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Archive for June, 2010

I was perusing the May issue of House Beautiful the other day. It’s their “Big Advice” issue with tips from multiple, well-known designers.  Here are a few of the tips I thought were helpful to consider.

  • “Too many chair and table legs can make a room “nervous”. A skirted piece or two will make it feel grounded.”
  • Pillows should bring something new to a room scheme … introducing a new color, adding a graphic pattern to a room of solids, or layering on texture.  “One pair of pillows always looks skimpy.  Use two pairs.”

  • “Pick your paint colors last.”  Choose your flooring, fabrics and furniture first.
  • “Never, ever paint an entire room until you’ve lived with big sample boards of three possible colors for 24 hours.”

With today’s limitless paint color schemes, it makes sense to find a wall color that works with the rest of the room instead of picking a paint color first.  You can paint swatches right on the wall instead of using sample boards.   — Picture above:  Samantha Pynn, Inc. design


  • “There’s no rule that a living room has to have a sofa.”
  • “Beware of using more than two pairs of anything in a room.”
  • “You never really know what a mirror will do until you hang it.”

I LOVED this tip, but it’s not always realistic for most Southern California homes.

  • “Love your closets.  Paint them, paper them, hang pictures in them to inspire you.  And, definitely light them.”


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Well, summer is officially here!  The kids are out of school, the summer solstice has just passed and we’re on our way …

As part of summer kicking off, it’s nice to lighten things up in your home.  Here are several things I do to “summerize” our home.

Summerize with Pillows

Pillows are an easy way to “lighten up” your home for summer.  I love accessorizing with pillows … sofas, beds, chairs, benches … all can all be updated with pillows.

For our living room, I had pillow covers made in four different fabrics.  For fall and winter, I use the heavier velvet stripe and the silk burgandy paisley.

In summer, I bring out the cotton stripe and floral pillow covers.

If you sew, you have all kinds of options.  For those of us that don’t sew, you can usually find a list of recommended seamstresses by asking at your local fabric stores.  I found a very talented seamstress and apholsterer at our local discount designer fabric store, We-R-Fabrics.

I had her make some pillows with different fabrics on each side of the pillow.  That way, if I get tired of a print, I can flip the pillow over and have a new look.





















In our bedroom, I switch out some of our darker pillows for some lighter, linen pillows.

Summerize with Accessories

You can switch out accessories (especially the darker, heavier ones) on tables, bookshelves, coffee tables and mantels with summer-themed items.  Adding seashells, candles, sea glass, things from nature — can lighten up your home without costing much or taking much time.

I found these blue shell plates at TJMaxx several years ago.  I display them on black easels on my dining room buffet … along with crystal vases and bowls of seashells.

I use a lot of sea shells during the summer.  I fill apothecary jars, glass canisters and bowls.  I often add sea shells to our mantels or tuck seashells (with some white sand) at the bottom of lanterns or glass candle holders.  During the summer, you can find sea shells in most rooms of our house.

There are many other ways you can bring summer into your home.  Here are a few additional ideas:

  • Use more white!  Switch out your darker colored candles for white candles.  Add white table runners.
  • Add slipcovers to your sofas or dining room chairs.
  • Lighten up your bedding, using light-weight comforter covers and pillows.
  • Add lanterns with candles in your casual rooms.


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I was recently browsing through some interesting stores and found some beautiful home decor and home entertaining books.  I don’t own these books (yet), but I have put them on my wish list … to follow up and review more closely to determine if I wish to buy them.

I thought I would share the list.  The next time you’re in a book store or home store, you may want to take a look …

The Well Dressed Home

by Annette Tatum

This is definitely on my “to buy” list.   The pictures in this book are incredible.  Annette draws from inspiration in the fashion world and helps bring it into home and room designs.

Annette’s blog was the first blog I started to follow (http://www.annettetatum.com/blog).  I like how she pulls together pictures from magazines and ideas from the world over … creating a visually stimulating blog and a great read.
Annette has several stores in Los Angeles (on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica).  I’m hoping to take a road trip with some girlfriends this summer to check out her three stores.

Table Style:  101 Creative Ideas for Elegant and Affordable Entertaining

by Liz Belton

This book is right up my alley.  I love creating tablescapes and vignettes … and Liz has created some beautiful table settings.  Most of the ideas in her book are quite simple (and easy to replicate with similar items you may already have in your home).

The pictures in this book are great … providing many ideas to incorporate into your own decorating.

Presentations:  A Passion for Gift Wrapping

by Carolyne Roehm

I have several of Carolyne’s books.  She does such a beautiful job in providing photographs that inspire great decorating ideas.

For those of you that love to wrap packages, this is the book for you!  This book has so many wonderful ideas to incorporate into your wrapping.  Your gift recipients won’t want to unwrap the gifts … as they will be so beautifully wrapped!

Carolyne has a regular column in Veranda (a monthly home decor magazine) that provides seasonal ideas for tablescapes.

The Vintage Table:  Personal Treasures and Standout Settings

by Jacqueline DeMontravel

This is a fun book for those that like to hunt for treasures at the flea market.  Jacqueline shows you how to incorporate your flea market finds with classic items that you have in your home to create some beautiful table settings.  Fun book!


Simple Soirees

by Peggy Knickerbocker

This looks like the kind of book I would want to write.  It focuses on seasonal menus for “sensational dinner parties.”  Isn’t that what we all try to achieve when hosting a party?

The presentation of the food is photographed beautifully.  I need to spend more time with this book!

If you have some favorite home decor books that you’d like to share, please let me know.  Just click on the Leave a Comment below.

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For Father’s Day, we made grilled halibut with a delicious salsa.  The recipe is from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, Simply Classic. It’s a Junior League cookbook from Seattle … and honestly, every recipe I’ve tried has been fabulous!

We grill halibut and salmon often.  This recipe is so easy and healthy.  And the salsa adds great flavor to a fairly mild fish.  Both types of fish are also great with a Pineapple Salsa or Mango Salsa.

When I’m in a time crunch, there are several things I do:

  • I cut the marinade time down to 20 minutes (but it is much better for several hours).
  • I buy the chunky tomato salsa or mango salsa from Trader Joes.  If I have a ripe avocado and green onions on hand, I’ll add those to the store bought salsas.

Grilled Halibut with Tomato-Avocado Salsa

Serves 6

Ingredients

2 Tbs. Olive Oil

2 Tbs. Lime Juice

1/4 tsp. Tabasco Sauce

2 lbs. Halibut

Tomato-Avocado Salsa

1  1/2 cups fresh Tomato, diced

1 Avocado, cubed

1/4 cup Green Onions, thinly sliced

3 Tbs. canned Green Chiles, diced

2 Tbs. White Wine Vinegar

3 Tbs. Cilantro Leaves, minced

1 Tbs. Vegetable Oil

1/2 tsp. Salt

1/4 tsp. Black Pepper

Preparation

1.  Whisk together Olive Oil, Lime Juice and Tobasco in a small bowl.  Place halibut in a non-reactive pan large enough to hold them in one layer.  Pour marinade over fish.  Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.

2.  Salsa Preparation:  Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir well.  cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

3.  Preheat grill and prepare with cooking spray (or use a tong holding a paper towel wad coated with vegetable oil).  Place fish on grill with medium heat.  Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of fish.  Fish should flake easily with a fork.

4.  Serve immediately with salsa of choice.

Pineapple Salsa (alternative option)

2 cups Pineapple, diced

1/4 cup Red Bell Pepper, diced

1/4 cup Green Bell Pepper, diced

1/4 cup Red Onion, diced

1/2 Jalapeno Chile, diced

2 Tbs. Cilantro Leaves, minced

1 Tbs. Lime Juice

1 Tbs. Green Onion, thinly sliced

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir well.  cover and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.  Bring to room temperature before serving.

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Grilled pizza can be delicious and fun to make.  It’s quick and simple enough to do for a weekday dinner after work.  You can also serve pizza at casual dinner parties — getting the guests involved in making their own creation with toppings.  And, they are fun to fix when the kids have their friends over.  What kid doesn’t love pizza?

We’ve been grilling pizza for years and we’re getting closer to perfection.  Here are a few key tips:

  • It’s important to roll the dough thin and even — for a crispy crust.
  • You need to remove the moisture from toppings (e.g., tomatoes, Buffalo Mozzarella, pineapple) so your crust doesn’t get soggy.
  • As the grill chef, you must watch the pizzas very closely when they are on the grill.
  • When adding toppings to your pizza, ALWAYS put toppings on the grilled side of the pizza.  (You will return the pizza to the grill to brown the bottom side.)

There are so many variations with making your own pizza.

Have fun, be creative and enjoy!

Grilled Pizza

Serves 2 – 4 (depending on serving size)

16 oz. Pizza Dough (Trader Joe’s has great pizza dough in a bag.  They have regular, whole wheat and herb flavors)

14.5 oz. can of Diced Tomatoes with Herbs (or Pizza Sauce, Pesto, Olive Oil, Crushed Garlic – your preference)

Choice of Cheese, grated (Fontina, Mozarella, Buffalo Mozzarella, Feta, Parmesean)

Toppings of Choice:  Chopped fresh Basil, Sliced Tomatoes, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Sliced Mushrooms, Sliced Bell Peppers, Sliced Onions, Pepperoni, Sliced Canadian Bacon, Pineapple, and more

Directions

1.  Follow the directions on pizza dough.  (With the Trader Joe’s dough, you need to remove the pizza dough from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature.  This takes 20 to 30 minutes before you are able to work with the dough.)

2.  Turn all grill burners to high and heat grill with lid down until hot (about 15 minutes).  Scrape grate clean with grill brush.  If you have a center burner, turn it to low.

3.  Form pizza dough into two or four round balls (depending on size desired.)  Dust pastry board with flour.   Press dough ball with hands to flatten.  With rolling pin, roll each dough ball to a thin crust (1/8 inch thickness).  Don’t be afraid to continue dusting with flour.  Stack dough rounds, separating with parchment on a rimless cookie sheet or cutting board.

4.  If using a base of diced tomatoes instead of pesto or pizza sauce, drain chopped tomatoes well in colander for at least 30 minutes.

5.  Prepare toppings.  If using tomatoes or Buffalo Mozzarella as a pizza topping, slice very thinly.  Place sliced tomatoes or mozzarella on paper towels to absorb excess moisture.

6.  Grilling:

  • Prepare grill by either spraying grill grates with Cooking Spray or using tongs with a wad of paper towel dipped in vegetable oil.
  • Carefully slide pizza dough rounds onto the grill.  You may have to unravel edges of dough if they bunch up on the grill.
  • Cook until tops are covered with bubbles and bottoms are grill-marked (1 to 2 minutes), checking bottoms often.
  • If you have a center burner,  turn it down to low.  This will allow you to rotate pizzas if you have “hot spots” on your grill.
  • Remove the crusts to cutting board or cookie sheet with browned sides up.

7.  The FUN part:  Topping your pizzas.

  • MAKE SURE YOU PLACE TOPPINGS ON BROWN, GRILLED SIDE OF PIZZA.
  • Cover pizza crust with your base (pizza sauce, chopped tomatoes, pesto, olive oil, crushed garlic)

  • Top pizza with cheese and other desired toppings.

8.  Return pizzas to the grill and cover with grill lid.  Cook until the bottoms are well browned and cheese is melted, 2 to 4 minutes.  Check the bottoms frequently to prevent burning.

9.  Transfer pizzas to cutting board or cookie sheet.  Cut pizzas into wedges and serve immediately.

NOTE: The nice thing about grilled pizza for parties is that you can roll and grill the first side of the pizza earlier in the day.  When pizza crusts cool, store in a zip lock bag (at room temperature).

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I have a dear group of girlfriends that meet up each year for our “Annual Girls’ Ski Trip”.  We’ve been skiing together for over 15 years.  (And, yes, that is why I recently had ACL surgery on my knee.  Not because of my girlfriends … but because I have continued to ski with a compromised knee for years.  My ACL finally snapped this past January on our annual trip.)

Last year, we skipped skiing and went to Sonoma wine country instead.  We had a wonderful time (as we always do).  I am a strong advocate for quality “girlfriend time”.   But back to the point … the Hemingway Cocktail.

We discovered the Hemingway Cocktail at the restaurant “The Girl and the Fig“.   While we thought the food was good, not great, we all really enjoyed their grapefruit cocktail.  The bar tender was nice enough to give us the recipe.

This is a great drink to serve in the summer.  It’s light, refreshing, pink and pretty!

Hemingway Cocktail

Single Serving

1 oz. Ruby Red Grapefruit Juice   (I prefer the Light version)

Juice of 1 Lime (approx. 1 oz.)

.75 oz. Simple Syrup

1.5 oz. Absolute Ruby Red Vodka

Mix the ingredients in a martini shaker filled with ice.  Shake and serve.

NOTE:   When doubling or tripling the recipe, it’s always wise to taste before serving.  I find the more I make in one batch, the more simple syrup and/or grapefruit juice I need to add.

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Here’s another salad that makes our “top ten” list of salads.  Hmmm … it’s really in our top five.  Jeff and I eat this about once a month — for lunch or dinner.  And, it’s nice to serve at a luncheon … colorful, tasty and crunchy.

When I’m in a hurry, I use store-bought Girard’s Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing and add a few drops of Chili Oil or Sriracha (for some added heat).  When I make it for just Jeff and me, I buy the packaged, shredded cabbage.  (Trader Joe’s has a package that’s perfect for 2 servings.)  And, if you don’t like asparagus, it’s great with sugar snap peas.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Serves 4 to 6

1/2 lb. Asparagus

2 Navel Oranges

6 cups finely shredded Cabbage

2 cups cooked Chicken, shredded or cubed

Spicy Soy-Ginger Dressing (see below)

1 large Avocado, cubed

4 Green Onions, sliced diagonally (including green tops)

2 Tbs. toasted Sesame Seeds

Wonton strips or Chow Mein Noodles   (We like the Wasabi Wonton strips)

Directions:

1.  Steam asparagus for 2 to 3 minutes until crisp-tender.  Drain and immediately plunge asparagus into a bowl of ice water.  (This stops the cooking and keeps the asparagus bright green).  When asparagus is cold, drain and pat dry.  Cut asparagus diagonally into 1-inch pieces.

2.  Cut off the ends of the oranges and discard.  Cut the oranges in half (parallel to the ends).  Cut off the peel and outer membrane.  Slice oranges into segments.  Set aside.

3.  In a large serving bowl, toss the cabbage, chicken and asparagus with the dressing.  Top with avocado and orange slices.  Garnish with green onions, sesame seeds and wonton strips.

Spicy Soy-Ginger Dressing

In a medium bowl, whisk together the following:

2 Tbs. Rice Wine Vinegar

2 Tbs. Brown Sugar

1  1/2 Tbs. Soy Sauce

1 Tbs. Asian Red Chili Sauce (Sriracha)

1  1/2 tsp. grated fresh Ginger

Slowly drizzle in  1/4 cup of Vegetable Oil, whisking constantly.  Season with Salt to taste.

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