Saturday, April 30, 2011

Strut your stuff ...

Don't be embarrassed to show what you've got. It just takes a bit of organization and a handsome buffet, bookcase or cabinet to make storage solutions a design star in your home.

Both of these antique sideboards take center stage in their settings. To get the look, utilize old baskets, bins and vintage luggage to corral odds and ends, then, bring in complementary accessories to personalize the space. Photos via Decor Pad (above) and Eclectic Revisited (below).

Old pie safes, like the one shown below left, offer plenty of storage. These former kitchen staples add simple, rustic charm to a variety of living spaces. This one was photographed by Lisa Cohen.

Above, The Inside Story brings the magnetic presence of industrial chic into focus. Metal lockers, safes, and furnaces can take on the role of cabinetry with dramatic results.

Old card catalog cabinets are ready to store all sorts of knick-knacks. Image from The Inside Story

Give the guests something lovely to look at while visiting the loo. Crisp, clean linens and bath accessories star in the classic cabinet above. Photo via Brabourne Farm.

Check mates ...

Who would have thought that gingham checks would become the pattern du jour in interior decor? Not me. I'd have never imagined its use anywhere other than in decorating a cottage. I haven't even worn gingham since my high school dance team uniform. But, I must admit that today's classic is far from yesteryear's homespun farmhouse staple, and I'm liking what I see.

Red checkerboard? By all means, yes! I love the updated look on chairs and bedding. Image above via Desde my Ventana.

The photo below from Lars Bolander (left) is my favorite. I love the way the chair and artwork create a stunning vignette. At right, the image via Brabourne Farm takes gingham back to its roots in this bedding ensemble.

Not into red? Not to worry, designers and manufacturers have updated gingham with new color stories and bolder patterns.


Calm blue and bold black add drama to the bedrooms above. Images via Deco Galore (left) and Hotel Keppler, Paris (right).

Made for shade ...

Lounging on generously padded cushions with a yummy drink in hand is a warm weather pursuit that can only be enhanced with a cool breeze and glorious shade from the mid-day sun.

Indonesian daybeds are visually stunning and offer shaded relaxation at its best. Either of the beds above or below would be a luxurious addition to my homestead, but the style is a bit tropical for my digs. (I would like to provide photo credit for both, but these are from clippings that have been in my library for a while. Sorry.)

I am really attracted to the use of fabric curtains, and white sets a cool tone for any type of structure.

Here crisp, white sheers add a Caribbean vibe, so a rum drink with requisite umbrella cannot be far away. Images above from Stagetecture (left) and Better Homes and Gardens (right).

Pottery Barn has a great relaxation solution with their Priscilla daybed (above). I love the spa blue paint shade on this piece. Wouldn't this make a lovely spot to read (and nap) on a covered terrace?

Okay, so you're not in the mood to construct a overhead structure. You can still shade your favorite seating arrangement by adding a shade canopy. It's as easy as stretching a fabric (like canvas or nylon) from poles or eye bolts threaded into a stationary object. Photo above from House to Home.

Here's to the coming of summer ...

Clinging vine ...

What is it about vines clinging to vertical walls and supports that fascinate us so? I think I'm drawn to the tenacity of ivy or any number of green, climbing cousins that have the ability to conquer their surroundings.

Alfords English Gardens designed the Wisteria-blanketed pergola.

Some vines make their climb by attaching themselves via clinging roots with twining petioles, twining their stems around a support or using tendrils. 

Adventurous vines look stunning as they make their way up stone walls and trellises. Photo (left) via Content in a Cottage and above of La fa├žade de l'ancienne ferme in Paris.


I wish I had the patience to train ivy into a topiary like those at left (image via Chez Fifi) or above as follies in a garden (photo from Folly Fancier).

I may need Edward Scissorhands to assist with pruning if I dare try this at home!

My Blue Sky Vine with its first bloom.

What I have planted this year are quick-growing, hardy Blue Sky Vines (Thunbergia grandiflora). I'm hoping it will cover my Secret Garden trellis with lovely sky blue blooms throughout the summer. We purchased two container grown plants from the San Antonio Botanical Garden in one gallon pots, and both are twining as hoped. Within six weeks, they have grown from 12" tall plants to over 5' in height. I'll share photos as they reach maturity and full bloom later this summer.

What's blooming: Sweet banana peppers

Sweet banana peppers in our garden.
Sweet banana peppers are the first veggies we've harvested from this year's spring garden.

Hubby brought them in, gave them a quick rinse and promptly munched them. What else would you do with these beauties? Aside from a sub sandwich, I hadn't thought of too many ways to incorporate the tasty little treats into meal prep ingredients ... until now.

I got to thinking about the wonderful salads served at Olive Garden Restaurants and realized rings of sweet peppers are always part of their delicious, fresh salad recipe that's easy to duplicate at home.


Blend of Iceberg and Romaine lettuce, spinach
4-5 slices red onion
4-6 black olives
2-4 banana peppers, sliced in thin rings
1/2 c. croutons
2 small Roma (plum) tomatoes, quartered
Freshly grated Romano cheese (or Parmesan, if you prefer)
Olive Garden Salad Dressing

Chill salad bowl in freezer for at least 30 minutes. Place lettuce in chilled bowl. On top of lettuce place red onion, black olives, banana peppers, tomatoes, and croutons. Add Romano cheese, and add plenty of Olive Garden Salad Dressing on top. Mix. Serves two.

If you would rather make your own copycat salad dressing, try out the recipe below.



1 1/2 cups bottled Italian dressing
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large raw egg
1/4 cup olive oil

Cooking Directions:
Blend all except oil in blender on high speed 1/2 minute or until smooth. Pour this mixture into the top of a double boiler and add the oil. Stir gently with a whisk over gently boiling water until it begins to thicken and egg is completely cooked. Chill several hours or overnight before using. If the dressing is too thick, add more Italian dressing as needed. Yields about 2 cups of dressing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Singing the blues ...

"Blue skies, nothing but blue skies from now on."

Translating those song lyrics into soothing spaces is easy when using blue decor to create a relaxing retreat in any room.  But, bedrooms always come to mind when I think of introducing shades of the sky and sea.

The photo at left via Brabourne Farm features a crisp, light-filled dreamscape of predominately white finishes with blue accents - always a cheery color story.

The bedrooms below provide a calm, cool oasis for rest and relaxation in powdery shades of blue. I'm also noticing that all of the bedrooms have upholstered headboards. That additional softness echoes each room's comfortable personality.

Image above left from Your Nest Design. At right is a master retreat designed by Jan Showers. Her sleek tailoring, modern art and patterned carpet add to the muted blue decor that is hotel suite worthy.

Character abounds in the rooms above, yet they are gracious, calm spaces - a bit feminine and playful, with multiple shades of blue playing nicely with neutral tones. Images via House Beautiful (left) and Sarah Kaye (right).

Blue need not be confined to bedrooms. It is equally at home in a dining room, kitchen or bath.

I particularly like the dining space at left that is refreshing and refined. Again, blue really loves being paired with white. It's a natural, just like sky and clouds.

Image via Elle Decor.

Damask for drama ...

For most of my life, when damask was mentioned, I thought of dreadful, heavy, red, flocked damask wallpaper.

I blame it on the movie, The Unsinkable Molly Brown - showing Molly's grand home with really tragic Victorian decor created from too much money and too little taste.

But, lo and behold, damask has evolved and so have my views on what I once considered a stuffy pattern. Today, damask graces dinnerware and pillows, modern wallpapers and contemporary woven rugs. This is haute stuff!

At left, the silver metallic and turquois damask wallpaper creates a fresh-faced foyer for welcoming guests. Beautiful!

In both of the photos above, black and charcoal damask steals the show. The wow factor is at work in these transitional settings via Fabulous Finishes (left) and Chic Home Couture (right).

Image via Free Bridal Shower Themes.

The damask-patterned focus wall in the bedroom above gets an amazing, stenciled, metallic paint treatment. I love the neutral color scheme that is subtle, yet striking. Public rooms are also great areas to tone down the hues and turn up the drama.


True love is achieved above with the damask walls setting the stage for a modern table and beautifully upholstered chairs. The photo from On Sugar features a brilliant color combo of plums and greens.

Variations from the same color families are used below with dramatically different results. Bold and memorable, wouldn't you say?

Image from My Home Ideas.

Okay, I'll admit damask is so much more than a dowdy dame from yesteryear. I do believe I'm growing fond of the delicious transformation made by this pattern. I could be tempted ...

Before & After: Media cabinet

They say necessity is the mother of invention. So, it stands to reason that ownership of a lot of media equipment necessitates the invention of custom storage solutions.

Thanks to my super craftsman hubby, we now have a perfect media cabinet to house all of our audio visual electronics and hide the miles of wires and less attractive components. I detest seeing wires, and he has brilliantly managed (even with all this equipment) to only have two wires coming out the back, one for the power and one for the cable connection. Bless you!

Hubby started with three 4' x 8' sheets of medium density fiberboard (MDF) and crafted the entire project without nails, using biscuits and glue to join the pieces together. He built the cabinet with a removable back for easy access to the wiring and adjustable shelving for storage.

A dark mahogany stain was applied, concealed hinges and door hardware added and eight heavy-duty casters attached for ease in moving this beheamoth measuring 41"H x 64"W x 25"D.

Hubby designed the piece for his Man Cave with a transitional style that works perfectly with our decor and supports a rather large television for movie nights (when I'm invited) and sports (when it's guys only time). Great job, my love!

Rain dancing ...

I'm pleading, if you know a rain dance, please start moving those feet and swaying those arms!

Image of Sprockettes via Portland Ground.

There have been no April showers to bring May flowers. There wasn't enough rain in March, February or January to provide a droplet in the rain gauge. So, if you have any relationship with the gods of rain, please start dancing on our behalf.

Image via

We are now under water restrictions and the forecast isn't too promising. The global weather extremes have taken their toll on every continent with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and droughts. We are on the parched end of the spectrum.

I just want to smell the rain and hear it tapping on my window panes.  Alas, my poor umbrella is suffering from dry rot! But, rest assured that I will be out playing in the rain the very first chance I get.

Friday, April 22, 2011

What's blooming: Prickly pear cactus

When you live in a semi-arid climate as we do in south central Texas, you can always count on the succulents to display their hearty blossoms even in times of drought.

Most of our property was once covered in cactus.

The Prickly Pear Cactus is abundant in our region of the country and provides much more than a spring show of blossoms. In times of severe drought, it can be a life-saving source of nourishment for cattle and other livestock. 

As these photos show, our cactus blooms in shades of red, orange and yellow. Over the years, hubby has curtailed their habitat to the perimeter of our property where man and beast rarely tread. Rather good for security, too!

For foodies like me, cactus (generally called nopales in our Mexican-influenced local culture) is a great addition to a meal.

I'm particularly fond of a dish called Pollo con napales (chicken with cactus). The recipe calls for canned cactus, but if you have access to fresh, it is far, far better. Napales are not hot or spicy, but the jalapeno in the recipe definitely provides a swift kick to the taste buds.

Another treat for the senses is blooming now as well.

Lovely Confederate Jasmine (above left), planted last year by hubby, is beginning its climb up the back fence and providing sweet aromas for man, hummingbirds and bees to appreciate.

Gold Yarrow (above right) has taken center stage in my Cottage Garden. It is the perennial sunshine among my plantings of blue and pink flowers and will bloom from now through November.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Earth Day pledge ...

In anticipation of Earth Day on April 22, we may want to consider what kind of present to give our dear Mother Earth.  Just like every mother, I'm certain she would like for us to be a bit less lazy.

At some point, she won't be able to clean up after us! Wow! That's real food for thought, isn't it?

Have a seat ...

Not every chair is a seat. Chairs with great bones often reincarnate into artistic and useful functions beyond a derriere parking spot.

You would think chairs grow on trees from the art currently on exhibit at the San Antonio Botanical Garden (above).

Hang interesting chairs on a wall to serve as bookshelves, clothes storage or an attention-grabbing ledge for display. Images via Bright Bold Beautiful.

Deconstruct an old chair and retain the ladder back and a portion of the seat to use as towel bars and storage. Brilliant! Photo from The Fun Times Guide.

Not motivated to be crafty? At least give that chair something to do when its not hosting friends at your dinner party. Max Attenborough photographed a bedside companion for books and accessories (above).

Now, I'll have to get those wood folding chairs out of storage and find a useful purpose for them. This will require some time under my thinking cap!

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