Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Decorating and Dining - Christmas

Christmas is now less than two weeks away and I am feeling fairly well organized. Gifts are wrapped and packages have been mailed to nieces and nephews we won't be seeing. I am still working on the holiday cards that seem to go out later every year, but I am hopeful they will be posted by Friday. After that I will be enjoying time with family in Rhode Island.

Most fun this week has been menu planning with my sister-in-law, Genie, for a few days of family get-togethers . Genie, editor of the beautiful, quarterly magazine Edible Rhody, is not only a great chef and food writer but, by virtue of her work, knows all the best resources - the finest butcher, where to get fresh oysters, who has great wines and cheese, and so on. She and my husband will run be running the kitchen, as usual. I won't even be baking because Genie makes the most exquisite Buche de Noel.

I will focus on supplying a little holiday 'cheer' for those who have been working on feeding the rest of us so well. Yes, friends, I have been back on eBay buying vintage glasses.

And here is what I will be filling them with this year: Blood-Orange Champagne Cocktails.

Ingredients: 2 1/4 cups freshly squeezed or frozen blood-orange juice
2 750-ml bottles champagne, chilled.
Directions: Pour 3 tablespoons juice in each glass, top with champagne, and enjoy!
Easy and delicious, recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart.

I have also been thinking about table centerpieces, and how to keep children of various ages entertained and involved in preparing for the festivities. Following are some ideas from Better Homes and Gardens for table decorations that could not be simpler to make or easier to assemble, don't require too many materials, and likely include some you already have or that can be gathered outside. Several are suitable for little hands to help with. Most plant material should be available at your local florist, nursery, or grocer.

A block of florist's foam in a wood container (use a plastic liner so you can keep it damp) is the base for mixed greens, juniper sprigs and citrus fruit on picks. Clove studded orange pomanders smell wonderful - my girls have loved making them since they were young.

Assorted pine cones (these have been spray painted) and small bunches of tulips in colored glasses.

Layer two glass cake stands with evergreen sprigs, pine cones, glass ornaments and red berries.

In the middle of a shallow dish is a vase filled with white hyacinth stems surrounded by boxwood and pine cones.

Mini bouquets in a painted glasses wrapped with gold ribbon. (An opportunity to use your glue gun.)

Felt wrapped vases make oversize votives for candles, and etched glasses are filled with bayberry stems.

Seedling yew trees in a shallow metal tray layered with moss and white and purple eggplants. I would use pomegranates, crabapples and mini forelle pears.

An amaryllis with cranberries in a glass hurricane; red ribbon and an evergreen sprig.

Wishing you and yours the best this holiday season and for the year ahead!

Friday, December 2, 2011

10 Things I Can't Live Without

1. Linen Sheets. I have already written about my love of linen, but sleeping in it is the height of luxury as far as I am concerned. Getting a good night's sleep is a personal priority and I never sleep better than on these from Cuddledown.

2. A Rowenta Steam Iron. The linen sheets do need ironing, but it is worth the effort (and I actually find ironing kind of meditative.) The steam feature makes short work of a king size sheet and Williams-Sonoma sells an oversize ironing board that makes the job a lot easier.

3. Georgette Heyer Novels. Smart, funny, and an authority on Regency England, Heyer is a treat. Her heroines are strong and resourceful and every one has a happy ending. My husband laughs when I describe them as 'easily digestible,' but they are perfect when you can't handle anything too heavy. Available at Amazon.

4. The Miele Pisces Vacuum. We are dog people, Labs to be specific, and they shed a lot. This would seem incompatible with my OCD regarding cleanliness but the Pisces, which is recommended for pet owners, is lightweight and easy to maneuver, and I keep my sanity. Mieleusa.com.

5. Scented Candles. Scent is powerful - it can trigger memories, change your mood or disguise an unpleasant odor such as a dead mouse in the wall of your otherwise charming, 100-year-old Vermont house. After all these years my favorite is still Diptyque Baise, although I am currently enjoying Balmoral from Cire Trudon and Jasmin de Chine from Mizensir. I always order from Aedes de Venustas; they provide speedy delivery at no extra charge.

6. Magic Eraser. Living with kids and/or dogs? You need this. I use it to clean marks of every kind off the walls, floors, stair risers and cabinetry. For sale almost everywhere but if you want it right now go to Drugstore.com.

7. Tivoli Audio. Stylish and un-complicated are my requirements for electronics and Tivoli components are exactly that. I favor the walnut/beige color combination and have the 'model one' system in the kitchen, 'model three' which has an alarm clock feature in my bedroom, and the 'music system' in the living room where its industrial-chic look easily blends in with everything else.

8. The Cowboy Junkies. I've been a Junkies fan since 1988 when I bought my first copy of The Trinity Sessions. Suffice it to say I have every album they have released since including the 2008 live re-recording of The Trinity Sessions titled Trinity Revisited. I will be seeing them perform in Providence in February. Tour dates on their website.

9. Fresh Flowers. It does not need to be extravagant; even just a few stems can brighten an entire room and feel like a luxury.

10. A Soaking Tub. There is nothing better for unwinding at the end of a stressful day than a hot bath. For my personal sanctuary (pictured below) I chose the Sunrise Specialty 'Dual' with a pedestal base. Add this relaxing and detoxifying recipe: into running hot water add 2 cups Epsom salts, 1 cup baking powder and 10 drops of lavender oil. You will sleep like a baby.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Great Resources - Outlet Shopping for Furniture

As my husband will attest, I can look at furniture all day. And when I am on the road I never miss an opportunity to scout out a potential resource, shop or sale I have read about. And holiday travel is not exempt - last Christmas' trip to New York included visits to museums, the theater and an industrial park in New Jersey so I could pick up a piece of furniture at the Chelsea Textiles warehouse sale (FYI - it is going on right now!)

So, Tuesday had me in Connecticut for the day where the Lillian August outlet in South Norwalk is conveniently located off Interstate 95. The vast space had a huge inventory of upholstered pieces and case goods in various styles, including designs from other well known companies. Following are a few favorites currently in stock.

Oly Studio's Sophie chair upholstered in raffia.

The Dromedary loveseat from John Derian in Libeco Lagae linen.

This arm chair, round-back dining chair, trestle table and chandelier look like they are right out of Restoration Hardware's Belgian-influenced collection.

There was a room full of oversize mirrors.

This adorable Lillian August slipper chair almost come home with me.

I fell in love with this beautiful bookcase - if only I had a wall long enough to accommodate it.

The outlet had several upholstered pieces by Lee, a good source for well-crafted, American made furniture. This slip-covered chair is very shabby chic.

There was a large selection of dining chairs, mostly in sets of six.

The outlet is also a good resource for accessories. They had a nice selection of  Chelsea Textiles needlepoint pillows.

 Antler decor - very trendy right now.

 A charming Carvers Guild Gothic Twig mirror.

There was also a selection of Pine Cone Hill bedding. You had to dig around a little, but the hunt is half the fun of outlet shopping.

And the easiest face lift for a sofa - new throw pillows. There were a lot of cheerful options.

Outlet shopping for furniture is great for instant gratification - if you need a new sofa and can't wait 6 to 12 weeks - but it can be hit or miss so don't go with any expectations. I recommend having measurements for the size of anything you have in mind and of the space you want to fill, and if you have them, swatches of any fabrics you might be trying to work with. Safe travels!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Front Halls, Foyers and Entry Ways

Last week my sister-in-law, recently relocated to Texas, asked for some lighting ideas for the front hall of her new home, and suggested a post on entrance halls. Transplanted from Brookline, Massachusetts to a house in a different style compared to her former New England setting, it sounds like the opportunity to try something new. And even if you aren't in the midst of big changes, something as easy as switching a light fixture can make a dramatic difference in a room without a lot of effort or expense.

From House Beautiful's website I culled a few photos of  front halls, foyers and entry ways, decorated in different styles, and followed them up with potential fixtures from Circa Lighting - one of my favorite resources for hanging lights.

In an open, square entry...

House Beautiful

A long, narrow hall...

House Beautiful


A more contemporary look...

House Beautiful

And to recreate a little New England wherever you are...

 House Beautiful

Lastly, a few ideas for styling your hall whether you have a console, chest of drawers or center table...

Photos House Beautiful