Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Special Easter Dessert

When we were little, every year around Easter, my mother made Bunny Cake to celebrate my sister's April birthday and the arrival of spring. If you're in a rush, I find that Dr. Oetker's organic vanilla cake mix works very well here, but if you prefer to make homemade cake, user the lawyers from my Grandma's Caramel Cake. Be creative with your choice of colors - you can make a pastel bunny or opt for bright colors, or go all white. Decorate the serving plate with fresh flowers and spring greenery just before serving. This cake makes a great centerpiece and is a wonderful way to welcome spring.

SERVES 6 - 8
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons whole milk (if necessary)
  • 1 8-inch  round white cake layer, cooled to room temperature
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
  • Jelly beans or other candies, for eyes and nose
  • Paper ears made from charming spring wrapping paper
  • Large-leafed greenery such as lilac leaves to surround the bunny

1. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, cream the butter until very light and fluffy. Add the confectioners' sugar and cream and beat until smooth. Beat in the vanilla and salt. If the frosting is too thick, beat in the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.

2. Cut the cake layer in half to make 2 semicircles. Spread the top of one semicircle with frosting and place the second on top. Stand the semicircle upright on a serving platter so the rounded side is up. Cut a small triangle out of one side and put it where the tail of the bunny would be (see diagram below).
3. Starting with the sides of the cake, spread the remaining frosting all over the bunny, being careful when you frost the cut areas of the cake so it doesn't crumble. Gently take handfuls of coconut and generously pat it all over the frosted bunny. Stick jelly beans onto the frosting to make eyes. Stick the ears in place. Surround the bunny with greenery and serve.



Monday, March 25, 2013

Easter Egg Dyeing 101

easter eggs

Eggs have long been a symbol for rebirth and fertility. What better way to celebrate Spring than with dyeing beautiful Easter eggs to share with friends and family? Read on for my simple egg dyeing tips to ensure your Easter festivities go off without a hitch!

Instead of hard-boiling the eggs, I like to blow them out before dyeing. You can save the eggs after the holiday and use them next year for decorations to hang from branches or displayed together in a bowl.

easter eggseaster eggs

1. Blow out the eggs. To empty the raw egg, use a small, sharp knife to pierce both ends of the egg with small holes. Next, poke a pin through the larger of the holes and stir the yolk. Hold the egg, larger hole down, over a bowl, and blow the contents out. This can be done using a rubber ear syringe to make things easier.

2. Prep your dyeing area. Put down newspaper on your counter or table to protect the surface from dyes. Mix 1 teaspoon of vinegar and about 20 drops food coloring in 1 cup of hot water. Make sure to use bowls deep enough to completely submerge your eggs.

3. Begin dyeing! Using metal tongs, carefully dip each egg into the bowl of dye. For deeper colors, leave the eggs in longer. To make two-color eggs, dye the entire egg first, let dry, and then dip half the egg into a darker color.

4. Let the eggs dry.

Once you have the basics of egg dyeing down, you can try different techniques to make some unique eggs.
  • Before dyeing the eggs, draw patterns or shapes on the shell with crayons or a small candle. The dye won't adhere to the wax and your patterns and shapes will shine through!
  • Cut a sponge into small cubes and sponge paint the dye onto the egg shells.
  • Create ombre eggs by letting the eggs submerge in dye for different periods of time, from a few minutes to longer.
  • Make speckled eggs by dipping a clean, dry toothbrush in acrylic paint and dotting the paint onto already dyed eggs.

easter eggs

Use your creativity and make sure to have fun! This is an excellent afternoon activity for children, as well. If you decide to use hard-boiled eggs, remember to throw them out after a few days or eat them as a protein-packed snack!

Have a lovely Easter everyone!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Out With the Old: Spring Cleaning

The first official day of Spring is tomorrow! I don't know about you, but I was ready for winter to be over weeks ago. With Spring comes exciting changes in the weather and in life itself. Prepare yourself for those changes by purging old dirt that has accumulated from the long winter of indoor living.


Wait until a weekend when it's warm enough to leave the windows and doors open. The sweet spring winds will carry dust out of the house and refresh the heart of the home.

Spring cleaning can seem daunting when you think of cleaning your entire home top to bottom, but if you break the process down into small projects, spring cleaning is not only manageable but easy. To help you get going, put on your favorite music while you clean. For my mother, this meant Frank Sinatra!

spring cleaning


1. Kitchen
Clean the refrigerator, removing all of the food and wiping down the shelves, walls, and bins with a nontoxic cleaner. Throw out old items and rearrange the food by type: dairy on one shelf, condiments in the door shelves, lettuces and fresh herbs in the crisper, and other vegetables and fruits in a second drawer if you have one. Put food that should be used quickly in an easy-to-see and easy-to-access spot. Store leftovers in glass and porcelain containers. To further minimize the use of plastic products, use upside-down plates to cover bowls containing leftover food.

2. Bathrooms
Go through the medicine cabinets and throw away all medicine that's old and/or past the expiration date. To prevent excess chemicals from entering the sewage system, don't flush the medicine down the toilet. To dispose of pills, crush them in a container and cover them with water. Fill the container with kitty litter to absorb the water containing the chemicals. Transfer to a plastic bag, seal, and put in the trash. Clean the toilet: Use a brush for the inside of the toilet, then wipe down the outside with environmentally friendly cleaners. Clean the sinks and shower (and look for any signs of mold). Clean the entire floor, paying special attention to the area around the toilet.

3. Bedrooms
Go through your closets and ask your family to do the same to theirs. Remove clothes you haven't worn for a couple of seasons. Put them aside and donate them to a local charity or clothing bank. Clean the floors, including under the beds where the dust collects. Open the windows while vacuuming to let the dust out. Europeans habitually air out their bedding and pillows by hanging them over the edge of windows to red rid of dust or mites. Do this regularly when the weather is nice.


4. Dining room and family room
These areas will collect the most dirt due to frequent use. Take all the cushions off the chairs and couches and vacuum under the cushions. You'll be amazed the amount of dust and crumbs you'll find. Move the furniture, and you'll discover that more dust awaits you. Vacuum thoroughly under the  dining room table. If you have an area rug, remove it and clean under it. Take the rug outside and put it over a railing, where you can beat the dust out and then let the rug air for an afternoon.

Happy cleaning!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Behind the Scenes of My Where Women Cook Shoot

The latest issue of Where Women Cook recently hit the newsstands and I have the honor of gracing the pages! Jo Packham, the creator and editor-in-chief at the magazine, as well as my favorite photographer John Granen, came to my home to shoot for the magazine. Take a look below for shots from the issue, as well as behind-the-scenes peeks!

The very talented artist, John, shot the photos in my book Coming Home: A Seasonal Guide to Creating Family Traditions, so I am always very comfortable being photographed by him.

Jo was on hand during the shoot to lend some inspiration - she is such an inspiration! She created the trio of magazines Where Women Cook, Where Women Create, and Where Women Create Business. The magazines celebrate women in all facets of life and I was delighted when Jo asked if I'd be in the magazine.

The current issue is on newsstands now - make sure to pick up a copy!


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Go Red Tablesetting Contest Winner

I'm so excited to announce the winner of the Go Red For Women Tabletop Contest! First, though, I'd like to thank each and every one of you who entered. Your tables were lovely, your stories heart-warming, and I was touched to see how many of you also care about heart health in women. Thank you again for sharing!

Grand Prize Winner

The Grand Prize winner is Dawn Grisham! Dawn shared her story with me:

"February is certainly the perfect month to raise awareness of good heart health. With Valentine's Day right in the middle, red hearts are everywhere!

When my children were little we always celebrated Valentine's Day with a tea party. We had a large decorated 'Valentine Mail Box.' In the week before Valentine's Day, we would all fill the box with handmade valentines, treats, and small gifts. The highlight of every tea party was delivering the mail. That and the always present large, heart-shaped chocolate cake!

Fast forward and a couple years ago, on Valentine's Day, I introduced my youngest daughter (in her 20's) to a real grown-up tea. I set the table with her great grandmother's china and served cucumber sandwiches, scones, fresh fruit, and miniature heart-shaped cakes with ganache frosting. Much to my delight, she fell in love with afternoon tea! I gifted her great grandmother's china.

Since then we've shared many wonderful teas together. Sometimes at local tea houses, sometimes in new cities when traveling. But our favorite thing to do is bake up a batch of scones, make a plate (or two) or tea sandwiches, set the coffee table with elegant china, each grab a seat, and put in one of our favorite girly movies like "Pride & Prejudice" or "The Holiday." Sunday afternoon well spent!

These pictures were taken last year at our Valentine's Day tea party. Once again, great grandma's china graces the table. I love vintage valentines and used copies for place cards. Pictured are my daughter and son-in-law."

What a wonderful story! Not only is her table lovely, but she shares the same favorite movies as me! I love that she's shared her tradition and love of afternoon tea with the next generation. Dawn will be receiving the entire French Linens collections, a set of the Vintage Glass Goblets in clear, and a signed copy of my book, Coming Home: A Seasonal Guide to Creating Family Traditions.

As I mentioned earlier, it was very hard picking only one winner, so I wanted to acknowledge the runners up! They will also be receiving a signed copy of my book.

  • Dimitra Gaitani
  • Bryan D. Harber
  • Nihal Kavici
  • Donna Richardson

Thank you all for your creativity! And a big thanks again to all those who entered!