Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pink Saturday... Happy Halloween!

Happy Pink Saturday, all! I couldn't resist the opportunity to celebrate Pink Saturday and Halloween all in one. This is my Emily's costume from three years ago when she was about 7 months old. Doesn't she make a great ballerina? One of the really cute things about Emily is I would swear Halloween is her favorite holiday. She loves meeting people - seriously, meeting a new person is like the best thing ever to her. I have never had or met such an incredibly social dog. On Halloween, she's right there at the door, just waiting for the next person to ring the doorbell. One year she got so excited it was all we could do to convince her the night was over and it was time to go to bed - she wouldn't leave the door. Handing out candy is now a two-person job, because someone has to make sure Emily doesn't leap into the kids' arms or follow them out the door. :)
As always, thanks to Beverly at How Sweet the Sound for hosting Pink Saturday. Stop by her blog for a list of this week's participants.
Wishing everyone a fun and safe Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The return of an original...

Rachel Ashwell's new book.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, or so the old saying goes. But while there may be many who strive to achieve the same look, no one does it better than the original Shabby Chic designer herself, Rachel Ashwell.
I read several months ago that her business had fallen on hard times: A badly-timed expansion that came just as the bottom was falling out of the economy forced her to declare bankruptcy and close her retail stores. Her Simply Shabby Chic line at Target, however, was unaffected, so many may not have known of the trouble, since that seems to be her widest outlet. When I read on her blog - which is lovely, by the way - that she was writing a new book (her first in several years), I wasn't sure what to expect. There have been so many people who have played on the Shabby Chic name and brand, I wondered if there was anything really left to say. Or show.
Curiosity got the better of me, though, and I ordered her book - "Shabby Chic Interiors" - from Amazon. It arrived about a week ago and as soon as I got it out of the box, I knew I was in for a treat. It was bigger than I was expecting, and of course I was instantly in love with the pink couch on the front (shocking, huh?). Reading through the book, I was reminded why often the original is indeed better than the imitators. Rachel Ashwell has an ability to see beauty other people miss - and the ability to convey that beauty in her decorating. It's an innate sense, honed I'm sure by years of flexing that muscle. Her new book is wonderful - the look is still hers, but it has evolved. Beauty spills from every page.
Maybe proving the point that an original is often a hard act to beat, even when down, I came across this recent article in the New York Times about the quick rebirth of Ashwell's company. Oddly enough, the same recession that helped end her business as it was may provide her salvation. In tough times, people tend to turn back to simpler ways, back to making due with less, back to seeking out beauty as a way to soothe their soul. And so, her company has been reborn, with a new partner and some modifications. It seems Ashwell's slightly rumpled, light and comfortable form of beauty is back in vogue. If you get a chance, check out her new book and see for yourself.

The original - her first book.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tuesday brightener... Creative decorating ideas

Credit for all photos:

I went in search of inspiration this past week and came across a few decorating ideas I wanted to share, compliments of Martha Stewart. Finding new ideas to make things more beautiful always brightens my day. I've seen variations on the idea shown above, but not this exact translation: Hang a pretty curtain rod and use a blanket or quilt for a headboard - such a simple and inexpensive yet creative way to help pull the look of your bedroom together. And, you can easily change it according to the seasons or your mood - a big plus.
I always love it when I come across new uses for the orphan tea cups and saucers I collect (that's what I call the solitary tea cups left after all the other pieces in their collection have either been lost or broken). Again, an idea so simple, I can't believe I hadn't thought of it myself: Use the tea cups and saucers in a drawer to organize my jewelry collection. How wonderful to open a drawer and see all your fabulous jewelry perfectly organized in beautiful tea cups and saucers. I love it.

The idea below is pretty ingenious, especially for people living in a small space - or even in spaces that are wide open so you have to see everything all the time. If you don't want to look at your blank computer monitor (or in my case, the huge flat screen TV that my sweetie can't live without but doesn't do much for the decor), you can always make it more pleasing to the eye with a little cover, created from a fabric of your choosing. I love how the monitor below manages to blend in instead of looking like a black hole. Think of it as a pretty duvet cover for your electronic eyesores.

Hope you enjoyed these little ideas. Happy Tuesday, all!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pink Saturday... Makeovers with heart

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."
~ John Muir

All photos courtesy of Enchanted Makeovers

Happy Pink Saturday, all!
After a couple weeks off, I am returning to Pink Saturday with a post very dear to my heart. One of the great things about blogging is discovering new things. I was reading one of my favorite blogs the other day, The Pleasures of Homemaking, when I saw a new button had appeared on Manuela's sidebar. It read "Enchanted Makeovers - We Stand Together with all Women and Fuel the Power of the Feminine." I was intrigued, so I clicked on it.
After landing at Enchanted Makeovers and reading for a few minutes, I was happily stunned. I had stumbled upon (or was led to, as is more likely the case) the physical embodiment of my philosophy that Beauty Does Matter. I can't relay what Enchanted Makeovers is any better than its Web site: "Enchanted Makeovers is an internationally recognized non-profit 501 (c) 3 organization that transforms shelters for women and children into places of peace and possibilities - not just where basic needs are met, but spiritual needs for hope and beauty also."
What could be more appropriate for Pink Saturday than featuring this organization?
Enchanted Makeovers was founded by Terry Grahl, an award-winning interior decorator and wife and mother. She recently gave up her own design business to completely devote her time to this endeavor. And it all started with a simple request from a shelter to see if she would volunteer to help spruce up the place a bit - even just paint a wall. I encourage you to read her story of how that led her to this.
The organization relies on volunteers and donations to transform shelters from bleak places of last resort to havens of healing and regrouping. "We organize dozens of volunteers to help clean, repair and gather new and handmade items and monetary donations for each makeover. Some require major construction work; others require mainly cosmetic facelifts," the site says.
One of the things I love about this group is their appreciation of the homemade. This isn't a group that just asks for money (though that is, of course, always welcome). They ask people to donate homemade items like blankets and pillowcases and jewelry and journals for the women and girls. In other words, they're asking for your creativity. On the Enchanted Makeovers' Web site, it says:
"We Believe...
• No woman or child recovering from an abusive situation or an addiction should have to sleep in a bedroom that looks as they feel (unworthy, depressed and scared). These makeovers are just as important as the shelters' recovery programs.
• Everyone is worthy of surroundings that nurture their soul from where their greatness can emerge. When you help others realize their dreams, you realize your own.
• Handmade items infused with one's creativity and thoughtful attention to detail carries with it the love and hope of the creator. It will also inspire others to create love and hope with their own two hands."
I couldn't have said it better myself. Below is some more of their work.

After reading everything on the site and blog and looking over their donation list, I e-mailed Terry and asked about the sort of donations they always need, no matter which project they are working on. (Click here for their current project). She said they always need the following (new, please):
• Monetary donations (large or small matters to us)
• White bath towels and white wash cloths
• Standard size pillows
• White set of twin sheets
• P.J.'s and robes for women and children
• Coloring books and crayons
• Pillow protectors
• Twin mattress pads
• Journals
• Handmade jewelry (or store-bought is OK)
• Gloves/hats
• New bras and underwear for women and children
• Toothpaste, soap, toothbrush, deodorant, Q-tips, pads, tampons for our outreach program that we are starting in 2010
• White plastic hangers
"We love and prefer handmade items!! Everyone is welcome to e-mail us with ideas and suggestions for the makeovers and our outreach program," Terry said in her e-mail.

So, dear readers, I have a challenge for you. If you are in a position to help this wonderful organization, please consider doing so. And remember, money is always welcome, but I would ask that you consider putting your creativity to good use (and I know there is plenty out there!) by sending handmade jewelry, a decorated journal or a pretty blanket you knitted or sewed. If you have an idea or question, please e-mail Terry - all the information is on the site. Just adding the Enchanted Makeover badge (you can pull it from my sidebar) with a link to their site on your blog or mentioning them in a post would be a great help - you'll be spreading the word and possibly sowing the seeds of future help. Since doing any of these things would be a wonderful gesture on your part, I am offering you a little something in return: a blog award.

If you can help in any way, please take this award as well to post on your blog (you can either drag it to your desktop or right-click on it). There are no links or rules or anything associated with my award - it's just a small thank you from me. :)
As always, thanks to Beverly at How Sweet the Sound for hosting Pink Saturday. You can find a full list of this week's participants on her blog.
Have a beautifully pink weekend.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday brightener... Vintage Jasperware

I love little dishes like this - catch-alls for things like earrings and rings and buttons to be sewn on later. I keep a little antique rose dish on my dresser for just such things. The trick, I've discovered, is to keep the dish small - that way you can't dump too much stuff in there. And, of course, it should be beautiful so it pleases you to look at it each day.
I came across these photos of a vintage Jasperware dresser box on flickr and thought you would enjoy them. Jasperware was first developed by Wedgwood and is best known in the blue-and-white color scheme (which you have probably seen), but it comes in many other colors. This is a particularly pretty piece. I hope it brightens your Tuesday. :)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Just a little note...

"Friends are flowers in the garden of life."
~ Unknown

I just wanted to send out a quick thank you to everyone for a wonderful Halloween party this past weekend. It was great fun to see all the holiday creativity flowing. A special thanks to A Fanciful Twist for hosting - no easy task, I'm sure.
To my new followers, I extend a heartfelt welcome - I hope you will enjoy spending a little time here now and then. I send these beautiful mums out to all of you.
Wishing you a beautiful week...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Come in, my pretties...

If you'd like the directions for making this wreath, please click here.

Happy Halloween, all! Thanks to the lovely A Fanciful Twist, we're starting the Halloween fun just a tad early to get everyone in the mood. Halloween is such a wonderful and unique holiday - it's the only day of the year anyone and everyone can dress however they like and not get arrested. :) Mystery, fun and sweets are musts. All in all, my kind of holiday.
This year, I'm taking inspiration from the Queen of Mystery herself - Agatha Christie. Let's wander through her classic book "Hallowe'en Party"...

A teenager tells everyone at a Halloween party that she saw a murder once, years ago. The girl is known for lying, however, and no one believes her... until she is found later that evening, drowned in a bucket of bobbing apples. One of the detectives in the book, Ariadne Oliver - a mystery writer and a character inspired by Dame Agatha herself - loves apples and eats them all the time. Since apples abound in the book, how about we try some of these this Halloween...

Candy Apples
(Photo and recipe from

2 cups sugar
2/3 cups white corn syrup
1 cup water
3 oz. red cinnamon candies
pinch of salt

Combine first five ingredients and cook without stirring over low heat. Remove from heat and place pan in a pan of hot water. Dip apples to coat. Set on waxed paper to dry. Insert sticks before or after coating - whichever is easier.

Photo credit: Rick Gayle/Corbis

If caramel apples like the ones above are more to your liking, click here for the recipe.

Once Ariadne realizes the teenager must have been telling the truth and did see a murder all those years ago, she calls on her old friend, Hercule Poirot, detective extraordinaire (and a great idea for a Halloween costume, incidentally.) Ariadne and Poirot, of course, solve the intriguing murders - both the old and new. It should be noted that the home in which the murder takes place is named Apple Trees. I always imagine it as looking something like this...

If you would like this pumpkin carving pattern, click here.

I hope you have enjoyed this little excursion through our Halloween mystery. Be sure to grab some candy before you go...

Friday, October 16, 2009

Boo! Just one more day until our Halloween party...

Photo credit: H_Elise via flickr

Just a little reminder that A Fanciful Twist is hosting a wonderful Halloween blog party tomorrow and lots of blogs are participating. Be sure to stop by here for some holiday ideas and fun. Click on the party button in my sidebar for more information.
See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Decorating for the season...

Photo credit: Matthew Benson/ From Country Living on

Photo credit: Matthew Benson/ From Country Living on

With autumn upon us and Halloween and Thanksgiving on the way, it's a great time to enjoy a little of nature's bounty in your decorating. So many of the season's offerings lend themselves to creating beautiful decorations. A few years ago, I dressed my front door just like the one in the top picture, making good use of corn stalks left in the field and some pumpkins from our local pumpkin patch. You can always carve jack-o-lanterns for Halloween and replace them with whole pumpkins later. Or, if your pocketbook doesn't stretch that far, don't carve the pumpkins and they'll work for both Halloween and Thanksgiving. Greenery and mums can be put to good use in the fall as well - and the greenery might last you through Christmas, depending on the temperatures where you live. Consider hosting a last event outside, if your weather allows. It's a great way to enjoy the scenery of the season, especially if you spice it up a little with some fall flowers and pumpkins. Keep the menu simple and seasonal and be sure to serve something hot to drink. For some additional inspiration on autumn decorating, check out this article from County Living on (which is a great Web site by the way, full of cooking and home ideas). Click here for the article.

Photo credit: James Baigrie/ From Good Housekeeping on

If outside decorating isn't really practical for you, there are still plenty of simple ways you can enjoy the beauty of the season indoors. I particularly like some of the ideas I found on decorating with non-carved pumpkins in this article from Good Housekeeping on Little pumpkins or gourds can work better than regular-sized pumpkins in some instances. Get a pretty table runner or placemat, some candles and a few mini-pumpkins or gourds and you can create a beautiful centerpiece in minutes. If you're feeling particularly creative, you can even turn the pumpkins into candleholders, as the picture above shows. A really cute idea is illustrated below - I think this would be great for some of those pumpkins or gourds that aren't necessarily the greatest looking and you can buy cheaper. You can glue little pieces of ribbon around them and pile them in a bowl or dish - isn't that a really cute way to add a little beauty to your home?

Photo credit: James Baigrie/ From Good Housekeeping on

There are other ways you can bring a little of the season into your home as well. Oranges, reds and mossy greens are wonderful colors and particularly appropriate for this time of year. Maybe you can haul out those old dark dishes that don't really work the rest of the year, but would be perfect this fall when paired with some orange napkins and new funky glasses. Or perhaps clean off surfaces and create a few pretty tablescapes using candles, fall flowers or seasonal potpourri. Put away the light colors and things with a summer feel. Pull out the blankets and lay one across the arm of the sofa or a favorite chair to encourage snuggling and naps. Change out your pillows, exchange sheers for drapes and put down a dark-colored rug. Fill a jug with branches and set it by the fireplace. All little things, but doing just a few will usher the season into your home in style. And you will get the pleasure of being surrounded by something new and beautiful as the days work their way into winter.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday brightener... The beauty of fall

Photo credit: Shellorz via flickr

Photo credit: Ctd2005 via flickr

Photo credit: Peasap via flickr

This week I'm in the mood for long walks in chilly weather surrounded by trees aflame with color. But, since the leaves aren't really turning too much yet where I live, I went in search of gorgeous foliage elsewhere. I hope these photos brighten your Tuesday, wherever you are.

Photo credit: Dee Q8 via flickr

Saturday, October 10, 2009

For the love of pumpkin...

One of my favorite things about autumn is the abundance of pumpkin treats. Pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies... you get the idea. Though I often associate pumpkin pie only with Thanksgiving (and sometimes Christmas), once October gets going I have a craving for pumpkin cookies and bread. Country Living has a great article on pumpkin dessert (and breakfast) recipes if you're interested. Click here for the article.
My family has a great pumpkin bread recipe that's been passed around and down, and every time I make it, my co-workers, friends, etc., go nuts for it. The only thing is you must bake it in coffee cans (3 per batch, as a matter of fact). Now I know that sounds odd and you're probably thinking, well, I can use a regular loaf pan or a bundt pan. You can, but the texture isn't as good (I know this from personal experience). Baked in the coffee cans - and yes, I know they are hard to find these days - the bread (which is really more of a dessert type item, or great with tea or coffee) is perfectly moist and absolutely addicting. In a regular baking pan, it can come out just a little dry and there's something slightly different in the texture. It's still good, mind you, but not as good. The recipe is at the bottom of this post - my gift to you this autumn.
If you're wondering what pumpkin recipes have to do with beauty, there is a relation. Or rather, there is a relation between cooking and baking and beauty, not necessarily pumpkin recipes in particular. Surrounding yourself with beauty, I believe, means more than just appealing to your eyes. Anyone who has partaken of a perfect dinner or dish or dessert will agree that enjoying delicious food is a beautiful experience because it nourishes both body and soul. When you create something wonderful in the kitchen, you are bringing a little more beauty and love into the world. And remember, that wonderful creation will taste even better served from beautiful dishes.

Pumpkin Bread

4 eggs
3 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup oil
1 cup pumpkin
2/3 cup water
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda

Mix starting from the top and continue down. Grease and flour three 1 lb. coffee cans. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour. Test with broom stick or long tester.

I've found it's best to make the bread the day before you plan to eat it. After it cools, you can remove the bread from the cans and keep it wrapped in aluminum foil. When serving, I usually cut the slices in half. Serve with cream cheese slightly softened for spreading on top, if desired. (It's bliss.) This bread makes a great dessert, or a perfect treat with your coffee or hot tea. It also freezes well.
Bon appetit.

Friday, October 9, 2009

We have a winner!

Drumroll, please...
My first blog giveaway is over and we do have a winner. I wrote everyone's name on a piece of paper, placed them in a beautiful bowl, shook them up and asked my sweetie to choose one. He gave me a blank look, so I had to explain I was giving away the lovely book above to one lucky follower. He then obliged and drew out the winner, who is... Eve! Congratulations to her! Eve, I will e-mail you for a mailing address, unless you e-mail me first. :)
I just want to say thank you to all of my fabulous followers - you are kindred spirits and I am truly grateful that all of you give up some of your precious time to read and enjoy my blog.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday brightener... Vintage dishes

My dish fetish strikes again.
There I was, looking around for a few photos for this week's Tuesday brightener and before I knew it, I found myself knee-dip in dishes. Oh, the choices...
As soon as I saw these, I was in love. I think it's the simple creamy palette that appeals most - it's so versatile and can be used in any season with the right complementary pieces. That vintage tea pot at the top - I just love the texture. It's the perfect time of year to put a piece like that to work, too, pouring a spicy tea or cider. The rest of the pieces are vintage restaurantware. They have so much more character than many of the plain pieces you find in restaurants today, don't you think?
Looking at pretty dishes always brightens my day; I hope it offers a few moments of pleasure for you, too. If you haven't already, please do check out my previous post and register for my giveaway. It's open through the end of today.
Have a beautiful week.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pink Saturday... and a giveaway!

Photo credit: clagnut via flickr

Happy Pink Saturday! I came across this great photo taken at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London and wanted to share it. Isn't that a beautiful pink stone? And huge! I just thought it was such a neat exhibit and all of you might enjoy seeing it.
And, as a special treat this week, I'm holding a giveaway - a lovely new decorating book:

The book is "Easy Elegance - Creating a Relaxed, Comfortable and Stylish Home," by Atlanta Bartlett. It's a beautiful hardback book, full of gorgeous color photographs. For more about the book, click here.
Now, for the rules: To be entered for a chance to win the book, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (new kindred spirits welcome) and leave a comment on this post letting me know you want to be entered in the drawing. If you follow privately (you know, where you're not listed in my box), just drop me an e-mail letting me know and I'll be happy to add you to the drawing. I'll keep this open through Tuesday, Oct. 6. I'll announce the winner later next week, so be sure to check back. And, yes, I am happy to ship this internationally since I know I have followers from overseas.
As always, thanks to Beverly for hosting this weekly homage to pink. Be sure to stop by her blog, How Sweet the Sound, for a full list of participants.
Have a beautiful weekend.

Friday, October 2, 2009

My wish for you this weekend...

Dogs have much to teach us. One of the things I have learned from my dogs is that it's never a bad thing to take a nap when you need one. And by all means, pick the best spot in the house - the comfiest, cutest place there is, complete with fluffy pillows and a soft blanket. After all, one of the benefits of surrounding yourself with beauty is being able to wrap yourself in its pleasing comforts. (My Russell is an expert at this, as you can see.)
So, this weekend, I wish for you a nap in the most beautiful spot you can find. And if anyone wants to give you grief about it, tell them it's blog homework. Off you go, now...