Friday, May 3, 2013

Good Morning, Sunshine!

by Heather
I love blue and white with yellow.
I like to wear that color combination
and I like to do tablescapes with the same colors.
If I ever get a little cottage by the sea,
those will be the colors in at least one room.
I may even try those colors in our current guestroom.
The blue and white vases usually spend their time outside
but for today I washed them and brought them inside.
Maybe when this is done, they'll go into the guest room for the summer.
The walls are pale yellow and the bed linens are white ---
mmm, could be a good look. 
Okay, focus, Heather...let's get this done before any more rearranging happens.
I'm not a morning person, but this type of tablescape wakes me up and gets me going.
It's a happy, fresh look that makes me smile.
Orange juice and a bottle of chilled champagne are ready for mimosas, a good way in which to start the day. Probably not a great idea for a work day (wouldn't the day be that much better if we could??) but wonderful for a Saturday or Sunday morning.
Grapefruits are fresh off the tree and couldn't taste better.

Nothing is new on the table with the exception of the oleander branches.
I was sure I had bought all miniature oleanders for large pots on the patio last year
but one regular-sized bush got in by mistake.
It's going crazy right now with drooping branches so I went out with my clippers and trimmed --
just enough to fill the two jars.
The yellow bowls are from Target.
Napkin rings are little grape vine wreaths from Michael's.
The blue and white English plate is an antique that belonged to my mother
so it has a special place in my heart.
The small blue and white Spode cache pot was found at a unique store in Minneapolis
(Edina to be specific) that's no longer in existence.
Why do my favorite stores have to go out of business?
Dinner plates as well as the blue glass plates are from the Bombay Company.
Bombay used to have a big presence here in AZ but now they're located only in Canada.
Our loss -- I could always find good deals there.
Oh, I lied. There is one fairly new item on the table.
The white cake stand with navy ribbon is from Home Goods.
Please don't go out of business!
I just found you recently
(which I blame on all you other bloggers out there)
and I'm fairly addicted now.
Lunt Eloquence sterling flatware; Martha Stewart coffee mugs
 The place mats and napkins have been around for so long that I have no idea from where they came.

Eat a good breakfast, have a wonderful morning
and an enjoyable, relaxing (or exhilarating) weekend!
See you on Monday with my regular fashion post :)


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Outdoor Rooms

by Sheila
Our outdoor room has misters for the hot summer months and a fireplace for cooler winter months making it great year-round

There is nothing like enjoying the great outdoors with all the comforts of home at your fingertips.  In the desert climate, we enjoy our outdoor space year-round.  It is truly an extension of our home.  Outdoor rooms have become more popular in the last few years, for good reason.  It can be a great place to entertain and relax in a magical setting.

I think there are some "must-haves" in the creation of your outdoor room.  A sense of enclosure is important.  This may be walls on a few sides, the posts of a pergola, curtains, or a living wall of potted plants, to name a few options.
A buffet from a thrift store; painted and used for storage and serving

Another key is comfortable seating.  Think about how you will use this space.  Dining al fresco? Relaxing with a good book?  Entertaining friends around the fire pit, or watching the kids swim or play?  Arrange your seating according to the activities you will most enjoy.  We re-arrange our furniture according to the seasons.  In the winter, our outdoor seating is turned toward the fireplace with the curtains drawn around to keep in the warmth of the fire.  In the summer, we turn it to face the pool.  We also have a round dining table that we use as often as our indoor table.  I love to eat outside!

My front garden

 Lighting is also important in your outdoor space, as you will often be using this area in the evening.  I am not a big fan of overhead lighting, so a little creativity helps.  Candles are an obvious choice, but twinkle lights and some of the other outdoor string lighting provide great light at an affordable price. Don't overlook the low-voltage landscape lighting- very easy to install.  I also like some solar lights, but hate the "blue-toned" ones.

Consider going bold with color.  Outdoor light saturates it anyway, so a bright hue doesn't have quite the same punch as it might indoors.  Love turquoise?  Buy some bright pillows and accessories and liven things up.  I have painted the walls of my outdoor room a bright red.  Go all-out with an outdoor rug, a curtain or two and anything else that strikes your fancy, making it cozy and comfortable and really feel like a "room".  Just be careful - you'll have a hard time tearing yourself away once you create the perfect outdoor spot to relax and entertain friends!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Spring Swap Party

by Sheila

Heather arriving with the goods!

Have you been cleaning out your closets and cupboards lately?  Are you looking for a little motivation, or even a deadline?  Maybe you should have a Swap Party!  A Swap Party is a fun way to get rid of stuff you don't want or need anymore, and maybe pick up a few "new to you" treasures.  Basically people bring their stuff they want to get rid of, and everyone shops the Party for free goods.  Items that are left over are donated to a local charity for sale.  Here's how we did it:

Send an e-mail to your friends and family well in advance explaining the event.  This is important, because it provides the motivation for them to start clearing out and saving their stuff to swap.  Suggest types of items to bring, such as clothing, shoes, accessories, purses, household items, decorator items, etc.  Our main focus is on clothing, but we bring of other stuff too.  This is good, because not everyone wears the same size clothing.  Accessories and purses work for everyone, and of course household stuff does too.

We group like clothing together - here are the pants & skirts on display ready to be snatched!

Set the date for the Swap and send another invitation.  We decided to encourage everyone to bring a guest, because we seem to have lots of stuff and are glad to have anyone take it who might have a need. 

So that the hostess doesn't have a lot of extra work or expense, we rotate who has it, and ask guests to bring a snack or a beverage to share.  We Swapped at 4 pm and had a fun Happy Hour while everyone shopped, chatted and enjoyed a glass of wine. It's fun to see people try on clothes and accessories!
I got a great hat from Heather - I'll need it for the Kentucky Derby Party this weekend - thanks, Heather!

I took photos, not just for this post, but so that I can think about all the "stuff" I was getting rid of before I purchase yet another (fill in the blank).  Our friend Edie keeps 100 hangars, and that's it.  when she brings something new home, she gets rid of something old.  I turn my hangars "backwards" on the rod when I switch out my closet each season.  If there are garments I haven't worn at the end of that season, I know it because the hangars haven't been turned around and I am ruthless about getting rid of those things.  My ultimate goal is to have only clothes I really love and wear without the excess to store, clean and paw through when I am getting dressed.
Ann's looking good in her new find!

So set your date and start clearing out your closets.  It's a fun way to motivate yourself to get rid of stuff, share with friends, and likely get a few new treasures in the process!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Traditional Bruschetta

by Ann

I have learned a lot since working my very part-time job at Sur la Table; most of it about food and cooking, but also about what it’s like to work an irregular hourly schedule.  Every accommodation is made to give me the “days off” that I need, yet when there are more that I need off than I am available to work, I occassionally get scheduled on a requested day off.  That was the case last Wednesday when Sheila’s mom was hosting a “swap party” where we all bring clothing and household items we’re no longer crazy about, but think one of our pals would appreciate taking home.  My plan was to drop off the items I’d been saving for the party on my way to the store. At about noon that day (party at 4:00) I got a call to relay the message that there were only a few people signed up for the class, and so the chef could handle it on her own. (Be watching for an upcoming blog post by Sheila about the party.)

When we started blogging one of our goals was to keep creating fun things to do to blog about, and the swap party fit that bill.  Naturally wine was involved.
Great news!  I could go to the party after all!  What I hadn't planned for however was what my “snack to share” would be.  I had just a couple of hours to figure it out, get to the store, and get my act together.  Bruschetta seemed like the best option.  Everyone likes it, it’s relatively healthy, and not too much work to put together.  I think that the vast majority of people pronounce the work incorrectly, but Heather has always done it right and taught us that it is Bruschetta (Italian pronunciation: [brus'ketta]), not bru-shetta, as most say.  Regardless, it’s quick, easy, and delicious!
Never a shortage of good food - You can see that I served the topping separate from the grilled bread so guests could serve themselves, which avoids soggy bruschetta.
The best thing about making bruschetta is that the varieties are limited only to a person’s imagination.  One of the best I've ever had was with goat cheese and grilled peaches.  Sorry to say that mine were very mainstream and paled in comparison (but were still quite tasty)!

Since it is such a simple recipe, its appearance is critical.  Using a le creuset  grill pan I toasted the bread in an attractive manner rendering grill marks for great presentation. If you don't have a grill pan or don't want to bother, toasted bread will work ok.  My recipe will be vague because there is not much to it.  You use as much of all of the ingredients to match your tastes.

French baguette, cut into uniform slices
olive oil for grilling
tomatoes, diced fine  (I used a combination of red and yellow)
garlic cloves, minced
fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
olive oil - about 2-3 T for each cup of diced tomatoes
balsamic vinegar - just a drizzle to sweeten the tomatoes
freshly ground sea salt and pepper

Cut the bread into slices, making sure that the thickness is as uniform as possible

Dip one side of the bread in a shallow bowl with olive oil, minced garlic and salt

Place oiled side of the bread slices on a grill pan heated to medium; press down lightly with a lid to make the grill marks

Combine all topping ingredients in a bowl

If serving immediately, spoon onto grilled bread slices to serve, if the guests will be enjoying for an extended period of time, serve in bowl to allow each person to serve themselves to avoid the bread being too soggy

Stack the rinsed and dried basil leaves on top of one another

Roll the leaves lengthwise

Slice the rolled leaves into thin ribbons

Enjoy!  (and I hope you experiment with creative toppings!)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Cutest Purse Ever?

by Heather

Is this the cutest purse ever?
Not the most elegant or the prettiest...the cutest.
I was in the Coach store at Scottsdale Fashion Square
and this little grey and yellow Willis purse caught my eye.
There was just something about it...fresh and clean...happy...perky, perhaps.
It needed to come home with me. 
Coach Willis purse and leather wrap bracelet; BCBG and Nordstrom yellow rings; Michael Kors white ceramic watch; Kenneth Cole silver and yellow trio of bracelets

And talk about a classic style; 
I still have two vintage Coach Willis purses from the late 70s. 
Will this one stand the test of time as well?

And look, it matches the new yellow and white striped Loft cardi that was already in my closet.
Target grey roll-up pants
 Temps are expected to reach 100 today but a cardi is still needed if one is going out. Air-conditioning in restaurants and shops can make it feel downright chilly at times.
Kenneth Cole silver and yellow necklace; Loft eyelet peplum top
 I've had the white eyelet peplum top in my closet for several weeks but this is its first time out.
I'm thinking it will get a lot of wear this summer.
The Loft and Ann Taylor have been having 40% off  everything in their stores recently and I've taken advantage of that to add a few things to the summer wardrobe.

For all of you educators out there (if you didn't already know):
Both Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft, as well as J Crew and Banana Republic,
offer a 15% discount to teachers.
Isn't that nice of them?!
 My impulse purchase last year of those Target grey and yellow wedges has paid off.
At the time I wasn't sure how much wear they'd get, but they seem to be matching up to
a lot of outfits this year.
And I'm sure this purse will get a lot of action, too. 
I'm ready to pair it with two sweaters from past posts. Remember these two sweaters?
 Ann Taylor scarf

I'm going to have some fun figuring out what else will look good with this purse. Any ideas?

What's your latest happy "find"?

Have a sunny, happy week!