Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Apple Table Challenge

Fun with “More Fun Less Laundry” — Along with Mary, from "Home is Where the Boat Is," Linda, from "More Fun Less Laundry" has been my teacher and virtual mentor for beautiful living, from setting a lovely table that is charming, sentimental, beautiful and appealing, to picnicking with style, traveling, and just enjoying life.

The image below from Linda’s blog has captivated me for years. It’s a Fall table, but she avoids going too heavy on the oranges and rusts. Instead, she brings in some of her favorite colors, like greens, purples, and even a touch of pink! I’m not much a purple aficionada, but somehow this combination of rich colors and textures really appeals to me, as does the theme — Apples!

Delightfully, I either, already own many of the components of this table, or can come pretty close, so, why not? This is going to be a fun challenge for me! If you’d like to see Linda’s post, here's the link:  Apples of My Eye.

The inspiration for Linda's table, came from a picture of her children during an apple-picking expedition while they were young.  When I saw it, I remembered a similar experience with my own kids, and, well . . . hold my apple cider . . .

Here are my two sons, John and David, looking thrilled to be posing for photographs while bees buzzed around them, just so I could capture their cuteness.  They are dressed alike because these pictures were supposed to be for the Christmas card that year (although I ended up not using them).

Okay, back to the table.  Linda used a red and white plaid throw as tablecloth, and I went through my stash hoping to find something that would come close. Here’s the Royal Stewart that usually comes out at Christmastime. Nope. It feels too bright, and, well, too Christmas-y.

The Dress Stewart tartan. I used this one last January at our Three Kings Day Open House. Better, but it still doesn’t feel quite right. These are the only two red plaids I own. I didn’t think I’d be in trouble this soon . . .

The Buchanan Antique Tartan. The oranges and gold would work for a Fall table, but I wanted apples, not pumpkins. Nope.

The English Tartan, a gift from a friend.  Doesn't it remind you of a well-cut English suit?  My son, John, has had his eye on it for a while.  One of these days, I'll pack it in his suitcase before he notices and send it home with him.

It sure does feel cozy, and it's a possibility for this table because the colors are neutral.  Maybe.

The Burgundy Irish plaid throw, and my last one. It’s not red, but it does bring in many of the colors in Linda’s design, including a bit of pink! This is it.

Here’s another inspiration photo from Linda’s blog post.  Perfect.  

My rattan chargers match the napkin rings and will work; and the Spode Delamere Brown dishes are lovely to use in the Fall.  I'm not sure if Linda uses a real leaf under her apple, but mine is Cheese Paper from Sur La Table.  I use it on charcuterie boards all the time.

Here is my tribute to Linda's masterpiece. The centerpiece proved to be my undoing.

The flowers simply did not want to hang out with the apples.

They demanded a separate space!

These are the last of my Phantom Hydrangea, which we just planted this Spring. They range in color from white to pinks, to rusts. I wasn't expecting any blooms this year, so this is a special treat!

The Pommes (apples) dish towel is yet another towel in my collection. 

This one was sent along with a bushel of apples. But not these apples. These are new apples.

I looked for the Effervé everywhere, but did not find it. Linda's emerald tumblers are available through

But I already had some lovely hand-blown green juice glasses from Mexico. The Trader Joe’s Apple Cider was delicious and made a nice substitute!

We are now ready for our hot apple cider and dessert.

I made Apple Pecan Crisp, topped with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream, and drizzled with homemade Dulce de Leche.  No calories or carbs were counted that day.  The only thing I counted was my husband's moans of delight.

My kids are out in the world now doing adult things, but in our house, this night, they were very much with us.

Friday, October 2, 2020

Instant Pot Egg Bites

These adorable breakfast treats are delicious, easy and fun to make!

Basic recipe:                                                   
4 eggs                                                                   
½ cup Ricotta cheese                                           
¼ cup heavy                                                         
1 teaspoon onion powder                                     
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes                               
¼ teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika

Optional additions (no more than 2):
¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped scallions
¼ cup cooked bacon, crumbled
¼ cup chopped ham
¼ grated Gruyère cheese
  1. Brush the silicone egg bite molds with olive oil, or use butter, or non-stick spray.  Set aside.
  2. In blender combine all ingredients except the optional additions.  Blend for one minute.  Pour into mold dividing evenly into the seven wells.  Add your chosen fillings, no more than two, or the wells might overflow.  
  3. Cover with mold lids, or with aluminum foil.  Oil the inside of the lid or foil so that it doesn't stick to the top of the egg bites.
  4. Pour 1 cup of water on the bottom of the Instant Pot.  Place trivet inside, then mold on top.
  5. Pressure cook for 10 minutes.  Allow the pressure to release for 10 additional minutes.  Remove from pot, and invert onto a plate.  Then, gently turn right side up.  The egg bites can look a bit pale, so dress them up with scallions, chives, or any herbs you have on hand, or additional chopped red bell peppers.
Servings:  2-3 (2 molds can fit easily in a 6-quart Instant Pot, so you can make more at one time).

Easy-peasy.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Practicing Hospitality

Welcome to the Bee Room!  Won't you come and stay with us for a while?  The room has been ready for a couple of years now, and it's already received guests, but just recently, it's been very empty, what with this awful Covid-19 that is still causing havoc in the world.

This used to be my son, John's, bedroom before he had the audacity to grow up and move away.  Alas!  I haven't seen him since last Christmas season, and I miss him terribly.  Here he is showing me the flan he made using my recipe.  The baton has been passed!

I miss his brother, too.  David, is currently in Abu Dhabi, UAE, serving with his Army unit.  He was pretty bold, too, growing up, and learning how to drive and everything.  I won't see him this year at all.  Maybe next year (Covid and Army permitting).

But I've digressed.  It happens to me every time I think of the boys.  I did not want to buy new furniture, as my husband and I are a few short years from retirement, and we will not be staying in the Midwest.  So we polished the old IKEA furniture in the room, and added a comfortable mattress.  Now I could indulge in my own touches, and make the room a cozy guest retreat.  Now, our guests stay in a room full of bees — friendly bees, that is, not the annoying ones that hover over our picnics.  Won't you come in and stay a while?

But first thing's first.  Function over form.  Gone are the board games, the Pokémon card collection, the art supplies, the grade school and high school memorabilia.  Instead, you will find extra pillows (encased in dry cleaner bags to keep the dust off), and a big, cozy comforter.

On the other side you will find a luggage rack to hold your suitcase.  I put a lot of thought into this rack, believe it or not.  It is not the prettiest rack I saw, but it was the only one who didn't have protruding ends that could dig into your luggage.  Can you tell that this has happened to me?

You will also find towels, a basket full of travel-size goodies, like shampoo, hand lotion, etc., and several empty shelves to store your shoes, or anything else you'd like.  There're also two bars to hang up your clothes, and cedar hangers that make the closet smell wonderful.

Next, I tackled the most difficult, and not fun, part of the project — selecting paint color.  My name is Maria, and I am a color-commitment-phobe.  Is there a 12-step program out there for this?  It took me months to decide.  And this was the final choice:

I selected the middle shade, called Risotto; nothing bad has ever happened to me while eating risotto, so I figured I'd be safe.

The windows were next, and I fell in love with the embroidered bees in these sheer panels from Country Curtains — which, unfortunately has gone out of business.  That was what set the theme for the room.  

The check outer panels also came from Country Curtains.  

So, you may ask, how else do you add bees to a bedroom to stay on theme, but don't have the guests feeling like they are being attacked by a swarm?  Well, to that I say . . . hold my honey . . .

I first saw these linens with embroidered bees on my first trip to Venice.  I didn't buy them there because my husband was already looking harassed, wondering how we were going to get home with all the stuff I had already bought.  However, they were meant to be mine because I found them again on eBay while casually looking for something else.  The sheets are so soft!  And I like that the bees are embroidered very subtly tone-on-tone.

The "Sweet Dreams" pillow also has some bees embroidered.  

I thought that was enough for the bed, but a dear friend had different ideas, and sent me this as a hostess gift, after she stayed in the room.

The beading is exquisite.

It didn't take very long to scatter the room with honey bees.

The old IKEA desk stayed in the room and is great to place a laptop, and it can double as a vanity in a pinch.

All the outlets in the room were updated with USB ports to charge the many electronic devices that everyone seems to travel with nowadays.

And a few more bees can be seen buzzing about . . .

The bee pens seem to be a popular item, and we love when our guests take them as a parting souvenir.

And there's a guestbook with the sweetest notes from our visitors!

Some of our visitors have gotten in on the action and have sent us bee additions to the room.

The room is ready for our guests.  I'll have a cozy lavender candle waiting for them . . .

And, if they like, I'll fix them a nice breakfast in bed . . .

With Egg Bites (recipe on my next post), a croissant, tea, and honey sticks to sweeten their tea.

And I'll be as happy as a bee that I have blooms fluttering about bringing joy and life into our home.