Daisy Hill

At the suggestion of my friend, Amy Butler, we took a detour to Daisy Hill Greenhouses in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Daisy Hill is indeed a special little place. The plants are so beautiful and the greenhouse is located on a private gated property. The house on the property looks like a little castle.

I loved the walkway just outside the greenhouses. The soft colors were soothing and they did not give hint to the lush colors that I would soon see inside the greenhouse.

Oh, the colors of the plants inside the greenhouse were vibrant and rich. It really felt so alive and beautiful inside.

There were three long areas full of plants like this.

These were not only beautiful in color but also in the visual texture.

I don't have a green thumb though I am trying to remedy this. I did buy a couple of mini conifers, a little plant that has flowers that look like little goldfish and a venus fly trap plant. My little one is enthralled with the venus fly trap. At first he was scared because he thought that the plant would eat his finger. After that, it was so "cool" and he watched it "eat" a bug.

I hope that you're enjoying the Labor Day weekend!

Work and Play in Ohio

I thought that it would be fun to show you a photo of the setup at Checker. I was there to promote the two books, "Cool Girls Quilt" and "Sew Sentimental", that I had written for the wonderful folks at Martingale/That Patchwork Place. All of my samples from "Cool Girls Quilt" are shown above. [I had to re-arrange the area later to look like the booth in the previous entry because the event coordinator had mistakenly told me to hang my stuff there. The photo from the last post shows everything in final form.] Everyone loved the brown bag shown hanging from the rack. The store owners were all excited to see a book with so many terrific and diverse designs. To a designer, that is a wonderful compliment!

I must admit, I was happily surprised that so many people walked out the door with a copy of "Sew Sentimental". There are lots of designs for sewing projects beyond the application of sewing to scrapbooking pages. I poured in lots of love and affection to this project. The two pillows on the silver rack are from this book. I designed a few quick and easy to sew projects for gift giving. Run out and buy one. Then come back and tell me how you liked the book. Better yet, make something from the book and show me!

We headed home early Tuesday because I wanted to stop by a place that was suggested by my friend, Amy Butler. Go to Chagrin Falls in Ohio and make sure you go off the beaten path to Daisy Hill Greenhouses. It is worth the drive. Indeed it was. The falls in Chagrin Falls were relaxing to watch while we enjoyed some treats.

The buildings were quaint and picturesque. It looks and feels much like Clinton, NJ where I live. The charm and beauty of these little American towns is so special.

The flowers on the street are so vivid and they add so much to the town atmosphere.
Wouldn't you love to see this outside your home?
We spent a few moments in Chagrin Falls. What a quaint little place. Though I'm generally a modern kind of girl, I also love and appreciate vintage things. Let me tell you about this fabulous shop in Chagrin Falls. It is called Stash Style and it is so inspiring. There's so much to see in this beautiful place and they sell AMAZING cupcakes. Now I know what all of the fuss is over red velvet cupcakes. Yum! Yum! The displays in the shop are delicious too. I managed to buy a few small items and, oh yeah, a little rocking chair! Reno, surprisingly, didn't give me that look that he normally gives me when I am trying to do something crazy like stuff 6 big chairs from a rummage sale into our little SUV. Thank you for that sweetie.

The displays are works of art! I had to keep the kiddos outside. Mommy can't afford to pay for the goods if the kiddos topple this beautiful table over.

Did I tell you that I am addicted to old frames? Buy a frame and put cork behind it or paint wood with blackboard chalk to make a terrific message board.

You will have to check in again soon for more inspiration from Chagrin Falls! It's time for me to get some beauty rest. You know, two posts in one day can kill a girl.

Oh where have I been?

Hello everyone!
Remember me? I am finally back in New Jersey. We have been driving around to all destinations this summer and we got back late last night. My sister and her family are visiting from Toronto the rest of this week so it will be great to end the summer this fun way. To all of you who have commented or e-mailed, I will get back to you soon! I gotta unwind and do a pile of laundry.

Before I forget, run over to Bunny Hill Designs. Anne is having a scavenger hunt [so fun!]. The winner gets some of her lovely fabric.

Oh where have I been? Let's start with this last trip. I just came back from a fun trip to do a book signing to promote my books, "Cool Girls Quilt" and "Sew Sentimental" at Checker Distributor in Maumee, Ohio for their 60th Anniversary Open House. Checker Distributors sells wholesale to those who have businesses in the quilting/needlework industry. What a fab group of people! Everyone from the organization to the shop owners and other designers who came were fantastic. 

Here's an end cap of designs and fabric from Kim Diehl and my fave group of people, Henry Glass.
Here are some more endcaps showing other fabrics and patterns. It was like being in a candy store. This is the fabric section. Their notions and book section [sorry I didn't get a pic] is phenomenal. I need an organizational system like that for my kiddos' stuff.

Joan Hawley of Lazy Girl Designs was demonstrating next to me. Super nice and super talented. She's got these Handy Tabs for purse making. So smart and they come in great colors.
Here's Gina Krieger, head of their IT department and also the buyer for their knitting, crochet, and needlework department. You know how people say that everyone has a twin in this world? It could be a physical thing or a personality thing. Well, obviously we don't look alike but she is my twin. I am sure of it. She's got great energy, and the same "obsessive, compulsiveness" [in a good and positive way] when it comes to crafting. Just take a look at this gorgeous sweater. Can you believe that she's only been knitting for THREE years? Gina, the knitting is awesome if I didn't tell you then.
We had dinner after the hectic day and I just loved spending time with my favorite person at Checker. Nancy Weber has believed in me since day one. Her honesty and friendship is greatly appreciated.
Hubby took the kiddos got to see the Toledo Zoo and surrounding area. Dh is great about supporting me that way even though he may go a little bonkers by the end of the day. The kids really enjoyed the visit too and they're such great troopers because dh and I drag them everywhere. More on our travels later. We made a stop in a fabulous place on our way back but it will have to be in another post for another day.
Come back soon. I will be having a giveaway next week. My baby starts kindergarten. So put on your thinking caps and open your hearts. I will need some funny stories about your little ones so that I won't need to think about mine being away from me for the first time.
p.s. If anyone can tell me how to add spaces between paragraphs beyond the normal way of pressing enter, please let me know. I feel like an idiot. I have been trying everything and it just won't let me do it.

Honey and Thyme Roasted Pumpkin


It’s been raining a lot over here. Threats of typhoons, gloomy weekdays filled with the incessant patter of raindrops, grey skies, wonky dsl...the usual ways the rainy season makes its presence felt. Today’s different though...the sun is out (for now) where I live and I’m once again in a skirt and tank top, trying to keep cool.

Crazy weather. Determined to drive me mad. Lulling me into cozy thoughts of soup and stews, and then driving me headlong into the arms of fresh fruit and salad. Eating seasonally means a different thing every day over here, a challenge that is just a bit too much for me right now.

I seek refuge in the embrace of a very autumnal dish. Autumn is a season absent from our calendar and I find every opportunity to flout nature and enjoy it on my table, if not in my weather.

Crazy, perplexing, faithless weather. You deserve my rebellion.

The weather aside, I am loving the local farmers who have started growing butternut squash. I find it at the markets more often now, and I make sure to buy some when I see it...no matter what the weather is like. In my favourite herb stall, at my Saturday market a while back, I found some gorgeous specimens. After much dithering about the size (I only have two mouths to feed after all) I finally succumbed to a 3-kilo beauty upon the urging of my friend M, who assured me that I could just cook and puree what I couldn’t use then freeze it for later consumption. Which is exactly what I did after enjoying the squash as a centrepiece on our dining room table (whole pumpkin is such a joy...you can keep it as decoration for the longest time while you ponder how you want to prepare it...not to mention the possibilities if you happen to have a fairy godmother!).

I divided the squash in half: Half I roasted and pureed, and stashed in my freezer for emergency butternut squash soup. This is what happened to the other half.

Honey and Thyme Roasted Pumpkin
(adapted from Maple and Thyme Roasted Pumpkin, Donna Hay Magazine, issue 38, page 100)

  • 4 wedges of butternut squash, about 700 grams total weight
  • a scant 1/4 cup honey
  • 70 grams butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup pili nuts, blanched and peeled
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

- Place the honey, butter, thyme, and nuts in a bowl and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste – it should have a sweet-salty flavour balance.
- Arrange squash wedges in a roasting pan, or any sort of pan where they’d fit. I used a pyrex pie dish and that worked fine.
- Pour the honey-nut mixture over the squash, dividing evenly between their little hollows.
- Roast in a 200C oven for 30-40 minutes or until tender.
- Serves 4 as a side dish.

The original recipe used golden nugget pumpkins (instead of butternut squash), maple syrup (instead of honey), and almonds and pecans (instead of walnuts and pili).

If there is someone out there who can resist a golden, caramelized wedge of butternut squash, softly roasted and topped with sweet sticky nuts...well, you are a stronger person than I. This dish was so divine that the weather made no hee-haw to me whichever way its inconstant winds wanted to blow. Rain or shine, wet or dry, sometimes you just need to close your window and do what you want.

Plum and Nectarine Galette

Hello there! I am back! The meetings that I mentioned here went well and, although this is still a busy time for us at work, it’s a good kind of busy. They type that you know is pulling you and your team to bigger and better things, even as you wipe the sweat off your brow and wallpaper your aching back with Salonpas.

But enough work talk! I feel like celebrating and I’m doing it with pie! Well, with a galette if you want to be technical. A Plum and Nectarine Galette if you want to be specific. I found some nice plums and nectarines in the Sunday market across the street from me (yes, I live two steps away from a cute little market - another reason to celebrate!) so I bought a bunch with this in mind. I had been reading about Dorie Greenspan’s Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough from the enthusiastic Tuesdays With Dorie bunch and had been meaning to try it. When I saw Cenk’s gorgeous galette on (the equally gorgeous) Cafe Fernando I knew that as soon as I had a bit of free time I would be rolling out this dough.

I must say, the legions of Dorie fans out there are not mistaken. This pie dough really is good for almost anything! It’s tasty and flaky and a snap to put together. And getting pie dough flaky in my hot and humid kitchen is a feat in itself – Dorie I owe you! I used Cenk’s version though which only has butter and no shortening. I don’t have anything against shortening, and I know it is supposed to make the dough flakier, but I was too lazy to buy some ;)

I adapted the recipe slightly to make allowances for all the humidity and heat over here – lessening the water and adding more dough-chilling time. This recipe makes enough for a 9-inch double crust pie. If you make galettes you can make two 9-inch ones (one now one later)...and you don’t have to fiddle with a pie pan ;)

Plum and Nectarine Galette
(pie dough recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours as adapted by Cenk of Cafe Fernando, filling adapted from Cenk’s recipe)

For the pie dough:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 sticks of butter, cut into small chunks and chilled in the freezer for about 20 minutes
  • 1/3 cup ice water

    For the filling:
  • 300-400 grams fresh plums, pitted and sliced into eighths (I used 3 plums)
  • 300-400 grams fresh nectarines, pitted and sliced into eighths (I used 2 1/2 nectarines)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • Juice of half a lemon

  • 1 egg, slightly beaten (for assembly)

    - Pulse flour, sugar and salt in a food processor using a metal blade.
    - Remove butter from freezer, add it in the processor, and pulse until it resembles a coarse meal. Do not over mix! The pieces don’t have to be uniform. Dorie says some can be the size of fat peas and some the size of barley.
    - Add ice water little by little, pulsing once in between each addition, until the dough forms clumps and curds (I lessened the water from 1/2 cup to 1/3 due to the moisture already present in my air). Again, do not over mix! Chunks of butter in the dough are fine (yum!) :)
    - Turn the dough out onto a work surface and very lightly and sparingly, knead just to incorporate dry ingredients.
    - Divide the dough into two even balls. Flatten balls into disks and wrap individually in plastic.
    - Refrigerate dough for at least an hour (I refrigerated one disk and kept the other in the freezer for future use).
    - Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough between two sheets of baking parchment (you can roll dough directly on a floured work surface or between two sheets of plastic wrap but parchment works best for me) into a rough 11-inch circle. When rolling, turn dough over frequently and lift the parchment so it doesn’t form creases. Trim the edges to form a clean circle.
    - Place your flattened dough (covered in the parchment) back in the fridge for about 20 minutes to chill again.
    - Remove dough from fridge, peel of top layer of parchment, and transfer the dough, on the bottom layer of parchment, to a sheet pan or pizza pan (I used one of those pizza pans with holes on the bottom).
    - Mix 1/2 tablespoon of the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a bowl and spread on the bottom of the dough.
    - Toss plums and nectarines with the rest of the cornstarch, sugar, and lemon juice.
    - Arrange the fruit on the bottom of the dough, leaving 2 inches of dough left outside.
    - Fold up and pleat the dough (as best you can) over the top of the fruit, leaving the center uncovered.
    - Lightly brush the top of the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle both the dough and the fruit with sugar (I used Demerara sugar with large crystals).
    - Place the galette in 400F oven and cook for 40-45 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
    - Remove from oven and transfer to a cooling rack immediately.

    I love how this turned out! All rustic and earth goddess goodness...uneven buttery crust, sticky-shiny filling, sweet juices bubbling over onto the parchment, hypnotic pie-baking smell filling my flat...and C, who is not a sweets type of guy, actually had it for dessert that night (and breakfast today), claiming that “I like this kind of thing!” Yet another reason to celebrate!

    More reasons to celebrate:
  • A wonderfully generous friend brought me back Fage Greek yogurt from her trip to Hong Kong, so I’ve been having very satisfied breakfasts :)
  • I discovered the most adorable earth-friendly soap stall at my neighbourhood’s Sunday market! She makes body soaps and laundry soap...the laundry soap smells so good (it’s made with herbs) that I want to dunk my head in the basin every time I wash! And I can! Because it’s safe for my skin! Joy! The best part? Unbeknownst to me at the time, she is the same girl who supplied me with all those tomatoes a while back!
  • 80 Breakfasts is mentioned as “click-worthy” in Rogue Magazine’s current (August 2008) issue – The Appetite Issue (piece by Wysgal)! Oh yay!!! My shameless thrill is as uncool and this magazine is cool. Thank goodness this blog managed to slip into its pages before any of them discovered how dorky I am ;)
  • Mushrooms in Cream

    This is called “My bosses are in town and I have 2 big meetings this week to prepare for so I need something fast but delicious and comforting to eat at my desk and by the way I’ll be buried in work all week so see you next week Mushrooms in Cream”.

    I know I said I never give dishes fancy names but I thought I’d make an exception here as I don’t have the luxury of a long post to do the talking.

    I apologize for the hodgepodge, throw-together manner with which I’m sharing this recipe...but I am in the middle of a workstorm, and besides, that’s how this meal came together...and it really is good enough to share. Especially if you find nice portobellos in the market. I imagine it would be even better with chanterelles or morels but the chances of me finding those two forest beauties over here are slim to none (I have only seen fresh chanterelles here once).

    Here's what to do: Sautee 2 cloves of minced garlic and some thyme in some olive oil. Add 2 portobello mushrooms that have been sliced or roughly chopped into big chunks (or use whatever type mushoom you have available, enough to make one serving). Sautee until mushrooms are cooked and the liquid has all evaporated. Add some generous glugs of cream, season with salt and pepper, and toss until cream starts turning nutty brown. Scrape everything onto a plate, grab a fork, and get back to work!

    You can have this on its own, as a side dish, tossed with pasta noodles, or folded in an omelette. Or, as I like it, piled on toast :)

    Being buried in your work may sound like a less-than-ideal situation (unless you are her) but that does not have to be the case! If you take the right provisions down there with you, things will not seem as daunting :)

    Have a fantastic and productive work-week! I'll be "back" next week!