Surround Yourself With Things You Love

“Home – The story of who we are and a collection of all the things we love.” – Author Unknown

The past few weeks I have been sorting through and addressing the care of a few things in our home.  Treasures, as I refer to them – and there are many.  The first treasure  I will tell you about is the silver.  Mom’s lovely tea set which screamed, “polish me,” every time I walked through the dining room.  And, although the flatware was stored in the buffet, I could hear it screaming as well.  

So, along comes my friend Anne.  Anne introduced me to her latest find – Carbona Silver Wipes.  Now, for all you silver lovers out there put this product on your shopping list.  You too,  will thank Anne many times for this gift.  Carbona is available through Amazon if you are unable to locate it in your area.  This product turned the dreaded polishing process into something I no longer consider a chore. Mom and her silver are now happy.

Polishing the silver brought to my attention, once again, how much I enjoy our treasures.  We all have them, don’t we?  Treasures which make us smile and so often serve as remembrances of family and friends.  They are special, only to us.  

To be sure,  truly I am not a hoarder, at least I don’t think I am.  But, if you have been following me for any amount of time you know there are a many things I enjoy collecting.  Such as:  peonies and various other garden beauties, vintage quilts, handwoven textiles and linens, lovely needlework, books, tea cups and saucers, tea pots, stoneware bowls, butter molds, lovely china – just to name a few.  Lovely, vintage things speak to me.  I hear their stories.  I am totally seduced by their charm and I am honored to be their caretaker.   

Many of our treasures are from family, others I have stumbled upon during my haunts of  favorite shops.  And, there are those which have been gifts from my husband or special friends.  One such special gift from my husband, was our early 1800’s Tall Case Clock. This clock, covered with a tarpaulin, traveled over the mountains of West Virginia into Virginia, in the back of my husband’s truck, during a snow storm.  My heart still jumps when I hear it strike, and I am reminded of his enormous effort to make Christmas of 1985, special for me.   Additionally, I look at many teacups and tea pots and remember friends who have so lovingly gifted me with something they knew I would adore. 

Taking another look around, I see other special treasures.  Ones that have been made just for me by my dearest friend, Janet.  Janet and I have been friends since about age 3.  Many years.  She is a needlepoint artist.  I have not only been blessed by her genuine friendship, but by her fabulous talent, which adds grace and charm to our home.  When I see the treasures she has made just for me, it is as though she is with me each moment of the day, even though she lives miles away in North Carolina. One of these lovely pieces of her art is Maison de Jardin (The Garden House), which  hangs proudly over our front door.  I believe homes should have names.  Giving a name to a home adds that inexpressible something or – je ne sais quoi.  A subject of another post.

While many of the things we love are material, I like to think they love us too. These treasures add joy to our daily rounds, and they delight and satisfy us as we go about creating our beautiful homes.  They truly are “our story, a collection of the things we love.”  So, love them up.  I promise – they will love you back.  When they sparkle and shine from your love, your “inspiration will bloom.”

Au Revoir,

Sandra

PS:  Yes, I do collect peonies.  I left over 200 in our garden in VA and I remember them every spring.

Happy Easter !

“For I remember it is Easter Morn, and Life and Love and Peace are all New Born.” – Alice Freeman Palmer

 

Wishing You and Yours a Beautiful Easter and a Beautiful Spring !

Many Blessings,

Sandra

Photo:  Savvyhousekeeping.com/Pinterest

Saying Goodbye

“A garden is a reflection of its owner, a thing of beauty that changes over time, a window to the creativity within.” – Lee Miller

Change can be such a dreadful thing.  Even when it is for the best, it is never easy. And, when a gardener must say goodbye to their beloved garden, it is more often than not – heartbreaking.  I know this to be true from my own experience and from the experience of two dear friends.

When one decides to create a garden, thoughts of one day having to leave this love and creation never enters the mind.  The reason or reasons for leaving do not matter, saying goodbye is extremely difficult.  Truly, dreadful.

So, what is one to do when faced with leaving their beautiful garden?  Well, first cry tears to fill buckets and cry for days, I did.  Then, if your garden is falling into new hands; make charts, name plants and give as much detailed information as possible, in writing, to assist the new owners with the care and maintenance of the garden.  Next, dig your treasures – either to take with you to your new garden or to put into the hands of someone you know who would love and care for them as you did.

With the move behind you, what is next?  You may be faced with a massive yard to conquer or a tiny yard in which to place those 30 peonies and a wash tub of irises that you chose to move.  Or perhaps, you have no yard and must learn about container gardening. Whatever your new situation may be, you will and must move forward.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying you won’t mourn the loss of your old friends.  You will worry and you will grieve, that will never go away.  Even after twelve years, I still think of the beautiful friends in my previous garden, hoping they are well and continuing to create beauty with their magnificent blooms.  But, I have a new friend and a different friend.  Our current garden has different plants and it is a better garden.  Why is it better?  It is better because it enjoys the rewards of my experience.  And, the same will be true for you.  You will see a new garden alive and flourishing because of the many lessons learned from your previous garden.  

Gardeners are such optimistic folks.  They are a creative lot, always looking to another season, interested in learning ways to improve their gardens and learning about growing new plants.  And, they strive to bring to life the following words written by Michael Pollan:  “A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space – a place not just set apart but reverberant – and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.” 

So chin up, gloves on – it’s time to create beauty…”poetry.”   And, you will!

Au Revoir,

Sandra

Photo: home-and-garden.webshots.com

Le Menu !

” The ordinary arts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest.”  – Thomas Moore

Happy Friday Everyone !   This morning, just in time for weekend cooking, I am sending  you a favorite dinner menu.  One I believe you will enjoy,  complete with recipes.

 

 

The Menu

Pan Seared Salmon with Herb, Garlic and Citrus Butter

Steamed New Potatoes with Chives 

Bibb Lettuce Salad with Basil Green Goddess Dressing

Wine – Chilled white, such as Sancerre or Chardonnay

Dessert – Chocolate Orange Mousse with Whipped Cream

Salmon Recipe

For the Butter:

1 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbls. minced garlic

1 tsp. sea salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 Tbls. fresh orange juice

1 tsp. orange zest

2 Tbls. chopped fresh parsley or 2 tsp. dried

2 Tbls. fresh chopped dill or 2 tsp. dried

2 Tbls. fresh chopped chives or 2 tsp. dried

1 Tbls. fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried

1/2 tsp. pepper

Heat oil in a small skillet over low heat.  Add garlic and salt, saute 3 minutes (watch this, you do not want garlic to brown).  Cool completely.  Place room temperature butter in medium bowl.  Stir in orange juice and orange zest, then add parsley, dill, chives, thyme, pepper and cooled garlic.  Using your hands,  shape butter into a log and set onto waxed paper or plastic wrap.  Roll and seal ends, refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.  I prefer to make this a couple of days ahead for the flavors to mingle.  Also, this can be frozen – defrost before using.

For the Salmon:

2 to 6 (6 to 8 oz.) skin-on salmon fillets, preferably wild caught, pin bones removed

Extra Virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

freshly ground pepper

1/4 to 1/2  tsp. dried rosemary

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Meanwhile, for preparation,  arrange salmon fillets skin side up on a baking sheet.  Brush with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary.  Transfer salmon skin side down in skillet (cook in batches if necessary; do not crowd skillet) and cook until skin is crisp and browned, 3-4 minutes.  Using spatula, turn salmon over and cook until salmon is medium rare, about 4 minutes;  cook longer if salmon is thick or if you prefer cooked through.  Turn off heat but leave salmon in skillet;  salmon will continue cooking from residual heat.

To Serve:  Remove butter from paper, Cut butter into medallions.  Set 1 salmon fillet on each plate.  Top each salmon fillet with butter.  Sprinkle steamed potatoes with chives and the herb, citrus butter is also lovely on the steamed new potatoes.

Basil Green Goddess Dressing – Note:  I cut this recipe in half.

1 cup good mayonnaise

1 cup chopped scallions, white and green parts (6-7 scallions)

1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (no substitute)

2 tsp. chopped garlic

2 tsp. anchovy paste

2 tsp. kosher salt

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 cup sour cream

Place the mayonnaise, scallions, basil, lemon juice, garlic, anchovy paste, salt and pepper in a blender and blend until smooth.  Add the sour cream and process just until blended.  If not serving immediately – refrigerate.  I make this a day ahead if possible – I think it is even better if it sits a day.

Note:  Prepare salad, with your choice of ingredients.  I often substitute iceberg lettuce, mixed with baby spinach.  Also, I omit onions as there is a good amount in the dressing.

Chocolate Orange Mousse

6 ounces good semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 ounces good bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/4 cup orange liqueur – (recommended:  Grand Marnier)

1/4 cup water

1 tsp. good vanilla

1 tsp. orange zest

12 Tbls. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

8 extra-large eggs, at room temperature, separated

1/2 cup plus 2 Tbls. sugar

pinch of salt

1/2 cup cold heavy cream

Combine the 2 chocolates, orange liqueur, 1/4 cup water, vanilla in a heat-proof bowl.  Set it over a pan of simmering water just until the chocolate melts.  Cool completely to room temperature. Whisk in the orange zest and butter until combined.

Place the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a large bowl.  Beat on high for 4 minutes, or until very thick and pale yellow.  With mixer on low speed, add the chocolate mixture.

Place 1 cup of egg whites (discard the remaining whites), salt and 1 Tbls. of sugar in another large bowl. Beat on high speed until firm but not dry.  Whisk 1/4 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture; then fold in the rest carefully with a rubber spatula.

Using the same bowl, used for beating egg whites,beat heavy cream and remaining 1 Tbls. of sugar until firm.  Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. Pour the mouse into individual serving dishes or 8-cup serving bowl and chill.   Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

Bon Appetit !

Thanks for visiting – Wishing you and yours a Beautiful Weekend !

Au Revoir,

Sandra

 

 

Salmon recipe: “Monet’s Palate Cookbook”

Green Goddess Dressing and Chocolate Orange Mousse – Ina Garten

Photo:  handletheheat.com/Pinterest

 

 

Do You Have…Spring Fever ?

“It’s spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!   – Mark Twain

So, tell me – do you have spring fever?   Sure you do, everyone gets spring fever.  We want to throw open the windows, take down the drapes, purchase every flower imaginable, and create beauty as far and as wide as our eyes can see.  Why do we want to this ?   T. H. Robsjohn-Gibbings explains – “The surroundings householders crave are glorified autobiographies.”  True words.  Our homes are about us, and we want to make them as lovely and inviting as possible.  But, we all know it doesn’t happen at the snap our fingers.

Truly, creating beauty is work – but, the rewards are huge.  I often look at the end result of a project and wonder, how did I accomplish that?  Perhaps there was a bit of magic afoot.   But, when we create a beautiful home or garden, we show love.  And, love transfers our homes into homes with a soul.  We are inspired by our efforts and the beauty we have created.  Grace appears.

Spring is a marvelous time, a time of transformation.  When we are stricken with  spring fever,  we dream.  So, let’s stir up a bit of magic, put our dreams into motion, and watch them come to life.  We can wave our wands, and watch the winter weather disappear from our windows and porches.  Our homes become fully alive – dripping with gorgeousness.  A beautiful “autobiography.”

I do hope you have received a good measure of inspiration this morning.  However, should you still feel a bit fevered,  here are a few tips which may help:  Take a trip to your favorite garden center or antique shop, visit a public garden, have coffee with your dearest friend, purchase of a fabulous peony, enjoy a bit of chocolate, select a new fragrance, or linger over a simple meal and a lovely wine served at home to those you love.  Whatever you do – don’t miss one moment of this magnificent time of year.    Créer de la beauté, devenir inspiré !”   See translation below.

Thanks for visiting – Sending love to you and yours !

Au Revoir,

Sandra

Translation:  Créer de la beauté, devenir inspiré – Create Beauty, Become Inspired

Photo:  BHG.com/pinterest

When The Jasmine Blooms

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic – the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we are alone.” –  Charles de Laet

Don’t we all need inspiration?  Sure we do.  We each may require  a different amount, but personally I  feel inspiration is vital for everyone.  For me, it can be a few beautiful words, a little time spent in our garden, gazing upon a painting which I feel is lovely, or chatting with my dear friend.  But, I require that shot in my arm every day.

So, this morning I find myself thinking of the many talented people who inspire me.  And,  in thinking of them I thought,  “how grand it would be to have them all to dinner.”  Of course, I am dreaming of a fabulous dinner in the garden, when the jasmine is in her glory.  Can’t you just smell the intoxicating fragrance wafting in the gentle breeze?  An absolutely perfect setting for a beautiful time.

Yes, a perfect setting for my special guests.  And, on my guest list is… Maya Angelou, Julia Child, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Charles Faudree,  Claude Monet, Roger Muhl, Jacques Pepin,  Alexandra Stoddard,  my lifelong friend, Janet and her husband, and of course my husband.   Just imagine, all these magnificent personalities at the same table.  Writers, artists, designers, great chefs and good friends – what a party.  The conversation among these people would be be overflowing with inspiration. WOW!  It may just be inspiration overload.  Is that possible?  Oh, and I must not forget to mention that Jacques and Julia helped me plan the menu.  To be catered, of course.

So, back to reality.  I will tell you, every person on my guest list provides great inspiration for me.    Their art, creativity, words, painstakingly tested recipes, strength and courage, all bring much to my daily life.  “An everyday sort of magic and a sense of connectedness.”   And, when I see our Carolina Jasmine in full bloom and smell her heavenly fragrance – truly for me, it is “Where Inspiration Blooms.”

Won’t you tell us who or what inspires you – our curious minds want to know.

Thanks for visiting today – love and hugs to you !

Au Revoir

Sandra

ps:  After I checked my list, I realized I must have another dinner.  There are many other extraordinarily, talented people I admire.

Photo: Facebook.com/Pinterest

A Lovely Weekend Meal – Courtesy of Moi, and Jacques Pepin

“Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.” – Julia Child

 

The weekend is here.  Hopefully, the weather is beautiful where ever you may be, and it is spring.  Therefore, it is time to do things, other than spending great amounts of time in the kitchen.  So, this morning I am sending you a tried and true menu, complete with recipes I believe you and your family will love.  You may just even receive a WOW – I promise you they will be impressed.

The Menu

Gruyere Cheese Souffle  

Spinach Salad With Goat Cheese and a Raspberry Vinaiagrette

Crusty Bread

Wine – Whispering Angel Rose (A Cotes de Provence Rose)

Dessert – Your Choice of Ice Cream

Gruyere Cheese Souffle – Jacques Pepin

3 Tbls. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing

2 Tbls. freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

3 1/2 Tbls. all-purpose flour

1 cup cold whole milk

5 large eggs, separated

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese

2 Tbls. chopped fresh chives or 2 tsp. dried chives

Preheat the oven to 400.  Grease a 1-quart gratin dish with butter and dust with Parmigiano;  refrigerate.  In a saucepan (very large), melt the 3 Tbls. of butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking, for 1 minute.  Whisk in the milk, bring to a boil and cook, whisking the entire cooking time, until thickened – about 1 minute.  Remove from heat, then whisk in 4 egg yolks along with salt and pepper.  Reserve the remaining yolk for another use or discard. 

In a clean bowl, beat the whites until firm peaks form.  Whisk 1/3 of the beaten whites into the sauce mixture, then fold in the remaining beaten whites.  Fold in the Gruyere cheese and chives.  Pour mixture into prepared gratin dish.  Bake for 25 minutes, until puffed and golden.   Serves 4 – nicely.

The souffle resting on the block in our kitchen.  A glass of wine pairs nicely with cooking.  

Spinach Salad With Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

Spinach, red onion, pecans, strawberries or blueberries and goat cheese.

Arrange desired amount of spinach (I use baby spinach) in individual or serving dish.  Add sliced fresh strawberries.  If nice strawberries are unavailable, blue berries will work fine.  Then top with thinly sliced red onion, sprinkle with coarsely chopped pecans and crumbled goat cheese.  Serve with a Raspberry Vinaigrette.

Raspberry Vinaigrette

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup Raspberry Vinegar (no substitutes)

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1/4 tsp. oregano

salt/pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together.  I usually make this an hour or two before serving, to allow for the flavors to blend together.

 

Serve the souffle, salad, bread, and, if possible,  with my choice of wine – Whispering Angel.  Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel is a beautiful Cotes de Provence Rose.   If you are unable to locate it – any good Chardonnay will be fine.

 

Bonappetit ! 

Thanks for visiting, wishing you and yours a lovely weekend!

Au Revoir,

Sandra

Note:  The salad and dressing are my recipes

Photo:  femininity blogspot.com/pinterest/clubdgv.blogspot.ca/pinterest

My Walk, Down The Garden Path

“Put your hand in mine and let us help one another to see things better.” – Claude Monet

I do love the garden.  Having my hands in the cool damp earth of spring is a pleasure – one I will never take for granted.  Seeing a tender plant grow into maturity,  therefore making my vision a reality, truly makes my heart sing.  But, I want to tell you this joy came by the way of much failure and success.    “My walk, down the garden path,”  as I believe to be the walk of many gardeners, has been full of exhilarating, heartbreaking and lots of  in between, moments.

There are many things I have learned in my forty plus years of gardening.  The two I believe to be most important are:  1) Plant for your planting zone.   2) Educate yourself about the plant you are interested in, before purchasing.  Or, as my husband so often says to me, “Sandra, when all else fails, read the directions.” Goodness, have I learned that one the hard way. Yes, I have.  I remember planting a flat of fabulous impatiens directly in the boiling sun of coastal Virginia.  Also, while living in this beautiful part of our world, I was determined to have a lilac. Well, I did, until one July arrived.  The sky opened up with rain, daily, for the entire month, and, I watched my lilac – wilt and die.   And, there were other examples, all heartbreaking – all due to my failure to read and educate myself.

However, I was not defeated.  You see, I had my mother, who was a magnificent gardener, and wonderful co-workers/friends who were also magnificent gardeners.  Mom was 380 miles away, but a dial away on the phone.  And, I could see my friends daily.   So, armed with mom and my many passionate gardening friends, gardening knowledge was to be mine.   In addition to all the help from mom and my dear friends:   I read everything I could put my hands on, visited gardens both public and private, and worked at mastering my craft in my every spare moment.

Along with wonderful memories of times shared with mom, that I will forever treasure, I also treasure my many dear friends I have made through gardening.  These friends are like minded, wonderful souls who have graced the walk on my path.  And, I see many of them every spring when the plants they so generously shared with me happily bloom.

Our sweet garden also holds one of my great passions, and that is peonies.  My love affair with peonies began when I was thirteen years old and saw a red one in bloom in the garden of one of mom’s friends.  I can still remember the house and where I was standing, when I was struck by the glorious beauty of the plant.  And, so, that very moment was responsible for my falling in love with this outstanding plant.  Even after all the years I have grown peonies (since 1983), I still become giddy with excitement when I see their red shoots peaking through the cold, spring soil.  I know heavenly beauty will soon be arriving in our garden.

Today, I hope you have found “inspiration that will bloom.”   Cherish the “walk down your garden path.”  And, remember the walk is all about the beauty you will see and the friends you will make along the way.  Especially, remember to share your garden and plants, so others will remember you.  Sharing is the true beauty of a garden.

Thanks for visiting – love and hugs to you !

Au Revoir,

Sandra

ps.  Do share your garden stories, and, remember if you have questions – please ask.  I will try and help.

        The peony in the photo above is Courage.  She is one of my favorites, and blooms in our garden.

Photos: homedesignlover/pinterest, ellenzee.tumblr.com/pinterest

Spring, Beautiful Spring

“The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another.  The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month.” –  Henry Van Dyke

Good Morning Everyone:

Wake up – it is the first day of spring ! Spring is such a glorious time of year.  And, I hope where ever you may be, you will take a moment to welcome this day, and the wonderful new season.

So fix your coffee, curl up, and reflect on all the many, lovely days ahead.    Dream,  and become inspired!

Thanks for visiting today.  Wishing you and yours beautiful days, during this most special season!

Au Revoir,

Sandra

Photo:  Images of me/Pinterest

Tending our Gardens

“Whether people are fully conscious of this or not, they actually derive countenance and sustenance from the “atmosphere” of the things they live in and with.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Good Morning Everyone:

Even though it may still seem like winter for many of you, take heart, spring is near.  And, she will soon arrive in full, glorious bloom.

This morning, I would like to share the words of someone I greatly admire – Alexandra Stoddard.  My husband and I had the great pleasure of spending time with her and her husband several years ago.  A special and wonderful time, I will write about later.  But, today I want to share her words about “Tending Your Own Garden.”

“Plant your seeds and cultivate your own garden.  Everyone who does so is wise, because happiness is centered here.  Our house becomes a home when we love it.  Our home can always be in bloom, full of springtime, fresh beginnings, plants growing, and happiness flowering.  Paradise is right here, right now, day by day.  Our homes are our ideal earthly paradise.  Give your home your all, feed it with beauty, color and light:  treat all your objects with respect and dignity.  It is here that we create paradise; it is here that we are nourished by our sacred refuge, our physical environment we love that loves us back.  Our homes can be so enriching that we choose not to leave at all and to take our vacations there.”

So today, take a look around your home and decide how well you are “tending your garden.”  Does she need attention?  If so, spring is all about new beginnings and is the perfect time to think about your  special place.  The place which gives you shelter from the world.   And, the place where you derive countenance and sustenance.

Thanks for visiting – have a beautiful weekend !

Au Revoir,

Sandra

ps.  Always happy to assist or answer any gardening or interior design questions you may have.   You may contact me here on the blog under the comment section, or click on Contact and send me a message.

Photo: davesgarden.com/Pinterest

Stoddard quotes from her book:  “Choosing Happiness”