Monthly Archives: June 2015

Orzo Summer Salad

Orzo summer salad

June 23, 2015, posted by Gina -The dog days of summer have made it to my neck of the woods. For me, it is so hard to think of a menu for dinner when it is so hot outside. And by hot I mean 90 something degrees with 90% humidity. A rich roast makes me think of fall and winter. Soup in my mind is out of the question. My family has eaten its fair share of chicken lately. What’s a girl to do?

I postponed my shopping until the very last minute which put me at the grocery store at 5:00. When I walked in there were only two carts out of about a million remaining in the cart bin. Why was I there? I had seen a recipe for an orzo salad that looked refreshing and light. Of course, I make changes to most recipes and this one was no different. The original recipe calls for cilantro but I despise cilantro and when I say despise I mean I really hate it. To me it is one of those things that has just been done too much. I realize some of you may love cilantro and if you do, feel free to throw a lot of it in this recipe. I served this salad with a peppercorn pork tenderloin and it was the perfect compliment. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.


1 cup uncooked orzo pasta, cooked according to package directions
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed and drained
12 cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
3 green onions, sliced
1 – 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

¼ cup buttermilk
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon dried parsley or fresh parsley or cilantro
Whisk all dressing ingredients and pour over salad ingredients. Mix well. Enjoy!

Do you have any go-to recipes for summer? Do you think you’d like to try this recipe? We’d like to hear from you, so click on the title of this post to expand the comment form and leave us your comments.

Ready for a Close Up 1 comment

June 23, 2015, posted by Michelle – The peonies, roses and allium that I bought at the farmers market over the weekend are looking so pretty in their vases today that I have to share a few close ups…
Peony rose close up

Rose and purple close up

pink peony

French Inspiration: Antiquing 1 comment

June 22, 2015, posted by Michelle – On a recent excursion around some of the antique shops and brocantes (second hand shops) in the 2nd arrondissement of Lyon I spotted heaps of silverware, some vintage monogrammed linens in blues and greens, a pinkish-purple side table, a never ending jumble of trinkets and a gorgeous French commode table. In an effort to take a short cut from one street to another I stumbled into a courtyard where I found a beautiful old disused fountain? pedestal? surrounded by plants and climbing vines. The small statue on top is Mary, who is found in niches on buildings all over downtown. I never know what interesting things I’ll find but I’m always inspired by the beauty of this neighborhood and all its antique shops.
silverwaretorchonscourtyardside tabletrinketstable

Lunch on the Lago

Lago Avigliana

Il Lago Grande surrounded by the Alps, Avigliana, Italy

June 9, 2015, posted by Michelle – On our drive back through the Piedmont region of Northern Italy we stopped for lunch before we crossed the border back into France. There’s a town called Avigliana where we’ve stopped before to eat at a cozy restaurant on one of the two lakes there. They mainly serve traditional dishes of the region. I started with proscuitto and mozzarella which was delicious but I couldn’t finish it. Too bad Le Monsieur doesn’t like cheese or we could have shared this.

Prosciutto and Mozza

Le Monsieur ordered mussels in a rich garlic-butter sauce and there was plenty of crusty bread to soak up all the delicious juices.


We should have stopped there it was so filling but it’s just wrong to be in Italy and not eat fresh pasta. I ordered the agnolotti which are like ravioli but smaller and can be square or crescent shaped. They were stuffed with beef flavored with nutmeg and swimming in a beef based sauce. Delicious.

Agnolotti Avigliana

Le Monsieur had the taglietelle with porcini mushrooms and ate every bit. No way we could eat another bite so we skipped desserts.


Here are a couple of recipes for the pasta dishes:

Agnolotti Recipe & History

Taglietelle with Porcini

What a great time we had and hopefully we’ll be visiting Italy again soon. Do you make your own pasta? Are there special restaurants you’ve come across during your travels? Leave us your comments by clicking on the title of this post to expand the comment form.

Avigliana terrace

How Pretty is Your Powder Room?

powder roomJune 9, 2015, posted by Gina – The word “powder room” may seem to be in same league as words like “pocket book” or “slacks”,  words that our mother still uses though they are outmoded. Yet powder room is still used today to describe a half bath and in public, women frequently ask about the whereabouts of the powder room instead of bathroom or restroom.

Since a powder room is mainly used by guests, we believe it should be a wonderfully inviting spot in your home. We will share a few tips on how to make a powder room a perfect place to extend your hospitality.

guest napkins
In this photo we see some lovely paper hand towels in a nice wicker basket made especially for them. We like offering these when we have larger parties as a typical cloth towel would get pretty wet with a number of guests visiting the powder room. Once our shop is up and running, we will offer a great variety of paper hand towels.

But we realize some people prefer linens, so we also always offer a pretty cloth hand towel. We love the fresh, crisp look of white for spring and summer months.


Here’s where the fun really gets started. We love to use trays and this lovely European tray holds a luxurious rosemary mint hand soap, a bar of soap, a candle and a delicious smelling diffuser. We love to ignite our guest’s sense of smell and this tray of goodies is certainly capable of doing just that. We plan to sell many of these items in our online shop.

coral linen towels
Creating a mood with hand towels is fun, easy and inexpensive. We change the hand towels on this rack to correspond with the current season. These linen towels with a coral motif are summery and bring the beach to mind. We can’t wait to offer unique hand towels in our shop that will help you usher in the seasons in your own home or that you can give as gifts.

Last but not least, we always put fresh flowers in our powder room when we have guests.  It is just one more way to welcome your guests into your home with a warm and comfortable vibe.

What finishing touches do you put around your home when you have guests? Do you like to change small details to reflect the changing seasons? We’d like to hear about your ideas. Click the title of this post to open the comment form and let us hear from you!


Garden Party Italian Style 2 comments

Dinner Bassignana

Our cousin invited us and two other couples back from dinner to help polish off all the leftovers. Here you see our cousin’s husband and their German friends.

June 8, 2015, posted by Michelle – Le Monsieur and I just returned from a weekend in Italy. Gina and I have an Italian cousin who lives in the small town where our great-grandmother was born. The town is in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy and it’s just a 4½ hour drive from Lyon.  For several years our cousin has hosted a party at her house on the first Saturday in June. She’s a great cook and she does all the cooking herself while her husband gets the garden and the house ready for guests. I found some similar recipes online for a few of the dishes she made and provided links. She served copious amounts of:

Cauliflower with Anchovy Sauce
Green Bean Salad
Risotto Cakes with Ham and Peas
Cold Farro Soup with White Beans
Vegetable Quiche
Cherry Tomatoes in Oil and Vinegar
Zucchini and Eggplant Casserole
Celery with Gorgonzola Cheese Dip
Thinly Sliced Roast Beef
Artichokes in Olive Oil (more about these below)
Breads and Grissini
Mascarpone and Ricotta with Cherries
Pineapple with Rum Sauce
Chocolate Mousse
Apple Cake

…and an obscene amount of wine! You can see why there were enough leftovers to feed six people for dinner.

I mentioned above that I would tell you more about the artichokes in olive oil. You could never tell from the very ordinary, humble looking jar of them below that they are in the process of becoming a very lucrative enterprise. A couple from Tuscany brought a few jars to the party. They make their own olive oil and grow the artichokes and noticed that friends and neighbors liked them so much they started asking for a few jars. The couple decided to try to sell them to shops and as of now they have orders for 14,000 jars! The artichokes are slightly firm but not tough and the oil is divine. Maybe you’ll start seeing these at a store near you soon.


Do you have a “specialty” that everyone always asks you to make? Are you hosting any casual summer parties? Let us know! Just click on the title of this post to open the comment form and leave us your thoughts.

Friday Night Fun

June 7, 2015, posted by Gina – My family went to a new restaurant last night and as you can see the atmosphere was great and the menu had a farm fresh vibe.

Restaurant - Jackson, Miss
Our waiter recommended the poutine for an appetizer and even though we were unfamiliar with what poutine is exactly, we decided to try it. We were not disappointed, just look at that cast iron skillet of goodness:

resto - poutineOnce home, I investigated this epicurean mystery and discovered that poutine is a Quebec (or French Canadian) staple of homemade french fries with white cheddar cheese curls and beef gravy. The version we enjoyed was a combination of french fries topped with black-eyed pea chili, sharp cheddar cheese and gremolata (a chopped herb condiment made of lemon zest, garlic and parsley).

resto - wedge salad
My husband and son ordered a wedge salad. The chef took a little creative license and put a twist on this by using romaine lettuce instead of the traditional iceberg. The lettuce was topped with Asher blue (a naturally rinded cheese made in the US), country ham instead of the traditional bacon, spring onions, radishes and a buttermilk dressing that was smooth, creamy and full of flavor. While looking at this bowl of freshness, I decided that the next time I make salad it will be this one and making fresh dressing is what takes a salad from so-so to fabulous. Here is my recipe for buttermilk dressing:

1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
½ cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 green onions, chopped
½ cup parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients. Let sit in refrigerator a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to come together.

resto - chicken
My entrée was a great combination of braised southern peas (black-eyed peas, field peas and butter beans), summer squash and sorghum grilled chicken breast. An interesting fact about sorghum is that it looks very similar to corn while growing in the field. This grain is best known for producing sweet sorghum syrup and is mostly grown in Kentucky and Tennessee but can also be found in Minnesota, Mississippi and Texas.

Back to my entrée, the sorghum flavored the entire dish giving the broth a slight sweetness that contrasted with the other savory flavors. The chicken had a sweet-smokey grilled flavor that put this main dish staple over the top.

resto - catfish
My husband and son both ordered the catfish. I was fortunate enough to steal a bite or two and it was light and crispy with plenty of flavor. It was resting on a bed of mashed potatoes drizzled with a creamy tartar and hot sauce.

I was so full that dessert seemed out of the question until our waiter recommended the homemade banana pudding. I did not order dessert but I will confess that my spoon did take a couple of dips into my husband’s bowl. Fresh whipped cream, banana pudding, vanilla wafers, toasted macadamia nuts, strawberries and blueberries made a beautiful presentation.

Sitting in the middle of our table was this unpretentious crystal vase with three mini zinnias. This was just enough to make me smile. We enjoyed everything from the atmosphere and our fantastic waiter to the food that was creative and delicious. We will make a return visit.

Design Obsession

Magnolia Trio

June 4, 2015, posted by Gina -Are you familiar with the very popular HGTV show, Fixer Upper, starring Chip and Joanna Gaines? If not, Chip and Joanna are a husband and wife team based in Waco, Texas who show distressed homes to house hunting couples. Chip and Joanna find the worst looking houses and show the couple what the home could look like after a renovation. The show continues with Chip overseeing the construction end of the project and Joanna working on all the design aspects. Joanna has a great sense of style that combines rustic with industrial elements. She finds some very unique items and in fact has a store called Magnolia.

I am totally obsessed with this show; the scenery is so beautiful and it’s great being able to explore the architecture of that area via the show. There is not one home they have renovated or designed that I have not fallen in love with. One of my favorite redo’s is “Young Family Takes on History”. In this episode you can see how Joanna chooses items for the house and it is so much fun to watch her do her thing.

The little trio of vases you see in the photo above came from Joanna’s online shop. The scrolled ironwork holds glass vases that I think are actually test tubes. I created small arrangements for them though single flowers would work as well.

You can see the episodes online and shop online too. Check it out, you won’t be sorry and if you are like me, you will be hooked.

Up Close and Personal

Floral palette
June 3, 2015, posted by Gina – Last week we gave you a tour of the table settings and general décor we created for a bridal luncheon and now we’d like to share some photos and information on the floral arrangements and a couple of other details.

Above you see the floral palette we chose for the day. Color harmony is an important aspect of floral design and by looking at a typical color wheel, you can see many formulas for creating color combinations. We chose an analogous palette which uses colors that are found next to each other on the color wheel.

footbath arrangement
If you love blue and white porcelain as much as we do then you can certainly appreciate this footbath. Many of you may wonder just why in the world it is called a footbath. Well here’s a little history:

Footbaths originated in China during the Ming Dynasty and were traditionally used only by women from the wealthiest families who practiced foot binding. In turn, this practice became popular as a means of displaying status. So how in the world did we end up using them for flowers? It turns out that in the 1980’s and exporter began shipping beautiful porcelain footbaths all over the world. Interior designers embraced them as they were as pretty as the ever popular fish bowls but were the perfect size for a dining table or sideboard. Who knew?

In this arrangement, we used a magenta kalanchoe, maidenhair fern and a bit of Spanish moss. When we open our shop, we plan to offer footbaths so you can easily create a wonderful centerpiece just like we did.

This smaller blue and white planter was used as a companion and we love how it echoed our color palette on this table.

small blue and white planter

This arrangement in a vintage rose bowl carried on our color palette and we particularly loved the fully open white roses. We will be offering new and vintage varieties of containers like this one when our shop is up and running.

Rose Bowl
Back in the day, before paper cocktail napkins were so widely available, beautiful linen cocktail napkins were used. These light blue ones are just so pretty and we think perfect for a beautiful, special event. These are vintage and we are planning on offering some of the finest vintage linens around once our shop is open.

Blue linen cocktail napkins

PlacecardThese place cards were specially created by a professional calligrapher to coordinate with the flowers for the luncheon. Place cards seem to be used mostly for larger functions but we believe it adds a special touch and truly gives a warm welcome to each person. Blank place cards can be found at most craft stores and are really fun and easy to incorporate into your event. In our case, we wanted to use place cards to insure that the bride and her bridesmaids were able to sit together and enjoy the day. After all, the luncheon was in their honor.

Do you add special touches to your tables? Do you have some favorite containers and planters that you use for special arrangements? We’d like to hear about your ideas, so please leave a comment by clicking on the title of this post to expand the comment form.