Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Easy Sunday Morning Brunch

Love the rhinestone collars for wine bottles or decanters - available at  the store

My favorite champagne glasses- Palais by Bayel in France

Puffed and golden brown just out of the oven

I wanted to prepare a simple -no stress- brunch for Sunday morning. So I assembled an Overnight
Raspberry French Toast the night before that was so easy.  The next morning I took the casserole out of the refrigerator and added the crumble to the top along with the fresh raspberries and popped it in the oven.  The smell was divine as the French toast baked.  Asiago and Parmesan scrambled eggs and uncured applewood smoked bacon were leisurely prepared while  the casserole baked. As a finishing touch, I sliced fresh oranges and added raspberries with a little Grand Marnier splashed into the bowl.
A little champagne poured into a glass and breakfast was ready!  Note:  this baked French toast is light, fluffy and very good. I think you could add pecans to the crumble topping and make it  even more deelish.  Any berry could be substituted. While I sliced the challah bread into slices, I think it would have been more consistent presentation if I had diced the bread  into cubes and made French Toast bread pudding- something I will try next time! But definitely a keeper of a recipe and one that can be easily adapted. We will be joining for Tablescape Thursday.
Baked Raspberry French Toast
12 slices of bread
8 large eggs
4 T.  granulated sugar
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
3 c. milk
2 c. fresh raspberries, cleaned
4 T.butter, softened
1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
Butter a 9 by 13 baking dish.  In the prepared dish, arrange the bread in layers, cutting in half as needed for coverage.  In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, vanilla and milk. Pour over the bread. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. 
Pre heat oven to 375 degrees.  Remove the dish from the refrigerator and sprinkle the fresh raspberries over the bread.  Combine the butter, flour and brown sugar; blend with a fork until combined.  Sprinkle over the berry layer.  Bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until puffed and brown.
Serve immediately with syrup.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

40th Anniversary Dinner at Everest

All of the tables are graced with special sculpures by Ivo Soldini, a sculptor from Switzerand.

Sun just going down as we finally arrived

darkness over the west side of the city

Dining room

Amuse Bouche

My souffle- New Wave Souffle- fromage blanc, compote of peach and pistachios

Mr RTH''s treat - Tahitian Vanilla and Strawberry Glace in Berry Coulis

A special treat given to us by the restaurant

terrine of chocolate crepe and banana brulee in maple caramel syrup

In House Chocolates - served to you with coffee after   your meal.
We planned  our 40th anniversary dinner at Everest Restaurant on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange.  However, I must say that we could have almost  climbed Mt. Everest in the same time that it took us to drive into the city on Friday night.  It was the longest drive ever - over 2 hours and 45 minutes, so we had to call the restaurant and ask to move our reservation back an hour.  They were so understanding and accommodated our wishes.   As we finally entered the restaurant  ( it is very difficult to find - especially when the city of Chicago has closed all the streets around it to work on the El - and everything is one way - the wrong way- the GPS lady is going crazy telling you to "turn right here" and you can't- you finally find the special parking garage- enter the closed gate and find your way to the inner garage dedicated to Everest- enter a elevator to the lobby and exit to the street level to find another elevator to the 39th floor- exit the elevator and find the special elevator to the 40th floor where you exit and follow a series of hallways to Everest! See what I mean?) However as our "worn out faces" entered the restaurant, the restaurant staff greeted us with smiles  and handed us a martini  and  glass of wine immediately and told us they were sent by our friends- Mariterese and Pat.  What  special treatment and boy did we need them by that  point!  We were seated at a table by the window  just in time to see the sun setting in the horizon and began to enjoy a most memorable meal.  Lobster, fresh oysters, veal tenderloin, venison, special amuse bouches after each course and decadent souffles and creme brulee's were enjoyed while enjoying the Chicago skyline.  The service is relaxed and allows you time to enjoy every detail of the exquisitely plated dishes.  The meal was served over a 2  1/2 hour time, slow and leisurely.  The staff was attentive, but not pushy - just right service! We finished the meal with delicate chocolates from the dessert kitchen, each one a little work of art.  Unfortunately, my phone  pictures are not great  and do not do this place or the food justice.  But this restaurant is a beautiful choice for a special occasion. After a most wonderful meal, we  found our way back down the series of elevators and drove back in home in less than an hour! Love it when there's no traffic! 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Butterflies Provide Interior Design Color Inspiration

Pretty colors  of black, taupe and peach

Black and Turquoise with a touch of red! Reminds me of Mariterese's living room

Black, White and Caramel - my family room colors1

Black and Creme

chartreuse and brown

Shades of brown and creme

Black and tomato red with a touch of white

Black and white- soft and feminine design

More black and white- strong and masculine design

Butterflies eating the decaying fruit left in feeders in the house

Arbor over the main path leading into the gardens

gracefully flowing in the soft breeze

making honey

the sunflowers are almost ready to flower.


The white zinnias in front of the water feature was gorgeous

the leaves on this canna lily are beautiful.

love this chartreuse sedum ground cover.

Isn't this a painting by Monet??

Kangaroo Paw - did not know it grew here!

Planting in groupings of color really makes a difference- 25 plants together are much more impactful than 3!

This weekend, Mr. RTH and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary - wow- how did we get so old?  So he surprised me this morning by taking off work ( something he NEVER does) and took me to the Chicago Botanic Garden to see the Butterfly House!   All he said is "bring your camera".  Arriving at the white tented structure, we were ushered into a vestibule before entering the Butterfly House - a precautionary area  to keep the butterflies trapped in the house.  Then a screen flap was opened and we entered the house.  I was utterly amazed  to see how many butterflies were flying around in this magical retreat.  The tent was planted with flowers that butterflies love.   You had to be careful not to step on them, as they landed on any available surface.  Capturing their colors with my camera was tricky as they didn't stay still for very long, especially the blue ones. Their colors are magnificent, giving me lots of ideas for  color applications in rooms.  If you live in the Chicago area, you have to see this exhibit ( especially if you have little children) .  Leaving the butterfly house, we spent the next hour or so walking the exquisite gardens.  The flowers are at their peak and the vegetable garden is full of vegetables.  This weekend is a Heirloom Tomato seminar with cooking demos and seed saving tips.  We are very fortunate to have this incredible resource in our area.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vintage Millinery Flowers

A collection of freshly steamed millinery flowers on a silver tier tray- what a pretty accent for a dressing table.

A chartruese velvet roses is placed next to a bouquet of white lilacs on a silver tray.

found this old pink velvet rose in London on Portobello Road in 1991! I remember getting cold chill bumps when I spotted it!

Love the little velvet cherries on the old headband.

tying a collection of several flowers together for a sweet tussie mussie.

Adore this hard to find orange color.

velvet flower just being taken out of storage box- crumpled up.

Heating a pot filled half way with water to boiling and placing a splatter ring on top creates a
great way to gently steam the flowers back to their original shape. 

Flower after being steamed for about 3 minutes

I have been collecting vintage millinery flowers for over 30 years.  The craftsmanship skills in each one is a work of art- cutting, gluing, dyeing, painting  and assembling each one.  After looking at some of the couture runway shows in Paris this summer, I realized how many designers had used flowers on their gowns and decided to dig my collection out and pay a little attention to it. So Sunday afternoon, I steamed, sorted and displayed the favorite flowers in  my collection.  I have found the best way to re-shape them is to place a grease splatter screen over a pot of boiling water and lay the flowers on top. After a few minutes, the steam gently forces the petals open and with your fingers you can press them back to their original shapes.  After shaping them, I placed my favorite ones on a silver tier tray for display in a guest bedroom.  The colors look so pretty together and all the different textures create an interesting display.  Deciding to keep only a few,  I re-shaped the rest, made little bouquets and took them to the store to sell.  Hopefully, someone else will be enchanted by their sweet little faces and take them home to enjoy.