Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Snowflake Pattern

I'm seeing snowflake pattern on all sorts of items this holiday season.  A positive for the pattern is that it is not just for holiday time but works well all winter long.  Think "chunky, ski sweater".

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Genius Idea: Umbrella with Cup Holder

Monday was a rainy day here in Michigan.  I could have used this clever umbrella.

Umbrella with cup holder $54
This is a clever idea.  When carrying an umbrella, one hand is dedicated to just that, leaving the other hand to contend with handbag or briefcase, opening doors, answering the phone...and no possible way to carry a coffee.  I wouldn't want to walk too far with the coffee in the umbrella holder but it would get you to the car or across the street.  Maybe this is a gift for the coffee lover who already has everything BUT the umbrella with a cup holder?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Monday

Happy Monday dear Spiral Style readers.  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration with plenty of delicious goodies and relaxing family/friend time.  Now that Thanksgiving is past for 2011, the focus turns to Christmas.  It is time to deck the halls.  

                      Source: via Deborah on Pinterest

I love this rustic pine cone wreath that has a beautiful distressed, blue door as a backdrop.  

                       Source: via Deborah on Pinterest

Another Pinterest find was this innovative treatment of a staircase.  A nice change from the ubiquitous garland.          

I would love to have a succulent wreath but it is a bit too cold where I live.

Do you like to decorate with natural materials or go for the bling with metallics and shine?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

For most Americans, the kitchen will be the center of activity for the next day or two.   Many kitchens probably don't have all the utensils typically used just for Thanksgiving meal preparation. 
 Martha Stewart had a "Good Things" article on what to use as substitutes for those specific tools you may not own. Click here to view the online article.  

Like Nordstrom, I celebrate one holiday at a time.  My condo is still awash in pumpkins, gourds, and mums.  BUT the morning after Thanksgiving, I hang my huge, lighted wreath above the mantle and pull out the Christmas napkins and place mats and some Christmas mugs I've had for ages.  Slowly I'll replace fall with Christmas.  I use mostly natural materials like paper white narcissus, greens, amaryllis and red twig dogwood but for bling, I add lots of colored glass balls in all sizes and colors.  
What is the first thing you do to get ready for Christmas?

Happy Thanksgiving
Enjoy the day and all your blessings.  See you Monday.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Free-Form Country Apple Tart

If you are apprehensive toward making an apple pie for Thanksgiving, try a free-form tart.  No need for a pie pan, a rimmed baking sheet will work just fine.  Don't have a rolling pin?  The first time I made a pie I realized I didn't have a rolling pin and used a wine bottle as a substitute!  

Just roll out the dough into a 13 inch circle (or as close to a circle as you can get)  The fruit is placed in the center and the edges of the dough are folded in over the apples, leaving the center of the tart exposed.  The rustic nature of the free-form tart allows for all sorts of shapes so don't worry about the appearance of your pastry.

The simple filling and flaky pastry are delicious.  The tart will feed 6 people.  Serve warm with some vanilla ice cream if desired.  
Free-Form Country Apple Tart
1 1/4 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel (optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) well-chilled unsalted butter cut into 12 pieces
4 tablespoons cold water
Blend flour,lemon peel and salt in food processor.  Add butter and cut in using on/off turns until mixture resembles coarse meal.  With machine running, pour water through feed tube and process just until dough begins to gather together. Remove from processor and  gather dough into ball, flatten into disk.  Wrap tightly and refrigerate 30 minutes or freeze 10 minutes (can be prepared 1 day ahead, stored in refrigerator)

3 apples appropriate for baking (such as Granny Smith)
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Calvados or other brandy
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter
powdered sugar
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Cut apples into 1/8-1/4 inch thick slices.  Toss with lemon juice and Calvados in large bowl.  Combine 1/4 cup sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon in small bowl.

Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface to 13-inch round (do not trim edges)  Transfer to large baking sheet.  Patch any tears in pasty by pressing together with fingers.  Place apples on pastry, mounding slightly in center and leaving 2-inch border of pastry all around.  Sprinkle apples with sugar mixture.  Dot with butter.  Fold pastry border in over apple filling.  

Bake tart 15 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 375 degrees and bake until pastry is golden brown and filling bubbles, about 35 minutes.  Allow to rest 5-10 minutes.  Using 2 spatulas, carefully transfer tart to serving platter.  Dust pastry edges liberally with powdered sugar.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

I hope you had a lovely, restful weekend.  I finished a knitting project and potted paper white narcissus bulbs for forcing.  The invitations for our annual holiday party were mailed and I tried some new recipes for the party menu.  

Now the countdown to Thanksgiving begins.  Hubby and I will be traveling to Minneapolis to celebrate Thanksgiving with our newly married daughter and her husband.  They'll get to use some of the wedding gifts, including a splendid Thanksgiving turkey platter.  We'll all cook together in her big kitchen.  Probably like most of you, we have our traditional favorites that appear year after year.  We make a stuffing with apples, sausage and can't do without some fresh cranberry sauce.  

My favorite turkey recipe is from the Williams-Sonoma Thanksgiving Cookbook.  The cider and butter will give the turkey a rich, mahogany-colored glaze.  
This book is a wonderful anthology of Thanksgiving meal planning and preparation from utensils to roasting and starters to desserts.  This would make a lovely gift for your holiday hosts.
I usually just make just the glaze and follow the roasting directions and make pan gravy with the drippings but the additions of shallots and Calvados makes for a very special gravy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Weekend: Keep it Simple

Just a few days until Thanksgiving.  So much to do!  Shopping, planning, baking, cleaning.  Make sure you take some time to relax this weekend.  

I saw my first snow flakes of the season yesterday and most of my neighbors have already decorated their houses for Christmas.  Feels like winter and looks like Christmas.  I'll hold out until after Thanksgiving.  The invitations for our annual holiday open house have been mailed and I'm working on the party food menu.  
While you relax this weekend, you may want to browse through the new, online editions of Lonny Magazine and Sweet Paul.  Lots of gorgeous photos of food, decorations and gift ideas. 
See you on Monday

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Meet and Greet Outfit

Tonight I'm going to the opening of holiday boutique at the Ann Arbor Art Center.  I sell my jewelry through the galley shop. The represented artists are encouraged to attend the event.  I will be wearing some of my jewelry so I need a basic look to showcase the jewelry.
Meet and Greet outfit

Meet and Greet outfit by spiralstyle 

I picked up this dress at Nordstrom two weeks ago.  I think the neckline will be perfect for the necklace I plan to wear.  I've got some kitten heel, sling backs I'll wear and substitute the J Crew wine colored belt for the wider python belt.  

I plan to wear this neckpiece...

...and a set of these bangles.  Some simple hammered hoop earrings will finish the look.
This is my first festive activity of the holiday season.  Should be fun.  
Have you been to any holiday events yet this season?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Non-guilty Pleasure

I just became aware of this awesome tea from Trader Joe's, Candy Cane Green Tea 

I'm a coffee drinker in the morning, often with an added shot of espresso, but in the evenings I like hot tea.  Candy Cane Green Tea is a seasonal tea from Trader Joe's.  It evokes the taste of candy canes with peppermint and a touch of vanilla and cinnamon along with some other flavors.  The overall taste is very subtle and just a bit sweet.  I'm a bit hooked on the stuff and bought several boxes.  When the holidays are over, the tea will disappear until next November.  Oh, and that is one of my new Target napkins in the red with white snowflake design.   

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cranberry-Orange Bread

It is the time of year for cranberries.  I love fresh cranberry sauce and cranberry bread.  This bread recipe pairs cranberries with orange. 

There are only 2 tablespoons of butter in the bread making it low fat but it is amazingly full of flavor.  Pecans add further texture and taste.

Cranberry-Orange Bread
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
Juice and grated rind of one orange
2 tablespoons melted butter
Boiling water
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 cup chopped cranberries

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Spread the pecan halves on a cookie sheet and place in the oven to toast gently while you proceed with the recipe.  Increase heat to 350 degrees when pecans have been removed from oven.

Sift together into a mixing bowl the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda.  Add the sugar and stir gently to mix.  

Place the orange juice and grated rind in a Pyrex or other heatproof measuring cup that holds at least one cup.  Add the melted butter and enough boiling water to make three-quarters of a cup of liquid.  

In a small bowl, beat the egg with a fork.  Add the hot liquid to the egg, beating continuously to mix well.  

Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients.  Add the milk and stir with a spoon to mix.  Remove the pecan halves from the oven and when cool enough to handle, chop them coarsely.  You should have approximately one cup.  Add the pecans to the bread mixture.  Add the roughly chopped cranberries.  

Spray a bread pan with cooking spray to prevent sticking and pour bread batter into pan.  Place pan in oven and bake for about 50-55 minutes or until bread springs back when touched lightly or toothpick comes out clean.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

Side Tables from Crate and Barrel

Thanksgiving is closing in with more holidays to follow.  That means more entertaining and lots of drinks and hors d'oeuvres.  Trying to balance all this on your lap is a recipe for disaster.  

Crate and Barrel has some side tables that won't break the bank.

These tables are sturdy and the wood is a warm brown color.

Not only would they be excellent side tables, they could work as night tables, plant stands or any where you need a small accent table.  I bought the Alpha table.

Happy Monday Everyone!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Week's End

My relaxing week in the Bahamas is coming to a close.

Plenty of sun, fresh air and ocean breeze.

I did a few crafty things.  Using a nail tied to some twine, I threaded all sorts of sponges, driftwood and coral to make a natural garland.

For now it is hanging on the fence.

I "jazzed up" my plain Ikea flatware by dipping the handles in Plasti Dip.  Today the red, tomorrow some blue.
I'll be back in Michigan on Sunday.  Have a relaxing and pleasant week dear readers. 
 See you on Monday.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Replace Your Toothbrush

You know you're supposed to replace your toothbrush regularly, but who remembers to do that?
 The Months Toothbrush Set will help you remember to change it up.

The set of 4 bamboo toothbrushes has the months etched into the handle so you know when to toss out the old and bring in the new.  And because you bought the set, you have a replacement at the ready.  No excuses.  Now this would be a nice gift too.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Tasting Room

Planning your Thanksgiving menu and stumped by the wine choice?  Here is a way to sample that wine before you purchase several bottles.

Choose a sampler of 6 mini bottles of wine to find your favorite.  Then order full bottles if you wish.  Read the NY Times article here.

 Bryn Grappa-Cordial Glass Crate and Barrel - just the right size for two people to share a taste.
Each sampler bottle is 50 ml. 

Choose from Celebrity Samplers from the likes of Mario Batali, or Samplers grouped regionally or by varietal or from a single winery.  USE CODE THANKS10 for $10 off samplers.  Sign up and receive more discounts.  
These samplers would make a wonderful gift.  

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Trouble in Paradise

Ice cubes didn't freeze, milk wasn't cold.  Adjusting the temp of the refrigerator didn't help.  We pulled out the refrigerator expecting to clean out the dust from the condenser and everything would be OK but OH, NO!.....

The back of the refrigerator was rusted out and had an ice build up.  No honey, I don't think we can fix this. 
So after a weekend of dealing with coolers and bags of ice,
we took the 8 am ferry to the "big island" to shop for a new refrigerator.  They had only one stainless steel, side by side of the correct size in stock AND it was on sale!  I'll have that one please.  It shipped on the freight ferry to our  island this afternoon and it is now almost cool enough to stock with the food in the coolers.  

But did that mean we needed to eat out?  No, we made lobster rolls with local, fresh lobster for lunch.  
Of course our dealing without a refrigerator for a weekend is nothing compared with the unfortunate people in Connecticut and elsewhere still dealing without power after that freak snowstorm in October.  It is easy to be creative for two days but weeks without power, grocery stores or the luxury of restaurants is not fun.  Hope all power is restored soon!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy Monday from Elbow Cay, Bahamas.  
One of the most fun parts of the trip from Michigan to Elbow Cay is the ferry ride from Marsh Harbour to Hope Town.
The ferries between islands are the glue that holds the Abaco Islands together.  Our trip is a  20 minute ride.  I always see someone I know on the ferry, perhaps a neighbor, a waitress from our favorite restaurant or one of our caretakers.  We catch up on what's been happening since our last visit.  This sweet girl was on the ferry, taking her new pet rabbit, named Peter, to her home.

Some balloons for a wedding reception we being transported on the ferry.

A partygoer for a birthday event.

 And when you enter the cove, you are greeted by the iconic lighthouse.  

Hubby and I met a woman on the ferry who was visiting the island for the first time.  We happened to be eating at the same restaurant that evening and invited her to join us and had a lovely time chatting and getting to know one another.  That's just how it is here, very friendly and laid back.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Those Cups are Back!

November 1 was the day the holiday cups appeared at Starbucks.  For me, that signals the "opening" of the holiday season.  

I've been working like mad to complete my jewelry for the galleries that carry my work and I mailed the last pieces off today.  Now, I can concentrate on the Etsy orders.  I'm ready for a break and thankfully, we've planned a week at our Bahamas house.  I'm on my way today for a week in the sun and relaxing on the beach.  Of course I'll be doing some maintenance work around the house and garden but that will be fun.  
Have a great weekend.  See you on Monday.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Smoking Slippers the New Ballet Flats

I never heard of "smoking slippers" until I realized I was supposed to replace my ballet flats with this footwear.  Allegedly Kate Moss popularized ballet flats in 2003 but now the flats have been replaced with these "slippers".  

Kate Moss/Black suede smoking slippers Topshop $56
 Smoking Slippers

They look a lot like loafers but not PENNY loafers.

How about some preppy needlepoint slippers?

What do you think?  Do you like this footwear as opposed to ballet flats or penny loafers?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mini Donuts?

I succumbed to the hype and purchased a mini donut pan.  All those photos of cute little donuts with sprinkles had me drooling for little, rich treats.  I was thinking they'd be lower in fat since they aren't fried and the size would allow for tastes instead of heavy helpings.

Little and cute they sure are.  Calling them donuts is just wrong.  Sorry, donuts need to be fried or they aren't donuts.  Sweet cakes is more like it.  But is this pan worth the effort?  Why not just make mini muffins or cupcakes?  You'll need to "pipe" the batter into the mini donut pan so that is one more step.  

Any thoughts?  Maybe you have a better recipe.  I was thinking of using the pan to make mini bundt cakes.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Denim Crush

I decided to shop for new jeans on Sunday.  Second only to bathing suit shopping for my least favorite activity I expected to try on scores of jeans and come home empty handed or with something I just settled for.  

The unexpected happened,  with the first pair of jeans at the first store, I was in love!  That has  NEVER occurred before.  They had me at "everything in the store is 40% off!  That was Banana Republic.  I haven't made a purchase there for quite a while but I thought, why not, give it a try.  I've never had truly skinny jeans because of my "athletic thighs"  but these are an amazing fit with just enough stretch.  They look great with heels, flats and tucked into boots.  For me, the rise is high enough without looking like "mom jeans" but not so low as to be uncomfortable and produce a "muffin top".  I bought a pair in gray too. 

At 40% off, I didn't stop there.  I fell in love with these trouser jeans.  Very cool and sophisticated.  The fit is fantastic and they look perfect with heels, the higher the better and a blazer if you wish.  They would be perfect for casual office dressing.  

I got a pair in black too that I'm wearing with a long sweater coat tomorrow.  Even without the sale price, these jeans are very reasonably priced between $79 and $89.  Give them a try.  


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