Monday, July 21, 2014

A Romantic Summer Table

I wanted to put together a lovely, romantic table for two, and the memory of marvelously talented, Linda, of More Fun Less Laundry and herSomething Old, Something New: Borrowing from a Master table, which in turn was inspired by another amazing fellow blogger, Delores, of Vignette Design and her “Romantic Candlelight Dinner” made the choice a no-brainer.  But, oh, my!  These ladies are so talented!  Am I being presumptuous to even try to copy their beautiful designs?

Let me show you what I mean.  Here's Delores' original design:


Isn't this just beautiful?  But, wait!  Here's Linda's interpretation, inspired by Delores' design:


Fabulous, isn't it?  Linda took Delores' romantic Valentine vision and adapted it for Christmas to celebrate her daughter's engagement and holiday homecoming.  Ah, l'amour!

I owe a huge debt, not only to these two amazing designers, but to so many others who generously share their ideas and wisdom and inspire me with their amazing talent . . .

However, it's all well and good to want to copy a design . . . but then comes the hard work - and the challenges . . . like the red chargers . . . nope, no red chargers around here . . . a travesty, to be sure, one that needs to be remedied very soon, I think!

So, if red is not going to be the inspiration . . . perhaps then it has to come from the beautiful salad plate . . .  I love these pink floral dishes - Chintz Rose by Johnson Brothers.  Pink is probably my favorite color - at least, today it is . . .


I also have rattan chargers that match the napkin rings, and my everyday Traditions dinner plates from Williams-Sonoma are very similar to the ones Delores used . . .


Now for the linens . . . It so happens I have some lovely ones that I picked up at Horchow a while back . . .


I fell in love with the lacy pattern and its heart-shaped edging . . .


It looks so frothy . . . I can easily imagine Anne of Austria giving a handkerchief trimmed like this to the dashing Duke of Buckingham as a token of her love . . . Who knows?  It might have been easier to replace it than the priceless diamond necklace she gave him instead, and which almost cost poor M. D'Artagnan his life . . . I'm referring, of course, to The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas . . .

If you haven't had a chance to read it and need a good novel filled with handsome musketeers, a queen in distress, and plenty of court intrigue, this is the book for you!  It's also a wonderful study on the manners of the court of Louis XIII . . .  And believe me, just because there are many, many movies adapted from his novel, none of them comes close to capturing its essence, the intricacies of its plot, the sense of humor of the author, its . . . je ne sais quoi . . .

Oh, my, I've digressed!  Don't ever get me started on M. Dumas!  I can become quite tedious!  So, back to tablescaping.  Linens . . . Check.  Napkin rings . . . Check!


I have the same ones that Linda uses (although I'm lusting after Delores’) . . . I decided to leave the little button exposed, instead of tucking it underneath, like Linda did . . .  Now for the flatware . . .


I love Linda's silver, and Monticello by Reed and Barton has a similar “feel” although it's stainless steel, not sterling.  Still, it seemed like a good choice . . . I'm seeing hearts everywhere . . .


I remembered Delores’ words about roses and candlelight being absolutely essential . . . I needed delicate pink roses to match the salad plates, and I “needed” mercury glass vases, so I contacted Robert, of Robert's Floral Design Studio, in Chicago - my florist - I've known him since high school and he's been doing arrangements for me since our wedding, many, many moons ago . . .


For a quiet dinner at home, I'd normally go to my local grocery store to buy the roses, and then spend an enjoyable half hour arranging them, but I've been out of town attending my son's graduation from the U.S. Army Basic Combat Training in South Carolina . . . and I really needed to have the table ready today.  So I sent Robert an SOS - Save Our Sanity - and he came to the rescue!


Do you see the hearts in the vases?  Even the Galax Green leaves are heart-shaped!  This was totally Robert's doing, who uncannily seems to anticipate my every wish . . .


Fortunately, I had a stash of mercury glass votives . . .


Lastly . . . the glasses were an easy choice:  My mother's beautiful crystal goblets . . .


Both, Delores and Linda, used a single goblet at each place setting, but I added champagne glasses as well . . .


Of course, I also needed to tuck a rose in each of the napkin rings . . .


Which was actually a very tight fit . . . See?  I really need Delores’ napkin rings!


And now the table is set . . .


Ready for a summer romantic celebration . . .

 
What do you think . . . ?  Does it pass muster . . . ?
 

When darkness arrived, we lit the candles . . .  It was important that the mood be just right . . .


Roses scented the air . . .


Candlelight cast a soft glow to the table . . .


The champagne was poured . . .


“Unchained Melody” played in the background . . . 


 And my husband and I quietly - and romantically - celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary . . .

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Family Day at Fort Jackson

The day before graduation from Basic Combat Training is declared “Family Day.”  Families and new soldiers are reunited and granted an on-base pass for most of the day.  Fort Jackson is quite large, encompassing 52,000 acres and even has a movie theatre and bowling alley!

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  First came a brief, but poignant ceremony, at Hilton Field.  There was an invocation by the chaplain, the Star-Spangled Banner was played, and then . . .


The Army proceeded to demonstrate a tactical maneuver in which they kill some terrorists trying to set off a bomb and then secure the area.  I don't have a single photo of this, since I was in a state of shock.  I'm sure the Army meant to impress the parents and reassure us of the very thorough training that the soldiers were receiving, but all I kept thinking was how very real, and how very scary war is, and how my child could potentially end up in a similar situation.

Then they set off a series of colorful smoke bombs . . .


More and more smoke, louder and louder . . .


And then, the soldiers began emerging from the smoke!


It was quite a show, but I didn't take any of these pictures either.  I was still in shock.  I'm very happy that my husband grabbed my camera and started shooting - pictures that is . . . not bombs . . .


Afterwards, the families were instructed to go out on the field and find their soldier.  Well, that was an order that was gladly obeyed by all!


Here's our soldier . . .


And here was one more shock for mom:  My son is happy!  He likes what he's doing and has a sense of purpose I had never seen in him before.  Now, if only the world would behave itself for the next four years . . .

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tea Bread Tuesday: Lemon Poppy Seed Bread with Lemon Glaze

I am devoted to Mr. Lime, I really am . . . and it seems disloyal to go flirting with his sunny cousin, Mr. Lemon, at the first sign of trouble.  Alas, Mr. Lime is making himself very dear this summer, what with the terrible crop we've had . . . bad winter!  So when life gives you lemons . . . we must make the best of it . . .  I'm such a tramp!  But a bread like this one can make you re-think your loyalties . . . It . . . is . . . DELICIOUS!  So moist, so lemony . . . and the hint of almonds doesn't hurt one bit!  You must try it!  This might be the beginning of a beautiful ménage à trois . . .


Here's the recipe:

For the bread:
1½ cup all-purpose flour
1¼ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
¾ cup of half and half
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon zest (1 large lemon = approx. 1 tbsp. grated lemon zest)

For the glaze:
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
½ tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 350º F.  Grease and flour a 9” x 5” loaf pan.  Set aside.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and poppy seeds.  With electric mixer, add the wet ingredients, one at a time, until they have all been incorporated.  Beat for one additional minute.  Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake for approximately 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, with a few crumbs clinging to the toothpick.

While bread is baking, prepare the glaze.  In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients and cook over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  When the bread is done, let cool in the pan for a few minutes, but while still hot invert into a wire rack, and then back into a serving tray.  Brush glaze immediately over the warm bread, on top and on the sides.  Use all the glaze, the bread will absorb most of it.  For best taste, make it the night before and the bread will be ever so moist and flavorful!  Enjoy!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

House Remodeling, House Guests and Worrying About David

The title of this post sums up the last two months at our house.  No sooner had David left for Basic Combat Training, we launched into a few house updates, including new siding for the exterior . . .

 
Here's a picture of the old one . . .
  
 
We are such wild people, going from light grey to white!


We also got rid of the "builder special" lights and got pretty new ones!


We were trying to get it all done before our guests arrived!  I hadn't seen my cousin Robert and his wife, Ely, since their wedding in 1970!  We had kept in touch over the years by phone and Christmas cards.  The visit was wonderful!  It was as though we did this all the time!


We played tourists on Lake Michigan.  Here they are with Navy Pier behind them, and the beautiful Chicago skyline . . .


And here's a picture of my son, David, "borrowed" from the FB page for their battalion (he's the one on the far left).  Boot Camp ain't what it used to be.  Imagine!  They have a Facebook page!  He looks well, but it seems I've found a new hobby:  Worrying about David.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Dinner with the bunnies

With my son, David, leaving to go into the Army in two weeks time, my head is too full of worry to leave room for a great deal of creativity.

Still, it was Easter, and we were together!  Two great things for which to be grateful!  So with this little pep talk to myself I went to the basement and started pulling things from the boxes.  There's Peter Rabbit!  Did I ever finish reading all the Beatrix Potter stories to David?


No wait, that's not Peter Rabbit.  And that egg belongs to John!


What am I doing?  They are too old for bunny ears, aren't they? 
 
 
What if they were a manly brown . . . ?
 
 
Perhaps if I used some tactical diversion . . . like carrot cupcakes . . .

 
 Topped with violas from the garden, which are completely edible . . .


And some lemon parfaits . . .

 
With lots of jelly beans tucked among the flowers . . .  They may be men now, but they still love sweets!

 
Brown eggs and woven mats evoke a garden setting anybunny would enjoy . . .

 
And an easy guy-pleasing menu of Baked Honey Ham, Rosemary Potatoes and Green Beans - An easy-peasy meal that left us plenty of time for playing board games! 

I hope the kids remember this dinner.  I hope they remember the bunny ears . . . I hope they remember how much we laughed.  May the Risen Christ bless us and watch over us all!  Alleluia!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

No time for the blues . . .

Boy, it's been a busy few months!  What have I been up to?  Well . . .

January flew by in a blur of activity.  Just at the time of year that my body kept telling me to stay home and sleep, I was super busy at work, planning the 2014 Field Sales & Marketing Kick-Off, which took place on February 4th.  It was a 3-part event consisting of . . .


A large meeting that accommodated 550 . . .


Awards were given to the 2013 Top Performers . . .


I was even surprised with an MVP Award of my very own!


Here I am with the Sr. Director of Direct Sales . . .


There was an Expo, featuring many of our programming partners, like HBO and Showtime . . .


Ending the day with a Casino Night!   The event was a huge success and worth the countless hours of work!  Even the day before, I was holding my breath, worried about having to cancel the whole thing because of the weather.  An 8-inch snowstorm was in the forecast!  Thankfully, Mother Nature held off for one day!


I did do a little hibernating after the event, and took a few days off work to recharge my batteries . . .  I curled up in the Living Room which was in cozy winter mode, with furry pillows and snowy white carnations . . .  February was still busy at work though, and I was still wrapping up loose ends from the event all the way to the beginning of April!

But now that I had stopped working so many hours, I could think about other things . . . like my health.  I've learned the hard way that you cannot take for granted the tremendous gift of health . . .


So I did a little reading . . .


Got an amazing new appliance - a Vitamix that truly lives up to the hype!


And that came with more cookbooks to play with  . . .


I tried a recipe or two from the Internet . . . This was my favorite - Baked Salmon with Blood Oranges and Fennel.  I'll share the recipe soon!


Then I had a new passport photo taken . . .


Because in the Fall we are planning to go to Venice!  La Serenissima - at the top of my bucket list!


And now, unhindered by other “business,” thoughts of the Army consume me, as they have absorbed my every waking moment, regardless of how busy I've been, or how much interest I've pretended to have on other things:  My son, David, has joined the United States Army.  He leaves for Basic Combat Training on May 6th.

And how was your winter?