Monday, March 30, 2015

Spending Easter with my Peeps: Color and Sugar Rules

I love color so much that I can see this photo of the Peeps display at Target as a poster. Wouldn't this add a little sunshine to a college dorm room? One day I was talking with another baker and told her that I was driven by color and sugar. She replied, "Me too! Color, sugar and glitter!"

It is Easter week and I just love how the Peeps brand has embraced the fun of color and sugar. Have you seen a display like this? Bravo. 

Have fun making your family Easter baskets! 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Paper Enhanced Acrylic Tray: An Inexpensive Designer Touch

I had days to wait for the truck to arrive with our furniture and housewares. I had an empty apartment and dreams of decorating. I accomplished a lot of "setting up an apartment" errands and did what I could to pass the time.  I visited Michaels Craft store every day as I plotted a way to make a wall of mirrors, evaluated their stock of picture frames and considered the color palate for out new nest.
The painted walls are biscuit (shown above as off white but in reality far more beige), the carpeting is a warm chestnut, the kitchen has dark walnut cabinets with stainless steel appliances and the kitchen and bathroom floors look like a soft barn wood grey. It's a strong color palette and I like it, but it leans more toward Pottery Barn than Shabby Chic. I wanted to make something that would make the color palate seem a little more friendly. For me, that translated to polka dots in tan and gold.

I was impatient to unpack boxes, so I thought a craft project would help me bide my time. I found two acrylic platter in the party department at Michaels (on clearance for $2.50 each) and then picked up a foam sponge (59 cents), Elmer's white glue ($1.89?) and two sheets of scrapbook paper.
The only real qualification when selecting the paper is making sure that it will cover the center oval surface area and try not to choose a paper that has actual texture or depth. The glue will rest in the dents and not dry well.  Choose a print that will enhance your decor. A bright pink and green toile. A classic red plaid. A dreamy tye-dye. Once you start to look, you'll be surprised how many scrapbook papers look like fabric. Most sheets are just 59 cents. How can you go wrong? Peel the manufacturer label carefully off the back of the platter.
Lay the platter face down and then lay the paper (printed side down) onto the bottom of the platter. The bottom oval of the platter is where you will glue the paper. Hold the paper steady and rub your finger around the rim of the center lip. This will trace the oval and give you an easy mark to follow when cutting the paper. Cut out the oval following the dent on the paper.
Dispense a thin stream of glue around the center oval on the bottom of the platter. Spread it evenly with the foam brush. Place the paper oval printed side down (so that the design will show through the plastic when you turn the platter over) onto the glue.  Smooth the paper and try to eliminate any bubbles by gently sliding your finger across the paper. Allow to dry. 
Now you have a designer-touch platter that is still food safe. The glue and paper are on the bottom of the acrylic tray and you can arrange the fruit, cheese and crackers on top and all's well. I intend to cut a piece of adhesive felt (also available at Michaels for about $1.80) and adhere it to the bottom of the platter, over the paper. It will give it a nice, slide on the counter, finish. Just be sure to hand wash the platter carefully.

In my oh-so-empty apartment, my cute new polka dot tray looks great and makes things feel a bit more like home. A plastic cup "vase" of fresh daffodils helps too.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Planning Projects: Let it Percolate

I wrote about having a Master Plan back in 2009. When I referred to it again this week in my post about decorating cookies with edible wafer paper, I occurred to me that I left out part of the explanation.  

Having a Master Plan can mean that you have a stockpile of ideas that you want to try, much like a Pinterest Board, and that satisfaction comes when you follow your plan to completion, like when I finally put that French ribbon around my bouquet of mustard-colored roses. 

What I neglected to say is that a master plan can also include ideas you've had for years. I write this because of the images above and below. Every year I try and get a few good pictures of the landscape - cherry orchards, rolling hills, vineyards, barns, trees.  Why?
I want to embroider or needlepoint the landscape of northern Michigan. Rolling hills with trees in every shade of green, a cherry orchard (french knots?), Lake Michigan in the distance. 

I know that I can buy a software program called "PC Stitch" that converts photos into cross stitch patterns, but I'm not ready. The software costs $50 and once you load it onto your computer you can convert images forever. So my dream its within reach, but I'm not done thinking about it yet. Does that make sense?  It is part of my master plan. 

My suggestion is to make note of things you'd like to try. When you think about it again and it comes even more into focus, jot those ideas down too. There's no hurry. Let it percolate. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Blank Walls and Big Opportunities

Where have I been and what's going on? I have been distracted with finding and then setting up an apartment in Seattle.  Last year, many of my blog posts came to you from our darling room at a Residence Inn in a suburb of Seattle, Washington. Whenever I was in town, I baked desserts in my convection toaster oven and had a wonderful time trying new restaurants and writing about shops, sweets and treats I discovered.

This year we decided to put hotels behind us and set up a pied a terre - a small living unit in a city that is close to work. It has been incredibly fun having a blank canvas to decorate and I know that I won't be able to resist sharing some of my decorating successes.  Projects, artwork, design ideas...even apartment gardening. I find inspiration everywhere I turn when I am in the Pacific Northwest. And I've been having the most interesting conversations.

Are you looking forward to seeing what I come up with in this new environment? I am!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Custom Cookie Cutters and Edible Art from Fancy Flours

So much of my happiness comes from completing projects from what I call my master plan. I make up something I want to do or try and then chip away at it until everything falls into place.  

In this case, I want to do more cookie decorating with edible wafer paper. Edible wafer paper is a potato starch paper printed with USDA-approved food coloring. It allows beautiful images to decorate cookies. Remember when I first tried it here?

And I wanted to amuse myself with these ridiculous (and I mean ridiculous in the best possible way) Marie Antoinette edible wafer paper images from my favorite baking source, Fancy Flours

When one wants to make Marie Antoinette-style cookies, one needs an Marie Antoinette-style cookie cutter. No small feat. A Marie Antoinette would be impossible to find but easy to make. Especially when you have a "Make Your Own Cookie Cutter" Kit and a husband with excellent handicraft skills. Look closely in the image above and you can see it. A cookie cutter that will accommodate a large head of hair and an enormous skirt.  Custom, indeed.

Fancy Flours sells the Make Your Own Cookie Cutter kit and the wafer paper, as well as a beautiful copper plaque cookie cutter that would also highlight the Marie Antoinette images if a custom cutter isn't in your near future. 

I have the cookie cutter, wafer paper and rolling pin packed! I'm taking it all to Florida and doing some condo-baking by the sea. 

What do you have in your luggage?

Monday, March 23, 2015

High Heels and High Tea at the Townsend Hotel

This event had my name written all over it. I mean really, tea and a chance to see a lot of my old friends from my active days as a volunteer for the Junior League of Birmingham. I arrived early and I stayed late. That's how much I enjoyed the day.
The event was held at The Townsend Hotel and it was beautiful, right down to the fine china. This is what a proper event looks like: Cloth napkins, champagne punch (yes, why don't we have punch more often?), floral centerpieces and polite conversation.
More than 50 women enjoyed scones with clotted cream and lemon curd, beautiful tea sandwiches and a trio of sweets. I don't know how many cups of tea I drank, but I was wide awake all afternoon. I felt energized. I laughed, heard updates on children and careers and could finally check in with so many of the outstanding women that I have met over the years. Facebook keeps up connected, but to me, eye contact is everything. If you ever have the chance to join a Junior League in your area, I encourage you to check it out. Attend an open house. Meet some members. My time as an active member in the Junior League of Birmingham, Michigan were some of the best years of my life. I can't recommend it highly enough. It takes time and commitment, but the personal and professional benefits are priceless.

I was able to sit with some really great friends of mine at the tea. Women that I used to see almost weekly, but now we manage to cross paths only once a year. We have vowed to try and change that and are even working on a Facebook Group Page where we can coordinate outings, like carpooling to the the antique show in Saline, Michigan or the Ann Arbor Art Show in July. Events that are more fun with a pack of girls. I am sure that it will be beneficial.

Friendships need to be treasured. When like-minded women connect, it can be powerful. Over 11 years, we spent hours and hours working alongside one another, talking, strategizing and supporting each other in our mission to do meaningful volunteer work. Now that we are older and alumnae of the organization, we owe it to ourselves to protect the friendships we've made. All I need is a little organization and a few great events. Wish me luck.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Bald Eagle Nest: Nature Cam Shows 2 Eggs About to Hatch

I want to make sure that you know about the LIVE Eagle Cam that is set up to view the movement inside an active Bald Eagle nest in Hanover, Pennsylvania. The website states that this nest has been used by eagles 7 out of the last 10 years and we are all indebted to the parties responsible for making this live video stream possible. Different individuals and entities have worked together to install the camera, get an internet feed and provide electricity which allows for this unobstructed look at nature. Their contributions are detailed on the eagle cam website.

I have tuned in periodically and it has been very interesting to see the eagle mates taking turns keeping the eggs warm and dry. I saw one eagle covered in snow, only her neck and head exposed, during a snow storm a few weeks ago. Another time I watched as the bird kept its wings open like an umbrella, shielding the main nest area from rain and cold. It is very interesting. 

There are 2 eggs in the nest and today the first crack appeared! We should be able to see some action in the eagle nursery soon. I wouldn't be surprised if someone creates a Twitter contest to name the fledglings. There are almost 60,000 members of the Hanover Eagle Watch Facebook group. Modern incubation, that's for sure.

By the way, I only use my own photography at Moments of Delight, so I've included a photo I took of a bald eagle on the beach in Northern Michigan as a "this post is about eagles" reference point.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Chelsea: My Darling Collection can finally fill the Plate Rack

My heart's delight - my vintage China collection of Chelsea (aka Grandmother's China) on my plate rack. I like to call my decorating style Swedish Beach house - seaside colors and Swedish touches like plate racks and oval back chairs. 

My mom and aunt love antiques and have been adding to my collection for years. This pretty display has come together one piece at a time and that makes it precious. I just reached the point where I can  make a full display in the family room.  I add touches of lavender in the room to relate back to this display. The style of this china pattern reminds me of Laura Ashley in her hay day. Periwinkle marks that look like fleur de lis or small floral clusters are evenly spaced on pure white china.  A few special pieces are enhanced with lustre which adds a glint of copper.  

My mom, aunt and I are planning to have tea together from this set soon.  We laugh that dinner is out of the question - we can't find any dinner plates! So far I only have one. But really, that is the fun of collecting.  It is a sentimental hunt for the final few pieces I need to makes things right. Wouldn't you agree?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Northwest Flower and Garden Show: Dig Floral and Garden

The layered display at Dig Floral and Garden booth within the Northwest Flower and Garden Show (Seattle/Feb 2015) reminded me of all that I could be doing in my suburban garden to add a little style.  I love the mix of natural colors and materials, punctuated with color. I could really see myself with a copper and cement shelf, as shown to the right of the image (above).
The beautiful selection of succulents at the Dig Floral and Nursery booth made me wonder why I didn't already own one of each. Their quiet unassuming nature fit in perfectly with the style and mood of the Dig display. Now that I will be spending a lot more time in Seattle, a ferry ride out to visit Dig on Vashon Island is within reach. I can't wait.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pi Day: A La Mode Pies in Seattle

It was March 14, 2015. March 14 is traditionally celebrated as Pi Day (3.14) and in honor of the occasion, everyone tries to eat pie.  This year the date 3-14-15 is the closest it will get to representing Pi, which is 3.1415926535897932....so everyone was even more willing to celebrate the coincidence.
Since it was Saturday and we had even more flexibility in our schedule, we ran errands and then drove over to A la Mode Pies in Phinney Ridge (Seattle) in the afternoon. We arrived around 5 pm and there was still a line! 

The street side window has the pie bakers on display. The staff was working like a well oiled machine - one baker was managing crust preparation (cutting butter into flour in a professional grade food processor) and had her latest crust taken by someone holding a pie tin the moment she set it down - every time. There was also an apple/peeler/corer slicer tool on the butcher block table getting a workout. The door to this baking mecca was ajar and the scent of warm spiced apples was intoxicating and completely changed my order. 

I'm not kidding. I was intent on getting Bourbon Butterscotch, but could not resist ordering apple by the time I reached the counter. My solution was a slice of Spiced Apple with a scoop of ice cream now; a slice of Bourbon Butterscotch to go. Dan concurred. The warm apple pie hit all the right notes. I celebrated "pi" and "pie" and was willing to raise a fork to any other notion someone proposed. Homemade pie is a triumph.  

Did you celebrate Pi Day with gusto?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Love and Buttercream: What Could Be Better?

I couldn't believe my eyes when I read my local library's webpage.  We were invited to sign up for a free cupcake class on a Tuesday evening in March. The staff from local bakery, Love and Buttercream "will showcase buttercream styles including ombre designs, flower topped cupcakes, and buttercream flowers, and demonstrate simple fondant decorations and the ideal tools for creating your cupcakes. Attendees will have the opportunity to test out each technique and ask questions, and will leave with four frosted cupcakes, full bellies, and some wonderful knowledge about cupcake creation." 

I clicked the link and registered immediately, but my confirmation said "Waiting List." I crossed my fingers and my luck came through. I received a call from the library the day before notifying me that there had been a cancellation and I was in.

It was a very fun evening. Twenty men and women came together to learn a little something about cake decorating. The buttercream was delicious - made from all natural ingredients and real salted butter. Each participant had 4 cupcakes (red velvet, white, ginger and eggless chocolate) to frost and we were given parchment paper sheets to practice our technique.  There were 6 bags of buttercream - each color had a different tip. I am guessing which tip we used below for the purpose of illustration.

We tried to make a circle of comma-shaped puffs with tip 353, filled in with more commas, to eventually look like a mum (yellow icing in distance).  

We used the closed star tip to coax a flower out of a continuous spiral of frosting (purple icing). The bag containing green icing was snipped into a "V" at the end and it made the perfect wavy leaf. If the icing was put into the bag with streaks of darker green, the frosting leaves would look even more realistic. Next time!

I finally figured out the petal tip and the twist of the wrist that makes an individual petal when you write a closed top "U" with the icing (pink icing).

I resorted to polka dots with the small circle tip (blue icing) to soothe my inner Cath Kidston. The easiest to create and it fits in beautifully.

The purple and yellow one? I made basket weave cupcakes a few years ago and they were darling. When we had time in class to experiment, I decided to try it again. If only I was a Lakers fan.

The two bakers from Love & Buttercream that led the class were just darling. Very helpful. Happy to be there and proud of the company they worked for. These girls had icing prowess and they were eager to help share their knowledge. 

The entire evening was a success. The bakery gained exposure in the community; the staff had a chance to try their hand at teaching and the participants were just plain happy to be there. You could hear it in the ripples of laughter and lighthearted banter as they tried to manipulate sugar and butter into art. 

Thank you, Love & Buttercream, I loved it. And I will stop by your bakery too, I promise.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Seattle: Issaquah Coho Cafe

This is my idea of the perfect date night.  Sitting on a patio near a roaring fire, enjoying the fresh air and fresh seafood at the Coho Cafe.  It is the first place I suggest for dinner whenever I'm asked.

I took this photo on a gorgeous evening last September. When I returned this Spring, the patio seating isn't open yet as the weather is just too chilly. I can't wait to sit on this patio in Issaquah and enjoy the Northwest Seafood Fettuccine with Parmesan-Basil Sauce (prawns, scallops, bay shrimp, salmon, cod & roasted red pepper, white wine & seafood stock). 

In the photo you can also see Dan's Beer Battered True Cod Tacos and one of my beloved Cigar Box Purses in navy blue. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Northwest Flower and Garden Show: Monumental Garden Displays

It's the 2015 Northwest Flower and Garden Show. You've finally arrived. After winding your way past the gorgeous display of Spring flowering bulbs presented by the "Flower Growers of Puget Sound", you buy your ticket and in you go.
I had never been to the NWFGS garden show before and it took me a moment to get my bearings among the crowds and enormous displays.  I did not know that there was a garden design competition, let alone on such a grand scale. 

The South Hall of the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle had 20 life size representations of that design company's style or aesthetic. What a wonderful way to bring your vision to life.

There were boulders as big as a Fiat, full-size trees, real grass, giant water features, small buildings, glass greenhouses - all telling a story in keeping with the theme: Romance Blossoms.  

You know that I love dollhouses and the attention to detail in teeny-tiny scale.  I enjoyed these full-size vignettes for the same reason. They were like dollhouse presentations, but in 12:12 scale. Each display was to look as if it were being actively used. Look closely and I'm sure you'll see a garden magazine on a tabletop or candles lit on a table. From my pictures, you can see a picnic in the display "Romantic Folly" (last image) that has a piece of cake that I've been eyeing all day. Let me show you some of the displays that spoke to me:

Love the Space You're In by Susan Browne was a favorite display of mine because it was so crisp and pretty, it looked like a cover from HGTV magazine. I feel certain that Susan has inspired a lot of people to paint their front door cobalt blue this Spring. The plentiful groupings of orange tulips proves that the color wheel does indeed work. Blue and its opposite orange are perfect together. I love Susan's design pattern from plant to porch. I've seen several photos of her display, but none from this angle. So pretty!
A Moment to Remember by Nature Perfect Landscaping and the Nature Perfect Design Team (above). This landscape had a open gate at the end of this water hovering walkway and the scene begged show goers to pose for a photograph. If ever there was a perfect backdrop for a "I'm at the Garden Show" selfie, this is it. 

I loved this display garden for its movie set quality - it reminded me of where Robin Hood might propose to Maid Marian. Can't you just hear Bryan Adams singing his ballad?
Thank you, Bryan.
Birds Do It...Bees Do It (above) by the West Seattle Nursery. Did you notice the tower of boxes? Those are artistic and colorful bee boxes underscoring the important role bees play in our garden-loving lives. I think of this as "pollination station" and I am so glad that the West Seattle Nursery reminded us all to plant the flowers and herbs that are so important to sustaining the birds and the bees.
Knotty and Nice...Here's to We Time (above) by Karen Stefonick Design. There was a sense of peace and grace in this backyard oasis.  A cozy seating area for a couple to talk and drink up coffee, wine and the quiet. This space was dedicated to human connection and it was all I could do not to sit up there with Dan and tell him all about what I was seeing at the show. Bravo.
"Romantic Folly" by Pamela Richards and Falling Water Gardens (above). I had a chance to speak with Pamela and she told me that she loves the website Pinterest and the endless inspiration it can bring to gardeners and creatives alike. 

When I told her that my name was Anne, she mentioned her love of Anne of Green Gables and I said, "I knew it!" Earlier I had asked her if Downton Abbey had influenced her designs, but no. There was a romantic sensibility in her work that I couldn't put my finger on. Then she told me herself. This woman knows Anne Shirley. Nice job, Pamela. So many of us would like to spend an afternoon picnicking in your outdoor landscape. #NWFGS

Friday, February 20, 2015

Northwest Flower and Garden Show: Shopping for Garden Glory

We have come to the shopping portion of my blog series on the Northwest Flower and Garden ShowA salute to the garden centers gifts that we all love to buy.

It's almost March and we all need new seeds, right? How could anyone resist this candy-colored display of possibility? Renee's Garden seed are beautiful and dependable. My mom loves them when she does a "study in nasturtiums."

And you've heard about what I've done with empty Renee's Garden seed packets, right? I like to re-purpose them into super cute business card holders. If I didn't, I'd only see them when I was planting and that is not often enough. 
Molbak's Garden had the sense to sell eye candy (cyclamen plants) and real candy bars in the same display. And I can see from their website that they have a CAFE! Now that is a business after my own heart. It brings back great memories of going to lunch at a garden center with my mom and her best friend in northern Michigan. I can't wait to spend some quality time at Molbak's Garden.
I'm pretty sure it was the Strong Marketing booth, where I saw this beautiful deep purple garden hose by My Garden Hose Reinvented. I don't particularly need a new garden hose, but the rich color made me want one. Do you feel that way too?
My favorite item in the Ravenna Gardens booth were the cement teacup and saucer. They are stacked on top of each other on the right side of the table. I would love to have johnny-jump-ups blooming through the moss foam.

Who else made a big impression on me? Impwear Home. Tracy Krauter has designed a gorgeous line of bags, aprons and tablecloths MADE IN SEATTLE of laminated cotton. The items have a streamlined design, and use strong colors or charming prints to grab your attention. The best part about the company is the fact that the products are made from a hard-to-find material: laminated cotton. You simply do not run across laminated cotton products in the marketplace and laminated cotton is WONDERFUL. It wipes clean; it's water resistant and this allows the beauty and color of fabric items be more front and center in your busy life. Can I get an amen? I bought a darling tote in the "vintage" print (cream with goldfinches, butterflies and Emma Bridgewater-style lettering) and I can't wait to carry it all over Seattle.

Okay. Now the show hosts 350 vendors! Even I can't shop that much. I've focused on a few standouts but you really should peruse the complete list here. You can even shop online (via the website links) for the items you already regret not purchasing at the show. You're welcome.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Northwest Flower and Garden Show: Viva la France

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show...a French influence. Today I will highlight the booths and displays with a decidedly French feel. 
I was so happy to see Woodinville Lavender at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle. I spent a lovely afternoon there last June when the fields were in full bloom and it looks just as beautiful as their poster - breathtaking. I was also impressed with the extensive selection of lavender products in their shop and vowed to come back to the farm to purchase even more. Lucky for us, they brought the store and more to the garden show. Sachets, tea, culinary lavender, soap and even an array of lavender-themed dishtowels, porcelain mugs and books. Look at the table (below) brimming with live lavender plants. 
Every garden deserves as touch of ooh-la-la and lavender provides it.
Rose Marie Designs' booth was teeming with women imagining themselves in lace-trimmed dresses, fabric flower coursages and white-on-white ensembles. The effect of white parasols and fairy lights drew women to her booth like moths to a flame. Gardeners love beauty and Rose Marie has it.
My husband actually saw this booth of fine French linens first and waited to see my reaction as I came upon it.  Be still my heart.  If I remember correctly many were made by Garnier Thiebaut and all of them were of the highest quality. It is times like this that I curse myself for not logging my kitchen and dining room table dimensions into my phone. The image above is the display of dishtowels - I recognized several that I have and several that I have been coveting. 
Honestly a girl needs to be warned before she is faced with such a selection. I did not expect to find French linens at a Flower and Garden Show, but they are certainly welcome in my book. The booth was named MD Arts and Linens, but unfortunately the referenced website (www.provencedecor.com) is not active, so I can't send you to his shop. Come back to the show next year? You bet!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Northwest Flower and Garden Show: Why Anne Reeves?

For those of you who are new to my blog, I'd like to answer the question: Who am I and why am I writing so extensively on the Northwest Floral and Garden Show

I am a blogger who writes about things that bring delight - food, design, travel, garden, crafts, sugar, ribbon etc. I've publish over 2,000 posts these last 7 years, all with my original photography. I have also written 3 books on Moments of Delight, Finding Delight and Paris: Delight in the City of Light

In terms of gardening:
I am a suburban gardener from Southeastern Michigan and I'm suddenly spending a lot of time in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.

I probably love a lot of things that you love and after years of hearing about the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, I had the chance to go - and with only a week's notice! I wanted to get the most out of this exciting chance and after 5 hours coming the aisles, I feel like I got a good handle on the show.

My husband will be working in Seattle a lot this year and I'll be coming with him. After a few great trips last year, I will have the chance to dig even deeper into the subjects I love in a brand new setting.

This week I will have individual blog posts about all of the things I enjoyed  at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. I was impressed by the sheer volume of vendors selling not only garden tools and implements, but also plants, indoor/outdoor artwork, garden design elements, water features as well as clothing, hats and clogs that make a day outdoors more pleasant. Stick with me and I'll fill you in.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Favorite Entries in Floral Competition at 2015 Northwest Flower and Garden Show

I was captivated by two entries in the Floral Competition at the Northwest Garden and Flower Show in Seattle, Washington and interestingly enough, they were both rectangular. 

The multi-compartment arrangement (above) was designed by Debra Prinzing of SlowFlowers.com. When she led with aqua, she stole my heart. This artistic presentation makes the idea of collecting floral bouquets completely reasonable, don't you think?

I loved this painting called "Sunset Blooms" by Art of Forest Blooms. A crowded collage of color and texture - with a heavenly scent to boot! I would hang this on my wall in a minute. It reminds me that I don't reach for the oasis often enough. Bravo. #NWFGS

Monday, February 16, 2015

Giant Heart of Living Succulent Plants: Robin Stockwell of Succulent Gardens at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show

It was this 14-foot tall living wall of succulents arranged in the shape of a heart that welcomed visitors to the 27th annual Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle, Washington. 

A masterpiece made from 15,000 living plants, the heart was created by Robin Stockwell. After the show has ended, this lovely display will live on as a garden at Succulent Gardens in Castroville, California. 

This was my first time to the show and this giant heart certainly relayed how I felt - lucky to be there and absolutely in love with gardening. The 2015 Northwest Flower and Garden show was held February 11-15 and in a nod to Valentine's Day, the overall theme for this year's show was "Romance Blossoms."  

Because of the sheer volume of content and have-to-share photographs, I've decided to divide my blog posts and highlight my favorite aspects of this year's show over the next few days. Enjoy! #NWFGS

Friday, February 13, 2015

Thread Letters: A Charming Farmers Market Display

I love when people let their passions intersect. Clearly the person behind this little booth loves to gardening and embroidery and design. She elevated tiny sunflower and radish sprouts into a still life by echoing soft colors and country charm in her display.

The tablecloth is a faded print of pea shoots and vines - a perfect backdrop for the wisps of green. And did you notice that the red stitching of the words radish sprouts is in the same color as the basket behind it and the touches of red in the cloth? Subtle but powerful. You see how, though worn, the yellow thread used in the words sunflower sprouts coordinate with the real life sprouts on the left.

A wooden hoop, cotton fabric and thread letters caught my attention far more than pen and paper ever would.  When you utilize the skills you have, even when they don't seem to fit the job description, your originality will win every time.

And by the way, I've never seen an oval embroidery hoop for sale, have you?

I found this charming display at the Portland Farmer's Market on the Portland State University campus last June. If you're in the area on a Saturday this Spring, please stop by this teeny table and pass on my accolades.  

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cheese Fondue on a Heart Shaped Board

We celebrated Day #8 of the 12 Days of Valentine's Day with a gorgeous cheese fondue from President Cheese. I was lucky to find it in the cheese case at Costco and served one on New Years Eve and kept this one for Valentine's Day. What I like is that I can microwave the container and in minutes, I'm ready for fondue. It tastes just like you would hope. Apples and bread and cheese, oh my!

My friend Angie gave me this gorgeous heart-shaped cutting board from Longaberger (a limited edition piece that is no longer available) and it made the perfect serving station for our romantic appetizer.

Do you have any heart shaped items in your kitchen? Now's the time to get them out. Cookie cutters, cake pans, cutting boards - have some fun. I plan on making shortbread hearts later this week and maybe a heart-shaped banana bread - why not?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Chocolate Hearts Melted Mine

Be still my heart - perfect chocolates for Valentine's Day! When I was picking up my caramel puffs, I couldn't help but be mesmerized by this shelf of real chocolate hearts.  I would buy 5 or 6 and tuck them around the sweets on a cookie plate. 

The maker of these has an artist's eye and I knew I had to show you. The French bakery is called Le Petit Prince and is located in Birmingham, Michigan.

Happy 12 Days of Valentine's Day! 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Caramel Coated Cream Puffs: A Croquembouche Deconstructed

I ate. I swooned. I asked where I could get more cream puffs.  

Last fall, my friend showed up at my door with the top tier of a croquembouche. Have you ever seen a croquembouche? The name comes from the French phrase that means to crunch in the mouth. A croquembouche is a glorious tower of cream puffs dipped in a hard caramel shell. 

My first exposure to croquembouche was watching a Martha Stewart Christmas VHS tape when I was in high school. Yes, it was way back when. The video was compelling and I have never forgotten how Martha made it look easy to waft spun sugar onto the tower of cream puffs. You can watch a portion of it here - the construction of the dessert begins at time marker 4:20.

Until last fall, I had never had the opportunity to taste a croquembouche and the "cream puffs" I had tried were merely puff pastry shells with flavored whipped cream inside. Meh.

Then my friend stopped by and told me that she had brought me a treat from a party the night before. Her friend had ordered an enormous croquembouche from Le Petit Prince for the centerpiece of a buffet and it had been treated more like art than dessert. She sent the entire top of the tower home with my friend. French pastries wait for no man and you have to eat them while they are fresh. Twist my arm.

When I reached to pull a puff from the tower, I had no idea that I would think back to this dessert time and again. Rum spiked cream inside a tender puff coated in a crunchy caramel shell. Oh me, oh my. No wonder Martha Stewart took the time to make this for her video, it is delicious! Here is a recipe from Saveur magazine if you want to try it.

So the other day I broke down and called Le Petit Prince in Birmingham Michigan to ask about that glorious croquembouche. Is there anything similar that they make and sell separately?  I told them that I didn't have an event worthy of an entire tower, but that I really wanted to eat a puff again! If I'm thinking about a dessert 6 months later, I've got to have it again. I was thrilled to hear that the puffs are sold individually and I ordered a dozen on the spot. Happy Valentine's Day to us.

It may seem outrageous to order a dozen French pastries on a whim, but I'll tell you why I did it. 

#1 A business that makes labor intensive dessert needs support. 
#2 If I'm going to ask them to make a special order, the order need to be worth      their while. A dozen made sense.  
#3 Life is for living.

 Remember, it's the 12 Days of Valentine's Day and everything counts

Friday, February 6, 2015

Love and Potatoes: When Stripes are the Star

Want to show your family that you love them during the 12 Days of Valentines Day? Stripe a pan of mashed potatoes and see what happens. I brought this dish to our big family Christmas Eve dinner and I swear my brother took his phone out and took a picture of it. Unprecedented. 

This is my semi-homemade version of a striped mashed potato dish I saw in a magazine years ago. I actually bought two containers of homemade mashed potatoes at Costco and redistributed them into the baking dish with a splash of milk to help make them a bit more pliable.

Then I baked the mashed potatoes at 350 degrees for 40 min or long enough to warm them up and then topped the mashed potatoes with cooked bacon, sharp cheddar cheese and sliced green onion. Put the dish back into the oven just long enough to let the cheese melt. 

The photo you see here is one that I took to a party in a leave-behind container. When you make this in a beautiful deep blue Emile Henry baking dish, it looks even better.

This dish is delicious, easy, beautiful and on my must-make list for crowds. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

12 Days of Valentines Day

I think you should have fun for 12 days straight. I know, we don't always look at things that way, but that is the beauty of celebrating the "12 Days of Valentine's Day". You decide what fun little thing you want to do each day in honor of Valentine's Day and the people that you love in your life.
Celebrating the 12 Days of Valentine's Day helps make lovely gestures a habit. It's a time when you do little things to show love for family, friends and yourself. Wear a pink sweater one day, put red food coloring in your cake batter, set the table with red place mats - everything counts when you are celebrating the fact that you love a lot of people.

There is no set schedule. There isn't a "number" relationship between the days (meaning you don't have to sneak 10 Hershey kisses into a loved one's pocket just because it is Day 10).  Nope, you just do what feels right and fits into your schedule on any particular day leading up to Valentine's Day.  

When someone compliments your pink scarf, just smile and say that its in honor of the 12 Days of Valentine's Day.  If your neighbor questions your sudden gift of 6 muffins, tell her it's The 12 Days of Valentine's Day.  Have fun with it. And let me know how your coworkers and friends respond.

My suggestion for today is order a David Austin rose bush for your garden. You will never regret the day-after-day beauty you will enjoy this summer.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Isaac Mizrahi Designs Yarn for Michaels

A triumph of color and texture, I am very pleased with Isaac Mizrahi's new collection of yarn (particularly this style called Sutton in York) at Michaels. It has a wonderful thick hand and a welcome close-to-the-face feel.

14" of snow fell in Michigan last night and I am arriving home just in time to put this beauty to good use.  I knit 2 strands on the needle at once (treating them as if they were one yarn) and did a variation of classic knit stitch with a twisted drop stitch every few rows to give the yarn some space to show off. 

By knitting with 2 strands at once (keep 2 different yarn balls at your side and draw from them at the same time), the yarn is naturally at a difference place in the dye pattern and you will find yourself knitting with two complimentary shades at once. It really adds interest to your project without adding ANY difficulty.  Try it and let me know what you think.

I thought it was really funny that when I looked at my knitting on the table, I noticed that the cover of the new David Austin English Rose catalog has the exact same colors on it. My scarf matches roses/leaves/grass/brick. Ha!

If you are looking for a cozy new project, you must try Isaac's yarn, darling.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Watercolor Painting: Worth Avenue in Palm Beach

Want an original way to remember your vacation? Make a Waterlogue "watercolor painting" of your best vacation picture, save it, print it and then hang it on the wall. 

Waterlogue is an iPhone and iPad app that quickly (and I mean in one minute or less) converts your photo into a watercolor painting that you can save and print.

And when I say an original way to remember your vacation, I really mean original.  No other painting will look quite like yours because the artwork is a computer rendering based on your original photograph. Plus there are stylized settings like "Mechanical" or "Vibrant" to make your watercolor images fit your aesthetic. I am in love with this app and could auto-magically turn my photographs into artwork all-day-long.  I know that this must have real watercolor artists reeling, but I can't help it. I love how my photos look as paintings and I will never have the skills to convert them myself with paint and a brush.

The location? Beautiful Worth Avenue with its palm trees and gorgeous shops in Palm Beach, Florida. We came here for lunch and an afternoon of window shopping and bougainvillea admiring. What a day.