Monday, November 24, 2014

Spontanei-tea

Do you have cups and saucers at the ready? This is the time of year that you want'll to be ready for spontanei-tea.

My friend, Kathleen, who has a new scone business, called to see if I was at home. She had a new flavor of scone for me to try (toffee chocolate chip!) and freshness is king in the world of baked goods.

"Come on over!," I proclaimed, and then proceeded to the dining room to retrieve my glass teapot and some of my formal china cups and saucers. If I'm not going to use them when a friend drops by with scones, when am I?  

The prospect of suddenly serving tea reminded me to write about the notion of using what we have and letting everyday life be a special occasion. Are you with me? 

I have a little side table in my dining room that I keep stocked for moments like these. It is my go-to place for a small teapot, some cups, sugar cubes, small spoons and paper napkins. I call it my "tea station" but it really serves as a piece of mind. I'm ready - come on over.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Darling Neighborhood Christmas Garland


A little holiday spirit! I found this darling lighted garland of balsa wood houses at Home goods this weekend and couldn't resist putting them on my plate rack and turning them on. Think of them as a cozy neighborhood bustling with Thanksgiving preparations - every house with a can of cranberry on the counter.

There is no marking on the package, no name or manufacturer, just made in China and battery instructions, so I can't give you a link to find it online. It was in a box display at Homegoods - I hope you find one too!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Apple Peeler Corer Slicer: One of my Favorite Kitchen Tools

We had my parents over for dinner and I knew that they would enjoy helping with the pie prep, so I measured out all of the ingredients for my famous apple pie (called Trick or Pie) and had everything ready. We only needed to peel, core and slice the apples, mix them into the pie ingredients and pour it into the ready made crust.
As we started peeling/slicing/coring the apple, my mom and dad insisted that I blog specifically about this handy dandy tool. I have mentioned it before - it is one of my favorite things - but I agree, it is worthy of the spotlight.

This is the apple peeler corer slicer.  It suctions onto the counter with a lever and makes quick work of apple prep. That is my dad's hand (above), showing you before and after. :)
Anne's Apple Pie (aka Trick or Pie on Halloween) 

1 frozen 9" deep dish pie crust
3 T. melted butter
3 T. flour
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. apricot jam
1/2 T. dried orange peel
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. nutmeg (it is the most fun if you use a nutmeg grater & whole nutmeg)
1/2 c. yellow raisins
2 lbs. granny smith apples, peeled, cored & sliced 

Place pie crust into a glass/ceramic pie plate and then place the pie plate onto a cookie sheet (to catch any drippings and make removal from the hot oven easier). Combine pie ingredients (butter through apples) and mix well. Pour into pie shell. 
Delicious Crunchy Topping

1 c. flour
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1/2 c. white sugar

To make the delicious topping, combine flour, butter and sugar in a food processor (or with a pastry blender) and mix until it resembles coarse meal. Sprinkle evenly over the apples and bake at 375* for about an hour or until golden brown.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Food Truck Dish Towels: Modern Art

I have a weakness for dishtowels. My collection is full of French brands and unusual color palates. They are often too beautiful to use and I save them, folded in a drawer, as if I'm waiting for the Queen to come.  I am a proponent of using the beautiful things we have, don't get me wrong, but I have bought so many over the year I can't help but keep a few pristine.

And then I walked into a kitchen store in Ballard, Washington and saw these Food Truck dishtowels. Lighthearted and timely (I was on a mission to eat from food trucks when I was in the Pacific Northwest), these are the ones I chose to hang on the wall as art.

My studio is in transition right now, I've been organizing and planning for a grand new space to create.  Furniture has been moved, storage containers for buttons and ribbon and zippers (oh my!) have been purchased and I am on the hunt for wallpaper.  In the meantime, I knew that these dishtowels would give my studio a touch of whimsy.  

I needed a long pocket along the top of each dishtowel to thread a wooden dowel through. I decided that sturdy grosgrain ribbon (1.5 "wide) would make a perfect "pocket" and I cut a piece the width of each dishtowel. I sewed along the length of the ribbon, at the top and bottom and it created a long smooth pocket. I cut a dowel just wider than each dishtowel, threaded it through the pocket and then cut a length of embroidery floss and tied it to each end. I pushed a thumbtack into the wall and hung the embroidery floss "hanger" over the pin. Voila! 

Simple, inexpensive and FUN artwork for my studio walls. If you'd like to order a set for yourself or a friend, you can find them here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ann Arbor's Downtown Home and Garden has Old World Christmas Ornaments

It starts to feel like Christmas when I finally make it to Downtown Home and Garden in Ann Arbor, Michigan. My mom and I always make a day of it and drive to Ann Arbor for lunch and shopping with my Aunt Carol. The excursion wouldn't be complete without a stop at Downtown Home and Garden, formerly Hertler's.

I always find something wonderful to add to my collection, last year it was thin wooden tree silhouettes. I just looked at my blog posts for last December, and the trees aren't in any of the pictures. I'll be sure to highlight them this year.

One of my favorite sections is the glass blown ornament. You can see the wide variety of choices hanging on the pegboard behind the antique oven. They have glass blown ornaments that look like grilled cheese, ribbon candy, cappuccino, cinnamon buns, and many kitchen copper pots and pans. Adorable!
However, my favorite part of the display is hidden from view. The shop girl prompted us to "open the oven and see if it's done." We did gently opened the antique oven's door and found a pie tin filled with slice of pie ornaments. A little bit of humor and delight on a cold winter's day. Bravo.
The treasure I bought this year is a pastel ball ornament garland for my "family" tree. It will bring out the colors (pink, mauve, mint) of my handmade ornaments and bring an old world feel. I can't wait to decorate! It all starts next Friday, the day after Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ina Garten's Make It Ahead event at Williams Sonoma

Williams Sonoma helps me dream of the holidays. While some people can't wait to see what is featured in the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book, I look forward to Williams Sonoma's photos of twice baked sweet potatoes and cranberry port chutney.

When I see gravy separators, turkey platters and Emile Henry bake ware, it makes me happy. Dan kids that my experience with any cooking store is more of a "Got it, got it, need it, got it" and can't imagine that there is anything in the catalog that we don't already have. 
So...when I had a chance to join 2 friends at an Ina Garten-themed cooking class at Williams Sonoma, I signed up immediately. The class was called "Make It Ahead" and though we weren't one of the stops on Ina's real "Make It Ahead" Williams Sonoma book tour, we were learning recipes from her new book and received an autographed copy of "Make It Ahead" for our personal library, along with a full Thanksgiving dinner that night.
A local chef had prepared part of each recipe ahead of time, as per the book, and finished each dish in front of us (see overhead mirror, above), highlighting tips and tricks that made each a success.  
We started with a cauliflower and celery root soup and homemade croutons. It was a pleasant soup, but certainly not one I would make on purpose. 
We had mashed potatoes enhanced with goat cheese, minted peas and pancetta, Williams Sonoma gravy and a WS turkey paste-rubbed turkey that was roasted and then carved, cooled and rewarmed for the class. Everything was delicious. My 4 classmates and I were relieved to know that mashed potatoes could indeed to be made, covered, refrigerated and then reheated a day or two later. Someone suggested adding cream cheese to the potatoes if goat cheese seemed to tangy, which would be my choice. The cream cheese would add a bit of a "moisture guarantee" without changing the classic flavors too much. 

The minted peas and pancetta relied on frozen peas, which means they are reliable and readily accessible. Win-win. The WS gravy was very good and is made with their base and then an equivalent jarful of cream, milk or wine in various proportions. It turned out well and was a delicious accompaniment to the turkey and potatoes.
It was a really fun night. We weren't rushed through the recipes and were encouraged to discuss and relate our Thanksgiving challenges and triumphs. Remember when my friends had me host a "Mock Thanksgiving?" 

Williams Sonoma is my home away from home. I am very comfortable there and will certainly be back for another relaxing cooking experience with my friends. Congratulations, Ina, I know that now many home cooks will consider their own recipes and realize just how many can be made ahead. Bravo.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Advent Calendars: My Love Runs Deep

I absolutely love advent calendars. There are so many beautiful designs to choose from. I prefer the flat paper calendars with a winter scene. There is something about the excitement of counting down to a holiday paired with the childlike anticipation of opening a window to see the image of the day. I think having an advent calendar is a perfect way to keep yourself in the moment and aware of where you are in the advent season. 

That said, I am known for not always opening the windows. The scene is often so pretty, that I like to look at it on my refrigerator just as it is. Don't worry though, I have lots of advent calendars around the house and I do keep track of the countdown.  Do you remember this one that looks like a general store?  Or this one I made with paper drawers? I need to get busy finding little items to fill each drawer!

If you love this farm scene advent calendar as much as I do, you can buy it here. I also found some beautiful advent calendars online here

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Philadelphia: Reflections on Liberty

When I was in Philadelphia, I walked around marveling at the fact that the real Independence Hall was still standing. You can see it from a distance below.
I had no idea that I could visit the original Independence Hall, the birthplace of our country. I thought that the building, built between 1732 and 1756, was lost to time and development. When I came out of the underground parking structure, walked through the Visitors Center and came upon this expansive lawn leading up to the Independence Hall, I stopped in my tracks. Wait...what?

I thought Epcot Center and the cartoon depiction in Schoolhouse Rock (around marker 1:14) was all that we had left of this historic landmark. Clearly my high school did not take a field trip to Philadelphia. I was thrilled that I could walk inside the building where our founding fathers defined our country.
This is Congress Hall, inside Independence Hall, where Congress met between 1790-1800.
Also housed in this building is the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chamber (above), where the highest court in the colonies would meet. My other post about the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall is here.
This is my favorite image from our visit to Philadelphia. The glass wall looks into the Liberty Bell on display. You can see people in line admiring it. Reflecting in the glass is Independence Hall, which is directly behind where I was standing. The second reflection, which I am still puzzled as to how it appeared, is of the American flag on a flagpole outside Independence Hall, blowing in the wind. I call this image, "Reflections on Liberty." 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Planning for a Pretty Kitchen Sink

I have a weakness for a pretty sponges and soaps at my kitchen sink.  If I am going to spend this much time in the kitchen, my headquarters had better be cute.

I know I can't be the only one that feels this way, so I am posting my latest combination. Palmolive Soft Touch Aloe (chosen for the aqua color) in a limited edition Evian bottle, Caldrea Citron Ginger Hand Soap and an Ocelo sponge from their new Holiday collection. I have a set of Co-Rect Metal Pour Spouts that work really well for dispensing soap, olive oil or any liquid from a repurposed bottle. 

Doesn't it look pretty? These are Visual Vitamins. Do you have certain colors or soaps that make you feel good while your washing the dishes? 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Amazing Cheesecake with Amaretto Cherries

Nothing says love and friendship like making someone a homemade dessert. It turns coffee into an occasion.  When I was in Seattle, my new friends Kathy, Paula and Mary often invited me out to dinner when Dan was working late. We told stories and were usually the loudest table at the restaurant. Laughter tends to do that. The girls wanted to meet Dan, so we made a plan. I'd go to an early dinner with them and then Dan would meet us at Kathy's house after work for dessert.  Mary offered to make her famous cheesecake and I'm so glad she did! She gave me her blessing to share it with you.
This is her magnificent cheesecake (above). Kathy and I arranged each berry just so and had fun turning on different lights and getting the focus just right. One bite and we knew it was blog-worthy.

I made it for my family this week. I added a graham cracker crust and made a cherry-amaretto topping. Best-Cheesecake-Ever

Cheesecake with Amaretto Cherries

For Crust:
Mix 1 stick of melted salted butter with 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs and 2 Tablespoons of white sugar. Press into ungreased round 9" springform pan. Place in freezer while you make the cheesecake.

For Cheesecake Center:

3 (8 oz) packages of cream cheese (room temp)
5 eggs
1 cup white sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add one egg at a time. Add sugar, salt and extract. Mix well until smooth and pale lemon color - no lumps. Remove crust from freezer and pour cheesecake filling into it. Place in oven and bake 45-50 minutes. When cooked, remove from oven and allow to cool 20 min on a rack.

For 2nd Layer of Cheesecake:

1 1/2 cups of sour cream, room temp
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons of white sugar

Stir ingredients above together. Spread on cheesecake after it has baked and cooled for 20 minutes. Return cheesecake to 325 degree oven for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool. Remove springform ring once cheesecake has cooled.

Cherry Amaretto Topping:

2 cups of frozen pitted tart cherries
2 Tablespoons of white sugar
2 Tablespoons of cornstarch
Generous splash of Amaretto liqueur

Mix cherries, sugar and cornstarch in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir and allow the cherries to melt, give off liquid and let the cornstarch thicken it. It will be glossy and beautiful. Remove from burner and cool. Add liqueur and stir. Spoon over center of cheesecake or slice by slice, as desired. 
Set the table, brew a pot of coffee and Enjoy!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Seattle: Dahlias in Volunteer Park

Next September, when your garden has faded and you can't believe summer is over, find yourself a dahlia garden and rejoice in the bounty of colorful blooms.
A friend told me that I had "visit Volunteer Park in September to see the dahlias" and I kept the reminder in my travel notes for months. Finally, on my third trip to Seattle, it was dahlia season.
The Puget Sound Dahlia Association maintains the large dahlia garden in Seattle's Volunteer Park. It is spectacular. The garden is very tidy and the large well-staked plants tower over the enthusiastic visitors to the park. Every person has a camera or phone in hand capturing the various colors, shapes and sizes. Once you give in and start taking pictures, it's hard to stop. Each one is prettier than the next. And when the sunlight hits them just so...
If you fall in love with a particular shape, order some for your garden! Read about my wonderful visit to The Dahlia Barn, an online source for dahlia tubers.
The joy of gardening is far from over this time of year. You just need to switch gears and invest in some delightful dahlias.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness had to be the title of this blog post. It is the famous phrase from the Declaration of Independence, and as I walked around Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia, I couldn't stop thinking about delight. 

I love that my idea of "finding delight in everyday life" echos part of our national doctrine. My philosophy and photography could easily be described as the pursuit of happiness
I was in the open spaces where our founding fathers walked, talked and made the monumental decisions for our future, thinking about how I would describe this experience to you. 

Remember when I traveled to Washington, D.C. and was able to visit the National Archives? I saw the original Declaration of Independence document in person behind protective glass. Now, a few years later, I stood in the Assembly Room in Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed.
I absolutely loved this trip. We walked through the Visitor Center and I noticed these antique (1700 and 1800's) china pieces that were recovered during excavation of the site. These items were part of everyday American life in early Philadelphia. Does the pitcher look familiar? Remember my collection of Spode's Blue Room?
Part of my message is sharing two travel tips. 

Tip #1 You don't need to stand in the huge line to see the Liberty Bell.  We saved at least 2 hours of our day trip by skipping the "Liberty Bell indoor museum and viewing" line and walking around the side of the building, where you can see an unobstructed view of the Liberty Bell. I waited behind 4 people (for 5 min?) to get my chance to take that photo of the Liberty Bell (top of page) through the glass. I don't think it could look any better. 

Tip #2 There is a lot of parking in the underground Mall parking lot. You take an elevator up into the Visitor's Center. Get your free tickets to Independence Hall as you pass through.

Tip #3 I hinted at this above. You need to have a "time slot" assigned to you for entrance into Independence Hall. This timed ticket is free and available at the Visitor Center. Get one as you pass through, instead of walking all the way back for a ticket as we did. Expect to go through security check point before entering Independence Hall. No, I did not see Nicholas Cage.



Thursday, November 6, 2014

Zigging and Zagging Through Delight

Hello all! The holiday season is approaching and I wanted to explain my plans for "Moments of Delight." In a nutshell, I am going to zig and zag through topics over the next two months. 

Many blogs do daily countdowns or holiday specific posts, but I have SO much to share from my travels these last 3 months that I can't possibly shelve everything until January. So...

I will jump in with holiday content, as needed (like the Cornbread Turkey) but I will also sprinkle in restaurant recommendations, embroidery projects I'm working on, design tips, parks & rec, and a host of other beautiful content. 

My plan is to delight, just know that I may zig when you expect me to zag.  I think it is important to distinguish that this is not "real time" content, like Instagram. The photos or recipes weren't photographed in the last 48 hours. How could I possibly keep up? 

For example, I have a dahlia garden that I want to show you. The blooms have faded in Seattle, but would you really want me to wait until NEXT September to share them with you? Me, either.

Remember, it is all about finding delight in everyday life. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Turkey 101: Corn Bread Turkey, that is

It's time! This is a friendly reminder to order your turkey cake pan by Nordic Ware now, so that you can have it in time for Thanksgiving. You may also be able to find one on the shelf of a cake supply store, just call first. You want the 3-D pan made by Nordic Ware.  

The moment that I saw this pan debut on The Martha Show, I had to have it.  It works incredibly well with not quite 2 pouches of Marie Callender's Corn Bread Mix.  Once it is baked, you level off each side of the turkey (cut off excess cake) with a large bread knife and frost the two sides together so that he'll stand and be 3-D.  

I use a few toothpicks inserted on an angle to stabilize the seam and then I prop my turkey in a pie plate full of whole cranberries to help him stand up. It is a darling addition to any holiday buffet and I just love him every time I make him. Do you like super cute theme food? This pan's for you! 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Seattle: Magnolia Park has a Magnificent View

When I talked to my friends back home, I had a lot of questions about how I handled all the rain in Seattle.  This photo (above) sums up the weather I experienced while in the Pacific Northwest. I was there between April - October and it was magnificent. I've heard that the traditional rainy season is October-March and it definitely rains then, so our timing was lucky. 
We spent a beautiful Sunday exploring Seattle and found Magnolia Park on top of the Magnolia Bluff. A million dollar view that you can enjoy any time you want. The sparkling water is Puget Sound and depending on the direction you looked, you could see sailboats or freighters. We relaxed on a bench and wished we had brought along a picnic.
What a view. You can see why I loved every minute of my time in Seattle.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Seattle: Salmon Days in Issaquah...or rather, Fishaquah

It was a beautiful Friday evening (Oct 3, 2014) at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery in Issaquah, Washington, just West of Seattle. It was the night that "Issaquah Salmon Days" festival begins and many many townspeople had come to the hatchery to see the salmon run.
We hung over the railing and took photos as fish after fish flung himself up barrier trying to get back home.
This is a map at the hatchery showing the lifespan and route of the salmon.

You can see the tank full of salmon (above). There is a wonderful video somewhere on the site that shows the purpose and practices of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. It is really well done and explains the life cycle of the salmon and how they aid in fertilizing the salmon eggs and raising the baby salmon (all the correct terms are escaping me) and releasing them into the wild to help protect and propagate the species.
You can see that the river is full of salmon, waiting for a chance to fling themselves up the river.

The entire town of Issaquah celebrates the return of the salmon with a 3-day festival (parade, fair, art show) and during the festival each year, the area is affectionately known as "Fish-aquah," which I think is adorable. That is town spirit.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Leavenworth: Washington Apples at Prey's Fruit Barn

This time of year, Prey's Fruit Barn looks ready for a magazine shoot for Washington apples. Aren't they gorgeous? On our drive back toward Seattle from the Leavenworth Oktoberfest, we saw Prey's Fruit Barn.
Cezanne would swoon. Look at this basket of "Brooks Plums." This farm stand remind me of the paintings by Cezanne!
We bought two apples from several varieties and I baked them in my little convection toaster oven. The secret to easy baked apples is wash them and run a sharp knife around the equator, about a half inch deep.  Place them in a baking dish and bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes. The apples will bake and relax, but maintain their shape. No coring necessary! Place each apple on your guest's dinner plate and they can just slide the skin up and eat the flesh, avoiding the core.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Seattle: Date Night at Salty's on Alki Beach

Salty's on Alki Beach is my favorite date night restaurant in Seattle. The food is delicious and the staff seems genuinely happy for customers who are "visiting Seattle" and get to experience dinner with this spectacular view. 
Dan and I drove over to Alki Beach to find a casual restaurant that I had read a lot about. When we arrived, it was a little too casual, primarily take out and we decided that we'd rather have more of a Sunday Dinner.  A long quiet meal with a chance to soak up the view from Alki Beach.
We were able to get right in (it was 6 o'clock) and were seated at a table with a view. I ordered the True Cod and Prawn Picatta, which is finished with caper berries, artichoke hearts, baby heirloom tomatoes and italian parsley. It was delicious. The cod took on the bright flavors of the sauce and I ate every bite.
This view is a wider shot of the city - the buildings aren't as clear, but you can see the distinct skyline that Dr. Fraser Crane made so famous. If you are planning a visit to Seattle, you must include one lovely meal at Salty's on Alki Beach. During warm weather, you can request a table out on the deck.