November in Photos

Nov in Photos

November started off with a bang!  The first Saturday I attended a book signing for Christina Lauren for their latest book in the Beautiful series – Beautiful Player.  I’ll have a post up soon on the series and the book signing too, but I finished Beautiful Player shortly after getting it at the signing!  And speaking of books, I also got to go see Catching Fire the night it came out in the theatre – loved it!

I spent some time during the month looking at my in progress craft projects, working on some, and planning for some new things.  One of my big projects towards the end of the month was working on finishing some Christmas ornaments I’d stitched.

Of course, one of the things I was excited about was visiting a local camera store and checking out a variety of camera bags in preparation for my trip to Germany/Paris.  I loved the bright yellow of the one in the photo, but I ended up going with something slightly different.  Post to come on that as well and why I chose what I did.

As the holidays approached, I celebrated with a super blingy manicure – I used my new polish, When Monkeys Fly, over a gold I already had on hand and wowza!!  Eric and I made apple pancakes for breakfast, which is our tradition for Thanksgiving morning, and then watched the parade.  We went to my mom’s for our cozy Thanksgiving dinner and it was really a nice, relaxing day.  So much to be thankful for!

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Honoring Her

Easter never used to be more than a holiday for me.  As I mentioned in my last post, over the past few years it has been made more special by spending our honeymoon in Rome for Easter.  Eric’s love of family and traditions has also changed my perception of it, and we celebrate with a special meal and his special cake.  But, this year things seemed to all fall into place to change me at some deep level, to focus on the true meaning of the days leading up to Easter.

On Good Friday, Eric’s grandmother passed away.  And suddenly, we were faced with mourning this amazing woman who had helped to shape Eric into the man he is today.  The past few years have been so full of loss, but somehow this was different.  In the midst of our sadness and grief, we were presented with the message of Easter and for me at least, it brought some comfort.

While I had intended to make Eric’s special cassata cake for him, because of the tradition his Grandmother started, once we got the news on Friday I knew that making Easter special this year was something we both needed.  When I did my last post and posted the photo of my dining room table decorated for the holiday, it reminded me that other than Christmas, I have done zero holiday decorating in several years.  So, I decided that I wanted to make this Easter as special as possible for both of us.  So, on Saturday, while Eric was gone I dug through my holiday decorations and did a little decorating around the house.  Just a few touches, since I knew it wouldn’t be up for very long.  I was so happy to see our dining room all dressed up for Spring.

I especially love my little glass bunnies.  I think I got them from Williams Sonoma years and years ago.  But, aren’t they cute?

And I’m glad I managed to get a photo of how pretty everything looked before the hoodlums got up on the table and ran off with an egg ornament in their mouths and proceeded to bat them around the house.

After I got the decorating finished, I got started on making the cassata cake.  My recipe reminded me that it’s good to make the pound cake a day ahead so that it is completely cooled before I try to put the filling between the layers and frosting it.

On Sunday morning, I got started on finishing the cake.  I made the filling and popped it in the fridge to chill so that it was easier to spread.  Then I got started on making the whipped cream frosting.  Homemade whipped cream is just the best, isn’t it?  Reminded me of my chocolate bread pudding – I need to make that sometime soon.

Once I had my filling and frosting made, I cut my poundcake into layers and then brushed them with rum.  I have actually forgotten this step before, so this time I made sure that I noted it on my recipe ingredients.

Once I had the cake assembled, into the fridge it went so that the ricotta filling and the whipped cream frosting could set up.  Then it was time to make dinner.  Eric made the fabulous Moroccan lamb burgers we’d agreed on for Easter dinner, from a recipe courtesy of our friends in Rhode Island.  We opened a bottle of Barefoot Moscato for dinner and it was a delicious counterpoint to the spices in the burgers.  Everything was so good!

And after dinner we dove into dessert.  I sprinkled the top of the cake with some semi-sweet chocolate shavings.  I loved the finishing touch it added.

Here’s a little view of the cake once we’d sliced into it.  So so good!  And don’t you love the little bees on the table runner?

It was a beautiful Easter Sunday, made all the more special because I felt like we were honoring Grandma’s life by celebrating with a wonderful meal, a beautiful table, and time with each other.  She will be truly missed.

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Preparing for Easter

Egg Tree
This time of year is always special for Eric and I.  Our wedding anniversary is at the beginning of April and we spent our honeymoon in Rome over that Easter weekend.  It was the first Easter Mass for Pope Benedict XVI.  With this Easter being the first for the newly elected Pope, it brings back some memories for us.  Eric and I have also been watching The Bible on The History Channel, and it’s been an excellent conversation topic for us in these weeks leading up to Passover and Easter.

I haven’t been very inspired to do any holiday decorating around the house since Christmas, and the two boys with their kitten antics make me think twice about what I put out.  But, after looking through some old photos, I found the one above of our Easter table and decided I would really like to have a special table setting for our Easter dinner.

And one of the traditions that we have is  preparing a special Italian cake for Easter.  Eric’s grandmother used to bring a cassata cake from the Italian bakery for Easter every year when he was growing up.  When Eric and I got married, I decided that I wanted to recreate this cake from Eric’s past for him.  Not as easy as it sounds.  Cassata cake, I’ve found, can be interpreted in several different ways.  So, over a series of Easters and birthdays, I tried out a number of recipes.

One of the first I tried was for a Sicilian cake that seemed to be similar to a cassata cake.

It was a two layer sponge cake with ladyfingers around the edges, and topped with walnuts, chocolate chips and candied cherries.  Pretty good, but not anywhere close to Eric’s memories.  Plus, with the ladyfingers and the topping, it was a rather labor intensive cake to make.

So, we refined our definition of what he remembered and I ended up cobbling several recipes together to try for my next attempt.  Eric had told me that the cake of his dreams was a loaf cake, like a pound cake.  So, I took a Martha Stewart pound cake recipe and started with that.

Notice the yummy vanilla that Eric’s mom brought us from Mexico?  Love that stuff!  Anyway, the Martha recipe was a total bust.  There was so much butter in this batter that when it was cooking, you could see the cake swimming in a sea of butter.  I’m all for butter, but this was ridiculous.  And the cake itself was not soft and moist, but surprisingly crunchy.

Eric also remembered that the filling between the layers was a lot like cannoli filling.  So, I borrowed a recipe for cannoli filling (ricotta, chocolate chips, etc.).  That, at least, was pretty straightforward.  I used the mini chocolate chips and mixed them in with the ricotta filling.

And then we got to the frosting for the cake.  Eric said it was pretty close to the frosting his mom uses on his usual birthday cake, which is a whipped cream frosting (icing?).  I hit her up again for her recipe and this also was pretty straightforward.  I think it’s just heavy cream, sugar, cream of tartar.  And it makes a ton!

And the final product Eric deemed pretty darn close to his memory.  So, I made several notes, including a note to self to try a different pound cake recipe because the Martha recipe was a big yuck.

And when I made that very first Sicilian cake, it called for brushing the layers of spongecake with rum.  So I added that in this attempt as well.  It adds a little extra depth of flavor in the cake.

I’ve made the cake a couple more times since this initial try and refined it over the last few years.  I’ve changed to a pound cake recipe from Cook’s Illustrated, which is very good.  And I’ve started making the cake itself the day before, and it makes it a little easier to assemble the next day.  I’ve also cut the filling and frosting recipes in half, because I seriously ended up with enough for a second cake.  I’ll be making cassata cake for Easter Sunday this weekend, and I’m looking forward to it since I haven’t made it in a while.  I’ll be sure to share how it turns out!

We’re also planning on having our Moroccan Lamb Burgers on Easter as well, because Eric knows that’s about the only way I will eat lamb.  So, I’m looking forward to those – something else we haven’t had in awhile.  Sounds like I’ll have a busy next few days getting everything ready for Easter, but I’m looking forward to it.  And as always, it’s such a special time for us as a precursor to our anniversary, so it deserves to be done right!

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All Aglow

Our home has been decorated for the holidays, and it is nice to have a bit of “normal” right now, with my father so sick.  We won’t be holding our annual family gatherings this year due to his health.  So, Eric and I will just have a small, quiet Christmas with just the two of us.

Anyway, Eric decided last year that he really wanted lights on the wreath on the front door.  He found some great battery operated lights this year, and now our wreath has its own little bit of brightness.

Eric found a beautiful tree again this year.  I just love the smell of a real tree in the house.  I scaled back a lot on my ornaments this year though.  I wanted a more simple look on the tree.

Some of my favorite ornaments are our Swarovski annual ornaments.  I’ve been giving one to Eric each year since 2005.  They catch the light so beautifully.

And I decided to put out the Nutcrackers again this year on the mantel.  Eric saved the branches he had to cut off the tree at the bottom for me, and I used them on the mantel.  I love the way that looks.

The odd man out in the Nutcracker theme is this guy.  He was a gift to me from my parents when I was about nine or ten.  My parents used to take my sister and I to see the Nutcracker ballet every year at the holidays.  One year, before we went, they presented me with my very own Nutcracker.  You wouldn’t believe how much I cried with joy.  He’s looking a little worse for wear, and his hair and beard are looking a bit thin (they are rabbit fur).  But, I get such pleasure from having him out at Christmas.

We’ve received so many lovely cards from friends and family.  Unfortunately, this year I had to make the decision not to send out cards.  There has just been too much going on to get them done.  I hope everyone understands.

And our tree in the entry.  This is my “handmade” tree.  I hang handmade ornaments on this tree, along with some pretty red glass balls.  There’s a train around the base of this tree as well.

And my Dickens’ Village.  Eric made me a fabulous platform for my houses this year.  The table I set them up on has rather high sides, so it was getting difficult to make them all fit.  Eric made a platform to go over the top of the table and it worked out perfectly!  All the houses fit.  And several of these were gifts from my parents over the last few years, so I love seeing them out.

 

 

And yesterday, I managed to do all of my gift wrapping.  These were headed off to the Post Office to be mailed.

I hope you all have a lovely holiday and that it brings you much joy and happiness.  Thanks for stopping in to see me and I so appreciate all your sweet comments!

 

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Decorating with Quilts

I’m still on my decorating kick, if you couldn’t tell.  It’s spring, I’ve been watching a lot of HGTV and looking at a lot of design blogs…so I’m nesting.  One of the things that is so important to me in decorating our home is incorporating my creative side.  I create, and I have a love of handmade things, so it’s important to me for that to be reflected in our space.  One of the ways I do this is by layering in quilts.  Quilts to me are a great way  to add texture and warmth to a space.  They can be functional and cozy, like the quilt in the photo above draped over the arm of the sofa.  When we’re watching tv or I’m curled up with a good book, I love having a quilt to snuggle up in.  When it’s something I’ve made with my own hands, it becomes even more special.

Quilts are also a great way to add color and interest to a wall instead of using typical framed art pieces.  This quilt is what pulled together our whole vision for our dining room and I’m thrilled with how it looks on the wall.  It adds some dimension to the space because it’s not flat against the wall, and it picks up the red of our placemats and napkins.  The dining room is really one of my favorite rooms in the house because I love the way it’s all come together.  Both Eric and I are really represented in this room. 

We’ve also used quilts in the Master bedroom.  Another wall quilt, this one a wedding gift hand-quilted by my best friend.  I love that it’s subtle and works with our mostly monochromatic palette.  It adds just a touch of texture against the wall. 

One of the few places where we have color in our neutral bedroom oasis is the quilt stand with a couple of quilts on it.  The red and white quilt is our wedding quilt.  I had our guests sign fabric squares instead of a guest book, writing messages to us if they wanted.  I then sewed them into this quilt.  I love the pop of red in the room, that I’ve picked up in a couple other small accessories.  The quilt behind our wedding quilt is a baby quilt done in 30s repro fabrics.  I like having it in here as a nod to the future. 

I love having quilts sprinkled throughout the house; to curl up under, to add as artwork on the walls, or as visible memory albums (or promises of future memories).  I’m sure I’ll continue making quilts, and they’ll continue to find new places to live in our home – just a little touch of cozy.

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In Thankfulness of Heart

I haven’t done much decorating for holidays this year, but for some reason, I was in the mood for a little Fall in the house.  I’ve put out the beautiful table runner Julia made for me on the dining room table, along with my amber glass turkeys.  I am so in love with the turkeys.  Every year I am thankful I bought them because they make me so happy every time I unwrap them to put on our table.  I did a little something different for the centerpiece, using the gourds in one of my hurricanes.

Not a lot of decorating, just a few touches around the house.  So in love with white pumpkins on the mantel too.

And Julia sent me a very thoughtful care package from Rhode Island a couple of weeks ago.  Her note said “I thought you might like some of the beauty of New England for yourself.  I thought of you and collected and dried these leaves.”  I’m so thankful for that.

And somehow I’ve never noticed it before, but it appears our tree in the front yard takes on a beautiful color in the Fall.  Who knew?

We’re having a quiet Thanksgiving this year, just watching the Macy’s Parade and then going over to my inlaw’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. 

And we definitely have a reason to be thankful each and every day. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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A Few Simple Changes


So, over the past few months I’ve been making some small changes around the house. The search for a new house has been slow and frustrating. So, while I would love to be thinking about decorating a new place…this is the one I have. Recently we took a trip to Virginia to visit a friend and her family, and I was extremely inspired by the decor in her home…it was warm, inviting, as well as elegant and classic. I’ve been trying to narrow down my own style and I believe I may be a traditional girl in some cases leaning towards the cottage feel, in some cases leaning toward the British colonial feel. But beneath it all, it is always traditional. I am definitely not modern, definitely not shabby chic. So, I’m going to be exploring some ideas surrounding finding my style in an effort to better define it in my home. But for now, a few simple changes are all I’ve done lately. I do keep looking back at those photos of the office and media room that I posted on here some time ago and cringing. They really look terrible. And I have not given up my plan to really overhaul those two rooms…it just takes time, inspiration, and possibly a bit of money.

So here’s a recap of what I’ve done.
In the master bath, I needed some additional storage, as well as I got tired of looking at that gap under the counter (I’d love some built in drawers here). So, I purchased these two baskets from Michael’s while they were 50% off. They work well for holding extras like Kleenex and toilet paper, cotton balls and Q-tips.
I missed having a windchime hanging outside. I used to have two hanging at my apartment, but when I moved I just never rehung them. After being at my mom’s house and hearing hers I decided I wanted to at least hang one of mine. So, Eric was a sweetie and hung this one for me out on the back porch. This windchime was made for my by my best friend’s brother. I love it.
Eric decided that he wanted to display a few more swords from his collection. We’d talked about hanging this one in the dining room, and finally got around to it. It hangs over the doorway into the kitchen.

We hung this one in the entry way. I believe this is his favorite sword. He has several more that I am considering how to best display them.
The last thing I did around the house was something that had been bothering me since the day we moved in. Or, since the day we decided to purchase our dining room furniture. I have this rather large cat tree monstrosity. The cats love it, but I really don’t want to have to look at it. When we moved in, the piece took up residence in the dining room because we didn’t know where to put it. In my apartment, it was in the living room next to the couch. Well, when we got ready to purchase our dining room furniture, the cat tree had to be moved, so it got moved to the entry. I didn’t really intend to leave it there, because it’s such an eye sore. But, needless to say, two and a half years later it was still there. At the beginning of July, I posted photos of my Fourth of July decorating, including my Stars & Stripes quilt top that I hung on the wall. Well, in that photo you can clearly see the cat tree in the background. One of my commenters (possibly on the other blog – the craft blog), stated “I love people who not ashamed to have a huge cat tree as part of their funiture!” Now, I am sure that the person leaving the comment did not mean anything negative at all in her comment, but it struck a chord with me. I realized that my entryway – the part of my home that is a person’s first impression of our home, is dominated by this huge cat tree! I don’t want that the be my statement piece, if you know what I mean. So, a week or so ago, we were having company and I asked Eric what he thought about moving the tree. He also hates it where it is, but didn’t see any other place to put it…so it had stayed there. We brainstormed and decided that since we already had the media room torn up (due to a leaky ceiling we had moved all of our cds, etc. over to the other side of the room), it would be easy to move it into that room. So, after a bit of maneuvering (I had to move a bookshelf so that the tree would fit through the door), it is now in its new home in the media room.
My entry way is now bright and open. I’d like to place a small table or cabinet here and then use it for seasonal vignettes. I’d also like to hang a photo Eric took of Grand Central Station here. So many possibilities, but for now I like having the open empty entryway as a first impression, rather than the other.

And Romeo seems happy with the move.
The photo at the very top of this post was taken prior to our dinner guest arriving. We recently bought new everyday dishes and I just love that they are all white. We used our wedding crystal as well. It was such a lovely evening, but I was well-pleased with how the table looked too.
I should have a couple more changes to show soon, as well as a discussion on style and trying to define that in my home.
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Entry and Dining Room

Welcome inside!

I thought I would start the tour with the obvious “front rooms”. Above is a photo of the entry way in our home. I love the rug. There’s really not much else to see other than a silk plant near the stairs and a cat condo. I really hate having the cat condo be the first thing you see when you walk in my house. I just couldn’t find a better place for it. The entry way is just so plain an uneventful. I don’t think it really reflects who we are. Eric took an amazing photo at Little Round Top in Gettysburg recently, that we are having printed and will frame. I would like it to hang on the wall at the bottom of the stairs behind the door. I love using our travel photos as artwork for our home. Just inside the door, we have this little tile with an “L” for our last name.
The dining room is just off the entry way. When we got married, we didn’t have any furniture for the dining room, so these pieces were our first (and only) purchases. I love the table and the buffet – I think they are just beautiful. The table does have a leaf in it, so it can be made smaller.
Because of the style of the chairs, we decided to go with some Asian decor in this room. The napkin rings are black iron looking, and have an I-Ching looking coin on them. I searched for a long time for a Buddha statue that I liked. This one actually came from Target.
For the buffet table, as soon as we purchased this I knew it was perfect to hold Eric’s swords. He collects swords and these needed a place of honor. We have our woven straw coasters on the left corner. On the right corner, that little box holds a sword-cleaning kit. There are Japanese characters on the lid. On the bottom shelf sits our three crystal decanters and a Mah Jong set. Above the buffet are some of our wedding photos.
We have a little jade piece hanging from the light fixture. The light fixture itself came with the house. I believe the jade piece is a character for wealth.
I consider this room “finished” except for one thing.
My Kimono quilt top has been assembled, but has not been quilted. I need to quilt it and finish it into a wall hanging. At the moment the quilt top is just tacked to the wall. The wall it is on is really too small for it, but as this is an octagonal-shaped room, there wasn’t really another choice. I love this quilt though. Once we started on the Asian accents for the room, I worked really hard to complete it.
I don’t know that I really like “theme rooms”. I do like rooms to have a certain feel to them, and as I have a degree in Art History, a lot of the rooms I am attracted to are based on specific cultures or periods. I do love the idea of having “period rooms” throughout the house, and hopefully they will all work together as a whole.

To “finish” these two areas I intend to have the Little Round Top photo printed, framed and hung as well as to quilt and finish the Kimono quilt. Any other suggestions?

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