Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Botanical Christmas

 Forget the gingerbread houses! Who needs them when the National Botanical Gardens in Washington D.C. has there own twig and leaf version depicting the monuments on the Washington D.C. Mall. Every Christmas the garden puts on a display of these national treasures.

 When I first saw these magnificent structures I thought they were made from paper, but when I got a closer look at the replica of the Capital Building, I realized that they were meticulously sculpted with natural items; everything one would find in a botanical garden.

 The buildings aren't even painted! The natural color is shown in each representation. The windows are paper-thin leaves. Sticks turn into columns; the tops crowned with a Corinthian embellishment of fern.

 Just look at the dome of this building; leaves lined up as perfect tiles, overlapped by twigs to create the ribs of the structure.

 And look at the tiny walk area of the Capital! No detail went unnoticed. With every monument represented you can walk amongst the flowers and trees enjoying the holiday event. Go early though, because it is only up from Thanksgiving until the New Year. If you plan ahead there is also a display of Christmas trains that run in another room. The train event does require a ticket, but the twig and leaf display is free for all to ogle.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Preparations

One of my favorite times of the year is November. The crisp air seems to whisper that the festivities should begin. This is the time that you want to get out your china, linens, candles and all other necessities for entertaining to make sure that they are in order. Last year I was able to go visit my in-laws for Thanksgiving, so I did not need to dig deep to find my items. Instead, I helped to manage the Thanksgiving table decorations for my sister-in-law. 

 There were linens that needed to be ironed, silver that needed to be polished, and boxes of china and crystal to be hauled up from the basement and washed. Twenty people needed some real estate at the Thanksgiving table, so we made place setting cards so all could have a delightful time. 

 Decorations were tree branches hung with many crystals. Small candles floating in glasses with rocks weighting the bottom grounded the table. The room glowed once everything was lit. The crystals danced around the room beckoning the guests to get their food and sit down. It was a wonderful time, and I can hardly believe that a year has come and gone! Now I am home, and entertaining for Thanksgiving. Time to get my table set!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Anastasia's Attic

In the once uber-rural area of West Jordan, Utah, just south of Salt Lake City, is the cute shopping area of Gardner Village. Once the site of a family owned grist mill, this quaint village houses relocated historic cabins of the area. In one such cabin, I stumbled across Anastasia's Attic! What a gem it was. From the moment I opened the door, I did not know where to look first. It was a symphony to my senses. 

Cricket, the lovely lady behind the counter greeted my mother and me, and asked if we would like some "fairy dust". My immediate reaction was one of, "NO", but my wiser mother said, "YES". Cricket brought a sweet jar of sparkles from behind the counter, and with a cute metal star wand she planted the fairy dust impression of a star on my mother's cheek. Everyone of my guarded adult inhibitions flew out the window. I melted as I saw my mother's sparkle fairy star. I wanted one too!! So, Cricket adorned me with one of my own. "Twinkle twinkle little star...." I think it really was fairy dust in the jar. I seemed to feel different immediately and for days afterwards! 

I could not figure out what area of the store was the funnest part to browse. Was it the Gothic house decorations, the clothes, or the tea section? I think my favorite part of the store was the beautiful jewelry area. I could not help but by a few pieces. So, if you are ever passing by the Salt Lake City Area and need a special gift or just some eye candy stop by Anastasia's Attic. It won't disappoint. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Winter Squash and Pear Bisque

My how the time has been flying by! We are in the thick of Fall and I have not even posted something heart-warming and cozy to ponder on these chilly nights! As "All Hallows Eve" nipped at my heels this morning, I thought about what I could serve my family for dinner to start off the festivities. I just don't think Fall is really in full swing until you can have a creamy winter soup. Mine for tonight is a Winter Squash and Pear Bisque.  
It is so simple to make, and a sure thing to be gobbled down by all the goblins in your house! 

Winter Squash and Pear Bisque 

3 large ripe Bartlett pears, cored and chopped
2 frozen boxes, Cascadian Farms Winter Squash, thawed
1 onion, chopped
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/4 tsp ground sage
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup water or chicken broth
1/4 cup half & half

Saute onion in 1 Tbsp on olive oil until wilted. Add pears. Cook until the pears start to break down. Add the two boxes of squash, pepper, sage, salt and water. Cook with lid on for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put Contents in a food processor in small batches to puree. Once it is all pureed, return to the pot. Add the half & half. Serve with artisan bread and a side salad! Perfect for a Fall evening! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Where Did The Summer Go?

 Ahhh! Where or where did my summer go? And half of September too? Aside from my failing and crashing computer, this summer has taken me around to many electrifying places. From Washington to Alaska, Vancouver to New Mexico, and Utah to California. I have had enough eye candy to spar me on for years to come! One thing that all of these beautiful places had in common was the ever so enticing farmer's market!

 I can't think of a place that does not have a farmer's market. Some have them with bakers, artisan cheese makers, and people who make crafts. Others are strictly for selling those veggies!

 I love to go to these markets to see what the local growers are trying to produce. It is almost like a treasure hunt. Some are straight up providers of your basic vegetables, others have in mind to grow organic produce. And then there is the enlightened farmer who wants to really make a difference. This is the person who grows heirloom vegetables. Those precious veggies that have been passed down for generations. Those that have not been cross-bread with other varieties. A person who grows this type of produce truly loves what they do, and wants to share it with the world.

 I always look out for the grower of the heirloom vegetable. I think the heirloom tastes better than other varieties. I also think it is a nice way to say, "thank you" when I buy the product of their hard work, talent, and love. Fall is a wonderful time to go to the local farmer's market's. October usually ends the market season with the harvest items such as pumpkins and apples. Unless, of course you live in Las Vegas, and the market season is just happening!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

And The Wedding Continues...

There were too many great moments and beautiful things to capture at this joyous event. I could not contain them in just one post. The loveliest was the bride's smiling face. I could tell she felt like a princess all day long!

The bride was not the only one who had a cake. Unlike the three tiered soft ivory wedding cake, the groom picked a Texas Sheet cake for his groom's cake. My sister set this up on an old fashion stove for anyone to just serve themselves....and they did happily!

These lemon curd tarts were so creatively decorated with tiny bees made from icing and almond slivers. They fit the country wedding theme perfectly!

A luncheon was held for the family members after the wedding, but before a reception. The tables were decorated with mismatched ivory plates and clear goblets of water. My niece made these adorable napkin holders from raffia and buttons.

To honor family members both past and present, wedding pictures were displayed in mason jars with a flame less tea light and hung from a tree. Arriving guests could stroll past and look at the happy couples.

Pictures of the bride and groom were hung in wooden frames suspended by soft silk ribbon on the back of the house.

Instead of a guest book, family and guests could put their fingerprint on a branch of this tree; writing their name. I put mine next to my sister whom I love dearly! This picture shows my 89 year old aunt putting her stamp of approval on the tree. She promptly asked for an alcohol wipe for her finger!

Towards the early evening a rain cloud threatened our celebration, however, it passed us by only getting us a tiny sprinkle.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Summer Wedding

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the wedding of my niece. She is the daughter of my sister, the oldest grandchild in our family, the first of them to get married, and I must say I feel she is a wee bit like my own daughter since I only had boys! Never have I seen such a beautiful bride beaming with love and admiration.

My sister and her family live on an apple farm in Washington State. It is over an hour from any major "small" city, "and three hours from the "largest" city, Seattle. The day was perfect for a country June wedding! Everything was green, green, green. As a matter a fact, my niece chose her colors to be green and brown (brown being the groom's favorite color). She had simple table decorations that she made herself, and simple flowers that she arranged herself.

The food was beautiful; cupcakes, mini tarts, cookies, tea sandwiches, and more. The guests were well fed as they enjoyed the social event of the month!

My sweet niece decorated her cake herself with ivory frosting and antiqued hand pressed sugar buttons.

I stole a snapshot of the happy couple as they relaxed for a few brief moments before greeting more of their guests.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I am sitting at my breakfast table this morning eating my breakfast and enjoying the site of my peony bouquet. I had to buy this bunch at my local Trader Joe's for only $7 yesterday; there were five in all. I had several successful years of growing peonies before I moved to my current zone 10 desert oasis. Peonies won't grow here. Zone 8 is the highest number that they can tolerate. When I left my home, I divided my different varieties and colors of peonies up and dispersed them to my neighbors (leaving of course the main plant at the house we sold). Whenever I go back to visit I get wonderful stories of how they are flourishing.

Peonies come in many different types of flowers that expert peony fanatics call their favorites; double ruffled, bombs, anemone, Japanese. There are bushy plants as well as tree varieties. The colors can range from deep purple, red, pink, white or yellow.

I like them all. Growing peonies and having them on my table makes me feel like I have an extravagant luxury in my home. Buying peonies from a florist can cost you an arm and a leg. I remember having them in my bouquet for my wedding. If you can grow them in your yard I highly recommend it. Two websites are great if you are looking for the starts; Klehm's Song Sparrow and Hidden Springs Flower Farm are the best to order from. I have, however, found them at the hardware store. Those seemed to be more reluctant to come up and flower though. Since I don't have the luxury of growing mine here.....I might just go spend another $7 today!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Vintage Home

It is popular these days to go thrift shopping to find a sweater, hat or brooch your grandma or great-grandma use to wear. I grew up thrift shopping with my family. I found an appreciation for antique lines, lace, dishes and clothes. As I grew older, I found a new appreciation for vintage homes.

The United States is scattered with vintage homes. Many are now buried in underprivileged neighborhoods, but there are areas where these cookie cutter homes are the pride and joy of a city. These small homes became in vogue in between WWI and WWII. There were several styles; Storybook, English Cottage, Tudor, French Eclectic, Spanish Revival, and Mission Style. They were so popular to buy during this time that those who bought them were up on the style and lingo of their homes architecture. Popular magazines of the day would write lengthy articles about the virtues of each type of house.

Although I have never owned such a home, I love to drag the neighborhoods they are in and wonder what the families were like who first lived there. These homes are a wonderful glimpse into our American Heritage.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tulips, Tulips, Tulips Galore!

This without a doubt is one of my favorite times of year. It is because it is the dawning of the mid to late spring tulip. Early spring tulips are alright, but do not have the power and beauty as those that come after. As this is my favorite time of year because of the beloved tulip, I have to say it is now a sad time for me because I no longer can plant tulips in my Las Vegas home.

At my old home I would plant 300 tulips every October, and then wait while they slept under their blanket of snow all winter. In the spring I would be as happy as could be to see my vision come to life. It was like painting a picture in the fall without seeing the result of the canvas until six months later.

I still have my pictures, memories, and dreams of my tulips and will think of them again this time next year!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Lilacs Abound

The time of year has come for the sweet fragrant lilac to bloom. It stands all year in it's woodsy wardrobe only to show these delicate flowers but once a year for only four small weeks. The smell of the lilac is so intoxicating, and the cluster of flowers are welcome in any bouquet.

The lilac has been a staple in English gardens for centuries, but it was in the early 1700's that the bush was brought to the United States. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew lilacs on their estates. The popularity of the lilac grew so much in America that New York State in particular has the most lilac bushes in the world! It is in fact the state flower of New York.

So, I say bring on the purple, pinks, and whites of the lilac. Enjoy these short few weeks of fragrant bliss!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Eyes On London

There is without a doubt nothing like it in the world. London is the sweetheart of Europe. Whether it be the history, architecture, parks, industry, art or people, London reins supreme in my humble opinion. I find it so ironic that all eyes are on London now with the royal wedding just days away, and I was there only a year ago for my tenth wedding anniversary.

How glad I am that we went last year because William and Kate picked our wedding day to get married on....April 29th. We stayed in the Kensington area not too far from the Victoria & Albert Museum and of course, Harrods! I remember walking across the Millennium bridge this exact day last year! So beautiful.

Nothing says London like Trafalgar Square. Some of my fondest memories were just sitting and enjoying the weather and people gathered. The National Gallery was not too bad either!

Another favorite memory of London were the dear old taxi cabs! The cabs were darling, and the drivers beyond expectations of English hospitality. I hope that we can return for another trip very soon....but not next year when the Olympics are on!