Monday, March 30, 2015

Easter Preparations at our house

 Easter is the prettiest holiday as far as decorating goes.  
It's pastel colors are those I use in my home interiors so it 
makes it easy and fun to decorate.  Just a few touches and it
feels like the Easter bunny is about to walk through the door.
 A whimsical egg garland is strung across the mantel with a few vintage style 
Easter bunnies parade across the top for an Easter parade.  
Tobey and Dillon hang out with me whenever I am decorating or taking pics.
  They LOVE to be in the photos.  They are paparazzi hounds I tell you!
 I ordered this vintage Easter postcard from Etsy several years ago. 
 Its easy to tuck these beautiful cards into wreaths or prop on
 tabletop vignettes to add a sentimental vibe to the holiday.
My husband and I visited Putnam Pantry in Danvers Massachusetts yesterday
 where they are known for carrying a dizzying array of Easter candies and ready made baskets. 
 I found these little chocolate bunnies in lavender foil tied with white ribbons, 
perfect for my brand of Easter. Then off to HomeGoods for the cookie cutters 
in bunny shapes, perfect for Easter sugar cookies with frosting, 
and fun purple cupcake papers that will hold coconut cupcakes! 
Its only the beginning of the week and I have to get going....
I will be at the shop most every day so today I have to get the table set 
and finish the decorating so I can concentrate on my cooking.  
Hope you all will have a nice place to go for Easter dinner 
with a lovely Easter basket waiting for you there.

Post Script~~
The winners of the Matthew Mead magazine giveaway are:
Michelle @Dandelion Patina
Kathy Bunge
Please send me an email with your shipping address, so we can get this right out.

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Make a Party Tablecloth for any occasion

A custom tablecloth!
This is just the best idea!  
Throwing a baby shower, a graduation party
or Easter dinner?  How about whipping up a fun tablecloth 
with a drop cloth from your local big box Home center, 
a stencil or two and some fabulous Chalk Paint®?  
 My shop assistant Julia gets started with some English Yellow Chalk Paint
 and a large stencil.  She rolled on the paint quickly, placing the stencil
 in a random fashion.  As she rolled one drop cloth I rolled another, 
as we had two large tablecloths
 to create for a party we are planning in the shop. 
 Holding down the stencil with one hand and rolling with the other 
we let the paint vary in how heavy and light it was applied for a distressed look.  
 After the large yellow pattern was rolled on, 
we used two smaller stencils and applied Henrietta Chalk Paint® 
all over the cloth in a random fashion.  
 It couldn't have been more easy!
The tablecloth is washable and the painted design is permanent.
 Think of the possibilities!  
You could paint wide stripes, plaids or 
hand paint monograms.   Or just pick your favorite motifs and colors
and create a unique one of a kind tablecloth for any occasion or everyday use.
We stenciled right over the folding tables, but if you want to do it at home
lay down a sheet of plastic drop cloth to protect your table from 
any paint that might come through the cloth as you paint.
It dries almost instantly, so your cloth is good to go 
as soon as you finish!  
I will share more on the special party we are planning.
it has something to do with a certain magazine that is
coming out in a week or so....

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Our California Trip to Wine Country and a Lavender Farm

 We couldn't wait to get away from the record breaking brutality
of Boston's non-stop winter weather.  How could we say no to an 
invitation by friends to join them at a vacation home in the Santa Ynez Valley?
I am not familiar with California, so after the invitation I boned up
on the different counties.  We were headed to Santa Barbara County
which is North of Los Angeles, but South of San Fran.  Got the general idea
of our location?  In Santa Barbara we would be holed up in a wonderful
rental property that sat high on a hill in the heart of wine and horse country.
It was time for sandals and sundresses and hats and sunglasses!!
Unpack the car and lets get our vacay started already!
The weather was between 70 and 90 almost every day, with temps dipping a 
bit cooler at night.  We were in heaven as soon as our feet hit the ground.
 Our house came with a pool and hot tub and a million dollar view.  
We couldn't stop smiling.  Our hosts, Jim and Patti, 
were in Santa Ynez to take part in a 100 mile bike race (yikes).   
Except for that day, we spent the days wine tastings, visiting wineries 
and took tours through the amazing countryside,
 ending our evenings at terrific restaurants.  
 Here we are taking a wine picnic lunch in the middle of the 
Los Padres National Forest.  It was breath taking and so relaxing.  
I was struck by how beautiful our country don't do it justice.
So many hills, mountains and valleys dotted with farmlands, and vineyards.
Horse farms and quaint towns were what we found in the Santa Ynez region.
 And of course, we did our fair share of tasting!
 Its what the valley is known for and 
in particular it makes great Syrahs and Pinot Noirs.  
So taste after taste I tried to refine my palette.
It was a difficult way to spend the afternoons (lol), 
but that is what you do out here.
 Unless you are my hubby....he is NOT a wine drinker, 
so while he was game to test out a few wines he mostly stuck 
to reading about what we were tasting.  
He made a fabulous designated driver. 
 He here is testing out a red wine at the
 Dragonette Cellars in Los Olivos.
However, this was more his speed, a frosty beer.  On this particularly hot day
while Jim and Patti were doing the 100 mile bike race (UGH)
we decided to cruise into the city of Santa Barbara and check it out.
But before we hit the main drag we wanted to see what the buzz was
all about at this famous Mexican eatery.  It is called Super-Rica 
and years ago Julia Childs said it was the best Mexican food she had ever had.  
Since then everybody from Oprah to Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, 
Tom Cruise and now us have tried this place out and we all agree, its FABULOUS!
 We headed back into Santa Ynez and passed along 
the vineyards on our way home to the ranch.
 It is kind of amazing how many fields are covered in 
rows and rows of grapes that will be made into wine.  
 Beautiful estates with fancy gates and landscaping set 
off many of the private and public vineyards.
 Its a rustic area with a European country vibe
 with a simplicity about it that we just loved.  
 This was at the bottom of our hill, and a familiar sight. 
 Horses were everywhere here.
 Looks like Dave is trying another glass of wine around the pool
 while he sits out there with Patti. I will have to finish it for him 
before we head out to dinner. 
This shot shows our bedroom, which was in its own little attached
 area outside the pool.  Every morning we woke up to amazing sunrises. 
 Just incredible!  I highly recommend renting homes instead of staying in
 hotels when you travel for more than just a day or two.  
 Melville was a gorgeous vineyard.  We took a picnic there one day.  Jim and Patti 
are members of this wine club so they could  get a bottle of wine inside and then
 bring it outside to enjoy with our lunch.
 The wisteria was in full bloom and it cascaded all around the entrance 
of the Italianate style structure.  This day was the only day 
that was a bit cooler and windy so we had on long sleeves.
 Photo op by the palazzo.
 Melville had rows of lavender planted at the beginning of the 
rows of grapes.  The poles all had numbers to indicate the grapes
when they would harvest them.  See our picnic cooler bag?
 This is the view looking back to the building.
 This was really yummy I have to say.
So you can see that our days were kind of relaxing, right?
 One day Patti and I took a girl trip to a lovely lavender farm nearby.  
Its early spring out in Santa Ynez, and so the grapes and the lavender 
really haven't started flowering yet, but you can see the sheared lavender bushes above.
 Clairmont Lavender Farm was such a sweet spot!  
It is run by a very cool lady, Meryl Tanz.
Clairmont is an actual working lavender farm.  As Meryl mentioned many lavender
 companies sell by a PO Box address.  But here at Clairmont you
 can come see the entire operation and even enjoy a picnic at one
 of her umbrella tables on the side garden.  
She showed us how she created this distillery based on a Moroccan Hookah pipe
to get the essential oil out of the lavender buds.  It was pretty fascinating.
I bought essential oil and some other goodies including a spray for Dillon's dry skin.
You can visit her website here for more information or to purchase lavender in 
its many forms, both culinary and therapeutic. 
I plan to blog more about this particular visit as I found it fascinating.
I will also share a video of Meryl showing how the distillery works. Very cool.
So we had a few more nights out eating and 
days tasting delicious wines but the week had finally come to an end.  
We finished off our week on the Central Coast with a drive
4 hours down to LA, in that infamous LA traffic to visit my son Brandon
and his girl friend Mimi.  They moved out here two years ago this July.
 They love the weather and they live in this pretty neighborhood.
We took them out for dinner to the oldest restaurant in Hollywood!
It was called Musso and Franks Grill and was established in 1919.
It is old school Rat Pack style dining, with big leather booths
and waiters in red coats and black ties.  Fancy shmancy!
They serve old fashioned cocktails like side cars and martinis.
 It was right on the Hollywood walk of fame!
 We were so lucky we got a parking spot right at the front door! 
Brandon and Mimi said it was unheard took all 
four of us to figure out how to get the money in the meter.
It chewed up my quarters with no apparent hubs had
to use his credit card to get the thing to work.
 Mr. Maison Decor shows off Buck Owens, 
and Harrison Ford was right behind Buck.
 This was our last posed photo in California...we took the red eye home
and heard that another snowfall was coming our way.  UGH!!
 These lucky guys get to stay out there living the dream!!
 But as for us, I was headed into work and had to brush the snow off my car. 
What a fine welcome back.  We have really been put to the test this year.
This was one vacation that was well earned and will not soon be forgotten.
A big thanks to Jim and Patti for the invite!! 

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