window dressing eye candy…

I have been living in the same home for ten years and I think I’ve got a problem. I don’t have any drapes–shriek!!! Don’t panic, I’ve got blinds and the whole world is spared from seeing me when I get up in the morning–shriek!!!! It’s just that I have a bad case of can’t-make-up-my-mind-itis. I’m stuck on which way to go; therefore, I go nowhere.

My Victorian-style house has a large turret, which means I have a large bay window in the living room and another in our master bedroom right above. You might think a turret is “precious”, but it’s a design curse!! The thought of having to finance six drapery panels instead of two has frozen me in fear of making a huge style mistake that costs an arm and a leg. Do I go neutral? Do I go patterned? Then I think about the couches and the whole idea gets tossed out the window (I can whip up a pun even in the midst of intense drapery dilemma).

In my self-taught opinion, window dressing is like mascara. You can trowel on all the make-up you like, but if you forget the mascara…march right back in that bathroom missy! Drapes finish a room–they’re that magical something that just makes a room sing. Imagine any of these rooms without them. They just wouldn’t have the same oomph, would they?

courtesy HGTV

HGTV

design & photo by Kishani Perera interior designs

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redheaded cowgirls rock…

Just thought I’d share a really good blog with you. It’s The Pioneer Woman hosted by Ree Drummond. She’s multi-talented, hilarious and posts a wicked recipe or two thousand. Her photography is great–she even gives fantastic tips and invites guest bloggers to write helpful articles on the topic.

She’s a redhead…I’m a redhead. I ride horses…I bet she rides horses…coincidence? I think not. It’s time for redheaded cowgirls to rule the world!

Ree’s Pico de Gallo and Salsa recipes look fabulous–I’m craving fresh cilantro, lime and tomatoes!!! If you want any of Ree’s recipes, just click on the photos and the hyperlink will take you right where you want to go.

Ree's Salsa

Ree's Pico de Gallo

Okay..the woman makes her own raised doughnuts, which has been a dream of mine since I picked up my first whisk. I actually think I was a short-order fry cook in a previous life ’cause I love dropping stuff in boiling oil and watching it turn all crispy. Don’t these just look so darned good?

Ree's Glazed Doughnuts

Easter fever…

Now that Valentine’s Day is behind us, it’s time to prepare for the next chocolate extravaganza–Easter! Get out your bonnets, think about decorating those eggs (especially the stunning Ukranian ones), and start planning your big dinner party now. Let’s get going girls…

courtesy Penny Richard's Flickr photostream

I came across an excellent Ukrainian easter egg decoration demo on The Artisan Woman. A very dear family friend taught me how to do these eggs when I was a teenager, and I absolutely loved it. Once you have the right materials (e.g., bees wax, wax pen, etc.), it’s really quite straightforward, but it takes a lot of time, so get going.

courtesy of photographer Andy Cripe of Cheap Shots

These are such darling table centerpieces from Martha Stewart Living.

courtesy Martha Stewart Living

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sneak peek…

I’m busy getting ready for the photo shoot at Brita’s house on Friday with photographer, Janis Nicolay. I always look forward to photo shoots ’cause I get to be creative when styling the shots, and I love seeing the end results and posting them on Nicole Jane Home.

Here’s a little sneak peak at some of the Spring items I’ll be launching next week.

Savannah Poppy Cushion

Silk Poppy Cushion

Savannah Sesame Cushion Continue reading

tea party…

As I was washing windows on the weekend, I started to think about what a shame it is to waste a freshly cleaned house (believe me…I don’t do it often…and it doesn’t stay that way for long). The next crazy thought that drifted into my brain was the idea of a tea party–an unabashedly girly ritual. Do any of us still have Sunday dresses in our closets? Or is all available closet real estate devoted to jeans and frilly blouses?

I just love the quaint notion of linen napkins, sipping proper tea in china cups–none of this tea bag nonsense–go loose leaf or go home. And then there are those ethereal finger sandwiches…sigh. I’ve always been a sandwich girl. The finger sandwiches were always the first thing I made a bee line for at Church teas every Sunday (imagine a chubby, bespectacled redhead ripping off her choir gown and flinging sheet music on the way to the church kitchen). In my opinion, the best day for afternoon tea is Saturday. That way, you have the morning to get ready, the afternoon to enjoy, and ALL day Sunday to recover!

At first, I thought it was called High Tea, but that’s not correct. The proper term is Afternoon Tea. It all started with a hungry Queen, who couldn’t make it through the afternoon and evening until dinnertime at 9 p.m. She started having tea with buttered bread around 3 p.m., then she started to invite her gal pals over for tea, and the whole lazy lot of ’em sat around munching on sandwiches, scones and jam. High tea, on the other hand, is more like dinner served between 5 and 7 p.m., with cheeses, meats, pickles, etc. More manly and working-class-ish, apparently.

Some of the snootier folk take this quite seriously, and scoff at anyone who accidentally calls afternoon tea, high tea (like every hotel in North America). So here are some elements that I think any decent tea party should have…

A. CUCUMBER FINGER SANDWICHES

Really simple. If you really want to make them extra-special, you can order special sandwich loaves at your favourite bakery. Ask them to remove the crusts for you. Otherwise, start with a really good loaf of white bread. Finger sandwiches need to be buttered (real butter) so they don’t become soggy. Spread a layer of cream cheese on top of one of the buttered pieces. Top with thinly sliced peeled cucumber. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Now, you can stop there, or you can add finely chopped chives or mint. Yummmm. Make sure to cut off the crusts and slice in diamonds, or use a round cookie cutter. Easy peasy.

Photo is courtesy of How To Be Pretty (you can click on each of the photos which have hyperlinks to the source).

photo courtesy of How To Be Pretty blogspot

B. SCONES WITH JAM & CLOTTED CREAM

I am getting REALLY hungry writing this post–look at that, it’s almost 4 p.m. Gotta go! Bill Granger of The Sidney Morning Herald included this recipe in his advice column.

Scones with jam and clotted cream

1 tbsp icing sugar
310g (2 1/2 cups) plain flour
1 1/2 tbsp baking powder
A pinch of salt
250ml (1 cup) milk
30g butter, melted
Jam
Clotted cream

Preheat the oven to 220C. Sift the icing sugar, flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Add the milk and butter and stir with a knife to combine. Knead quickly and lightly until the dough is smooth, then press out onto a floured surface.

Use a glass to cut out rounds (roughly 5cm in diameter and 3cm deep) and place them close together on a greased baking tray. Gather the dough scraps, lightly knead again, then cut out more rounds to add to the baking tray.

Cook for 8-10 minutes, until puffed and golden. Serve with jam and clotted cream.

photo by Quentin Jones via The Sidney Morning Herald

C. FANCY SHMANCY CUPCAKES

These delectable little fancies are Martha Stewart’s Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

photo courtesy Martha Stewart Living

Makes 24

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • Finely grated zest of 3 lemons (about 3 tablespoons), plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Lemon Curd (see below)
  • Seven-Minute Frosting (see below)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is until incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in zest and vanilla. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk and lemon juice, and beating until just combined after each.
  3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
  4. To finish, spread 1 tablespoon lemon curd onto middle of each cupcake. Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large open-star tip (Ateco #828 or Wilton #8B) with frosting. Pipe frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip slightly and releasing as you pull up to form a peak. Hold a small kitchen torch 3 to 4 inches from surface of frosting, and wave it back and forth until frosting is lightly browned all over. Serve immediately.

Martha Stewart’s Lemon Curd

Makes about 2 cups

  • 8 large egg yolks
  • Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

Directions

  1. Combine yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar in a heavy-bottom saucepan; whisk to combine. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (be sure to scrape the sides of the pan), until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon, 8 to 10 minutes, and registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.
  2. Remove saucepan from heat. Add salt and butter, one piece at a time, stirring until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a medium bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly onto the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and set, at least 1 hour or up to 1 day.

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Martha Stewart’s Seven Minute Frosting

Makes about 8 cups

  • 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature

Directions

  1. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with the water and corn syrup in a small saucepan; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves. Continue boiling, without stirring, until syrup reaches 230 degrees.
  2. Meanwhile, in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. With mixer running, add remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, beating to combine.
  3. As soon as sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees, remove from heat. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup down side of bowl in a slow, steady stream. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until mixture is completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl) and stiff (but not dry) peaks form, about 7 minutes. Use immediately.

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