Monday, June 29, 2015

Inspiration: Pools

Today I'm doing something different. Since I started this blog in December of 2010, I have always used my own photos and shared images from my life. That will continue to be the focus of this blog, but from time to time I'd like to do something a little different. I'd like to share some inspirational photos of what other people are doing with their homes.

I'll start with these photos from Houzz that feature beautiful outdoor pools. I'm sure my desire to show pools has something to do with the extreme heat we've been having this month. How wonderful it would be to take a dip right in your own yard! I'm pretty sure ours is too small for a pool ... the next best thing is the indoor pool at the gym I belong to.

These photos also show how my design taste ranges from farmhouse to modern to traditional. Which pool -- and which setting -- do you like best and why?

#6: Beach Style Pool by The Anderson Studio of Architecture & Design, Mount Pleasant

As I was compiling these photos, I noticed they are all rectangular, which is definitely my preference over free-form pools. It was really hard to narrow the selection down to only six. There are so many gorgeous pools!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cocktail Hour: Dreamsicle

Remember the Dreamsicle? That orange and vanilla ice cream bar on a stick? Or maybe you know it as a Creamsicle. Either way, if you like orange and vanilla together, you'll love this adult version of that delicious childhood treat. The recipe for this cocktail comes from the bottle of Orange-Vanilla Simple Syrup I received from the nice folks at Royal Rose

The Dreamsicle cocktail is delicious -- and strong! If you like your drinks not-so-strong, you can cut back a little on the vodka. The recipe calls for an egg white, but I'm not into raw eggs, so I omit that. This drink would be pretty served with a curled strip of orange zest (I didn't have any oranges in the fridge) or a little grated orange zest on top. Cheers!

Dreamsicle Cocktail

1  1/2 ounces vodka
1/4 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce Royal Rose Orange-Vanilla Simple Syrup
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce heavy cream

Fill a shaker with ice. Add all ingredients and shake well. Strain into a martini glass, serve and sip slowly.

For more drink recipes from Royal Rose, go here

Next up on my list: the Maine Cooler, featuring vodka, Royal Rose Lavender-Lemon syrup and fresh lemon juice. Or perhaps the Raspberry Cooler, with white rum, Royal Rose raspberry syrup, fresh lime and citrus bitters. So many choices!

Friday, June 19, 2015

This Week in Pictures

Henry trying to hide from the camera

Pretty flowers, given to us by friends who came for cocktails last Saturday 
(They're still beautiful a week later!)

This cute -- and inexpensive -- straw tote for taking to the farmer's market on Saturday mornings. An extra 30% off made it even sweeter.

Portulaca ... thank goodness it's heat and drought tolerant!

 And a new variety of dahlia is making its appearance in the garden.

I wish all you lovely readers a very happy weekend! Thanks for visiting.  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

French Potato Salad

As promised, here's the delicious recipe for potato salad that I made for our Memorial Day cookout. It's French potato salad, made with Dijon mustard, oil and vinegar -- no mayonnaise. I used the champagne vinegar that I received in my O Olive Oil and Vinegar gift basket. Fresh thyme adds flavor that the dried herb doesn't match, so splurge on the fresh stuff. This recipe was a hit at our cookout. Try it for your next gathering.

French Potato Salad

2.5 pounds fingerling or small new potatoes, halved or quartered, if large
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (I used champagne vinegar)
1 small shallot, minced (2 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 small red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced

1)  Place potatoes in a large pot; cover with cold water by 1 inch and season generously with salt. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Run under cold water to cool slightly, then drain.

2) Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together oil, mustard and vinegar. Add shallot, parsley and thyme; season with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper and stir to combine. Add the potatoes and onion and toss to combine. Serve at room temperature. To store, refrigerate, up to overnight.

From Everyday Food  

Monday, June 15, 2015

Dahlia Blooms (and a Problem)

This is the glorious bloom that came from that tightly closed bud I shared in this post. It's the biggest dahlia flower we've ever had in our little garden, and it's a beautiful pale shade of lemon yellow.

Look how big it is compared to my hand -- and to the dark red dahlias behind it. It is 8 inches across!

My beloved white dahlias have come up and are blooming nicely. So is our old peach-colored dahlia, which we've had for years.

Now for the bad news. Nearly all the plants, including our old peach and white plants, have some sort of disease or blight, plus some insect issues as is evident by the holes in the leaves. But the brown patches on the leaves are what concern me. Whatever is plaguing the plants is spreading. So far the spots are only on some of the leaves, and the majority still look okay, but I need to identify this problem ASAP so we can properly treat the plants.

Does anyone know what this could be? I'm going to take a couple of leaves to a garden shop to see if they can identify it. If they can't, I'll turn to the agricultural extension. We've never had this problem with our dahlias until this year. We've dealt with pests such as earwigs, slugs and aphids, but not to the point of ruining the plants, and we've always been able to control them. But these awful looking brown spots are something new. If you have any information or advice, please share! Thank you.

Update: I took some leaves to my local garden shop and they thought it was sun scorch in spots where water was on the leaves. I stopped watering from above and began using the hose at the base of the plants. Problem solved.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Cocktail Hour: Razzmopolitan

Hello there. Happy Friday!

Let me introduce you to the Razzmopolitan, which may very well be my favorite homemade cocktail yet. I upped the ante in the raspberry department by using a wonderful raspberry simple syrup, from the nice folks at Royal Rose Simple Syrups. Their products are amazing. They have some unusual flavors too, like Fenugreek, Anise -- and, of course, Rose. Check out their website where you can purchase their products online.


Fill a cocktail shaker half way with ice. Add:
1 ounce raspberry vodka
1 ounce citrus vodka
1/2 ounce Chambord (raspberry liqueur)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon simple syrup
2 tablespoons cranberry juice

Shake and strain into a martini glass. Cheers!

Here's what I used: Absolut Raspberri Vodka, homemade Meyer lemon-infused vodka, Royal Rose Raspberry Simple Syrup

Monday, June 8, 2015

The Dahlia Garden: New Varieties

My husband surprised me one day by purchasing and planting a whole bunch of new dahlia tubers in a variety of colors. I don't think he saved the packaging though, so I'm not sure what type they are. There are a few of this deep, deep red flower, which looks even darker when displayed indoors -- very dramatic.

And yet another bud. This one has been tightly shut for a while now. I'm eagerly anticipating its bloom and can't wait to see what color it will be!

Here is the dahlia garden, minus our peachy-orange plant that is off by itself near the gate. It's not as tall and robust as usual, but there are some buds. 

I've planted a few herbs: Basil, Italian parsley and cilantro. Even though cilantro is supposed to like full sun, I find it does best in a container on our north-facing front porch. Below is my little basil plant. I hope it takes off so I can make pesto this year.

Lastly, below is a hydrangea that someone my husband works with gave to him. I have no idea what color the flowers will be, and I don't care because any hydrangea is a good hydrangea. It is small (that's a 6-foot fence behind it), but has grown nicely since it was planted about a month ago. It seems happy in the dappled sunlight of the backyard.

What's growing in your garden?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Cocktail Hour: Maiden's Blush

It's Friday. Time for a little cocktail to kick off the weekend! Here's a simple martini recipe using gin, orange liqueur, lemon juice and grenadine. Grenadine is a sweetened pomegranate-orange syrup used in cocktails. I was perusing the small cocktail mixer section at Whole Foods (to my disappointment, they have stopped carrying my favorite brand of sour mixer), when I saw this bottle of grenadine and thought, why not.

Thus began my search for a simple cocktail recipe that uses grenadine. I flipped through a bartender's recipe book and found this gin-based martini called Maiden's Blush. It's strong! It uses only half a teaspoon of grenadine to just give the drink the slightest pink blush. I added extra, and would double the amount next time.

Maiden's Blush

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. 

Add 1.5 ounces gin
1 teaspoon orange liqueur such as Triple Sec (I used Cointreau)
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grenadine

Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass.
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