Saturday, December 30, 2017

Weekend Wardrobe: February Family Visit Travel Wardrobe

Pennsylvania looked a lot like this when I was there recently!
(from GIPHY)

Just before Christmas I visited my brother in Pennsylvania (and got stuck on a plane at the Atlanta airport for almost four hours because I returned on the day the airport lost power, but that's another story!).  My brother recently lost his wife, and has been extremely busy attempting to settle her affairs while also working full time, so my visit was mostly spent trying to help him catch up on more mundane chores such as house cleaning and animal care.  Needless to say, this was not a glamorous vacation, but it was nice to get together with family, especially since my other brother came up from Maryland for a couple of days as well.

All of us, including my sister who was there for Thanksgiving but couldn't make the pre-Christmas trip, will be converging on Pennsylvania for a long weekend to celebrate my brother's birthday in late February.  It is a landmark one for him, and I am sure it will be rather hard on my brother without my sister-in-law, so we do not want him to be alone.  Once again I am expecting to help him catch up on chores, but we will also treat him to a dinner out at a nice restaurant.  Based on my packing experience for the pre-Christmas trip, I have a pretty good idea of what I will need to bring with me in February.  Pennsylvania will be cold then, much colder than Georgia, so I will make sure to have plenty of warm layers.   I need to pack clothes that I can wear to muck out a barn as well as an outfit appropriate for a fancy restaurant.  As always, I want to be comfortable on the plane, especially after my unexpected extended plane experience recently!

First up is the outfit I will be wearing for the flight from Georgia to Pennsylvania, mostly based on similar items I already own and wore when I visited a couple of weeks ago:

Clockwise from top left: Igloos Microfleece Reversible Headband in Anthracite Black; Columbia Women's Mighty Lite Hooded Jacket in Black; Southcombe Mabel Warm Lined Leather Gloves in Black; L.L. Bean Women's Straight-Leg Double L Jeans in Rinsed Wash; J. Crew Women's Tissue Turtleneck T-Shirt in Navy; Gap Dalmatian Graphic Stripe Pullover Sweater in Red; Joe's USA Women's Soft and Cozy Fleece Vest in True Red; Center top: Madewell Zip Top Leather Tote in True Black; Center middle: Hanes Premium Women's Cushioned Crew Socks in Navy; Center bottom: Propet Women's Madison Mid Zip Boots in Black.

It sure seems like a lot of clothes, doesn't it?  The trick is to choose your apparel carefully.  My quilted coat is actually a lightweight one, which does a good job of blocking the wind but is not too uncomfortably warm indoors.  I am one of those people who prefers cooler temperatures, so I never want clothing that is too toasty.  The lighter weight also means that I can easily keep the coat on the plane seat with me (airlines discourage people from putting coats in the overhead bins since there is so little space for carry-on items on planes).  The fleece vest keeps warmth in around my body core, which goes a long way toward making the rest of me feel warm, and if I get too hot I can unzip both the coat and vest to cool off.  The sweater is a cotton blend and the turtleneck tee is lightweight.  I found that I could keep all four layers on even indoors and not get overheated.  Jeans are always warm enough for me, but anyone who wants more warmth could add a layer underneath (silk long underwear like the ones shown here are great for holding in warmth but not adding bulk).

I do not look good in hats and almost never wear them, even in the coldest weather, as I find polar fleece headbands to be more than adequate.  Sleek insulated gloves keep my hands comfortable, and both the headband and gloves fit easily into the generous coat pockets when I do not need to wear them.  I like to wear lightweight socks with fleece-lined boots that are not too tight so that air can circulate and keep my feet warm enough but not too hot.

Next up is all of the packed clothing for this long weekend trip:

Clockwise from top left: Boden Cashmere Crew Neck Sweater in Ivory/Navy Multi Stripe; Lecxci Women's Small Leather Crossbody Bag in Black; Hanes Men's Ultimate Cotton Heavyweight Crewneck Sweatshirt in Deep Red; L.L. Bean Women's Long-Sleeve Crewneck Pima Cotton Tee in Black; Hanes Sport Ultimate Cotton Men's Sweatpants with Pockets in Black; Pendleton Argyle Wool Blend Crew Socks in Charcoal; Traveler's Club Luggage Monterey 18" Expandable Carry-On Spinner Luggage in Red; Soft Style by Hush Puppies Heaven Leather Slip-On Shoes in Black; L.L. Bean Women's Slim Perfect Fit Pants in Classic Navy; L.L. Bean Women's Long-Sleeve Interlock Mock-Turtleneck in Dark Cranberry; Center top: Uniqlo Women's Cotton Cashmere V-Neck Sweater in Navy; Center middle: L.L. Bean Women's Long-Sleeve Interlock Mock-Turtleneck in White; Center bottom: Hanes Premium Women's Cushioned Crew Socks in Navy and Black.

You may have noticed that I am mixing black and navy, which not everyone likes to do.  I personally do not have a problem with these two colors together as my dark neutrals, but for those who do not like the combination, grey or charcoal could be substituted for either color.  I own a lot of red apparel and it fits right in with the rest of the colors.  I found that I practically lived in my heavyweight red sweatshirt on my recent trip to Pennsylvania (mine happens to have the UGA logo on it, but that detail is not a necessity!).  This top keeps me warm enough when I am not active, and I do not worry about getting it dirty if I need to wear it while doing chores.  I even slept in it at night with sweatpants, since I do not normally travel with pajamas (the sweatpants can also be worn when doing chores).  You may have noticed that I selected men's sweats, because I think that they are better made and more practical than the ones made for women.  One pair of warm wool socks is useful for outdoor activities, and I always change back into lightweight socks once back indoors as I find wool socks to be too warm most of the time.

For my upcoming trip, I can wear my travel jeans as chore pants, along with a tee-shirt and the sweatshirt.  The striped sweater and red mock turtleneck with the knit pants will work for the birthday dinner, and the same pants with the navy sweater and white top are fine for the plane trip home.  The navy sweater could even be left out and either the Dalmatian sweater or striped sweater can be worn once more for my return trip, which is what will probably end up happening as I may try to bring an even smaller carry-on bag if possible (it is getting harder and harder to fit luggage into those overhead compartments unless you are one of the priority passengers who gets on the plane first).  I purposely did not pack any jewelry as I do not wear earrings and I think that a necklace or bracelet would be superfluous with all of the layering. For the same reason I did not include a scarf, because the coat and vest can zip up over the neck and most of the tee-shirts cover the neck as well.  If the weather should be unexpectedly warm, the tee-shirts and sweaters can all be worn on their own instead of being layered.


You have finally almost come to the end of this rather long post!  I am not fond of traveling during the winter months due to the unpredictable weather, and most of my upcoming trip will be more like typical chore days at home, but it will be a chance for me to spend some time with all of my siblings, and that is something that happens so rarely I would not even think of missing this event!  2017 was a rather traumatic year for my family, so hopefully we can all enjoy ourselves in 2018 with a birthday celebration for my brother.  I am keeping my fingers and toes crossed that 2018 will be a good year and that nothing will go wrong, at the very least not for this trip!

Friday, December 29, 2017

On the Homefront: Blue and White Christmas Village Table

The cute photo of the Dalmatian puppy shown above was featured as the December dog on one of my Dalmatian calendars from last year, and it actually inspired my current blue and white Christmas table (I kept this image prominently displayed in front of my holiday decorations for the whole year!).  The other inspiration was the purchase of a set of Pier 1 Christmas Village Salad Plates last winter.

From Pier 1

Blue and white are the main colors on these plates, and one of them even features a pet store with a Dalmatian looking out of a second floor window.  Of course there are little Dalmatians scattered about the dining room, all of them either blue-eyed or wearing blue to coordinate with the table!

Blue cotton place mat; white dinner plate (Tivoli by Studio Nova); Christmas Village Salad Plate (from Pier 1 last year); white-handled flatware (from Target ages ago); natural cotton fringed napkin; blue wine goblet; Park Avenue Puppies juice glass for water (from Pier 1 last year).

If you look very closely at the middle window on the second floor of the
pet store, you can just make out the Dalmatian in the window!

I have a set of juice glasses featuring the Pier 1 Park Avenue Puppies
Christmas design from last year that I set out as water glasses for this table.

The complete set of Pier 1 Park Avenue Puppies juice glasses
(image from Pinterest)

An unadorned artificial pine tree is placed at the head of the table.

At the base of the tree sit two blue-eyed Dalmatians and a set of Dalmatian
salt and pepper shakers.

The centerpiece consists of a fat white pillar candle surrounded by
frosty blue glass beads (I use this centerpiece a lot!).

The cheesecake for dessert will sit on this round marble plate, and mugs
are available for anyone who wants a hot beverage as well.

I decided that my Christmas menu this year would consist entirely of recipes I have never made before!  I love white fish in lemon butter sauce so it was about time I learned to make it for myself (I substituted flounder for the tilapia used in the original recipe).  The side dishes are simple enough and we like them both, so it was also time for me to make these recipes from scratch as well!  I did cheat on the dessert because it came with a mail-order gift.  I rarely make cheesecakes because I do not care for them, but my husband does like them so this dessert was a welcome change from the usual low-carb cookies, cakes, or pies I tend to bake for the holidays.

Christmas Village Menu:

White Wine
Lemon Butter Baked Fish with Capers*
Corn Pudding**
Creamed Spinach***
Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake

*Lemon Butter Baked Fish with Capers

2 T. garlic-infused olive oil
4 T. butter, melted
4 T. fresh lemon juice
2 lbs. flounder fillets
4 T. capers, drained
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper (optional)

Whisk together the olive oil, melted butter, and lemon juice in a small bowl.  Place the flounder fillets in a lightly greased 13x9-inch baking pan.  Pour the butter mixture over the top.  Sprinkle the fillets evenly with the capers, oregano, salt, and pepper.  Bake at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes, until the fish flakes easily with a fork.  Serves 4 generously.

**Corn Pudding

2 eggs
12 oz. frozen corn, thawed
2 T. flour
2 T. cornmeal
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
4 oz. cheddar cheese, grated
2 T. butter, melted
1/4 C. buttermilk or plain kefir
1 can (4 oz.) diced green chiles (optional)

In a large bowl, beat the eggs.  Add the corn and stir to combine.  In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking soda, and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture.  Stir in 3 oz. cheese, melted butter, buttermilk or kefir, and chiles if using.

Pour the pudding mixture into a greased 9-inch square baking dish.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the top.  Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.  Cool slightly before serving.  Serves 4.

***Creamed Spinach

4 T. butter
4 T. flour
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 C. milk
salt and pepper to taste
1 pinch nutmeg
16 oz. washed and prepackaged spinach, cooked

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Sprinkle with the flour and whisk together.  Cook for five minutes or until light golden brown.  Stir in the shallot and garlic and cook for another minute.  Pour the milk in slowly, whisking constantly, and cook for another five minutes until smooth and thickened.  Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.  Add the spinach to the cream sauce, stirring gently to combine.  Serves 4.

Note:  I had to use about 1/2 cup more milk than called for in the original recipe, but the cream sauce should be very thick.  When the spinach is added its liquid will thin it out a bit.  If the sauce still seems too thick add a small amount of liquid, but do not add too much or it will become soupy.  This dish can be made ahead, removed from the heat, covered, and then reheated just before serving.

There are also Lindt Lindor truffles on the table for the holidays (Coconut and Caramel with Sea Salt), which doesn't happen very often any more thanks to my low-carb diet.


The credenza Christmas puppies!

Rudolph the red-nosed Dalmatian happily surveys the holiday village
tablescape scene below.

Pixie the Dalmatian elf always enjoys a plentiful Christmas feast.

Sky the blue-eyed Dalmatian joins in the seasonal festivities.

It took me a while to get this post finished, but at least it is up before New Year's Eve!  I hope you and your loved ones had a wonderful Christmas, and that you enjoy what is left of the holiday season as we approach the New Year!

From Zazzle

Foodie Fridays: Cream of Pea Soup

For some reason, our freezer is full of bags of peas (about half a dozen at last count).  I decided it was high time to start using some of them up, and fortuitously a magazine I just bought had the perfect recipe to start this project.  Centennial Kitchen All-Time Favorite Soups & Stews is on newsstands now, and the timing is ideal, as just about everyone is in the throes of wintry weather at the moment that pretty much makes soups mandatory.  The recipe for Cream of Pea Soup is quick (it took me less than 30 minutes), easy, and made with ingredients that are always in my kitchen.  It also tastes wonderful!  There are similar recipes for cream of potato, mushroom, and celery soups that I will also have to make soon, as long as the frigid temperatures last.

Cream of Pea Soup

4 C. frozen peas, cooked
1 1/2 C. chicken stock, divided (I always use unsalted)
1 T. butter
1 T. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 C. milk
2-4 T. minced parsley (see Notes)

Set aside one cup of the peas.  Combine the remaining peas and 3/4 C. chicken stock in a food processor and process until smooth (see Notes).

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and salt and cook, whisking constantly, for about a minute.  Slowly add the milk, continuing to whisk constantly, until smooth.  Once the mixture is thickened and bubbly, cook one more minute.  Stir in the whole peas, purΓ©ed pea mixture, and the remaining 3/4 C. stock.  Cook and stir until well blended and heated through.  Stir in the parsley and serve.  Serves 4.

Notes:  The original recipe calls for 1/4 C. fresh parsley, but I used 2 T. refrigerated parsley paste that I always have in the fridge (I never seem to be able to use up fresh herbs before they go bad, so I usually use these pastes instead).  Instead of purΓ©eing the peas and stock in a food processor, I microwaved the peas in a large bowl, added the stock to the bowl, and used my immersion blender to purΓ©e the mixture.  If you use this method, be careful because the immersion blender is really meant to be used in a flat-bottomed pot, so if your bowl has a curved bottom things could potentially get quite messy!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

This 'n That Thursdays: Menagerie Dining Room Style Board

(Click on image to enlarge)

It has been a while since I have done an interior design style board, but a unique dining room buffet from Anthropologie recently got my attention and inspired me to design a room around it.  Although the rustic, natural wood Handcarved Menagerie Buffet recently sold out, I was quite taken with the various animal motifs carved into each door front.  Here is the style board for a small dining room that came together quickly after I saw this handsome piece of furniture:

Clockwise from top left: CB2 Pony Leather Chair; Wisteria Arana Wood Dining Table; Grandin Road Solange Mirror; Braided Chindi 8' Round Rug; Hudson & Vine 28" Rattan Oval Tray; Port 68 Cooper Nutmeg Brown Buffet Table Lamps; Anthropologie Handcarved Menagerie Buffet (no longer available); Wisteria The Americas Wall Pottery (four different animal designs); Anthropologie Harvest Moon Wallpaper in Black Motif.

I envision wood flooring in this room similar to that seen under the buffet.  And I think the pale blue background color of the style board is a good wall color choice for this otherwise mostly neutral setting because it seems to bring out the colors in the round rug and mirror.  The round motif is enhanced by the animal plates (the plates also emphasize the animal theme) as well as the wall covering, which I would use to cover just one wall, perhaps the one opposite from the buffet.

That buffet is so gorgeous I am not surprised that it sold out.  Perhaps the folks at Anthropologie will bring it back so that more people will have the opportunity to purchase one.  There is also a Handcarved Menagerie Dining Table ($3298) and Dining Chairs ($898 each in four different designs) available for anyone who is particularly enchanted with this style!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Wish List Wednesdays: Gap Dalmatian Graphic Stripe Pullover Sweater

I have been finding delightful Dalmatian-themed apparel everywhere this holiday season!  My latest find is the Dalmatian Graphic Stripe Pullover Sweater ($59.95) from Gap.  The cotton-blend red sweater with navy stripes features a black and white Dalmatian wearing a light tan scarf, a range of colors which makes this sweater very versatile to wear.  I also appreciate the wide ribbing at the cuffs and hem, which prevents cold air from traveling up under the sweater.  This easy-to-wear top will be making its way into my wardrobe for sure, and Gap is having a big winter sale at the moment worth up to 60% off the regular price, which just sweetens the deal!

Monday, December 25, 2017

Holiday Hits: Merry Christmas to All!

Top image from House of Turquoise;
Bottom image from Housely.

Season's Greetings!  Wherever you celebrate, from the torrid tropics to the frozen North, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas (or whatever holiday you enjoy!), and that we can all look forward to a happy, safe, and prosperous New Year.  Now go have some fun and good cheer, perhaps in front of a crackling fire!


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Seasonal Style: Winter Jewel Tones

From Vogue

It's time for another seasonal style post!  For the start of winter I have chosen deep jewel tones in a classic combination of burgundy and blue.  These colors look equally good together as a casual outfit or with a more formal flair, as shown in the velvet dress above.  The black accessories emphasize the moody look that can be achieved with these hues, and the fur trim (hopefully faux) on the sleeves adds an unexpected elegance.

From Sukio Design Co.

The hotel seating area shown above has the same moody feel.  Burgundy velvet sofas and deep blue walls surround a black focal point fireplace, creating an elegant but cozy and inviting retreat for relaxation.  Winter is the time for nesting, and this room tempts one to do just that.  Jewel tones are perfect for a wintry holiday season!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Weekend Wardrobe: Adding to a Basic Black and White 4x4 Wardrobe for the Holidays, Part Two

Once again we visit the basic black and white winter 4x4 wardrobe above (as well as the accompanying accessories) to which we are adding a few more items for the creation of some holiday flair (this is the last time you will be seeing this image, I promise!).  For the woman who wants to venture beyond black and white, but not too far beyond, grey/silver is the perfect choice, and the velvet leggings upon which I have been basing each wardrobe addition conveniently come in a color called Grey Cloud!  If you go with grey your look can be slightly more casual, and silver options will really kick up the elegance of an outfit.  These are the apparel items I found to add to the basic wardrobe:

Clockwise from top left: H&M Glittery Jacket in Silver; Next Christmas Dalmatian Jumper in Grey; H&M Shimmering Metallic Shirt in Silver; Monki Velvet Leggings in Grey Cloud; Dorothy Perkins Luxe Silver Floral Maxi Skirt; Paco Rabanne Metallic Long Sleeve T-Shirt in Silver.

If you read my blog you probably could have guessed that I would have to show a sample outfit based upon the Dalmatian sweater!  I decided to make this holiday ensemble more casual.  It would be great for any gathering that requires a some time spent outdoors:

I find the final color option to be particularly delightful.  The velvet leggings come in one more color choice called Glad You Like Carrots.  Orange for Christmas?  Why not!  If you choose the right apparel this color can be just as festive as any other, if not more so.  Here are my selections (and by the way, the Dalmatian jumper shown above would also work here, thanks to the orange antlers on the dog's head!):

Clockwise from top left: Cruciani Cardigan in Rust; Pure Collection Cashmere Cowl Neck Sweater in Black; Monki Velvet Leggings in Glad You Like Carrots; Clark's Heavenly Shine Pumps in Black Leather; Prada Knee-Length Skirt in Black/Orange (no longer available); Uniqlo Women's Carine Silk Bow Tie Long-Sleeve Blouse in Black.

Unfortunately the lovely skirt is no longer available, but if it were, or if I already owned it, I would use it to put together a really glamorous outfit (glamorous for me, at least!):


And so ends my foray into the world of embellished black and white fashion for the holidays!  It's been fun, but after this week I will move on to more casual wardrobes with a lot more color, which is always my style preference.  Have a very merry Christmas if you celebrate, and keep enjoying the holiday season!

Friday, December 22, 2017

Foodie Fridays: Herb Roasted Nuts

Ever since I put myself on a low-carb diet I have been eating a lot of nuts.  They are the perfect snack as they have very few carbohydrates and are quite filling, keeping me from craving sugary or starchy snacks.  My husband introduced me to Los Poblanos Herbed Pecans, a savory nut snack that is so good it is positively addictive.  I decided to attempt my own version of savory nuts using a mix of nuts and herbes de Provence.  The latter is an herb blend that I received as a gift last Christmas but have not yet used as I have never cooked with this blend before.

I based my recipe on one from Genius Kitchen, substituting my dried herbs for the fresh ones.  For a first attempt, I think my roasted nut blend came out pretty well.  Next time I will reduce the cooking time as my nuts were already getting overdone after 17 minutes (I have reduced the roasting time from 20-25 minutes to 15-20 minutes in my recipe).  You can use any nuts you like (I used a mix of cashews, pecans, walnuts, and Brazil nuts), but make sure they are raw and unsalted.  My cashews were unsalted but already roasted, which may be why they were ready so quickly, but cashews and pecans burn easily anyway so I would still start checking for doneness after 15 minutes.

I am a wimp when it comes to fiery seasonings so I just used a dash of cayenne, but feel free to add as much as you can stand!  In fact, you can play around with the amounts of all seasonings, adding more or less herbs and/or salt if you like.  I also substituted 1 T. garlic-infused olive oil for 1 T. of the butter (you could also use all olive oil, but I wanted the buttery flavor).  This recipe was so quick and easy that I will certainly be making it again - after all, I have lots of leftover nuts and plenty of herbes de Provence to use up, and I love eating nuts!

Herb Roasted Nuts

3 T. butter
2 T. dried herbes de Provence
1 tsp. salt
cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
4 C. raw unsalted nuts

Combine the butter, herbes de Provence, 3/4 tsp. salt, and cayenne pepper if using in a large microwaveable bowl.  Microwave on HIGH for one minute, until the butter is melted.  Stir to combine all of the ingredients.  Add the nuts and toss until well combined and evenly coated with the butter/herb mixture.

Spread the coated nuts in a single layer in a large rimmed baking sheet, setting the bowl aside for later.  Roast at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (be careful not to overbake and burn the nuts!).  Remove from the oven and cool slightly on a wire rack.  Spoon the nuts into the reserved bowl and toss with the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt.  Cool completely and serve.  Makes about 4 cups.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

This 'n That Thursdays: Unique Christmas Tree Toppers

From Factory Direct Craft

When I was a child, most Christmas tree toppers were either a star or an angel (ours was an angel all dressed in white, and I'm sure she's still around somewhere in our old family house).  These days there are so many different options!  Just take a look at a few of the many unique selections I found with just a quick search:

From Summit Arbor

From Touch of Class

From Terrain

From Fox Hollow Cottage

From Bartow Wildlife Collectables

From Idolza

From Summit Arbor

From Top Teny

From World Market

From Guide Patterns

From Summit Arbor

We even have a unique tree topper of our own!  Dedicated Dalmatian lover that I am, when we do set up a tree (which I have to admit does not happen often any more) it is decorated with all things Dalmatian, including a Dalmatian hand puppet as the tree topper!

Enjoy the holidays, including your Christmas tree with tree topper if that is one of your traditions!