Friday, April 24, 2015

Nate Berkus: That Cutie Pie Knows Design

This was the first room I tackled in our new apartment in Seattle. The key design materials are grey, black and white - a cookie cutter bathroom if there ever was one. My goal was to create a bathroom that looked beautiful, but not feminine.

My life saver was Nate Berkus and his current collection at Target. Have you seen his striking collection of linens and housewares? Bulls eye, indeed. 
What a difference a shower curtain makes! I immediately knew that this was the direction that I wanted to go in. The "quaint blue" diamond pattern (truly lavender, to my eye) was graphic, but not dizzying. Confident, but not demanding. Can fabric be described in such a way? You bet your boots. I also bought the companion bath rug and it was a perfect fit in this cozy bathroom.

When I was shopping in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, look what I found! A beautiful white ceramic dish with a pale lavender blue hydrangea blossom lid. Each petal is made of ceramic. I swooned at Homegoods and then put it in my cart. This lovely dish will start by housing Q-tips on the bathroom counter top, but if I get too nervous about it chipping, I'll move it to my bedroom dresser. Either way, I know that I will continue to love it every time I see it.
You can see how beautiful it looks next to one of my Nate Berkus for Target "quaint blue" towels.

Want to hear the kicker? This very dish is featured in Victoria magazine this month! The May/June 2015 issue, page 16. It is referred to as the "Gracie" box from The Import Collection, but I wasn't able to find you a link online. I love when designs I love get featured in magazines, even if its just to show Dan that other girls "had to have it" too.

As for the overall bathroom design, thank you, Nate Berkus. I can't really paint this apartment. Wallpaper is out of reach, but you've given my bathroom style for miles. Yes, I still think of you as Cutie Pie. I loved all of the work you did on the Oprah show and I am so very happy to bring your aesthetic into my new home. I owe you one.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Stuffoli: An Italian Holiday Dessert

Have you ever seen one of these? It's an Italian Struffoli. I had admired them at Easter time in a gourmet grocery store 3 years ago, but never put one in my cart. The next year, I wasn't in Florida over Easter and I missed my chance. I checked in with their bakery a few times while I was there, but they kept saying "not yet" in a teasing tone, knowing that so many were anxiously awaiting this popular Easter treat. It made me want to try it even more.

The dessert is a large mound of fried dough balls that is soaked in a honey syrup and sprinkled with tiny candy balls. I happened upon a Giada de Laurentiis episode one day and she was making Stuffoli! Here is her Food Network episode.
This year the stars and moon aligned and I was in Florida for the week leading up to Easter, I made it to the grocery store and found a table full of these festive treats all wrapped for the holiday. I would love to bring this to someone as a hostess gift, wouldn't you?

The dessert was unusual - sweet and crunchy. We actually ate it with ice cream and imagined the Struffoli balls as little cream puffs. It was super sweet, but I liked it. Have you ever had Struffoli?

Monday, April 13, 2015

Palm Beach Gardens: Paris in Town restaurant

It was the perfect spot for a girly lunch. Who can resist a crepe? My aunt was in town for Easter and suggested that we peel away from the large group for a couple of hours and have lunch. 

With my mom and her sister in the car, I headed toward our favorite place for lunch in Palm Beach Gardens: Paris in Town, located at Downtown at the Gardens.  This lovely little bistro has outdoor seating and we chose a table with a nice breeze in the shade. 

Look at our magnificent lunch! They chose French Onion soup and a Quiche Lorraine, each with a small salad, and I had a Ham & Swiss crepe. Ooh la la, as they say. 

Paris in Town is a quiet restaurant with a menu full of your French favorites. I often suggest it when I want a cafe au lait and something wonderfully sweet in the afternoon.

My cousin came to the area for the first time in years and when she called, she said she found a cute place that I had to try. It was Paris in Town's other location called the cafe on US1 and PGA Blvd. I told her she had found a gem.

Friday, April 10, 2015

When the Atlantic Looks Endless

Some days the ocean really does look endless. This was an early morning photo that I took around 10 days ago. There wasn't a soul on the beach. 

This morning reminds me of a quiet morning on the Atlantic years ago. A small group of women had moved their yoga class to this beach. I think it was a group of friends who had traveled to Florida to have a girls getaway. They had the entire stretch of beach to themselves and from my balcony I could see them making a memory.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

2015 Pantone Color of the Year: Marsala

I think it is wonderful that the renowned color company, Pantone, proclaims a Color of the Year and every year I write a post to give it some attention.

Design professionals around the world reference Pantone colors and numbers to describe colors accurately. Pantone's website describes it as providing the "standard language for color communication." What a cool business. As a color lover, nothing makes more sense to me than having a worldwide reference point. Saying that I wanted a wall color that matched a Revlon lipstick or a DMC embroidery floss, would drive a painter bananas.    

Pantone's Color of the Year for 2015 is Marsala 18-1438. Now I know that when interior designers think marsala, it's unlikely that red velvet whoopie pies come to mind, but I think they are a perfect match for this unusual reddish brown color. I scoured my photo drive looking for a photo that was a good example of marsala and can say with certainty that I am not drawn to that color. I have photographed every imaginable shade of pink and blue in my day, but there is a somber quality to the color marsala that has made it easy for me to pass it up.

Now if we're talking baked goods, I like color marsala just fine. 


*Note: I photographed these gorgeous Red Velvet Whoopie pies in Bar Harbor, Maine back in 2009.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Meri Meri Cupcake Kits Make Dessert Darling

I found a Meri Meri "Hop to It" Easter cupcake kit a month ago and I was hoping for a chance to use it. When my aunt invited us over on Easter, I accepted with a rousing, "I'll bring dessert!" 

The cupcake kit included 2 patterns of cupcake papers (12 each) & 6 girl bunnies in calico dresses, 6 boy bunnies in striped shirts and 12 flower picks. Aren't they darling?

I made 24 Betty Crocker Super Moist yellow cake mix cupcakes with Martha Stewart's homemade buttercream frosting recipe (*I use salted butter) and they ate every one.

I just love the designs by Meri Meri - their cupcake kits are just darling. Happy Easter, indeed.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter Napkins: Colorful Bunnies Add Easter Cheer

I have been waiting 365 days to use these napkins.  Aren't these Easter-fabulous? I found the fabric when I was in Seattle and I've been saving it ever since. The shape and style of the bunnies reminded me of the original Mrs. Grossman's stickers and I couldn't resist.

I knew that if I used my serger loaded with lime green thread spools the quick and easy finished edge would give me an instant napkin.  I made them luncheon-size (12 x 12) and they are perfect for our vacation celebration.

The next time you see some cute theme fabric, think napkins.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Spice Bar: Buying Spices By Weight Allows for Experimentation

I am always looking for new products in the grocery aisle. I love to cook and I like to try new things. A little something for my salt collection, perhaps? A new flavor of Jell-O. Perfect pot-size spaghetti. I take my time when I'm shopping and have fun dreaming up what I can make.

When I saw this buy-by-weight spice display, I stopped in my tracks. How can this be? Can a spice company really survive if customers started buying by the pinch? 

One of the biggest obstacles in home cooking is having all of the ingredients. I know we often pass on a great looking recipe when it calls for a spice we don't already have in the house. 

While replacing our tried and true favorites can be expensive, experimenting with a whole bottle of Cream of Tarter or Chinese 5 Spice feels somewhere between wasteful and reckless. Why? I'm not sure, but I know that I can't be along in this feeling.

I found this Spice and Tea Bar by Frontier Natural Products Co-op in a Washington QFC grocery store and I bought from it the very first time I saw it. I was going to make a small batch of pickles in my hotel room and I needed only a smidgen of turmeric.  I had resigned myself to buying an entire bottle, but when I saw this display and figured out how to dispense a little into the provided bags, I ended up buying just enough for one recipe: 17 cents worth. It felt like I had conquered a big hurdle. 

I felt what I can only describe as a sense of freedom knowing that I now had a way to experiment with a whole new selection of spices without a big commitment. This is a revolutionary development in cooking as far as I'm concerned. We no longer need to buy an $8.00 bottle of ground cardamom, when the recipe only calls for 1 teaspoon. Head to the store with your list of ingredients and come home with exactly what you need for the recipe. When a recipe becomes a favorite, buying the bottle makes sense. No one liked the curried lamb chops? No biggie. Toss the recipe and move on.

I read a lot of magazines and watch plenty of cooking shows, yet I have never heard anyone mention this new buy-by-weight spice bar concept. Have you? Help me get the word out - this is big!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Collecting Shells: White Chocolate Treats You Can Eat

Look at my beautiful collection of shells. I mold each one, dusted it with edible luster and set it on a bread-crumb covered tray. Pretty realistic, isn't it?

Oh yes, these are candy. Each shell is made of white chocolate.
The process is as easy as can be. You'll need a bag of white (vanilla flavored) Wilton Candy Melts and plastic candy molds in different shell shapes.

Now you simply follow the instructions of the candy discs to melt them in the microwave - I put a cup of them in a Ziploc bag and microwave at intervals of 10 seconds, kneading the bag in between.  Once the candy is smooth and pour able, snip a small corner of the bag off and pipe into the molds.  I use a flat plastic scraper to wipe off the excess chocolate and leave a smooth flat back to the candies.  Then holding the mold just above the counter top, gently tap-tap-tap the filled mold on the counter over and over again and watch the bubbles rise and break on the surface of the chocolate.  This removes the bubbles and helps the chocolate to flow into the intricate detail of the mold.  

Keeping it flat, place mold in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set the candy. Then remove from the refrigerator and hold it over a cookie sheet gently flip it over so that the candy falls onto the cookie sheet.  If any of the pieces don't fall out, twist the mold slightly and they should release.

Dip a paint brush into the edible pearl luster dust and gently brush it over the white chocolate to add a lovely light color. 

When I am going to serve them on a cake or cupcakes, I use graham cracker crumbs as my sand. I don't have any graham cracker crumbs in the house, and since I am enjoying them as edible art, I arranged them on a platter of bread crumbs. It looks just as realistic, don't you think?

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Easter: Decorate your own Robin Eggs

This is my kind of Easter activity. This year Hershey introduced a "Decorate Your Own Eggs" kit with Whopper malted milk eggs and food coloring markers. What fun! I found this kit at a CVS.

The pens come in green, blue and yellow ink. The eggs are large enough to hang onto easily while you decorate. Don't miss my Michigan State Spartan egg! Go Green! and Happy Easter!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Apartment Living: A Window Box with Science in the Soil

I couldn't take it any longer. I was in Seattle in mid-March and every home improvement store, garden center and grocery store in Seattle had racks of herbs and flowers for sale. I'm strong, but I'm not that strong. 

I.Love.Plants.

Three inches of snow fell last night (3/30/15) in Michigan, my home base, and we are weeks (and weeks?) away from planting our pots.  

Yet back on March 9th in Seattle, Spring was in full swing! When I see cherry blossoms like this, it's hard not to think gardening.
So I decided that a window box for our apartment balcony would make sense. Herbs for cooking and flowering plants for color. I will certainly add pots and plants when I am in Seattle later this Spring, but this type of planter should be able to thrive while I'm away.

I bought a wonderful black plastic window box (with drainage holes and a water tray) at Home Depot, a bag of Miracle Grow Moisture Control Potting Soil and a collection of plants.
I crumpled a few strips of paper grocery bag to help support the plants and make up for my shortage of soil. I needed about 5 cups more to truly fill the planter properly - hopefully the paper will help with drainage and circulation. Some of the plants were potted in disintegrating pots, which I love, because you plant the herb right into the soil in it's pot and don't have to disturb their roots removing a plastic pot.

I chose Miracle Grow "Moisture Control" potting soil because it contains fertilizer and a component that retains water (from rain or intentional watering) and then releases the water to the plants as the soil becomes dry. I figure that the rain in Seattle will help naturally water my garden and the science in the soil will help keep the plants happy. 

The plants I chose are:

  • primulas (pink, yellow, apricot)
  • violas/pansies (lavender, violet/orange)
  • Cinnamon Basil
  • Pineapple Mint (it's risky, but I kept this mint in the pot when I planted it. Mint has an aggressive root system and I didn't want it to take over and stifle the other plants)
  • Sage
  • Lemon Thyme
  • Dill
  • Rosemary
The photograph at the top shows my little garden just after planting. Here it is, two weeks later and still doing well! Miracle Grow indeed.

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

Apartment Decorating: A Paper Enhanced Acrylic Tray: An Inexpensive Custom 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 our new nest.
You can see the promotional color board (above) that the apartment complex chose. The painted walls are biscuit (shown above as off white but in reality far more deep beige), the carpeting is a warm chestnut, the kitchen has dark walnut cabinets with stainless steel appliances and the kitchen and bathroom floors are linoleum, but 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. I put together a collection of fabrics that I was working with and took a picture. Whenever I am shopping, I referred to this picture on my phone. 
From the top, a pink and tan stripe fabric (tablecloth), 2 yards of fabric: gray with white lace-like flowers (use TBD), cream/tan stripe pillow cushion (couch), darker brown/gold/lt teal print cushion (chair - actually the best match for the apartment coloring), gray & white print cloth napkins, taupe/white oak leaf (dish towel) and pink/gray/cream patchwork (throw). My "mood board" so far was leaning a little feminine, so when I was shopping for paper for this project, I tried to bring in the colors of the darker print chair. For me, that translated to polka dots in tan and gold.

I was impatient to unpack boxes, but they were on a truck somewhere in the Great Plains, 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 is large enough to cover the center oval surface area of the platter. Also try not to choose a paper that has actual texture or depth. Texture gives the place for the glue to rest and it won't 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.