Friday, October 10, 2014

Fall Touches for a Fall Dinner Table

I needed a little inspirations for a fall dinner table.  It all started when I went into a new store in Lake Bluff- Vintage Re-Imagined.  Spotting two small baskets with handles, I asked the store owner about them.  She informed me that they were carrying baskets for your glass as you went to drink the healing waters from a natural hot spring in France around the turn of the century. Well, I couldn't resist them!

  Purchasing them, I went next door to Twigs- our fabulous local florist- and asked them to design a small arrangement in one for my dinner table .  While I went to the grocery store to get the items I needed for dinner, Twigs created their usual floral magic!

The small arrangement was tucked inside cellophane and tied with a pretty ribbon.
I love peaking through that shiny cellophane at the flowers. 

 Unwrapped, the petite arrangement is packed with tulips, berries, ranaculus.  And if that isn't enough to delight your senses, a rhinestone covered velvet pumpkin is found in a bed of moss in the lid to the basket.  Has there ever been anything so sweetly designed?  I think not!

 One of my favorite household duties- I set the table with cream Juliska plates, over-sized linen napkins and silver and antler flatware!  

The table needs a little sparkle, so I add crystal wine glasses to the mix.

The Twigs arrangement  is placed in a compote to elevate it above the tray of larger velvet pumpkins.
Moss was tucked in  to fill in the gaps.

We all piled in to the kitchen banquette to enjoy candlelight, conversation  and
a simple fall dinner of Chicken Caprese,  Italian Green beans and a bottle of good red wine. Dessert followed- Mountain Dew Apple Dumplings and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.
Here's the recipe for the Apple Dumplings.
Try it- it's fun and it's good!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall Color at the Chicago Botanic Gardens

This weekend, we took our visiting guests to the Chicago Botanic Gardens.  While the wind was nippy and the temperature definitely fall like, the floral displays captured our senses. I want to share a couple of the stunning landscapes with you.

The top of the bridge entering the gardens- laden  with hanging flowers.

I have never seen such huge pots of mums!

 Inside one of the buildings,  large spheres of mums were hanging over the water feature.

Clumping several kale together, really makes a bigger impact.

This garden was beautiful- different tones of purple and greens.

Large pumpkins lined the wall of the vegetable garden.

The larger size pots allow space for many more plants- making a bigger impact.
Kale and lettuce - ready to pick.

Notice the wind in the willows- so graceful.

Chilled from our walk- time to head home, light the fire and fix a hot toddy.
The perfect fall afternoon!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Fall Containers

It's that time of year!  Time to switch out all the summer annuals for fall mums.  While the annuals aren't really ready to go, they have lost their perky summer personalities.  Time for them to say good-bye until next summer!

After living here for over 30 years, I have just been told of a fabulous nursery in Grayslake called Mini Earth.  How have I missed it?  I made a trip out last week to gather some fall plants for my front and back door pots.

Some of the summer plants just don't want to leave yet- the trumpet vines and the ferns.

But the summer impatiens are replaced with mums, kale and purple peppers.  The maiden hair fern is still doing well, so I keep it and mix it with the peppers and kale.  Mini Earth was also growing this tall black waxy leaf plant- perfect for adding height to the container.

Kale is tucked in the maidenhair fern pot with the summer coleus.
  I like the contrast of colors together.

 Next to the back door.  I decided to use the vintage olive baskets that I purchased in North Carolina this summer.   The potted mums fit perfectly in them.

The little statue holds the perfect gourd that I selected for it's curly stem from Mini Earth.

Another gourd is tucked into the pot with kale and peppers.

Another container is freshened up with kale.

My old broken angel- who has lost her arms repeatedly in Lake Bluff wind storms- is
gussied up a bit. I hide those broken arms by tying a pot of kale into her midriff.
She's good to go for another fall season!

A green pumpkin is placed in the arrangement to add the final touch.
I do love Lake Bluff in the fall. But my husband and I just spent a couple of days on our new property
in the Asheville area, working with the architect who will design our home. 
The natural beauty of the area is breath taking.

  While our property is on the river, a short drive up the mountain to 4100 feet, gives us these 360 degree views. On this trip, we finally had the time to drive up there.
 Yesterday morning, clouds hung low in the mountains and the air was crisp.
The leaves were just starting to turn. One can only imagine this scene in a couple of weeks.

 I leave you with this majestic view.  Nothing but the sound of wind and birds-

 Happy Fall!

Monday, September 22, 2014

St. Louis Wedding through the Eyes of the Groom's Mother

What can be better in life than attending a destination wedding with a close group of friends? Absolutely nothing!!!
 But first of all, let me explain something very important to this story. My close  friends and  I are  friends with the mother of the groom.  So our little bird's eye view of the upcoming nuptials were completely through her  crazy Italian eyes.
Our first duty as friends was to help plan the décor of the rehearsal dinner.  So my buddy Laurell drove 6 hours  with Christy to St Louis to choose a restaurant!  After spending 24 hours there, a restaurant was chosen.  Well, not really.  That would be too easy! The original choice was abandoned and a new search was on. Thank the Lord for the internet.  Once we knew an Italian venue was chosen, we proceeded to create the table décor for the dinner.
  And I can assuredly state that no other mother of the groom ( or even any bride)  has ever been so focused on finding the right dress- months of discussions- truly. In June, in  a severe desperate move, she even ordered a dress from China - a promise of a luxurious  designer gown at a truly unbelievable price.  As we anxiously  waited  2 weeks for the "China" dress to arrive, we planned a cocktail party to unveil the dress.  Tracking the dress from China, as if it was Santa Claus himself, bringing a million dollar gift, the dress arrived. Not waiting for us  ( if you can't tell already, she's very impulsive),  Christy opened the box and immediately sent out a text to cancel the party.  The dress was already in the trash.  Darn- we really thought that one was the one!   And after finding the right dress ( one she had found in the beginning of this little journey), the search was then  on for the shoes!  After ordering and trying on pairs and pairs and pairs- none were just right- too high, too expensive, too much,  just too! So my quick witted friend Laurell goes shopping with Christy at a high end department store outlet and they find a potential pair of shoes. Graceful, black, yet simple, these shoes will become our victim- we can't bear the thought of more shoe discussions!   Laurell suggests gluing rhinestones up the back of the heel- I think she's on to something big!  And I remember seeing a picture of another  pair of Christy's  rejected shoes with an incredible heel detail.  And I knew that a David Tutera embellishment from Joanne's would be  just the ticket to a fabulous pair of shoes.  A little E-6000 glue and a couple of clothes pins to hold it in place while it dried,- voila- a $1000 shoe look-a like!  More on those shoes later in the post!
So after these months of planning and laughing and just having fun- the wedding took place in St Louis this past weekend.  Leaving from Chicago on Friday morning, many  cars of Christy's friends  head south to St Louis, traveling through the "less than stimulating"  flat land of southern Illinois..  My car is loaded with wine bottles and red roses for the rehearsal dinner.
I have never spent any time in St. Louis, so this was a treat for me!  We stayed at the Chase Park Plaza in the west end with lots of great eateries.  The architecture was inspiring.

Tops of the roofs of the historic townhomes.
These street lamps were unbelieveable!

The balloon festival was also taking place in St Louis this weekend!  Awesome!
After getting checked in to the hotel,  Candy, Laurell and I head over to Cucina Pazzo to set up the rehearsal dinner while the bridal party is  at the wedding rehearsal.
Graciously being greeted by the  awesome Cucina Pazzo staff,  they help us  with the tables.  We decided to create a long communal table. ( highly recommend this restaurant!)

Some of the wine bottles were filled with roses and some with candlelabra holders.

Candy plays with the menu card and we finally decide on a simple layout and drape the black napkin over the edge.  

Labels of the Italian flag and a thank you from the bride and groom were glued on to the wine bottles.
Then hand dyed silk ribbon and a wax seal were added to the neck of the bottle.

We created a  menu in the shape of the Italian flag.
Laurell suggests opening some of the buds  and creating a larger flower.
Great idea- they look good  just laying on the table.

Can't wait to see all the candles lit!

A few rose petals get scattered along the center.
A fun task complete, Candy, Laurell and I head back to the hotel to have a glass of wine!
It's now  the day of the wedding and the weather is glorious. 
The wedding vows are complete and the new couple are heading back down the aisle.  
And as Christy's son passes his mom, the sweetest smile is on his face. 

He grabs her arm and pulls her into the sweetest mother-son hug.

Thank the Lord for water proof eye make-up!

A glance backwards to his mother- as he continues down the aisle.
Now that's a wonderful son! She raised him right!

  Red roses, tulips, ranunculus make up the bouquets.
We head back to the hotel for the reception and enjoy cocktails
 on an open terrace over looking St. Louis.

And  as if the red flowers were not enough red,
mother nature gives us a stunning red sunset to enjoy
Yes - a magical wedding day for sure!


Beautiful wedding cake with red roses. 
But what about those shoes?

Lordy me- what a statement!!

This Italian momma has great legs- you go girl!

Mission accomplished!
It's Sunday morning- time to head back to Chicago-  driving up I 55 - through that glorious maze of flat corn fields. Ugh! 
A little too much partying last night, but I wouldn't give up the memories or the friendship for the world.  This had been a fun journey with Christy- truly one of the most fun friends a girl can have.
I hope it was a magical time for her, in spite of all those gut wrenching wardrobe decisions that she was forced to make this year. 
By the way,  She Looked Fabulous!