Gray Day In Boston

As we sit and wait for the onslaught of the “terrifying megastorm” that is Hurricane Sandy, I can’t help but notice how gray the skies have been for the past day or so. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, gray is “lacking cheer in mood, outlook, brightness, style or color.” But I beg to differ. Gray has so many hues, and since it is a neutral, can be paired with just about any accent color. How many shades of gray can you see in this photo taken in Alaska?

These soft, neutral color pallettes occur naturally on our planet and many talented stylists and designers reflect this look in their spaces, like this bedroom from Architectural Digest,

Or this amazing bath

In this interior by Marco Dellatorre, grays and pinks with a touch of green create a dramatic dining space…

While in my photo, Crystal Lake also has hues of grays and pinks with a touch of green.

And in this photo, pinks and reds pop against a gray pallette.

The changing light in the gathering clouds over Stockholm, Sweden alters the seas from blue to dark gray…The light from the windows will change the gray hues of this space from morning to night

Grays and blue of the irish countryside

Gray with blue hues from Elle Decor

Pastel grays- these are clouds outside my plane window in Hawaii

This room has that same feel with a cloud-like effect on the sofa wall that reflects the light.

You can see how the black lamp posts contrast with the gray blue skies of Paris…

As do these black sconces and frames from ZsaZsaBellagio.blogspot.com

Of course, gray is also the color of stormy skies, so if you are in Sandy’s path, stock up, settle in and be safe everyone! Susan

Craftsy. Learn it. Make it. Love it.

This week’s High Five for Friday goes to Craftsy.com!

Their mantra: Learn it. Make it. It’s like going to community college night classes in the comfort of your own home-I wish I had thought of this! You know all those awesome hand-crafted items on Pinterest and Esty that you think “gee, how do I make that?!” And you are too busy, too stressed, work full-time, don’t have the tools or the knowledge or someone to show you how to make it happen? Well, this website is for you! It’s a free membership, you sign up and have immediate access to thousands of patterns and professional online how-to videos and information for everything from cake creations and crocheted clothing to decorating your nest. You learn at your pace, on your time, whether you are burning the midnight oil in your PJ’s or hanging out on the back porch on a lazy summer afternoon. They even have an online store where you can purchase the craft items you need for your projects. I have added a couple of my own designs to my Country Pretty page, and will be adding more shortly. (so for any of you out there that want to make a whale table of your very own, check my link soon). So whether you want to create a very special cake…

or crochet a hat (this one’s from Color My World Crochet– so pretty!)

Create a chalkboard sign 

Or antique a table…

…click on the Craftsy logo link above and get crafting!  TGIF everyone!!! Susan

Red and White Delights

So, I don’t know about all of you, but I am starting to grow a bit weary of Halloween decor with all the oranges, yellows and browns. Now, I like trick or treating as much as the next girl, but the stores and magazines started featuring “your all-time favorite hearty fall recipes, scary decorations, costumes and painted pumpkins, etc!!) back in August!! So, as a little refreshing change of scenery, I give you red and white!

Crisp and clean, bright and cheery. Country Curtains buffalo plaid panels (one of my most-pinned boards on Pinterest).

One dotted umbrella, so cute! (photo via Cinco de Kiddo)

Time for a cheery spot of tea?

A harbinger of things to come here in New England (of course, that’s not til after the hurricane hits next week…) Photo via PixDaus.com

A blog post can’t be complete without a mention of one of my special DIM projects: my dining room country plate rack!

 Stunning gown- not that I have anywhere to wear this, but Oh, how I wish I did!

But I could always wear it in this stunning living room! (via Lola Watson Interior Design)

Red and white is perfect for kitchen ware

and kitchen fare (photo via Country Living Magazine). And country kitchens! (photo via tumbleweed and dandelion.com)

If you were going to have a red and white wedding, would this not be the perfect cake?

Would love a couple of these beauties for my dining room bench-sooo country pretty!

What a nice cheery bedroom! Loving the window pane mirror! (via backporchco)

And who doesn’t love a touch of black and white?! (Phot via Name Design Studio)

Now seeing all these red and white images, just realized that the next big holiday season will be upon us shortly! Maybe I should have chosen tropical blues instead? Have a cheery day everyone! Susan

Candy Corn Cookies

These yummy little shortbread cookies will be a hit at any Halloween party! I found this recipe on the pages of Coastal Living Magazine (one of the reasons I still love print magazines is finding little gems like this while perusing the glossy photographs of amazing spaces- online, I would have to be searching for this recipe…) Enjoy! 

Halloween Cookie Bites

Prep: 50 Minutes    Chill: 2 Hours    Bake 8-10 Minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 large egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 butter flavored extract (or you could use almond)

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (I used orange- delish!)

Yellow food coloring.  Red food coloring.

1. Beat butter and sugar together at medium speed with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Beat in egg and extracts. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and lemon zest. Gradually stir into butter mixture until fully combined and forms a stiff dough.

2. Place dough onto cutting surface and divide into 3 equal parts. (about 1 1/4 cups each). Leave one plain, add yellow food coloring to the second and then yellow/red to the third to make bright orange.

3. Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan, and then line it with plastic wrap, smoothing it out as well as you can. Starting with the plain colored dough, press into bottom of pan to make a smooth layer. Add the orange dough, then the yellow on the top. Cover and chill min 2 hours.

4. Turn dough out onto cutting board. Slice in 1/2 inch sections (like you would a pound cake) and with the slice laying flat on the board, cut it into 6 triangles that resemble candy corn pieces. Place on cookie sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil (shiny side down). The dont need to be very far apart, as they do not spread. Bake @ 350 degrees 8-9 minutes until set but not browned. Cool on wire racks.

Makes 10 dozen delicous cookie bites!!

Brushing It All Aside

This weekend, in preparation for the upcoming holidays, I have been working on the Hall of Shame (yes, we are on the home stretch now!). Basically I am finishing up the painting begun back in April, on that fateful day when I dropped the entire can onto the floor. Yesterday I completed all the trim, then tackled the remaining wall with the 3rd quart of Benjamin Moore Smoke paint- pretty, huh?

All was going well until I reached the very top of our hall stairway, which is very narrow and steep with a high ceiling. (Please don’t judge me because of my burgundy carpet. That was from the 80’s, and I knew not what I was doing!)

With no way to reach the very top far corner, I had two options…

 1. Suspend myself from the top stair to the wall and essentially dangle over the stairwell.

With Coach not being around, and my poor track record with disasters and mishaps in this hall to date, that did not seem like the best alternative. OR 2. Find a way to reach that corner without endangering life and limb. So I give you: Extend-A-Brush! 

With necessity being the mother of invention, I figured out a way to make my arm 6 feet long and reach that top corner!

Supplies required: 1 short handled 3″ angled brush + 1 long-handled mini-roller (minus the roller) +  masking tape (duct tape would do as well, but that was the first one I grabbed from my stick drawer in the HICC- Home Improvement Command Center)

My Extend-A-Brush made short work of that dangerous corner, and now, for the first time since I began this mecca back in the spring, all the walls are smoke blue- yay! And have this awesome invention to use in a tall or tight space! Do you think maybe I should patent this?!?

I could use some really cute zebra striped duct tape and jazz it up.

This may be it…time to hit up the guys at the Shark Tank!

Have a great Sunday everyone! Stay inspired, and enjoy the beautiful fall weather! Susan

Pumped Up for Pumpkin Season!

This week’s High Five for Friday goes to Pumpkins!

Everywhere you turn, on doorsteps

in home decorating

or on magazine covers, pumpkins have taken over the landscape. And rightly so! A bright, deep, rich orange fruit, indiginous to North America, the pumpkin is an iconic symbol of autumn and particularly the Thanksgiving and Halloween holidays. If you would like to know the true story behind the story, check out this book by Cindy Ott- Pumpkin: The Curious History of an American Icon. 

Once you learn the history, you can appreciate the bountiful beauty of this simple fruit. The rich orange color is perfect for painting a room.

or creating the perfect centerpiece for a holiday meal.

This stunning vintage vignette from Casa E Trend is so rich and colorful!

Try adding some flaming drama to your home decor…

or perhaps a few chevron stripes to brighten up your space!

The original pumpkin pies were created by the pilgrims and presumably served for the very first Thanksgiving.

They hollowed out pumpkins, fill them with cream, spices, eggs and honey and buried them in the ashes of their campfires, then cooked until the spicy custard was ready to eat. No need to worry about the perfect crust!

For pottage and puddings and custards and pies

Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,

We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,

If it were not for pumpkins we should be undoon.”

Pilgrim verse, circa 1633

Now, I could conceivably dig a hole in the back yard, build a campfire and bake up some yummy pumpkin pies, (that would certainly make for a fun-filled blog…hmmm) or I could just stick to what I normally do: make my pies with Pumpkin-in-a-can from Libbys! So, in keeping with the Thanksgiving tradition of sharing our bounty, here is one of my favorite all-time recipes for Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle.

It is easy and incredibly delicious!  

Have a sweet Friday, everyone! Susan

Autumn in New England

It’s wanderlust Wednesday, and this week are taking a walk around Lake Quannapowitt in Wakefield.

We could drive for hours and head out west to the Berkshires, or up north to the mountains (you know, that grass is always greener thing), but sometimes in the words of Dorothy: “Toto, there’s no place like home”.

As I was walking, I noticed that there was what appeared to be a rainbow next to the setting sun. Stunning.

One lone duck still hanging around- I think his buddies have all flown south. Is he lost? Or hoping for indian summer?

Benches awaiting some walkers to rest along the three mile path.

A perfect tree for Halloween! Tall reeds lining the shore.

The leaves are finally falling.

Is there anything more beautiful than autumn in New England? 

The perfect vantage point for viewing the changing seasons.

These images were taken with my Iphone (someday I am actually going to remember to bring my camera!) Happy leaf peeping! Susan

When In Wenham…

…tour some kitchens! Saturday, as part of a full-day birthday fun-day for my mom’s 85th, we took in the Wenham Museum’s Heart of the Home 5th Annual Kitchen Tour.

It was a gorgeous sunny fall day, perfect for leaf-peaping and pumpkin decorating!

as we travelled the North Shore on our kitchen quest. 

We had an opportunity to glimpse inside the lovely kitchens of homeowners who had graciously opened their homes for this good cause. Many were recently renovated, some eclectic and charming, some dramatic, each showcasing the style of the owners. Unfortunately, it was requested that we not take photographs of the interiors. So, the pics below are some that I garnered from the designers’ and realtors’ websites who were participating.

A few standouts, (imho): This blue and white South Hamilton kitchen created by lmk interiors, ltd. Warm and inviting, it instantly enveloped you in the glow of creamy custom cabinetry, blue and white florals and reclaimed heart pine flooring. (pup not included)

We loved the little touches like this desk/niche tucked under the staircase

and this (well-stocked!) wine bar.

In the very large estate at Bridle Path Lane, we were treated to a custom cherry kitchen by North Shore Kitchens with state-of-the-art appliances and many extra touches like the pot-filler faucet over the stovetop.

This home was massive, over 6400 sq, and is actually being marketed by Sotheby’s.

Click here for more info, if you happen to be in the market for a $1.95m home…

Along the way, we stopped for a celebratory birthday lunch at Cygnet in Beverly Farms. The unassuming exterior does not truly reflect the beauty and comfort of the dining room, with high-back cushioned settees creating a cozy and romantic atmosphere. Since we were celebrating 2 birthdays (my daughter and mom are birthday buddies), we just had to begin with a toast of Prosecco-yum!

and end with a scrumptious brownie sundae with two candles for the birthday girls : )

A truly fab lunch, but it took a little longer than expected, so we raced back to Hamilton to make it to the homes we had skipped over earlier. Our final stop, as the last bell tolled at 4pm, was at the Country Club Estates in Ipswich, to view a stunning kitchen designed by Wilson Kelsey Design, Inc. Striking white with black granite and marble and stainless steel,

with a breathtaking hand-painted ocean mural by Zoe-Design. Stunning. I wish I could have shown you all the kitchens, because there was a moment of inspiration in each one. Soft grey zebra-striped wallpaper graced one kitchen’s walls, and soapstone counters gave another its’ country charm. Perhaps next year the organizers will allow photos, so those who could not attend won’t miss out on what was an inspiring day. Now I am keeping my fingers crossed that I won the raffle prize! Susan

Chocolate

Hooray for Friday! What better way to kick off a weekend than with this week’s High Five: Chocolate!!  YUM. The food of the gods, derived from the cacao bean. It can be creamy…

or Steamy. or Dreamy. Gorgeous Eye CandyOr just fabulous candy…mmm, Godiva!

Dotted

Layered.

or Striped.

Solid and Heavy

Dazzling

Classic Milk Chocolate

Ohhh, those chairs!

Or deep rich dark chocolate.

If you tell me that dark chocolate is an antioxidant and promotes heart health, I’m in!

The perfect pick-me-up for those late Friday afternoon doldrums. So help yourself to a chocolate sampling and have a sweet weekend! Susan

From Russia with Love

On this week’s episode of Wanderlust Wednesday, we are off to the magnificent city of St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the stops on our Baltic Sea Princess Cruise. Touring for two days, there was so much to see, and to share, so today I will just show photos from the State Hermitage Museum.  This simple bronze sign on the building’s facade shows no indication of what awaits inside.

Begun with a collection of art from Catherine the Great, and housing over 3 million works of art and artefacts of world culture, this is one of the great museums on the planet. Oppulent cannot even begin to describe the decor- every surface glimmered in 24k gold.

Spectacular chandeliers graced every room. 

With only half a day to spend touring here, we were limited to the main building, The Winter Palace. Greeted at the entrance by these enchanting dancers, 

we kept pace with our tour guide, walking through room after impressive room, filled with velvet and gold

at breakneck speed, snapping pics along the way while she pointed out the works of famous artists and sculptors: “We’re walking, we’re walking, keep moving folks! Here are the Picassos

oh, and here is the Renoir collection (this happens to be one of my own personal favs: “Boy With A Whip”)

Would you like to see Michaelangelo’s “The Crouching Boy”

Or perhaps Leonardo Da Vinci’s Madonna and Child!?

“We’re walking, folks, please keep up!” Overwhelming is probably the best way to describe this day at the museum.

So much to see,

so little time.

At one point I believe our guide said it would actually take someone a full year to see this museum’s collection in its entirety. Certainly not going to happen in half a day! Following our whirlwind tour, we were treated to lunch at Cafe Literaturnoye, a spot frequented by the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin.

We were bearly able to relax with some Russian vodka before we were back onto the bus for the rest of our tour! You’ll have to tune in next week for the castles and churches of from Russia with Love. In the meantime, I think I may have some of that vodka left…time for a martini!?! Susan 

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