Friday, January 23, 2015

In a Sturbridge State of Mind . . .

Won't you join me on this wintery day for a little catalogue shopping?

I've been receiving the Sturbridge Yankee Workshop catalogue for years and years, and, this latest copy didn't disappoint.  So many pretty things!  If you don't have a hard copy, you can always let your iPad do the walking and visit the Sturbridge website.  C'mon!  Let's browse!

These awesome ladderback chairs are still offered on the catalogue, and they're on sale!  They look a little bit like my kitchen chairs!  In fact, I remember that these were the inspiration for the ones I ultimately bought.

Except I think I like mine better.  The seats are wider and more comfortable . . .

See the decorative grooves on the finials?  I love those extra touches!

Reds can be found all over my house from December through Valentine's Day. Certainly, January needs a pop of color, don't you think?

Beyond that, I'm mad for plaid!  I love these darling lamp shades on page 8 of the catalogue.

Wouldn't they look fabulous on the Dining Room chandelier?  I'm really fond of the red ones we use during the Christmas season, but it would be nice to have a different set for variety . . .

This Bunny Pillow is simply charming!  I adore bunnies!

I'm not usually into faux flowers, but I'd make an exception for this Fern and Grapevine Wreath . . . and I know just where I would hang it!

But before Easter, we have Valentine's Day, and these stained glass hearts would gladen mine if they appeared dangling from my kitchen window . . .

What an irresistible collection!  Will I succumb?  Were you inspired?

Linking to:  Share Your Creativity

Monday, January 19, 2015


I haven't gotten Venice out of my system yet.  We went in October, but the memories are so vivid, it's as though we came back yesterday - despite the craziness of the Christmas holiday season!

So, if you don't mind, I'd like to go back to last October, and reminisce a little more about our wonderful trip to La Serenissima, the Most Serene Republic, as it used to be known.

On our first full day in Venice, we headed over to Murano, an island in the Venetian lagoon, known for its glassworks.  They truly have elevated glass making to its highest manifestation.

Here I am, in one of many boat rides that I would be taking in the days to come.  This one was a private boat that took us to Murano, at no charge, in the hopes that we would drop a pretty penny on the island. First, we visited a glass museum and saw a demonstration of the art of glass blowing.

The work is hot . . . and meticulous . . .

 Here, the artist was creating a glass horse . . .

And if our eyes wondered on occasion . . .

We had THIS view to entertain us!

Aren't these chandeliers magnificent?  I don't know if these were special orders waiting to be delivered, or if they were just there to wow the tourists . . .

Check out the delicacy of these goblets . . .

Ours for a mere pittance . . . NOT!  The simplest of those goblets could easily go for €350 or more!

This green reminds me of the color of the Venetian lagoon . . . 

Can you stand a few more pictures of glass?

It was all so beautiful!

Check out that magnificent pink goblet!  It could be yours for a mere €350!

"Conteria" - tiny glass beads strung together to make these fabulous necklaces . . . Lee actually bought me one of these!  I'll post a picture of it at a later date.

And here is Murano.  It's hard to believe that this sleepy façade hides such magnificent work!

The tower of the Church of Santa Maria E Donato, the island church.

Webster's defines Venetian blue as a strong blue, similar to cobalt blue.  I think Venetian blue should be this beautiful aquamarine, like the waters of its lagoon.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Three Kings Day 2015

By the time Epiphany came around, the creative juices had stopped flowing after all the entertaining we did in December, but I couldn't let this holiday, which is so special to me, pass unnoticed.  However, although I definitely wanted to have friends over, I didn't necessarily want to cook.  Zuni, from Chickadee Home Nest suggested a "Dessert and Coffee" party, instead of an afternoon tea.  Thank you, Zuni!  Your suggestion was brilliant!  Zuni, who shares the same Cuban roots as I do, also celebrates Three Kings Day.  Please visit her charming blog.  You will be enchanted with her entertaining style and wonderful stories.

Once the plan was in place, I set out to find wonderful treats for a tasty dessert table, but, alas, I ran into an unexpected obstacle!  All my favorite bakeries were closed for the long holiday weekend!  Undaunted, I let my iPad do the walking and found a variety of sources here and there, and, well, came up with an interesting and delicious table!  Voilà!

Our parties always seem to end up in the kitchen, so I set up the desserts in the Living Room to encourage circulation.  It did seem to help a little, but in the end, we all ended up back in the kitchen.

The treats included Cannolli, Fruit-filled Kolacky, Coconut Flan, and, the pièce the résistance, Galette des Roi - Kings Cake as made in France.  It is made with puff pastry with a frangipane (almond cream) center. The cake had a baby Jesus hidden in its center, and whoever finds it gets to wear a paper crown, and is declared King for the day!

Kolacky is a delicious Central European pastry, and, since Polish Americans make up the largest European ethnicity in the Chicago area, there is no shortage of places that offer this yummy treat.

Cannolli may be Italian, but it's become an American favorite.  If you haven't tasted one, I urge you to find the nearest Italian bakery and have them fill one for you on the spot.  The best are filled with the sweetened Ricotta cheese center just before serving, so the shell doesn't have time to turn soggy.  Then the ends are capped off with either finely chopped pistachio or chocolate chips.

Just recently I learned how to make Coconut Flan, thanks to my friend, Layda, who brought one to our Christmas celebration and shared her recipe. The flan, arriving to the New World from Spain, acquires a uniquely Caribbean flavor when coconut is added. It is marvelous!  I'll share the recipe soon, once I've made it half a dozen time and feel comfortable with the outcome.  So, unintentionally, this turned out to be an international dessert buffet!  How fitting for The Three Kings!

Gold, symbolic of one of the gifts that the Magi were reputed to have brought to the Baby Jesus, is represented in the tablecloth and the arrangement of gold branches.  I found the branches at my local supermarket, stuck them on a dry oasis, and covered them with river rocks.  I love how it looks against my brown Living Room wall!  Each guest went home with a Lottery ticket.  Hopefully, more gold would be heading their way.

And here are the three mystical beings that represent the revelation of God to us.  They foreshadow, with their gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense, Jesus' greatness and his suffering.  It is always, a most moving and perfect ending to the holiday season.  May your new year be filled with epiphanies and joy!  God bless!

Linking to Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday.  You've got to stop by and see Susan's wonderful Snowman Cake centerpiece!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Winter Wonderland - Christmas continued

We were busy at our house this December, this time, hosting my son, John's friends from NIU - Northern Illinois University.  Now that they've all graduated, it gets harder and more complicated for this tight group to see each other, so Christmas break seemed to be the perfect time - the only time actually, in which this group could get together.

I needed to cleanse my tablescaping palate, after all the reds, greens and gold that we used earlier in the month (plus my cream-colored tablecloth was still at the cleaners), so we went with a silver and white color scheme . . . with a teensy bit of red thrown in . . .

It was so exciting to be able to go to my stash and pull out all the elements of this table without having to spend a cent!  I had all these things in my basement from previous Christmases.  What a delight to be able to use them again.

The snowflake napkin rings have been around forever.  I still have the original Marshall Field's box in which they came.  Now that Field's is gone, I can never get rid of the box!

Every guest received a box of Frango Candy Cane mints.  The boxes were so pretty I didn't feel they needed any additional wrapping.  I love the pop of red against all that white and silver.  What do you think? 

The menu:  Crab cake on a bed of arugula, served with lemon wedges and tartar sauce, chicken noodle soup, served with oyster crackers, filet of beef au jus, served with Roman potatoes.  There was no point in serving a green vegetable to this bunch, so I saved myself the trouble.  Dessert was Coconut Flan, Oreo mini-trifles, and a tray of cookies, including Pecan Butterballs, Potato Chip Munchies and Double Chocolate Chip Candy Cane cookies.  Then we served coffee, and, since I'm still on a Venetian high, I served shot glasses with limoncello.

And here's the Motley Crew, including my son David, who showed up at our house unexpectedly on Christmas morning, on a second short leave from the Army, giving us the best present we could have hoped for this holiday season!  I am so grateful to have had all these young adults around!  They are such genuinely nice people . . . and they keep me young!

Linking to Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday.  Don't miss the talented tablescapers who join this fabulous party!