Monday, September 30, 2013

The Power of Cute: A Cherry Tale

Finding Delight is about celebrating the beauty of everyday life.  This pie is an example of how one simple touch can take something very basic (baked pie crust) and turn it into something worth talking about.

Making a pie is easier than you think, especially when you have a perfect pie crust "on hand" in the refrigerator.  Thank you, Pillsbury. The single thing that elevates this pie is the fact that I carved cherries (because it's a cherry pie) into the store-bought dough. A design that took me less than 1 minute to create.

The design shows the power of cute.  When you go to a little bit of trouble, it can make all the difference.  

"A Cherry Tale" Pie

2 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts (1 box has 2 crusts)
4 cups washed and pitted tart cherries
3/4 cup white sugar
3 Tablespoons quick tapioca
1 tsp lemon juice
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Open the box of pie crusts, remove one crust from the plastic wrap and unroll it onto a greased glass pie plate.  Using the tines of a fork, gently make dots in the crust every few inches - this will allow the steam to vent as the crust bakes. Bake crust according to directions on box.

Mix cherries, sugar, tapioca and lemon juice in a large bowl.  Allow to sit 15-20 minutes.  Stir well and pour into baked crust.  Open the second package of dough and unroll the dough onto the top of the pie.  Pinch dough strips to edge of pie shell to seal the strip.  Using a sharp knife, carefully cut a design into the crust - I chose to make a design of cherries with leaves.

Brush crust lattice and rim with a beaten egg. Sprinkle entire top of pie with a little white sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature with creamy vanilla ice cream.  Enjoy!

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Moment in the Spotlight

I came around the corner and noticed my orchid having a moment in the spotlight. Mother Nature had the sun shining through the window just so, and my little vignette in the dining room looked especially tranquil and pretty.

Although there are things that I would change if I were actively using this tray (like filling the Revere bowl with something - nuts in a shell with a silver pick? and adding ice to my antique ice bucket along with a bottle of wine and some glasses?), I love how this looks just as it is.

Do you have pretty vignettes set up in your home right now? Which could use a spotlight?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sun is Shining and the Bees Are Buzzing

I was happy to find this sunflower, set against a natural backdrop of sea foam green and blooming within my reach.  I'm only 5'2" and I have many photos at an angle looking up at the flowers face, like a child trying to aim up and take pictures of the bride at a wedding.  I rarely find a sunflower that I can photograph "head on."

I was even more pleased when I uploaded the photo to my computer and noticed the bees all over the sunflower face!  
I have been bothered by the cover of recent Time magazine called "The Plight of the Honeybees."  The article (I read ever word) enumerates the many possible causes for the rise in colony deaths since in 2006.  Seeing bees out and about made me feel better and I found this helpful article about bees pollinating sunflowers online.

While this photo was taken in northern Michigan at a small farm, I have many varieties of flowers and herbs on my own property in the suburbs, because giving bees a variety of pollination options helps.  The more home gardens, the better.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Golden Fig's Enhanced Sugar

Every time I reach into my cupboard and pull out one of my beloved Golden Fig enhanced sugars, I ask myself the same two questions:  
  • Why don't more companies make sugar blends like these? 
  • Why haven't more stores/people discovered Golden Fig, the maker of said sugars?
I initially found Golden Fig when I bought their "Cranberry Spices" mix in a cooking store while on vacation in Minnesota.  I can't find this heavenly blend on their website, but when I call, they usually have it and can mail me a few jars.  The "Cranberry Spices" is a blend of maple powder (see it sounds good already, right?), ground ginger, orange peel powder, thyme (totally the secret ingredient - it adds incredible depth), ground nutmeg, anise and cloves.  The company intends for you to use this spice blend to make a cranberry sauce, which is delicious to be sure.  I want you to sprinkle this heavenly mixture over roasted acorn squash, roasted butternut squash, pureed squash - you get the idea.  It makes all of the harvest vegetables sing.  I joke that I'd sprinkle it in the bathtub if I could - it smells that wonderful.

Anyhoo, because I was such a fan of the "Cranberry Spices," I decided to try some of their enhanced sugars.  I love them all.  They are a culinary indulgence; certainly not necessary for day-to-day living, but very fun to sprinkle with abandon when the mood strikes.
  • Making buttered toast? Shake on some "Cinnamon Orange" sugar.
  • Shortbread hot out of the oven? Sprinkle it with "Lemon Rosebud" and listen to the girls ooh and ahh
  • Non-fat Greek yogurt with berries for breakfast? Douse it with pink "Hibiscus" sugar 
  • Baking Christmas rolls?  They will be even better made with "Cardamom Sugar"
  • Fruit Salad need a little something? Sprinkle it with "Lavender Ginger" sugar
Honestly, you can't go wrong.  I love my collection of special sugars from the Golden Fig. I reach for them all the time and feel like I am a sweet genius.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

2013 ArtPrize Winner in Grand Rapids, Michigan

I was so happy when I found out that my trip to Grand Rapids (for my friend Tracy's son's bar mitzvah) coincided with #ArtPrize.  Have you heard about it?

Here is a succinct description from the ArtPrize website: 

"ArtPrize® is a radically open, independently organized international art competition with an unprecedented $200,000 top prize decided entirely by public vote.

For 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan, become an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters. Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown, and it’s all free and open to the public."

What a fabulous idea! I downloaded the ArtPrize app to my iPhone and was able to vote for pieces I loved while I was in town (you must physically be in GR to vote which ensures tourism for the city and quells cyber-landslides from those who haven't really viewed the artwork).  

There were entries on display in the lobby of my hotel, the JW Marriott.  In the photo below, I framed a booth in the lobby against the visual interest in the background. In the distance you can see the yellow, red and orange banner art installation called "Hydro Anthem" on the Blue Bridge.
I loved staying at the JW because it was right on the Grand River; it was within walking distance of so many of the ArtPrize attractions and the staff was incredibly helpful.  I'm definitely coming back.
I had free time on Saturday afternoon and my two sorority sisters from Kappa Alpha Theta at Michigan State came and picked me up for lunch and a whirlwind art tour.  We had lunch at The Woman's City Club and had a quick "casual buffet for ArtPrize" lunch and then walked around the building viewing the art on display.  During lunch, we heard a darling young singer/songwriter, Elle Pohlman perform with her guitar.  Her music is her art and she proudly recited her ArtPrize entry number in between songs.
I liked seed bead artist, Colleen O'Rourke's cartoon-like girl in a piece called "New Couch."  

Her mother, E. Lynne O'Rourke had a torn art collage hanging in the same room called "Fresh from the Garden."
My favorite part of this piece is the Bigelow tea tag hanging on the string out of the cup. 
This art installment is called "Silk Waves in the Grand" by Al and Laurie Roberts.

I am showing you all of these to spotlight the various types of art on display. I feel very fortunate that I was able to visit Grand Rapids during ArtPrize - it is my kind of event! Good luck to all of the artists! 

*While I was exploring the ArtPrize website, I came upon this page about Kumi Yamashita, of one of last year's winner.  At first, it looks like colorful pieces of tissue paper in orderly rows and columns.  When you look closer, you see that each tissue square has been manipulated/bent so that it casts a shadow that is a human face!  I am in awe. 

***October 5, 2013
The winner of ArtPrize 2013 has been announced! Congratulations to Ann Loveless of Frankfort, Michigan for her landscape art quilt titled, "Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore."  It's beautiful! Congratulations, Ann. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ariel View: Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes

Birds Eye View, indeed!  I realized on my return flight that I shouldn't have my pocket camera on during take-off.  I didn't realize that anything with a battery had to be turned completely off.  Well this was before I knew better and was a Delta flight from Traverse City to Minneapolis.
Look at the view!  This can only be part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  I'm sure you remember me writing about this famous national park when it won "America's Most Beautiful Place" in a Good Morning America contest. The beautiful white areas on the shoreline are giant sand dunes (some over 400 feet high) that jut down straight into Lake Michigan.
I love the view from the top of the dunes (above), but seeing it from the air is spectacular too! I just had to show you. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Glossy Sauteed Peaches with Frozen Yogurt

Peaches make life better. I am getting way more than my recommended daily allowance of fruit during peach season, and I feel great. Yesterday, instead of having some fresh peach with my Greek yogurt for breakfast, I saved it to be the star of dessert. 

I cooked my peach by "poaching" it, I placed the 2 halves, cut side down in a large saute pan in a mixture made of equal parts sugar and water (1/3 cup each?), a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and an inch of vanilla bean (only if you have it, no need to add vanilla otherwise).  I put the burner on medium and let the fruit cook about 10 minutes - be sure to watch it so that it doesn't burn.The peach I had was still quite firm.  The good news is that all of that hardness disappears when you cook them.  When the peach has cooked, pull out the piece of vanilla bean stem and discard.  

There will be a magic moment when the peaches have caramelized/deepened in color and the remaining liquid will be reduced to a glossy peach-infused syrup.  I serve my peach half with a small scoop of my favorite "ice cream." Edy's Slow Churned Yogurt Blends in Vanilla.  It is creamy, contains live active cultures and counts as a good source of calcium.  

You must try this while fresh peaches are still available.  Promise me...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Lipstick Sunset

The night was coming on so dark and heavy - Fall was in the air; the days were shorter and definitely cooler. This particular life day had been gray, then everything changed at sunset and the deep teal of Lake Michigan was offset by iridescent pinks, lavender, apricot and yellow. 

It was a lipstick sunset.

Do you know the song?  I have a lovely memory of working with a woman one summer who was still receiving mixed tapes by an old flame.  They lived in different parts of the country, but every once in awhile a cassette tape full of music would arrive in her mailbox.  Their lives had moved on, but he still thought of her.  

She shared her favorite tape with me, I dubbed a copy (remember tape-to-tape?) and listened to the patchwork of songs all summer.  "Lipstick Sunset" by John Hiatt was one of my favorites.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unusual Vases, Sequined Hawaiian Juice Cans

Sparkling juice can vases.  A perfectly normal thing to add to my Etsy store, right?  I absolutely love them and it is time that I shared.

Lately my art has been exploring the intersection in life where flowers, packaging and color meet. I have been giving friends and colleagues pop cans full of flowers for years. 
When I lived in Hawaii for a month, I was thrilled to find specialty juice cans more beautiful than any I had seen on the mainland. I mailed a huge box of empty cans back to Michigan (I know, try explaining that to my husband) and have enhanced them with unusual colors of sequins. 

You can see them all at  my Etsy (online marketplace for artists) store here. I know that they are a little crazy...but crazy beautiful, right?




Tuesday, September 17, 2013

You've Got Mail: Wooden Botanical Postcards

I wanted to write a special thank you note to a friend, so I went to my stationary basket and pulled out these gorgeous wooden postcards.  That's right.  Wooden postcards.  Have you ever seen any? They are handmade from two pieces of 1/200th (.005) thick Birch veneer.  They are smooth and light and have a wonderful feel to them.  They are the standard postcard size and I believe that they can be mailed with a postcard stamp - I'll find out for sure this afternoon!

Aren't they beautiful?  They each feature a different botanical stamp of an illustration by artist Dana Harter.  I tried to find an online link for you to order some for yourself (I bought mine in a gift shop in northern Michigan) but the only information I could find is: Dana Harter P.O. Box 266 White Pine, MI 49971

I write on these wooden postcards with a fine tip permanent ink Sharpie so that my heartfelt message will last as long as the wood will! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Royal Park Hotel: Tea For Two

This year my friend, Kathleen announced that we should celebrate my birthday by going out for High Tea.  What a fun idea! As you know, I love all things tea and it is Kathleen with whom I occasionally throw a tea party.  Remember this pretty table we set?  And this one?  

It has been so fun to have a kindred spirit to share my love of tea and tea time treats with. Kathleen bakes incredible scones that she serves with homemade whipped cream.  Kathleen has been to Scotland and drank restorative cups of tea with her relatives after touring the countryside.  Kathleen knows what I mean when I talk about different kinds of flour or how to judge which baking sheet to use or the process of making lemon curd. She gets the nuances of baking and entertaining that I think are so much fun.
I mention all of this because I don't believe that there are two people in Michigan more qualified to take tea and appreciate it.  Kathleen and I absolutely loved the "Royalty Tea" at The Royal Park Hotel in Rochester, Michigan.  The table was set beautifully with fine linens, pretty rose-covered china pattern, a 3-tier serving tray loaded with handmade specialties and flutes of champagne!
Our first task was to consider the tea selection each tea and choose two for the table.  We uncorked each glass vial and had fun saying what we could detect - teas that were "very floral", "coconut-y", "had chocolate notes", "faint apricot." Kathleen chose a caffeinated tea with coconut essence and I went with my standby, English Breakfast - to me, it's the perfect tea.
Kathleen and I decided to eat our way through the selections together, so that we could make comments. These scones were delicious! We dabbed them with clotted cream and lemon and they were the perfect.  Look at the crunchy sugar on top - love it!

You won't believe the menu for the "Royalty Tea".  Two hot hors d'oeuvres, scones, tea sandwiches, desserts and shortbread.  Yes the presentation was gorgeous, but everything tasted even better than it looked! When do you say that?
Our table on the window let us have our tea party in the comfort of air conditioning, but with the bright light of a table on the patio.  In contrast to the dark and cozy formal teas that I've been to elsewhere, this high tea was light and happy. 

Our waitress was kind and made us feel welcome to stay and enjoy as long as we wanted.  I think that is one genius aspect to how tea is served at The Royal Park. Tea reservations are made between 2-4 pm; you won't be hurried through the experience because there isn't another party waiting to be seated after you. Kathleen and I were there over 2 hours and it was perfect.  We talked and ate and laughed and ate and drank tea.  Repeat.

You can see what a lovely experience this was.  I was relaxed and happy. Kathleen was too and I could tell that she was enjoying my birthday as much as I was!
Then this was brought out to me!  Can you stand it?  I truly am spoiled.  It was a personal hot fudge sundae with "Happy Birthday" spelled out in dark chocolate.  Love love love!  Kathleen had waved her magic wand and had the hotel make my day even more special.  What a friend!

The next time you are looking for the perfect place to go for a girl's lunch, look no further than The Royal Park hotel.  They put everything they have into giving you a delightful experience. And thank you, Kathleen, you are a genius.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Perfect Purse Management

I was at the hairdresser one day and the ladies were all talking about how difficult it is to change purses all the time.  They said that they often stuck with one purse, not because they wanted to, but because that was how they would know they had what they needed with them.

I chimed in that I had a staging area for my purses in my bathroom linen closet and they said...what?  One of the girls asked me to blog about it so that they could see what I mean.  Voila! 

I told them that it started when I began my cigar box purse business.  I am known for the interesting fabric linings that I put in the cigar boxes and I was always opening my purse to show it off.   
When you are always opening your purse, you want the contents to be pretty. That's when I started collecting pretty pens, colorful notepads (to take orders/contact info), little tins of mints, and clear box wallets (I wish I could still sell these, but I can't find them anymore!).
Anyhoo, all of this led me to create a staging area where I stop, with the purse I am carrying that day, and load it with something from each compartment. My wallet and iPhone start the process.

From the back left in the photo above, I have:

  • cute tissues
  • Band-aids
  • coin purses/powder compacts/mirrors
  • hair bands/bobby pins
  • hand sanitizer wipes
  • a pen/calculator, key chains, little flashlights
  • Vitamin C lozenges
  • notepads
  • mints
  • allergy medicine, ear plugs, tums
  • gum
  • business cards
  • a clear jar of lipsticks/glosses
  • a jar of pens (just outside the photo)
We all have these items in our house and we all need them to make it through the day, why not put it all in one place?  I can't tell you how easy it has made my life.  And it is just part of one shelf in my bathroom linen closet.  The shelf above holds my cigar box purses and Delight totes.  Easy-peasy.

Do you think you'd like to have a staging area for your purses?

Friday, September 13, 2013

Serta Perfect Daylilies

This is a post where you have to use your imagination a little.  Bring the fairy tale front and center and think of deer wandering through the yard in the twilight.
My parents have a large daylily bed in northern Michigan that has become "Serta Perfect" for a family of deer.  Can you see the dents?  It might be easier to see them if you look at the rim of the daylily bed.  See how it is fluffy and has many large grass-like fronds?  Now look into the center - nothing is upright.  Those are the deer dents.

At least 7 deer (I counted the dents) come in the night and sleep in our daylilies.  They really aren't eating the garden, we mostly notice their handiwork in the Spring when they devour the tulips.  During the summer, this is strictly a nighttime spot for them.  Isn't is romantic?

We often are awake until 11:30 pm, no deer.  And my mom gets up around 5:30 am on many morning, no deer.  Sometime during the moonlight hours, the family comes, nestles into the leaves and sleeps.

What sleep number do you suppose day lilies are?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Movie Star Qualities: Eden Climber Rose

Do any of your roses have movie star qualities?  I'm convinced that an Eden Climber can't take a bad photograph.  The quiet and demure photo above was taken on my patio last month. I liken this photo to a black and white portrait of a movie star in her silk dressing gown, sitting at her vanity full of perfume bottles.
This red carpet look was taken in July in northern Michigan at my parent's cottage.  A different plant, a different plant hardiness zone, but thriving just the same.  I think of this photo as one of "a star and her entourage."

If you love roses and have a wall or fence for support, you really need to add this stunner to your collection.  Then stick around for some camera-ready moments all summer long.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Pastry on Your Time

When I see a pastry like this and know that the baker must have been up late the night before baking them, I have a hard time resisting.  Blueberries were in season and this simple shortbread crust masterpiece had to be mine.  It was made by Pleasanton Brick Oven Bakery in Traverse City and sold at the Sara Hardy Farmers Market.
What's funny is that while I took this beautiful photo to show you, I actually ate it "on the fly" over two days.  A bite when I passed by it on the way to do laundry; another bite as I headed back to take a shower.  Then I covered it and put it in the fridge.  The next day it was much of the same.  A bite here and there until it was finished and I enjoyed every bit of it.  

It became like a box of 6 chocolates, that I ate over time. Do you know what I mean?  Sometimes when you each a gorgeous dessert stem-to-stern, you talk and chew and miss how delicious it is.  Every time I took a bite and moved on, I was happy that I had splurged on a blueberry tart.  You don't always need embroidered napkins and monogrammed silver to eat something this beautiful. Enjoy it in a way that works for you. 

I made the immediate gratification of a French pastry last.  That is delight!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Horse Ribbons: Blue Oxer Equestrian

I happened upon a visual delight.  My friend, Melissa and I were tea-tasting at 
Light of Day Organics, when we looked at the time and realized we had to scoot over and pick up her daughter, who was taking riding lessons from Emily Brinkman at Blue Oxer Equestrian Services.  

I had never been down the back roads we took as a short cut to Maple City and nearby Cold Spring Farm, where the Blue Oxer Equestrian Service thrives.  I have had zero experience with horses and was curious to see inside the stable.
I was beyond impressed.  My overall impression was that it was tidy and calm. You've heard of "content cows" in the ice cream ads?  These were content horses.  The whole place looked beautiful to me, like an equestrian movie set.

Emily Brinkman, owner and expert, is just darling and was tickled when I asked if I could photograph her ribbon display for Moments of Delight.  She was pointing to various ribbons, explaining the event or horse that helped her win it.  I could hardly hear her over the sheer beauty of the display. Do you know what I mean?  The colors, lighting and spacing looked like an artist had come in and arranged it just so.  

I am going to email her the photo above - hopefully she can have it printed as an 8 x 10 and have it as "art" in her home.  

This is the beauty of everyday life.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Casual Flower Arrangements: Roses and Snapdragons in Juice Can Bouquet

It has been a challenge this summer; I have been out of town so much that I've hardly given my rose garden the attention that it deserves.  I have nineteen roses planted in a bed around my patio and while I tend them daily in March/April/May, it feels like they hardly see me June/July/August.  I pop home, for a week at a time, but it isn't nearly enough.

On the flip side, I've become an even better at traveling with flowers!  This particular bouquet of roses and snapdragons in an ALOHA juice can made it through the 5 hour car ride like it was nothing at all.  I slip a sandwich baggie over the top of the bouquet to keep it safe (and to limit the allergen exposure for my husband).

Do you love the vase?  I will be selling bejeweled versions in my Etsy store next week. Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

City Series: Hudson River Valley: Frederic Church's Estate Olana

Ooh la la...Olana!  I was able to route our day of exploration in the Hudson River Valley to the estate of the famed American painter, Frederic Church.  

My mom has long admired the paintings by the artists of the Hudson River School and she has several beautiful coffee table books on the subject.  In this case, school in Hudson River School is used to describe the style and era, rather than an actual place of study.  While I was in Upstate New York, I heard the phrase "fleet of sloops"  coming through the phone receiver every time I called home.  You see, a relative of mine was the Captain of a fleet of sloops on the Hudson way back when and my mom was trying to peak my interest.

When I asked more questions, I found out that my relatives were from Nyack, much farther south down the Hudson than I would be able to travel on this long weekend.  But I'll be back, armed with a camera and a family tree and I promise to tour the area properly.  

Frederic Church was a prized pupil of the Hudson River School founder, Thomas Cole and they both eventually lived and painted on opposite sides of the Hudson River.  Our enthusiastic guide pointed out Cole's home, which is also a historic site, as we looked at the familiar view from Olana's porch. 
I have a policy of stopping in the gift shop first, whenever I visit a museum or historic site.  You see, I love to buy cards, posters and paper souvenirs at museum gift shops and it only took me "running out of time" once to set this important policy.  Remember when I only had about 8 minutes to shop the store at Windsor Castle?  I showed the teenage clerk what "power shopping" meant! Anyhoo, now I start at the gift shop and always I have plenty of time to explore my options.  This is what I bought at Olana; framable cards of Church's major works. 
I may scan one of these images and then print it on inkjet fabric and make it into a personalized souvenir. Remember how this painting-turned-pillow turned out?  You can shop for postcards from Olana here.

The home, Olana, that Church collaborated on with architects, was heavily influenced by his overseas trip to Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Syria. The Persian-style home includes intricate woodwork, painted glass panels and mosaics.  Church was even known to mix the paint color for the walls himself - creating just the right hue to complete his vision.  His paintings hang in many rooms around the house and are all in place, just where he enjoyed them, during his life. 

Photography is not allowed inside Olana, but I found this official video that talks of his life, inspiration and tours the inside of this famous home.  If you are interested, you should watch this official video created for Olana, a State of New York historic site.
I was able to get a few great photos of Olana's exterior.
And this one of the grand porch, just off of Church's studio, overlooking the Hudson.
 And the same porch, photographed from the outside.
One aspect of Church's work that I wish that I could show you are his sketches. There are few framed upstairs that show the landscape roughed out in pencil, then you can read his writing that says (something to the effect of): "deeper blue here, lighter than sky" or "moss green - A and B" and then you could find the A and B on the sketch, as if Church was building his own paint-by-number. I had never seen an artist's sketch like that, have you?
I am so lucky to have had a chance to go on a guided tour of Frederic Church's Olana and then wander his gardens on the estate.
While living at Olana, Church had the property planted with thousands of trees and plants to create a lush landscape to paint.  It is an inspirational estate.