Saturday, March 27, 2021

My House Is Being Invaded by Rabbits

It feels so good to start bringing out the Easter things! And not surprisingly, bunnies and Easter eggs  play big roles. And of course there is one cheery duck! Welcome!

Some of these bunnies are old friends. Others, like this cheery pink one, are only a few years old. She looks very happy with a little peat pot of eggs beside her.

Step a bit farther back and you can see she sits on the dry sink with a spray of forsythia and my egg tree.

Many of the eggs here were done by my mom and/or me as far back as the 1960s. It's hard to believe some are sixty years old!

Every time I put the egg tree up, I can't help but think of times making some of them with her. Others were bought a travel remembrances.

On the opposite side of the room, the fireplace mantel is a parade of bunnies!

I love this little moss one by my bird lantern.

I've had plenty of real tulips but these faux ones look pretty spot-on to me!

 I finally got my act together and spent some time polishing silver. I love the reflections and sparkle it adds.

A quick peek into the kitchen. Nothing much here apart from some cheery daffs and spring things!

In the living/dining, we have more bunnies. This one has lights, too, but they didn't photograph all that well.

M&Ms don't last long in the house but they're always there at the holiday!

I've been painting eggs, too. More on this later, but here's a sneak peek!


Atop the china cabinet, three of my favorite "Vintage by Crystal" pieces. 

This pink bloom was a long-ago gift. It seems to fit well with Grandma's silver teapot.

In the hutch, an few more bunnies.

I'll tell you more about the Lord Nelson tea set in another post sometime! I think it has found a new home here!

Peter Rabbit makes an appearance, too. (For two delightful Peter Rabbit design posts, visit Emily and Pam. You'll swoon. I did.)

More bunnies -- and a hyacinth that will need staking soon!

 There will always be bunnies and blooms in the spring. 

And sometimes, even a wee, Parisian bear, one of my felties!

 Celebrate a lovely spring!

 If it's not where you are soon, it will be!

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

A Quick, Easy Spring Centerpiece

Do you need a super-fast spring centerpiece, perfect for your Easter table? Here's one idea!

Take your favorite basket -- I chose a long, skinny basket to go on my fairly small, oblong dining table). Pick a small plant for the center of the basket.This ranunculous was perfect.

Surround the plant with shred or moss. Place small bunnies and/or decorative eggs around the plant. 

I was happy to use my Pendelfin bunnies -- or at least a couple of them. They are "favorite friends" but when I set up the whole "scene," with their bunny house, it takes a lot of room so I decided to give it a break last year. (Here's what it looked like last year!)

 This little guy might be my favorite.

But I'd be having big eyes if I woke up to eggs almost as big as me!

Isn't it fun to bring out the spring things?

Happy Easter Decorating!

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Monday, March 22, 2021

"Finally Free" Dinner Party -- Tips and Tastes!

Rick and I are fully vaccinated and so are our friends, Mark and Jan. So a celebration was in order, this time, inside!

I haven't cooked for anyone other than Rick in over a year and I didn't want kitchen angst that evening. I wanted to be able to enjoy the company of our friends from the minute they walked into the door until the moment they left. Here's how I avoided that.

The Day Before

The afternoon before our dinner I did a basic house pick-up (with vacuuming and dusting to be done the afternoon of the party). Then came the fun part -- putting together a cheery centerpiece. (More on that in an upcoming post)

The Day Of 

The morning of our party I started with making brownies (to be served with gelato) for dessert. I just amped up a box recipe (much as I would have preferred to go from scratch). Once they were cool they went onto the serving platter, sealed up to stay fresh till dessert.

My menu was Asian ginger salmon, the spinach/orzo/feta dish I've mentioned here before and roasted tomatoes. Jan was bringing a salad. We'd also have wine and cheese with Rick's bread before dinner. 


Both the salmon marinade and spinach dish involve some chopping. I wanted that over and done. So, I chopped my garlic, scallions and spinach for the spinach dish and got out the other non-perishable ingredients and put them in my mise en place bowls in the morning. (I almost always do mise en place, even when just cooking for us, at least for non-liquid ingredients.)  I also made my salmon marinade in the morning and in the early afternoon began marinating the salmon (1-8 hours), periodically "basting" it. 

(Recipes below, sorry the photo is such a mess!)

Vacuuming, dusting and mopping the kitchen floor was done in the early afternoon. I also cleared out the coat closet which was pretty packed from our own coats over the winter!

The table was more or less set by mid-afternoon and the buffet area (aka the top of the short bookcase) was cleared off and "set" with a pretty arrangement in a Mary Englebreit teapot that had suffered a broken lid.

While we were having wine and cheese, I assembled the spinach dish. It takes about 15 minutes or so to cook, and stays warm well. I also got the roasted tomatoes prepped and ready to go in the oven when I put in the salmon.

We could easily enjoy our snacks before dinner while catching up. The salmon takes about 20 minutes so I judged the time accordingly. 

And then, we simply enjoyed! Bad selfie!

A few of my favorite kitchen tips:

Setting up mise en place bowls (I use mini-ramekins and small bowls made by a local potter) really helps things run smoothly. It helps tremendously not to have to stop and measure everything, especially if you have a lot to do in the kitchen that day. 

Clean up as you go. Have you ever watched Julia Child's original "French Chef" episodes, before there was a kitchen staff to provide step outs? She cleans up from step to step. If your kitchen is small like mine, those things that need to be discarded can be tossed in the trash or disposal or compost tin as you cook. Or, follow the Rachel Ray trick of having a garbage bowl handy for whatever need to be pitched. It makes the final clean-up so much easier.

Keep a running list handy to write down items that are running low or that you've used up. I just used all my panko the other night and it went on the next week's shopping list. That way you always know what you are out of -- especially if you don't use it that often so you're not checking your supply on a regular basis.

Not everyone would agree with this but one of my favorites is to post your favorite recipes inside your cupboard doors. If there's something you make regularly (but not enough to have memorized!) and really don't care if the inside of your cupboards are bulletin boards, post them there. It saves time (not looking up in your cookbook -- which cookbook was that now?) and saves counter space.

The Recipes

Salmon (I wish I could remember where I first saw this -- one similar was on several sites -- this is how I do it:

1/4 c. soy sauce  /  3 T. brown sugar   / 1 T. finely grated ginger   / 1 large or 2 small finely grated garlic cloves  /   pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)

Combine marinate ingredients and pour over a large piece of salmon or up to four salmon steaks. Marinate for at least a half hour but you can do it up to eight and I say the longer the better. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your salmon. If using larger salmon, cut into individual pieces and serve on a platter garnished with lemon slices and parsley or dill.

Hint: Use about a 3" piece of ginger for grating, peeled with a spoon. The grating is what takes longest in doing this!

The Spinach/Orzo/Feta Side dish -- from New York Times

4 scallions  / 2 lg. cloves of garlic  / eight cups packed spinach (8 oz but I tend to use a little more), chopped a bit if too large   / 1/2 to 1  t. salt   /   1 3/4 c. chicken stock   /   1 c.  orzo   /   Zest of 1 lemon   /   3/4 c. feta and more to garnish   /    1 c. chopped parsley or dill (optional but good)   /   1 c. peas (optional -- I don't use them)

In butter or olive oil, soften scallions and garlic over medium heat. /  Add spinach in batches if necessary till wilted, then salt, stock, orzo and lemon. Bring to simmer, then cover and cook about 15 minutes.  Add feta and parsley/dill if using. Serve garnished with more feta (and I like lemon wedges with this to use at will.)

Roasted Tomatoes

Halve Roma tomatoes and if pithy inside, take out center ribs. Salt, pepper and a small drizzle of olive oil. Then add your favorite hers (I use basil, oregano and thyme), a bit of parmesan cheese and if you have them, panko or bread crumbs. Bake. You can put these in with the salmon for 20 minutes at 400. I like a little more time in the oven. 

Bon appetit!

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Saturday, March 20, 2021

At Random

Random Thoughts with Equally Random Photos 

I'm all for standing up -- but not in a roller coaster!

 Technology 1

I've been in Comcast Hell the past week or so. I was told I should replace my router, which I did. And then I had to install it. Well, first you move the book case behind which is the plug. (Which means moving everything out of it and later replacing, which was fine because it gave it a good clean-and-sort). Then you're on the phone for an hour while they try to get it together. Then, after you're transferred to the guy who activates your phone (who did help me a bit with the internet, too), you think you're done.

Nope. I was able to call out but all calls in are listed as blocked. After another half hour or more on my cell they said they had to refer it to people who deal with more complicated things and I'd hear in 24-72 hours. Well, I can tell you, it wasn't 24. (36 hours and still waiting.)

 Technology 2:

So, today I went to comment on a blog I enjoy. I'd opened it fresh and in any event, I refreshed it just to be sure. I keep getting this message: You have been flagged as spam/malicious by WordPress Zero Spam. I can assure you, there was nothing spammy in the content. No links, no offensive language, nothing that would indicate I was spamming. I've been in WP chatroom now for two hours and hoping for an answer. So far, on other WP blogs I'm fine so I think the issue may be with the blogger's settings -- nonetheless, it's frustrating. (End note: Yup -- the problem was with a plug-in on the other person's blog. WP figured it out and while they couldn't fix it, I could alert her and she has it taken care of!)

A Couple of Worthwhile Links

While I'm lucky to be fully vaccinated, I'm still being very careful. Michigan is one of the places in the U.S. where the virus is resurging fast. You know you are in trouble when you keep hearing your state on the radio and national news. So, now that I'm carefully venturing out into some stores, I'm still being very cautious and double masking when in busy places.

New York Times had two excellent articles this week -- one on the "Easy Way to Do Double Masking Right" for the most protection. (Hint -- if you're just putting on two masks, one atop the other like I was, you can do better!) The other is a terrific Q&A on what's safe and what you should think about after  you have been vaccinated. 

Speaking of Being Fully Vaccinated....

Last night we had friends for dinner. Inside. Without masks. More on this later but it felt really good. And really weird! And really wonderful.

"Raggedy Ann" by my aunt Eleanor Porter

On Taxes

My taxes are done and filed! Hooray. I feel for my accountant -- after she had about half her clients done, the IRS changed some rules and filing info and made certain things retroactive (not things that applied to me, fortunately). So, once she's done with the rest of her clients, she has to go back to those submitted and do amended returns. At least they extended the deadline!

Blog Comments:

Not long ago I had a comment from someone who mentioned "You don't reply to comments on your posts" (and had plenty to say). I went to their site to explain why and it turned out to be a phishing site to see domain names. (I didn't publish the comment because of that.)

With new readers and even old friends I thought I should clarify that. I love comments, each and every one. I read them all, sometimes even save them in a special file. I'm often a few days slow doing it, but if I have your email address, I reply directly to each one (unless life is a little crazy, then all bets are off). If you are a no-reply blogger (whether you know you are or not!) and don't have other contact info on your profile page, I'll visit your blog and leave a note there (although maybe not after every comment -- if you haven't reposted, I hate to clog your comments with the multiple thank you messages!)

Why not on my post directly? I guess it's because I'm not sure how many return to read the comments after they've stopped by. I know I don't, with a couple rare exceptions where the comments are more like a continuing dialogue related to the post. 

I think Rick wonders why I reply at all and I know a lot of you don't. I guess I feel that this takes blogging up a notch from just being a reader to being a blog friend. Wonderful relationships have sprouted up from off-blog emails.  Even with those that just remain friendly thank you's, I feel if someone took the time to read my posts and then comment, if I can thank them, I will. 

So, thank YOU for reading this!

Back soon -- have a good weekend and new week!

Monday, March 15, 2021

If I Could Go Back

Often when I post about travel, it is my beloved England or Paris. But there are a few other spots I've been to which I'd greatly love to return. I've been thinking about those places a lot lately!

Even though I have been vaccinated, it will be a long time before I feel comfortable getting on a plane and going six or seven hours across the sea, I wouldn't mind if my itinerary included another visit to Amsterdam.

I love the canals, the markets and there are more than a few museums and gardens I missed. Spring, I think, would be rather perfect!

And as long as one was in The Netherlands, it would be nice to revisit Delft.


After all, there are more than a few pieces of Delft china and more that I left behind. I'd love a tour of one of the workshops, too.

The first trip I took with Rick was to Japan. It was true culture shock for me and I was pretty terrified of getting separated from him. All I knew to say was "Hello," "Goodbye," "Thank you," "Excuse me," and "I have a cat." These words will not help if you get lost!

But it was a fabulous and eye-opening trip, thanks especially to time we spent with friends from Rick's Japan-America Society and Sister Cities days. We spent time in Toyko, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kyoto and Otsu (some of those were day trips with our friends.) Kanako took us to Kyoto and I'd love to spend more time there. 

The temple at Miyajima was beautiful (and the deer so tame they even chased a man with a McDonald's bag, hoping for food!)

Kiyo and her family welcomed us to Hiroshima and we enjoyed meeting her friends.

 She took us to the Peace Museum, a somber and stunning place to visit and be reminded of the consequences of war. This installation of a thousand cranes made by schoolchildren touched my heart.

I write a lot about Paris but oh, how I would love to revisit Giverny.

Monet's home, with its fabulous kitchen and dining room, all the gardens and the small and charming town all are worth another visit.

St. Malo was another town I'd return to. It is a walled city and an old one. If you read "All the Light You Cannot See," it is set in this town which had quite a World War II history.

And good dog hygiene!

Oh, and the food was to die for! 

I'll never forget how moving the beaches of Normandy were.

Honfleur is another spot I enjoyed all too briefly -- just part of an afternoon and dinner. 

I didn't get to shop but I might have come home with one of these hats!

And when twilight came and the lights came on, it was downright magical! 

Speaking of French, should I want to speak French closer to home (or try), I would head immediately for Quebec City. The old walled city was my favorite part and there was much we didn't have time to explore in our few days here. 

Rick had cycled there from Michigan and his legs did the hills better than mine -- but oh, they were so worth it!

I enjoyed the art galleries and my birthday gift that year was a painting from one of my favorites. But it was hard to choose! 

One of the most magical places I ever visited was Martha's Vineyard and I'd go back in a heartbeat. (It's a shorter flight, too! I could even drive most of the way!)


When we visited in August 2017, we accidentally (and fortuitously) came during The Grand Illumination, where homes in the Oak Bluffs Campground, a collection of lovingly maintained Victorian homes, illuminate their porches with lanterns. 

That and the massive sing-along would have been enough.

But the towns are lovely, like Edgartown with its harbor... 

 ...and beautiful Oak Bluffs.

...and the beaches are fabulous!

There are  plenty more on the list, along with places I've never been. And I probably won't get to all these old favorites along with the new spots that intrigue me one more time. 

But I'll sure love the remembering!

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