Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Butter Cookies...

Without a doubt, my favorite holiday treat is a butter cookie. By definition, butter cookies are simple and show off the most basic of baking ingredients to their best advantage. Since I have never met a stick of butter I did not like, it stands to reason that these cookies are the star in my kitchen during the holidays. Classic on their own, they can also be paired with lemon curd, jam, whipping cream and fresh fruit or elegantly presented with a beautiful dusting of confectioner's sugar. There are a variety of recipes to chose from, each hosting similar ingredients, but I would suggest using a recipe that calls for butter, flour, confectioner's sugar, salt and vanilla such as The Neely's Butter Cookie recipe.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays my friends!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Luggage Racks...

Luggage racks! I just happened to be looking for them online and there they were, the first item on the list. They were meant to be! I had the perfect idea to dress them up for my pink bedroom. As luck would have it, the gentleman selling the racks had two and was kind enough to sell them both for the price of one. He was converting his bed and breakfast to a vacation rental and needed to move them out quickly. With a double score in hand, I was excited to get started!

First, I removed the straps and lightly sanded the wood. I only needed to knock off enough of the old finish to give the new primer and paint something to grab hold of. It was a quick and simple process.

Next, I covered the existing hardware with painter's tape to prevent over spray from the primer and paint. Eventually, I changed my mind and replaced the hardware in order to achieve a more detailed result. Neither was really a requirement, but I am a perfectionist, so...

I painted the luggage racks with Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch, Ultra Cover 2X Primer in White and Paint in Blossom White, Satin Finish. The coverage, color and finish was amazing.

While the luggage racks were drying, I started on the straps. I suppose there are a variety of techniques to cover straps, but I chose a no sew method, using a permanent fabric adhesive. I simply folded, ironed and adhered the cut edges of the fabric around newly purchased straps as shown below.

When the straps were finished, I stapled each end to the top of the wood frame, carefully wrapping under and over to the other side, connecting in the same way. For a fun and decorative touch, I added Dungaree buttons to the top of the straps for a bit of whimsy. Very me, indeed!

It was that simple! An inexpensive project that is sure to add a point of interest and color pop to my pink bedroom. I love it! And, I have a second luggage rack painted and ready for use down the road.

I am in the process of designing my pink bedroom and will post pictures soon! Stay tuned for more...

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Crossing Guard...

Each morning when I drive to work, I contemplate another day at the office and the challenges that await me. As I sip on coffee and navigate my way through familiar streets, I lose myself in anticipation of what is to come. This morning started off no different than any other. The alarm clock sounded at 6:00 a.m. and kept me on schedule as I went about my normal routine. Due to a last minute snafu, however, I left home later than usual. In order to avoid what would now be heavy commuter traffic, I decided to drive a road less traveled, albeit longer. Good plan, I thought, as I remained on task. I made my way down tree lined streets and through quiet neighborhoods, barely taking notice of the surrounding beauty. After all, I was late for work and had no time for the journey. As I stopped and passed through several intersections, causing further delays in my morning, I became aggravated by the nuisance. I thought, are all these stop signs really necessary, as if a conspiracy had been launched against me? It was then that I glanced to my right and saw her, the crossing guard. She was an older woman with a big and bright smile. She was proudly dressed in a red Christmas sweater and mittens, with a string of bells around her neck and reindeer antlers on the top of her head. Her chair was nestled under a pine tree, which was lovingly adorned with red ornaments and festive embellishments. She had arrived early to decorate her spot and was waiting enthusiastically for the children to make their way to school. As I passed through the intersection, she excitedly smiled and waved to me with both hands in the air as if we had known each other for a lifetime. Nope, we had never met. I waved back, a bit reserved, but touched nonetheless. I watched her through my rear view mirror as she greeted each passing car with the same smile and wave. My heart was suddenly filled with her spirit and in that moment, I changed my view. I was reminded of the power of human joy and kindness. The crossing guard very simply and purely made my day and although I do not know her, or even her name, she left an imprint on me that I will always remember.

Often times, we go so fast in life that we forget about each other. As we bustle about during this busy time of year, let us remember to live in the present and realize that life and love are the gifts. Love yourself, love others and celebrate the good around you. And, once in a while, give a smile and a wave to a stranger. Who knows, maybe you will bring joy to someone who needs it the most.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Miss Wayola...

You could say that my early love of cooking and baking came from watching my mom in the kitchen. Being the aspiring Domestic Diva that I was, I spent childhood time with her in the kitchen learning basic skills. Without fail, she prepared dinner for our family every night, which was on the table promptly by the time my dad came home from work. Weekends were a bit more casual, but dinner during the week was like clockwork. My dad came home at 5:20 p.m., dinner was on the table by 5:30 p.m. and dishes were well under way by 6:00 p.m. Regimented, yes we were. My dad was a military man and routine was, and still is, his way. We dined on pot roast and potatoes, hamburgers and French fries, spaghetti and garlic bread and many other delicious meals. I enjoyed my mom's food and especially looked forward to dinner, my favorite meal of the day.

When I was in my late teens, I met my soon to be husband. He was the youngest sibling in a family of ten children; six boys and four girls. I remember the day I met his eldest sister. Her name was Wayola. It was a Sunday, a family day filled with church, food and laughter. She was maternal, with a big heart and warm smile. She was the matriarch of their family. A devout Southern Baptist woman, she sang in the church choir and rarely missed a Sunday sermon. She was strong in her appearance and had a robust laugh that warmed my heart. I immediately fell in love with her. We met in her kitchen and talked about life and love. It was a special place and we soon realized the common ground we were standing on; our love of cooking and baking. That day, I watched her make fried chicken, barbequed ribs, collard greens, black eyed peas, hot water cornbread and strawberry pie. My senses were overwhelmed as I was taken on a soulful culinary journey to a place I had never been before. I ate until my heart was content. I had found my heaven, my Southern family. Wayola was my kitchen idol and I wanted to be just like her.

Throughout the years, Wayola taught me how to cook many soul food dishes such as smothered pork chops, grits, corn bread stuffing and sweet potato pie. She rarely followed recipes, just a pinch of this and a handful of that. Everything she made was from her heart, a perfect reflection of her beauty. She canned her own fresh fruits and vegetables from the crates of produce her husband brought home from work. Peaches, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, jalapenos, you name it, she canned it or froze it. The freezer in her garage was full of fresh frozen foods. Wayola also had a green thumb. She grew her own vegetables and in particular, collard greens. I remember seeing them in her front yard for the first time and thinking, kind of ugly. Perhaps some lovely rose bushes would look prettier, as I redesigned her front yard in my mind. Young and naive, I had so much to learn about her way. She was a great teacher and I was a captivated student. I paid attention to everything she did because I was determined to get it right. After all, it would eventually be her legacy.

Sadly, Wayola passed away last fall. My time with her was special. She taught me how to cook and bake from my soul and love from my heart. She touched so many lives and gave so much to this world. I will always remember her fondly and am thankful for the time we spent together in her kitchen and for her gifts of food and wisdom.

In Wayola's memory, I plan to post soul food recipes in the coming months to a soon to be created section of my blog titled, the Soulful Spot. I hope you will come back soon and share my tribute to an amazing woman.

God bless you Miss Wayola. I know god is happy you are home…

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Trash To Treasure...

In yesterday’s post, No Place Like Home, I mentioned that my home is a whimsical adventure. Creating on a shoestring budget, I look to the “old” for the “new”, giving repurposed life to someone else’s trash. Several months ago, my sister and I were brainstorming ideas to add a pop of color to one of my bedrooms. It was a bedroom designed with my youngest daughter in mind. Since my family is from France, I decided to go for a whimsical look, with a French twist. I fondly call it French Whimsy.  I am certain French Whimsy is not a design style, but it seemed to capture my style, so it was named as such. My sister suggested that I take a metal trash can, turn it upside down and use it as an end table. By spray painting the trash can, I would get the color pop I was looking for. Great idea! Off to the paint store I went. Since the bedroom already had a blue, cream and white color palate in place, the obvious paint choice for the trash can was yellow. I put the first coat on, cute! The second coat, looking good! The third coat, oh boy, what have I done? Did I go too bright? With each coat, the color seemed to grow away from my original vision. I thought to myself, just keep going and see where you land. Well, I landed gracefully and the outcome was amazing.

I often frequent second hand stores. I go with an open mind, with no particular idea in place. I look at items not for what they are, but for what they can be. Soon after I had painted the trash can turned end table, I found an amazing chandelier. I immediately thought, this is the perfect piece to finish off the bedroom. With a little elbow grease and a helping hand from my sister and brother-in-law, the final touch was added. Voila! I could not be happier. It reflects my taste perfectly and for a few hundred dollars from start to finish, I have a beautiful French Whimsy bedroom.


The video below shows my French Whimsy bedroom. It also captures some of the love that can be found in my home. I hope you enjoy it...


Thank you to my sister for making and sharing such a beautiful montage.

Love, love, love…

Saturday, December 1, 2012

No Place Like Home...

As far back as I can remember, I have had a strong connection to family and home. I always wanted to be a mommy and have little girls. I always wanted a home, built on a foundation of love. I am blessed to have both. My daughters are the loves of my life and home is where my heart is. My home is simple and honest. It is where you can see me the best. It is not a fancy home with state of the art appliances and beautiful furnishings. It is a whimsical home, where nothing really matches, but everything belongs. Most everything is homemade or second hand; each containing a story waiting to be told. Everything is perfectly me and I like it just that way. My sister says that my home reminds her of a little girl's dream come true. I guess that is true. Home is where my heart rests peacefully and where love is always present. There is no place I would rather be.