Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Sisterhood

The sisterhood of woman is a bond that cannot be broken. There was no better place to observe this than at a local quilt show. Although the subject was quilts of all types and design, watching those who came to view the quilts was a delight to behold. Mother-daughter pairs, best friends, sibling groups, and grandmothers with granddaughters --- all enjoyed the show. You could see the delight in their eyes and feel their bond as they viewed, discussed, reminisced, touched, and compared. Memories of quilts and loved ones past could be overheard as some discussed and read the history of an antique quilt or two. Two friends stitched together on antique sewing machines; they own three hundred of them altogether! Siblings dressed in flowing skirts with stockings, boots, and bows quickly moved from quilt to quilt, observing details and sharing comments on the way. Two grandmothers were wheelchair bound and pushed along by their daughters, holding grandbabies in their Grandma-laps. Avid seamstresses compared notes on quilt designs and techniques. Karleen and I enjoyed our friendship too as we shared our common interest in quilting. Sometimes we had to remind ourselves why were were there, just as the other women enjoying fellowship together did --- talking about children, spring gardens, a new recipe, and a quilt or two. A bond --- friendship and quilts.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cheesy Sauce

Cheese --- delicious cheese --- high in fat, filled with cholesterol, difficult to digest. But oh, so hard to give up! Until now! How about a 100% plant-based cheesy sauce that helps to fill the gap? This recipe is for a savory and flavorful cheese-like sauce. Put it in a squeeze bottle to use like cheese whiz, use on chips for nachos, layer in lasagna, or stir into pasta for macaroni and cheese. Delicious!

Cheesy Sauce

1/3 cup raw cashews
1 1/2 cups cold water
4 Tbsp. pimientos
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1 - 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Rinse cashews in a strainer using hot water. Drain and place in blender. Add remaining ingredients and blend until very smooth. Place mixture into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat. May be served hot or chilled.


Thank you for the feedback and comments. In response to several questions: Brazil nuts can be substituted for cashews if you have an allergy or difficulty finding raw cashews. Nutritional yeast is available at most health food stores. Happy experimenting! If you have never tried a cheese substitute, I recommend that you don't 'think' of this as cheese, but rather as a wonderful, savory sauce or dressing. It is real food, just not real cheese. :D

Hand Maid Curtains

With curtains on my mind, I decided to visit Paula and take a look at curtains. The little details I observed showed the care and attention that she and Terri put into creating the perfect space at their shop. Each window had its own, unique details. I would have been so easy to just put up a fabric or lace curtain and leave it at that. But, that's not their 'style'. Instead, finishing touches made each window covering its own work of art. Let's take a look at their creative additions --- a bead swag, rosettes spaced six inches apart that pull and tuck lace panels, hankies layered into a valence, a bundle of dried roses capping a gathered drape, a row of narrow lace bordered with lace swags and a puckered top, and side panels of floral printed cotton hug gathered lace panels. Sweetness plus! Hand maid curtains --- purely vintage!

[Double-click on photo for larger details]

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Treasures of Spring

"And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
Rose from the dreams of it's wintry rest.
The snowdrops and then the violet,
A rose from the ground with warm rain wet,
And their breath was mixed
with sweet odour sent
From the turf like the voice and the instrument."



EllynAnne Geisel is an author and collector who is passionate about aprons. With nostalgia, she explores the history, form, and function of aprons in ways that inspire others. I love this quote of hers from The Apron Book:

"As an apronologist, I've learned that it is this humble domestic icon that ties us to earlier generations. And by designing aprons, sewing them, and tying them on, we're celebrating the spirit of women."

Some of my aprons hang in the sunshine, acting as homemaker flags on a breezy spring day. They bring color and cheer to the yard that is otherwise still somewhat brown with patches of green starting to come alive in the lawn. My aprons are making history in quite unusual ways! I wonder what the neighbors think?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Twigs and Lace

Years ago my sister owned a business called "Weeds & Wicker", a shop that created beautiful dried floral arrangments. I thought of it today as I put together a montage of Terri's lovely window coverings. A common theme emerged, "Twigs & Lace". How beautifully Terri crafted delightful, vintage window coverings with lace panels, twigs, and dried roses and filler flowers. Little details, like antique plates, a lace-trimmed tea towel under the lace panel on the bathroom window, lace valences, and floral panels between lace panels in the living room illustrate how variety can be achieved with thought and creative effort. Dreamy and filmy, Terri has created beautiful window dressings from old linens and lace. . .and a twig and a rose.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Laundry Flair

Let's visit Terri again. Her gentle vintage flair leaves no place untouched. We've enjoyed visiting vignettes scattered throughout her home and the tranquility of her powder room. Today we'll take a peek at her laundry space. There is no space left behind! Instead of utilitarian folding doors, Terri has created a soft and welcoming space to do her laundry by the use of cotton curtains that are hung above a inset opening. Her washer and dryer are behind the curtains. What a romantic look and one that makes me feel like doing laundry is a genteel pleasure rather than a task I need to endure. Have I ever told you that folding clothes is one of my least favorite activities? Maybe if my laundry room looked like this, I'd change my mind. Thank you, Terri, for sharing the important, little corners of your home!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lavender Dreams

When it comes to spring, I think I might be one of the most impatient people in the world! Oh, are you impatient too? Although the calendar says that spring is officially here, it has been cold, blustery, and with skies of gray. Sometimes the sunshine peeks through the clouds, but it seems to say "not yet" and disappear behind the clouds again. The daffodils are bravely showing their faces and the lilac bushes are sending out little green buds, but otherwise not much has shown sign of progress in the flower beds. Rylan hoed the vegetable garden earlier this week and it's ready for planting, but I think things need to warm up a bit more first. The waiting is so difficult! As I said, I'm so impatient for my favorite season of the year.

In the meantime, I dream about June days when the roses are in bloom --- and the lavender plants are in full bud. The lavender tea set has been washed, dried, and put back on the shelf --- awaiting the days when 'lavender tea' can be enjoyed again. Lavender scones, lavender sugar, and lavender tea --- all made from fresh, organic lavender bud --- pure heaven!

Here's how to make a perfect cuppa lavender tea:

Lavender Tea

1 pot of your favorite tea (plain)
1 tsp. of fresh, organic lavender bud

Steep for 3 - 4 minutes and decant. Serve with your favorite sweetener (mine is the sweet herb stevia) and enjoy!

It is SO delicious! There's something delightful about the astringent and distinctive taste of lavender. Give it a try.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Vintage Vignettes

Terri's house has sweet surprises in scattered throughout every room. Just like at the shop that she and Paula 'keep' on Elm Street, her home is filled with interesting things that remind of days gone by. Gentle vignettes of interest await in every room. Vignettes: a word that means a short scene or to describe in a brief way. From the Old French for vigne, or vine - which comes from the use of vine tendrils in decorative borders. Terri's vignettes really are short scenes, each a story unto itself. They are scenes that would meld exactly onto pages of a book adorned with borders of tendrils that wind around the edges of a page. Thus, each becomes a page unto itself in the book of a beautiful home. They are storybook rooms mastered by author Terri who's skills as artist are just as effective as an author who has a delightful way with words.

Tomorrow we'll take a look at some of the outlining features in Terri's home. Please stop by again.

Green Pea Soup for Spring!

Simple suppers on blustery spring evenings should be easy, warm, and vibrant to match the weather. At least that's how I see it! Green pea soup is just the thing to center a menu around on days like today. Fast and easy, it utilizes dried green peas that have been flaked and packaged by the bulk package person at the health food store. Seasonings like onion, salt, and garlic have been added along with plenty of pure, fresh water. So simple, yet so good! Garnished with cilantro leaves and radish circles, this tasty soup is served with fresh gluten-free biscuits for a wholesome and delicious ending to a busy day. My bag of little green pea soup flakes cost $6.00 and has prepared three meals for two or three so far. It looks like there's still one to go. Yum!

Baking Artisan

The subject of free form embroidery has been discussed. Now let's talk about something new in my kitchen --- free form bread baking! Artisan breads are crusty, hand-formed breads that are compact in crumb and delicious in flavor. Two of my friends, Clarice and Karleen, have been experimenting with them and their efforts have encouraged me to try my hand at it. What fun I've been having experimenting and sharing loaves of bread with friends who stop by for a visit! Fast and easy, you can't go wrong with this recipe. I've adapted their recipes to fit my cooking style.

Artisan Bread

3 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. 1 tsp. mineral salt*
1 1/2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
6 cups all-purpose flour**

Mix all ingredients together and stir until moist. Cover bowl and place in fridge for two hours. Then remove and place dough on floured countertop. Sprinkle flour on top and work dough until it feels solid and smooth to the touch (you won't need much additional flour). Divide dough into four sections.

Form each section into a round or oblong loaf. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet that has been sprinkled with cornstarch. Score the tops of the loaves with a sharp knife. Allow to rise for about 30 minutes. Then place a small bowl of water in the bottom rack of a cool oven and then preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place loaves in oven and bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

Remove from heat and brush with olive oil. Cool and slice to eat or place in zip-locks to store.

*I use REAL Salt brand of mineral salt; it has a very good flavor and isn't too 'salty'

**Whole wheat flour works for this recipe as well. Use 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose flour or 100% whole wheat.

***So far, I haven't worked out a gluten-free version of this recipe (for those who may ask). Maybe in time. . .in the meantime, the kitchen is divided for the gluten-free and the non-gluten-free.

Monday, March 23, 2009

More Than a Great Cuppa

"A special teatime
is more than a great cup of tea."

Mary Pielenz Hampton

*violets teacups and teapots*

A Calgon Moment

Of all the beautiful rooms in Terri's house, I think I love the bathroom the best! Isn't it beautiful? It exudes charm, elegance, sweetness, and serenity. It's the kind of place you'd like to escape to with a good book, a hot cup of tea, and all the time in the world. Bubbles and bath salts, the fragrance of essential oils, and soft bath towels to engulf oneself in after a hot soak. Nostalgia and tokens from simpler times past are represented by old bottles, old photos, and old accessories. Lace, layered upon itself, is embellished with dried roses. And a shower curtain made from a beautiful floral print in rose and cream accents the beautiful green color selected as this rooms base. Choosing just one thing as "favorite" in this room is difficult. There are too many delightful aspects to choose just one. I love the old-fashioned towel rack, the table painted to match the walls, the beadboard and ledges, the pretty hardwood floor, and of course that wonderfully elegant bathtub!

What are you favorite features in this room? If you could choose one element to replicate in your bathroom, what would it be?

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Authentically Vintage

Authentically vintage! This beautiful room reminds me of the lovelies I've been posting from Elm Street Antiques. If you are a regular reader of Gracious Hospitality, you know that this shop inspires me each time I'm there. Paula tends the shop, so you've heard me speak mostly of her, but it's co-owned by her sister, Terri. And this, dear readers, is a scene from Terri's home. She lives in another state, but her influence is felt keenly in the shop that she and Paula keep. Recently Paula went to visit her sis, and snapped pictures to share of all the lovely vintage corners in each and every room. Thank you, Terri, for giving permission to post them here. I know that readers will find them as charming and serene as I do. So stay tuned, more scenes to follow as the days go by.

What is it that you find most quaint and charming in this room?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Sunday for Tea

Sunday for tea
I'll see you Sunday for tea
And though it's not far away
Each hour's a day to me

Lettuce and ham
Or maybe crumpets and jam
Oh baby it'll be fun
Havin' a Sunday tea

And as you pass the sugar bowl to me
I'll see at last your heart and soul will be with me

Sunday could be
A special Sunday for me
Together we'll surely find
We're two of a kind are we
On Sunday for tea


*pansy and/or violets teacups*

The "March Cactus"

The "March Cactus" continues to bloom! I'm enjoying it's heavy white blossoms. Cheerful and graceful, it's elegant in front of the picture window. I'm so glad it finally decided to show it's pretty self!

Happy Spring!!!

Spring has arrived! Beautiful daffodils burst into bloom on the first day of spring. How cool is that? I couldn't resist bringing some inside to help with the ongoing evolution of the table centerpiece! Cheerful, yellow, fresh, and fragrant --- they anchored the centerpiece that was surrounded with colorful nests and eggs.
Happy Spring!

By the way, Vee has caught the centerpiece bug. Visit her and see what is gracing her table today.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Centerpiece Evolution

It's fun to create centerpieces out of things you have around the house and to observe their evolution as days pass. I'm always adding or taking something away and the centerpiece becomes a dynamic part of the home decor. Today's table centerpiece isn't all that different than last weeks unless you look closely. A gathering of milk glass candy dishes become pedestals for mismatched antique bread and butter plates. Tiny birds nests and eggs with a glass dome atop create variation in height on the dining room table. Candles circled by napkin rings guard each end. Featured center is a cheese dome covering a porcelain bouquet of Old Country Roses flowers in a vase. A cheerful yellow bird adds accent and three tiny crystal vases are scattered throughout, waiting for some garden flowers to be placed in the scene. Maybe tomorrow, as there are little snowdrops and crocus blooming in the tea garden outside the door. . .

Centerpieces ala Spring!

Edith Shaeffer, in her book The Hidden Art of Homemaking, shares her belief that there should always be a centerpiece on the dining room table. She emphasizes how this brings grace and beauty to the home, and how children benefit from the centeredness that results from this tradition. Centerpieces do not need to be expensive or store-bought. She empathizes the use of objects found in nature; things that children can help gather. Twigs, shells, rocks, leaves, moss, and flowers are all things that can be found outside quiet easily. Even in the coldest months of winter, evergreen branches or dry twigs can be used. Ever since reading her her book, I have tried to keep a simple centerpiece on the dining room table. It changes according to mood and what is available. My centerpiece for early March was made of a place mat, a round plate, sea shells, and a potted daffodil plant. Simple, yet effective, it helped bring SPRING to the dining room table!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Doll Quilt

Please come with me as I take a short walk down memory lane. Recently, when sorting through a box of things given to me by my sister, I found a little doll quilt that my mother made for us. Seeing it flooded me with a multitude of emotions and memories. Imperfect and random, this quilt reminds me of my childhood and my mother. Mom always had a project in hand and when sister and I were children, those projects usually represented something she was making for us --- a doll dress, a blanket or quilt, or things for us to wear. Just as antique quilts are dated by fabric choices, I can date this little quilt from my own memory bank. I recognize most of these fabrics as scraps from dresses made by my "second mother", Auntie Joyce. From this analysis, I can date this quilt at about forty-some years old. Who'd have thought in those days that this many years later it would carry me back to those childhood memories, of mom and Auntie Joyce --- the important women in my life. They were the ones who helped form me into the person I am today, presenting values, ideals, and teaching lessons that remain to this day. Each vastly different, yet friends who represented similar core values and then imparted them on to me.

And all this from my little doll quilt. . .

March Cactus

Look what's blooming at my house! This is not the norm for me. Beautiful, blooming Thanksgiving and Christmas cactus plants enter my home from the market, never to bloom again. I have tried everything! They've sat for a month in a dark closet, they've been fertilized, they've been placed in a room that has 12 hours of darkness, and they've been both ignored and watered. All to no avail. Whenever someone posts a beautiful, blooming specimen of such on their blog, I am sure to send them a comment, inquiring about their secret to success. Well, I don't know what happened, but after several years of such tactics, my claw-leafed "March" cactus decided to bloom. I am so delighted! It's been given a place of honor and I'm enjoying it to the hilt! You might wonder what I finally did to make it bloom. I am not sure, but I recently moved it to a spot right in front of the living room window. It may have wanted more light.

Comments and ideas welcome! I still have a Christmas cactus in pink that sends forth new leaves but no flowers. I'd like to see it in bloom as well.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Katie's Purse

Karleen, my friend and neighbor, has been teaching her niece, Katie, how to sew. Recently Katie finished this beautiful handbag. Isn't it colorful and pretty? Katie is 12 and in the 7th grade. I think she did a terrific job! Make no mistake, one can't help but be cheered up when looking at something so colorful and fresh! Great job, Katie! If I were your teacher, I'd give you an A+.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Upside Down Spring

Do you turn your house upside down in the spring? Not literally, of course, but in a spring cleaning kind of way? I used to enjoy reading old-fashioned books where spring cleaning was done and the author described how they polished and dusted the parlor. Ma Ingalls, Laura, and Mary were such hard workers! Nowadays when we think of spring cleaning, it often means not only cleaning, but reorganizing or changing our home displays and decor. Winter things are put away, and lighter colors and spring themed items are set out to enjoy. Sometimes a window shopping trip to a favorite store helps to inspire and motivate us in this direction. It's fun to see how displays are set up and to glean ideas for reusing and displaying the things we already have. Occasionally a new item or two is all that's needed to create an entirely new look in a cozy corner or on a display table. If you click on this picture, it will enlarge and maybe you can glean some new ideas for displays in your home. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sagebrush by Shore

gray green leaves
with tiny yellow blossoms
late summer.

Early spring
leaves brittle and tight
awaiting sunshine
to make them supple
and fragrant.

River smooth as glass
walking the shore with
no worry of snakes
because of coldness in the air.

Awaiting trains,
sure to pass
with a toot and a wave
the engineer enjoys
sharing friendliness
in this isolated place.

Sand, twigs, prickers,
the shore
driftwood and stones
tossing games
walking paths and
balancing rail.

Thankfulness for wide
open spaces, quiet,
nature, and God's grace.

Cheerful Color

My mother never liked the color yellow. As a child, I never remember any yellow home decor or mother in a yellow dress. She wouldn't even plant yellow flowers in her flower garden. As a result, my opinion of yellow was similar until I started planting gardens of my own. Then, I couldn't avoid daffodils, marigolds, and buttercups! They were so cheerful and it was such a happy color! Yellow has not made it's way into my home, though, until recently. Especially as winter waxes long, I tend to seek out cheer through bright colors --- like yellow. The project at hand is a new valance for the window above the kitchen sink. And the color? Yellow! I think it will bring much cheer to the kitchen each day.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


As winter draws to a close, cravings for something new, fresh, and green become enhanced. It's time for sprouts! It seems like I go through this every year. Wishing for baby lettuce and fresh peas, and knowing that it will be another six or eight weeks before that can become a reality (I have to plant my garden first), I turn to my kitchen drawer and withdraw a package of tiny alfalfa seeds. One tablespoon of seed in a quart jar is set to soak overnight in some cold water. In the morning, the seeds are drained, rinsed, and drained again. A mesh cap contains the seeds while allowing water to be drained without losing the seeds. The moisture in the jar is enough to provide water to the seeds and they are best left in a dark cupboard for a day or two. Then they are removed to a sunny spot on the counter. Daily rinsing helps them grow fast! Within four or five days -- wallah! Fresh, green sprouts for salads or sandwiches! My favorite sandwich this time of year is one where bread is spread with Veganaise, layered with sprouts, and sprinkled with mineral salt. It's so delicious! This is a popular item in our household, so it's a good idea to start a new jar every day or two so that you don't run out of this nutritious and tasty fresh food.

Other seeds can be sprouted as well, each having a different nutrient benefit. Radish, broccoli, cabbage, lentil, mung bean, barley, and alfalfa are just a few of the tasty seeds that can be sprouted for family use.

Flower-Like, Shower-Like

Flowers are lovely; love is flower-like;
Friendship is a sheltering tree;
Oh the joys that came down shower-like,
Of friendship, love, and liberty.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Monday, March 09, 2009

Tea Guys

Thank you, tea-guys, for your enthusiastic service at 'afternoon tea'. Your smiles and appreciation for the tea experience warmed my heart. It's a huge task to be responsible for an entire tea room! I am lifting my teacup to you!

To link to another interesting tea guy, visit 42Leaf.

Our Souls Blossom

to those

who make us


they are the charming


who make our souls


Sunday, March 08, 2009

Flowers and Sparkles

Desiring spring, little bits of color and early season's blossoms added color and cheer to the table decor during a birthday week-end. Gluten-free cakes, decorated with flowers and sparkles, were topped with Soy Good frozen dessert. Narcissus set in a base of sea shells, tiny eggs in nest under dome, and a tiny bouquet of snowdrops set atop a chocolate cake made the celebration pretty, but best of all were the young adults who came home for the week-end to share of their time, energy, and gift of love. Funny cards to make us laugh --- sweet sentiments added with pen and ink --- remembering times past and thinking up plans for the future. Blessed.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

11, 12, 13 or 15 Bean Soup

Cozy packages of 11, 12, 13 or 15 Bean Soup at the health food store or supermarket always interest me. They look so inviting and tasty. Some have little seasoning packets in them, some do not, but come with a recipe on the label. The cozy packaging increases the price, but the less expensive bulk from the bin bean soup mix makes you rely upon your own recipe files and choice of herbs and spices. Sometimes disorganized, I never can seem to keep the recipe for this soup in one spot. Finally, I've found the desired ingredient list and have it filed away in my computer recipe file --- and will post it here to share with you. You'll need:

about 4 cups of 11, 12, or 13 Bean Soup legume blend, rinsed
12 cups of water to cook the beans - more as needed
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until beans are tender. I usually start the beans in the morning and they are cooked and ready by suppertime.

2 cans of tomatoes - more or less according to your taste
salt to taste - do not add until beans are tender, as salt inhibits bean cooking
a blend of these herbs and spices to taste
(be brave and liberal in your measurements)
chili pepper
celery seed
cumin seed
black pepper (optional)

My additions to this recipe (and to most of my soup recipes) are a splash of Tamari or Bragg's Liquid Aminos and the juice of 1/2 a lemon.

Serve with your favorite herbs for garnish, a dab of Tofutti Sour Cream, and a biscuit.

A vegan and gluten-free cozy supper! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Snug and Cozy

I'm quite sure that your spouse always picks up after himself (herself), but sometimes that doesn't happen at our house. It's been a chilly and rainy week, and while the dogs are busy hogging the heat in front of a wood fire, the cat found his own cozy spot to sleep. He tucked himself into a pair of jeans and was as snug as can be. Bucky does have a way of making himself right at home anywhere!

I hope your week has been snug and cozy too!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Friendship's Joy

Life interfaces with life. Every day we come in contact with people who make our lives more enjoyable. Relationships give us pleasure and joy. Most of us are creatures of routine, and these routines give us stability and security. If you are like me, you look forward to the people you meet routinely as you go through the flow of your life. I'd like you to meet one of my friends, Vi. She has her hair done at the salon each week. I'm not there weekly, but I always go at the same time on the same day of the week. Thus, I have come to know and appreciate Vi. She has an infectious smile and always shares a joke or two. We've even had lunch together and I have enjoyed listening to her life memories. She's been widowed for thirty years, but when you talk to her, the depth of her love for her husband strikes you. She speaks of him so fondly and as though he's been gone just a few short days. A few weeks ago she celebrated her 90th birthday and we all sang to her, brought her gifts, and enjoyed birthday cake together. Vi's friendship solidifies my belief that friendship is not dependant at all upon being the same age or being at the same place in life. Her friendship is a valued treasure.

While I am sharing, please indulge me as I continue with a funny story about her hairdresser. Heidi provides her with great service each week, treating her as a grandmother. She is one of the anchors in Vi's life. Well, years ago when Heidi was a high school student, she was in my class. My classroom had a dressing room with a large mirror at one end. Heidi would frequently disappear from class to go comb her hair or apply more make-up. I remember going in to the dressing room to get her, saying "Heidi, this is not cosmetology class. Come sit down at your desk again". She loves that story and we laugh about it together, as she eventually did go to cosmetology school and is now a gifted hairdresser. She gives me credit for planting the idea in her heart.

People make life meaningful. Enjoyment, security, and warmth result when we interface with others in a friendly way each day. I'm so glad to be able to interface with you as well! Blog friends are just as awesome as 90-year-old friends from the beauty salon or former students who like to tease.