Saturday, November 26, 2011

Where are the bowlers ...

Snicker if you must, but I want a bowler hat! Yes, I'm currently in love with those rounded, felt millinery designs that are rarely seen in the States.

Image via Buzznet.

The 'brothers beautiful,' Princes William and Harry, wear the bowler with equal charm and dash. Another titlest sporting the royal bowler is Colin Firth in his portrayal of King George VI in 'The Kings Speech.'

Image via The King's Speech.

Even though these felt, English beauties have been around for over 150 years, they're finally gaining ground as a fashionable accessory for men and women.


Photos above via Just Jared.

Above, Keira Knightly (left) and Fergie (right) don their bowlers for shopping days, while Diane Keeton (below) tops her head with a similar hat at a black tie event. Keeton has worn bowlers frequently since her role as Annie Hall in the 1977 romantic comedy.

Image via Style Goes Strong.

Sure, the Brits have bested the bowlers since 1849, when the first one was created for Edward Coke, a titled English soldier and politician. It's actually called a 'Coke' hat or 'Billycock' in the UK.

But, what's good for royals is good for rockers, too. Lead Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke is a bowler fan on and off stage. (Check out his Lotus Flower video on YouTube.) Yorke follows a number of other entertainers who have set box office records while sporting a bowler.

Let's give a nod to the stylists on the film 'Cabaret.' The 1966 Broadway production became a hit and spawned a 1972 film starring Liza Minelli with an iconic bowler atop her head. I'm pretty sure that's where I first saw the bowler with a bright future in store.

Twinkle, twinkle ...

String lights make everything look so ____________ (blank can be filled in with your choice of delightful adjectives, like romantic, charming, festive, cheerful, etc.) I adore these joyful sparklers, and not just during Christmas!

Image via Oh Hello Friend.

Twinkling lights give villages and towns a surreal beauty when night falls upon narrow cobblestone streets that lead to charming squares. Visits to Italy and Spain come to mind.

Image via Dellables.

Can entertaining on the patio be any more festive than this? Draping support columns with rows of clear, string lights creates a cozy winter wonderland.

Image via Backyard Designs Lighting.

Bringing those same, clear light strands inside can have a dramatic allure and dynamic effect when placed behind sheer curtains. The gauzy, diffused light reminds me of the climactic scene in the movie, Like Water for Chocolate. Pure joy!

Image via Pinterest.

Even simple, Ball Mason jars look their prettiest with a little twinkle.

Image via JC FYI.

Surrounding framed art or draped around a bejeweled neckline, strings of tiny lit bulbs provide the finishing touch. Solar and battery operated light strands (available at most craft stores) make lights mobile, opening up a whole new realm of creative possibilities.

Images below via SF Girl by Bay (left) and Beyond Open Water (right). 

I love the idea of lighting a tent with string lights. Somehow, it takes camping out of the 'roughing it' mode and clearly invites more interest from the ladies.

Image via Corner of the World.

I want to throw a tented gathering with little beams of light dancing around my friends!

In a glass by itself ...

It's apparent that I'm not the only one who loves Mercury Glass! What was once considered 'poor man's silver' is now highly collectable, with reproductions of the vintage pieces selling in every home decor store and catalog.

Image via West Elm.

It's time to herald the arrival of silver season. Simply walk through West Elm right now and a hefty dose of Mercury Glass hurricanes, vases and votives (above and below) will shine from every table setting.

Image via West Elm.

Horchow is featuring it's hurricane for the holidays (below).

Image via Horchow.

Crate and Barrel has its fantastic glass lamp (below) at the ready just in case you need to spruce up the homestead before that first Christmas party at your place. This little jewel is drool-worthy in my book!

Image via Crate and Barrel.

I could also use the gorgeous cake plate from Ballard Designs (below).

Image via Ballard Designs.

I've already taken a cue from Southern Living and started my holiday decorating with vintage Mercury Glass balls.

Image via Southern Living.

But, what really intrigues me is a project I have waiting on my 'to do' list. I just hope I can find some time to try my hand a creating faux Mercury Glass. It looks relatively easy, takes little skill and even fewer supplies.

I've linked the tutorial in case you would like to try your hand at this little money saving process for your holiday decor.

BEFORE: Use inexpensive clear glass vases
AFTER: Using the tutorial
Lovely Little Details and Take The Side Street offer tutorials on their blogs. Just click on either of the links for simple, 'how-to' project steps.

A way with clay ...

When Susan Rodriguez has her way with clay, the earthenware takes on unique colors and patterns to become spicy, fun-loving dinnerware. All of her pottery is built by hand in her home studio here locally in San Antonio, Texas.

Rodriguez's coral pink Spinning Daisies dish on the top and Lime Sparkle dinner plate on bottom are spunky and whimsical. So much fun! I would have a temptation to serve everything from jelly beans to guacamole in these pieces.

I am really drawn to the bold white asterisk stars on a deep teal background (above). The pattern gives this small serving bowl loads of personality, and an asterisk surfaces again on the drip shaped hand built plate in peacock blue (below).

Her spunky modern vase in bright cobalt blue with a white, eye-shaped pattern (below) is just one of the many earthenware pieces decorated using hand cut paper stencils and stains that Rodriquez offers online via her Ceramica Botanical shop on Etsy

She also uses intricate sgraffito floral designs etched into the clay before firing. The bowl below has a blue/white interior pattern and a green/white exterior sgraffito floral motif. 

High contrast sgraffito is a time consuming process in which the bowl is painted in a colored slip (liquid clay), and, then, a design is etched into the surface leaving the white clay body exposed for amazing texture. I really like the use of two colors, one on the inside and one on the outside of most of her pieces.

I'm sure every meal on Rodriquez's dishware is a celebration of fun shapes and colors. Her fan base for one-of-a-kind bowls, vases, platters, plates and cups is growing. As a member of the San Antonio Potter's Guild, Rodriquez joined fellow clay artists at last weekend's First Annual Clay Festival at the Pearl Farmer's Market.

Now, where is my Christmas wish list? I believe I have an addition to make ...

Breakfast Crepe Cups ...

Image via Midwest Living.
With overnight guests visiting during the holiday season, tasty and filling breakfast recipes are a must, especially those that are easy and quick to prepare.

I love to eat quiche, but it takes some time and effort to prepare, so I rely on dishes with less preparation time when guests are in the house.

One of my 'go to' dishes is Breakfast Crepe Cups. They're absolutely yummy and make you look like you've trained at Le Cordon Bleu!

With little effort, you can substitute your own filling ingredients to make a signature dish.


Crepe Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs
2 tablespoons melted butter
Dash salt

Crepe Directions:
In bowl combine milk, flour, sugar, eggs, butter and salt. Beat with mixer until well mixed. Heat a lightly greased skillet. Remove from heat. Spoon in 2 tablespoons of the batter. Tilt skillet to spread batter. Return to heat; brown on one side only. Invert over paper towels. Makes 22 crepes. 

Generously spray twelve 2 1/2 inch muffin cups with non-stick coating. Fit crepes into cups, carefully ruffling the edges of the crepes.

Filling Ingredients: 
9 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
6 slices bacon cooked crisp, drained and crumbled
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Dairy sour cream
Snipped parsley or chives

Filling Directions:
Beat together eggs, milk, salt and pepper.
Spoon bacon into bottom of crepe cups. Ladle egg mixture over bacon. Sprinkle with cheese. Tent foil over muffin cups to prevent overbrowning.
Bake in a 375° oven for 25 to 30 minutes or til eggs are set.
With spoon, carefully remove crepe cups. Top with a dollop of sour cream and chopped parsley or chives. Makes 12 filled crepe cups.

I gave the full recipe (above), but I personally dislike sour cream on my crepe cups.

Mine look more like the Florentine version photo at left from Recipe Bridge. These incorporate spinach and mushrooms, too.

Have fun entertaining the family!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Luxury as nature intended ...

The title of this post, 'luxury as nature intended,' has become the mantra for my new business. You may have even noticed the Capistrano Soap Company advertisement to the right of this text. That's our new family-owned venture, and I do hope you'll visit our website.

We are handcrafting a line of natural, artisan-made personal care products under the ACEQUIA Bath and Body Collection label. ACEQUIA, pronounced ah’say·key·ya, is Spanish for the aqueducts that brought life-giving water to early settlements in the New World. We selected it to remind us that water is a treasured gift today just as it was centuries ago.

Now, it's time to share our treasure with you. We're thrilled to introduce our luxury collection of liquid soaps and body washes!

Image via Capistrano Soap Company.

Our Natural Castile Hand Soap (above) is made in the Old World tradition with pure Olive Oil. And, our Goat's Milk & Shea Butter Luxe Body Wash (below) is as pure and nourishing as it sounds.

Image via Capistrano Soap Company.

We've left out all of the harmful chemical sudsing agents and detergents to offer a gentle cleanse that's designed to be hypo-allergenic and actually good for your skin. We really want to help drive the market growth of sustainable personal care products.

Each of the ACEQUIA soaps we produce are available in our four signature fragrances that we love the most: Clasico, Esencia, Fresco and Jardin.  I've found some photos (below) that may give you a better visual idea of the fragrances we've blended.

Images via Country Living (left) and BBC Good Food (right).

Clasico: This tranquil fragrance is a relaxing blend of fresh lavender, cool eucalyptus and delicious Mediterranean fig.

Images via Altius Directory (left) and Wryns Nest (right).

Esencia: Our luxury fragrance is a blend of floral notes of gardenia and tuberose, which is used in the most exquisite perfumes. We’ve also added the fresh scents of white pear and jasmine for a soft finish.

Images via Glamour Spa (left) and My Bella Vita (right).

Fresco: An exotic fragrance with an air of sweet almond combined with top notes of bergamot and surrounded with nuances of freshly ground ginger.

Image via Food Skills for Self-Sufficiency.

Jardin: An invigorating, garden fresh medley of basil leaves, summer sage and peppermint sprigs accented by hints of citrus zest.

We plan to add an Enriched Body Lotion to our product line in early 2012 that will be an extra-rich, fragrance-infused lotion designed to nourish and restore moisture, absorb quickly and leave skin soft and delicately scented. We will also be launching our Exfoliating Botanical Scrub in two exquisite scents with enhanced skin formulations.

At this time, our products are exclusively available in elegant boutiques in Houston and San Antonio, Texas. But, we do offer online sales as well. If you want to do a little Christmas shopping and save some money, we're offering FREE SHIPPING in the continental US on orders over $50 now through December 31.

We'll soon be (officially) launching our line at the Dallas Market Center in January 2012, so our retail presence should be expanding after our debut at market.

In the meantime, be sure to stop by and 'like' us on Facebook so you can keep posted on new products and special events.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Urn respect ...

Image via Halloran Antiques.
I have to admit it. I'm a sucker for a shapely urn. It's not easy to pass one by without staring and fighting the urge to take it home.

At flea markets, consignment shops and antique stores, I have given into temptation and brought home a few okay, more than a few ... in concrete, plaster, tin, resin and at last count four (maybe more) made of wire.

There are just so many ways to use an urn. They can be filled with flowers (real or fake), feathers, fruits, gifts, tokens or holiday ornaments.

This year, I'm going to use one of mine for our Thanksgiving table centerpiece.

I found a particularly attractive arrangement (below) shot by photographer Dana Gallagher that is serving as my inspiration photo.

Image photographed by Dana Gallagher.

I wanted a flower filled urn similar to the one above, but on a smaller scale. So, I took out one of my favorite pieces and set out in my secret garden to cut some stems from my Thryallis (galphimia glauca) that is blooming profusely.

All images by Alamodeus.

My quick little photo tutorial (above) gives you an step-by-step guide using a foam disc cut into a donut shape, then, wrapped in moss (which you can glue or pin to the foam). A plastic bowl houses a water-filled floral oasis that will be set into the urn. The moss donut rests on top of the bowl and floral stems are nestled into the oasis.

Image by Alamodeus.

Viola! My super easy Thanksgiving centerpiece is ready for its move from my studio to our table. I like its 'natural, unstructured' look, but, you may prefer something more refined.


Perhaps, flowers or fresh fruit would fit perfectly at the Thanksgiving table. Images above via Outdoor-Indoors (left) and Little French Garden House (right).  Both of these arranged urns are lovely.

Image via House Beautiful.

Oooh, this looks really easy.  Just slip a few berry branches inside an urn, and you're done.


Images above via Sweet Peas (left) and Carrot Creek Boutique (right).

The arrangements above show just how sweet small urns look with the simple addition of flowers and greenery. My roses are in spectacular fall bloom right now, which may become part of an arrangement for our guest room during the holidays.


Images above via Petalena (left) and Floral Home Decor (right).

I've been looking for ways to use the stock of pheasant feathers residing in my studio, so maybe I should work on something a little more dramatic. Pussy willow branches are striking, too.

Someone stop me before my house becomes mistaken for a florist shop! I've got to get busy with setting the dining room table for our little feast.

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