Monday, September 15, 2014

Seattle: The Pink Door is a Hidden Treasure

I love whenever I see "The Pink Door" on a Seattle Favorites list.  I think to myself, "found it!

My dinner there was purely by accident, but I couldn't agree more with the praise they have been receiving.  It was my first-ever night in Seattle and while heading to Pikes Place Market essentially right from the airport was what I wanted to do, I also wanted to eat.  We didn't see any sit down restaurants in our jet lag haze and while pizza at DeLaurenti is delicious, it just wasn't going to cut it.

My husband noticed people dining at tables at a second-story restaurant in the heart of Pikes Place Market. We climbed the stairs (indoors) in an open mall area and came in the back door of The Pink Door. Thankfully, they had a table available in the dining room and we were suddenly having a romantic dinner for two.

It was spring and I ordered the Lemon Asparagus risotto with a side of grilled shrimp. It was creamy and rich and citrusy and perfect. Dan loves lasagna and was very very happy with their recipe. The restaurant is cozy, has a wonderful menu and offers a lovely respite from the bustle of the market. We will be back.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Small But Mighty: The Charm of a Teacup Bouquet

With a sudden chill in the air in Michigan, everyone's garden is winding down. Don't forget that you can still coax a few bouquets out of the garden, you just have to think smaller. 

I selected this antique teacup from china hutch. This was my maternal grandmother's and the cup and saucer are candlelight white with lace detail. I only needed a few small roses from the garden to make a lovely teacup bouquet for the front table. It may be small, but it has big impact.

Have you ever made a tiny flower arrangement? I bet your grandmother would approve of a teacup bouquet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dishtowels: Preserving and Canning Jars Print

It was love at first sight when I found these canning and preserving inspired dishtowels.  I was at my home-away-from-home, TJ Maxx, when I spotted them in the kitchen linen department. Each set includes 2 dishtowels for $4.99.  It may seem ridiculous, but I bought 2 packs of each pattern and I intend to give each friend that comes to cans/pickles/preserves with me a commemorative dishtowel.  

Why? Because it is fun, unnecessary and I think if you like to can/preserve/pickle, you need this towel in your kitchen. It's as simple as that. 

This summer I was given the Ball FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System and it is awesome. I made peach jam with my friend Liz (she's coming back to make tart cherry jam so she'll get her dishtowel then) and it could not have been easier. Angie is coming over on Friday to make Sweet Bread and Butter Pickles.
Am I having fun? You bet I am.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Afternoon Tea at The Townsend Hotel

This is exactly how one should celebrate a birthday...Afternoon Tea at The Townsend Hotel.  My tea-loving friend Kathleen is a kindred spirit and I knew that this would be the perfect spot to celebrate.  We would have hot tea, delicious food and plenty of time to talk.  

The Townsend is a luxury hotel in Birmingham, Michigan and the lobby is beautifully decorated and arranged into small sitting areas, perfect for intimate tea parties.  When I arrived, I noticed a group of women hosting a bridal shower near the fireplace"Tea, sweets, ribbon and friends, do a happy bride make."

Kathleen and I sat together on a loveseat and our tea service was set out in front of us on our own coffee table.  I chose Earl Gray tea and Kathleen decided on a decaffeinated Raspberry Tea.  We began our little party with Orange Cranberry scones served with mascarpone cheese and housemade lemon curd. The Townsend's lemon curd is some of the best I've tried and I ate every last drop. Yum yum yum.
The tea sandwiches were little works of art, each prettier than the last.  We were served (clockwise from bottom left) Shrimp Canape, Asparagus with Boursin Mousse topped with a hard-boiled Quail Egg, Smoked Salmon, Pesto Bruschetta with Marinated Tomatoes and Mascarpone, Smoked Chicken Salad and Cucumber and Watercress. 
I carried one of my cigar box purses to our tea and it was fun to hear so many people compliment it.  I love when someone says "I just have to ask you about your purse." I gave out many cards that day and explained that my purses were available in my Etsy store (an online marketplace for artists). This picture (above) looks like a magazine spread, don't you think? I love it! 
The staff was so very kind and since it was a quiet afternoon, we had fun chatting now and then with them about how much we were enjoying ourselves, how Kathleen and I became friends and how we were feeling a revival in interest surrounding Afternoon Tea. After this beautiful afternoon, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather take my mom than to Tea at The Townsend.

Our dessert plates each arrived with a lit candle, in honor of our birthdays. We enjoyed a tiny Key Lime Tart, a Raspberry Cheesecake Pyramid, Chocolate Mousse in a Chocolate Teacup and a Passion Fruit Mousse Dome. It was perfect.

It was such a fun afternoon, perfect for two old freinds. Kathleen...what else can we celebrate?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Flour, Sugar, Salt: A Baker's Gift from the Heart

My good friend, Kathleen has a baking business called Flour Sugar Salt that specialized in handmade scones. Inspired by her Scottish grandmother, Kathleen has adapted her family recipe into 3 delicious varieties that she bakes and sells by the dozen: Blueberry, Cherry or Cranberry.

We met for tea to celebrate our birthdays (a detailed post about that tomorrow!) and she surprised me with a batch of her blueberry scones that she had baked that morning!  It was a beautiful presentation; She arranged her scones in a dish towel-lined serving basket with three beautiful boxes of tea. Are we kindred spirits, or what?

I told her that after breakfast, I might just make one of the pretty tea boxes into a clock! Remember when I converted a pancake mix box?

If you live in southeastern Michigan and love traditional baked goods, you must order some scones from Kathleen's Flour Sugar Salt.  And like her Facebook page to see her farmer's market schedule.  

The beauty and tradition of baking is alive and well. Bravo!  

Friday, September 5, 2014

Puzzled: When Food Could Be Art

I can't be the only one that thinks this would make a beautiful puzzle, yes? It would be hard, but what a lovely image to stare at on a rainy afternoon.
I took this photo last week at Cedar Sol Hydro Farm in Cedar, Michigan. I came for the tacos, but I was captivated by the tomatoes. The farm is king this time of year and I am a happy subject.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Piano Forte: Personal Touches Based on Color

I love this vignette on the piano in our living room.  Specific and unexpected touches that make it look like our house.  

First, you must have music on the piano. Just because you have little ones learning Three Blind Mice in a piano book designed in the 60's, doesn't mean that you have to leave it on display. When our church changed hymnals, they offered the old ones to the congregation.  I love having a meaningful piece of music highlighted with a silver page holder. I can't play the piano, but my husband might see this as encouragement to learn O Holy Night.

I pulled together small items from around the house that were black. I wanted to ground the accessories a bit and echo the black table I have between our two off white loveseats in the same room.
What 3 items did I choose for the top of the piano? A black sushi bowl used as a vase for peonies. A black and gold tin tea box that I bought as a memento in Paris at Mariage Freres. And a sheet of dollhouse seed packets, framed in black, looks very much like art to a gardener and dollhouse enthusiast like me. The art on the wall above the piano is a piece of vintage sheet music that I photographed and enlarged.

This collection is more interesting than a set of silver picture frames that I might have out at a different time of year, and are all conversation piece on their own, should anyone ask about the items.  I think the most important part about collecting and arranging items is that the items are believeable. I didn't set out to buy items to go together, I walked around the house pulling from my own stash.  Over time, buy items that speak to you.  When you arrange them later, the history of each time (where you found it; who gave it to you; what it reminds you of) will make your storytelling all the more interesting.

Do you like my design?  Perhaps you'd like to customize the top of your piano this week.  Piano forte, indeed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Cherry Republic: The Cherry on Top of Beautiful Northern Michigan

Have you ever been to northern Michigan? The area known as cherry country
I might ruffle a few feathers in my new home-away-from-home, Seattle, but the truth is Michigan and the Pacific Northwest actually share the title. Michigan produces 75% of the nation's tart cherries, while Washington and Oregon produce 60% of our country's sweet cherries. I love them both. In my neck of the woods, the brand-the myth-the legend, Cherry Republic has the final word in all things cherry.
My first visit each summer is to the flagship location in Glen Arbor for lunch under the trees; doesn't this look beautiful? Fresh dried cherry chicken salad on a bed of greens. And when you order a glass of water, it's served in a lidded plastic tumbler with a fresh cherry bobbing among the ice. It's just for fun, but I always hear people commenting about this light-hearted touch. There are 4 Cherry Republic retail locations - 3 are "up north" and one is in Ann Arbor.

Everything on the menu has cherries in it.  Cherry barbecue pork, cherry-studded hot dogs, cherry chili.  I'm not kidding! They also serve slices of cherry pie, cherry pastries and offer a soda fountain filled with cherry-kissed ice cream.  The latest flavor I tried was "cherries in the snow" (vanilla with dried cherry bits) and it was creamy and delicious.
On the property, behind the restaurant/ice cream counter, are two other specialty buildings. My favorite is the shop exclusively selling "cherry food creations" - cherry salsa, dark chocolate-covered cherries, cherry vinaigrette. You can even choose between a packet of dried cherries or a chocolate cherry chunk cookie (the "Boomchunka") and mail it to a friend in a post office friendly box - an edible postcard, of sorts. 

The latest addition is a tasting room where you can sample a variety of Cherry Republic wines, cider and soda pop.  These are unique cherry beverages which range from rich and mellow to bright and heady. Try a little of each and then decide which will remind you of your glorious vacation in northern Michigan.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hay Bales and Sweet Peas

Today is the first day of school for those in Michigan. Though we love pumpkins, cider and fall color, its hard to believe are beautiful Summer days are behind us.  I thought I'd share this lovely photo I took of perfect round hay bales on a field edged in Sweet Peas near Harbor Springs.  On this particular day, August stretched ahead of us. Where has the time gone?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

One Lucky Girl: A Friend Arrived with Pastries and Peaches

My love of ridiculous appliances continues.  Of course I could "can" my jams and pickles with the water bath method.  But wouldn't having an appliance with a "pickles" button be way more fun?  Yes!

My husband gave me the Ball FreshTECH Automatic Home Canning System for my birthday - woohoo! I hadn't used it yet, but was gushing about it with my friend Liz and she offered to be my wingman on the maiden voyage. We had so much fun! 

We chose a Thursday night after work and she arrived with Lebanese takeout for our dinner, two fancy desserts (my birthday!) and an armload of peaches to turn into jam.  What a friend.
We followed these instructions for reduced sugar peach jam word for word and we created a new tradition (obsession?).  It was so easy we started plotting what else we could can/jar/preserve/pickle.

I'll tell you more about the machine, process and results later. Just know that I love it and don't feel ridiculous at all. Small batch canning is just my speed.

Monday, August 25, 2014

American Spoon: A Shop and Cafe in Petoskey

I was able to visit the original American Spoon retail store, located in the gaslight district of Petoskey, Michigan. Are you familiar with the brand? It is a jam and jelly company that has a cult-like following. Their products are of the highest quality, their packaging is gift-worthy and, as per their website, "we still prepare fruits by hand and cook them in small copper kettle batches under the watchful eyes of our skilled cooks." Nice! 

They have slowly expanded their offering to include salsas, fruit butter and condiments. What I think is really interesting, is that they have an American Spoon Food Cafe next door. My mom, aunts and I went there for lunch and it was perfect.  Most of the menu items feature an American Spoon Food sauce or jam (genius!) and I was very impressed.
I love my whitefish tacos which featured their roasted tomatillo salsa. The salsa was bright and tangy and delicious.
The super cute cafe serves 24 flavors of house-made gelato. Order a cone, grab a stool and watch the vacationing world walk by. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ceramic Fruit: Be Still My Heart

Okay, one more shout out for the shop, Bluff Gardens in Harbor Springs, MI. 

They. sell. ceramic. fruit.

I can't believe I missed this vital piece of information in my first post about Bluff Gardens

I know you've seen ceramic fruit in design magazines like House Beautiful, but have you ever seen it available for purchase?  I didn't think so.  

When I am out shopping, I'm always on the lookout for hard-to-find things: paper buildings, Swedish dishtowels, pretty salt containers, paper lace doilies. I hadn't even considered including ceramic fruit on my list because it was so hard to find. My heart leapt when I say this beautiful display.  
True to size - check. 
Realistic - check. 
Adorable - check.

I was called away to look at something and I didn't find my way back to this display to make a purchase. But now I know where to find the end of the Designer Brick Road...Bluff Gardens at 721 West Lake Road
Harbor Springs, MI 49740, or call (231) 526-5571.

You're welcome.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Caramelized Peaches - 5 Ingredient Masterpiece

These caramelized peaches were a happy accident.  Intending to "poach" the fresh peaches, I placed them cut side down in a large saute pan in a syrup made of equal parts sugar and water, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and an inch of vanilla bean.  I put the burner on medium and...answered the phone? Checked the computer?  

Do not follow my example, it was a close call and I almost burned up the pan as well as the peaches.  But I arrived at the magic moment when the peaches had caramelized and the remaining liquid had reduced to a glossy peach-infused syrup.  You can make this incredible (and easy!) dessert too, just please stay in the kitchen and keep an eye on things.

The peaches I bought were large and still quite hard.  The good news is that all of that hardness disappears when you cook them.  If you don't have an inch of vanilla bean to spare, just splash in a touch of vanilla just before you take it off the heat.

I served each peach half with a small scoop of my favorite "ice cream."  Edy's Slow Churned Yogurt Blends in Vanilla.  It is creamy, contains the beneficial live active cultures of yogurt and counts as a good source of calcium.  What more could a girl want?

*I'm reposting this entry to inspire you to buy peaches at the farm stand! This is my favorite way to prepare them and I haven't had a chance to take another picture! Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Spoiled by Mother Nature: My Birthday Bouquet

She did it again. I've being spoiled by Mother Nature, who came up with these beautiful flowers just in time for my birthday. 

Daybreaker roses, David Austin Abraham Darby roses, Bill Warriner roses, coral verbena, fresh mint arranged in a Lychee can from the Asian market in Seattle.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bluff Gardens called my Bluff: I loved it

I admit, I was a little disagreeable when I heard my mom and aunt decide that we were leaving the downtown Harbor Springs shopping-area to go get "vegetables." I pictured us roaming the surrounding farmland looking for a particular roadside stand that had good corn or something.  Don't get me wrong, that is fun too, on the right day, but we were supposed to be shopping and I hadn't been to this area in years.  

Then, a whopping 5-minute drive later, we arrived at Bluff Gardens, a freestanding storefront next to a large cutting garden. We went inside and I saw a beautifully arranged gift shop (see above) featuring a display of fresh miniature vegetables front and center. Then a tiny water mister came on, spraying the tiny vegetables with moisture.  Where am I? What is this place?
I loved it immediately because I could see that the purveyors of this fine shop had a vision and were doing things according to plan.  Aside from the technicality of a private line of fresh dips, jams and spreads, they only seem to sell miniature fresh vegetables and Quimper Fiaence pottery.  A super specific offering, no?

I applaud them. It felt like an alternate universe.  In a fast and quick world, it was lovely to see a shop that treats tiny beets and adorable zucchini with reverence.
If you are having a party, only these crudite will do.  Can you imagine veggies being any prettier?
Mind you there is no website that I could find. Just a Pure Michigan business link that says "Bluff Gardens: Purveyor of fresh miniature vegetables, fruits, dressings, sauces and spreads since 1934." 

While I was wrapping my mind around the fact that people would never stumble upon this shop (721 West Lake Rd., Harbor Springs, MI); that customers would have to know that miniature vegetables were on a rack inside this gift shop, I walked into the adjoining room. 

Quimper Faience heaven. I have never ever seen so much of this French pottery in one place. Soup bowls and platter and teapots, oh my.
I have a soft spot for Quimper Faience.  I don't own any of the pottery (yet), but I fell for some of their cookie tins filled with French butter biscuits.  Of course I did, you say. And I've kept the empty tins thinking that I could make one into a super cute purse by lining it with fabric and adding a handle. Sounds like me, right?
Word of mouth is a wonderful thing, but I want to help out Bluff Gardens. Here is an online shout out for Bluff Gardens - buy their darling miniature vegetables and fill your cottage with Quimper Faience!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Paper Lace and Petals: When Part of the Picture is Enough

So pretty! Just a corner of the intended photograph is enough to show you how sweet this arrangement is.  I have a new camera and it has a feature that creates an echo photo with just part of the original image.  I usually discount it, but today it is too beautiful not to share.  A bit of paper lace and a few perfect petals. Cropping or framing is so important in photography. This proves my point.

I couldn't resist putting a square paper lace doily under this arrangement of lace cap hydrangeas, yarrow, zinnias and lavender. Swoon

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

When Sunflowers Make a Scene

This field of sunflowers was so dramatic, I noticed it from the highway going 60 miles/hr. I was lucky that it borders a farm road and I had time to slow down and turn off.
A woman pulled off behind me and reached for her camera too. We stood on our running boards and tried to capture the moment. You don't need to be a photographer to take great photos on a day like this!
While this photo is less artistic, it allow you to see just how large this sunflower field is.  Their bright yellow faces are blooming all the way to the forest in the distance.  See how tiny the barn looks when I pull back on the zoom? This is farming at its most beautiful.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Cue the Swan: Driving M-22

Cue the swan! Whenever we have guests at our cottage and we are enjoying a beautiful day, I call out "Cue the swan!" as if adding that little touch (real swan) would make their experience in northern Michigan perfect.  

Well we were rolling north along M-22 fromTraverse City when I noticed this beautiful view...complete with swan! Enjoy

Cigar Box Purses are Man Magnets

Tah-dah! I just finished a collection of beautiful one-of-a-kind cigar box purses. I have listed them in my Etsy store - most are $50-$65. Making them is a labor of love, but I couldn't resist converting some of these remarkable boxes into handsome accessories.  There has been a renewed interest in my cigar box purses and after making some sales in person, it feels good to replenish my store online.
They are a conversation piece like no other. I was talking with a customer and she was raving about how many people she met when she carried one of my ANA cigar box purses.  She said no man will walk up to her at a party and compliment her earrings, but they all want to know about her purse. I told her that I call cigar box purses a "man magnet" - she smiled and said, "Exactly."
If you would like to see them in my online store, click here. I can wrap and ship immediately.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Hydroponic Strawberries: Cedar Sol Hydro Farm Saves My Summer

We actually went to Cedar Sol Hydro Farm for their tacos. I know it sounds funny, but this thriving hydroponic business has also become famous for their homemade tacos and chips & guac.

My dad and I stopped for a quick lunch and were intrigued by their U-Pick Strawberries sign. The strawberry crop in northern Michigan felt late and small this year and consequently, we never made jam over the 4th of July.  

So here we were thinking, "Strawberries? Really? You have strawberries growing right now and all we have to do it is pick them?"  It was like someone saying they had a little snow in their backyard.  Now? Really?

We tromped down the track that led to the hydroponic garden and voila!
They have buckets and scissors available and we picked some beautiful fresh basically organic strawberries.  
We made a batch of strawberry jam this morning and I can't wait to eat an unreasonable about of toast and jam tomorrow morning! Thank you, Cedar Sol Hydro Farm for saving my summer!
P.S. They grow gorgeous lettuce too that they sell in bags at the taco stand.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

My First Food Truck Experience: Dog House PDX in Portland

When I was plotting our weekend getaway to Portland, Oregon, I had "visit food trucks" at the top of my list.  I love watching the Food Network and the Cooking Channel (plus I read a lot of magazines) and I was tired of having a media lens between me and a delicious meal.  Food trucks aren't easy to come by in my part of Michigan and I was excited that I would be in an area full of culinary choices.

And then I ordered a cheeseburger.  I know, sounds ridiculous but by the time we'd eaten our way across the Portland Farmers Market and a gourmet brunch at Beast, I was ready for an American classic.
I found my perfect meal at a bright red food truck called Timber's Dog House PDX.  I enjoyed a cheeseburger and chocolate milkshake on a picnic table in the sun.  Everything tastes better outside and this was no exception. It may sound silly, but I've never eaten a hamburger that was this hot. Beautifully prepared and right off the grill really makes a difference. And the milkshake was thick and chocolatey with just the right amount of salt. I loved it and didn't want to share. I need a bigger one next time, that's for sure.

I promise to try Hawaiian Fusion or something with pork belly the next time I have a chance, but on this particular evening, I was happy to go with a classic. If you find yourself within reach of Timber's Dog House PDX, order from their wide variety of choices and you're sure to have a great meal.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Cheery Cherry Pie

Anne's Fabulous Cherry Pie

2 frozen Pillsbury pie crusts, defrosted
4 cups washed and pitted tart cherries
3/4 cup white sugar
3 Tablespoons quick tapioca
1 tsp lemon juice
1 egg, beaten
some white sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Open the box containing 2 frozen pie crusts and leave them on the counter to defrost.  Unroll one crust and center it on the pie tin. Unroll the second pie crust onto a cutting board and cut long strips - this will be your lattice.

Mix cherries, sugar, tapioca and lemon juice in a large bowl.  Allow to sit 15-20 minutes.  Stir well and pour into the pie crust covered tin.  Lay the strips of crust across the cherry mixture and arrange into a lattice or basket weave pattern.  Pinch dough strips to edge of pie shell to seal the strip.  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!