Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Good Egg

This silly, but useful, breakfast tool made my morning.  I bought this toast-shaped egg shaper as a stocking stuffer for my husband last Christmas.  He loves putting salsa and cheese on a piece of toast and topping it with a fried egg.  If that's how you like your eggs, what could be better?

I pulled it out of the utensil drawer the other morning and gave it a try.  I think it was designed for one egg (be sure to spray the form with non-stick cooking spray), because some of the uncooked egg spread beyond the toast-shape when I flipped it.  I like my eggs cooked really well, so I gave it more heat and time than the average girl.  I'm sure that with one egg it would cook perfectly.
The unexpected benefit was that the cartoon egg character peering over the edge of the eggs cooking made me smile.  Dumb? Yes.  Made my morning? Kinda.  If you have an egg-lover in your family, you might just want to treat them to one of the silly egg cooking products by Joie de Vivre's Eggy.  

Monday, April 29, 2013

Painting Party

I am a member of the local alumnae chapter of my sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta. The group strives to connect members socially, raise money for our philanthropies and keep a strong post-college connection to the group that had such an important part of our college years.

Every once in a while, the group's schedule of fun, member-connecting activities coincide with a quiet night on my calender and I am able to attend.  I was so happy to see that one of our members (a trained art teacher) was donating her time to host an acrylics painting class last Friday night.

I had forgotten how relaxing it is to paint.  I really felt my blood pressure wind down as we layered color upon color to create a realistic country field.  

Although I must admit, I did feel a big grip of fear/hesitation when she told us to load our brush with paint and create the sky - right across the clean, empty canvas.  I felt it again when we launched into building the field with purple paint.  And again when we started to build the trunk of the tree. My instinct was that it wouldn't be right somehow - too big, too bulky, too off center.  Our patient teacher assured us that it was normal to feel hesitant, but to push on and give it a whirl.  It was art, after all and in art, it is hard to do something "wrong."  She was right, of course, and we all managed to make a tree that looked like a tree.

We brushed on clouds, dabbed on flowers, worked in grasses and "found the light" shining on the leaves.  It was really fun.  My mind let go of the lists and commitments that keep me running at a clip and I sat at the table with friends new and old and we all "lived in the moment" for a while.  We were creating something some scratch and it felt great.

We learned about color being lighter in the distance.  That by having a variety of colors among the branches of the tree it created depth, as if the wind was tussling the leaves.  We implied blue bonnets blooming naturally in the field by making small dry brush dashes with a lovely dusty blue shade of paint that we had mixed up ourselves.  

The whole evening was good for our brains and our hearts.  What could be better than that?  Thank you, Melissa, for a lovely and informative evening.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tea Party Fare

Then suddenly it was time for tea!  Kathleen brought her famous scones, studded with berries and accompanied by luscious homemade vanilla whipped cream.  She also spooned egg salad into mini phyllo cups and sprinkled them with chopped bacon.  Ummm hmmm.  It was divine.  In the distance you can see her mini bread squares that are spread with dilled cream cheese and topped with flower-shaped cucumber slices.  I made us a chicken and asparagus quiche
and this plate of individual strawberry pavlovas. I tried this meringue-shell dessert from a recipe I found in the January/February issue of Tea Time magazine.  Aren't they pretty?

It was a picture-perfect "Tea for Two."  We decided that we loved baking and preparing the food as much as we did eating it.  We are peas in a pod when it comes to tea party fare, so why not enjoy it together.  We made our own moment of delight.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Linens and Dishes Make the Meal, a Moment

It already seemed like a party and all I had done was pull pieces from the china cabinet.  My friend was coming for tea and conversation.  We both love traditional tea fare - scones, tea sandwiches, sugar cubes and every once in a while we throw ourselves a little party. 

For me, a big part of entertaining is using beautiful dishes and linens that can make a meal, a moment.  My deep periwinkle linen tablecloth, designed by Moutet, was woven in France and is covered with a variety of leaves and botanical names. The cloth is a botany lesson in itself.  It was a lucky find at T.J. Maxx at least 5 years ago. As a result, I never miss the chance to go down the linen aisle in T.J. Maxx, just in case!

The dishes are a variety of pieces from The Blue Room collection by Spode.  Sometimes I display the dishes as art (see it in my house) but on this day, they were ours to enjoy as intended, filled with beautiful sweets and treats.  

I filled a low open vase with lavender roses from the grocery store and used some of my "Blue Willow" paper napkins (love them!) to make the tablescape complete.  I found "Blue Italian" cloth napkins online that match these dishes - they are going on my wish list!

I wanted to showcase the table "before" the meal, so you could see the foundation for a very special day.  Tomorrow, I'll show you our tea party.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Training Clematis Vine

This is my salad-plate size clematis blooming, compliments of another year.  Right now (April 24) the plant is barely a foot high.  I am encouraged because it is very bushy and had lots of tendrils anxious to climb, but it is really small.  Over the past few years it has had a tendency to mound on the ground and spill into the lawn.  I want it to climb, like in this photo below.

Yesterday I cut away all of the dead plant material off of the twine and removed the tangle of leaves.  I restrung the twine that the vine will grab onto (in a criss cross pattern) and hopefully, by the end of May, my clematis will be blooming on the wall.  I gently wrapped a few of the tendrils around a piece of string to lead it up to the twine grid.  I will go out daily to keep the tendrils climbing in the right direction.  

When the stars and moon align, you can see the purple blooms that have climbed the twine from inside my family room.  It is so pretty to see the healthy green vine, boasting a lavender bloom, waving in the breeze.  

And then today it started to snowing.  Spring...a girl can only dream.

***UPDATE: June 16, 2013 - LOOK! It is magnificent! I've trained it to follow the criss-cross twine and the periwinkle blooms are able to be seen from the family room. Success!  The large leaf plants at the base of each side are hollyhocks.  I planted 2 pink hollyhock plants there and I'm hoping to get bright 6 foot tall spikes of color.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Restoration Hardware: Decorating Outdoors

I was so impressed with the outdoor furniture at the Restoration Hardware Gallery Store in Houston, that when I started thinking about ways to make our outdoor space more livable, I found myself pouring over the photographs I had taken there last year.  The photo above is one of my favorites.

I love how Restoration Hardware layer neutrals; their sophisticated use of cement; how they showcase the appeal of mirrors in an outdoor setting.  

My patio set is a light khaki Tropitone and I'm trying to think of cushions, planters and elements that I can use to make the area more comfortable and lounge-worthy.  The photo below is my starting point, though it was taken on a beautiful day in June in another year. Today's high was 47. Brrrrr.... 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Kiteboarding in Florida

And then there are days on the ocean that are very exciting!  A kiteboarder spent most of one afternoon living it up right in front of our condo complex. 

I could see people watching him from their balconies and from the beach.  Kiteboarding is becoming more and more popular in Florida and as a spectator, I can confirm that it is really fun to watch.  "Look at him go!" was the feeling we all had as we watched.
Can you feel the ocean breeze?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Staring at the Ocean

Lost in thought?  It's easy to be mesmerized by the expansiveness of the ocean.  I could show you a beautiful picture of the Atlantic from every day of my trip.  Some days it was bright blue, other days looked like a paint palette of gray and then some days had me running for my camera.

On this promising morning, the water, clouds, sun and sky seemed more like an "inspirational poster" than a view from a real life.  Sometimes "delight" is getting lost in thought.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Figs by Todd English, Palm Beach Gardens

When does lunch "at the mall" look this beautiful?  When you are lucky enough to get a table at Figs by Todd English at The Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

We loved the fresh herb and spice crusted bread with olive oil and it tided us over until our salads arrived (which was promptly).  My mom and I both added grilled chicken to our Roasted Pear Salad (baby spinach, roasted pears, goat cheese, toasted almonds) and we marveled at the warm brown butter-sour cherry vinaigrette.  I must learn how to make that salad dressing - it instantly earned a top spot on my "favorite salad dressing" list. Go Todd!

The restaurant atmosphere is very Pottery Barn (re:black tables, stemless wine glasses, dark art), the staff is friendly and the menu is spot on.  Perfect for lunch with clients, perfect for sustenance on a long shopping day, perfect for lunch with you mom.  Bravo.  

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

West Palm Beach: Green Market Saturday

It looks like I was in Morocco, but lo and behold, this is West Palm Beach!  Just adjacent to the WPB Antique and Flea market on Banyan, was a beautiful open market.

You can shop the West Palm Beach Green Market every Saturday and see beautiful produce, flowers and, yes, spices for sale.  This booth is by Scoche.  A spice and tea blend company with camera-ready displays.  
It was the scented air that drew me over.  The aroma of ground spice and fragrant tea was irresistible.

When I saw these beautiful tea blends (I love being able to see the ingredients), I told the vendor about how I had seen silver dragees (small edible silver balls used in cake decorating) mixed into tea blends to add a holiday sparkle.  It didn't seem like he was going to try it, but I thought I would contribute an idea when I could.  I am going to try this myself in the near future and I'll show you.
(Update: see my beautiful tea here)

If you visit the West Palm Beach Green Market, be sure to seek out Scoche.  Keep walking and breathing until you find yourself in wafts of scented air.  You can't miss it. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Duck Tape Hair Accessories

Happiness is making your own duct tape hair accessories!  I am very crafty and love making things that girls will love with Duck Tape.  I've made totes, wallets, wristlets and hair bows out of duck tape and they always turn out well.

When I was thinking of the perfect craft to make with my cousins' 3 fourteen-year-old daughters, I knew that I wanted to use Duck Tape.  Remember the duck tape wristlets we made last year?

You see, every year over Easter vacation in Florida, I get to spend an evening crafting with the girls.  They are enthusiastic, eager to learn and highly complimentary. What's not to love?  I wish I could craft with them all the time, but they live on the other side of Michigan.  Luckily we all spend Easter vacation together in Florida and we make the most of our time together.

When I was considering what kind of accessory we should make together, I came across this headband with bow video (produced by the duck tape brand) on YouTube.  The instructions are simple and the results are darling.  My aunt (their grandmother) came along on my field trip to the craft store and bought "denim" Duck Tape (shown above), a roll of "argyle" Duck Tape, adhesive Velcro dots (to make the headband a perfect fit) and my favorite new craft item, non-stick scissors!  They cut through Duck Tape like a breeze and greatly increase the likelihood of happy crafters.  

Each of the girls made a perfect denim headband with a matching bow.  If only the 1920's could see them now.  They posed for group shots modeling their headbands and my heart swelled to twice its size.  They were so happy with the headbands and were so pleased with themselves.

Once they had mastered making a classic bow, they started making little bows with patterned Duck Tape and taping them onto bobby pins with a narrow strip of duck tape (below).  I can imagine these tween girls on the tennis court/track team/volleyball court wearing Duck Tape hair bows that match their team colors. I love it! 
The fun was just beginning when they realized that they could stack a smaller bow on top of a larger one.  They taped the two bows together and then attached them (with a band of duck tape!) to a pony tail holder.  It made the very popular "messy bun on top of head" hairstyle look a little more pulled together. So cute!  
The girls kept thanking me for teaching them how to make these Duck Tape hair accessories.  It was me who should be thanking them (and Duck Tape brand!), I've never had so much fun.

Monday, April 15, 2013

PGA National Resort, Palm Beach Gardens

PGA National Resort is getting it right.  When guests arrive in Florida anytime between November and April, odds are they are getting away from the reality of a cold winter.

What do I think these guest want?  As many opportunities as possible to be outdoors.  To feel the sun.  To breathe.  No thumping soundtrack.  No digital screens required.       

Look at this beautiful space I found to sit and relax.  It has a large gas fire pit surrounded with handsome outdoor couches and chairs.  I'd love to sit here at night under the stars, with ice cream drink in hand!

I found it to be just as enjoyable during the day.  My dad and I were checking out the pro shop (He gravitated to the Honda Classic apparel.  I was drawn to their great selection of Lilly Pulitzer - some day I'm getting one of those big beautiful scarves!) and afterwards we wandered into this lovely open space.

We sat and talked, watched the golfers on the putting green and felt the sun on our face.  I knew right away that I wanted to bring Dan back for here lunch on another day.  It was so relaxing.
This is the view of the pool area - you can have a casual lunch here too - isn't it pretty?  I have been coming to this resort to lunch and shop for years, and I must say that the renovations have managed to make this resort feel even more special. Well done!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ring Bling

Look what else I found at the West Palm Beach Antique and Flea Market! Ring bling!  I stared at these gems and cut glass masterpieces sparkling in the sun for so long that the vendor thought I was in the market for a new bauble.  I was just entranced by the collection as a whole.  

This kind of girly grouping is so effective.  Take any of these items away from the rest and they aren't quite as magnificent.  But en masse, they shine.  

Wouldn't this make a terrific puzzle?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Antique Pot de Creme

I am one step closer to checking something off my "never list".  

My never list is a tally of things I'd like to make or try, but haven't had the chance to do yet.  It isn't a bucket list, as in something that is important for me to do before I die, it's more of a mental list of things that I know about and somehow haven't tried yet.  I notice that when someone mentioned something, I'd say "I've never tried that," hence I call it my never list.

I recently checked off make a souffle, char tomatoes, have a Slurpee and eat morel mushrooms

Anyhoo, hovering on my never list has been "make chocolate pot de creme."  It is a rich pudding placed in small containers made specifically for pot de creme and cooked in a water bath.  I have looked for these lidded vessels in popular cooking stores, but I couldn't find any.  I saw these pots de creme online, but I was more in the mood to buy them in person.   

When I was in Florida, I mentioned wanting to make this petite dessert to my Aunt Carol and lo and behold, she found some antique pots de creme!  My mom, aunt and I went to the West Palm Beach Antique and Flea Market on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago.
Would you have spotted these pots de creme?  My aunt saw them and immediately knew that they were what I was looking for.  I bargained with the dealer and bought a set of four for $15.  I love them!

I need to wash them gingerly and cross my fingers that they can take the heat of a water bath.  They are marked "Made in Italy" on the bottom.  When I make this coveted dessert, I'll show you a picture and post the recipe. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Calming Influence

Before I let the pink, yellow and lavender of Spring "pop" in my home decor, I am savoring the calming influence of neutrals.  If you follow my blog, you know that I have been on the road since January.  It has been a winter full of interesting food, beautiful vistas and wonderful friends.  But I am so very happy to be home (so are my plants!)

I wanted to show you my recent D.I.Y. success.  Check out my "new" lamps!
Remember when they were white with a lace-edged lampshade?  

The lamp was a basic candlestick lamp base that I bought at Target more than 10 years ago.  It was time for a change, so I took the white shades off and wrapped painter's tape around the light bulb socket and around the power cord where it connects to the lamp base.  Then I took the lamp outside, set it on newspaper and sprayed it with several light coats of Rust-oleum Universal Spray Paint (Metallic Paint & Primer in one) in "Champagne Mist."  Tah-dah! Never has so little effort made such a transformation.  And luck was on my side when I found these simple (yet matching!) lamp shades at Walmart. 

The lamps now echo the metallic paint on the wallpaper and it looks so pretty!

After a whirl of color and noise (remember, not so long ago I was in Vegas!), this sweet color scheme provides the calming influence that I need. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Washington, D.C.: JFK and Jackie

This is it! The famed booth at Martin's Tavern where John F. Kennedy proposed to Jacqueline Bouvier in 1953.  You can read more details of the story here.

When we were visiting Washington, D.C., we stayed with our good friends Peter and Donna.  We had one night in town and they knew that we would love to have dinner at a historic Georgetown haunt.  Martin's Tavern it is!
It happened to be St. Patrick's Day and the restaurant was packed with revelers.  We were lucky to get "Madeleine Albright's" cozy booth in the heart of the restaurant and had a lovely meal sharing stories and enjoying the night.
Since it was St.Patrick's Day, it felt wonderful to order (and then devour) a Martin Tavern's specialty, Shepherd's Pie.  It was so flavorful that after the first bite, I knew that it was the best I'd ever had.  
After dinner, with Donna's encouragement, I made my way over to the booth where JFK proposed to Jackie and asked the couple dining there if they minded if I snapped a photo of the plaque.  They twinkled at each other and were quick to grant my wish.  I can't help but wonder if the man had plans of his own to propose there one day. 

It was the perfect night in Washington, D.C. -  old friends, a historical setting and the time to enjoy it.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Washington, DC: Georgetown Cupcakes

I had been goggling "D.C. Cupcakes" on my smart phone and getting nothing!  The name of the popular cupcake show was stuck in my head and I wanted to visit while I was in Washington, D.C.  

Then I rounded the corner and there it was: Georgetown Cupcake!  As if the line didn't give it away, the bright window signs trumpeted a new season of TLC's show about two sisters and their growing cupcake business.
You can see it was quite a dreary March day - cold and damp.  We had shopped around town a little and decided that it was "worth it" to wait in line and have the fun of being part of the crowd.  Those in line were happy to be there.  How can you mind when your primary thought is, "Should I get vanilla butter cream or red velvet?"  

We did have a good-natured father as "our" (those of us in line) spokesman. We amused ourselves by watching people round the corner, see the line and stop in their tracks.  The father would call out "Don't do it!" or "We've been here 45 minutes - save yourself!"  It was fun and light-hearted and it made us feel a little less crazy for waiting for cupcakes.  

But, in fact, it was worth it because it made for a wonderful memory.  Standing in line, holding hands and thinking about frosting is not a bad way to spend a little free time.

We bought four cupcakes (Cherry Blossom, Peanut Butter Fudge, Lava Fudge and Carrot Cake) and were lucky to find a table in the window.  Each table had a bouquet of fresh flowers on it and we found ourselves on a very lovely date.
Sometimes doing something a little silly and not at all practical, can be the most fun you've had in a long time.  Bonus - the cupcakes were outstanding.  The butter cream was sweet and smooth and thick.  The cakes were fresh and dense and flavorful.  Dan and I shared the 4 cupcakes; passing half-eaten cakes with frosting coated fingers.  Cooing and proclaiming delight with every bite.

Thank you, Georgetown Cupcake!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Washington, DC: Shopping at CB2

I absolutely love the housewares designed for CB2 (a Crate and Barrel company).  Thin glass serving pieces, interesting appetizer plates, teardrop hanging vases.  To me, the mood is a little Japanese, a little Scandinavian and a lot cool.  I haven't been to Chicago in ages (the only place I've seen their stores), so I've had to rely on the catalog to keep me current.

But then there I was, walking in Georgetown and I came upon a CB2!  I wandered the store and admired all the pieces that I had flagged in the catalog. I carried a clear glass milk creamer, a hanging vase and 3 candlesticks around the store until I could come to grips with the fact that they wouldn't fit in my luggage.  It made more sense to order them out of the catalog, like I had been doing all along.  Somehow that isn't as much fun as buying them on a trip.

I took this photo of the store's entertaining section to show you the pretty clear glasses, colorful appetizer plates and accessories that make hosting a party easy.

You'll be happy to know that the items look every bit as good in person as they do in the catalog and I've never been disappointed with anything that I've ordered.  This is my favorite item, a glass chemistry beaker with a hole to hang it with a bit of ribbon.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Washington, DC: Matchbox Restaurant

Before we headed into the National Portrait Gallery for an afternoon of art, we stopped at Matchbox in Chinatown for lunch. We sat in the airy section of the restaurant under skylights and loved our long lunch!

I ordered 3 mini burgers of
 certified Angus beef, toasted brioche, pickles with onion straws
 and they were delicious.  I also had a small apple and pear salad with mixed greens, candied pecans, Gorgonzola (I switched to Parmesan) with a honey-balsamic vinaigrette and I ate every bite of this fresh fruit-filled salad.

We happened to meet the thirty-something couple next to us (she complimented my necklace!) and talked for a long time about travel, Detroit and growing up in the Midwest (she is from Ohio).  It was really pleasant and had us lingering over lunch far longer than usual.  That's the beauty of vacation.  We weren't in a rush.

If you get a chance to visit Matchbox (at any time of day), you should.  There is always a crowd mingling outside hoping for a table and I've always enjoyed the food and atmosphere.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

City Series: Washington, DC: Amelia Earhart

Did you ever think you'd see Amelia Earhart's pilot's license?  I didn't either!  But I found myself looking at it in a display case in an exhibition called "One Life: Amelia Earhart" at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Do you remember when I visited a Chautauqua on the southern shore of Lake Erie a few years ago and had lunch at the historic Lakeside Hotel?  I remember learning that Amelia Earhart had been one of their famous guests.  

While I wandered through the exhibit, I kept thinking about my afternoon at the Lakeside Hotel (it was a beautiful day with bright blue sky) while I looked at the images and keepsakes of Amelia's life.  I wondered at what point in this exhibit could you place a marker that said "visited Lakeside, Ohio."
I was expecting to spend an afternoon with portraits of presidents, but found myself captivated by the Amelia Earhart exhibit.  I love when I have the time to enjoy a museum, and wander.  Would this exhibit bring you delight?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Burger Smash

To liven up dinner, we decided that custom hamburgers were the way to go.  I bought enough ground beef for four hamburgers and then prepared a slew of options to mix into the uncooked meat.  Each person could choose their mix ins, and I'd smash it into a custom burger.

I was inspired by a new hamburger place called Smashburger.  I've never been to one, but I think the concept is the same as Cold Stone Creamery or Marble Slab, where ice cream is mixed to order with the customers favorite add ins.  I thought the idea worked so well with hamburgers that I'd give it a try at home.

(***Wrong! I went to a real Smashburger restaurant and it didn't live up to my imagination.  To them, the "smash" is cooking the meat between to griddles.  The toppings you choose are all on top.  So not as much fun as my idea.  I say, do it my way at home - it's delish.)

I added sauteed mushrooms, sauteed onions, chopped green olives, a few dill pickle chunks and a little shredded cheddar cheese.  It was love at first bite and I'd choose the same combination again - yum!
We cooked them in a saute pan to help the burgers stay together (I think pieces would have tumbled into a grill) and this method kept the burgers juicy and tender too.

When "making hamburgers for dinner" just don't sound good, consider smashing something into them first.  You just might find the perfect combination.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Talk to Strangers

Talk to strangers...they may have known your grandmother.  

I want to share with you an almost unbelievable coincidence.  I was waiting at the Delta gate in Detroit to fly to Florida, when I started chatting with a grandmother in a wheelchair near by.  She was travelling alone and in the course of conversation she told me that she was 92-years-old. She said that she had already had a long day, because the first leg of her trip had been traveling by car to the airport from Mount Clemens (a town about an hour away).

When I remarked that my grandmother had been from Mount Clemens, she got a hopeful look and asked me, "What was her name?"

"Helen Held"

Well my new friend just about fell over.  "Helen Held!  Helen Held," she couldn't believe it.  "I lived across the street from Helen!"

I couldn't believe it either.  I immediately thought of the house on Gary Road that I spent so much of my life visiting.  Baking Christmas cookies.  Hunting for Easter baskets. Eating grilled cheese sandwiches with homemade pickles.  If it was Sunday, we often said "Let's go ride over to Nama's."

But my mind was called front and center when she said, "Oh, we used to love watching Wilber come pick Helen up for a date."

Wilber?!  A date?  Suddenly we are reminiscing about when my grandfather was courting my grandmother in 1930.  1930. 

She said things like, "Oh, she was a beautiful dresser." and, "She wore high heels!"  She said that she and her sister were about 8 and 10 years old at the time and that they were "fascinated" when my grandmother left the house all dressed up for a date.  She was sharing memories from eighty two years ago.  She said, "I can't wait to tell my sister!"  They talk every day.         

I still can't believe it.  Can you believe it?  My grandmother lived to be 89 and it has been far too long since I have been able to talk to her.  

I joked with my new friend that Nama must be up in heaven urging us to, "Say Mount Clemens. One of you say Mount Clemens. You both know me!"  Whatever she did, it worked.  Not a beat after she said Mount Clemens, I mentioned Nama and we found our connection.  When we said our goodbyes, she held my hand and said, "You're just as beautiful as your grandmother."

Have you found yourself chatting with a stranger lately?  You never know what will come to light.