Friday, May 31, 2013

Dinner Party for Old and New Besties

A grin spread across my face this morning when I read Mandi Smith T's "Interior Design Musings: Thinking Outside the Box". In this post, Mandi encourages creative living this summer. Her third of five suggestions is: "Host a dinner party and invite two couples you've never invited to your home. Don't stick with your besties on this one - step out." This is precisely what we are doing this evening.

First, we wanted to invite Bill's first and "bestie" partner, Dick,  and his wife, Ruth. Since Dick's retirement, we see them far too infrequently. As we were thinking about who else to include, we decided on two colleagues and their wives who have been fun social friends at various functions over the years. Profesionally, Dick and Bill worked with Alan and Brian daily, but we have never had them in our home for a meal.

I always tell myself to keep such an evening simple, but then when I scour food blogs and pull out possible table cloths and placemats, pottery and china, I usually end up using my best china and silver. After all, why not use it? I use the pottery everyday, and it is fun to enjoy the gifted finery.

That's how I ended up with my tablescape for this evening. As a base, I am using a ecru spread crocheted by my husband's aunt. What a treasure this gift of love is. I have never used it on a table before, but if Carolyn Roehm can repurpose matelasse spreads and wool paisley shawls, I can enjoy this handmade treasure in my dining room.

For china, I am using my husband's grandmother's plain white with gold banded china. No wonder brides are often encouraged to select a plain table service. Like a little-black-dress, classic white china is fabulous for any occasion and with any color scheme.

With tablecloth and china chosen, I next decided on the flowers. Thinking about the room as a whole, I decided the ecru spread with white flowers would play off the dining room's color scheme.

Daisies, azaleas, and spider mums fill in my brass footed cooler.

Three limes added to the foliage give a hint to a menu item to come.

I love arranging flowers, but they can be pesky at times. Last night quite late, I began the arrangement. When it was done, I placed it on the table and gave it the sight-line test. Oops, it was too tall to see over. So I began again. By this time the oasis had too many holes, but I managed to cut several inches off the stems and get the flowers into a semi-pave form.  The arrangement isn't my best, but it will pass-with-a-push.

What to serve is always a debate. Yesterday, I spent hours pouring over cookbooks and blogs, before arriving at a menu. Here's what's cookin':

Appetizer--Tomato juice cocktails, snowpeas filled with herbed cream cheese, cherry tomatoes stuffed with guacamole, and cucumber slices topped with humus.

From:  The

Bread and salad course--homemade bread compliments of an Amish farm in Gap, PA. This soft yeast-flavored bread is so much better than anything I could bake, that it is worth a 10 mile hike to buy it!  It will be the perfect compliment to the lettuce, blackberry, pear and feta salad.
For the main course, I will serve broiled halibut with lemon-herb topping over rice pilaf and carrot soufflé served in individual ramekins.
For dessert, I a serving key lime tarts with a dollop of coconut Italian gelato.

Actually, the whole menu, flower arrangement, and color scheme derived from this dessert. On Wednesday, I had lunch with Anna in DC near the White House. We splurged and shared a yummy key lime mousse topped with coconut sorbet.  The combination of flavors was amazing, so I borrowed the idea and improvised.

Hopefully, our new "besties" will enjoy it as much as I did.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Peonies Evoke Happy Memories

The last week of May every year, peonies overtake our home. The subtly sweet fragrance always reminds me of our daughter, Anna's wedding. Two years before she was married, I ordered a variety of peonies from Martha Stewart and planted them at every fence post. By the time, Anna and Marcus got married the bushes were established and blooming profusely. That was eleven years ago today.

May 25, 2002 was a gorgeous sunny day. Our home was banked with peony blossoms. And at the church, huge peony topiaries graced the altar and a huge wreath of peonies filled in the chancel wall. The bridesmaids carried nosegays of pink peonies which showed up beautifully against their silver gray gowns. At the reception, the tables were stunning with 36 inch candle tapers surrounding the peony centerpieces. No wonder peony season always brings back a flood of happy memories.

Our garden features candy-striped peonies,

pink peonies,
and white peonies.

Here they are indoors:  in the living room,

in the sunroom,

between the kitchen and sunroom,

 on the kitchen island,

even in the library.

To me they are the perfect flower, perhaps because they have such a sweet association.  

"Happy Anniversary, Marcus and Anna."

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Level is in the Details

Appraisers may value a home by the square footage, but you and I know that not all spaces are equal. This modest home on a scant quarter acre may be small, but it's a little jewel. The cottage's proportions are pitch perfect, and its charm is in the details.

In the front of the house, there is an aged brass pineapple above the front door on the middle dormer. Did you notice the brass snow guards on the slate roof?  How about the stone retaining wall beside the driveway?

Were you drawn in by the charming gate welcoming you up the flagstone path? 

Less conspicuous, in the front of the home, are the copper gutter and the adorable mini-house for the garden hose.

After appreciating the details in front, you can circle around the house and see a handmade wooden water gutter 

and a tiny vine making a wonderful design on the aged brick side of the house. 

Come on back, because you will want to peak into the backyard. As you swing open the garden gate, be sure to see the bouquet of irises carved into the aged wood surface.
To the left in the backyard, aged boxwood give privacy. Isn't the stone statue a wonderful focal point?
In the center of the backyard fence-line are more boxwoods and some gorgeous specimen trees.
To the right, is a low brick-border wall delineating a flower bed.

How charming is the oxidized copper overhang, the lap-hinged door, and the trellis inviting you into the garage?

Notice how the back stairwell fencing mirrors the pattern of the gate in the front of the house.

Beside the house, a flagstone terrace is perfect for alfresco dining!

Before the meal, beverages are served on the redwood deck.

That is all of the garden tour, but as you leave take note of the row of mini boxwood. 

Finally, don't miss the shingle-roofed mail box on your way out of the drive.

We hope these charming details will encourage you to come back soon.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Queen of Vignettes, Advocate for Oppressed

From day to day, Anna, our daughter, spends her time negotiating and advocating for international justice. Working to combat grand-scale evil is intensely stressful. Consequently, on weekends Anna unwinds by arranging flowers from Whole Foods and their garden. When she is off duty, in every room, on every surface, she creates beautiful vignettes.

More than a few flower arrangements brighten the spaces.

Pillows soften sofas, chairs, and beds.

Wallhangings, paintings, and mirrors add interest to walls.

Artistic objects grouped or solo decorate flat surfaces.

This is the cutest cheese board, wedge-shaped marble with nibble holes. :)
The cumulative effect is a warm and welcoming home.
 When you consider the mayhem Anna battles the rest of the time, no wonder beauty and order, tranquility and peace are so important in her personal space. To survive, her home must be a haven.