Archive for March, 2011

Tabletop Art

I recently received a very interesting email from Anthropologie.  It was very cool, in fact … as it showed “Tabletop Art.”

Anthro has added a fun tool on their website where you can create your own designs using homeware and tabletop products from Anthropolie.  You pick plates, cups, silverware, vases, etc.  Then you rotate the items, shrink or enlarge, move to the background or foreground.

It’s very easy to use and so fun!  Check out my creation below…

It’s not as beautiful as the ones from Anthro, but it was my first try.   Give it a try here.


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Over the weekend, I made steamed clams and linguine for the first time.  I was a bit worried, as I was making it for 10 people (Natalie’s birthday celebration with family).  Thankfully, my sister-in-law (who grew up in Maryland) coached me on the prep and helped in the kitchen.

I wasn’t sure where to buy fresh clams, but after talking with several friends, Costco sounded like the best bet.  The seafood guy at Costco was great!  Costco sells pre-packaged fresh Manila clams (4-5 lbs) per bag for $3.99 a pound.  I bought 2 bags and the seafood guy packaged them up so they could breathe and he told me how to store them until cooking.

My sister-in-law suggested that I clean the clams in the kitchen sink.  You fill up your sink with cold water and scrub them with a brush.

Would you believe the 10 of us ate almost 9 pounds of clams?!?  They were delicious!!!  So, I decided to share …

I started with Mario Batali’s recipe for Linguine with Clams, but made quite a few alterations.  Here’s the altered recipe.

Linguine with Clams

Serves 4 to 6

1 lb. Linguine

3 Tbs. Coarse Sea Salt

6 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil

4 Tbs. Butter

5 cloves Garlic, thinly sliced

3 lbs. Manila or Littleneck Clams, scrubbed clean

1 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1 cup dry White Wine

1/4 cup flat-leaf Parsley, coarsely chopped

1/2 to 1 cup whole cherry tomatoes

Salt & Pepper, to taste


1.  In a large pot over high heat, combine 8 quarts of water and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Add linguine and cook to al dente (according to package directions).  Drain pasta.

2.  Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium heat, heat olive oil and butter.  Add garlic and saute about 30 – 60 seconds (don’t let garlic turn brown).  Add clams and red pepper flakes.  Saute for one minute.  Add wine and parley, continuing to stir.  When the liquid starts to bubble, cover pan with lid.  After 2-3 minutes, add whole cherry tomatoes and cover the pan.  Watch closely — waiting for clams to open up.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

3.  Transfer linguine to individual pasta bowls.  Using a ladle, spoon clams and tomatoes over linguine, being sure to cover linguine with broth.   If desired, serve with garnishes of extra chopped parsley and red pepper flakes.

This dish is great served with warm bread or garlic bread.

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I love spring and Easter!  And spring tablescapes are among my favorites!  There are so many choices for flowers and colors in spring.

This year, I will use a white quilted bedspread for my tablecloth.  I believe I found it at HomeGoods or Marshal’s a few years back.  I’ll add my white ceramic dishes and blue linen napkins (from Pottery Barn, a couple of years ago).

For Easter Brunch, I’ll probably use champagne flutes.  About 10 years ago, I started collecting pretty champagne flutes – in pairs.  I like having an eclectic collection.  And, at parties, it makes it easier to remember which is your glass!

While I love big, dramatic centerpieces — they are not very conducive to conversation around the dinner table.  Here I used the blue glasses I purchased at Anthropologie last year as vases for pink ranunculus, white freesia and white tulips (from Trader Joe’s).

I added a couple of white ceramic bunnies.  And some pink mercury votive holders (Anthro, this year).   Add a few blue robin eggs on a glass pedestal … and you have a simple Easter tablescape.

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I like chocolate, but I’m not one of those people that LOVE chocolate.  When at a restaurant, I will almost always pick a dessert that is not chocolate.  And I wouldn’t ever consider stopping by See’s Candy or Godiva for a sample.  (I know.  I’m in the minority.  But I do have other vices — many.)

With that being said, I do LOVE La Chatelaine Chocolates from Bozeman, Montana!  How would I ever have discovered chocolate in Bozeman, you ask?

Well a dear friend of mine moved from So Cal to Bozeman almost ten years ago.  She introduced us to La Chatelaine Chocolaterie.  We’ve been in the store when visiting Bozeman and she brings boxes of chocolate when she comes back to California for visits.

La Chatelaine is run by a Frenchman and his wife – both having culinary and artistic talents.  They make such unique flavored chocolates (ancho chili powder, french lavendar, huckleberry – to name a few).  They use such high quality chocolate with hints of flavor that are not overpowering (or too sweet).   And each chocolate is an artistic creation in and of itself.

Each box comes with an illustrated legend — explaining each chocolate.  My favorites are the Frenchy Salt Carmels.  They melt in your mouth!

Aren’t they beautiful?  If you’re ever in Bozeman, Montana … make sure to stop in La Chatelaine chocolaterie.

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As I sit here typing, I have piles of spring and Easter decorations around me.  I also happen to be bundled up, as we’re having a dark, windy, rainy day.  I’m trying to think “spring”, but I really just want to go curl up and read a good book.

But back to spring.  We’re hosting my stepdaughter’s family birthday dinner next weekend, having a party in early April and hosting Easter dinner.  I need some inspiration for spring tablescapes!

These vintage tablescapes from Maria at DreamyWhites are so simple and beautiful.

And, I love this cheery table from StyleMePretty.

When looking for entertaining and floral centerpiece ideas, I often look to the wedding blogs … as they have so many creative ideas … for all seasons, color schemes and holidays.

Love the use of eggs as flower containers in these centerpieces!  And how adorable to use teacups as containers for spring flowers.  Both images above from Martha Stewart.

These last two are from Southern Living. I love the use of the old pitcher and tall candlestick holders with the country flowers.

You see real eggs used again as containers for flowers and candy with the silver candlesticks, egg cups and bowls.  Beautiful!

I’ve got plenty of ideas and inspiration to get started …

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Isn’t this a GREAT thought for the day?

(Compliments of The Hands On Housewife.)

Have a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day!

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Jeff and I were able to get away for a few days in February and go up the coast to Santa Barbara.  We had a long weekend without kids … so we decided to take advantage of the opportunity.

We spent a day doing tastings — wine, olive oil and balsamic vinegars — in the wine country around Santa Barbara.  

Los Olivos – a charming, victorian town (all of 2 blocks) was the perfect setting to spend an afternoon.  There are numerous wineries, shops and cafes nestled in the two blocks.

Back in Santa Barbara, we stayed at The Canary Hotel.  It’s a lovely hotel one block off the main downtown section of State Street.  The rooms were adorable and the rooftop pool area was spectacular — especially at night!

We ate dinner in town at Opal Restaurant and enjoyed a great breakfast at Coast Restaurant at the Canary.

On our way home, we spent some time driving through Montecito. It’s a lovely old area with some spectacular homes on beautiful grounds.  This is definitely an area I’d like to explore more!

Most of the homes are behind gates, so you only catch glimpses as you drive by.  Here are some pictures to give you an idea just how grand some of these properties are ….





Aren’t they spectacular?  I’m looking forward to our next trip.  I’ll definitely remember to bring my camera (I used my phone on this trip).  Maybe I’ll do a post on “The gates of Montecito.”

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