Saturday, December 31, 2016

Weekend Wardrobe: Winter 4x4 Wardrobe Inspired by a Hèrmes Scarf

From Polyvore

Much as I love the color red, even I am tired of seeing bold holiday hues. I decided it was time to check out less flamboyant winter wardrobe colors, and the image of a vintage Hermès "Springs" Silk Scarf shown above was the inspiration for the muted color scheme of today's 4x4 wardrobe:

Various shades of olive green are represented in the scarf, so that is the muted dark neutral I chose for this collection:

Clockwise from top left: Edamame London 'Susie' Relaxed Fit Jumper in Army; Etro Band Collar Silk Shirt in Green; Haider Ackermann Long Zipped Cardigan in Khaki; No21 Tailored Trousers in Green.

The greens I picked are more of a grey-green than a yellow-green, because my second color choice from the scarf was a pale to medium grey:

Clockwise from top left: Seventy by Sergio Tegon Silk Blouse in Grey; Fay Roll Neck Jumper in Light Grey; L.L. Bean Women's Classic Cashmere Open Cardigan in Light Grey Heather; No21 Tailored Trousers in Grey.

The final color had to be the pale pink which is the base color of the scarf:

Clockwise from top left: Vivienne Westwood Hercules Kiss T-Shirt; Giamba Polka Dot Jumper in  Pink; Ralph Lauren Cashmere V-Neck Cardigan in Vintage Rose; Emilio Pucci Slim-Fit Trousers in Light Pink.

The t-shirt in this pink group sets the tone for the wardrobe, which is tailored but feminine (and also adds a bit of the gold accent color from the scarf that I will include in next week's accessories post).  And for Valentine's Day, fast approaching in the not-so-distant future, wouldn't this top be perfect?

Finally, a bit more personality is added to the wardrobe in the last set of four:

Clockwise from top left: Giambattista Valli Printed Silk Blouse; Orvis Paisley Silk Popover Tee in Olive; J. Crew Lightweight Wool Pencil Skirt in Heather Flannel; Miss Selfridge Nude Crepe Midi Skirt.

With three pairs of very tailored pants already included in the collection, I thought it was time to add skirts for a couple of more feminine options.  The two new blouses continue the fluid look of silk in delicate prints.

Putting all four sets together gives us the following winter 4x4 wardrobe:

And because almost no one lives in dressy clothes all of the time, here is an extra set of four which focuses on a casual look and would complement the basic wardrobe above nicely:

Clockwise from top left: L.L. Bean Women's Pima Cotton Turtleneck in White; Burberry Checked Cotton Shirt in Antique Pink; Dorothy Perkins Pink Colourblock Bomber Jacket; H&M Girlfriend Jeans in Grey.


Next week I will choose accessories, some of which will include the gold accent in the scarves, in addition to the scarf itself!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Foodie Fridays: Cheesy Chicken and Corn Pudding

My recipe for Cheesy Chicken and Corn Pudding was inspired by Trader Joe's Corn Pudding, which I tried for the first time a few weeks ago.  It was amazingly good, and in my opinion was even better when I stirred in some leftover cooked chicken.  I found a recipe for Classic Baked Corn Pudding, made some changes to duplicate the Trader Joe's version, and was pleased with the results.  This dish is the perfect comfort food, rivaling even my favorite macaroni and cheese in that category.  I think you are in for a treat if you try this one!

Cheesy Chicken and Corn Pudding

1/4 C. butter
1 shallot, minced
1/4 C. flour
salt and pepper to taste
2 C. milk
3 eggs, beaten
1 C. shredded cheese (I used an Italian cheese blend)
1 bag (12 oz.) frozen corn, thawed and drained
1 T. fresh thyme leaves (optional)
2-3 C. chopped cooked chicken
1/3 C. panko bread crumbs
1 T. butter, melted

In a large skillet, melt the 1/4 C. butter over medium heat.  Add the shallot and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until tender.  Sprinkle in the flour and seasonings (I used 1/2 tsp. salt) and stir until well blended.  Slowly whisk in the milk, breaking up any lumps.  Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.  Stir a few spoonfuls of the flour mixture into the beaten eggs to temper them, and then add the eggs to the skillet, stirring until smooth.  Mix in the corn, thyme, and chicken.  Spoon the mixture into a greased 2-quart casserole dish (or a 9-inch square pan).

In a small bowl, combine the panko and the 1 T. melted butter.  Sprinkle over the corn mixture.  Bake at 350 degrees for about one hour, or until the mixture is set and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.  Serves 6.

Notes: This recipe can be customized in so many ways!  SautΓ© some minced red bell pepper, or any other vegetable you like, with the shallot (or use onion if you want). Replace some of the milk with light or heavy cream.  Use any good melting cheese you prefer (cheddar is always a good choice).  Minced fresh herbs such as parsley and/or basil can be added with or substituted for the thyme (or use dried herbs).  Nutmeg is a good addition to any creamy dish.  Substitute turkey, ham, or sausage for the chicken, or leave out the meat entirely.  Use crushed crackers or croutons for the crunchy topping.  You are only limited by your imagination here!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

This 'n That Thursdays: Design Trends That I Hope Will Go Away in 2017

From McMansion Hell

I have recently started reading the hilarious McMansion Hell website, which describes itself thusly:

"If you love to hate the ugly houses that became ubiquitous before (and after) the bubble burst you've come to the right place... "

recent post is a retrospective of the most boring interior design trends of 2016.  I have to say that I found myself agreeing with a lot of them!  So much so, in fact, that I decided to put together my own list of design trends that have become so ubiquitous I am tired of seeing them.  Here is my own personal list of five design trends that I hope will go away in 2017:

Brrrrr!!! (from Elle Decor)

1) White Kitchens - I accidentally almost typed this out in all capital letters, and I am thinking it was actually a Freudian slip that I should have left in.  I have to say it - I despise white kitchens!  Remember the dark cherry cabinets/black granite countertops kitchen trend from about two decades ago?  I was not a fan, but I almost wish that trend had stayed and the almost universal current whiteness of kitchens had never happened.  I cringe whenever someone tells me that they have painted high-quality wood cabinets white.  This was suggested to us when we put our Serenbe house on the market, and I absolutely refused.  The cabinets are less than five years old and are solid oak, which is a wood that we love.  I would rather not sell the house than paint those cabinets white!

Seriously, if it weren't for the green Christmas tree and the fire
in the fireplace, you would think this room had been photo-
graphed in black and white! (from One Kindesign)

2) Grey Rooms - grey has replaced white and beige as the favorite neutral color for quite a while now.  I have never liked grey.  I think it is a depressing color, and I would like to see it go away, perhaps replaced with a very pale yellow as the new neutral?  I just prefer warm colors to cool ones, and even white is a more cheerful option than any shade of grey, in my opinion.

All white and all subway tiles - enough already! (from Houzz)

3) Subway Tiles - subway tiles look cheap, especially the white ones.  That is my opinion, and I'm sticking to it.  There is a reason they are called subway tiles.  They belong in subways, and nowhere else.  Given the wide range of tile choices out there, I find it quite dumbfounding that so many decide to cover their walls with these mind-numbingly boring tiles.  Express your individuality, people, and choose something else!

Vast expanses of grey and white - at least the floor is different, but don't
get me started on my opinion of wood floors in the kitchen!
(from Concrete FX Epoxy Flooring)

4) Concrete Countertops - this is just a personal dislike because I do not care for high maintenance countertops (I don't want to have to seal and wax my countertops once a month!).  I feel the same way about marble and granite.  My preference is for quartz countertops because they are so durable and relatively low maintenance.  However, for those who like to spend time babying their countertops, I really do think concrete (and marble and granite) can be very attractive.

I think I'm starting to miss Marsala, the 2015 Pantone Color of the Year -
okay, not really! (from Pantone)

5) Pantone's Color of the Year - it has been a long time since I have liked a Pantone Color of the Year choice.  This year's selection is no exception as it is, like subway tiles, a personal dislike.  I just cannot abide yellow-green!  The sooner this pick bites the dust the better, as far as I am concerned.  There are so many lovely shades of green that I would rather see than Greenery!


I feel so much better now that I have confessed to my top interior design grievances!  Sorry if I bad-mouthed one or more of your favorites, but I say to each his/her own.  Feel free to admit to your own least (and most) favorites, and design your spaces accordingly!

A living room in grey and Greenery - my worst nightmare!
(from Decor Pad)

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wish List Wednesdays: National Geographic's Bolivian Tapestry Suede Tote

If you are in the market for a new tote bag, check out the Bolivian Tapestry Suede Tote from the National Geographic Store.  Pieces of vintage mantas - Bolivian handwoven woolen textiles in geometric patterns - are framed in suede and leather by local artisans to create these roomy 15x12-inch tote bags with 15-inch leather handles.  Each manta is unique so no two bags are alike.  Available in red or brown, these totes are on sale right now at $75.99 (originally $109), so this is the time to get one of these beauties!

Sunday, December 25, 2016

On the Homefront: Rustic Gingerbread and Pine Trees Christmas Table

Santa Paws the Dalmatian wishes you a very merry Christmas!

The Christmas table in today's post is the one I set two years ago, but ended up not posting then because our poor Dalmatian Gia was hit by the mail truck in our driveway on the day before Christmas that year (we lost her a month later, not directly due to the accident but to an unusually aggressive cancer instead).  Since I just did a post about our Winter Solstice table, I decided to use these photos from the past rather than setting a new table.

The inspiration for this table started with a tutorial about folding napkins to resemble Christmas trees on the blog Between Naps on the Porch.  I already had plenty of tableware with a northern woodlands theme collected when we lived in Colorado, so I mostly used what I had for this table setting.  I added just a couple of new items to enhance the theme (the flatware and teddy bear ornaments).  The table turned out quite nicely, so it was a shame that it never got put to use.  Maybe some year I will set it up again for the holidays in memory of our beloved Gia.

For some reason the photos came out very dark, probably because the
weather was overcast.

Dark green pine tree placemat (from The Cupboard in Fort Collins, Colorado, many years ago); cream-colored Great Ideas Embossed Pinecone Dinnerware soup bowl and dinner plate (from Target many years ago); dark green napkin (see instructions for the Christmas tree napkin fold here); teddy bear miniature ornament (from Walmart two years ago); Pine Cone Pattern Flatware (from Bass Pro Shops two years ago); pale green goblet; Ned Smith Game Bird Old Fashioned Glass (gift from my dad eons ago).

I've had this Christmas moose cookie jar for many years
(I think it came from Target).

A better look at the cream pitcher and dessert plates as well as the
pine cone pattern tea cozy.

A giant pine cone candle set in a bed of tiny pine cones serves as
the table centerpiece.

Pine cone salt and pepper shakers and a pine cone-embossed
bowl which will hold the mashed potatoes sit at the front of
the table.

The menu for this Christmas dinner is simple to make and very tasty.  The original soup recipe was embellished slightly with the addition of nutmeg and sherry, which complement the cream and the mushrooms, respectively.  I am not fond of salmon, and the honey mustard version is the only way I will eat it and actually enjoy it.  I halved the gingerbread cookie recipe but otherwise made no changes.  Do be sure to keep that cookie dough very cold or you will have to deal with a sticky mess!

Rustic Christmas Menu:

Creamy Mushroom and Ginger Soup*
SautΓ©ed Spinach and Baby Kale with Garlic and Lemon
Chewy Gingerbread Cookies**
Coffee or Tea

The soup is topped with a sprinkling of grated nutmeg and
a scattering of fresh thyme leaves.

*Creamy Mushroom and Ginger Soup

3 T. olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and minced
1 T. minced or grated fresh ginger
2 lbs. cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
4 C. vegetable stock (I used unsalted)
salt to taste (I used 1 tsp. salt)
1/4 C. sherry
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 C. heavy cream

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the shallots and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes until the shallots are soft.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring often, until they release their liquid.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.  PurΓ©e the soup with an immersion blender until smooth.  Stir in the sherry, nutmeg, and cream.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.  Heat (but do not boil) and serve.  Serves 6.

**Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 C. molasses
1 1/4 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/3 C. sugar

In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Beat in the eggs and molasses.  Stir in the remaining ingredients except for the sugar.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Place the sugar in a small bowl.  Shape the very cold dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the sugar.  Place the balls 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or just until set and soft in the center.  Cool for 2 minutes.  Remove from the cookie sheets to cooling racks and cool completely.  Store the cookies tightly covered for up to one week.  Makes 30 cookies.

Note: This dough is easiest to handle if kept very cold (the molasses makes it very sticky).  I chilled the dough overnight, then shaped it into balls (the cold dough is very stiff) and chilled those as well.  I baked a dozen balls at a time, rolling them in the sugar just before baking.  Normally I have the cookies on pans waiting to bake in the oven, but for this dough I found it was better to let the oven wait for the cookies rather than vice versa.

A woodsy vignette on the credenza, with gingerbread-scented candles
on the ends, pine tree-shaped candles in pine cone-shaped holders next
to them, and a platter with a design of cardinals in birch trees in the center.

A closer look at the pretty platter.


🎢 We wish you a Merry Christmas,
and a Happy New Year! 🎢

Holiday Hits: Merry Christmas!

From Town and Country Living

Season's Greetings to all!  I hope Santa visited your home last night and left all kinds of wonderful goodies!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Weekend Wardrobe: Buffalo Check Weekend Holiday Travel Wardrobe

From Pinterest

It should come as no surprise that the holiday weekend travel wardrobe featured today is based on buffalo check plaid, as I have already done two posts this week (here and here) featuring this pattern!  Even though we are enjoying a break from the bleak and cold weather of last week, now that winter has arrived a warm and weather-resistant wardrobe is a necessity, especially if you are traveling to a colder location for the holidays.

Let's start with the apparel to wear while in transit (keep in mind that the flannel shirt worn as an outer layer can also be worn on its own, or under the packed sweater):

Clockwise from top left: Woolrich Women's Buffalo Check Flannel Shirt in Red/Black Plaid; Turtle Fur Double-Layer Bang Band in Black; Orvis Barbour Cavalry Polarquilt Jacket in Red; L.L. Bean Women's Wind Challenger  Fleece Gloves in Black/Carbon; Madewell Women's Buffalo Check Trouser Socks in Scarborough Red; L.L. Bean Women's Bethel Waterproof Boots in Black; L.L. Bean Women's Relaxed Fit Double L Jeans in Black; L.L. Bean Women's Braided Leather Belt in Black; L.L. Bean Women's Long-Sleeve Crewneck Pima Cotton Tee in Fiery Red.

And here are the items to be packed:

Clockwise from top left: Mango Violeta Alpaca Wool-Blend Sweater in Medium Red; eBay Madewell Red & Black Buffalo Check Vest;  L.L. Bean Women's Long-Sleeve Crewneck Pima Cotton Tee in White; Charming Charlie Buffalo Plaid Scarf in Red; SmartWool Women's Cable II Socks in Black; L.L. Bean Women's Comfort Mocs in Black; Coldwater Creek Pinwale Stretch Corduroys in Black; L.L. Bean Women's Long-Sleeve Crewneck Pima Cotton Tee in Black.

While I really love that Madewell vest, I could only find one in a size medium available on eBay.  However, there is a nice buffalo check vest currently on sale from Woolrich that would work as well.   And as a nod to our recently proclaimed National Mammal which lent its name (however erroneously in the taxonomic sense!) to this classic plaid, I had to include the silver buffalo cuff bracelet as part of this travel wardrobe.

This is a collection of casual apparel that will keep you warm and comfortable even in the coldest of holiday destinations!


Have yourself a merry little Christmas, everyone!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Foodie Fridays: Quinoa-Corn Salad with Feta and Walnuts

A recipe for Corn Salad with Walnuts and Feta from the Framed Cooks blog was the inspiration for this recipe, as were some leftover red quinoa, fresh thyme, and feta cheese in my fridge.  Extremely easy to make, this recipe was quite delicious as a lunch dish along with a bowl of homemade Chinese Dumpling Soup (it would also make a quick and tasty side dish for dinner).  The chewy texture of the quinoa, the sweet crispness of the corn, and the slightly bitter crunch of the walnuts blend well with the salty tang of the feta cheese.  This simple recipe is definitely worth trying!

Quinoa-Corn Salad with Walnuts and Feta

2 C. cooked quinoa
2 C. frozen corn, thawed
1 T. fresh thyme leaves (optional)
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 1/2 C. coarsely chopped walnuts
juice of 1 lime
4 T. olive oil
2 T. minced fresh parsley (optional)

Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk together the remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the quinoa mixture.  Toss until well blended.  Serve at room temperature.  Serves 8.

Notes: I used red quinoa, but regular quinoa is fine (although the color of the dish will be rather bland).  The herbs are optional, and feel free to substitute any others, such as oregano, cilantro, and/or basil.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

This 'n That Thursdays: Scandinavian-Style Christmas Interiors

From DCUO Post

Last week's Scandinavian-inspired living room style board led to a search for interior images featuring this same look.  These clean-lined rooms decorated with red, white, and grey dΓ©cor would make anyone, Scandinavian or not, feel like celebrating a merry and bright Christmas!  Take a look and enjoy the happy holiday mood these rooms evoke:

From Omsols

From Town and Country Living

From The Leaning Cottage

From Ideal Home

From Design Innova

From Town and Country Living

From Century Mills of Sheffield

From Michael Guineys Ltd.

From One Kindesign

From HomeMyDesign

From Etsy


A wonderfully cozy and merry Christmas to all!

From SweNZ Taste

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On the Homefront: Winter Solstice Table

Crystal the Dalmatian always looks forward to the start of winter,
her favorite season!

We are not really in the holiday mood this year, but I am always happy to see the shortest day of the year end, so I decided to set a table celebrating the Winter Solstice.  My inspiration was the Winter Horses Plates I purchased recently.  The wintry color scheme of brown, black, and white depicted on the plates was used on this table, with a few very subtle touches of red (the bows on the Dalmatians!).

Dark brown wooden bead placemat (from Target ages ago); square white dinner plate (from HomeGoods a couple of years ago); black napkin; Winter Horses Plate; white-handled flatware (from Target ages ago); black-stemmed wine glass (from Target ages ago); Gallop Tumbler Glass.

A closer look at the Winter Horses Plate, to be used as a dessert plate.

The square white plates in the foreground will be used for the
bread and dessert.

A very simple candle centerpiece.

Frost and Snow, two winter-loving Dalmatians sporting red bows, and my
 favorite Japanese white ceramic horse sit at the head of the table.

The vase is filled with branches strung with tiny white lights.

A simple but hearty meal seemed appropriate for the cold temperatures we have been experiencing lately.  The muffins are just a variation on a Beer Bread recipe.  The original recipe for Northwoods Pie was made with ground beef, regular bacon, and baked beans with added bacon.  Since I am allergic to beef and pork, I substituted ground chicken, chicken bacon, and vegetarian beans.  The result was very good, but if you prefer red meat just refer to the original recipe.  I love caraway seeds with cabbage, but if you do not like them you can leave them out.  The only change I made to the bar cookies, other than halving the recipe, was the addition of ground cinnamon.  If you cannot find the cinnamon chips in your local stores then leave them out, or substitute any chips you like (white chocolate would be tasty) and/or your favorite nuts.

Northwoods Pie plus SautΓ©ed Cabbage and Baby Kale with Caraway Seeds

Winter Solstice Menu:

Beer Bread Muffins*
Northwoods Pie**
SautΓ©ed Cabbage and Baby Kale with Caraway Seeds†
Maple Cinnamon Bars††

*Beer Bread Muffins

3 C. self-rising flour
3 T. sugar
1 can (12 oz.) beer
3 T. melted butter

In a large bowl, combine the first three ingredients, stirring until the flour is completely incorporated into the liquid.  Spoon the batter into a lightly greased muffin tin, dividing evenly among the 12 cups.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and brush or drizzle the top of each muffin with the melted butter.  Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes, until the tops are crunchy and golden brown.  Serve warm with butter (these muffins are best when eaten the day they are made).  Makes 12 muffins.

**Northwoods Pie

2 T. oil
1 lb. ground chicken or turkey
1 small onion, diced
3 oz. precooked chicken or turkey bacon (I used Al Fresco Fully Cooked Uncured Chicken Bacon)*
1 can (28 oz.) vegetarian baked beans
2 T. maple syrup (optional)
2 C. shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat the oil in a large skilled over medium heat.  Add the ground chicken or turkey and diced onion.  Brown the mixture, stirring to crumble the poultry, until cooked through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from the pan, draining off any excess fat.

Lightly grease the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish or a 9-inch square pan.  Add a layer of half of the poultry mixture.  If desired, stir 2 T. maple syrup into the baked beans.  Top the poultry layer with half of the beans.  Sprinkle on one cup of the cheese.  Place half of the bacon slices over the top.  Repeat all of the layers.

Cover the pan with foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbly.  Remove the foil and bake about 5 minutes longer to brown the cheese, if desired.  Cool slightly before serving.  Serves 4-6.

*If you prefer, you can use 8 oz. of uncooked bacon (any variety).  After removing the cooked chicken and onions from the pan, add the bacon to the skillet and cook until halfway done (about 5 minutes).  Place on paper towels to drain any excess fat.

SautΓ©ed Cabbage and Baby Kale with Caraway Seeds

2 T. oil
1 bag (14 oz.) shredded coleslaw mix
1 bag (5 oz.) baby kale
1 T. caraway seeds
2 T. butter

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the coleslaw mix and sautΓ© until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the baby kale by handfuls, stirring into the cabbage until wilted before adding the next handful.  Stir in the caraway seeds and butter.  Continue to stir and cook until the butter is melted.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4.

These Maple Cinnamon Bars are absolutely delicious!

Maple Cinnamon Bars

1/2 C. softened butter
1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. maple syrup
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. maple extract
1 1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (or more to taste)
5 oz. (1/2 bag) cinnamon chips

Line a 9-inch square pan with foil and spray with baking spray (leave a 2-inch foil overhang).

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy.  Stir in the maple syrup, eggs, vanilla, and maple extract until well blended.

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.  Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well combined.  Stir in the cinnamon chips.  Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes.  Cut into bars.  Makes 16 bars.


This Dalmatian-shaped tin was a recent purchase from

Happy Winter Solstice!