Home and Decor

Pink Baby Carriage Cookies: Simple to Wow

For Charley’s kiddush, Davida prepared these adorable carriage cookies.

They really were Simple to Wow!

baby girl carriages

INGREDIENTS

Hadar-Tirosh chocolate half-moon biscuits
Paskesz mini Oreo cookies
frosting
Pink piping or frosting

DIRECTIONS

Using a small spatula coated with frosting, adhere two half-moon cookies together at right angles to create base of carriage.  Since these cookies are double-sided,  use the vanilla side for the base of the carriage and the chocolate-side for the carriage hood.

With a dab of frosting, adhere two wheels to front of cookie carriage.  Pipe lines on hood of carriage for additional decoration.

baby girl carriages

DIY Sanding Sugar

Sanding sugar adds a wow to so many of my simplest desserts.  While some recipes call for sanding sugar in colors that are impossible to find, others call for such minute or such immense quantity that it makes no sense to purchase.   And, sanding sugar is so simple to create in exactly the hue that you need using two simple ingredients.

Wow!

 

INGREDIENTS
1 cup sugar
food coloring

Combine 1 cup of sugar with food coloring, adding drops of food coloring until the desired hue and depth of color is reached.  Either pulse in food processor, using the s-blade or combine in a ziploc bag, kneading on outside of bag until well-combined.

Sukka Clouds of Glory

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Sunday night is the beginning of the holiday of Sukkos,  סוכות.  We are preparing for the holiday in Jerusalem amid a flurry of shopping, building and cooking.  To commemorate Sukkos, we constructed a temporary home called a Sukka that we use during this week-long holiday.   Our Sukka is built to commemorate the protective clouds of glory provided by G-d for the Jews in their sojourn in the desert after leaving Egypt.   These clouds of glory were miraculous in that they protected the jewish nation on all sides as they traveled through the inhospitable desert for forty years.

It is customary to decorate the Sukka by hanging decorations.   Every year, I add to my Sukka decoration repertoire.   This year, I decided to decorate the Sukka with clouds of glory.   The implementation really was simple.   And, I think the symbolic significance is a wow.

IMG_4856

SUPPLIES

12″ clear balloons
white cotton balls
fish line or twine

DIRECTIONS

For each balloon, take 7-10 cotton balls and stretch them to make them look cloud-like.

Holding the balloon at the neck, stretch the balloon neck and stuff the stretched-out cotton into the base of the balloon.

Blow up the cotton-stuffed balloon to the desired size.   Tie at the neck and secure to the Sukka..

Happy Sukkos!

A Bouquet of Cupcakes with Purpose

cupcake bouquet.png

Davida volunteered to host a Shavuos bake sale at our home next Wednesday night, May 16th, 2018  from 8:00 PM to 10:30 PM.  It comes right on the heels of Mother’s Day and right before the Jewish holiday of Shavuos.

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-29 at 8.28.45 PM

Both Mother’s Day and Shavuos are days associated with flowers, so Davida and I prepared a few cupcake bouquets for the bake sale.  All proceeds will benefit families in need and will satisfy both the food and decorative aspects of the upcoming holiday.  

Davida is the go-to person in the family for any baking or cooking tasks.  She is a master at baking and decorating and her baked goods are both delicious and beautiful.  This one is no exception.  It uses items that you would have on hand and is simple to assemble.

 

SUPPLIES

7 cupcakes

7 cups
stapler
green cocktail napkins
green tissue paper

glue stick
ribbon
container

DIRECTIONS

Frost seven cupcakes with icing to resemble flowers.

Find plastic or paper cups that will allow each cupcake to fit snugly inside.

Staple the seven cups together in the following way to easily form a bouquet base with places to hold the flower cupcakes:

  • Staple three cups in a row.
  • Staple another two cups to each other.
  • Staple the last two cups to each other.
  • Staple the three cups to one pair of two stapled cups.  Staple the other pair of two cups to the three cups on the other side.  This will form a base for your seven cupcakes with one cup in the middle and six cups all around.

cupcake bouquet-cups only

Fit the plastic cup base into a basket or bowl that fits snugly.  I found a farmer’s market basket that fit perfectly.

Cut the green tissue paper in half and wrap around the basket, gluing it into place.  Tie a ribbon around the basket and secure with glue, if necessary.

Cut each cocktail napkin into a large circle.  Tuck the napkin remnants between each cup to fill in gaps.

cupcake bouquet assembled with greenery ready

Wrap each cupcake in a napkin circle and fit each floral cupcake snugly into each plastic cup.

Voila!

cupcake bouquet

 

 

Basil Pesto Butter

basil butter flowers.png

Close to ten years ago, we shared a dairy lunch meal with our good friends, Neal and Marilyn, at their new home in Jerusalem.  They ordered food from Village Green, a well-known and delicious vegetarian restaurant on Jaffa Street right in the heart of Jerusalem.  They ordered a lavish assortment of salads, quiches, pastas and desserts.

It was a luncheon to remember.  The food was delicious, colorful and plentiful.  The camaraderie among the adults and the kids was remarkable.  But, there was one stand-out rockstar at that luncheon.

It was the herbed butter.

Village Green had packaged the food with small individual pats of herbed butter and those delicious flavorful butter treats transformed that afternoon.

So, ten years later, I decided that it was time to recreate that buttery sensation.   I simply added basil to the food processor and pulsed it into a rough pesto.  I then added softened butter and processed it until it was well combined.

Best of all, when I served the butter, it transported us back instantly to that afternoon in the heart of Israel.  Hopefully, this simple upgrade to your dairy meal will create pleasant memories for you, too….

 

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cleaned and pat dry (see kosher notes)
1 pound salted or unsalted butter

 

 

DIRECTIONS

Place basil leaves in the food processor.  Using the s-blade, pulse until roughly ground.  Cut butter into small cubes and add to food processor.  Pulse until smooth and well-combined.

Alternatively,  chop basil.  Soften butter by using the time-defrost mode on the microwave.  Defrost in 30 second intervals until softened but not melted. Combine chopped basil and softened butter until well-combined

Place pesto butter onto parchment paper and roll.  Twist ends of parchment roll.  Refrigerate until firm.

basil butter log.png

Cut into thin slices before serving.

basil butter log cut into pieces.jpg

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of any whole insects and therefore herbs require a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, pureeing, unless purchased with a reputable kosher hashgacha (certification). Kashrut authorities differ on the proper checking of broccoli. This blog was not designed to be your kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding using and preparing fresh herbs.

TIP

For an additional wow, place basil butter in individual molds or interesting ice cube trays.  Freeze until it is easy to pop out into individual decorative pats of butter.

basil butter flowers

Refrigerate or freeze leftovers and use as starter for dairy soups and omelets or as  a delicious accompaniment to roasted or steamed vegetables and fish.

Hoop Floral Arrangements

magnolia hoop arrangement.jpg

I am intrigued by framed arrangements.  I love the contrast of a rigid framed shape against the natural beauty of foliage and flowers.  The frame provides boundary and format to the creativity and unique beauty of G-d’s world

Last year, I attended a cousin’s Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem and the simple floral arrangements mesmerized me.  The arrangements  incorporated circular hoops as the backdrop for tropical flowers.  I was intrigued by these arrangements and just couldn’t take my eyes off them.  There was something about the way the circular hoop framed the arrangement and the way the lush tropical foliage and orchids contrasted with the simplicity of the circular shape.  My relatives caught me staring and  quickly realized that they would be seeing  more of this type of arrangement on  my blog.

hoop floral arrangement

I spent some time thinking about how I could achieve that look on a budget and with flowers from my garden.  I loved the idea of the circular framing.  I was determined to use the hoop as a frame for a sparse arrangement that would allow one to see right through the arrangement.

For our Purim seuda (feast), I created these arrangements using the just budding branches of our Magnolia trees in our backyard.  Back in late February-early March, the buds were fuzzy, kind of like pussy willow buds but with meandering branches that were so interesting in their unique shapes.

magnolia tree in february.jpg

I contrasted rose-gold painted hoops with these branches and the effect was breathtaking and unique.  I mounted the hoops onto cans spray-painted in the same metallic color as the hoops.   They were conversation starters, especially because they incorporated elements from the winter-beleaguered trees in my backyard.  And, they signaled that spring really would arrive this year.

shabbos table through copper hoop arrangement

Almost two months later, the branches are still gorgeous and fresh with the fuzzy, though slightly withered blossoms still attached.   I found an old globe stand and I fitted one of the metallic hoop arrangements into the semicircular base of the globe stand and have been enjoying the floral arrangement in my front hall.

Until, last week.

Just a few days ago, the Magnolia tree fuzzies metamorphosed into their trademark showy pink blossoms.

magnolia tree.jpg

And, I just couldn’t resist updating and upgrading the hoop arrangements.

And this old-new arrangement just took my breath away.  Not because of the rose-gold hoops.  Or, the meandering branches.  Or the fuzzy blossom beginnings.  Or, even the spectacular magnolia blossoms.

magnolia hoop arrangement 2

It is because of the symbolism.  The round world surrounding the flowing beauty of nature, marching to the same rhythm and yet, ever changing.  It is the miracle in the world.  And in nature.  And in creativity.  And, mostly in the things we just take for granted.

 

SUPPLIES

pruning shears

small 16-24″ hula hoop

metallic spray paint

glue gun with glue sticks

heavy brick or can for base

INSTRUCTIONS

Using pruning shears, cut interesting branches, with or without blossoms, that will fit inside the hoop.   Peel any stickers or coating off of the small 16-24″ hula hoop. Spray the hoop and the base carefully with metallic spray paint.  Using a glue gun with glue sticks, carefully secure branches or flowers to the insides of the hula hoop, securing them in a few spots on the hoop.  Using the glue gun with glue sticks,  secure the hoop to the weighted base.

Voila!

shabbos table through copper hoop arrangement

Quince Blossom Arrangement: Admiring the Outdoors Inside

quince blossom arrangement

I love arrangements that force the observer to admire the delicacy and individual nature of  each blossom.  After all, this blog began with floating roses displayed in a grid-like formation for all to admire.  Outdoors, in its native state, oftentimes, the beauty of each flower is lost in the majesty of  so many blossoms admired as one.

Springtime is the perfect time to appreciate the uniqueness of each blossom indoors as well as outdoors.  We have a quince tree in our backyard and it blossoms at different points in the winter and spring each year.  There have been years that the quince tree begins blossoming in January or February after a short spell of warmer weather, only to be rudely reminded that spring has not yet sprung.  Most years, our quince tree dazzles us with its array of pinkish reddish flowers for Purim.  This year, our favorite tree  has just began to blossom now, weeks after Pesach (Passover).

quince tree

There are so many flowering trees to admire now and by bringing some branches inside, you will have the opportunity to more closely enjoy and appreciate each individual blossom and the contrast between branch and blossom.  Cherry blossoms and forsythia bushes are perfect for this type of arrangement.  My suggestion is to carefully hose down the branches before bringing them in just to make sure that you’re not bringing in any insects or larvae along with the branches.

When cutting branches, it is best to leave enough of a length of branch to fit on the bottom of the vase.  If that is not possible, just cut away at the lower part of the branch and remove enough twigs so that your branch will stay upright in the vase.  Try to choose an assortment of branches that are straight on top and that twist in all directions at the top.  This will allow for enough spread in the arrangement above the top of the vase.  Make sure to use a vase that is sturdy enough for the weight and breadth of your branches.  Enjoy the spring outdoor branches inside your home.

Voila!

quince blossom arrangement

Shabbos Table Tip: A Creamer to Distribute Kiddush Wine

On Friday night and Shabbos morning, our  Shabbos meals begin with the recitation of Kiddush (blessing over wine) by the patriarch of the family.  The word Kiddush actually means holiness as we recall G-d’s creation of the world and His dedication of the Shabbos as a day of rest and holiness.   We designate a special cup for the Kiddush, typically a silver one.   At our Shabbos table, you will also see one or two silver creamers placed alongside the kiddush cup.

After the Kiddush is recited over the goblet of wine or grape juice, everyone at the table answers אָמֵן, Amen.  The kiddush wine is then silently passed to each person at the table as the one who made the kiddush drinks from the original goblet.  Typically, the wine is poured from the kiddush cup into small shot glasses or miniature kiddush cups and then passed around.  To simplify things (and require less washing and clean-up afterward), instead, we place a decorative creamer next to the silver wine goblet.  This shortcut was an elegant solution thought up by our friend, Michael Horn, to the challenge of passing the kiddush wine around the table quickly and easily with minimal spillage.

Just after reciting the kiddush, Don pours off some of the wine before drinking from the silver kiddush cup into the creamer.  The creamer is then passed around the table and each person pours a bit of wine into his/her glass.  When we have a houseful of guests, I place two creamers, one for each side of the table, in order to expedite passing the wine around the table.

Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

Tulips Times Two

tulips

On these frigid winter days, it is so exciting to see tulips for sale at the local market. Tulips, a member of the lily family,  are a welcome harbinger of spring and it keeps hope alive for warmer weather ahead.

Tulips come in thousands of varieties and can be found in all colors, shapes and heights.  Their leaves are soft and large, sometimes as long as the tulip stem itself.

I especially love tulips that have variegated colors and interesting petal shapes.  These pink tulips were for sale at my local supermarket and boasted green edges, light green leaves and soft blossoms.

This arrangement uses both the tulip blossoms and their leaves.  My tulip bunch was comprised of ten blossoms and my narrow vase fit two five-blossom bunches with enough space left over for effect.

This type of arrangements creates interest both at the top of the vase where the blossoms are arranged and inside the vase where each bunch is wrapped in a tulip leaf.   It is best suited for a long and narrow glass vase.  This can easily be done with one, two or three bunches of tulips, as long as your vase is wide enough.

SUPPLIES
long glass vase
bunch of tulips
piece of wire or small rubber band
water

DIRECTIONS
Trim tulips so that they are just a few inches taller than your vase.  Separate tulips into groups of at least 4 tulips each, trying to keep tulip bunches symmetric.  Remove lower tulip leaves and reserve an unblemished leaf for wrapping each bunch.  Wrap the leaf around each bunch, securing with thin wire or rubber band.

Display in long glass vase and fill with water.

 

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Sukkos Lulav Napkin Fold

 

lulav napkin fold on plate.JPG

Among other mitzvos (Jewish commandments) unique to Sukkos (Jewish Feast of Tabernacles),  we acquire a set of Arba Minim (Four Species).  Each of the Four Species has its own unique character:

The Lulav (palm) is an impressively tall and straight green date palm branch with tightly bound leaves.  It has a sweet date flavor  but no fragrance.  The Lulav represents the Jewish scholar, who has impressive Jewish knowledge but lacks good deeds.

The Hadasim (myrtle branches) are fragrant branches with a spectacular waxy pattern of three leaves protruding from the same point.  Hadasim have fragrance, yet have no flavor.  Hadasim represent those who distinguish themselves with good deeds, yet lack Torah scholarship.

The Aravos (willow branches) are branches with smooth-edged oblong-shaped leaves.  They have neither fragrance nor flavor.  Aravos represent those who lack deeds and scholarship.

The Esrog  (citron) is a yellow lemon-like citrus fruit with beautiful fragrance and flavor. The Esrog represents those impressive Jewish scholars with both knowledge and good deeds.

lulavim

The Four Species represent the inherent uniqueness and beauty in different types of people.   The idea of acquiring these different types of species and unifying them symbolizes the importance of Jewish unity.  Each of the Arba Minim represents people with differing Jewish strengths, Torah knowledge and adherence to good deeds.  The Arba Minim signify the importance of Jewish unity and the recognition of the importance of different members of our nation.

We tie all the branches together: two Aravos on the left, one Lulav in the center, and three Hadasim on the right.   We recite the following blessing:

Hebrew

Hebrew Hebrew

Blessed are You, the Lord of the world, Who has sanctified us in His commandments and commanded us to hold the Lulav

We then raise all Four Species and shake them as one unit in all six directions (forward and backward, right and left, up and down).  The six directions represent G-d’s dominion over the entire world.

These Four Species are brought to synagogue each Sukkos day,  except on Shabbos.  We hold and shake the Four Species during the recitation of the Hallel (praise) prayer and the Four Species are carried as  during Hoshanos, where the men surround the Torah.

To allude to the lulav tradition on Sukkos, I created a lulav napkin fold using two paper napkins.  As long as the twine has been cut before the holiday, these napkins can be easily folded and assembled on Yom Tov (Holiday).

lulav napkin fold.JPG

SUPPLIES

light green napkins
dark green napkins
twine, cut into 2-3 foot sections

heavy-duty scissors

INSTRUCTIONS

Lay each of the light green napkins flat on the table.  Unfold so that it is folded in half lengthwise.  Fold each corner toward the middle to create a point.   Roll or fold  to create the long part of the lulav.

 

Lay each of the dark green napkins flat on the table.  Unfold completely and then fold on the diagonal to form a large triangle.

lulav napkin-triangle fold for leaves

Fold in small sections, back and forth, to create a large fan.

lulav napkin fold-1st fold for leaves

Fold fan in half to form a large “v” shape.

lulav napkin fold-both napkins and twine.JPG

Place fanned “v” dark green napkin in front of light green lulav napkin and twist twine around center of dark green “v”..

lulav napkin fold-tying both napkins.JPG

lulav napkin fold-securing holder

Gently wind the cut twine around and around the two napkins, securing the dark green napkin “leaves” to the lighter napkin lulav. Secure the end of the twine by tucking it in.

Voila!

Apples and Roses: A Rosh Hashana Table Arrangement

roses and apples arrangement

I was looking to create a SimpletoWow fruit and floral arrangement worthy of the Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) table.  On Rosh Hashana, we dip an apple into honey as a symbol for a sweet new year (see Dip the Apple… Rosh Hashana Cupcakes), so incorporating apples into the arrangement was a no-brainer.    I wanted the apples to remain as pristine as possible so that they can be admired as part of the table arrangement but still be ceremoniously eaten later.

Voila!

roses and apples arrangement 2

SUPPLIES

2 large open-blossoms
2 unblemished apples
6 short but full boxwood branches
two to four foot section of 2″x6″ wood beam
copper spray paint
6 clear 4″ square glass vases
water

TOOLS

hand sander
copper spray paint

INSTRUCTIONS

Using hand sander, sand rough edges of beam.

Spray paint the top and all sides of the beams in your favorite color.   I used metallic copper spray paint.  Allow to dry.

Cut two open rose blossoms off of stem.  Float each rose in each of two vases filled with water almost to the top.

Cut six short and full boxwood stems.  Place three boxwood stems in each of two vases filled with water almost to the top.

Select interesting and unblemished apples sized to fill the remaining two vases.  Place these apples into the vases without adding any water.

Set up the six rose, apple and boxwood clear 4″ square glass vases at equal intervals along beam, aligning first and last vases with the edges of the beam.  Optionally, alternate vases on the left and right sides of the beam.

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Pacman Gefilte Fish

pacman gefilte fish 1

Sometimes the wow is all in the presentation.  The presentation takes a simple menu item to a whole new level.   Just cutting something a different way or finding a unique manner to plate it creates a real wow.

Gefilte fish is a Jewish Shabbos and Yom Tov (holiday) staple.  It is like a meatloaf, except with ground fish.  And, traditionally, it is cut into slices and served with horseradish and beets.  This is a simple and unique way to serve gefilte fish.

I first saw this way of serving gefilte fish at my friend, Lori’s house many years ago.  I have served gefilte fish so many times this way and it never fails to bring a smile to the lips of my guests.  This Pacman presentation has received lots of mileage, especially with Avigail and Judah, my grandchildren.  They are too young to know what Pacman is, so we just call it “fish” gefilte fish and they look forward to it whenever they visit for Shabbos.

pacman gefilte fish 2

INGREDIENTS

one loaf of gefilte fish and 1-2 carrots, prepared according to directions

 

DIRECTIONS

Prepare gefilte fish and carrot according to package directions.  I used A&B Cut cooked gefilte fish loaf into slices.  Cut a notch out of the narrow end of each slice and remove it.  Move it to the other end of the slice, creating a fishtail.

Cut carrot into slices.  Place one over the notch cutout to resemble a fish eye.

Voila!

 

 

Gorgeous Roses on a Rose Gold Base

roses on copper

Don still brings home roses just about every Friday.  He brings home a different color every week just to keep things interesting.  While I always favored tropical flowers like birds of paradise, ginger flowers, antherium and haleconias,  I have learned to enjoy and embrace the simple, classic rose, mostly because that is what Don brings home. Every week.

There was a time when Leah would set our Shabbos table on Thursday night and then suggest a matching color of roses to Don so that everything would match.  Nowadays, I am back to setting the table on Friday mornings.  I look forward to the color surprise as Don brings home a dozen roses right after Shacharis (morning prayers) and before he leaves to the office on Friday morning.   I just match my napkins and table design to whatever the rose color of the week is.

I still try to keep the roses for at least two weeks.  Sometimes, we are lucky and can even enjoy them for three weeks.  The newer roses are mere buds, while the older roses are open, mature and beautiful.  Most of the time, by the end of the first week, the week-old roses are starting to droop.  They look so forlorn on the edge of their stems, barely able to hold on.

Once cut off the stem and floated in water, each blossom takes on a new life.  It is amazing how these “older” roses are even more beautiful than their young counterparts. Invariably, my guests ask me if the roses are real, because their complexity borders on perfection.

And I love these roses because they are real.  And mature.  And beautiful despite their age.

Is there a metaphor to the aging process?  Maybe.

This week, to match the vintage looking roses, I resprayed one of the wooden planks that I sanded and painted in an arrangement of Single Roses: Simple, Upcycled and Breathtaking.  I chose a copper color (rose gold) paint, so currently in vogue and such a perfect match to offset the delicate and unusual color of these roses.

Voila!

roses on copper

SUPPLIES

6 large open-blossoms
four foot section of 2″x6″ wood beam
metallic copper spray paint
6 clear 4″ square glass vases
water

 

TOOLS

hand sander

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Using hand sander, sand rough edges of beam.

Spray paint the top and all sides of the beams in your favorite color.   I used metallic copper spray paint

Cut open rose blossoms off of stem.

Set up 6 clear 4″ square glass vases at equal intervals along beam, aligning first and last vases with the edges of the beam.

Fill each vase two-thirds with water.

Carefully place each blossom in each vase.

 

Please Note: This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Kate Spade Black Pink and Gold Armoire

Davida has finally arrived home from camp!

Her birthday was last Sunday.  Originally, the project was supposed to be a surprise for her birthday.  Instead, Davida surprised me by arriving home for her day off as I was in the throes of this messy project (A Bench Fit for Kate Spade (and Davida)). Davida arrived home to find her childhood pink and white furniture on the curb, her juvenile gymnast border half steamed off the walls and everything in the middle of  her bedroom. True to Davida, she took it all in stride.

After all, as the youngest child, Davida has learned the value of patience and resourcefulness.  She was the child who wrote her own yearbook ad when her delinquent parents kept forgetting to submit one for her.  She is the one who cooks, organizes and plans while I take all the credit (right, Davida?)

I have spent the past few weeks redecorating her room .  This project was truly a labor of love with much shlepping, (Yiddish for lugging things around) sanding, stapling and painting.

The centerpiece of the project is her new Kate Spade inspired armoire.  In its former life, it was a gorgeous antique walnut armoire owned by a lovely family in nearby Fair Lawn. I found it on CraigsList and fell in love with the vintage dovetailed drawers and lovely carving.  It had such good bones and was perfect for her new room.

kate spade armoire

I sprayed the interior a hot pink color.  I then closed the doors and sprayed all the exterior surfaces in a metallic gold paint.  The finished product seemed a bit too gilded for the look that I was trying to achieve.  I left some gold accents around the edges of the doors, but sprayed the exterior black, instead.  That was a more perfect fit for the Kate Spade inspiration.

davidas new kate spade room.jpg

Best, of all, Davida came home and admired it.  She promptly showered and took a nap in her new Kate Spade inspired bedroom.  I’m so glad that even with all the changes, it still feels like home to her.

kate spade armoire

SUPPLIES and TOOLS

one solid-wood armoire

screwdriver
knobs and drawer pulls (optional)
hand sander
damp rag

metallic spray paint
hot pink spray paint

INSTRUCTIONS

Using a damp rag, clean the armoire. Make sure to clean all the nooks and crannies and insides and backs of the doors and drawers. Turn the unit over and clean the bottom and all sides.

Using a screwdriver, remove all hardware.   Using a hand sander, sand the nightstand and the wood until all the surfaces are smooth, paying special attention to the corners and edges of the armoire.

Remove the drawer(s) and sand separately. Using a damp rag, wipe the entire unit clean and allow to dry.

kste spade armoire after sanding and cleaning

 

Using painters tape, tape all metal surfaces, hinges and hardware that could not be removed.    Wrap edges of hardware very carefully so that paint does not bleed onto hardware.

Wrap exterior corners and edges so that interior paint does not affect the exterior.  Spray all interior surfaces with hot pink spray paint and allow to dry completely .  Remove the drawers from the armoire before spraying the interior of the drawers.

Wrap interior exterior corners and edges so that exterior paint does not affect the interior.   Spray all exterior surfaces of the nightstand with metallic spray paint.  Spray the exterior of the drawers separately and allow to dry completely before placing drawers back into the armoire.

kate spade armoire up close.jpg

A Simple and Regal Gladiola Arrangement

orange gladiolas after arranging

I love gladiolas.  I love their ladder-like flowers that are soft and delicate.  I find gladiolas to be regal and tall, stately, yet graceful.  I look forward to each higher blossom budding and opening, just as the lower blossoms are withering and falling off.  I love the deeper and interesting shades of this flower, gladiolas that come in deep orange,  scalloped red and midnight purple.

Gladiolas seem to be a flower from the past,  a flower that has lost its way for no good reason.  They are rarely admired anymore and are hard to find.  Their graceful silhouette no longer seems to be in fashion and I feel badly about that, sad for their disgrace.  I am always excited when I can find gladiolas for purchase at my local market.

My husband, Don, hates gladiolas.

Don associates gladiolas with funerals.  I’m not sure why.

There are no flowers at Jewish funerals.  Jewish law requires burial as soon as possible and that the body be buried with simple shrouds in a plain coffin with no special adornment.

But, Don insists that Gladiolas are funeral flowers.

Sorry, Don.  I still love Gladiolas.

And, this week, I found them at my market.  Each bunch was $1.99.  How could I resist?

 

SUPPLIES

sharp pruning shears

tall glass vase

 

DIRECTIONS

Trim gladiolas so that base of flowering blossoms begins just above the top of your vase.

orange gladiolas before arranging

Strip leaves from each gladiola, setting the leaves aside.

orange gladiolas laid out with leaves removed

Fill vase with water and place gladiolas in vase, arranging them so that they branch out slightly from the top of the vase in each direction.  You may want to keep turning the vase to make sure that the gladiola arrangement looks good from all sides.

orange gladiolas in vase

Add the gladiola leaves to the arrangement, making sure that they are evenly distributed within the arrangement and that the water level is reaching the base of each leaf.

orange gladiolas after arranging

Really, Don.  Aren’t these flowers gorgeous?

 

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Floating Gerber Daisies in Series

I am enchanted by simple floral arrangements that highlight the beauty, intricacy and detail of individual blossoms.  From my very first blog post entitled  It’s all about the arrangement (psst….even with last week’s roses)until now, I have advocated for using a few blossoms to create inexpensive and stunning floral arrangements.

When there are many blossoms in an arrangement, very often the individual detail of each flower is lost.  It’s hard to tell the trees from the forest, or rather the flowers from the arrangement.  In an arrangement where a few blossoms rule, it is important to choose full-bodied blossoms like open roses, gerber daisies or large chrysanthemums.

Here I simply floated gerber daisy blossoms cut right below the blossom in square glass bowls.  For a little extra pizzazz, I encircled each blossom with tall leaves that I snipped from my lily bushes.

Voila!

floating gerbers.JPGfloating gerber daisies up close.JPGfloating gerber daisies in series.JPG

A Bottlebrush Arrangement

 

20170728_181652

My favorite floral arrangements are those that bring the outdoors inside.  This weekend, we are visiting the Upper Galilee and we are always amazed by the beautiful varieties of plants and trees that are native to this gorgeous part of Northern Israel.  One of my favorite shrubs found is this part of the world  is the Callisteon, affectionately known as a bottlebrush plant.  The flowers of this shrub resemble a bottlebrush and are unique and stunning.

For this Shabbos, I designed an arrangements using three branches of a bottlebrush shrub and two Monstera leaves brought in from the outdoors.

Shabbat Shalom (peaceful Shabbos)!

Simple Layered Iris Arrangement

For last Shabbos, I decided to pamper myself with some flowers other than the roses that Don brings home ever Friday morning.  I picked up some beautiful irises at Trader Joe’s on Friday afternoon and arranged them using Dusty Miller and Hosta leaves from my garden.

Here it is:

iris arrangement

TIPS

For effective layering, use tall straight flowers for the top layer.  Good choices for the top layer are tall roses, irises, allium, tulips, gladiolas, birds of paradise or lilies.  For the bottom layer, use large leaves that fan out creating a base that covers the top of your floral container or vase  For the middle layer, use leaves or flowers that create a color or textural contrast between the bottom and top layers.  Great choices for the middle layer are hydrangea, dusty miller, herbs and filler flowers.

A Vinegar Pantry Tutorial

Vinegar is one of the most versatile ingredients. It is characterized by its acidic taste and is known best for the pungent flavor it imparts to salads.   For centuries, vinegar has been valued for its health benefits.  Vinegar comes in many different tastes and colors and has a wide variety of uses beyond the salad bowl.

vinegar tutorial 1

Adding a splash of an acidic ingredient like vinegar is an excellent way to brighten all types of salads and other dishes.  There are so many varieties and each one has a distinct personality and flavor.

I reserve the standard white variety for cleaning uses, since it boasts a very pungent and sharp taste that can be overly assertive.  It can be used for weed control and cleaning purposes.

My go-to vinegar is cider vinegar since it imparts a medium acidic taste while still tasting fruity and fresh.

Different vinegars impart a variety of  flavors and can change the way that you prepare and enjoy your food.   Feel free to experiment with different vinegars to find the ones that you enjoy most.

My pantry boasts a large variety of vinegars and here are some of my favorites:

 

Cider vinegar: Cider vinegar is fashioned from apples.  This brownish clear vinegar stands up well to hardy salads and is the go-to ingredient in marinades.  It is perfect for recipes like: Roasted Sweet Potato and Beet Salad,  Cowboy Caviar: A Simple and Hearty Salad with Attitude and Simply the Best Marinade: A Science Lesson

White vinegar: White vinegar is assertive and clear.  It is distilled from grain and can be used with sturdy greens.  It has a very assertive flavor that sticks to the back of my throat, so I tend to reserve it for cleaning (When Crayons Must Learn Boundaries: Simple Ways to Clean Crayon Marks on Walls) and garden tasks like (At War with Weeds: A Homemade Non-Toxic Weed-Killer)

Wine vinegar:  Wine vinegar comes in red and white varieties.  Heinz manufactures an assortment of delicious wine vinegars that carry the o-u-p (kosher for Passover) certification year-round.  This type of vinegar is light and delicious and can be used in dressings for a variety of light and pungent salads.   Typically, wine vinegar comes in a shaker bottle and should be shaken sparingly directly on salad.   Wine vinegar is perfect for recipes like Warm Zucchini-Mushroom Salad with Almonds and Sunflower Seeds and Etty’s Simple Basil-Dijon Vinaigrette

Rice vinegar:  Rice vinegar is an excellent alternative to cider or white vinegar.  I used it in a variety of Asian-inspired dishes.  It combines perfectly with soy sauce and sesame oil.  Try it is dishes like Individual Sushi Salads and Asian Red Cabbage Salad…Simple and Wow

Balsamic vinegar:  Balsamic vinegar is one of my favorites, too.  It is dark brown in color and imparts a sweet, syrupy flavor.  Balsamic vinegar is not a tye of wine vinegar, but is rather made from grape pressings that have not been allowed to ferment.  This vinegar imparts a very distinctive flavor and should be used sparingly, often just dotted onto salads, vegetable and protein dishes and fruit.  This vinegar is delicious in Simple, Creamy and Perfect Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette and Roasted Rainbow Skewers.

 

A Nightstand Workbench for Ju-Ju

I walk most mornings again with my friend, Linda.  The hour walk goes by quickly as we share ideas, inspirations and tidbits of each other’s lives.   Linda offers me lots of recipe and shopping tips and shortcuts and I cherish her sage advice.  I find the walks healthy for my body and inspiring for my mind.

My kids think that the daily walks have nothing to do with exercise or friendship.

They often tell me that the early morning walks are really about scouring the neighborhood for cast-off furniture and other treasures to be recycled and upcycled.

They may just be right.

I had been thinking of designing a workbench for two-year old Ju-Ju.   Two weeks ago, I came across the perfect solid wood nightstand on the curb while walking with Linda.  The white nightstand was covered in dust and cobwebs, but was solidly constructed.  The one drawer featured intact hardware and dovetail construction.  It was perfect for my project.

I was delighted!  After the walk, I drove back to where I had seen the nightstand and loaded into my car.  I placed it right next to my front door and I just couldn’t wait to begin my newest project.

JuJu's nightstand workbench-before pic 2

Leah arrived home that evening and wasn’t too happy to see another dusty, worn castoff adorning our front porch.  She reminded me once again that my morning walks are really all about the hunt to find garbage.

I couldn’t have agreed more.

I cleaned the piece with a damp rag and turned it upside down.  I cleaned all the nooks and corners of the nightstand until it was perfectly clean.  I looked around until I found a square-ish piece of plywood that was the same width as the nightstand to use as a backsplash for the nightstand.

Using my inexpensive hand sander, I sanded the nightstand and the plywood down until all the surfaces were smooth, then sprayed the surfaces with blue spray paint.  I removed the drawer and sprayed that with silver metallic spray paint.

juju's nightstand workbench metallic drawer 2

I then ordered a square 16″ plastic pegboard and assorted pegboard accessories.   Don screwed the finished backsplash into the nightstand workbench and installed the pegboard.  I added a few good hooks on the sides to hang additional workbench accessories.

juju's nightstand workbench

I checked the toy boxes and scoured the dollar store for some play tools, safe real tools and tool boxes.  I ordered some kid-friendly power-tools and even personalized a hardhat for Ju-Ju.

Ju-Ju and Avigail loved the workbench and Leah even quizzed me on what I was thinking for the next upcycled project would be.

I just smiled mysteriously.  Let the morning walks continue…

juju's nightstand workbench metallic drawer top view

 

SUPPLIES and TOOLS

one solid-wood nightstand

1 square-ish piece of plywood the same width as the nightstand

hand sander

blue spray paint

silver metallic spray paint.

square 16″ plastic pegboard

assorted pegboard accessories

1 1/4″ round screws with nuts

small adhesive hooks

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Using a damp rag, clean the nightstand.  Make sure to clean all the nooks and crannies and insides and backs of the doors and drawers.  Turn the unit over and clean the bottom and all sides.

Find or purchase a square-ish piece of wood that is the same width as the nightstand for a backsplash.

Using a hand sander, sand the nightstand and the wood down until all the surfaces are smooth, paying special attention to the corners and edges of the nightstand and backsplash.

Remove the drawer(s) and sand separately.  Using a damp rag, wipe the entire unit clean and allow to dry.

Spray all surfaces of the nightstand and backsplash with blue spray paint.   Spray the drawer with silver metallic spray paint.

Screw the backspash into the back of the nightstand and then screw the  square 16″ plastic pegboard into the backsplash.  For the pegboard, we used 1 1/4″ round screws with nuts screwed from the back to the front.

Adhere small adhesive hooks to the sides of he nightstand workbench to hang additional hardware accessories like measuring tape, goggles and helmet.

Place assorted pegboard accessories into the pegboard and hang toy tools and safe real tools.  Fill small toolboxes with additional toy hardware and store in the workbench.

Get to work!

 

An Endless Row of Roses

For a recent dinner party, I constructed arrangements of single roses on gold wooden planks (see An arrangement of Single Roses: Simple, Upcycled and Breathtaking).  For that original arrangement, I used 6 roses for each 6-foot section of gilded wood.

This arrangement takes inspiration from that one, but uses 10 single rose blossoms for each 6 foot wooden plank.  This leaves almost no whitespace between the individual vases of rose blossoms and creates the illusion of an endless row of rose blossoms.

Simple to Wow?  You decide.

 

roses in a row

Roses in a Grid

 

Just about one year ago, this blog started with a simple arrangement of rose heads floating in a grid-like pattern: It’s all about the arrangement (psst….even with last week’s roses)  I have mixed things up by using floating roses in so many different ways.  I have mixed rose blossoms with lanterns in Roses and Lanterns: A Simple and Stunning Centerpiece and with plenty of white space over spray-painted wooden planks in An arrangement of Single Roses: Simple, Upcycled and Breathtaking.

Admittedly, roses have never been one of my favorite flowers.  They just seemed so….ordinary.  I have learned to embrace their beauty by admiring these blossoms for their variety of colors, soft petals and classic style.  I have discovered that by floating rose blossoms in different types of arrangements, it allows the viewer to see the majesty of each unique petal on each individual rose.

This is yet another simple wow arrangement that highlights the special qualities of the lovely rose.

This arrangement was created quite by accident.  I had just finished clearing up the dining room from our Purim seuda (festive meal).  For the seuda, I had set up individual square vases with floating roses alternating with individual vases with submerged orange berries and tulip petal swirls.  I placed all the vases that I had collected on my kitchen table and was contemplating what to do with the flowers.  When I looked down, I realized that I had inadvertently formed a beautiful, albeit haphazard collection of individual roses interspersed with submerged berries and tulip petals.

Here it is!

roses in a grid 1

 

A Beautifully Plated Entree

 

plated-entree

This entree combines salmon sliders, a simple arugula salad with grape tomatoes and beet pesto pasta.  It is about creating originality, whimsy and appetite by mixing different colors, textures and flavors.

Here are some tips that I used for plating this entree:

 

Repurpose simple items you already have to create that wow
Note the simple wooden picks on the salmon sliders. They create an inexpensive organic element on the plate that adds height and interest

Choose a variety of textural elements
Find foods that compliment each other in texture. Here, the baby arugula adds a soft fluttery texture, while the packed pasta is mounded to create a cohesive element and the round salmon sliders are stacked diagonally.

Display ordinary foods in extraordinary ways
I used a small glass sprayed with oil spray. I then packed the pasta into the glass, firmly packing it. I turned the glass over to unmold the pasta.

plated-entree-with-glass

Find some originality and whimsy
I butterflied four grape tomatoes in half. For each flower, I placed to butterflied tomatoes together diagonally. I drew three different size circles with sauce to create some whimsy.

Leave plenty of white space on the plate
Leave plenty of white space between each element. This way. the plate and the details can be appreciated.

Sheva Brochos To-Go Station

 

Last week, in preparation for Goldie and Tuvia’s Sheva Brochos (one of seven wedding after-parties, each with seven blessings), I purchased a large box of hamentaschen (triangular Purim pastries) to add to the Viennese table. While I was setting up, Don mentioned that we should set up a to-go station similar to those that we had at our daughters weddings. He thought that we should set out the hamentaschen individually wrapped along with tea and coffee.

I thought that was a wonderful idea.

Except, the weather was unseasonably warm.

So, we set up a water bottle and hamentaschen to-go station with personalized labels for the hamentaschen and water bottles.

I covered an old desk with an elegant tablecloth and inserted a printed sign into a vintage frame that read:

“Please take
something cold and something sweet
for the road ahead”

Our guests loved it.  It really was simple to wow them.

And, we plan to do this again at our next home celebration.

Great idea, Don!

to-go-station-complete