Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Wish List Wednesdays: Autumnal Dinnerware from Williams-Sonoma

Williams-Sonoma has some new dinnerware available that would be perfect for late summer/early fall.  Their Botanical Sunflower ($51.95-$69.95), Botanical Pumpkin ($51.95-$79.95), and Acorn ($59.95-$67.95) Dinnerware span the seasonal change from summer to autumn in lovely fashion.  The biggest problem is deciding which of the three sets you like best, since buying all three would be rather excessive.  And any of these dinnerware collections would be beautifully complemented by the Hammered Copper Chargers ($29.95 each) and the copper-handled Anatolia Flatware ($391.95 for a 20-piece set) also currently available.  What a bountiful fall harvest of tableware!


Sunday, August 28, 2016

On the Homefront: Colorful Dalmatian Appreciation Day Table

Dexter and Delilah Dalmatian have donned colorful and casual garb
in anticipation of a relaxed pizza party for their special day!

Happy Dalmatian Appreciation Day, everyone!  For this fourth annual celebration, I decided to go for rainbow colors, inspired by the Bill Tosetti Dalmatian Coasters (which are still available, by the way) I described in an older Wish List Wednesdays post.  Of course I also added Dalmatian spots to the mix.

Turquoise round woven place mat, yellow dinner plate (Block Basics by Cerind of Portugal), Dalmatian dessert plate (by Karen Donleavy), Dalmatian flatware (from Cow Depot), yellow napkin (one of four different colors), Bill Tosseti Dalmatian coaster (one of four colors), lime green champagne flute (one of four colors), green Tuscana Colored Stemless Wine Glass (one of four colors).

The big red bowl will hold the salad, the Dalmatian mug on the left
is for the salad dressing, and the bowl on the right will be filled with
croutons for anyone who wants them.

An oval yellow platter atop a striped table runner holds a colorful flower
pot candleholder surrounded by turquoise glass beads for a centerpiece.
On either side of the platter are whimsical Dalmatian salt and pepper

A Dalmatian cookie jar and dog bowl for the chocolate chip cookies,
and two colorful vases full of daisy mums in memory of my sweet
little miniature donkey, Daisy.

The menu for the day is very casual, because we are having a pizza party!  We ordered our favorite pizza from the local pizza place, and served it with a simple Caprese green salad (baby romaine leaves topped with fresh mozzarella pearls, diced tomatoes, some julienned fresh basil leaves, and a bottled red wine vinaigrette).  For dessert, the logical choice would be chocolate chip cookies (for the spots, of course!).  Make your own or buy your favorite store-bought cookies (I've included the popular Nestle's toll house recipe here, but use your preferred version).

Colorful Dalmatian Appreciation Day Menu:

Mushroom, Onion, and Black Olive Thin-Crust Pizza
Caprese Green Salad/Red Wine Vinaigrette
Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies*

From Allrecipes.

*Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt (I use 1/2 tsp.)
1 C. butter, softened
3/4 C. sugar
3/4 C. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 C. (12 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C. chopped nuts (optional)

Combine the first three ingredients in a small bowl.  Beat together the butter, sugars, and vanilla in a large bowl until creamy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Gradually beat in the flour mixture until moistened.  Stir in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Drop the cookie dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 350 degrees for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheets for two minutes.  Remove the cookies to a wire rack and cool completely.  Makes 60 cookies.

Rainbow the Dalmatian joins the party sporting a lei of colorful flowers!


We hope everyone had a fun-filled Dalmatian Appreciation Day!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Weekend Wardrobe: Travel Wardrobe Inspired by Kurt Seligmann's Exotic Garden Painting

I mentioned the painting shown above, Exotic Garden by Kurt Seligmann, in my Wish List Wednesdays post earlier this week.  I was so taken by the bold flora and autumnal colors of this lovely work that I decided to create a travel wardrobe based on four of the colors in the painting (this idea was inspired by The Vivienne Files "Start with Art" concept):

Of course I had to include the shawl described in my Wednesday post, as well as a tote and weekender bag in the same design available from The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Shop.  (I also selected all of the amber jewelry from the museum shop as well.)  I think this wardrobe would be perfect for a fall trip to a favorite big city to visit museums and/or a botanical garden or conservatory, plus perhaps a play in the evening and some fine dining at fancy restaurants as well!

These are the items I selected for the flight to the chosen destination:

Clockwise from top left: Organic Amber Flower EarringsExotic Garden ShawlExotic Garden ToteDorothy Perkins Tan 'Megan' Slouch BootsH&M CrΓͺped Pants in Black; Mango Flowy Blouse in Caramel.

The packed wardrobe would include the following pieces (the bag shown is probably not quite big enough for everything, but I had to include it!):

Clockwise from top left: Amber Flower Necklace; Seligmann Weekender Tote; Amber Woven Bracelet; H&M Textured Cardigan in Black; Kobe Silk Top in Black; High-Waisted Stretch Wool-Crepe Trousers in Turmeric Yellow; Coldwater Creek Knit-Waist Linen Pants in Cypress; Aerosoles Women's Fashionista Ballet Flats in Black Leather; Serengeti Cuffed Knit Top in Rust; Serengeti Reversible Garden Skirt; H&M Off-the-Shoulder Blouse in Khaki Green; Center top: H&M Ribbed Sweater in Yellow Melange; Center bottom: H&M Silk-Blend Top in Black.

I almost forgot to include a smaller bag for times when the big tote is not practical.  The bag I would choose is the Sak Pax Swing Pack in Black Onyx, which is small enough to easily fit into the tote:


Now my fall wardrobe for a fun trip to the city is complete.  I am really looking forward to the time when the weather is cool enough to wear a wardrobe like this one comfortably.  Summer has more than worn out its welcome for me at this point!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Foodie Fridays: Creamy Red Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts with Chicken

Don't let the rather alarming colors of this dish scare you away from trying it, as it is really very good and quite satisfying.  I was looking for a way to use up some leftover red cabbage and cream, and this  combination of ingredients was the result.  This recipe is my substitution for a creamy pasta dish like Fettuccine Alfredo, with the vegetables substituting for the pasta to keep the carbohydrates to a minimum.  Surprisingly, I did not miss the pasta at all, and I am a pasta fanatic!

I found bagged shaved Brussels sprouts in the produce section of our local Publix, but if you are in the mood you could shred your own in a food processor.  I also bought roasted chicken breasts from the deli section, but feel free to cook your own.  Use green cabbage instead of red if you prefer.  I love caraway seeds with cabbage, so I may add some next time, but even without them I really enjoyed this dish.

Creamy Red Cabbage and Brussels Sprouts with Chicken

4 T. butter
1/2 small head of red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 bag (12 oz.) shaved Brussels sprouts
1 C. chicken stock (I used unsalted)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 C. heavy cream
1 T. Wondra flour
2-3 C. diced or shredded cooked chicken

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the cabbage and Brussels sprouts and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.  Stir in 1/2 C. of the stock plus the salt and allow to come to a boil.  Turn the heat down to medium low, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are almost completely soft.

Stir in the remaining broth and the cream.  Turn up the heat and bring the liquids to a boil.  Stir in the flour and cook until the liquid thickens.  Add the chicken and heat through.  Remove from the heat and cover.  Allow to sit for about 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.  Stir and serve.  Serves 4.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

This 'n That Thursdays: How to Make Up a Holiday

The Cuban sandwich -- does it really have its own holiday?

August 23rd is supposedly National Cuban Sandwich Day -- or is it?  While looking for a daily holiday to post on that date, I came across a story about a reporter who decided to create a new food holiday just to see if he could get away with making it seem official (you can read the story here).  Apparently it is not hard at all to make up a holiday, and most of the people he initially persuaded to accept it did not seem to care that it was not real.

It turns out that a lot of daily holidays are not "official", but just what makes a holiday official seems to be loosely defined.  There is a difference between a true federal holiday, which requires an act of Congress, and all other "national" holidays.  Even a federal holiday is not binding across all 50 states, so any state that decides it no longer wants to recognize Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, or one of the other nine official federal holidays is free to refrain from celebrating (although all federal employees would still get the day off).  Holidays can also be created by presidential proclamation.  A proclamation means that the holiday is acknowledged, but there is no obligation to celebrate or promote the day.  State or local governments can also proclaim a special day, but again this sort of recognition is limited.

Any other "national" holiday can be created by anyone who would just like to have a certain day recognized for a specific reason.  There is nothing stopping you from just calling a certain day whatever you like and celebrating (or not) accordingly.  For example, my love of Dalmatians led to my creation of "Dalmatian Appreciation Day", which is fast approaching on August 28th, but this is just a personal celebration for me and I do not expect it to become nationally recognized.  However, if you would like to achieve widespread recognition for your holiday there are a few ways to approach this goal.

If you would like to create a national food or drink holiday, The Balance website gives pertinent information here.  Many businesses have created these sorts of holidays to promote their products, and as far as I am concerned, if it means free samples and/or great deals on a product, then I am all for it!  After all, no one is forced to celebrate any holiday, so why not indulge in your favorite food on its special day (or week or month) if you feel like doing so?

From The Original Talk Like a Pirate Day Site.

Various websites which list daily holidays have their own criteria for accepting holidays for their calendars.  The Brownielocks website (the first place I go when looking for daily holidays) specifies its own criteria for listing on their site, which requires a validated origin source and/or official sponsor.  The holiday must be listed in Chase's Calendar of Events or have a website (not a blog) dedicated to the observance.  Chase's Calendar of Events does not seem to have updated its application form for the 2018 edition yet (the deadline for 2017 has passed), so the easiest way to set up a holiday right now on Brownielocks would be the creation of a website, should you be interested.  Who knows, your creation may become as big a sensation as International Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19th) or Festivus (December 23rd)!

From Urban Milwaukee.

Well, now that you've learned probably more than you ever wanted to know about daily holidays, go ahead and have a whiskey sour (National Whiskey Sour Day) to celebrate the National Park Service (National Park Service Day, and, coincidentally, their 100th anniversary is this year!), because today, August 25th, is that special day for both!  (It is also Kiss and Make Up Day and National Second-Hand Wardrobe Day, for those who are so inclined.)  Then celebrate any of the August holidays to come (National Toilet Paper Day for tomorrow, anyone?) if you wish.  Just don't expect everyone else to share your enthusiasm, because even holidays can become overwhelming after a while, and there are just so many of them!

From Twitter.                  

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wish List Wednesdays: Cozy Wraps for You and Your Home

From SlideShare.

The Art Institute of Chicago has many lovely items available from their museum shop website.  With cooler weather on the way, I thought it would be fun to match up some of their warm scarves/shawls and throws as a color-coordinated way to stay cozy this fall.  Here are three ideas:

1) The silk crepe Red Gingko Leaf Scarf ($85) and hand-woven wool and silk Leopard Print Throw ($130) are awash in rich autumnal hues of red, rust, and gold, and both exude an exotic feel.

2) Bold botanical images on a black background characterize the opulent silk Exotic Garden Shawl ($160) and the rich cotton Exotic Garden Throw ($125).  Both are based on Kurt Seligmann's Exotic Garden painting found in the Art Istitute of Chicago's permanent collection.

3) Shades of grey, blue, and purple are common to both the wool and silk Modern Infinity Scarf (on sale for $101.99) and the wool/cotton blend Paisley Throw ($240).  What a perfect blend of modern with traditional!

These wraps for you and your home are just a few of the many available from the museum shop, so check them out for yourself to find your own favorite color combinations!

Monday, August 22, 2016

On the Homefront: Dangerous Deck, and Other Calamities!

The deck disaster zone!

Yesterday I fell off of our deck.  I literally plunged face first into a flower bed over six feet below me when our railing, apparently rotted through by all of the rain we have been having, finally gave way, taking me with it.  Fortunately a poor azalea bush partially broke my fall and I only suffered some battering and bruising (I am lucky not to have brittle bones like so many women my age!).  However, my brand new, less than a week old glasses are so badly bent out of shape that I cannot wear them until I take them in and have them straightened.  Of course I am very sore today, but after dragging myself out of bed and hobbling out the door with my dogs for our morning walk I managed to work off the stiffness and now only feel a dull ache.  We have been meaning to replace part of our deck for a while now, but had to keep putting it off when other issues took priority.  Well, I think the deck has now become our number one priority, and hopefully we can get someone out this fall to do the work!

This is just the latest in a series of calamities that have befallen me this month.  Right after my donkey died (the major calamity of the year), I developed an infection at the base of my right index finger from one of many cuts on my hands that I sustained while caring for her.  I had two much worse cuts that I had been treating, so I barely noticed this one, which seemed relatively minor, until it got infected.  The infection finally cleared up, but there was still a small lump that had to be drained.  It turned out that there was a tiny chunk of wood embedded deep in the tissue that finally worked its way out when the wound was drained, and now the wound is completely healed.

I also developed mysterious flu-like symptoms which included a stiff neck not too long after starting the antibiotics for the infected finger, so I had to monitor my recovery to make sure I was not coming down with meningitis (thankfully I did not).  To add insult to injury, my doctor suggested that I take Tylenol to relieve the muscle aches, and I found out that I cannot tolerate high doses of acetaminophen.  I feel like I am on megadoses of caffeine and cannot sit still or fall asleep!

And to top it all off, I developed a bad case of poison ivy (my second this year, probably because all of the rain has made that noxious weed grow profusely).  I am in my third week of dealing with the itchy rash, and I recently read, much to my chagrin, that the rash can keep popping up even three weeks after exposure!  The worst patches are now healing, but I am still finding new small patches in places I did not think were even exposed to the poison ivy.  We are going to a family reunion over the Labor Day weekend and I just hope I am healed sufficiently so that I do not look like a (barely) walking disaster!

I am having a lousy summer.  Needless to say, August cannot end soon enough for me.  I fervently hope that September turns out to be a better month!

Another view of the dangerous deck.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Weekend Wardrobe: Adding More Romance to the Modern Gothic Romance 4x4 Wardrobe

Remember the original Modern Gothic Romance 4x4 Wardrobe shown above that I posted a couple of weeks ago?  Black is obviously the predominant color here, and I featured a lot of black accessories in the follow-up post.  But what if the wearer has a preference for the softer romantic shades rather than the gothic darkness of this collection?  I thought I would create an alternative style board just for this person, reducing the black apparel and substituting others in the pastel and ivory hues.  Here are the pieces I selected for the substitutions:

Clockwise from top left: Lilac Armani Top in Stretch Satin; Chicwish Peach Baroque Embossed Mesh Skirt; Rosetta Getty Asymmetric Open Cardigan in Ivory; 3.1 Phillip Lim Women's White (Ivory) Satin-Paneled Silk Skirt; Center: Haider Ackermann Satin Trousers.

And here is the amended 4x4 wardrobe style board:

Now let's change up some of the accessories to coordinate with this more romantic look.  I always seem to start with shoes, so here are my shoe selections:

Clockwise from top left: Softwalk 'Narina' Ballet Flats in Black Kid Suede; Hush Puppies Cyra Katelyn II Chukka Boots in Off White Perforated Suede; Trotters 'Dea' Slingback Pumps in Bone Leather/Taupe
Patent; Louise et Cie 'Leyna' Slip-On Sandal in Vanilla/Black.

I took a decidedly lavender turn when choosing alternative accessories:

Clockwise from top left: Vince Camuto Orchid Explosion Scarf; Calvin Klein Reversible Tote with Pouch in Orchid/Nude; Marina D'Este 'Laura' Silk Devorè Stole in Lavender; Kate Spade New York 'Henderson Street - Morgane' Satchel in Cement/Crisp Linen.

The new jewelry pieces emphasize lavender and purple shades as well:

Clockwise from top left: Natural Orchid Gold-Plated Flower Necklace, 'Charming'; Vintage Lucien Piccard Oval Amethyst and Pearl Designer Necklace in 14k Yellow Gold; Lavender 7-8 mm Freshwater Pearl 14k Yellow Gold Necklace; Avalaya Large Crystal 'Dragonfly' Brooch in Gold Tone.

Peach was the color of choice for the new coat, with gloves to match, but more lavender shows up in the colorful jacket, and an ivory hat coordinates with both coat and jacket:

Clockwise from top left: Village Hat Shop Toucan Satin Bow Cloche Hat in Ivory; Periwing Purple Brocade Butterfly Button V Collar Chinese Jacket; Fratelli Orsini Everyday Women's Italian Silk/Cashmere Blend Lined Lambskin Leather Gloves in Peach; Rochas Jacquard Coat in Apricot.

I've even included a few more wardrobe pieces as a start to expanding this wardrobe, bringing in just a bit more black since the gothic element is in danger of getting lost in this lighter color palette:

Clockwise from top left: Prada Lace-Paneled Crepe Midi Dress in Ivory; Sonia Rykiel Blazer in Ivory; Saint Laurent Velvet Skirt in Black; Clark's Lucette Drama Boots in Black Suede; Center: Reclaimed Vintage Satin Brocade Backpack in Gold.

I fell in love with the pale gold brocade backpack as I love the juxtaposition of luxurious fabric with utilitarian function.  The backpack actually coordinates well with the new ivory blazer.  And depending upon the accessories chosen, the midi dress can be fancy or casual.


This completes my foray into modern gothic romance for the wardrobe.  Next week I will take you in a completely different direction, using the upcoming fall season as an inspiration.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

On the Homefront: Summer on the Farm Table

Little Flora the Dalmatian loves sunflowers, farm animals,
and the country life!

Remember the Pier 1 Farm Animal Plates post from a couple of months back?  Well, I finally got around to setting a table with my new plates, featuring the summery colors of green and yellow with touches of light brown and white.

Round woven spring green place mat (from Steinmart several years ago); yellow dinner plate (Block Basics by Cerind of Portugal); Pier 1 Farm Animals Dessert Plate; yellow napkin; faux wood-handled flatware; pale green goblet; Tuscana Colored Stemless Wine Glass (from Steinmart several years ago).

Here are the three other animal designs:

The large round yellow platter in the foreground will hold fresh
corn on the cob.

An oval platter for fried chicken takes the place of a decorative centerpiece.

Since the pig plate featured a sunflower, they were the flowers of choice
for this table.  Yellow candles on small white plates and white bird salt
and pepper shakers from Pier 1 complete the decor at the head of the table.

A farm-inspired table deserves a farm-inspired meal.  Since it is summer, lots of fresh produce simply prepared should be featured.  We live in Georgia, so I think fried chicken is a necessary main dish, and a peach recipe is essential for dessert.

You can make your own fried chicken, try the oven-baked version I've suggested, or just get some takeout (the latter is my usual preference, since I cannot abide deep-frying anything!).  I like my fresh corn on the cob barely boiled, steamed, or microwaved, and absolutely plain (no butter, salt, or added flavorings of any sort), but prepare your corn any way you please.  The same is true for the fresh tomatoes.  A smidgen of kosher salt and maybe some ground sesame seeds is my preference, but many people love a creamy dressing (such blue cheese or ranch) or a flavorful vinaigrette on their tomatoes, so serve any dressings you like on the side and let your guests choose.  As for the dessert, I chose a recipe that substitutes almond flour for wheat flour and uses very little sweetener to reduce the carbohydrates.

All of the food will be served boarding house-style on big platters at the table.  This arrangement allows everyone to take what they want when they want.  Just be sure to serve plenty of food for farm-style appetites!

Summer on the Farm Menu:

Iced Tea
Fresh Corn on the Cob
Sliced Fresh Tomatoes
Almond Peach Crumble*

4-5 large peaches, sliced
1 1/4 C. almond flour (not almond meal)
1/8 tsp. salt
2 T. cold butter or coconut oil
1 T. maple syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Place the peaches in a greased 8-inch square baking dish.  Stir together the almond flour and salt in a large bowl.  Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until well blended.  Add the maple syrup and vanilla and use a fork to mix them in thoroughly.  Toss the topping lightly with your fingers and sprinkle it over the peaches.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving.  Serves 4.

From Allposters.


Even if you don't live on Green Acres, I hope you have a sunny and sunflower-filled summer day!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Foodie Fridays: Oven-Fried Chicken Legs

I have an aversion to deep-frying foods, and I am always looking for alternative recipes for fried chicken.  While oven-fried chicken will never have that crispy coating that deep-frying produces, I liked the ease and tastiness of a recipe I found recently for Oven Fried Chicken that calls for chicken legs only.  Normally I prefer white meat, but you just can't beat chicken legs as finger food!  Vary the seasonings to suit your own taste if desired and give this method a try if you too would rather not deep-fry.

Oven-Fried Chicken Legs

1 egg
2 T. water
1 C. panko bread crumbs, crushed fine
1/4 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Montreal steak seasoning
4 T. butter
8 chicken legs
olive oil

Beat the egg and water together in a shallow dish or pie plate.  Place the panko, flour, and seasonings in a large zip top bag and shake until blended.

Melt the butter in a 9x13-inch baking pan.  Dip the chicken legs into the egg mixture.  Place each leg into the dry mixture bag and shake, pressing to coat well.  Put the chicken legs into the melted butter in the baking pan and sprinkle any remaining crumbs over the top (discard the leftover egg).  Drizzle a small amount of olive oil over each chicken piece.

Place the pan in the oven and bake at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes.  Turn the chicken over* and bake an additional 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Remove the skillet from the oven and allow the chicken to cool slightly before serving (serve warm or at room temperature).  Serves 4.

*The chicken may stick to the bottom of the pan, so use a spatula to loosen the pieces before turning with tongs to prevent the breading from coming off.