Saturday, June 23, 2012

Block prints ...

The kids are out of school, and you're looking for some super simple projects to keep them entertained. You've found the right spot to learn block printing basics.

Despite the fact that I detest styrofoam (so bad for Mother Earth!), at least this block printing project gives those take home food containers a second life beyond carrying leftovers.

Standard styrofoam food container provided by most restaurants.

Cut a square from the container's top.

Using a pencil, draw a design in the styrofoam.
Just remember: whatever you draw will be inverted in the final print
(if it faces left when you draw it, it will face right when its printed).
So, I suggest no words unless you can write backwards.

Press hard enough to create depressed channels when drawing.

With a roller, use ink or paint to cover the styrofoam design.

Immediately place paper of your choice over the design
and press firmly with your hand or weighted object, then remove paper carefully from edge.

Viola! A block print is born.

All photos via The Meta Picture.

Getting the hang of it ...

Hanging artwork can be tricky. Generally, my attempts leave more holes in the wall than art hanging on it. That's when a gallery wall makes hanging so much easier.

Image via Simple Everyday Glamour.

While there still needs to be some degree of placement planning, gallery walls offer freedom from a totally symmetrical aesthetic.

Image via Greige.

That's a boon to those who have 'nail' phobia. The other great thing about creating gallery walls is the freedom to ignore 'eye-level' hanging constraints. Who made that rule, anyway?


Images above via Focal Point (left) and First Home (right).

I love the unexpected art hung down to the floor, off-center placements behind other accessories or layered with multiple framed works.

Image via Charles Spada.

I'm also intrigued by temporary galleries, whether leaning on slender shelves or hung from uber convenient clipboards.

Image via New York design firm, Huniford.

I have so much artwork stored, that I must get serious about hanging more pieces.

Image via Design Indulgence.

Love this room's simple style and neutral canvas. A clean, crisp backdrop for art.

On the Menu: Homemade Tomato Sauce

We have a bounty of fresh tomatoes coming from our garden now, so it's time to create my homemade tomato sauce from scratch. Yum!

Our garden fresh tomatoes are key to a good homemade pasta sauce.
One day of tomato produce from this year's garden.

My caro amici Gennaro and Luciano would be proud! These friends come from a village near Positano on the Amalfi Coast. Using Napolitano recipes from their Nonna Lina, they have created delicious dishes for their Luciano Restaurants.

Image via How to Make Pasta.

While my recipe for homemade tomato sauce may not be as authentic as the savory sauces made by Nonna Lina in her Italian cucina, this one transports me from Texas to Tuscany with the very first bite! Now, if only I hadn't broken my pasta maker.



10 ripe tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 carrots, grated
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 cup red wine (suggestion: cook and drink Montepulciano d`Abruzzo Sciarpa)
1 bay leaf
1 stalk celery
2 tablespoons tomato paste

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Have a large bowl of iced water ready. Plunge whole tomatoes in boiling water until skin starts to peel, 1 minute. Remove with slotted spoon and place in ice water bath. Let rest until cool enough to handle, then remove peel and squeeze out seeds. Chop 8 tomatoes and puree in blender or food processor. Chop remaining two tomatoes and set aside.

In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, cook onion, bell pepper, carrot and garlic in oil and butter until onion starts to soften, 5 minutes. Pour in pureed tomatoes. Stir in chopped tomato, basil, oregano and wine. Place bay leaf and whole celery stalk in pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 2 hours.

Stir in tomato paste and simmer an additional 2 hours. Discard bay leaf and celery and serve over pasta.

Buon appetito!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Summer suppers ...

Dining al fresco is one of my favorite ways to entertain. However, now that our Texas summer is heating up, we'll be putting outdoor dining on hold until fall arrives.

I must admit, I would love to live in a more temperate climate where summer suppers were an enjoyable way to spend the evening with friends and family.


Images above via Creative Garden Decor (left) and This is Glamorous (right).

It would be such a joy to ice down a few bottles and sit down to a lovely meal under the stars.

Image via Simple Everyday Glamour.

We certainly take every advantage of that during the spring and fall when we host our soirees. Candlelight, music, good food and friends making the evenings memorable.

Image via Martha Stewart.

We put our wisteria covered pergola to good use as our social venue every chance we get when the weather is comfortable. You may have a terrace, rooftop or old barn that can be called into service as a out-of-the-ordinary setting for entertaining.


Images above via Martha Stewart (left) and Robert & Kathleen Photographers (right).

So, if you have good weather, enjoy the opportunities to host summer suppers. I'll be thinking of you and wishing you had invited me to dinner!

Vase and water ...

What touch could be more simple and chic than vase, water and flowers? Whether as a gift or as a personal decorator touch, beautifully fragrant blooms are part of summer's bounty that we can bring indoors to admire and enjoy.

Image via British Homes and Gardens.

There's no need for an elaborate arrangement to create a beautiful vignette. 

Image from designer Erin Fetherston's Paris apartment.

Stop by the flower shop for a bouquet of seasonal beauties. I've taken a cue from the florist and now arrange flowers in the palm of my hand to shape the bouquet's height. Then, I trim all stems evenly from the bottom.

Image by photographer James Carriere.

Select a vase based on the size of your bouquet. Add room temperature water and a bit of plant food/preservative. 


Images above via My Wedding Flower Ideas (left) and On Home Design (right).

I have a wide selection of glass vases - short and tall, slim and wide, round and square, to accommodate just about any size floral bouquet. I keep a dozen or so identical, small glass vases just for dinner parties so I can amass them for centerpieces.

Image via Hit Decor.

I would love to have year-round access to cut flowers from my gardens. That would be one extravagance that would be on my wish list. 

Flickr image from the Head Gardener's Office at the Lost Garden's of Heligan, Cornwall.

But, alas, an occasional gift bouquet from my husband must fill in the gaps between growing seasons and special occasions.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Manly metals ...

Happy Father's Day to all of the great dads everywhere, especially my sweet husband!

My honey is always asking for more posts that appeal to the guys, so here's a little tribute to the most manly of materials, corrugated metal. I must admit that I'm really fond of it, too.

Image via EHow.

From roofing to siding ...

Image via Brett Nashville on Flickr.

... to fencing,

Image via Contractor Talk.

... corrugated tin and aluminium have made their way indoors.

Image via Remodelista.


Images above via Country Living (left) and Design Sponge (right).

Image via Jamon Metz on Flickr.

Who doesn't love the casual chic of a metal clad bar? 

Image via Bronwyn Long.

Sure, corrugated metal is a guy thing, but girls must love it, too. Otherwise, it would be hard to explain the decidedly feminine decorator touches in the most manly of rooms below!

Images above via Elle Decor.

How's that, honey?

On the Menu: Avocado and Grilled Corn Salad

Our garden is producing a wealth of fresh food for our table, so I thought it would be a perfect time to make Avocado & Grilled Corn Salad using our abundance of fresh veggies.

Image via the Authentic Suburban Gourmet.

This is a super easy recipe that appeals to a hearty appetite as well as the calorie conscious crowd and gives us a delicious way to bring our garden to the table. 


5 ears corn, husk removed, brush with olive oil and grilled, remove corn with sharp knife
2 avocados, diced and sprinkled with lemon juice to prevent browning
2 cups chopped tomatoes, red and yellow cherry variety or equivalent
1 small red onion, finely diced
¾ cup Feta cheese, crumbled
1 ½ cup diced cucumbers with skin on

Add to a large bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.


6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 teaspoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
½ teaspoon salt
Ground fresh pepper to taste

Add all of the vinaigrette ingredients in a small glass jar with a lid. Shake well. Taste and adjust seasoning and ratios of oil and vinegar as you desire.
Pour over salad. Toss well. Serve.

Crepe Myrtle cheer ...

Crepe Myrtles have begun their brilliant show of color across Texas, and the trees in our gardens are looking gorgeous!

Crepe Myrtle by Alamodeus.

I wanted you to first see our 'volunteer' Crepe Myrtle. When we built an addition to our home 12 years ago, we had to cut down a beautiful tree. A couple of years later, this little sweetie popped up from the old tree's roots. 

Crepe Myrtle by Alamodeus.

I've never pruned it in any way so it can grow as it pleases. It's something between shrub and tree, and now about six feet tall.

Crepe Myrtle by Alamodeus.

What I really wanted you to see is the amazing color (and I have not colorized these photos at all). The delicate blooms are such an intense pink and truly beautiful.

Crepe Myrtle by Alamodeus.

This volunteer is an exception to my standard rule about keeping Crepe Myrtles shapely. These beautiful trees are really low maintenance, but some pruning is necessary to keep a well-groomed shape.

Image via Grumpy Gardener.

This is a good example of a well-maintained Crepe Myrtle. It hasn't suffered what we call 'Crepe Murder,' that tragic pruning to the bone that many commercial lawn service companies commit.

Image via the Grumpy Gardener.

This is 'Crepe Murder,' an offense of the highest degree! This is an example of how Crepe Myrtles should not be pruned! 

If a tree needs any shaping, please put away the chain saws and lopers. Use a good set of shears and selectively snip branches to train the direction of new growth.

Image via Dam Tree Services.

Pruned and fertilized properly, a Crepe Myrtle will create a magnificent show of color throughout the growing season. Beautiful!

Rabbit rave ...

I adore the Cottontail rabbits that live in our yard!

I could spend hours watching them as they hop along our garden path - playing, nibbling grass and evading the interest of our dog.

The bunnies have become so accustomed to us that we can walk right next to them as we go about our garden chores.

There is something truly lovable in their sweet disposition and inquisitive faces that melts my heart.

So, of course, I'm smitten with just about any object that appeals to my 'bunny love,' and it's great to see tributes from others as well.

Bunny in bronze. Image via Radio Cole.

What a face! I just want to hug him and squeeze him and put pretty bows in his hair!

Image via Garden Swag.

I would love to invite rabbits to my dinner table. Don't get the wrong idea. I'm not suggesting they be 'dinner' (I know they're tasty, but we won't talk of that here!). 

Image via Mountain Breaths.

I really like their presence on the tabletop, like these whimsical napkin rings in bunny shapes.


Images above via Kozoil-Shop (left) and Oh Little Rabbit (right).

The acrylic rabbit rings are charming, and I adore the screen-printed cotton napkins.

Caskata Canape Plates. Image via Nothing New Treasures.

But, my favorite has to be these precious rabbit plates. And, no, you may not use them to serve rabbit stew, so don't even ask!

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