Friday, September 30, 2011

Liquid Nitrogen Milkshake at Flip

Did you know that there has been a surge in a food trend based on molecular gastronomy?

It plays with cooking techniques and pushes the envelope with presentation, food consistency (for example, a liquid sauce served as a solid, like tapioca beads) and the use of chemistry to alter foods safely and creatively.

When I was in Atlanta, I jumped at the chance to have a milkshake made with liquid nitrogen at Richard Blais' Flip Burger Boutique!

I ordered a "Turtle with Candied Pecans" milkshake and in addition to being icy cold, it was delicious!  The ice cream base and caramel swirl are poured into a thick glass.  Then the waitress pours liquid nitrogen into the mixture and it foams and freezes on contact.  So cool!  The whipped cream and frozen pecans add silky and crunchy elements to the dessert.  

Our waitress brought along an extra glass containing a bit of liquid nitrogen in it and we could see the clear contents bubbling and reacting.  She put a paper napkin, long spoon and straw into that glass and a smoky ice fog rose from the glass and was trapped in the folds of the paper napkin when I pulled it out.  It was interesting and beautiful.  And it felt like the whole process was sponsored by Houdini.

Would you ever try something frozen with liquid nitrogen?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Signature Dish

It was absolutely still.  Can you imagine having the opportunity to sit in this Adirondack chair and just take in the view?  It felt like a moose was going to walk out on cue.  If you haven't been to Maine, be sure to put it on your list.

When I travelled to Bar Harbor, Maine with my friend Angie a few years ago, one of our travel goals was to make it to Jordan Pond House, a restaurant that is located in the middle of Acadia National Park.  It has been in operation since the late 1800's and is famous for its popovers.  We made it!  The lawn of the restaurant (shown above) leads down to Jordan Pond and it is the epitome of peaceful. 

You know that I love to travel and that I enjoy researching and planning my itinerary almost as much as the actual trip!   Which brings me to signature dishes.  When you read up on a famous local place/hotel/restaurant, take note of their specialties.  And then order it when you get there!  It's fun to participate in the history of a place and to be able to look back at your trip with an edible memory
Maine was gorgeous and I had so many great experiences.  But I will always remember "having popovers at Jordan Pond" with Angie, I just know I will.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Still Life

Sometimes the prettiest vignettes aren't meant to be vignettes at all!  I walked by this favorite flower arrangement of mine (I loved it so much, I took it with me when I drove to the cottage!) and noticed that the flowers, table, lamp and book nearby looked gorgeous together!

The book (The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher) was on loan from the library, the flowers (Green Envy zinnias) were from the farmer's market and they "worked" in this room 200 miles from home. 

My point is that design and decorating should ebb and flow just like your life does.  Maybe it is time to clear the accessories from your living room (plants too!) and move things around a bit.  Add a new pillow to pull out the brown in a painting, or add a kiwi green tea set to shift the color focus for a while. 

If I can accidentally make a library book look this good, then I know you can too.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cupcake Research

When a friend comes into town, you suddenly have the perfect occasion for cupcakes!  As a blogger and sugar-lover, people assume that I have been to all the sweet spots in town.  For some reason, I hadn't been to Just Baked in Birmingham yet. 

It was on my list of "must try desserts," for sure, so when Corinne was in town from Hawaii and asked where I wanted to go, I immediately suggested that we do some cupcake research.  She was up for the challenge and we spent a lovely hour at Just Baked - sampling and smiling.

We chose to split a luscious Lemon Cupcake (filled with lemon curd!) and a Grumpy Cake, that has pillows of buttercream frosting dipped in a homemade chocolate ganache.  I'm not sure how they arrived at the name, but I assure you, this cupcake left us far from grumpy.

Do you have a "bucket list" for sweets?

Monday, September 26, 2011

College Football

And the Spartans of Michigan State rush onto the field in a whirl of smoke!  It's all theatrics, of course, but it sure made the crowd roar!
  • We had bright sun, when the forecast was for rain. 
  • We were able to get seats, when I was told that my section was "sold out."
  • Our team won, after a disappointing loss last week.
Yes, I'd say it was a pretty great day for college football.  Thank you, Michigan State, I had a wonderful time!   

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Football Tailgate

Everything tastes better outside!  This Saturday is dedicated to Spartan football and a two-meal tailgate outdoors on Munn Field.

My niece (20) and nephew (18) go to my alma mater, Michigan State University, and our tradition is to meet them on campus for a family tailgate with my Dad, husband and my brother's family, when possible.

The moon and stars aligned and the day was perfect!  We arrived at 9AM and got a great spot near the stadium to set up our tailgate.  By 9:30, French Toast and breakfast sausages were hot off the grill.  You can get my recipe for Outdoor French Toast here.

It was a bit cold and damp when we arrived and I was thankful for the "instant" MSU fleece scarves that I had made.  I bought a yard and a quarter of fleece (similar to this pattern) and cut it into 3 long strips to make instant scarves.  They looked great and added a necessary touch of green to our warm jackets.  Later when the sun came out (no rain!), I was warm enough to show my spirit in a vintage Spartan sweatshirt and green beaded necklace.

It was a perfect day - full of football, family and french toast.  Do you tailgate?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Scarf Love

I am knitting again.  I usually take a long break over the Spring/Summer (it's too hot!) and then like clockwork, I fall for the rhythmic, relaxing pleasure of knitting once the nights start to get cooler.

My mom is having knee replacement surgery next week and I know that this scarf will help me to relax at the hospital.  Having a little something to keep my hands busy always helps.

I bought gorgeous hand-painted Alpaca yarn at my favorite knit shop, Wool & Honey, in northern Michigan.  It is delicate in both color and feel.  I wanted to let the color variation shine, so I have paired it with a solid stone-colored soft wool blend.  I just love how this scarf is turning out.  I am using a technique that my Mother-in-Law showed me when she taught me to knit.  You make a scarf using 2 different yarns and alternate using them, row by row.  It makes a subtle stripe with no skills required! 

Choose two different yarns (compatible in color and weight).  Start with one of the yarns and knit one row (as wide as you want the scarf) onto circular needles.  Then add the second yarn and knit the next row using just the second yarn.  Notice that now you have one yarn coming off of each side of the scarf.  Continue with the "knit" stitch, row after row, alternating yarns.  For me it was, alpaca, stone, alpaca, stone.

This creates a stripe effect - each row is a different yarn.  When you need to start with a yarn, but the tail is on the other end, simply slide the scarf to the opposing needle, and voila, the tail is there are ready to use.  Super simple!

Have you ever tried this technique? 

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I want you to use your imagination and decide the story of this boat.  Is it a fisherman's?  A couple on a picnic?  I think this image would make a wonderful book jacket.

I'll tell you why I couldn't resist photographing this perfect scene:
  • The colors are layer upon layer of the same few shades - gorgeous and unusual
  • The lone boat evokes questions of solitude, escape and relaxation
  • Within this landscape there is a lot to look at, even though there is only one distinct object (a boat)  
Yes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Strategic Planning

A few friends and relatives have dropped over this week and this tabletop has sent them into a panic.  Some even questioned my sanity.  Everybody relax, I am not decorating for Christmas.  I am just doing some strategic planning.

I bought these cute wooden figures at our church rummage sale last Spring (for 75 cents!) and I am trying to figure out the best way to utilize them.  They came in 3 small ziploc bags and I finally had the chance this week to empty the bags and see what I have. 

I've imagined using them several different ways, and I think I have settled on making a "village" by gluing them (standing up and facing out) to a flat wooden wreath form.  Then I can put a large 3-wick candle in the middle of the village and it will make a really sweet centerpiece.

I like the idea of children walking around the table to see the different characters and how the "story" develops.  Wish me luck!  And yes, once it is finished, I will tuck it away until December.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Baked Apples

Suddenly, the dessert of choice around here is Baked Apples.  You see, my parents went to the farmer's market last weekend and bought way too many apples.  They didn't buy a bushel, but they certainly have enough to share.

This simple and easy recipe is a wonderful way to get an apple a day. (wink)

Baked Apples

Wash and core 4 baking apples, such as McIntosh.
Place upright in a small "perfect for four apples" baking dish with sides.  In a separate bowl, mix a handful of dark raisins, 4 Tablespoons of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon - plus a dash of nutmeg and a smidge of bourbon, if you'd like.  Spoon this mixture into the hollow center of each apple.  Pour 1/4 cup of water into the bottom of the pan.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the apples collapse.  Serve as a side dish with pork, or as a healthy alternative to dessert. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Book Page Wreath

When I feel like I need a little drama in my life, I make something like this!  From the street, my book page wreath practically jumps off the front door. 

I was inspired to make a book page wreath when I saw this collection of them in a shop window at BEE in Atlanta.  It is such a cute store - full of gorgeous decorative elements and beautiful gifts in a natural color palatte.  I saw a lot of woven textures, soft linen and white on white.  Such a pretty shop!
The wreaths have been on my mind ever since and I finally "made it happen" this weekend and I love the result!

The project is easy, but time consuming.  I started with a wooden wreath frame (you can use any frame that will accept hot glue), a college text book, a glue gun (keep ice water on hand in case you touch the hot glue - ouch!) and some Zots adhesive dots

  • Tear the page from the book
  • Roll the page, top to bottom - I used a small piece of tape to keep it rolled
  • The "torn" end of the roll will be the decorative outside, the other end should be flattened and glued to the wreath form.  This makes the outside row.
  • Add more pages and overlap pages as necessary to fill in holes.
  • Then start the interior row.  You'll notice that to make the next row shorter and build the staggered length effect, your roll is about 2 inches too long.
  • Place it where you want it.  Let the excess flap into the center, wrap it neatly through the hole and use an adhesive dot to hold it down on the back.  Then come back to the front and use the glue gun to glue the roll in place.  Repeat for this row.
  • Start another, shorter interior row and do it exactly the same way.  Continue folding the extra flap through the center of the wreath and use a glue dot it to keep it attached to the back.
  • The last interior row is actually made up of rolled pages folded in half.  Glue one side to the wreath and make the roll stay folded with an adhesive dot.
  • I fashion a "hanger" out of a length of duct tape folded in half (for strength) to make a "U" loop and then stapled it to the back.  Voila!
I hope you like it and in turn, feel inspired!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Creative Flower Arranging

Did you gasp too?  One good thing about Fall is the change in the quality of light.  This arrangement fairly glowed on my kitchen sink.

What I wanted you to see it that I have used the hydrangea blossom as a "frog."  Do you know about frogs?  A frog is an item made to steady blossoms.  They can be metal with spikes (to spear the stem onto) or an openwork cage that blossoms tuck into for support.  

By placing the hydrangea into the vase first and centering it on the jar, I can tuck roses through the structure of the hydrangea blossom and the roses stay in place.  I think it looks absolutely gorgeous, don't you?

Creative flower arranging doesn't have to be wacky colors, strange vases or playing with scale.  Creativity can simply mean doing something interesting.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dylan's Candy Bar

My first visit to Dylan's Candy Bar in New York City was a thrill.  There were mannequins in candy dresses and enough candy of every variety to fill a multi-level flagship store in Manhattan.  Dylan Lauren, daughter of design mogul Ralph Lauren, expressed her love of candy in a way we had never seen before and succeeded in overwhelming shoppers with vintage treat, playfully over-sized candy and items branded exclusively to Dylan's Candy Bar.  It is a marketing girl's dream come true - color, flavor and nostalgia all rolled into one.  Everyone can afford a little candy, right?  It's genius.

So I was surprised and intrigued when I heard that a Dylan's Candy Bar had opened at the Grand Traverse Resort in northern Michigan.  I knew that Dylan had opened a handful of shops around the country, but to me it seemed unlikely" that a resort in northern Michigan" would be the short list for potential outlets.

But sure enough, I was there and saw it with my own eyes (see above).  There are actually two locations at the resort, a Dylan's Candy Bar and a separate Dylan's Candy Cafe, a place to relax and eat their homemade ice cream.  Red Velvet Cake ice cream, anyone?

To truly enjoy and appreciate Dylan's Candy Bar, you need to visit her flagship location in New York.  What I saw in Michigan was pretty and a source for her branded items (t-shirts, plates, beach towels) - certainly great for souvenirs from a golf vacation, but it doesn't live up to the design aesthetic and wonder of what I saw in New York, not even close.

But considering that Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park (about an hour away) was named one of the country's most beautiful places by Good Morning America, maybe northern Michigan will be a "sweet spot" for new business after all.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Saving Summer

Photography is my way of saving Summer.  It's how I save everything, really.  I love that I can capture a look, a meal, a view and then months later, just a glance can bring it all back to me.

Before time slips away, flip through your photos from the Summer and pick out a picture with a meaningful view.  Print it in 8 x 10, or make it your screen saver.  Let it be a timeless canvas to remind you of some pretty great days.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Missoni For Target

I got some!  You know that I am a collector at heart and I just could not pass up a chance to have a piece of the limited edition collection of Missoni for Target.

In a nutshell, Missoni is a family-owned Italian fashion house that is famous for its use of color and zig zag stripes in high end knitwear, such as sweaters and sweater dresses.

I had gone to a Target a few days before the launch to see if any of the locations were setting up and displaying items for sale early, as many did when the John Derian collection was released.  I got a few pieces that way and was hopeful.  No such luck.  I was told by a really sweet salesgirl that 8 o'clock on the 13th was when to come back.  I took her word for it and showed up at my local Target (rumored to be the highest volume Target in the state) at 7:45 AM.

Holy cow!  60 people were in line with me.  I had no idea that anyone would show up - I just thought it would be fun to see the display fully-stocked and as Missoni/Target intended it.  Well that didn't last long.  The clothing section was sold out at 8:08 AM - no joke.

Thankfully, the fever was for the clothing first (naturally, since that is the brand's genesis) so I was able to go to the housewares department and put the pieces that I wantd into my cart.  I love love love what I got, I mean, look how perfectly the sweater-style ceramic platter looks in my family room.  No decorating required!  I'll showcase other pieces this Fall as I use them around the house.

I do, however, feel disappointed that others didn't have the same chance to shop the collection.  I saw many women who were grabbing clothing indiscriminately to shove in their cart and sell on eBay later.  Despicable.

But I have hope.  I hope that Target will place a re-order for the collection and that stores will eventually get replenished (even if it takes months) so all shoppers at all times of the day can have a little piece of this cute and (historically popular!) collection.  And I also hope that Target will impose a 20-item limit at checkout for special collections.  I know that the heart of retail is sales, but I believe that the Target customer has to be given a fighting chance against the resale vultures.

I want everyone to have delight.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Drum Talk

Just before classes started on campus, I visited my alma mater, Michigan State University to have a reunion dinner with 3 English-major buddies.  While we drove campus after dinner, I was able to sneak a peek into Demonstration Hall and the marching band's closet. 

Students were moving in and out of here like ants...checking their uniforms and replacing their instruments.  I managed to get a picture and I like to think of it as "anticipation" - all of those uniforms and instruments just waiting to rile up the crowd.

It was a beautiful night and as we walked from this building, we were lured by the drum beat of the MSU drum line practicing!  What fun to hear them playing live.  I don't know what it is about drums, but I get swept away by the speed and precision.  When they finished, I let out a big "Whoop!" in appreciation and heard silence.  Apparently it is not proper protocol to cheer during a practice, but it was magnificent and I couldn't help myself.  I hope that the students secretly appreciated it. 

I've included a 2 minute video link (below) of the drum line as it appears for the public on the MSU website.  Do drums make you crazy too?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Preserving Summer

Let me start off with this: These are real peaches.  Gorgeous, glistening, perfectly ripe peaches.  If this photo doesn't say "August," then I don't know what would!

You have noticed my foray into preserving Summer and I think this will be my biggest success.  I decided to try the freezing method, as I think that will keep the fruit closest to right off the tree fresh.

First I washed and sterilized jars in the dishwasher and simmered the lids in a pan of water.  Then I cut an "X" in the bottom of each peach and blanched it in hot water, then scooped it out of the hot water and into an ice bath to prevent further cooking.  This method helps the skin to release and you can see the results above - perfectly peeled peaches. 

I then sliced the peaches into a large bowl and sprinkled them with Fruit Fresh, to preserve their color and prevent browning.

I dissolved 1 cup of sugar in 2 cups water and brought it to a boil.  Pack the peach slices into the jars (leaving about an inch for expansion in freezer) and pour syrup over them (make sure there is still an inch of room for expansion).  Jiggle contents with a wooden skewer or narrow tool, to release any trapped air bubbles.

Wipe rim clean.  Place clean lid onto jar.  Screw band on tight and freeze!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Visiting Notre Dame

This brings back wonderful memories of visiting Notre Dame cathedral in Paris.  I've tip-toed around the perimeter as a tourist while services were being held.  I've arrived early on Easter to ensure that I could find a good seat.  I've visited with my parents and proudly shown them the spectacular Rose window.  Notre Dame is more than an icon of Paris to me, and this little paper building does a wonderful job keeping my favorite city on my mind.  I see it every time I walk into the living room and it makes me smile.  Do you like how I lined up the plaid to make a dramatic sidewalk?  I couldn't resist.

If you (or a friend) have a trip to Paris planned, be sure to check the "tabac" and souvenir shops for postcard carousels selling assemble-your-own architecture kits like this.  They are wonderful and inexpensive gifts to bring back to your friends.

Not heading overseas anytime soon? Me either!  But you can get your own little paper Notre Dame online here.  If you want to read all of my Paris hints & tips (along with my gorgeous color pics!), order my book, Paris: Delight in the City of Light by clicking the "Add To Cart" button at the top of the page.  It's magnifique!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Glittering Dried Hydrangeas

Can you see the faint twinkle of glitter?  When I was drying hydrangeas earlier this Summer (with the hopes of making a glittered bouquet), I promised to show you the finished product when it was on display in the dining room.  Voila! 

The hydrangea petals dried in shades of green and khaki and they are the perfect compliment to my my Wellies green-colored wallpaper.  I punched up the look of the petals by glittering them with different shades of green, gold and faint blue glitter.  I mounded the blossoms onto one another in a open-weave ceramic bowl and all I can say is love, love, love.

To me, this says, "Welcome Fall!"

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cockscomb: Mother Nature's Knit Flower

Fabric flowers are all the rage in design right now.  You'll see tattered silk wrapped in circles to create a romantic rose necklace or pin.  And now you can now buy adorable felted flowers that are ready to attach anywhere - no skill required!  These felted flowers can brighten up a knit handbag, scarf or pillow. 

As cute as these Feltworks flowers are, my favorite "Felted Flowers" are the ones provided by Mother Nature.  Have you seen cockscomb for sale in your farmer's market?  They are a multi-colored Fall flower that can really give your living room some interesting texture.  Grab a bunch and let the conversation begin.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Beautiful and Interesting

This is a simple touch, but what an impact it has on the mood of this room.  Essentially, it sends the message "Someone who cares, has been here."

And it is as easy as dropping 2 roses and a little verbena into a child-size antique teapot.  Do a little something extra that makes your family room beautiful and interesting.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Apple Slaw

Whenever I am creating a new recipe, I think of what I do and don't want it to be.  For example, I was invited to my friend Tricia's for a "Simply Asia" product tasting party.  It was to be a lunch at the lake and then boating afterwards.  The guests were to bring a dish that would compliment Thai food.

Thai Food...hmm.  I knew that I didn't want the dish to have peanuts in it, because that would compete with the peanut-flavored sauces.  I also didn't want to make a spicy dish, because I imagined my dish being a welcome relief from all of the spice spice spice.  What did I want it to be?  Cold and refreshing.

I made up a fresh apple slaw and it was a hit!  So much so that they ate every last bit and I brought home an empty bowl.   You can see it on the plate at the 12 o'clock position.  I am going to give you general measurements here - you will really want to mix it to your taste.

Anne's Asian Apple Slaw

Shred 1 Fuji apple with a handheld julienne shredder or my favorite, this Borner Julienne
Shred 2 green zucchini
Shred 1 yellow squash
Grate some fresh ginger onto the slaw

Mix 3 Tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar, 2 Tablespoons of Dijon mustard, a  squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a splash of bottled ginger juice.  Mix and toss with shredded apple and vegetables.

When we arrived, I sprinkled some candied ginger pieces on top.  Voila!  A cold, fresh and delicious Asian salad that was everything I wanted it to be and nothing that I didn't.  Sometimes a recipe pro/con list is just what you need!  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Mixing Flowers and Herbs

I wanted you to see how simple and effective it is to mix flowers and herbs together in a bouquet.  This is a David Austin English Rose ("Heritage") combined with a variegated leaf Pineapple Sage - and boy does it smell heavenly.  

You'd be surprised by how many people walk into our family room and think that they aren't real!  Aren't they gorgeous?  I have them in a hanging chemistry tube vase that I found a few years ago at CB2 (a less expensive and more modern version of Crate and Barrel).  You can find a similar vase here.

I was recently interviewed about how I use herbs in my life, you can read about it here in the "Mix with Flowers" section.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Spontaneous Crepe

I believe in the power of positive thinking.  I believe in the power of suggestion.  I believe in positive reinforcement.  All of these concepts were fulfilled by this humble crepe.

I have never met a crepe I didn't like.  And unless they become the "cupcake" of 2012 and appear in shops and carts at every venue in every town, I will continue to order one on the spur of the moment whenever I get the chance.  They are small, delicious and always feel like a special treat.

By ordering this butter and sugar crepe at the farmer's market on Sunday, a lot of things happened.  When it was presented to me, I immediately set it down on the tablecloth to take this photograph.  I actually saw the vendor stand a little straighter when he saw how I valued his product.  

Then as I happily ate this crepe while I meandered past the other market stalls, I noticed a few other patrons line up at the crepe table.  Did my impromptu snack suggest that hot crepes were available and delicious (based on the powdered sugar on my cheeks)?  Absolutely.

We are affecting each other by our actions more than you know.  Slow down and try to notice if your actions have a positive effect.  It is good for your state of mind.  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Black and Blue

I'm not sure the farmer believed me when I told her that it was her display that made me choose her booth for berries.  But it's the truth!  How could I resist this black and blue checkerboard effect?

As a girl, each Summer I would pick black raspberries in the yard neighboring my grandmother's house with my boy cousins.  We would eat, smush (for horror movie effects) and collect as many berries as you would expect a 9, 10 and 11 year old to.  With our bounty, my mother would make jam.  This unusual berry is my flavor of choice on toast and it is not often that I get the chance to make it.

Here is Part Two from my week of binge canning (so far tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, apricots, peaches and pickles!): 

Black Raspberry Freezer jam

It is super easy to make homemade jam when you use  Ball's No Cook Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin.  You simply blend the envelope of pectin with 1 1/2 cups sugar, then add 4 cups of crushed fresh berries and stir for 3 minutes. Then ladle the jam into clean jam jars and let stand for 30 minutes.  Put one jar in your refrigerator to enjoy now and store the extra jars in the freezer.