Porch Dining for One

 A couple of weeks ago, Hubby was out-of-town for the weekend on a fishing excursion, so the children & I had the house to ourselves. I’m comfortable entertaining myself, it doesn’t take much more than something to read, a glass of wine, and a place to curl up with the dogs. This area on my porch fits the bill~ perfect this time of year, after I blow off the pollen, since the humidity hasn’t sky-rocketed yet.

Just some quick and easy meals when he’s away, or fruit & cheese and light snacking.

 This tray serves multiple purposes~ it’s great for just displaying objects or stacking books on a table or ottoman. I’ve had it several years, it’s fabric laminated and I love the green garden toile pattern, with all the gardening images of topiaries, sundials, rakes and trellises. No manufacturer’s name is on it~ I remember it being from a small company that also made laminated placemats. If you were crafty, you could make one yourself.

Pillows for propping and candles for after dusk. . .

A teacup for later, or morning . . . I’m having wine right now :-)



 Chloe is supervising at the moment, although truth be told, she’s waiting for me to sit down, so she can have a lap or leg to rest next to. All this activity she says is very tiresome~ I keep telling her she doesn’t have to follow me, but she’s not convinced.



  Plates from Pier 1 (many years ago), a green glass from World Market and stainless from Target. . .


 This came to my inbox this week. . . nothing here came from Horchow, but take advantage~ or at least drool at little at all the dish-eye-candy Horchow has to offer.


Discount and free standard shipping apply only to online orders from the Tabletop category, excluding Kitchen and Gourmet Food. Offer expires April 12, 2010, at 6:00 a.m. (CT).

Join Susan on her Porch and enjoy Tablescape Thursday.

Birds of a Feather

 A few bird sightings while boating over the weekend. . .


  Herons are very patient fishermen :-) Read more about Blue Herons Here.


This island on the lake is restricted for nesting April thru August– there are over 100 nesting Blue Herons during this time.

 We only spotted a couple in the tree tops while boating this past weekend. The trees will be full of them in another month or so. I’ve always thought Blue Herons look a little Dr. Suess-esque. . .


 Here’s an Osprey nesting on a Shoal marker~they tend to nest on man-made structures.

  More about Osprey Here.

And a pair nesting on a duck blind. . .


 I’m linking to A Southern Daydreamer for Outdoor Wednesday.

And Watery Wednesday–prepare to get your eyes wet!

Bunnies, Baskets, Butterflies & Beans (Jelly, of course!)



  No recipe from me this week, just some Easter Love~grocery store cupcakes and cookies with adorable smaller cookies from Williams-Sonoma  stacked on top. . . Here’s a cute chick perched on top of a cupcake gazing into a feather-topped nest of a basket.




 Oh, and some chocolate malted eggs too, what’s Easter without some chocolate?




These mini baskets I found at Pier 1. . .




 The metamorphosis of the Butterfly, makes it the perfect Easter symbol.





Jellybeans became popular for Easter around the ’30’s. . . According to InfopleaseAmericans consume 16 billion jellybeans at Easter~ if all the Easter jellybeans were lined end to end, they would circle the globe nearly three times.




That’s a lot of beans!

















 Wishing you chocolate smiles and jelly bean grins this Easter :-)




 Be sure to visit Michael Lee at Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday. . . the perfect little food corner in blogland.



Fitz & Floyd for Easter

 I’m joining Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday.

 This Easter table is set with Fitz & Floyd Classique d’Or and Tulipe d’Or salad plates and mugs. Bunnies and candy add a touch of whimsy.

 Read the history of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit here.

 Chicks & Flowers grace chocolate from House of Dorchester, that I found at Home Goods.

Chocolate Bunnies and Easter basket~shred fill vases, instead of flowers and candles at this table.


 No sugar cubes, chocolate eggs instead. . .

Vintage Easter Greetings in a Vase. . .


No one will be sitting at my Easter table, all seventeen of us will be at my mother-in-law’s, where we’ll hopefully be eating on her porch, with the forecast for 80 degree temperatures. . .

Wishing you an egg~cellent Easter Holiday. . .

I fell in love with the graphics on this chocolate and the sentiment!

Head over to the Porch for more Inspiring Tablescapes. . .

Chalkware Dogs




I’m joining Kathleen at Faded Charm for White Wednesday. I thought I’d share a small collection of chalkware dogs that I have that normally guard my books in my bookcase.



 These chalkware dog figures don’t have any significance to me, other than I love dogs and I’ve always been drawn to the patina of  worn, paint-chipped and time-faded surfaces.




 You can read more about Chalkware here.













This particular dog, is almost white, due to the porous nature of the plaster surface, which causes the paint to flake off.



 Of course, I’m partial to white dogs.




Stop by Faded Charm & enjoy your White Wednesday.



Floral Arrangement with Fresh Flowers!


This is my contribution for Metamorphosis Monday.

 Start with some Oasis or a floral foam product that you can soak in water to keep your flowers fresh. Secure the oasis to your container with floral tape so the weight of the flowers won’t pull the foam out of your container. This urn has a hole in the bottom, so I lined it with several plastic bags to keep the water in the oasis from dribbling out.

I started with (2) white bundles  & (1) pink bundle of fresh flowers from Trader Joe’s. I’ve also bought great looking floral bundles from Super Target or my grocery store if you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you. My greenery in my yard is still pretty cold-shocked and sad-looking now, but normally I could snip greenery from  my shrubbery. This is Euonymus that was in my Trader Joe’s bundle that I started with as my “line” greenery.


 Next I used my larger leaf greenery to help camouflage my tape & oasis.


 Add your larger flowers next. There are a couple of video links/how-to’s at the end of this post that are very helpful.

 To help make this arrangement, this urn is on a lazy susan, since it’s heavy.

I like to use produce in my arrangements. I think it makes it more interesting, and you can always find apples at the grocery store. It also serves as a great “hole-filler”.  Granny Smith are great to use since they are hard, and piercing them in the bottom with your pick won’t cause them to expire too quickly. With that rule in mind, pears are NOT great to use because they will get extremely soft very quickly. I meant to pick up some artichokes to use with this white and green arrangement, but left them off my grocery list, (oops) and I was loosing daylight to take these photos and didn’t have time to run back out. So I used pears as a substitute.


Hydrangea is my favorite flower. . .we just planted some Oakleaf Hydrangea this fall, so hopefully I’ll have some to clip this summer. I love how it fades from white to green to pink. . .

 I had picked up a pink bundle of flowers at the same time. . .it had a lot of “filler” flowers in it, so I added the pink after I finished with the white. Personally, I think it’s hard to beat green & white as a color combination . .


All complete, with 3 bundles of flowers in about an hour, including clean up– if you don’t stop and take pictures :-)  When I do arrangements at Christmas time, I usually put a fitted sheet on the island, so it makes for easier clean up.

 Here are some great video link floral how-to’s from MyHomeIdeas.Com. If you’re not already familiar with this site, you may want to visit it for great Design Tips, Idea Houses, Entertaining Ideas etc.


Floral Arranging Video Part 1

Floral Arranging Video Part 2

Be sure to stop by the Porch & Visit with Susan and see other inspiring metamorphoses!

Tea Party Shadows



I’m joining Hey Harriet for Shadow Shot Sunday. These photos were from a recent post, that just happened to have some lovely shadows, due to the lovelier sunshine streaming in the window.


You can see all this Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in its entirety here.










Be sure to visit Hey Harriet for other great  Shadow Shots.

Plain Truth



PlainTruth ****.* by Jodi Picoult




I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera.






This is one of my favorite Jodi Picoult books– I became immersed in the story and teetered back and forth the whole time I was reading, wondering what the outcome would be. And unlike some of her most recent books, (Handle With Care in particular), you don’t feel like you were kicked in the gut when you’re finished. This story takes place in Amish country and the vivid descriptions of Amish life, the characters, and the clash of cultures drew me in from the beginning of this book. 




 Ellie, a high-powered Philadelphia defense attorney, in a dead-end eight year relationship, finds herself dissatisfied with her life, and leaves town to visit her Aunt Leda:


“I suppose other women in my position– by this I mean heartbroken, at odds, and recently given a large sum of money–might have chosen a different destination. Grand Cayman, Paris, even a soul-searching hike through the Rockies. For me, there was never any question that if I wanted to lick my wounds, I would wind up in Paradise, Pennsylvania.”




“You could not summer in Paradise and not come in contact with the Old Order Amish, who were such an intrinsic part of the Lancaster area. The Plain people, as they called themselves, clipped along in their buggies in the thick of automobile traffic; they stood in line at the grocery store; they  stood in line in their old-fashioned clothing; they smiled shyly from behind their farm stands where we went to buy fresh vegetables.”



Ellie finds herself defending Katie, an eighteen year old Amish girl, who is charged with murdering her newborn baby, instead of taking a vacation. As a result of a court mandate, she finds herself living with Katie and her family, while she prepares her case and tries to adapt to Amish life on a dairy farm.











“The world was a kaleidoscope of color: kelly green corn, red silos, and above it all, a sky as wide and as blue as a robin’s egg. But what struck me the most was the smell, a mixture of notes as distinctive as any city perfume:  the sweat of horses, honeysuckle the rich tang of overturned earth. If I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, magic happened:  I was eleven again and here to spend the summer.”









“A horse moved along at just twelve miles per hour — slow enough that Ellie was able to count the number of calves grazing in a field, to notice the Queen Anne’s lace rioting along the edge of the road. The world didn’t whiz by; it unrolled. Ellie, who had spent most of her life in a  hurry, found herself watching in wonder.”






“If I had learned anything in ten days, it was that the Amish way was slow. Work was painstaking, travel took forever, even church hymns were deliberate and lugubrious. Plain people didn’t check their watches twenty times a day. Plain people didn’t hurry; they just took as much time as it needed for something to be done.”







“For you, it’s all about how you stand out. Who is the smartest, the richest, the best. For us, it’s all about blending in. Like the patches that make up a quilt. One by one, we’re not much to look at. But put us together, and you’ve got something wonderful.”









There are lots of food mentions in this book with Ellie concerned that her departure from the Fishers’ “would coincide with angioplasty” :-) 




 One of Katie’s specialties is a potato salad with tomatoes. . .



BLT Potato Salad Recipe Here








 Ellie observes that Sarah prepares enough food at mealtime for the whole Amish community.





Chicken Pot Pie Recipe courtesy Ina Garten Here


 This recipe says 4 servings~that would be for 4 lumberjacks! I’ve easily gotten 8-10 servings (depending on the size of your bowls) out of these ingredients.



 Preparing this potpie in individual bowls, allows you to freeze them and pull them out to use–which is convenient at my house, for just the two of us.











  Sarah’s famous squash pie is mentioned here. . .





Squash Pie Recipe Here









“Sometimes when I was lying in my bed at the Fishers’, I wondered if I would ever be able to adapt back to city living. What would it be like to fall asleep to the sound of buses chugging, instead of owls? To close my eyes in a room that never got completely dark, thanks to the neon signs and floodlamps on the streets? To work in a building so high off the ground that I could not smell the clover and the dandelions under my feet?”





 I was really drawn to the “quiet and peace of a bucolic farm” and the simple Amish lifestyle; the expressions–“ferhoodled” and “wonderful mad”. . . I was so immersed I found myself thinking “I’d like to be Amish”, until I remembered. . . No Air Conditioning. . . No Internet. . . No American Idol :-).



Be sure to visit Food for Thought to see what everyone is reading and eating!







The Girls



The Girls ***** by Lori Lansens



I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where in her words, pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera. Books, Food & Photos, my three favorite things all in one place!



“I have never looked into my sister’s eyes. I have never bathed alone. I have never stood in the grass at night and raised my arms to a beguiling moon. I’ve never used an airplane bathroom. Or worn a hat. Or been kissed like that. I’ve never driven a car. Or slept through the night. Never a private talk. Or a solo walk. I’ve never climbed a tree. Or faded into a crowd. So many things I’ve never done, but oh, how I’ve been loved. And, if such things were to be, I’d live a thousand lives as me, to be loved so exponentially.”





 This is Ruby and Rose Darlen’s story; at 29 they are the oldest surviving conjoined craniopagus twins. Joined at the side of their heads, they are known as “The Girls” in their small town of Leaford. “Our thoughts are distinctly our own. Our selves have struggled fiercely to be unique, and in fact we’re more different than most identical twins.”  Rose prefers books and sports unlike Ruby, who likes television and is “girlie”. They have different tastes in food and different sleep patterns. Ruby collects and unearths Indian artifacts with seemingly no effort, and is chronically carsick. Rose wants to be a writer and sets out to write their life story.




 Abandoned at birth by an unwed mother, they are adopted by Aunt Lovey, a nurse working in the hospital on the day of their birth, which is also the same day as “the great tornado”. Aunt Lovey and Uncle Stash (who is Slovak), in their 50’s and childless, raise them in a loving, unorthodox environment and strive for normalcy in their day-to-day lives. Aunt Lovey is their advocate and encourages  their autonomy. Rose is accepted into an English program at the local university, but Ruby refuses to go.  When Rose complains to Aunt Lovey, her response is:  “Don’t blame your sister if you don’t become a writer. I don’t know how pistons piss, but can sure as hell drive a car.”

This book was heart-wrenching, funny, moving, painful-to-read at times, and extremely memorable.





 Aunt Lovey:


“You’re lucky to be you,” she’d say, looking from me to my sister. “You girls are remarkable. Most people can’t say that.”




“I’ve never set eyes on my sister, except in mirror images and photographs, but I know Ruby’s gestures as my own, through the movement of her muscles and bone. I love my sister as I love myself. I hate her that way to.”



 Aunt Lovey & Uncle Stash opt to raise The Girls in the country instead of the city, and move to an abandoned, inherited farmhouse, where neither had planned to live.








“There are days when, like a normal person, we’re clumsy and uncoordinated. We have less natural symbiosis when one of us (usually Ruby) is sick, but mostly our dance is a smooth one. We hate doing things in unison, such as answering yes or no at the same time. we never finish each other’s sentences. We have an unspoken, even unconscious, system of checks and balances to determine who’ll lead the way at any given moment. There is conflict. There is compromise.”





Lots of Slovak Soul Food in this book… Christmas Soup (The Girls describe it as an oily concoction made with sausage and barley), cabbage, halushki– a dish of cabbage with bacon and goat cheese, and Apple Strudel. The Apple Srudel was really something I could sink my teeth into :-) 




A quick and easy Apple Strudel Recipe here. (Also a video link if you’re interested.)














“I feel the shift in her breathing and the heaviness of her body as her grip relaxes on my shoulder and she falls away from the world. The weight of wonder. The weight of worry. I hum some secret place into being, thinking of this other me, the one that only I can see, a girl called She, who is not We, a girl who I will never be.”






 On “Slovak Night”, Uncle Stash and The Girls would gather around their farm table and cook “freezer meals”. While they cooked, they’d prepare Palacsinta–a Slovak crepe, to snack on during their night of cooking, that they would spread with black-currant preserves.





Palacscinta Recipe here



















“My sister, Ruby, has always been cold, especially her hands and feet (Raynaud’s, it’s called, a circulatory problem), while I have always been warm and hated to be overdressed or seated near a fireplace. When Ruby and I were little, she used to put her delicate hands inside my shirt, on the skin of my back, or sometimes on my tummy. Her clubfeet she’d press to my thighs. She’d giggle and tease, ‘I’m taking your warm, Rose. I’m taking all you warm.’ I never  minded, and never protested, because I felt that while she was taking my warm, I was taking her cool.”





“Some people think that Ruby and I are cursed to live conjoined. But think of how blessed we are to be so connected that we can and did and do cry out, ‘There’s something wrong! Help!’ Imagine if a husband knew the instant his wife stopped loving him and could bring the marriage back to life before it was too late. If a mother could see the second her child took the wrong path and call while he was still close enough to hear ‘Come back! you’re going the wrong way!’ Ruby and I endure because of our connectedness. Maybe we all do. How can that be a curse?”




“You’ve seen the double yolk? And sometimes the cherry grows together–not on two stems, but the flesh of two together. It’s like that. Special.”






“The Girls, by Lori Lansens, is a ballad, a melancholy song of two very strange, enchanted girls who live out their peculiar, ordinary lives is a rural corner of Canada….The Girls glides by like a watercolor dream, finding its poetry in dailiness and the universalities of human desire and connection….Lansens, who has a gentle, open way of writing, makes of these two girls a kind of perfect marriage, harmonious and everlasting.”


thoroughly enjoyed  getting to know The Girls. I think you will to.



Be sure to visit Food for Thought to see what everyone is reading & eating!







Roses **.* by Leila Meacham





I’m joining Jain with my Edible Book Review at Food for Thought, where in her words, pages from your book magically mix with the kitchen and your camera.




 and Michael Lee at Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday. . . the perfect little food corner in blogland.







 This book for me is a classic example of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”. The jacket, which is beautiful, also shows this:





 I’m sorry to say, that was not the case for me. It’s been compared to Gone with the Wind and The Thornbirds. I really wanted to like this book. I was disappointed and found it hard to finish. I lost interest and for the most part found the characters annoying and family members down right cruel.






“The Warwicks, descended from the House of York, grew only white roses in their gardens, while the Tolivers cultivated exclusively red roses, the symbol of the House of Lancaster.”



“The red and white rose. . .They will be a reminder of my duty to our friendship, to our joint endeavors. And if I should offend you, I will send a red rose to ask for forgiveness. And if I receive one tendered for that purpose, I will return a white rose to say that all is forgiven.”







 This multi-generation family saga, involves star-crossed lovers, family secrets, and pride and passion for the land. Three founding families star in this story, that takes place in a small Texas town: the Tolivers, who grow cotton, the Warwicks, who mine timber, and the DuMonts, who sell luxury dry goods. 



“It was a well-known fact that while they lived in one another’s pockets socially, they worked and prospered separately. It was a rule established at the beginning that each man’s enterprise must rise and fall by his own merits–without financial aid or assistance from the others.”






Told in three parts, by three characters’ points of view, this tale spans nearly 100 years and begins with Mary Toliver’s story in 1916.





The Toliver’s cotton plantation, Somerset, is bequeathed to Mary by her father at the tender age of 16, alienating her from her older brother’s and her mother’s affections.


























There were not a lot of food mentions in the book, here is one with the Toliver’s housekeeper, Sassie and her cinnamon rolls:









Ina Garten Easy Sticky Buns Recipe (masquerading as cinnamon rolls, I left the raisins out of Ina’s recipe and used pecans instead)

Recipe Here



 And of course, to look like cinnamon rolls, they had to have icing :-)

Icing Recipe Here 












I have to admit, these sticky buns were yummy without the icing, if fact, my husband preferred them that way :-)





  And another food vignette I stumbled on with Percy and Mary, picnicking on chicken salad and croissants:









Apricot-Almond Chicken Salad

  • 1  cup  sliced almonds, toasted

  • 3  cups  chopped cooked chicken

  • 1  cup  chopped dried apricots

  • 1 cup  halved green grapes

  • 3/4 cup sliced celery

  • 1/4  cup  mayonnaise

  • 1/2  cup plain greek-style yogurt

  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger (I used 1 tsp. for our tastes)

  • 3  tablespoons apricot preserves

  • Salt and pepper to taste


 Stir together mayo, yogurt, ginger, and apricot preserves in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste; add chicken, apricots, celery, grapes, and almonds, tossing gently. Chill until ready to serve.










“The writing of Roses is fraught with problems. First, it is formal and stilted, as though the book were written in the 1950s rather than in 2009. The main characters are sketchily drawn, and Mary, in particular, is as much characterized by her clothes as by her thoughts, which are few.” – The Cleveland Plain Dealer


I’m afraid I tend to agree with this review, rather than those I ran across on Amazon. If you care to, you can read more for yourself, Here.




 “Red is to ask forgiveness, white to say forgiveness granted, pink to say forgiveness withheld.”








  Be sure to stop by Designs by Gollum for Foodie Friday Favorites &  Food for Thought to see what everyone is reading and eating.