Thursday, February 28, 2013

Snow Days, Snowmen

Good morning! How are you? Are you getting tired of all of the snow? Were you able to have a snow day yesterday?

I did not but I did manage to get out and take a few photos. I think everything looks better with a little snow, don't you agree?

 I find that ugly things take on an air of mischief and naturally beautiful things become magical with a mantle of snow. 

 The swirling flakes, whispering wind, and the tinkle of wind chimes create a symphony to accompany the mystical wonderland that appears on snowy days. 

I have said this more times that I can count, winter is my favorite time of the year. I never tire of the beauty that emerges from these storms. I find peace in the fresh fallen snow and the nesting it inspires in me. 

I hope that you have a wonderful day! Take some time to stop and enjoy the weather wherever you live.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Diving Bell and The Butterfly

Good morning! I hope you are well, we are digging out this morning; after a long night of high winds and snow we have about 8 inches. Sadly we will not be having a snow day, or at least I will not be. 

If you are lucky enough to have a snow day or would like to read an excellent book, I highly recommend The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby.

The book is about Jean-Dominique Bauby, a forty-three year old father of two young children, world traveler and editor at French Elle who suffers a massive stroke in 1995.  After 20 days in a coma he wakes to find that he has "locked-in syndrome", a state of paralysis in which a person's mind functions while their body is frozen . 

 He is permanently paralyzed except for his left eye and is "exiled, paralyzed, mute, half deaf, deprived of all pleasures, and reduced to the existence of a jellyfish," but inside of his mind he was still as free as a butterfly. 

What makes the book remarkable aside from Bauby's humor, intelligence, perseverance and wit is the fact the the entire book was written with the blink of an eye. The book took ten months, four hours a day, and approximately 200,000 blinks of the eye. 

 Bauby with the help of a physical therapist learned partner assisted scanning as a  way to communicate with family and friends. In order to write this book Bauby dictated letter by letter to an assistant who recited to him the letters of the French alphabet which were written on a chart. The assistant would repetitively read each letter and when they got to the correct letter Bauby would blink his left eye, then they would continue on until the word was spelled and then a paragraph and finally this 122 page book.

This book is heart wrenching, depressing, funny and more and yet reminds us that even at the worst of times there is beauty in the simple pleasures of everyday life. It is one of the top 10 books I have read in my life. 

If you have read The Diving Bell and The Butterfly I would love to know what you thought. 

Enjoy your day! Be safe in the storm!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Mrs. Frank Leslie: A Fascinating Woman

Good morning. I am curious, do you like old books? Adventure and interesting women? I found all that and more this weekend when I discovered, The Kingdom of Nature an Illustrated Museum of the Animal World. 

The book was copyrighted in 1888, published in 1894 and is interesting for more than one reason. The first that it is filled with 1000 illustrations of animals from all over the world, but even more so in the fact that it was edited by a woman, Mrs. Frank Leslie.

I  love history and as I perused this book I became more intrigued by Mrs. Leslie than the book itself.  After a little research I found some interesting tid bits that you might like.

Image from The Esoceteric Curiosa Blog

Mrs. Frank Leslie was born 1836, Mariam Florence Folline, and was encouraged from a young age to study French, German, Latin and Spanish. After her first marriage at 17 then an annulment at 19, she married for the second time at 21 to noted  archaeologist  Ephraim Squier. Eighteen years later they divorced and she married her third husband Mr. Frank Leslie.

Mr. Leslie was the owner of a large publishing empire, Leslie's Weekly. He and Mariam became acquainted  when her second husband, Ephraim Squier became the Editor in Chief of Leslie's Weekly in 1860. Mariam began writing for Leslie's Weekly as a fashion editor and  after her marriage to Frank Leslie began to write and publish books in earnest for his publishing house about their travels and life together.

Unfortunately lavish spending and the economy took a toll on the publishing business and when Frank Leslie died in 1880 he left everything to Mariam, including his name and $300,000 in debt. After she settled with her creditors and secured a loan from a wealthy friend she turned the business around in one year. She also legally changed her name to Mrs. Frank Leslie in 1881.

During the 1890's Mrs. Frank Leslie was a writer, a lecturer, and a business owner with several hundred employees. She was also well traveled and celebrated here in America and abroad. It is said that she was most well known woman in America. In addition to all of the above she found time to marry her 4th husband, William Wilde, the brother of Oscar Wilde. Apparently the marriage failed soon after because William was a spendthrift among other things.

Although there are many more things to tell about Mrs. Frank Leslie(her time as an actress, a seven year menage a trois, an affair on her honeymoon, legal battles and more) I will end with this; upon her death in 1914 Mrs. Frank Leslie left roughly 2 million dollars to Carrie Chapman Catt. Do you know of her? Carrie Chapman Catt was a prominent leader of the women's suffrage movement along with Susan B. Anthony and the founder of the League of Women's Voters. 

Doesn't Mrs. Frank Leslie sound as if she lived and interesting and colorful life? 

Have you found any interesting books or treasures lately? Or perhaps discovered any interesting  people? I always enjoy learning new things and if you have I would love to hear about it. 

I hope you have a great day! Enjoy!

Information from the following sources: WikipediaThe Liz LibraryAmerican Heritage

Monday, February 25, 2013

Hummingbird Cupcakes

Good morning~

How was your weekend? I hope that you enjoyed it. I had a fabulous weekend visiting family in Chicago: we baked, and ate and shopped, watched movies, read, baked some more, went for walks and visited friends. 

One of the things we made was Hummingbird Cake and cupcakes, are you a fan? Hummingbird cake for those of you not familiar is very popular in the South and was originally published in the February, 1978 issue of Southern Living Magazine. This delicious cake is it is basically a banana cake with the addition of crushed pineapple and a few spices. 

Hummingbird Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Icing

From Southern Living 1978


3 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups of sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs beaten, room temperature
1-1/2 tsp. Nielsen-Massey vanilla
2 cups RIPE mashed bananas
1 cup crushed pineapple, undrained
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease and flour 3-9" pans. Line bottom on pans with parchment paper.

Mix  together the dry ingredients. Add oil and eggs, stirring until dry ingredients are moist.  Add vanilla, bananas, and pineapple, and pecans  stir until combined.  DO NOT OVER MIX.  

Pour batter  into pans and bake 25-35  minutes. Let cool 10 minutes and remove from pans to cool on wire racks.

Frost with Cream Cheese Icing and garnish with coarsely chopped pecans. 

Cream Cheese Frosting:


2 8 oz packages of softened cream cheese
1 cup of softened butter
32 oz powdered sugar
2 tsp of vanilla
2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream

Cream together cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat on low, add heavy whipping cream until the frosting is spreading consistency. Add more whipping cream if necessary. 

This cake is scrumptious! It is moist, with a hint of spice, the tang of pineapple and the sweetness of bananas and the cream cheese frosting. If you like banana cake or carrot cake I think you will enjoy this cake. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Favorites on Friday

Good morning! I know that many of us are certainly ready for the weekend, especially those of us who have been or are going to be battling the blizzard conditions today.      

Image from Pine Cones and Acorns, Calatrava in Milwaukee, Wisconsin

I, like many of you am a voracious reader of blogs and I frequently bookmarks posts that I enjoy and want to go back to or share with my sisters.

This is not a new idea in blog land but it is new here, I am thinking that on Fridays I will publish my favorite finds from around the web just in case you missed something.

Image from Boxy Colonial

This week there were many favorites but I narrowed it down to just a few. If you are looking for beautiful botanical and animal prints than look no further than the post by Boxy Colonial. Gretchen discovered the Botanicus Digital Library and discovered wonderful birds, (click HERE ) and beautiful plants (click HERE). These are just two of many, many links on this sight. I am planning on spending a few hours on this project next week. 

If you would like to take a virtual tour of Venice than visit Blu Oscar. This blog offers readers a glimpse at not only the highlights of Venice but also the backstreets and everyday life.

If you are settling in for a long winter weekend and would like to sit back and relax with a good book, Pamela at From the House of Edward has published a list of her favorite winter reads.

Image the French Basketeer Blog

And one of my favorite posts this week was from The French Basketeer, Andrea is writing an ebook! "Mon Reve" is a collaboration with two other writers about the best of France. For all of your Francophiles', myself included this e-book is a must. 

London Bakes Feta Leek and Lemon Tart

Last but not least, if you feel like cooking a delicious meal this weekend look no further than London Bakes for a Leek Feta and Lemon tart. 

Do you have any favorite blog posts from this past week? I am always interested in new books, or recipes so if you found something special let me know.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Blue and White Inspiration

Good morning!  I hope that if you are in the eye of the storm that you have your provisions and are ready to hunker down. Just be safe whatever you do.  

I have been paging through magazines and reading blogs this week and I continually see the the colors blue and white popping up from fashions to home decor. 

Traditionally blue and white never goes out of style and is a great accent color for clothes and furnishings.  From blue and white striped Nautical t-shirts seen all over in the Summer or the blue and white transfer ware and Chinese pottery that is sprinkled throughout decorating magazines. It is a classic combination. 

Although I am a huge fan of these colors I do not often use them in my decor unless I am drinking or eating off of it and in a few paintings. 

"There is no blue without yellow and without orange."  ~Vincent Van Gogh

As for clothing, I prefer black but blue and white have been turning up more and more. 

" not a mere absence of colour; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black...God paints in many colours; but He never paints so gorgeously, I had almost said so gaudily, as when He paints in white." 
~G. K. Chesterton

Are you a fan of blue and white? Do you wear or use these colors in your decorating?

"Blue is the only color which maintains its own character in all its will always stay blue; whereas yellow is blackened in its shades, and fades away when lightened; red when darkened becomes brown, and diluted with white is no longer red, but another color - pink." 
~ Raoul Dufy

"If you see a tree as blue, then make it blue."
~ Paul Gauguin

Are you a fan or transfer ware?

"The first of all single colors is white ... We shall set down white for the representative of light, without which no color can be seen; yellow for the earth; green for water; blue for air; red for fire; and black for total darkness." 
~Leonardo Da Vinci

What about Chinese pottery?

"ELOQUENCE, n. The art of orally persuading fools that white is the color that it appears to be. It includes the gift of making any color appear white." 
~Ambrose Bierce

If you are a fan and would like some inspiration, Tina from The Enchanted Home posted 35 Reasons Why I Love Decorating with Blue and White.

And Marsha from Splenderosa posted on Blue and White in her 3 Things Series. 

Be safe and enjoy your day!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

More Vintage Jewlery and Blogger Shops

Good morning! I hope you are keeping warm, yesterday it was 11 degrees and -18 with the windchill! I love Winter but I do not like feeling as if I am in Siberia. Are you bracing for a blizzard? Or getting ready for a warm spell this week?

I mentioned yesterday that I collect vintage brooches, but I also collect shoe clips and interesting jewelry. Not necessarily to wear but just because. Am I the only one that does that?

I found this interesting piece, with the pearls and I do not know what it is, maybe you do. It is just one long strand with the pearls and rhinestones on each end. It could be a necklace that you just wrap around in what ever configuration you like. It is not marked and the finish is coming off some of the other beads but I think has has character. 

As for the brooch above, I love a crown and a crest, not to mention a topaz colored stone or two. 

I have said this before, in fact I said it yesterday but there is such beauty in the patina of old items. The craftsmanship, the history, the nicks, and scratches all tell a story. I have always been very sentimental but as I age I am becoming more and more so. 

I find so much joy and value in old things. Perhaps because I wish that as I age people still see the joy and value in me?

This is a piece from Yonks that is similar to something I purchased last year. 

If you enjoy beautiful antiques than do visit my friend Di at Yonks, she has many beautiful European antiques in her shop that she acquires at auctions all over the UK. In fact yesterday she had a fabulous salt glaze pitcher with a pewter lid, sadly I missed out on that. 

If you are looking for one of a kind vintage textiles or pillows than you must visit Debra from Acquired Objects. Her fabulous store Oreillers features pillows made from 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th century fabrics. I am seriously blown away each time I visit by the beauty and the history of these pieces. 

Finds from Sentimental Gardens

Of course there are always wonderful items to be found at Sentimental Gardens which is owned by Debra of 5th and State. I love to go to St. Charles to see her latest finds and hope this summer to visit her Chicago store when I attend the BlogHer Convention. 

There are so many other bloggers that have shops, like Tone on Ton, The Enchanted Home, Splendid Willow, Castles, Crowns and Cottages, and more that I could do a post weekly, in fact I think I might!

If you own a store, or an online shop I would love know know about it! 

Enjoy your day!

Linking to:
Savvy Southern Style

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Antique Brooches

Good morning! Have you recovered from the shocking ending on Downton Abbey Sunday night? I was reading yesterday that there is already a new "love interest" cast for Lady Mary in Season 4; lest you think it too soon when the season picks up again it will be four months after the death of Matthew. 

Aside from watching Downton Abbey this past weekend I went to a few of my favorite antique stores and found this little transfer ware bowl with an acorn border and a few snow flake like brooches for my collection. 

Are you a collector of brooches? I have been for many years and have quite a collection. I love the settings and styles of the vintage pieces, they have so much character. 

As with every antique or vintage piece I try to image where it was worn, who owned it, and where did they get it? 

As for the transfer ware, I think I may need an intervention. In the last year I have acquired so much my husband thinks we may need another kitchen to store it all in. So image my excitement and dismay this weekend, when discovered the most beautiful 100 piece set of brown and white in mint condition. I did not buy it, but I am thinking about it.

Have you been out to the the flea markets or antique stores lately? Have you found any treasures?

I always love seeing what fabulous finds others have made so please share you links or photos. 

Last but not least, I made a scrumptious Cocoa Buttermilk Cake with Mascarpone Frosting on Sunday if you are looking for a new recipe to try. The recipe is on my other blog, Once Upon A Chocolate Life.

Enjoy your day!