Saturday, September 30, 2017

Inspiration | A Place to Call Home | Book Review

I spent a good portion of the last few days taking in the latest book from Gil Schafer, A Place to Call Home (yes, the exact same title as the new James Farmer book.  I know several of you have noticed that too.  A little publisher oopsie-daisy especially having them both come out at the same time).  Schafer's first book is one of my all time favorites, so this one was highly anticipated and every bit as inspiring as his first. He a master at building classic homes that evoke warmth and an instant sense of history.  The exteriors are perfect, the kind of homes you have to stop and stare at when passing by, and the interiors are so welcoming you would never want to leave.

Here are a just a few of my favorites from the book...

The most beautifully scaled entrance with a gravel driveway to boot.

I want this to be my home office + design studio


Mismatched and collected.  It feels like this room came together without any prescription or adherence to decorating "rules" yet it all works perfectly.  A testament to buying what you love and not over thinking any one item too much.

There are an abundance of the MOST charming bathrooms in this book.

That bench!

 My favorite kind of country style (and a peek at another charming bathroom with the red wallpaper)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Our Home | Country House Style | The Book

This summer I shared on instagram that our home was photographed for a book.  Yes, a BOOK!  Not just a corner here and there but 25+ pages of our home, in print, forever.  Eeeeeek!  Such a huge honor that I still can't quite believed happened.  I LOVE books so much and interior design books are some of the most treasured in my home library.  Sitting down with a gorgeous book and getting lost in the pages and filled with inspiration is one of life's great luxuries.  Since a few teaser pics were released this week, I thought it a perfect time to recap the experience a little on the blog.

For starters, no, I am not the author.  I find the idea of publishing my own book incredibly glamorous,  but alas, I would never be able to devote the time and energy that is required to even come close to getting a book deal, never mind actually doing the work to create the book.  (I struggle to find time to write a blog post!)  I think many of us in the design and blogging community dream of having our work featured in a book, but making it a reality is a whole lot harder.  When Nora Murphy (who I blogged about here) contacted me and asked if she could include our home in a book pitch about country style I didn't even have to think about it for a second - yes, yes, absolutely, positively, yes! Nora's home and online magazine have inspired me more than shelter magazines over the years.  Her style speaks to my New England loving esthetic in a way that makes traditional country feel fresh and current. Her home is pretty much perfection.  When she called to say the deal was a go and she would be coming out to shoot our home over the summer I was giddy!  (and nervous too :))

 I started thinking about the permanence of a book.  And all the things, some big, some small, that aren't quite perfect in our home.  I panicked a little prior to the shoot.   I had a long list of to-dos that I knew wouldn't all happen. Would they be disappointed when they saw our home in person?  Would our home look ok in the summer, since it's really so much prettier in the fall and winter?  Um, and I still didn't have living room drapes up! It was probably a good thing that we were on vacation right before the shoot so I didn't have time to fuss and fiddle with our house.  There were maybe a couple little things here and there that I fixed (chipped paint on kitchen cabinets, rotten fence pickets) or changed (table lamps in family room) but overall I just surrendered thinking they will style it how they want it.

Nora and her team arrived on what was the muggiest, rainiest, hottest weekend of the summer.  They were a crew of the loveliest ladies and Coner (her son).  They were rather unfazed by the weather and my steamed up old, single pane, windows.  They didn't re-style anything in our home.  Even though I kept encouraging them to change whatever they needed.  No big truck of flowers arrived, just lots of hydrangeas from my mum's garden that I snipped the day before.  My own accessories were moved around a bit when needed, but everything was just photographed as it is every day.  At first I worried a bit about the lack of styling I did, but later, as the two days went on, I appreciated this approach more and more.  (Even if since they've left, I've made a few changes that I wish I'd done for the book.)  It felt so genuine, it was a detailed collection of photos of our home at a moment in time.  Such care was taken to capture our home as we live in it.  Homes are ever evolving and changing.  I do more styling for a blog post than I did for a book shoot - which seems crazy.  The boys collection of clay and ceramic art projects on the bookcases - yep, that was photographed.  Random bamboo skewers I use to test baked goods that were in an old wine glass on my kitchen shelves - yes, those too stayed.  It was remarkable, really, how they cared so much about the shots feeling real.  I think that will make this book different in the best way.

In between photos we nibbled on cheese boards and my chocolate cake (after it was photographed), I walked into town with Coner and learned all about his life in CT and plans after college, I hung out with Nora (who is as lovely,  down to earth, and easy going as you expect her to be) in my living room and we talked shop about the highs and challenges of helping others decorate their homes and other important things like how to harvest moss from my backyard (where it apparently is plentiful - who knew?)  and after a couple days we all left as friends. Seriously, such an awesome experience.  Now I just wait in complete anticipation for the final book.  There are 5 other country homes featured, along with Nora's, of course, and each is so different, yet in many ways the same.  I think it will forever and always be my favorite book of all time.          

Saturday, August 5, 2017

summer in my kitchen | cocktails, grilled peaches and strawberry salsa

I had grand plans to do a weekly summer cocktail  series on the blog, but alas, it's August and while many cocktails have been made and enjoyed they have not been blogged about.  Typical. ;)  I'm going to round up a few that we really liked since there are still plenty of warm sunny days ahead!  I'm also going to share a couple other summer favorites while I'm at it and the farm stands are overflowing with fresh fruit.

For me, cocktails need to be pretty fuss free, with ingredients we almost always have on hand.  Nothing more annoying than having to make a special trip to the store just to prepare a spontaneous drink.  Ok, I take that back, plenty of things are more annoying, but you know what I mean.  If I have to run to the store to make it, it likely isn't going to happen.  After all, cocktails are an end of the day kind of affair and by then I don't have the energy to go seeking out special ingredients.  Now, if we were planning drinks for a party that would be different.

I do like the way this little bar tray area has taken shape in our dining room.  I love the collection of pretty bottles and the way it changes from week to week.  I never really quite had this table "styled" in a way that worked.  It always looked pretty when entertaining - I'd use it for cheese trays or desserts or drink set ups - but for everyday living it was kind of blah.   The tray sits on one of my favorite antique tables, a pretty barley twist gateleg that I found when antiquing for a day in Louisville with my Mum quite a few years ago. Now for the cocktails...

3 oz. Pimm's No. 1
San Pelligrino Limonata (Sparkling Lemon)
Garnish with a very thin sliver of cucumber, an orange slice, a mint leaf and a strawberry (I put them all on a single long toothpick across the top of the drink when I'm feeling fancy or skip the garnish all together when I'm feeling lazy.)

Fill a highball all the way with ice.  Pour in Pimms and Pellegrino and stir.  Then garnish.  I tried this with homemade lemonade, with lemon lime soda, and Pellegrino and the sparkling lemon Pellegrino was my favorite!!

1.5 oz Campari or Aperol
1.5 oz sweet vermouth
Orange Slice

Pour into a high ball full of ice and stir.  I LOVE this drink!

Lemon Basil Mojito
(adapted from The Forest Feat)
Basil leaf
Mint leaf
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
3 Tbs of rum

In a lowball, muddle basil and mint a little.  Add sugar, lemon juice, rum and stir. Top with seltzer.  Super refreshing!  Easy to drink and not too strong.

Blackberry Negroni
(from The Forest Feast)
2 Tbs gin
2 Tbs Campari
2 Tbs sweet vermouth

Shake together with ice.  Serve in a lowball or smaller glass with ice and blackberries.  This one is good but has a much bigger kick than the ones above.  

So from cocktails to dessert... (covering all the important bases this summer).  A couple weeks ago, fresh peaches started appearing at the farm stands and I was delighted.  My sister in law turned me on to grilling peaches last summer and they are such a simple luxury! Oh how a love eating warm fruit for dessert and when it's in season there is no need for a pie crust or crumble topping to make it amazing. I actually prefer using my grill pan but the outdoor grill works well too.  I like to use peaches that are ripe, makes a big difference in the texture and cooking time.

 I've tried all sorts of cooking techniques when grilling peaches but this is my favorite.

Grilled Peaches
Ripe peaches
Brown sugar
Olive oil
Mascarpone Cheese
Topping Options: Nuts or granola

Slice peach in half and remove the pit.  (Another reason you need a properly ripe peach or this step doesn't go as smoothly.) Very lightly brush each half with olive oil. (Canola works well too)  Place on a warm, but not super hot grill.  You want to grill it and have it warm the peach through but not char and burn it.  If the grill is too warm (which occasionally happens with our charcoal grill) it will burn/char the outside before the inside is fully warmed through.  Not tasty. Once they have light grill marks and are warmed through (a few minutes), remove and top with a little brown sugar (about 1 tsp), then a small dollop of Mascarpone (vanilla ice cream or whip cream would be delicious too!!) and garnish with nuts or granola if you like for a little crunch.  I don't bother toasting the nuts but I'm sure toasted nuts would be even better.

Now for my last recipe - strawberry salsa.  This whole post really exemplifies summer in the kitchen for me.  I keep things so simple and fresh.  It is all about what tastes good after a day spent in the sun but requires very little thinking and can easily adapt to omitting or adding ingredients based on what I've picked up at the farmer's market or from a friend's garden. ;)

The first time I saw a recipe for strawberry salsa was in the Forest Feast cookbook.  Some of the above cocktails were inspired by that book too. I've made some additions and modifications to the salsa recipe to suit our preferences, but like all salsas, you can add or delete as you like, just keep the strawberries, lime juice and something green and go from there.

This salsa is great on chips, crackers, with grilled shrimp, or as a little side salad with a brunch!

Strawberry Salsa
2 cups strawberries, diced
1 small tomato, seeded + diced
1 TBS chopped fresh mint
1 bundle cilantro, chopped
the juice of one lime
1/4 medium size red onion, very finely diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

Mix all together in a medium bowl and refrigerate.  Keeps for a couple days, but it never lasts longer than a couple hours. ;)  I had a hair dresser years ago that hosted a salsa party at the start of every summer for her girlfriends.  Each brought a salsa to share and she provided drinks and chips.  I've always wanted to recreate that and whenever I come across a unique salsa I make a mental note that it would be perfect for my future salsa party!  Her specialty was a mango salsa.  Maybe I should try plan one before school starts back up... Hmmm...