Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Taste of the Suite Life

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

It is difficult to believe that we moved to Birmingham nearly two years ago and that the children have just begun their third school year here. Before we closed on our new house, we spent a couple of weeks in hotels when school started. It has been such a blessing to settle into our home, but one of the aspects of the "suite life" that I have missed is relaxing in the late afternoon with the family in the concierge lounge.

I have found myself wishing we could linger together again over a refreshing spread of appetizers -- a bounty of fresh fruits, cheeses, and delectable sweet and savory morsels like the ones we enjoyed during our hotel stays.  

As I thought more about what made those hours so enjoyable, I realized it was the ease and simplicity of the offerings, combined with the joy of spending unhurried time with one another. So perhaps this treasured aspect of getting away can be regularly observed when staying home. 

Alouette recently shared complimentary samples of their new line of cheese spreads called Le Petite Fromage. Available in four flavorful varieties, the individually wrapped portions allow for delicious snacking at home or on the go. Shown above are the Garden Salsa and Cucumber & Dill selections. Paired with gourmet crackers, nectarine slices, and a sprinkling of fresh raspberries, this delicious platter provided the perfect late-afternoon snack for Mary Ashley, Emma and me.

When you consider your own experiences of the suite life, what hotel amenities would you like to enjoy at home?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Farewell to Summer

"To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie --
True Poems flee."
~ Emily Dickinson

As we are embarking on a new school year, I can't help but take a final longing look back to the beginning of summer and our trip to Point Clear, Ala.

As we neared the end of our family vacation, Joe and I sat on a swing overlooking the water as day melted into evening across the bay. I remember wanting to soak up every last drop of sunlight, wishing we could linger in that moment forever. But in the blink of an eye, two months have passed since that special weekend.

I am thankful for the gifts God has given us during this season and look forward to the wonders He has in store for the days ahead. Enjoy these last golden days of summer! 

"There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart." ~ Celia Thaxter

Friday, August 14, 2015

Ice Cream Tea Sandwiches

One of the delights of this busy week was having a photo shoot for TeaTimein our dining room -- quite a momentous occasion for a tea-loving girl like me! The stylist, photographer and test-kitchen professional spent most of Wednesday setting up the loveliest party. I got a little preview when I stopped in for a late lunch and can't wait to see the complete menu and tablescape when it appears in the magazine. I will be sure to let you know when the issue is on newsstands! The team was so gracious to leave fresh flowers and delicious treats for us to enjoy -- perfect for celebrating the first day of school.

Although I can't offer any details of this week's shoot, I can offer you one of my own refreshing summertime treats. These ice cream tea sandwiches take minutes to prepare and offer perfect refreshment for the lingering heat of these late-summer days.

Ice Cream Tea Sandwiches

Try this dainty dessert with your favorite flavor combinations.

Raspberry sherbet
Meyer lemon cookies*
Garnish: Powdered Sugar and fresh raspberries

Allow sherbet to soften slightly. Using a measuring tablespoon, scoop 1 tablespoon of sherbet and position gently on a cookie, using a second spoon to help scrape the ice cream off the tablespoon if needed. Top with a second cookie, and press gently. Quickly smooth edges of ice cream, and place ice cream sandwich on a freezer-safe plate. Freeze for 5-10 minutes to allow ice cream to firm up but keep cookies crisp. Garnish with a dusting of powdered sugar and a few fresh raspberries, if desired. Serve immediately. Ice cream sandwiches can be stored longer in the freezer, but the cookies will soften.

*For testing purposes, I used Salem Baking Meyer Lemon with Lemon Zest Moravian Cookies.

"The mere chink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose." ~ George Gissing

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Gardener's Gift

Upon arriving at church a week ago, we were greeted with fresh flowers gathered into cheerful bouquets -- posies tucked into urns, vases and glass jars. You could feel the pure pleasure in this thoughtful gesture from an anonymous gardener.

A handwritten note encouraged attendees to take fresh blooms to enjoy at home, share with a neighbor or deliver to the hospital. The paper was signed simply:


What a wonderful way to begin a week and a lovely reminder that joy is amplified when it is shared.

"Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure -- pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return" (Luke 6:38).

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Classic Blue-and-White Bedroom

"There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort." ~ Jane Austen

One of our home projects that stretched from spring to summer was decorating son Christian's bedroom. When we first toured our current house nearly two years ago, he immediately chose this room.

Soon after we moved in, Joe painted the walls in Christian's favorite hue. And then we got busy with work and school and church and sports ... and the room stayed a vibrant blue box. It took me awhile to find appropriate fabrics and pull the look together, but here is Christian's classic blue-and-white bedroom now.

In time for Carson's sixteenth birthday celebration, we pulled most of the room together. The walls are Patriot Blue by Benjamin Moore. Buying lined drapes from Gosia Figura really helped my schedule. These Sultana Lattice in Luna panels hang beautifully, and the flocked-velvet detail lends richness to the room. Hanging curtains high and letting the inside edge of each panel just cover the window frame makes the window seem wider -- one of my favorite decorating tricks! 

The boys share a bathroom, and we often share Christian's room with guests. Here are some of the elements that make this such a comfortable space.

I wanted to give Christian a crisply tailored look in blue and white. For months, I kept my eyes out for a bold buffalo check and finally found this Reagan Plaid 541 Blueberry by Covington. The scale and tone were just what I had in mind. I used this print for his bed skirt, pillow shams, and an extra project you'll see below.

Putting the finishing touch on a Matelasse Coventry Coverlet Set from Bed Bath & Beyond is a lumbar pillow cover from The Happy Seamstress in Canton Bazaar Porcelain Print.

A friend from church told me about Build-a-Cross, an online shop that is also a faith-based ministry for people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. I ordered a 36-inch unfinished monogram and painted it white -- such a dramatic focal point above the bed.

Drawer pulls from Hobby Lobby added bits of blue to this bedside dresser -- for many years our nursery changing table.

Very inexpensive shelves from Big Lots provide storage for some of Christian's favorite mementos. Lining the back with our buffalo check really ties them into the room. The execution of this project was not perfect, but we enjoy it just the same.

I hope Christian smiles when he sees these special keepsakes from his life so far. It seems like just yesterday that we bowled him over with a surprise party for his 10th birthday. (Take a walk down memory lane -- er, alley -- here.)

When company comes, fresh flowers appear on the bedside table. But usually this surface is covered with schoolbooks, movie tickets and other sundries that come along with an active teenager's life.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into Christian's new room. I still hope to add moulding at some point, and we want to find University of Kentucky posters to hang above the dresser opposite his bed. But as is, the space is handsome, smart and classic.

Just like the boy who calls this room home.

"The light is what guides you home,
the warmth is what keeps you there."
~ Ellie Rodriguez

Monday, August 3, 2015

Blue, White, & on the Victoria Blog

Today I am on the Victoria blog pondering the inviting ambiance created by blue and white. Please join me here to see how this beloved duo is a perfect palette for welcoming guests. And speaking of blue and white, be sure to stop in for my next post -- the reveal of son Christian's classic bedroom.

"The ornaments of your home are the people who smile upon entering time and time again." ~ Maralee McKee

Monday, July 13, 2015

My All-Time Favorite Chicken Recipe

If I ever open a country inn, this is an entree you can expect to find on the dinner menu. Succulent and delicious, Roasted Rosemary Chicken fills the house with the most enticing aromas. My dear friend Stacey's trips to Colonial Williamsburg inspired this recipe. She developed a dish similar to one she discovered during her travels, and today I am sharing my take on the version she served once to our family. This recipe is definitely a keeper -- and one you can feel free to make your own!

Although you could prepare this recipe in a traditional roasting pan, one of my secrets to success is an upright roaster from Reco Romertopf. The company offered me a sample awhile ago, and I was so pleased with it, I actually purchased a second roaster so I could prepare two birds at once for company. Although I was initially concerned that roasting the bird in this manner would dry out the chicken, my fears were quickly laid to rest. The results were mouthwatering!

Since I'm not opening a bed-and-breakfast anytime soon, I am sharing this recipe for Roasted Rosemary Chicken. If you come for dinner at my house, don't be surprised if this is the main course, accompanied with garlic cheese grits, green beans, fruit, and freshly buttered bread. Simple yet flavorful -- comfort food at its best! 

Roasted Rosemary Chicken

1 roasting chicken
8 sprigs rosemary
1 teaspoon Lawry's Seasoned Salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground pepper, divided
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2-1 teaspoon flour
Garnish: fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse chicken, and pat dry with paper towels. Stuff cavity with 5 to 6 sprigs of rosemary, and place chicken on an upright roaster. 

In a small bowl, combine seasoned salt, garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and paprika. Using your fingers, separate skin from breast, and sprinkle approximately a third of the seasoning onto the chicken. Rub remaining two thirds of seasoning over bird, coating skin well. Remove leaves from remaining 2 to 3 sprigs of rosemary, and sprinkle these between skin and breast.

Bake for 1 1/2 hours or until temperature at thickest part of breast reaches 165 degrees. To crisp the skin, raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees, and cook for 5 to 10 minutes more or until skin turns a deep golden brown. Remove from oven, and let rest for 10 minutes before transferring to a platter or carving.

To make a gravy, strain fats from basin of roaster and transfer juices to a small saucepan. Over medium to medium-high heat, bring juices to a rolling boil. Sprinkle in flour gradually, stirring briskly with a whisk to keep clumps from forming. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, until mixture has reduced to desired consistency. Garnish chicken with rosemary, if desired, and serve with gravy.

This is one of my favorite family meals and a dish I have served for holidays and special occasions, as well. If you try this recipe for Roasted Rosemary Chicken, I would love to hear how it turns out!

"The table is a meeting place, a gathering ground, the source of sustenance and nourishment, festivity, safety, and satisfaction. A person cooking is a person giving: Even the simplest food is a gift." ~ Laurie Colwin

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Screened In Porch Before & After

Finally, I am ready to share before-and-after views of our screened-in porch. Thank you for your patience! It has taken me awhile to complete the final details of the makeover, and photographing our new space has been a challenge. As we begin, let me give you a little background on my inspiration for this outdoor haven.

One of the first things I fell in love with at our hillside home was its cozy screened-in porch. Because this outdoor room is perched high in the treetops, I started calling it our tree house. Without further delay, let me welcome you to our new space!

Isn't it pretty? Keep scrolling for lots of photos and sources.

The pair of shabby chic bird cages on the coffee table was the first purchase I made for the porch. I found these candle holders more than a year ago at Tuesday Morning. I use a candle in the smaller one, but a vase in the larger one is perfect for fresh flowers.

Now for a few shots of the transformation!

Before and After

I snapped this photo after Joe had already painted the floor, which was originally untreated wood. The previous homeowners left behind the palm tree and a wind chime. Keep scrolling to see how this corner of the porch looks today.




I don't have a good shot of this view, but these vignettes will show you this side of the room.

The ceiling paint is the color Dayflower by Behr. Suspended from drapery clips hanging from large cup hooks, canvas drop cloths make easy curtains. 

The homeowners also left a pair of patio chairs, which we left outside under the porch for many months. After a good scrubbing, they made a nice addition to our seating -- saving me money on buying everything new.

Continuing our nesting theme, this chair cushion from Pier 1 turned out to be too small for the chairs we are using, but it works nicely as a throw pillow.

I will spare you a photo of the television mounted on this wall, but the shelves below are from Kohl's. I wanted an inexpensive option for this area, so I purchased the Linon Anna 3-Shelf Bookcase and put it together without the back and painted the piece with chalk paint from Michaels.

A pair of petite wooden crates, also from Michaels, offer convenient storage for flowers, magazines and other sundries.

A framed photo from our recent vacation adds a personal touch. Aren't they precious?

On the bottom shelf, I framed a favorite quote: 

“To sit in the shade
on a fine day
and look upon verdure
is the most perfect
~Jane Austen

To the right of that print sits a practical addition -- an All Natural Mosquito Repellent Lantern, provided complements of Stinger. The company's offer of a sample from their new product line came just as we were completing our makeover, and it has been so effective at keeping our outdoor space free from bugs. To get one for your space, click the link below.

Continuing our way around the room, this trio of canvases adds color to our painted brick. (Joe used leftover deck paint from the floor and wall. I will update this post with the color if we still have it.) The focal point of our grouping is a photo turned painterly artwork from Canvas Pop. Clockwise from there, the bouquet of roses is from HomeGoods, and the bundle of tulips is from Pier 1. The tulips were originally orange, but I painted over those in my signature colors.

On the second chair, a pillow from Pier 1 adds softness. My father was kind enough to stop by and drill into the mortar so I could hang this gallery. I tried a couple of unsuccessful methods of hanging these canvases before going back to basics -- asking Daddy for help!

Our love seat, coffee table and side table were from the Presidio outdoor collection from Kohl's. Find the complete line here. It was challenging to find pastels in my price range, but I am very pleased with the Teal cushions on this piece.

I am totally smitten with the work of Karen Harvey Cox, the artist behind French Script. I discovered her Etsy business while writing Favorite Things for Victoria and knew immediately that her romantic designs would be perfect for our porch. I purchased a trio of pillow slips and a rug from her charming shop, and these easy-living pieces work beautifully outdoors. I have already had to wash the rug, but it still looks pristine. One of the blessings of this transaction was corresponding with Karen, and she is such a lovely person on top of being such a talented painter.

I took this photo to highlight the little posies but also wanted to mention that the lamp is from Kirklands.

From first sight, I have adored the Sunset Pier Deluxe Chair from Pier 1. Find it in Gray here. The cushion is also from Pier 1, although this pattern may not be available now. Throw pillow from French Script.

This sweet little heart painted by Kathy Murphy -- a gift from her daughter, my friend Carrie -- adds one last loving detail, slipped onto a hook by the door.

Here is one final look at our vantage point from the porch.

And one last lingering view of our nest in the clouds.

"A street house, a neat house,

Be sure to wipe your feet house

Is not my kind of house at all  

Let's go live in a tree house.” 

― Shel Silverstein

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