Monday, September 15, 2014

Pumpkin Bread + Heirloom Pumpkin Gift Tags

This weekend we had our first real taste of glorious, golden, early Autumn weather and we spent as much of it outside as possible.  Biking, hiking, playing football, and picnicking.  We had a fun night at The Cincinnati Nature Center on Saturday for their annual Preparing for Night Event.  Its become a tradition that I look forward to attending each year that signals the change of seasons.  There is a picnic with live bluegrass music followed by a self led nature hike that features stations to learn about nocturnal animals.  The boys really enjoy it and I usually learn something new too. (Did you know that wearing bright red and orange attracts mosquitos?!  I did not. :)

The other sure fire sign that fall has arrived is in my kitchen!  This is the first pumpkin recipe I make every year.  The boys know that the second the temperatures drop they'll be snacking on pumpkin bread after school.  This morning we all just about froze biking to school (2 certain young boys thought wearing shorts in 45 degree weather is comfortable) I, on the other hand, was actually wishing I had on a pair of gloves! I shared this recipe back when I first started blogging.  Before Pinterest, before I realized that using a flash indoors is a no-no, and before anyone read my posts.  So, it bears a repeat showing.  The recipe yields two full loaves or four mini loaves (or 6 mini-mini), making it impossible not to share.  Enjoy!!

^I baked in disposable baking pans. They work great but I do spray with cooking spray beforehand^

At the end of the post I've included the heirloom pumpkin gift tag as printable for you to make gifting your fresh baked deliciousness extra special.  :)   I thought they too cute not to share. I like to wrap the cooled loaves in brown parchment paper and tie with twine or jute string.  Simple, simple.  Since I made some cinnamon, honey butter (1 stick room temp butter, 1/2 c powdered sugar, 1/2 c honey, 1 tsp cinnamon all whipped till well blended.  Store in fridge) to go with them, I put the loaves I was giving away in baskets.  I bought the tiny Weck jars in NYC last fall at Fishs Eddy knowing I would use them for this exact purpose! (you can buy them online here, I used the 2.7 oz jars)

Recipe | My Favorite Pumpkin Bread
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs 
1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin 
3 cups all purpose flour 
1 teaspoon ground cloves 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon baking powder 

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans. Beat sugar and oil in large bowl to blend. Mix in eggs and pumpkin. Sift flour, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, salt and baking powder into another large bowl. Stir into pumpkin mixture in 2 additions. (Mix in  1 c. chopped walnuts, if desired). 

Divide batter equally between prepared pans. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes for full sized loaves (40-45 for mini). Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes. Using sharp knife, cut around edge of loaves. Turn loaves out onto racks and cool completely. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Interiors | Tudor Cottage Plans

I'm so excited to share this home with you today.  It is a charming Tudor cottage in my neighborhood that was recently renovated.  The new owners took special care to preserve the original charm, yet update the spaces to function better for their family + lifestyle.  I love that they renovated in a way that makes the entire home liveable, too often I see renovations or additions that don't flow well with the original home and as a result the older parts of sit pretty much unused.  Not so with this house.

They asked for my help to decorate the living room and kitchen (office and bedrooms down the road).  They wanted warm colors and cottage cozy rooms.  I've added a couple shots, taken with my iPhone so the quality isn't great but it gives you just a tiny peek at the spaces.   What you miss in the kitchen is the gorgeous farmhouse sink, pantry wall, and built-in banquette in the eat-in nook.  What you miss in the living room is the light filled second seating area, french doors to the office and large wall of built-ins. The homeowners were a bit stumped as to why the kitchen cabinetry didn't look like they envisioned.  You can see the trim is a bright white, the cabinets cream and the walls a taupe, almost mushroom gray, all great colors on their own, not so great when combined together.    The family room is pretty much a blank canvas except for a pair of new chairs and sofa.  But it doesn't currently flow well with the adjoining kitchen.

My plan for the kitchen is to make it more monochromatic.  To lighten the walls to a warm ivory (not yellow), to add fabrics is shades of pale, buttery yellow, warm cream, and natural linen in the banquette area.  To swap out the existing black table for a weathered farmhouse table and slip covered chairs. (we'll be using an outdoor linen lookalike fabric for all seating)  The windows and French doors will get bamboo shades, plus a sweet soft roman valence in the eat-in nook in one of my all time favorite Peter Dunham prints.  For lighting, they'll add a fabulous lantern over the table, brass pendants over the peninsula and a school house light over the sink.  Also to bring in more shades of white they'll hang creamware platters and ironstone on the wall.  Overall, the idea is to eliminate the sharp contrast lines between trim, wall paint and cabinet color.  Make the cream cabinets and white trim live harmoniously together.  The result will be a cozy, warm space, perfect for everyday living and entertaining.  (You can't tell from the board but the buffalo check is a linen fabric with a very large scale, muted check pattern and it is downright delicious.  Just when I think I can't possibly add more checks to my own home I come across one like this and desperately want it for myself.  A theme that is becoming a trend with all my decorating work - I pretty much always find something I want for myself! :))

As for the living room, the plan is to lighten the walls in the same color as the kitchen.  I gave them several options for cream colored paints to try.  Paint is tricky and needs to be seen in the light of the
home on different walls, at different times of the day before you will know for sure the perfect shade.  The large built in will be painted a green gray (I'd love to talk them into lining the backs with grasscloth, but that might take a little convincing. ;) ) The family photos will all be framed in antique gold frames with off white mattes.  We'll create the allusion of a foyer with a patterned, wool runner and an antique chest and mirror.  Chairs and sofa will get new throw pillows and ivory cashmere throws.  The main seating area will be grounded with a seagrass rug and another in the second seating area.  We'll add a console behind the sofa to divide the spaces.  Bamboo shades and floral drapes will go on windows.  Two, caster legged, upholstered chairs in an ivory and beige windowpane check and a large round, box pleated ottoman in a small plaid, will go into the separate seating area.  Since it is a Tudor, we'd like to incorporate some traditional English pieces like an antique ladder back armchair in the seating area and some antique bamboo side tables too.  Lastly for art,  a collection of antique pressed botanicals on the wall opposite the fireplace.  The details not shown on the inspiration board were provided to the owners via a private Pinterest board, a system that I'm finding to work well.

I will share after shots as they complete the rooms.  I can't begin to tell you how wonderful it feels to watch the light bulb go off when presenting ideas, that moment when people realize, oh my gosh, I get it, I love this and I can totally see how it will work in my home.  The process of consulting is very different than full service design.  I want to make sure the homeowners have sufficient inspiration and sources so they can go off and create rooms they will love.  

I will be sharing more of my process and how I approach decorating a room in the weeks ahead.  I have several projects that I'm excited to show you.  Plus a really amazing before and after too, coming this fall. (Steph, that is you.  Get ready!! :)) I actually cried seeing the results and it's not even my home. Haha. Back soon....

Sources not provided out of respect to clients, if you are interested in a decorating consult, please email me at

Antique chest styling on the inspiration board for the family room by the talented Marianne Simon

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Recipe | Grilled Blackberry, Brie + Arugula Pizzas

I believe I posted about one of my summer bucket list items: How to Grill a Perfect Pizza, right at the beginning of summer, along with promises of a follow up blog post before the summer was over.  Oops.  Turns out that once I found a pizza dough recipe  that I liked I never tried all the others I had planned to try before I blogged about my favorite.  And I'm not sure if I've mastered  grilling pizza, but it's pretty darn good so I'm going to share my tips and a couple recipes.

There are lots of conflicting instructions on how to grill pizza on the internet.  Why?  Shouldn't this be very simple?!  We have a charcoal grill, so if we put the dough on, along with toppings, the bottom would eventually burn before the top even began to cook.  I'm guessing gas grills are different?  Not sure, but here's what works for ours..

1.  Make your dough (or buy fresh or frozen and let it thaw)  I like Trader Joe's fresh dough but it has very short dating and can sometimes be a bit difficult to stretch.  I also heard Kroger makes a good frozen crust and some of our local pizzerias will sell their dough too.  But making your own is very easy and fun.  This recipe has been pretty foolproof.  I usually have to add a little extra water because my dough is a bit too dry.

2.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Place your baking stone in oven for 45-50 minutes to get it nice and warm.  I use this stone, the handles are super duper convenient!

3.  Fire up the grill.  The coals should be nice and hot.   Place pre-warmed pizza stone on the grill. When dough is ready and rolled/stretched out, place it directing onto the pizza stone.  I use a very lightly floured pizza peel for easy sliding onto the stone.

4.  Let the bottom of the crust get nice and golden brown, then flip it.   I like to brush it with olive oil and sprinkle with a little sea salt at this stage then top with whatever ingredients you like.  We are usually pretty traditional with our toppings but opted for something a little different the night I took these pics.   And by "we" I mean the adults in the family.  The boys stuck with their standard sauce and cheese! ;)

5.  Cook till golden on the bottom and cheese melted on the top!

Recipe | Grilled Blackberry, Brie + Arugula Pizza
(adapted from Southern Living)

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • large sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • Parchment paper
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 12 ounces Brie cheese, trimmed and sliced*
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries, halved
  • 3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh arugula
  • 1/4 cup torn basil leaves
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • Honey to drizzle
  •  **Recipe for pizza dough or store bought**

  • Preheat oven to 500.  Warm pizza stone for 45-50 minutes in oven before placing on grill.
  • Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add onion and cook, stirring often, 20 minutes or until golden brown. (The original recipe calls for fennel.  I love fennel but didn't think it was needed and will leave it out next time I make this pizza.)
  • Shape pizza dough into desired size.  Place on hot grill, cook till golden on bottom side.  Flip dough,  brush with 1 Tbsp. oil. Top dough with cheese, next 2 ingredients, and onion mixture.  Grill until bottom is golden and cheese has melted.
  • Toss together arugula, next 2 ingredients, and remaining 1 Tbsp. oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle cooked pizzas with arugula mixture just before serving.  Drizzle top with honey.
  • (Recipe can also be prepared in the oven, see recipe link above for instructions)