Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas 2014

We celebrated Christmas a bit early at our house this year.  Our celebrations are changing, as our sons, now adults, have complicated schedules of their own, so Christmas is whenever they can be with me.  My son, David, who is in the Army, came home on leave on December 10th.  We gathered up the gang, and moved up our celebration to December 14th, so we could all be together.


I got to use my new Christmas dishes:  Winter Greetings Plaid, just released this year by Lenox!  Now that's a rim shot!


I'm so happy to see that plaid remains such a strong element at Christmastime.  I love plaid!


My friend and florist, Robert, of Robert Floral Design Studio in Chicago, Illinois, made this gorgeous centerpiece, which included white heather, fresh Winterberries, Boxwood, apples, oranges, frosted pinecones, a few red glass balls, red ribbon, all resting on a bed of cedar boughs.


The Italian red water goblets came from HomeGoods.  It's such a gorgeous red!  The wine glasses are rimmed in gold and match the gold chargers.  They were a Dollar Tree find!


I used the Spode Woodland flatware.  I really find this flatware so charming at Christmastime!


The little boxes hold Fannie Mae truffles.  Everyone got to take one home.  It was pure serendipity when I found the wrapping paper in the same colors as the dishes!


The table is set.  We are ready for our guests . . .  We sat down to dinner at 3:00 P.M., since my son, David, was leaving very early the following morning, and many of us also had to get an early start the next day!  It seems that everything at work was moved up for the week of the 15th, in anticipation of Christmas the following week, so we all had jam-packed schedules . . . (sigh . . .)


Lee and I, relaxing for a minute in front of the Christmas tree . . .  One more Christmas with my wonderful guy . . .


And here we are!  We had a last minute addition when my nephew, Colin, and his baby daughter, Sofia, joined us!  And, of course, the more the merrier!  Nothing makes me happier than to be surrounded by family. This year, we were also blessed by the presence of our dear friends, Layda and Nick!  And there's David, kneeling right behind me!


May the Baby Jesus fill your homes with love.  May the Prince of Peace blanket the earth with kindness, understanding, generosity . . . and, above all, peace.  God bless!

Linking to Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday.  Stop in and see some amazing seasonal tables!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Classic Thanksgiving

I stuck to the classics with paisley in the linens . . . 


Plaid in the ribbons . . . 


Hobnail mercury glass votives . . . 


The Fiddle and Thread pattern in the Mikasa French Countryside dishes . . . 



And the Monticello flatware from Reed and Barton . . . ?


Copper seems to be showing up everywhere lately . . . so I decided to play with it . . .


It appears in the napkin rings, the votive holders and the centerpiece . . .  The good ol' rule of three!


The color palette is kept traditional with various shades of orange, rust and green . . .


But the linen pattern feels young and fresh . . .  I liked the counterpoint of young and fresh with classic and traditional . . .


We lit the candles . . .


And we broke bread . . .  Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Acqua Alta

Water.  In Venice it's everywhere . . .  The Venetians adopted this lagoon, and, if not conquered it, they certainly learned how to manage the water while embracing a distinctive way of life . . .


Water meanders through the city through a myriad canals . . .


And every day, Venice faces "Acqua Alta" - High Tide - when it comes, the city floods.  Venetians have long given up living on the lower level of their buildings . . .


Here's St. Mark Square - Piazza San Marco, during acqua alta, at roughly 11:00 A.M.  There are puddles everywhere, which will disappear slowly as the day wears on . . .


Risers are put in place, so pedestrians can access St. Mark's Cathedral.  The water actually gets so high that it seeps inside the church . . .  I've read that in the winter months it's even worse!


Ripples form as the water comes up from the drains . . .


Risers are piled everywhere, waiting for the next tide . . .


The water damage to these precious buildings is incalculable . . .  Engineers are feverishly working to build a dyke that is supposed to help keep the water at bay.  Global warming doesn't help, as the sea levels have risen . . .


It's remarkable, really, the culture that evolved despite these tremendous challenges . . . 


The acquamarine stuff didn't allow you to forget for even one moment that it was there, beautiful, powerful . . . and everywhere . . .

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Dream Realized

I went to Venice earlier this month.  A simple sentence that encompasses a world of happiness.  I talked about my wish to see Venice in this post way back in 2010, and all the longing, all the planning, all the years of reading about it and storing images on Pinterest, became a dream realized when my husband and I landed at Marco Polo Airport on Sunday, October 5.


And it didn't disappoint!  Reality doesn't often measure up to our fantasies.  This time, however, it was so much more than I could have ever imagined.  Let me show you the Venice I saw . . .


Here are our first images of Venice, as we traveled by vaporetto on the Grand Canal, on the way to our hotel.


Our first view of the Rialto Bridge, one of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal, Venice's main waterway . . .


Venetian palaces crowded every inch of the Grand Canal . . . 


We stayed at the charming Hotel Flora, privately owned by the Romanelli Family.  I read about it first in the book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” then on Rick Steves’ “Venice.”  The name kept cropping up in my research, so I think we were fated to stay here . . . 

Here's my husband, Lee, standing at the entrance of Calle dei Bergamaschi, the street - yes, street - in which Hotel Flora is located; that's the entrance at the rear of the street.  In Chicago, we'd call this an alley and wouldn't be caught dead in it after dark, but here, the narrow street was not at all unusual, and we felt very safe at all times.


And that window next to him?  It was pure eye candy, displaying a lovely Bulgari handbag.  Pricetag:  €2,100 - that's roughly $2,600, a mere pittance . . . 

 
Calle dei Bergamaschi opened up to Calle Larga XXII Marzo, one of the most important streets for high-fashion shopping, home to stores like Venice, Gucci, Ferragamo, Bulgari, Prada, Hermès . . . It's the Venetian Rodeo Drive . . .


Take a look at the old-fashioned keys at Hotel Flora - they weighed a ton, too!  No sterile, magnetized key cards for these folks!
 

The rooms are furnished with antiques - not reproductions - so each room is unique; the walls were covered in silk fabric . . . We were given Room #20, overlooking the courtyard.  It was lovely and quite comfortable; we had all the modern amenities, too, including Wi-Fi.


And when we looked up, we found this gorgeous Murano glass chandelier gracing the ceiling!


There was much to explore in the days to come, but first, I was going to follow the Romanelli's advice:  Enjoy and Relax!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Shrub

Sometimes, all it takes is a bowl of luscious strawberries . . .


Ever since our visit to Philadelphia three years ago, I've been intrigued by schrub - a refreshing beverage with which our 18th century founding fathers quenched their thirst . . .


We first tried a schrub at City Tavern, an establishment known to the likes of George Washington, Paul Revere, and many other notables of the period.  Click here to read more about our visit to this delightful restaurant.  Also, here's the link to their website:   http://www.citytavern.com/


Are you a history buff?  I am, and really, haven't you ever wondered what people drank when it was hot out, with no refrigeration available?  Ive always had a hard time drinking plain water, and lemon water is delightful, but sometimes you want something different . . . When all these strawberries came my way, it seemed like the perfect time to learn how to make schrub, and, naturally, the internet made it very easy!

First, a concentrated syrup is made using fruit, sugar and apple cider vinegar.  There are as many different ways of making it as there are bartenders.  But I found this website that explained the Cold Method, and, since I really didn't want to heat up my kitchen, I decided to give it a try.

The website gives an exhaustive explanation of the process, and I urge you to go to it if you decide to make schrub.  Roughly, I added sugar to some hulled and quartered strawberries . . .


Then I refrigerated it, covered, for a couple of days, and ended up with a great deal of syrup. 


I strained it, added vinegar and refrigerated it for a few more days . . .


That's it!  The syrup was done!  Now it could be mixed with Pellegrino, like I did, or ginger ale, or rum . . . or champagne, as George Washington preferred . . .


The taste is a bit unusual and not something to which we are accustomed in the 21st century.  If you like vinegar, especially apple cider vinegar, then you'll really enjoy it.  I found it light, a bit tart and very refreshing . . .  Give it a try.  If you don't care to drink it, you can use the remaining syrup as a marinade for chicken!


Somehow, I feel a little bit closer to Ben Franklin today . . .

Monday, July 21, 2014

A Romantic Summer Table

When I needed inspiration for a romantic table for two, I didn't have to look further than the fabulously talented, Linda, of More Fun Less Laundry and herSomething Old, Something New: Borrowing from a Master table.  She, in turn, was inspired by another terrific designer and tablescaper, Delores, of Vignette Design and her “Romantic Candlelight Dinner.”  But, oh, my!  These ladies are so talented!  Am I being too presumptuous in trying to copy their beautiful designs?

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

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

More Fun Less Laundry
Fabulous, isn't it?  Linda took Delores' Valentine vision and gave it a Christmas twist to celebrate her daughter's engagement and holiday homecoming.  What a lovely way to celebrate such a romantic occassion!  Ah, love!

I owe a huge debt, not only to Linda and Delores, but to so many other wonderful tablescapers 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 . . . I'm sad to say I don't have any . . . a travesty, to be sure, one that needs to be remedied very soon!

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 . . .


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


It so happens that I have some lovely linens from Horchow that I've yet to use . . .


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


It looks so frothy . . . One can easily imagine Anne of Austria giving a handkerchief trimmed like this to the dashing Duke of Buckingham as a token of her love . . . although it might have been more difficult to replace (after all, lacemaking takes so long!) than the diamond necklace she gave him instead, and which almost cost young M. D'Artagnan his life . . .I'm referring, of course, to The Three Musketeers by Alexander Dumas . . .


If you need a good novel filled with interesting characters, handsome musketeers, a queen in distress, and plenty of court intrigue, this book is for you!  It's also a wonderful study of the manners of the court of Louis XIII . . .  I've read it in both, English . . .


and Spanish . . .


I wish I was more fluent in French to be able to read it in its original language . . .

And, believe me, just because there are many movies adapted from this novel, it doesn't mean that any 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 . . . I decided to leave the little button exposed, instead of tucking it underneath, like Linda did . . .


Linda's silverware is just beautiful, but the Monticello by Reed and Barton has a similar “feel” although it's stainless steel, not sterling.  The thread pattern delightfully forms a heart shape at the heel . . .


Delores considered roses and candlelight as being absolutely essential to her design . . . This table needed delicate pink roses to match the salad plates, and mercury glass vases, so I contacted Robert, of Robert's Floral Design Studio in Chicago - my florist and friend - I've known him since high school and he's been doing arrangements for me since Lee and I got married . . .


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 myself, but I've been out of town attending my son's graduation from Basic Combat Training in South Carolina . . . and the table really needed to be ready today! So Robert received 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 . . .


I pulled out the stash of mercury glass votives . . .


The glasses were an easy choice:  My mother's crystal . . .


The table was set with both, water goblets and champagne coupes . . .


Of course, a rose was tucked into each of the napkin rings . . .


Which was actually a very tight fit . . . Delores’ napkin rings would have worked better!


And now the table is set . . .


Ready for a summer romantic celebration . . . such as an anniversary, perhaps . . .


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 on 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 . . .

Joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday.  Stop by for inspiration!