Monday, September 28, 2015

How to Make a Plush Fabric Pumpkin

"The bright summer had passed away, and gorgeous autumn was flinging its rainbow-tints of beauty on hill and dale." ~ Cornelia L. Tuthill
Today our windows are open to welcome the slight chill that reminds us that fall is here. Little by little, autumn is easing into our region of the country.

These clever pumpkins are one of my favorite autumnal accents. Emma has already asked if she could display them in her room. Honestly, though, they are so easy to sew, she could probably make a few for herself -- in her choice of pattern and hue.

Plush Fabric Pumpkin Tutorial
1. Although velvet is a classic choice for this project, a cotton duck print gives these gourds vibrant appeal. Spread fabric, right side down, and trace a circle with a fabric pen. (A 10.5-inch dinner plate will yield six circles per half-yard of fabric.) Create varied pumpkin sizes by experimenting with larger and smaller round templates, such as chargers and salad plates.
2. For each pumpkin, cut a circle of fabric. With needle and thread chosen to complement the thickness of the fabric, sew a running stitch around the perimeter of the circle. Pull the threads to softly gather the fabric, and pour dried beans into the opening. I used 1 to 1½ cups of black-eyed peas per pumpkin, which rendered them pleasingly plump. When you are satisfied with the fullness, pull the threads taut and stitch the opening closed. Do not cut the thread.
3. A button stitched to the bottom of the pumpkin gives a softly tufted, natural form. Push the needle through from the gathered top to the bottom. Attach a button, pushing the needle back and forth through the pumpkin with each stitch. Knot and clip the thread at the gathered top.
4. A woody stem from a fresh pumpkin provides the perfect finishing touch, but you can substitute a stem from another gourd or squash, if needed. Coat the base of the stem with hot glue, and firmly press the stem into the gathers on the top to complete the plush pumpkin.
"Oh how we love pumpkin season. You did know this gourd-ish squash has its own season, right? Winter, Spring, Summer, Pumpkin ... . We anxiously anticipate it every year." ~Trader Joe’s

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

An Alfresco Autumn Tablescape

When our Southern climate gives us a blessed reprieve from the soaring temperatures of summer, my family knows that we will be dining outside as often as possible. There is nothing more enjoyable at dinnertime than lingering together in the fresh air as daylight fades into evening. Those golden moments are my favorite time of the day.

For this autumn tablescape, a plump fabric pumpkin marks each place setting -- an easy decoration or party favor. (Details in my next post!)

I use these leafy green Majolica Bordallo Pinheiro Cabbage Ceramic Dinner Plates plates most of the year -- topped here with pierced-edge plates from Pier1.

A single orange rose tucked into a glass votive adds a lovely touch to each place setting.

And a cluster of blooms make an easy centerpiece, put on a pedestal in an embossed white soup bowl.

With plenty of texture and vibrant color, this table not only welcomes fall but also the loved ones who gather to dine alfresco on a gorgeous autumn day.

"The days may not be so bright and balmy -- yet the quiet and melancholy that lingers around them is fraught with glory. Over everything connected with autumn there lingers some golden spell -- some unseen influence that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power." ~ Northern Advocate

Monday, August 31, 2015

Welcoming Fall

This week we have enjoyed a blissful few days of moderate weather -- a tantalizing preview of the lovely autumn days to come. As we look toward September, I am ready to see signs of the new season.

Although my heart lies with the pastel palette of spring, I enjoy exploring burnished shades during this time of year. These eye-catching orange roses add a vibrant touch to the table.

One of the more pleasant tasks on my to-do list is to pull out these shapely fabric pumpkins -- a fun and easy craft I put together last year for my Creative Corner column in Christian Woman. Look for more details on this simple project this week.

In my next post, I will be sharing a festive tablescape that incorporates this classic symbol of fall.

Now that we are in the full swing of school and extra-curricular activities, I am so ready for the delights of fall -- donning boots and scarves to enjoy a bonfire with friends, ladling favorite recipes for chili into pumpkin-shaped soup bowls, and lingering outdoors to admire the changing fall foliage. 

Sweet September, how I have missed you!

"No spring nor summer's beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face."
~ John Donne

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Taste of the Suite Life

"I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

It is difficult to believe that we moved to Birmingham nearly two years ago and that the children have just begun their third school year here. Before we closed on our new house, we spent a couple of weeks in hotels when school started. It has been such a blessing to settle into our home, but one of the aspects of the "suite life" that I have missed is relaxing in the late afternoon with the family in the concierge lounge.

I have found myself wishing we could linger together again over a refreshing spread of appetizers -- a bounty of fresh fruits, cheeses, and delectable sweet and savory morsels like the ones we enjoyed during our hotel stays.  

As I thought more about what made those hours so enjoyable, I realized it was the ease and simplicity of the offerings, combined with the joy of spending unhurried time with one another. So perhaps this treasured aspect of getting away can be regularly observed when staying home. 

Alouette recently shared complimentary samples of their new line of cheese spreads called Le Petite Fromage. Available in four flavorful varieties, the individually wrapped portions allow for delicious snacking at home or on the go. Shown above are the Garden Salsa and Cucumber & Dill selections. Paired with gourmet crackers, nectarine slices, and a sprinkling of fresh raspberries, this delicious platter provided the perfect late-afternoon snack for Mary Ashley, Emma and me.

When you consider your own experiences of the suite life, what hotel amenities would you like to enjoy at home?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Farewell to Summer

"To see the Summer Sky
Is Poetry, though never in a Book it lie --
True Poems flee."
~ Emily Dickinson

As we are embarking on a new school year, I can't help but take a final longing look back to the beginning of summer and our trip to Point Clear, Ala.

As we neared the end of our family vacation, Joe and I sat on a swing overlooking the water as day melted into evening across the bay. I remember wanting to soak up every last drop of sunlight, wishing we could linger in that moment forever. But in the blink of an eye, two months have passed since that special weekend.

I am thankful for the gifts God has given us during this season and look forward to the wonders He has in store for the days ahead. Enjoy these last golden days of summer! 

"There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart." ~ Celia Thaxter

Friday, August 14, 2015

Ice Cream Tea Sandwiches

One of the delights of this busy week was having a photo shoot for TeaTimein our dining room -- quite a momentous occasion for a tea-loving girl like me! The stylist, photographer and test-kitchen professional spent most of Wednesday setting up the loveliest party. I got a little preview when I stopped in for a late lunch and can't wait to see the complete menu and tablescape when it appears in the magazine. I will be sure to let you know when the issue is on newsstands! The team was so gracious to leave fresh flowers and delicious treats for us to enjoy -- perfect for celebrating the first day of school.

Although I can't offer any details of this week's shoot, I can offer you one of my own refreshing summertime treats. These ice cream tea sandwiches take minutes to prepare and offer perfect refreshment for the lingering heat of these late-summer days.

Ice Cream Tea Sandwiches

Try this dainty dessert with your favorite flavor combinations.

Raspberry sherbet
Meyer lemon cookies*
Garnish: Powdered Sugar and fresh raspberries

Allow sherbet to soften slightly. Using a measuring tablespoon, scoop 1 tablespoon of sherbet and position gently on a cookie, using a second spoon to help scrape the ice cream off the tablespoon if needed. Top with a second cookie, and press gently. Quickly smooth edges of ice cream, and place ice cream sandwich on a freezer-safe plate. Freeze for 5-10 minutes to allow ice cream to firm up but keep cookies crisp. Garnish with a dusting of powdered sugar and a few fresh raspberries, if desired. Serve immediately. Ice cream sandwiches can be stored longer in the freezer, but the cookies will soften.

*For testing purposes, I used Salem Baking Meyer Lemon with Lemon Zest Moravian Cookies.

"The mere chink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose." ~ George Gissing

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Gardener's Gift

Upon arriving at church a week ago, we were greeted with fresh flowers gathered into cheerful bouquets -- posies tucked into urns, vases and glass jars. You could feel the pure pleasure in this thoughtful gesture from an anonymous gardener.

A handwritten note encouraged attendees to take fresh blooms to enjoy at home, share with a neighbor or deliver to the hospital. The paper was signed simply:


What a wonderful way to begin a week and a lovely reminder that joy is amplified when it is shared.

"Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure -- pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return" (Luke 6:38).

Friday, August 7, 2015

A Classic Blue-and-White Bedroom

"There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort." ~ Jane Austen

One of our home projects that stretched from spring to summer was decorating son Christian's bedroom. When we first toured our current house nearly two years ago, he immediately chose this room.

Soon after we moved in, Joe painted the walls in Christian's favorite hue. And then we got busy with work and school and church and sports ... and the room stayed a vibrant blue box. It took me awhile to find appropriate fabrics and pull the look together, but here is Christian's classic blue-and-white bedroom now.

In time for Carson's sixteenth birthday celebration, we pulled most of the room together. The walls are Patriot Blue by Benjamin Moore. Buying lined drapes from Gosia Figura really helped my schedule. These Sultana Lattice in Luna panels hang beautifully, and the flocked-velvet detail lends richness to the room. Hanging curtains high and letting the inside edge of each panel just cover the window frame makes the window seem wider -- one of my favorite decorating tricks! 

The boys share a bathroom, and we often share Christian's room with guests. Here are some of the elements that make this such a comfortable space.

I wanted to give Christian a crisply tailored look in blue and white. For months, I kept my eyes out for a bold buffalo check and finally found this Reagan Plaid 541 Blueberry by Covington. The scale and tone were just what I had in mind. I used this print for his bed skirt, pillow shams, and an extra project you'll see below.

Putting the finishing touch on a Matelasse Coventry Coverlet Set from Bed Bath & Beyond is a lumbar pillow cover from The Happy Seamstress in Canton Bazaar Porcelain Print.

A friend from church told me about Build-a-Cross, an online shop that is also a faith-based ministry for people struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. I ordered a 36-inch unfinished monogram and painted it white -- such a dramatic focal point above the bed.

Drawer pulls from Hobby Lobby added bits of blue to this bedside dresser -- for many years our nursery changing table.

Very inexpensive shelves from Big Lots provide storage for some of Christian's favorite mementos. Lining the back with our buffalo check really ties them into the room. The execution of this project was not perfect, but we enjoy it just the same.

I hope Christian smiles when he sees these special keepsakes from his life so far. It seems like just yesterday that we bowled him over with a surprise party for his 10th birthday. (Take a walk down memory lane -- er, alley -- here.)

When company comes, fresh flowers appear on the bedside table. But usually this surface is covered with schoolbooks, movie tickets and other sundries that come along with an active teenager's life.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into Christian's new room. I still hope to add moulding at some point, and we want to find University of Kentucky posters to hang above the dresser opposite his bed. But as is, the space is handsome, smart and classic.

Just like the boy who calls this room home.

"The light is what guides you home,
the warmth is what keeps you there."
~ Ellie Rodriguez

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