January 25, 2015


I follow FOOD52 on instagram and they recently posted this dreamy looking cake shared by Amanda Hesser.  Her note about this cake read: “My mother has many specialties, but her Chocolate Dump-It Cake is most beloved in my family. She kept this cake in the fridge, and it is sublime even when cold. I wrote about this cake in my second book, Cooking for Mr. Latte, but wanted to celebrate it here on food52″.  Well that was enough for me to try it for a family dinner party – My Father-in -law Loves chocolate cake so it’s apropos.  These images are all mine, I have to say it was pretty easy to make but I’m a tad disappointed that the melted chocolate froze up a bit when I added the sour cream for the frosting.  So be warned, make sure your sour cream is room temp and your chocolate isn’t too cool when you add the melted semi-sweet chips.  Also, the dinner party is in a few hours from now so i can’t tell you how sublime this cake is… just yet.  : )  Serves 10. And it looks pretty, love the simplicity.  Thanks Amanda!


2 cups sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/4 pound unsalted butter (1 stick), plus more for greasing the pan
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups Nestle’s semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups sour cream, at room temperature


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and place a baking sheet on the lowest rack, to catch any drips when the cake bakes. Put the sugar, unsweetened chocolate, butter and 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until all of the ingredients are melted and blended. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the milk and vinegar. Grease and flour a 9-inch tube pan. (If you prefer, you can grease it, line it with parchment and then grease and flour it. This is not necessary, but parchment does make getting the cake out easier.) When the chocolate in the pan has cooled a bit, whisk in the milk mixture and eggs. In several additions and without overmixing, whisk in the dry ingredients. When the mixture is smooth, add the vanilla and whisk once or twice, to blend. Pour the batter into the tube pan and bake on the middle rack until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool on a rack. (This can be tricky – if someone is around, enlist them to help. Place a ring of wax paper on top of the cake so you have something to grab onto when turning it out.) Let cool completely.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, then let cool to room temperature. It is very important that the chocolate and sour cream be the same temperature, otherwise the icing will be lumpy or grainy. (Test it by stirring a little of the sour cream and chocolate together in a bowl; if it mixes smoothly, it’s ready.) Stir in the sour cream, 1/4 cup at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Taste some! It’s good. When the cake is cool, you may frost it as is or cut it in half so that you have two layers (when I do this, I use 2 cups chocolate chips and 2 cups sour cream). My mother uses any leftover icing to make flowers on top. She dabs small rosettes, or buttons, on top, then uses toasted almond slices as the petals, pushing them in around the base of the rosette.IMG_7661

The Perfect Bathroom

January 19, 2015


I’m staring down two bathroom remodels and in many ways they couldn’t be more different and in other ways they will end up with many of the same details.  One bathroom is tiny and has an egress out to the yard and beach and a step down which prevents certain floor plans, the other is a good sized room with a paladin window on the largest of the four walls and three doors.  What to do?!?  Well…

BATHROOM 1. Is hopefully going to get a full slab shower stall.  It’s simple, rich, and spare but still has a quality and a quiet elegance I think this little room needs.  The plan will be to have a removable teak “mat” inside the shower and a rain style shower head.  Frameless glass door is a must to maintain the simple, uncluttered vibe.  tumblr_mcfzmiz9yb1qbvgdqo1_500 It’s shaping up to look a lot like this image (above) but I want to bring back some more traditional elements so I won’t do a poured concrete counter top or the contemporary open shelving instead I’m thinking horizontal V-grove boards on the walls with built-in medicine cabinets and a sink that feels like an updated throwback like the bathroom below.  I think I really like the oversized dark floor of this bathroom too.  Should hide dogs hair, dust and debris better than a white floor (the other option I’m thinking about).6de34996d865531d9b3effaac9b27aa6


BATHROOM 2. Is a big room to fill, but I need to get a tub, shower, toilet and 2 sinks into a room with three doors and a BIG window.  I really want to put the sink into an armoire, the idea of “furniture” in this space appeals to me because I think the room – it’s also 9.5 foot ceilings – needs to be filled up a bit.  This idea might make two sinks impossible but the extra sink is more negotiable than the tub, shower or toilet.  Those are must haves!  There are existing hardwood floors in the room currently, and I’d like to make them work either as is or perhaps painted, I love a painted floor.  I am planning on subway tiles floor to ceiling in this room with V-grove board ceiling and an over sized lantern centered in the room.  This bathroom will be mostly if not all traditional.  ck12

What do you care?  Well, here are the lessons in todays blog: 

1. Before you call the contractor, and before you head out to go shopping for finishes.  PICK A STYLE or the “look” you think you want to achieve.  This will help you from getting distracted once you are standing in front of all those bright and shiny choices and you either glaze over or pick something that has nothing to do with your desired look.

2. MAP IT OUT.  Spend as much time as you have planning and playing with how the room can be set up, use tape on the floor to do this, or make templates from newspaper or draw mini versions (to scale, kits available on-line if you don’t have this talent) and plan, plan, plan.

3. Like most of us, you probably have a budget.  It’s pretty helpful to MAKE A LIST of everything you think you need and put a price next to it to help you understand how much you have to spend on each item.  Splurging on a sexy faucet might mean going cheap on the toilet.  Mosaic tile floor might mean run of the mill tile in the shower.  Once you have your list, be sure to subtract the contractors (and sub-contractors) labor estimates, reduce your over all budget number and then have fun shopping.

4. Unless you intentionally want some shock value keep the overall vision of your project in keeping with the architecture of the home/condo/apartment.  There is nothing worse than walking in a Colonial home and getting hit with a Tuscan bathroom.   WRONG.  Want Tuscany? Move there.

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Craft Day: Gift Tags

January 17, 2015

IMG_7445 I don’t know what you do with the Christmas cards you receive each year, but I tend to hang on to most if not all of them.  I literally have a small drawer in the built-in china cabinet, where we keep a dry bar set up, and it is full of Christmas cards from the past few years.  It would be the ideal place to keep festive cocktail napkins – because everyone should have bountiful amounts of festive cocktail napkins, appropriate the occasion – bottle openers, swizzle sticks and other bar accoutrement.  Well, I emptied the drawer into my tote bag and packed along a good pair of scissors and a hole punch and this weekend I will create gift tags from these relics.  I’ve opted out of getting too cute with pinking shears to edge with and have decided to just take a straight forward approach and let the art of the card being recycled guide me. The picture above shows you can choose to follow a deign and cut on established lines, or I prefer to trim most of the edges away and go for a “full bleed” look because i think it makes the card look more intended and less recycled.  It’s a game for me to see how many tags I can get from a single card, it’s all about the art and where the sender signed it.


Here’s the easy how to…

I like to separate the front of the card from the back if the art doesn’t continue on the back, so go through your stack and sort them first.  Two sided in one pile, one-sided gets torn into two.  discard the signed back halves.  Decide how many cards you can make from one front (it all depends on how you fold and cut it really) but try to get two or three per large card one to two on mid-sized cards… occasionally you’ll only get one, and that fine.  Again, let the art dictate the format.

For this demonstration I cut a bit more irregularly than I typically would, but even still it makes an interesting gift tag, don’t you think?  So cut and then fold your note cards and then add a hole for string, ribbon, raffia or what have you.  I’m away from where i keep my scrap ribbons and things, but I will add color-coordinated fasteners later and package in plastic corsage bags available at craft stores or your local flower mart or on-line I’m sure if you live in the boonies.

IMG_7446All you really need is a scissors and a hole punch but a ruler to draw cutting guideline might help you if you can’t cut a straight line.  And, If your extra crafty… You will have some cards with great art that doesn’t allow you to fold and cut into perfect little gift cards.  Use those cut out and applied to larger pieces of craft paper to make Christmas cards to be sent or passed out next year.  You will have a heck of a time finding envelopes to fit your hand-made cards unless you source those first and cut the card to fit first and then embellish with your cheery cut outs.  Don’t be afraid to use ribbons, bows and anything else you can make fit in an envelope.  And for the person you really like to annoy, collect all the punch out dots and add them to the card you send them next year : )  now that’s recycling.  IMG_7449

Color Crush: Grey & Camel

January 12, 2015

eefd085d3bcf49ba5cd8683ae2c42647e5ec43bfc455c4635314150df52aba2dI’m certain that I have blogged before about the (still trending) color of the moment grey.  I have most likely already stated that the cool tone benefits from the warmth of a camel or beige, or gold and if you must… yellow.  All are good complimentary colors, but do me a favor and stay away from yellow with grey, it can look very cheap and flat very quickly.  If you really want to use yellow use the color sparingly and aim for a curry yellow not school bus or neon.  I prefer the subtle and warm balance from beige and camel because its softer and more tonal, the goal is to balance not create contrast.  Almost any warm neutral will be a good foil to a cool grey or a warm grey, even little hits of brass will do the trick.  I’m going to leave it at that, enjoy the eye candy…6325c5008677cfc93cd905e25b991671

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A grey and camel palette can even work in a kitchen… that is if you don’t go all white : )


White Kitchens & Stoves

January 4, 2015


You know I love a white kitchen, so much so this blog could almost be called “White Kitchens & A Few Other Things” but I love a good vibe too.  And nothing gets you to a Kitchen that feels authentic and original like an old stove; or a stove that has that feeling, like an Aga.  I am a firm believer that the interiors and exteriors need to have a dialog.  I’m not saying they have to match, It can be a fun surprise to walk in to the unexpected, but for the most part you can’t go wrong to match the should vibe of the architecture to the interior build-out, be it kitchen, bath or other.  I guess as much as I love modern, my heart skips a bit when I see old original hardware, enameled stoves, and quirky windows and well constructed built-ins that are original to any structure.

tumblr_nekf6iSSVo1qhvtlqo1_500The stove might not be white in this one but the 20’s/30’s tile work and the enameled pendants give this functional kitchen an always been there, vintage feel… the distressed wooden floors add to the aged patina.

tumblr_ne9y637ij21tuwdc7o1_500Not so vintage but so well done!  love the marble waterfall down the side of the base cabinets, Love  the slab back-splash, and LOVE the double shelf in lieu of upper cabinets.  Of course the white floors and vintage(ish) refrigerator keep the modern from going to contemporary and ‘soften the edges’ of this sleek space.

tumblr_ncy3irkgIG1qc91i1o1_500CRUSH! On this range big time.  It might be a LaCornue but the hardware looks more like a Bertazzoni, regardless this is a pretty range.  And it would add the look and feel of quality to any kitchen.  I think I need one of these in my life!  Stainless is so yesterday.


I have always liked the classic Hudson Bay blanket.  The primary colors of the signature HBC Collection striped point blanket first became popular in the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714). First commissioned by HBC in 1800, the multi stripe has never been out of production since. It is the most popular colorway of all the HBC point blankets, past or present. Over time, it has become the product most identified with HBC, and by extension, Canada.  Calling it a classic is an understatement I guess!


Careful attention to detail and authenticity ensures that today’s customer is acquiring the same high-quality blanket as the one produced centuries before. Today the Point Blanket is manufactured in Yorkshire, at the finest woollen mill in England. The number of points, or handmade thin stripes, on the edge of the blanket reflects its size.  Authentic HBC blankets are 100% woven wool.e730b176575e411ba37467b9a58552d6

I have a pair of mid-century chairs that belonged to my grandmother that I would love to recover this way.  Even though the textile is wool, I think the palette would support any season and wool is so durable.  Who wants to help me convince my husband this is a good look for our chairs in our tiny cottage by the sea?


In a very simple room (all white) this sheet set or duvet cover could look cute, but beware! a little bit goes a very long way.  Please avoid the pillows to match, the candle and the coasters, iPhone cover and everything else this pattern is tortured into covering.  I think it’s best look is just being a blanket and after that, upholstery.  It looks so good on this little ottoman, doesn’t it?


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IMG_7270 So this first picture is really the aftermath, yep… it’s “the day after” but I really like the light and exposure in it and I think this image has more to tell than the frames I shot getting ready and throughout the night.  A good time was had by all and the room looked great with the gold and silver decor.  I didn’t hang globes from the chandelier, but i did hang streamers ove all the curtain rods and made great looking and festive “sheers” a must for next year!  The balloons allowed me to get the streamers into the middle of the room, the effect was great.  I also allowed for a touch of winter by leaving the faux-snow I had out, and using white ornaments to fill a hurricane.


Our menu was: To start, Gougeres, Scallops with Bacon Jam, Avocado and Orange Salad, then we had Filet of Beef with Mushrooms, Creamed Spinach, Yorkshire Pudding AND then we had Champagne and Baked Alaska.


What really struck me was the tradition of it all.  My Mom’s avocado, orange and shrimp salad for instance.  She always served it at Christmas, and it’s a great winter salad.   And, it seems my default New Years the dessert has become baked Alaska; I love to make it – home-made pound cake base, 3 kinds of home-made ice cream (Chocolate, Sour Cream and Raspberry) all stacked neatly under my new favorite… Meringue.  Even the plates and serving platters had meaning… the fish plates were my Grandmothers and the Scallop platter was a wedding gift.  Decorations are important but things with meaning will resonate and add a layer of sentiment streamers can’t. IMG_7281I did want to make the night fun and silly for our guests, So I put up a crown making station in the front hall.  Guests drank champagne, nibbled on tasty bits and hot glued to their hearts content making hats for the big countdown.  It was a great success.  We chose to draw numbers that corresponded to a particular pile of supplies, but you could just make a pile and let folks go crazy.  And, yes… everyone started out with a 1/2 a Veuve Clicquot  Champagne box as a base.  good times! IMG_7283


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