Monday, April 21, 2014

The Energy of Easter

Talk about renewable energy! The emergence of spring has once again revived my soul. What a wonder it is! The dead of winter has burst into life. Bare branches have crocheted delicate spring sweaters.

The frozen earth has defrosted enough to produce bunches of pale yellow daffodils.  

What fun to once again cut blossoms from my garden.

The empty patio has emerged from the white permafrost to become an outdoor room with a seating area on the right...

spring blossoms in the center, 

and, the freshly-scrubbed, oval picnic table on the left. This year, after our long hibernation, eating outdoors was especially heart-warming!

Each spring, I get a kick out of hiding dozens of colored eggs in the yard for the children. This year was no exception.
We all enjoyed watching our just-walking toddler balance on her feet to find treasure.


Alas, visits come to an end. So, after celebrating Christ's resurrection together at church, we kissed our son and his family goodbye. 

Thankfully, rather than just go back into an empty house, we had another celebration to anticipate. My mother travelled with us an hour east to have dinner with my sister and her family. Her front door wreath welcomed us to spring at her house.  
Inside her place settings were perfect--antique blue and white dishes with robin's-egg-blue linen napkins. 

The edible nests were chinese noodles coated with melted chocolate and shaped in muffin tins. The center piece of Easter lilies emitted a heavenly fragrance. 
Clusters of bunnies were creatively arranged around the dining room.

This porcelain mother bunny with her overflowing carriage was especially endearing.
What an encouraging day! I don't know about you, but after the gloom of winter and the sobriety of Good Friday, my heart fills with joy at finding the empty tomb. 
Annually, my spirit is renewed by God's amazingly gracious exchange: a soiled life for a clean conscience. We are offered this swap, because of the sacrificial death of the Passover Lamb. Then, God secured the rest of the exchange--death for life--by dynamiting Christ from the tomb!  I praise God for the energy of Easter!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Lovely Combination: Lavender and Green

Lavender and green look lovely together.

Artists agree.
Lavender and Green  Arthur Wesley Dow, 1912,  Dayton Art Institute
The good Lord does a particularly amazing job of combining the two colors.
After the long-cold, wet winter, the crocuses in my garden are trying their best to please me with their purple hues against the still muted-green grass.

Almost universally, the combination strikes a pleasing cord. Little girls certainly love the combination.

However, in design to avoid a "princess" effect, I would advise going long on the green and short on the lavender. Here are two photos of interior designs where the combination is pleasing. In the first photo, neutrals predominate with the green accents in about a 4 to 1 ratio with the lavender.

One of the authors of Material Girls blog, Rebecca Soskin says, "The bones of the room are rather neutral but the pops of lavender and lime green give it that special edge."

This nursery chair and lavender pillows illustrates the same proportions. 

Caitlin Creer Interiors
Nobody combines lavender and green better than Phoebe Howard. She chooses a neutral background interrupted by one of the many shades of green, then accents with a lovely lavender canvas.
Phoebe Howard
In this intimate table setting she arranged, guests would focus on the smokey-green landscape, appreciating it more because of the lavender counterpoint.
Phoebe Howard
These are two of my all-time favorite images of Phoebe's work. In each case, the lavender with the mellow green is pitch perfect.

Maybe this combination is why I enjoy my a mid afternoon cup of tea out of this particular cup. Care to join me?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Spring Dinner Party

Last night we had long-time friends over for dinner. Laura, a lovely, young mother is our dentist. She assumed this mantle when she took over her father's practice. Actually, our family friendship began when Laura was in high school with our son. The years have passed, and now at our table we had three generations.

Laura is married to an Irishman, and they have two adorable, freckle-faced children. Grandmother Sharon, my peer, is a multi-talented phenomenon. She is a gardner, a quilter, and a professional food stylist.  Needless to say, entertaining such a consummate "foodie" made me perseverate over the tablescape, the menu, and the presentation of each course.

You who have followed my blog for awhile know my favorite part of party planning is designing the tablescape. Usually, I let the fresh flowers in the grocery store set the stage. This week pink tulips, freesia, and miniature roses were available. Perfect for spring!
Because this was a casual multi-generational dinner party I used nubby placemats and pottery to take the formality down a notch.
(The children had perfect manners and added so much to our conversation. We were brought up-to-date on school schedules, reading expectations, and elementary school sports.)

With spring and the Irish in mind, I developed the menu the day before the party. I decided on lamb chops, buttered-parsley tiny new potatoes, and apricot-glazed carrots for my main course. With the heart of the dinner settled, the bookends easily followed. Before the meal, we sipped pear juice tinged with lime and nibbled from a cheese board with brie, an herb-infused cheese spread, and a mango-Helvita. To compliment the main course, I served spring green salad and honey oatmeal bread. At the end of the meal, we enjoyed chocolate lava cake with raspberries and ice cream. Then we all lingered over coffee or hot brewed tea. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food, especially our Irish guest.

My favorite addition to this season's entertaining is this funky vase holder. Filled with more pink tulips it complimented my tablescape. If you see one, snap it up. It makes displaying tulips so easy.

Entertaining takes effort, but deepened friendships are more than enough reward. Here's to more spring dinner parties.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

When Cometh Spring?

After our hard winter, I've changed the poetic: "Whence cometh spring?" to "When cometh spring?" This week we had a hopeful sign: an "onion snow".  According to the locals here in Pennsylvania Dutch country, an "onion snow" is a light snow which melts quickly and arrives just prior to the planting of onions. Such a dusting portends the arrival of spring.

Furthermore, local legend insists that three types of snow must arrive before spring can appear: a "sapling-bender" which is a wet, heavy snow that weighs down boughs; a "crack-stuffer" which is a dry, fine-grained snow that settles in cracks in the earth, and an "onion snow."  

In February, we certainly had the sapling-bender. 
Photo by Cindy Hummel, Lancaster Online
Then this week's snow was dry and fine-grained, 
arriving just before the farmer's wife across the river planted her onions.
The spade in the garden indicates her intention to begin spring planting.
I'd say its high time for spring!  

Here are six sure signs in the neighborhood.
The farmers are spreading liquid brown fertilizer--complete with complimentary odors.
Forsythia stems are showing a hint of yellow.
The red Japanese maple has taken on a rosy hue.
Buds are sprouting on our deciduous trees.
Birds have been refreshing their nests.
And, my crocuses and tulips are peaking out of the ground. 

God set the sun and moon in the sky to determine the seasons. So as long as they shine, spring will follow winter; it's inevitable. I don't know about you, but this year I'm praying He brings it sooner rather than later! 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Clean Spring Sweep

The change of seasons always motivates a fresh look at closets and storage. Last week I was at my daughter's home, where together we did a clean sweep of several areas. The biggest transformation came to her hearth room shelves.

On either side of the fireplace are two large shelving units. After they bought the home, the couple had   the strange drawer/shelf configuration covered with doors. (I think the black cremone bolts added a nice vertical touch.)

The doors provided a safe haven for toys which were stuffed willy-nilly onto the shelves. That wouldn't have been such a bad thing, except the cupboards need to be open for optimal electronic effectiveness. 


So, when company visited to watch a game or view a video, the chaos was on display. Hmm, my daughter thought this was a bit embarrassing. Consequently, our goal was to organize the shelving for public consumption. 


We measured the shelves and went basket shopping. Michaels was having a half price on wicker boxes and they had the number and sizes we needed. Bingo! 

What an amazing difference! Now company thinks my daughter is Wonder Woman. Truth be told, she is. :)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The French Just Have a Way

Have you ever noticed how French women just know how to throw on a scarf so it looks effortlessly elegant? Their gardens are divine and their culinary creations are unparalleled. No wonder their tableware is "magnifique".

Our middle daughter has a way of ferreting out treasures and her latest discovery is French pottery. Astier de Villate ceramics are handmade in Paris of black terra-cotta clay.

The pieces are tactile and charming. They are lightweight, but purportedly extremely durable. If they weren't so "cher" (translation--expensive), they'd be perfect for everyday tableware.  
 The milk white finish would compliment any table. And, I am in love with the raised dots and pinking-shear edges of this piece. Like snowflakes, each piece is unique. That's what makes them so special.

Each artisan stamps his or her personality into their designs. Curlicues, dents, and pointy chapeaus add whimsey to utilitarian pieces. You have to agree the ceramic cutting board would be perfect for some Camembert or Brie!

Anna got her first pieces of Astier crockery in Paris where they are made by Benoit Astier de Villatte. These charming ceramics are produced using techniques perfected before dishware was cast. 

Aren't these charming? Can't you see what an interesting table could be set using these beauties?

Now when our daughter is in New York she often stops by the shop that carries these treasures and treats herself to a piece.
You can now buy this unique table service in Chicago at  Tabula Tau, in San Francisco at Sue Fisher King and in Boston's South End at Patch NYC.

I would love to visit the flagship store on rue St. Honore in April. Paris is supposed to be splendid in the springtime!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Judging the Games

The 2014 Sochi Olympics have inspired me. No, I haven't decided to take up bobsledding. I have decided to become a judge--a judge of Olympic fashion. Here is how I scored the opening ceremony uniforms.

Taking top honors on the worst-dressed list for the 2014 Sochi Olympics has to be the USA. They won gold by a long margin. Years from now, we will remember the uniform that Ralph Lauren designed for the Sochi games. Even Olympians will save it for the "ugly-sweater-party".

As bad as the sweater is standing alone, when amassed in a group shot, it is hideous.

 If you don't agree, you can purchase the official Ralph Lauren Team USA 2014 Sochi Olympic Ceremony Cardigan man's sweater on E-bay today for only $1,995. Are you watching the bidding to snag one at a discount? Don't worry, I'm not your competition.

I scratch my head and wonder, what was Ralph, the- purveyor-of-classic, thinking? Ralph Lauren pre-fall 2014 show
The closing ceremony uniforms are somewhat better. 

However,  the patently self-serving polo logo front and center is irritating. Does't Lauren own enough classic cars and designer vacation homes? Does he have to turn the Olympics into a marketing ploy? He, of all people, should know that water polo and equestrian polo are summer sports. :) 

From my scoring, it's no contest; the US uniforms take all-around ugly honors.

Coming in a distant second in the worst-dressed competition at this year's Olympics are the Germans who win silver. The rainbow effect certainly draws attention, but why the orange-and-rose print pants?
Obviously, the print was not an afterthought. Adidas created an entire suit of the print as seen here on the world's best all-around female skier. I predict that Maria will look back on the games with pride, but will wince at the outfit.

Coming in third on the podium of worst-dressed Olympians were athletes from Lithuania. When leprechaun marries gecko, the offspring are just weird. They win bronze.

Seriously, I have enjoyed watching the games and noting the fashion statements. The handsome and beautiful Olympians are made-to-order models. 

But in the spirit of fair play, let's turn the tables. How would the athletes or how would you judge the few ski vests I pulled out in honor of the games? 

I predict judges would give the canary yellow outfit gold for worst-outfit. However, I will have to await the awarding of style points on the other two? (Can you guess which one is actually a Polo vest?)

In conclusion, I am hoping that by the time the Olympians march out of the Sochi arena, winter marches out of the mid-Atlantic states! Enough of hideous sweaters, rainbow-colored puffy coats, and silly hats.