Fall Alfresco Table Setting

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“By all these lovely tokens September days are here,

With summer’s best of weather

And autumn’s best of cheer.”

Helen Hunt Jackson

When summer’s sultry heat has abated and the leaves have just started to turn is a wonderful time to enjoy some fall alfresco dining.  Take a cue from nature and highlight autumn’s gorgeous jewel shades in your table setting.  Start dinner a bit earlier to catch the setting sun and share some easy conversation around a table set under the early autumn sky.  Bring in some candlelight and break out the sweaters to stretch the evening under the stars.

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Fall Floral Centerpieces from the Garden

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“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the mind.” Luther Burbank

One of my favorite challenges is to create floral arrangements out of what is blooming in my garden, no matter the season.  Come fall, the selections are fewer but no less interesting.  I was hosting a large group recently and needed several floral arrangements to place throughout the house. I went foraging in my garden and this is what I was able to find to work with:

  • persicaria ‘Red Dragon’, for its pretty purple and green foliage
  • hydrangea, in various stages of colors from green to deep pinks
  • astilbe in its post flowering seed stage
  • a few yellow annual dahlias still blooming in a planter
  • hardy begonias both for their delicate pink flowers and for their striking heart-shaped leaves
  • sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, still in its green stage
  • a single ‘Pierre-Auguste Renoir’ rose

I will show you half a dozen way I used different combinations of these flowers to create beautiful arrangements, all a bit different from one another.  Even when I didn’t think I had very much to work with and I was ready to run out to buy flowers, I managed to create seasonal centerpieces and hope to give you ideas to do the same.

For the bar area I created a tall arrangement in a birch bark container using astilbe, sedum, hydrangea, upside down begonia leaves and feather clusters in autumnal colors.  I started with a tight bundle of astilbe. I then wrapped sedum around their stems. Next came a crown of hydrangeas just beneath the sedum. I finished the arrangement with upside down begonia leaves for their striking pink color. I just gathered the flowers in hand and tied the stems together with an elastic band to keep the arrangement tight. I stuck the feathers in last. This is my favorite creation by far.  Doesn’t  it look like it came from a high end florist? Continue reading

How to Throw a Summer Crab Boil Party

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“The best way to eat crabs, as everyone knows, is off newspaper at a large table with a large number of people.” Laurie Colwin

A crab boil is one of the easiest summer entertaining parties to host.    Low on stress and high on fun, I make mine even easier by ordering the crabs already cooked, encrusted in Old-Bay style seasoning and picked up piping hot, right before guests arrive. Where we live these red-shelled beauties are Maryland blue crabs from the Chesapeake.  Their Latin name, Callinectes sapidus, means beautiful swimmer. Their flesh is sweet and succulent and they are in season now.  Aren’t they gorgeous? Continue reading

Easter Table and Front Porch Décor

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Treating you to lots of eye candy today to inspire your spring or Easter décor and entertaining!  From the welcome of spring blooms on our front porch to Easter around the house and at the table, there are ideas galore  to take away.  Enjoy!

An ice cream parlor chair repurposed into a planter greets visitors with a chalkboard welcome sign. Tutorial here.

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Christmas Brunch Among the Wrappings

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“Man cannot live on presents alone.” NYTimes

I love that quote!  After the last present has been opened, your loved ones will be famished.  Many of these brunch recipes can be made ahead, leaving you to savor the magic of the season too.  From sweet to savory, all of these recipes are delicious and sure to please your peeps as you break the fast together on Christmas morn.

Cranberry Orange Scones

Festive with a wonderful orange glaze.

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Candy Cane Poinsettia Centerpiece-DIY

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Did you know December 12th is National Poinsettia Day in the US?  To celebrate, I’ve got a tutorial for creating a fun candy cane covered vase for a small poinsettia.  The poinsettia is a member of the spurge family and is indigenous to Mexico.  Its English name originated from the first US minister to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced the plant to the US in 1825.  In Mexico the plant is called Flor de Noche Buena or Christmas Eve Flower, which is such a pretty name.  The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an anti pyretic.  Today, the plant is mostly ornamental and beloved around the world.  Did you know that the flowers of the poinsettia are really small and grouped in the yellowish center of the colored bracts?  That’s right.  The bright red “flowers” of the classic poinsettia are actually its leaves.  The bracts can also be pink, cream, orange, pale green or marbled.  Now let’s get to this fun project!

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All About Apples

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“It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple is connected to that of man.”

Henry David Thoreau, Wild Fruits:  Thoreau’s Rediscovered last manuscript

Apple may have launched the new iPhone 7 recently,  but I’ve got apples of a different kind on my mind!  Apple season is upon us and I’ve searched the archives to compile readers’ favorite apple recipes.  From a tasty maple cauliflower apple soup to company-worthy turkey medallions in a flavorful curried apple-shallot wine sauce, there are many recipes to showcase apples in their glory.  Of course apple desserts abound and one of my favorites is a butternut squash-apple Bundt cake with a cider glaze.  If you want to take the apple theme right down to the table setting, I’ve got you covered with a centerpiece featuring votive candles set right into, you guessed it, apples!  Click on the highlighted titles for the recipes.  Enjoy!

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