Famous 4th of July Getaways

With weekend quick trips and fabulous getaways no longer outside the realm of possibility, it’s time to make plans for the fourth of July. Whether you head out to participate in a small-town parade, relish fresh watermelon and funnel cakes at a fair, or enjoy your fireworks from a boat deck in the middle of the bluest-blue lake–you’ll find America has a lot to offer from sea to shining sea.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine is famous for celebrating the fourth with all-day activities that should satisfy even the most ardent patriot. The town is also located near Acadia National Park, so you’ll have access to stellar natural beauty.

Start off with a craft fair “featuring a wonderful selection of Maine crafts, including jewelry, quilts, photographs, pottery, and porcelain dolls.” Don’t miss the Independence Day parade, the fresh seafood, and the fireworks over Frenchman’s Bay.

If you’re planning on spending the night, make sure there are accommodations available. You might have to book out of town due to the event’s popularity.

Treehouse Cabins at The River of Life Farm, Dora, Missouri

If you’re looking to get away from the fireworks and the crowds, sleep nestled in the treetops of Dora, MO.

Amanda Norcross writes, “There are nine different treehouses from which to choose. Some are not “technically” treehouses since they are ground-level, but are good for large families as they offer space for up to 8 or 10 guests. The Chalet (the largest option) has a fully equipped kitchen.

When you’re not relaxing in the secluded privacy of your treehouse, rent a canoe, kayak or river raft, or go hiking in the beautiful surrounds. ATV tours and fly fishing excursions are also available.”

Bring your linens with you and have a lovely picnic while you’re here.

Charleston, South Carolina

There’s a reason Charleston is included on lists of America’s most beautiful cities. Here you’ll find style and substance, with plenty to do and see. To quote author Pat Conroy, “There is no city on Earth quite like Charleston. From the time I first came there in 1961, it’s held me in its enchanter’s power, the wordless articulation of its singularity, its withheld and magical beauty. Wandering through its streets can be dreamlike and otherworldly, its alleyways and shortcuts both fragrant and mysterious, yet as haunted as time turned in on itself.”

Don’t miss “Mount Pleasant’s Uncle Sam Jam (featuring live music) and Fourth of July Firework Bash, North Charleston’s Fourth of July Festival in Riverfront Park (known for its food trucks and the low country’s largest fireworks display) and Sea Stars and Stripes at the South Carolina Aquarium downtown. You can even watch the fireworks over the harbor at Patriot’s Point from the deck of the historic warship USS Yorktown.”

If you’re looking for a touch of romance on your trip, take a look at the Wentworth Mansion or the French Quarter Inn.

Boston, Massachusetts

Why not celebrate in Boston, where the famous tea party happened? According to Travel Pulse, Boston is “home to the Freedom Trail and a slew of other attractions where visitors can celebrate American independence. The festivities kick off with the annual Boston Harborfest and culminate with the reading of the Declaration of Independence and the Boston POPS fireworks display over the Charles River on July 4.”

South Padre, Texas

In Texas, they celebrate the fourth in a big way–just like everything else Texan. 

According to Trip Savvy, “South Padre Island has been officially designated as the ‘Fireworks Capital of Texas ‘because of its weekly summer pyrotechnics displays. The shows go on at 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays at Clayton’s Beach Bar and Grill. On Independence Day, South Padre Island lives up to its nickname when Clayton’s puts on a huge extravaganza brightening the sky over Laguna Madre Bay. The colorful fireworks and live music taking place from 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on July 4, 2020, can be viewed from condos and restaurants on both South Padre Island and across the bay in Port Isabel.”

You can also try your hand at parasailing, surfing, and fishing the local waters.

San Diego, California

Home of the Big Bay Boom, San Diego is a celebrated spot for Independence Day festivities.

According to San Diego.org, “The Big Bay Boom July 4th Fireworks Show is back, promising another spectacular display over San Diego Bay. Fireworks will be discharged simultaneously from barges placed strategically around the Bay off Shelter Island, Harbor Island, Embarcadero North, Seaport Village, Embarcadero South Marina Park, and Coronado Ferry Landing. The impeccably choreographed display will last approximately 17 minutes.”

While you’re there, make sure to visit Coronado Island. Stay in the famous red-roofed hotel where “Some Like It Hot” was filmed. Stroll through the beautiful Balboa Park with its atrium and museums, lunch in the Gaslamp Quarter, take a carriage ride, shop in La Jolla, and be sure to spend plenty of time at the beach.

Happy Independence Day!

How to Create the Perfect Picnic

Whether you’re camping out in front of the fireplace at home or outside appreciating the scenery, there’s nothing quite like a picnic for changing up your routine and enjoying some quality time with the people you love.

If you’re in front of the fireplace or on your back porch, you don’t have to be too worried about forgetting something because you can just run back inside if you need anything. 

But if you’re trekking out to that sublime spot in the mountains or by that luscious blue lake your family has always loved, you’ll want to make sure you’re organized.

First, make a list of everything you need. Think of the basics we take for granted at home, such as salt, silverware, a corkscrew and napkins. Check off your list as each item is packed.

Don’t forget to pack heavier items on the bottom!

The Food

Plan on foods that can be served cold, and that with some ice packs, will keep their shape and flavor. For instance, dessert bars will hold up better than anything delicate, such as a creamy Napoleon or chocolate mousse cake.

A cheese board is always a welcome addition to a picnic, especially when paired with some juicy easy-to-eat fruit such as grapes, strawberries and cherries.

Cold fried or grilled chicken is a picnic staple. Sandwiches on sturdy bread and wraps are also ideal.

If you’ve never made bierocks, they’re favorite farmer fare brought over from Europe to the Midwest. Traditionally, it’s a bun stuffed with beef, cabbage, onions and cheese. However, we’ve been interested in a lighter, meatless version that’s been increasingly popular. Most recipes, like this one, substitute mushrooms for the meat. However, you could use any of your favorite sauteed vegetables. A baked veggie bierock makes a delicious and tidy picnic food.

If you’re going to pack salad, pack the dressing separately unless you’re preparing a sturdier pasta veggie pasta or something like coleslaw. 

Set-Up

Part of the loveliness of a picnic is sitting in the grass under a tree with the blue sky overhead. Don’t forget the elements that add that touch of beauty that makes a picnic truly memorable. Bring folding chairs for those who need them and spread out a beautiful tablecloth with some napkins.

And if someone plays the guitar, then by all means bring it. A portable player works, too.

Have a lovely time.

Classic Mint Juleps for Lazy Summer Days

“They say that you may always know the grave of a Virginian as, from the quantity of julep he has drunk, mint invariably springs up where he has been buried.”
Frederick Marryat, 1839

Memorial Day weekend is heralded as the unofficial start to summer, a time to kick up your heels and relax with friends and family. What I did not know is that on May 30th every year it’s also National Mint Julep Day. The mint julep originated in the south with first mentions of the drink in the late eighteenth century in Virginia taverns. In 1938, Churchill Downs started promoting the drink for the Kentucky Derby and each year around 120,000 juleps are served over the two day event.

The recipe can vary but it is very simple to make with just a few ingredients. Spearmint is the mint of choice typically and so refreshing.

Photo by Honestly Yum

Mint Julep by Honestly Yum

This iconic cocktail is so simple to make, yet there are a few tricks that will make your juleps a guaranteed winner.Servings: 1 cocktail

INGREDIENTS

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Start by removing the mint leaves from their stems and place in the bottom of the julep cup. Add simple syrup and muddle very lightly. If you don’t have a muddler you can use the back of a spoon. The goal is not to break apart the mint, but rather to release the oils from the mint, infusing the simple syrup with mint flavor.
  2. Next, add the bourbon and fill half of the julep cup with crushed ice. Stir using a bar spoon or swizzle stick so that the mint, syrup, bourbon and ice are thoroughly mixed. I crushed my ice in a food processor, but you can also use a blender or a lewis bag and mallet.
  3. Now that all of the ingredients have been added and you’ve given a quick stir, add even more ice. You’ll want to fill with crushed ice up and over the rim of the julep cup. At this point your drink will be ice-cold, and your cup frosty with condensation.
  4. Lastly, garnish with a large sprig of mint. Place your straw next to the garnish so you can smell the fresh mint while you sip.
Photo by Honestly Yum

How to: Fold Cloth Napkins With Silverware

When you’re entertaining, it’s the small and simple touches that can make all the difference. Candles flickering in your mother’s heirloom candleholders, fresh flowers from the garden, the fruit from the farmers market, and that signature dish that always gets raves from your guests. 

We appreciate being a part of your gatherings with friends and family. As you probably know, we work with a small team in India to design and manufacture our lovely block-printed textile patterns and linens. We’re committed to safely producing eco-friendly tablecloths, napkins, dish towels and scarves using mill-made cotton and natural dyes.

We make our cloth dinner napkins in hopes that they will be a special addition to your memorable moments when you connect with friends, family and loved ones over a meal.

With that in mind, we thought it might be fun to go over a few ways to fold your napkins to feature silverware. 

Napkin Origami Horn

This lovely creation comes from Love to Know. To me, it looks like a dress with three layering hems, turned upside-down:

  • “Start with the finished side of your napkin face down. Fold the napkin in half vertically, then fold in half once more to make a square. Press the folds lightly with your iron if needed.
  • Place the napkin in front of you in a diamond position with the open ends at the top. Fold each layer of the napkin back, tucking it in so the seam is not visible. Space the layers roughly one inch apart, taking care to make the folds as neat as possible.
  • Flip the napkin over and fold the left point across the right point. Flip the napkin back to the original position, then add any silverware that is desired. Alternatively, this design could be used to hold flowers or other decorative accents for your table.”

Simple Rectangular Wrap

This easy, no-fuss fold comes from WikiHow:

  • Place the napkin flat on the table. Fold up the bottom two to three inches evenly across the bottom. 
  • Place the silverware in the pocket, nesting together if needed to keep the bundle small. Place the flatware so the bottom of the handles touch the inner fold. Also, place the bundles about two inches from the right.
  • Then fold the top half over the silverware so ends meet. Then simply roll, starting from the right, and secure the bundle with a ribbon, a piece of twine, or whatever goes with your decor. 

Basic Silverware Pouch

This classic favorite comes from napkinfoldingguide.com:

  • Lay the napkin face-down in front of you.
  • Fold the napkin in half and orient the open end toward you.
  • Fold the napkin into quarters.
  • Orient the napkin so the open corner is facing away and to the left.
  • Fold the top-most layer of napkin in half diagonally and press it down.
  • Turn the napkin over so that the open corner is now facing away and to the right.
  • Fold the right-side back about 1/3 of the way and press it down.
  • Fold the left-side back also about 1/3 of the way and press.
  • Flip it over, straighten it up and insert those shiny eating instruments.” 

Enjoy, friends. Wishing you the best of times.

“The essence of great entertaining: a seemingly effortless combination of authentic food and imagination presented with a personal touch and enjoyed in good company.”

― Annie Falk

Anita Sebastian – Adventures of the Island Girls

I am delighted to share a guest post by Anita Sebastian. Anita and I met in Singapore years ago when I ran the global ArtScience Prize and visited Singapore at least once a year to participate in their ideas festival. Anita is a writer and editor. She spends many hours in the forests and reserves in Singapore. Her books, the Ranger Anne series of children’s books is a reflection of her love for the animals and the natural environment. Sharing passions, inspiring more joy, love and laughter is the intent of everything we highlight on the blog. Please enjoy this delightful post by Anita – I sure did. xo, Carrie

There comes a time in your life where you feel the need to step back and take a fresh look at your motivation for your choices and decisions. Some may call it a mid-life crisis or more recently, the new normal.

If flights were not taking off last year and this year, and who knows what will come next year, this means for me the Camino de Santiago walk in Spain would also off the table. Again. So I decided to walk my Camino right here in Singapore in my own way, masks and all.

Initially I started walking home from work. It took about 2 hours with a stop for a drink. It was about 10-12km navigating through roadworks, strange roads and traffic lights. The most interesting part was the stares and questions, “Where are you from?” Answer: Oh, just walking home.

When a childhood friend suggested on Facebook that I walk up to Mount Faber, I was delighted to see other childhood friends interested to do the walk with me. And this sparked the beginning of the Adventures of the Island Girls.


Here we are at Bukit Timah Hill. A difficult uphill incline with so many steps.

Having grown up in the same primary/secondary school, we have shared memories of school and life in old Singapore. Other than wanting to walk our nature trails, we had another thing in common: searching out good old-style local food. This was added motivation to walk, walk, walk and make space for goodies! A win-win situation.

We walked through a reservoir-nature reserve, climbed a rather tough hill loaded with inclines and steps, walked on park trails that led to coastal waters, and traversed over our lovely Coney Island as well.

As we leave footprints in forest trails and mangroves, we are blessed to encounter an array of fauna and flora that come together to make up a fragile yet resilient ecosystem filled with a biodiversity that would thrill any zoologist, botanist or environmentalist.

All that is needed is a little patience and a sense of wonder. And let’s not forget – good people to share them with. The Japanese concept of Shinrin-Yoku is so true.

We’ve spotted numerous brightly coloured birds and spiders along the trails.  As well as so many varieties of mushrooms such as the brackets from the ganoderma species, mushrooms ala smurf from the lepiota species, and even the elusive stinkhorn with a lace skirt.

Keep your eye open for giant inviting ferns, lichens, and uber tall trees with trunks so wide and roots so strong that also serve as resting spots! Breathe in the fresh air and allow all your senses to re-awaken.

Hmmm and also keep an eye on your friends.
There are joyful photo ops everywhere you turn!

The Island Girls at their best!

The joy of shared experiences, the laughter, the wonder, the injuries, the lost trails… priceless.

I am still solo walking at other times. During these times, I look out for what ‘sparks joy’ for me: green plants, flowers, tall trees, birds, crickets, the moon and dinosaurs.

Left: The moon shines bright on my way home. Picture taken from an overhead bridge.
Right: With a dinosaur at a nearby playground on my walk home. Can you caption it?

With each walk, I can feel my mind and body changing:

  • my mood is better,
  • my energy levels increase,
  • I sleep better at night, and
  • I am able to focus and engage in good critical thinking and analysis the next day.

I am happier and also able to share this distinctive “green” joy with others. When the busyness takes over, I know I can put on my shoes and walk the trails again.

I hope you find your Island Girls too.
Let the adventures begin! <3


“And the moon said to me: my darling, you do not have to be full in order to shine”.

5 Spring Decorating Ideas For Your Living Space

Bouquet of rose flowers near window with curtain – Adding a few flowers can brighten up any room!

When spring rolls in, it’s time to lighten and brighten your home decor. Hopefully, you’ve had time to do some deep spring cleaning and now have all the possibilities spread out before you.

Can you imagine your home as a canvas? You are the artist that makes your space the cozy charmer it is and can be.

And now, as the earth renews itself, there is something in the riot of flowers and greenery that makes us want to put our living space through its own renewal, too.

Let’s look at a few ideas of what can be done to freshen up and beautify your home.

Artwork

Take a look at your walls. If they’re leaning towards darker, deeper colors you might consider rotating some of your artwork with the season. 

To draw from the powerful rejuvenation of spring and to be “so much sunshine to the square inch,” to quote Walt Whitman, bring Nature inside and slather it on your walls. 

Look over a room you want to change. Do you want a space that sings with color? Or do you want a room that makes you feel calm and peaceful with the softness of spring pastels? Perhaps it’s a touch of coastal beauty that you long for.

Expand your horizons and check out the appeal of some abstract nature artists. They bring the outside into your home. Some do so with more of the emotion of a natural setting rather than with the rigidity of realism.

Capital Reef Abstract by Tate Fairbanks

To get an idea of abstract nature paintings, check out new artist Tate Fairbanks at the TSC Gallery or the available collections at Saatchi Art

Small Changes with Color

If you’re up to painting a room or an accent wall, yes–that will dramatically change your living space and brighten your environment. Luxe paint company Farrow & Ball have an eco-friendly product and employ consultants to help you pick the right colors for your home. At the very least, their online galleries are a great place to get some inspiration.

However, if you don’t have the time or inclination for a painting project, add pops of color with new lampshades, pillows, and maybe a cheerfully painted cabinet.

Embroidered Cockatoo Lamp Shade by Anthropologie

Blush seems to be the choice of the current season. We’re seeing a lot of layering with different shades of this soft color. Our blushy rosefinch is a perfect neutral pink to add that won’t clash with other hues, but be sure to check all of the pinks if you want to add this trend to your home.

However, just because this popular color is in vogue, doesn’t mean it’s right for you if it isn’t your style. Find some throws, table linens, and pillows in spring colors that thrill you!

Windows

Take down any heavy draperies and replace with lighter, brighter fabric. Perhaps replace with sheers, or really let the light in by letting your windows go nude in rooms where you don’t need more privacy at night. Especially if the windows or the views are particularly pretty.

Greenery

Flower cuttings are a gorgeous addition to any room. And, consider some permanent plant fixtures for your home, too. Green is the color of spring, and when it’s in our homes it tends to raise our contentment levels to blissful, new levels.

According to The Sill, “indoor plants don’t just look good – they can make us feel good, too. Studies have shown that indoor plants…

  • Boost your mood, productivity, concentration and creativity
  • Reduce your stress, fatigue, sore throats and colds
  • Help clean indoor air by absorbing toxins, increasing humidity & producing oxygen
  • Add life to a sterile space, give privacy and reduce noise levels
  • Are therapeutic to care for (it’s true when we say Plants Make People Happy)” 

Light Fixtures

Rather than lots of tiny changes, perhaps choose one big one. Update a light fixture in your home with something that’s a bit of a show off. You could look at fixtures made from a lighter material or pick pendant lights made with colored glass, like these modern Nordic fixtures from Lampswell.

We’d love to see your design choices. Send pictures of your favorite spring changes. Good luck!

The Art of Spring Tablescaping

Photo by: Claudia Reese

The beautiful spring came, and when nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also. ~ Harriet Ann Jacobs

Spring sometimes comes with a shock of hope.

When winter lasts and lingers, sometimes we forget there is even such a thing as spring. We know, of course, the season exists–intellectually speaking. But sometimes our hearts forget.

When spring comes, it brings in all kinds and colors of joy. It’s reflected in the art we create, the food we make, and the way we add its life and hues to our homes–which is an art form all on its own.

Maybe we remember how much our grandmother loved lilacs, and we may stop and appreciate their beauty in her honor and bring in cuttings for the table.

Because the spring of the now ties into the seasons of the past, and it makes us happy to incorporate the memories of the bygone years. So if it isn’t spring for you until your garden is covered in poppies, then bring on the poppies!

And take your own sacred version of the season and bring it to your table for a gorgeous, personal space. 

Here are some of our favorite tips.

Florals

Flowers aren’t everything when it comes to spring tablescaping, but it’s they’re certainly a great place to start.

When you pick the color scheme of your floral design, then you know what you need to do to tie in the rest of the table. Many people choose tableware that’s neutral and then use napkins to mirror the natural colors of the centerpiece.

Consider choosing long, lower containers for the flower so your guests can still see each other. Or, you could use multiple smaller vases filled with loose bouquets and spaced in between the sightline.

Also, make sure the table isn’t so crowded that your friends can’t eat comfortably. If the plates are crowded, you may have overdone it and need to pull back on fashion in favor of function.

A Decorative Gift

A lovely touch for your guests is to place a small offering on their plate. 

You can use a rustic or silvery charger topped with a large plate and then a smaller one on top, which is often the layered plating chosen for spring, and then add a small decorative present for your guests on the smallest plate. 

For instance, you could place a pretty woven nest on each place setting filled with a trio of foil-wrapped or other egg-shaped treats. Or, place a large chocolate egg in an egg cup. You can also use the nest or cup as a placeholder, adding a pretty, personalized paper nameplate.

A container with a small bouquet at each place is a beautiful touch. You could also choose a living plant, turning your table into a ”host of golden daffodils” or another profusion of blooms that your guests can take home with them.

Go Local and In Season

What does spring look like where you live? The happiest blossoms in your region can often be the best choice for your tablescape. But don’t be limited by flowers; a centerpiece of greens can be transported on its own. Also, local fruit can be incorporated into your design. 

Shop your local farmers market with an eye to tablescaping. You might find some excellent ideas you’d never considered.

If using fruit, make sure they’re clean in case your guests want to eat those beautiful grapes, peaches–or whatever you’ve chosen–for their dessert.

Glassware

Laura Remmert, the owner of Laura Remmert Events, states that “adding a pop of color with your glassware is both a playful and elegant addition to any spring tablescape. A fun twist on classic black and white—the green accent glass brings a colorful touch to … tabletop design perfectly tying in the natural green in the flowers.” 

Photo by: Claudia ReeCse

This seems to work particularly well if you’re using white or pale blossoms for your spring tablescape. 

Extend Your Tablescape

Don’t leave your design all clumped together in the middle of the table. Extend your creation with a natural table runner such as greens or a collection of thin branches. You can also use a tablecloth folded lengthwise into thirds. In this case, we prefer organic cotton with natural dyes.

Also, a collection of small white, pastel, or silver candlesticks placed from the center of the table outwards will also extend your design. 

Happy hosting, friends! We hope you’re enjoying this spring season as much as we are.

A Classic Fiddlehead Ferns Recipe

Growing up, fiddlehead ferns were a mysterious food that other people ate. People in Maine, for instance.

Then there were poets:

Fiddlehead Ferns

By Matthew Dickman

(excerpt)

Olive seashells

in the air

you can eat.

The very inner of the inner ear

in the breeze.

Last night my son dreamt

about falling

out of trees.

I had almost forgotten

that we were

simians.

The fiddlehead turns

on itself but only ever in love.

Green cinnamon roll,

a snake too small to hunt

anyone.

Curled in like my son’s

fingers, his fists.

More beautiful than

a spider fern,

spun-in island,

moldy tongue of a hippopotamus,

the eye of the forest.

 And then, there were people in books. (Usually books about people in Maine).

In one novel, a lost girl survived her hunger by munching the curled greenery as she hiked through an endless forest. In others, it was long-limbed, somewhat artsy women who knew the secrets of the river bottom and would bring clusters of the curled tops home to their charming cottages in the woods.

But like mushrooms, it’s not just any frond curled like a violin’s scroll from just any fern. Some are not edible. Some are toxic. However, unlike mushrooms, it seems when people make foraging mistakes with ferns, they tend to get sick rather than facing possible death like with mushrooms mistakes.

Still, not a blunder anyone wants to make.

Unless someone in the know can teach you what ferns you can eat look like–apparently a u-shaped groove in the ostrich fern, and which ones to avoid–perhaps stick to the experts at your local market. 

Here’s what Food and Wine Magazine  has to say:

Where: Fiddleheads can be found in much of the United States as well as Europe, Asia and Canada: In fact, Tide Head, New Brunswick, calls itself the Fiddlehead Capital of the World.

When: May.

What to look for: Small coils that are tightly wound up. Fiddleheads should be a vibrant bright green, unless they are still covered in their brown papery skin. The skin should come off easily when rubbed. Purchase or pick only ostrich fern fiddleheads, as they are the safest for consumption.

Flavor profile: Fiddleheads are sweet like asparagus, grassy and snappy like a great green bean, with a touch of broccoli stem.

Health benefits: Rich in potassium, iron, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, fiddleheads are fantastically healthy.

How to eat them: Because ostrich ferns contain a trace amount of a toxin, you should never eat them raw. (Not that you would want to—they are quite bitter when raw.) Cook them for at least 5 minutes. First, prep the fiddleheads by rinsing them and rubbing off any papery brown skin. Then they can be steamed, braised, sautéed, roasted or pickled (after blanching).

Basically, you want to treat fiddleheads like you do asparagus. But for our classic recipe, let’s add some eggs and goat cheese. In the words of writer Catherine Johnson:

Yes, ferns just love to celebrate

All things glorious, green and new.

Until they wind up on your plate

 In a frittata made for two.

Fiddlehead Frittata with Bacon and Chevre- adapted from Salt in My Coffee

Ingredients

  • 1 lb organic red potatoes, chopped
  • 12 ounces fiddleheads, cleaned
  • 4 shallots (or one medium onion)
  • 12 large eggs (or 10 duck eggs)
  • 4 slices thick-cut turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 8 ounces chopped or shredded cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces crumbled chevre
  • olive oil, butter, or bacon fat for frying

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a deep cast iron pan, saute fiddleheads, chopped potatoes, and diced shallots, in a generous amount of butter, olive oil, or bacon fat. Cook over medium-low heat until fiddleheads are fiddleheads and potatoes are tender, and shallots are getting translucent – about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Whisk together eggs and cheese in a large bowl, then add to the pan with the fiddlehead mixture. If you’d like to skip dirtying a bowl, just add the cheese and eggs directly to the pan, mixing vigorously as you crack in each egg.
  4. Stir everything well so that it’s thoroughly mixed, then put the whole thing in the oven. Bake until the center is set, and the frittata is golden brown – about 35 minutes.
  5. Cool slightly, and serve.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to paint a landscape in my charming cottage and then go foraging for fiddleheads.

Happy eating!

5 Spring Cleaning Tips

Trisha Krauss

After their brief visit to my magnolia tree last month, the birds are here to stay. I could sit and listen to their song for hours. But it’s time to get to work and tackle spring cleaning, so I’ll open my windows and let in the fresh, green tasting air and use the delightful sound of birdsong as my soundtrack to the day. 

Time to get started. Here are my spring cleaning tips as we all jump in and ready our homes for the season.

Declutter

First, go through junk drawers, desktops, and kitchens. Get rid of what you don’t need. If you know deep in your heart that you have no use for some gadget or decoration that just isn’t you, but you can’t quite bring yourself to donate/toss the object, get a big cardboard box and label it with a date for six months from now. Stick the box in your garage. Put an alert on your calendar, and when the six months are up go through the box. If you didn’t catch yourself thinking you needed those household items, or you weren’t even tempted to pull them out, then it’s time to donate.

Of course, it’s better if you can take the initial plunge, but some people live in fear of getting rid of the wrong things.

But if  you had a parent that went on decluttering rampages and you still can’t get over those notebooks she threw out filled with your private thoughts or your doll that was given away before you were ready. Then use the six-month box with my blessing.

Dusting

Start at the top of the room and go down. This way, you’re not covering your just cleaned,  perfectly ordered room in dust from your ceiling fan.

Make sure to get any strings of cobwebs hiding out in the corners of your rooms and light fixtures. 

Use a pillowcase to envelop each blade of a ceiling fan and pull the dust off. Then wipe down the fan with a slightly damp microfiber cloth. Empty the dust into the trash and wash the pillowcase.

This is also the perfect time to change the batteries in your smoke detectors.

Walls and Windows

Once again, start at the top. For your walls, wrap a broom with a soft cloth to dust the hard to reach places.

According to Maids.com, “Get two buckets, some soft sponges, and dry microfiber cloths. Fill one bucket with warm water for rinsing and the other with your wall cleaner. Start at the top of the wall and work your way down using light, circular motions. Work in sections to prevent spotting and discoloration. Wash the wall with your cleaning solution and then wipe off the residue with a sponge dipped in your rinse bucket. Dry the wall with your microfiber cloth and move on to the next section.”

Don’t forget the baseboards! A soft toothbrush can work wonders if you have trouble getting in the crevices.

For your windows, use your favorite glass cleaner or use a combination of equal parts of white vinegar and water.

But first, pop out the screens and wash with soapy water and rinse off with a hose.

For the windows, clean both sides and dry with a clean microfiber towel.

Don’t forget the window tracks. Vacuum them out and scrub with a toothbrush and your cleaner. Wipe down the frames with a microfiber cloth.

Clean your window treatments according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Cupboards and Doors

Go over your doors and cupboards with a damp microfiber cloth. If needed, use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.

Don’t forget door knobs and pulls. Soapy water works great most of the time, but if you have brass, copper, or pewter handles, then you need to know the recommended methods for your metals. Check out Direct Door Hardware’s website for help. Apparently, in the old days people would polish pewter with green cabbage leaves! You can’t find a more natural, non-toxic cleaning practice than that.

Bathrooms and Linen Closets

Take everything out of your drawers, cupboards, and linen closet. Wipe down the surfaces and return what you want to keep. Get rid of expired products and wash linens if they smell musty. 

Add a half cup white vinegar to the final cycle for soft fresh towels and linens.

Have a lovely spring. Make sure to take some time to appreciate its beauty. In the words of Anne Lamott:

I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen.

Throwing the Perfect Easter Brunch

Spring is a lovely time to entertain. You can pull your inspiration from the greening world around you, from the tulips and daffodils popping up everywhere. Everyone is happier because the long winter, no matter how wonderful, tends to weigh on us as the cold weather settles in and then takes its time winding up. People are happier because spring is on the way. 

Then one day we wake up and we can feel the difference in the air. Time to go outside, spend some time in the garden, put away the puffy coats, and throw a cheerful, springtime brunch.

Here are a few tips to making your brunch an elegant affair.

Tablescaping

The wonderful part about entertaining at Easter is the decorative beauty of the season. Bring in pots of tulips, daffodils, and lilies. Scatter moss and branches and pull out your most cheerful linens. We particularly love our tanager yellow, rosefinch, or blues and greens  for spring.

Vintage dishware in pastels or fresh grassy greens makes a wonderful base for your table.

We particularly love the use of eggs in these tablescaping designs from onekindesign.com. The natural, rustic look with eggs in nests is elegant with the newness and freshness of spring. 

You can also appeal to the child’s heart in all of us with small Easter treats at each plate like a golden egg in a loosely gathered nest-like presentation. Who didn’t want to find the golden egg at Easter egg hunts?

If it’s warm enough to have an outside brunch, then by all means do so. Just have a back-up plan in case the weather cools. A pile of lovely shawls and throws is a nice touch, or you can be prepared to move the party inside.

The Menu

Not only are the decorations sensational, but a spring-inspired menu can also be full of the fresh and inviting joys of the season.

Brunches like this tend to have several dishes that people can try. If you choose to go this route, choose carefully. You’ll want to have most of them be simple or make-ahead favorites. 

Check out your local farmers markets and base your menu on the fresh produce you find there. A simple lemony avgolemono soup served with chopped dill or fresh mint can be a luscious addition, or you can go full spring with a creamy soup made from some pureed bright green asparagus.

I always like to have the best fruit I can find on the table, side by side with an array of specialty cheeses. 

A sourdough strata, like this one from Food Network, is made with plenty of vegetables, always appreciated, and can be made ahead of time. Love the addition of goat cheese!

I have to include this asparagus soup recipe from Once Upon a Chef, which is made with parmesan cheese and can even be frozen.

Asparagus Soup with Lemon and Parmesan

By Jennifer Segal

This asparagus soup tastes rich, yet it’s made without heavy cream — just veggies, broth, and a hint of Parmesan puréed to silky perfection.

Servings: 4-6

INGREDIENTS
2 bunches asparagus (about 2-1/4 pounds), bottom ends trimmed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, from one lemon
1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano

Handful fresh herbs, such as thyme, dill, or basil (optional, for garnish)

INSTRUCTIONS

Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Do not brown; reduce the heat if necessary.

In the meantime, cut the tips off of one bunch of the asparagus and set aside (you’ll use those for a garnish). Cut the remaining spears and the other bunch of asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces.

Add the chopped asparagus to the pot (minus the reserved tips), along with the chicken broth, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for about 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender.

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the reserved asparagus tips for a few minutes, or until tender-crisp. Drain the tips and then place them in a bowl of ice water to “shock” them — this stops the cooking process and preserves their bright green color. Once the tips are cool, drain and set them aside.

Purée the soup with an immersion blender until completely smooth. (Alternatively, use a standard blender to purée the soup in batches, then return the soup to the pot.) Bring the soup back to a simmer and stir in the lemon juice and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. To thicken the soup, allow it to simmer uncovered until the desired consistency is reached.

Ladle the soup into bowls, then top each bowl with asparagus tips, Parmigiano-Reggiano, herbs (if using), and freshly ground black pepper.

Freezer-Friendly Instructions: You can freeze the soup for up to 3 months. Defrost the soup in the refrigerator for 12 hours and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot. (The soup will freeze best if you add the cheese when reheating.)

Happy entertaining!

How to: Keeping Linens Fresh

After a long day, there’s nothing quite so satisfying as slipping into your cozy bed with its fresh, clean sheets and a blanket that’s the perfect weight and density. 

Whether you choose a pillowy, cloudy comforter or a cozy cotton quilt, you should feel your bed is designed perfectly for you. A sacred space where you can lay down the burdens of the day and just rest. 

If your bed isn’t what it should be, perhaps it’s time to invest in some crisp, organic cotton sheets and find a covering that makes your heart happy.

You’ll want to make sure your guests’ experience is comfortable and luxurious. 

This quotation from Nikos Kazantzakis is about perfect. “I knew that no matter what door you knock on in a Cretan village, it will be opened for you. A meal will be served in your honor, and you will sleep between the best sheets in the house. In Crete, the stranger is still the unknown god. Before him, all doors and all hearts are opened.”

Whatever linens create the ultimate sleeping spaces for you, your guest, and your family, they all need proper care to be at their lovely, fresh best.

Quilt on etsy

Baking Soda

Soak your linens with a sprinkling of baking soda before you start the wash cycle. You can also put a small box of slightly opened baking soda in the back of your linen closet to suck up offending odors. 

When you remove your sheets from the dryer or the clothesline, make sure they’re completely dry before you put them away. Any dampness at all can turn your linen closet into a mildewing mess.

Lavender Sachets by Belle River Boutique

Make Your Own Sachets

If you have lavender or rosemary on hand, you can make sachets to tuck in between sheets and blankets. 

These no-sewing-required ones from treehugger.com are a breeze to make:

“Cut thin white cotton fabric into a 4-inch square. Place dried lavender in the center of the square. Pick up the edges of the square and twist them. Tie a white ribbon tightly around the top to make a lavender sachet. Place the lavender sachet in with the blankets and comforters when storing them.”

You could also twist both ends and tie for a slimmer version of the sachet. Just make sure the twist ensures there is no gapping. 

Many people love lavender, but if it’s a little too flowery for you, use rosemary instead. Strip the greenery off its  branches and let dry before use. A nice combination would be to make sachets with cedar chips for blankets and rosemary for sheets.

Another alternative is to wrap a few bars of your favorite soap in fabric and tuck that in the closet with your linens. If you’ve discovered a divinely scented soap, this might be the best option for you.

Make sure to rotate your linens so each set gets equal use and is aired out properly, rather than being stuck in the back of the closet. 

Freshen Between Washes

Before you make your bed in the morning, spray the air over your sleeping area with a natural linen spray. Stick to scents that are light and fresh, and that both you and your partner enjoy. 

Some people prefer to use perfume for their personal space. If so, make sure to spray the air above your bed and let the micro drops disperse evenly over your linens. Don’t heavily spray, and avoid strong scents. One spray should do it for a refreshing touch-up. Warm scents with notes of ginger, citrus, and soft florals work particularly well.

Rest easy and sleep well, friends.

“The most luxurious item is a beautiful bed and beautiful, simple sheets.”  –Andre Leon Talley

Cold Weather Soups: 2 Recipes for the Cold Months

This morning, with bits of snow still on the ground, a cacophony of birdsong flooded my yard–as if it were spring. 

The sound stopped suddenly, and I supposed this talkative flock had rested in our large magnolia before heading to its destination. I’m taking it as a sign that spring isn’t too far off. 

In the meantime, we still have cold days ahead and I mean to make some favorite soup recipes and keep the fireplace roaring. At least until every morning is filled with birdsong!

Sidenote: Here’s a tip for when you eat out or order in: if you get soup from a restaurant that fails to impress, add butter and a squeeze of lemon. The combination brightens a dull diner soup. For vegetable soups, a teaspoon of basil pesto swirled in, and a sprinkle of parmesan on top, is delicious.

Parisian Potage 

This recipe comes from Jaques Pépin. Recently, he posted a video on Facebook where he made a quick variation of this soup by adding potato flakes instead of chopped potatoes. For a quick lunch, give it a try–adding potato flakes to taste. For either recipe, top with grated gruyere. Potatoes and gruyere cheese are soulmates.

1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 large leek, damaged outer leaves discarded, split, washed well, and finely minced (3 cups)

1 pound Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and held in cold water

4 cups (1 quart) homemade chicken stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth

1 cup water

1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or chervil

1/2 cup grated Gruyère cheese or a dollop of softened unsalted butter (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan. Add the leeks and cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the potatoes into sticks about 3/4-inch thick and slice the sticks crosswise into 1/8-inch slivers (you will have about 3 cups). The potatoes should be kept in water after peeling, but they should not be washed after they are cut into slivers; this will wash away their starch, which helps make the soup smooth.
  3. Add the stock, water, salt, and pepper to the leeks, then mix in the potato slivers. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and boil gently for about 12 minutes.
  4. Serve the soup with a sprinkling of the parsley or chervil on top and, if you like, the grated cheese or a dollop of butter.

Coconut and Chickpea Soup

This is a variation of Epicurious’ African Curried Coconut Soup with Chickpeas

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 medium onion (about 6 ounces), chopped

1 medium red bell pepper (about 6 ounces), chopped

1 teaspoon chili garlic sauce

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup chopped tomatoes, seeded and peeled, fresh or canned (see Cook’s Tip)

1 teaspoon mild curry powder

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk (not lite)

3/4 cup cooked white or brown rice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro 

Asian fish sauce to taste–or about two teaspoons

Juice from a half of a lime, or to taste

PREPARATION

  1. In a medium stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper: cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. 
  1. Add the garlic and chili garlic sauce and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add the broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, curry powder, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. 
  1. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.

To make a heartier supper, add a cup of cooked, chopped chicken to the soup.

Serve with fresh cilantro leaves and lime wedges. 

We hope you enjoy these recipes. Let us know what you think.