and lift out with a small spatula. Serve from the pan, it can only be moved once - pan to plate. But it is gorgeous and delicious!
The result is ALWAYS gorgeous and perfect for a big Easter dinner.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Wishes

Wishing you a
delightful Easter
full of family and

All the best,

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Peter Cottontail

"Here comes Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail..."

I gasped when I saw these adorable plush bunnies in the window of our local bookstore. Nothing says Easter like your very own bunny.

I have bunnies alright. Mine are named Ben and Bernice. They are wild, like lounging on our lawn and have been with us for years. I am hoping to see some baby bunnies this Spring - some little ones to call Robbie, Ralphie, Roberta or Roxie.

As you work on some Easter magic in the kitchen today, hum a little "Peter Cottontail" to yourself.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Baking for Easter

You think I do a lot of baking for Easter...imagine the volume of holiday breads made in Paris right now! I was lucky enough to spend Easter in the Paris a few years ago and I saw some real bakers in action.

Bright and early on Easter Sunday, my husband and I walked from our hotel to Notre Dame for church services. As I walked past this bakery, I noticed it had a viewing window! It was about 7 o'clock in the morning and I'm sure these two had been up all night baking so that Parisians had bread for their Easter meal.

Just after I took this photo, the man (on the left) looked up and I smiled and waved. He understood that I was saying "Happy Easter!"

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Layered Jello Salad

When I say that I am making Jell-O for Easter, I'm not kidding!

I've decided to make my layered Jell-O over the next two days. I use 7 different flavors of Jell-O and sour cream to make a multi-layer salad. Do you know which one I am talking about? When you cut and serve a square, you can see all 14 layers!

The basic instructions are as follows:

Boiling water
7 (4-serving size) boxes of different flavors of classic Jell-O
1 large carton of sour cream

Choose a glass rectangular pan, about 13 x 9.  Spray with plain non-stick cooking spray. 

Stir 1 1/4 cups of boiling water into 1 package of Jell-O.  Stir until dissolved.  Pour 3/4 of the mixture into the pan.  Place in the refrigerator.  Leave the balance of the hot Jell-O on the counter to cool to room temperature.  When the Jell-O in the pan has set, it is time to make the creamy layer.  Mix 3 Tablespoons of (room temperature) sour cream into the remaining liquid Jell-O on the counter.  Whisk gently until the sour cream is incorporated and there are no lumps.  Having both ingredients at room temperature helps this.  Slowly pour the creamy mixture onto the set Jell-O in the pan.  Use the bowl of the spoon to slow down the stream of liquid, so that the pouring liquid doesn't dent the layer below.  Tip the pan to coat the entire first layer in creamy Jell-O, if necessary.  Repeat until all of your layers are built! 

  • Be sure to let each layer set before proceeding to the next.  I make a few layers each day and it seems easier.
  • Buy flavors that are different colors so that each layer looks distinct.  Lemon (yellow) next to Apricot (lt orange) is hard to see.  Put blue (watermelon) in between.  I love the "Island Pineapple," be sure to get that! 
To serve, slice into squares with a knife and lift out with a small spatula.  Serve from the pan, it can only be moved once - pan to plate.  But it is gorgeous and delicious!

The result is ALWAYS gorgeous and perfect for a big Easter dinner. I wanted to show you a picture, but by the time it is ready to serve, you wouldn't have time to make it yourself!  See my finished layered Jell-O here.

Don't forget miss the other great Easter recipes in my blog: Bunny Buns, Chocolate Nests, Cherry Pound Cake in the shape of an egg and; Cherry Frosting.