Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." ~ Melody Beattie

Wherever you find yourself along life's journey, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Chocolate Chip Biscotti

"Hot coffee and cold winter mornings are two of the best soul mates who ever did find each other." ~ Terri Guillemets

Y'all know I love my teatime, but making party favors for a recent banquet at church has me reaching for a different brew. To coordinate with our Italian menu, I sampled several recipes for biscotti. Read on for my easy version of Chocolate Chip Biscotti -- a perfect accompaniment to a steaming cup of coffee or espresso.

Chocolate Chip Biscotti
Makes approximately 50 cookies

1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup white sugar
Pinch sea salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup mini chocolate chips
Melting chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, beat oil, eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla until blended. Add flour and baking powder, and beat until a heavy dough forms. Gently stir in chocolate chips. Halve dough, and shape each piece into a roll as long as cookie sheet. Place roll on first prepared cookie sheet, and using a rolling pin sprinkled with flour, press dough to 1/2-inch thickness.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cookie dough cool slightly, then slice crosswise into 1/2-inch slices. Transfer slices, cut side up, to second prepared cookie sheet. Bake for an additional 6 to 10 minutes on each side, or until toasted. Let biscotti cool to room temperature, then drizzle with melting chocolate. Allow chocolate to harden before packaging biscotti.

Wrapped up as a take-home favor, this lightly sweet shortbread was a hit at our church party. I hope to make more this holiday season to accompany coffee-themed gifts for teachers and coaches.

"Suave molecules of Mocha stir up your blood, without causing excess heat; the organ of thought receives from it a feeling of sympathy; work becomes easier and you will sit down without distress to your principal repast which will restore your body and afford you a calm, delicious night." ~ Prince Tallyrand

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Spot of Tea

"If you have one teapot
And can brew your tea in it
That will do quite well.
How much does he lack himself
Who must have a lot of things?"
~ Sen no Rikyu

"Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves  slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future." ~ Thich Nat Hahn

Friday, November 14, 2014

Shades of Autumn

"The days may not be so bright and balmy — yet the quiet and melancholy that linger 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

From my desk I have a lovely view of the foliage behind our offices at Victoria, but nothing beats stepping outside to experience the autumn splendor firsthand. Our weather is unusually cold for this time of year in Alabama, but the crisp, cool air has been so refreshing. Won't you join me for a stroll around the pond? The fleeting colors of fall must be enjoyed in their season. 

"Is not this a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love — that makes life and nature harmonize. The birds are consulting about their migrations, the trees are putting on the hectic or the pallid hues of decay, and begin to strew the ground, that ones very footsteps may not disturb the repose of earth and air, while they give us a scent that is a perfect anodyne to the restless spirit. Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking successive autumns." ~ George Eliot

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Moment with Steepist

"Tea is quiet and our thirst for tea is never far from our craving for beauty." ~ James Norwood Pratt

Over the weekend, I enjoyed the most beautiful moment -- an impromptu mother-daughter teatime shared over cupfuls of a delightful blend, compliments of a new company for tea enthusiasts. Urging us to "think inside the box," Steepist offers an innovative tea subscription service that introduces customers to some of the most delightful loose-leaf blends from around the world.

The box includes four half-ounce samples of tea, enough for approximately 20 single servings (40 if steeped twice). Along with details and brewing instructions for each blend, the package includes 10 tea sleeves. The inaugural selection includes Organic Lapsang Souchong from Stone Leaf Teahouse, Traditional Guayusa Tea from Runa, Lychee Oolong from Naivetea, and Fiji from SerendipiTea (shown in this post). I appreciate the company for sending me a complimentary box to try.

In the quiet of early morning on Saturday, Mary Ashley wandered in just as I had steeped my first cup of Lychee Oolong, described by the tea sommeliers at Steepist as "light and smooth tea with elegant oolong taste, luscious fruit, fragrant, sweet finish." The delicate brew was exquisite, and Mary Ashley was eager to have her own cup after she shared a sip from mine. Warmed by comfort and sweetened by conversation, this impromptu teatime is not one I will soon forget. It was such a gift to open this box of tea and find it full of treasured moments, to be savored in solitude or in the company of someone special.

Learn more about this subscription service at Steepist.

"The cup of tea on arrival at a country house is a thing which, as a rule, I particularly enjoy. I like the crackling logs, the shaded lights, the scent of buttered toast, the general atmosphere of leisured coziness." ~ P.G. Wodehouse

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Birthday Bliss

Over the weekend we celebrated Joe's birthday, which gave me a wonderful opportunity to make a cake. I have had very little time to bake lately, so it was a treat to enjoy the scent of batter wafting through the house.

Joe was out of town on his actual birthday, so we were happy to ring in the new year yesterday afternoon.

His celebration means we are back in the season of birthday bliss!

"Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional." ~Chili Davis

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

Homecoming Celebration Ideas

Our family entered a new stage over the weekend. Carson took a date to Homecoming at his high school -- a sweet girl from his youth group at church. I made the corsage above for the occasion. (You know how I love crafting my way through life transitions!) Here are a few photos of Carson and Mallory. They are precious!

The pair wanted to watch a movie at our house after Homecoming, so I had a little surprise waiting for them when they arrived.

Carson and Mallory were surprised to discover framed one-hour photos already on display when they walked through the door -- a memento for each to commemorate their festive evening.

"Homecoming means football, floats and fun." ~ Anonymous

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Painted Details in Emma's Room

Paint helped infuse Emma's bedroom in our Wetumpka house with a cheery palette of pale pink, bright pink and green. Above, a trio of natural-wood frames from Hobby Lobby got a refreshing update with stripes and polka dots.

And a wooden trashcan, also from Hobby Lobby, incorporates all of our colors, along with a curlicued freehand monogram.

The legs on this table from HomeGoods inspired the choice of green for the room. I had it color-matched at the paint store, and used the refreshing shade for chairs, a dresser, and other accents throughout the room. This really tied everything together.

Simply painted accessories added the finishing touches to this bright, happy space.

"If people want to make war they should make a color war, and paint each others' cities up in pinks and greens." ~Yoko Ono 

Photos by Allison Hilyer. Used with permission.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Opening a Window Today

"A friend is one of the nicest things you can have, and one of the best things you can be." ~ Douglas Pagels

Today I'm reminiscing about a special afternoon we spent getting to know Mary Ashley's preschool class. That harvest luncheon was several years ago, but we still remember it well. We met several of our dearest friends during those blissful hours of fellowship, and it all started from a simple invitation. It's a tradition we plan to repeat this fall with her ballet class. The students attend several different schools, so we are planning a girls night to help them grow closer. Look for details on that party soon -- the challenge is finding a spot on the calendar when we will be free! Please join me on the Victoria blog, where I'm opening Autumn Doors to Friendship

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day!

I hope you are basking in the sun and dipping your toes in the ocean this holiday, soaking up the last glistening moments of summer. We have enjoyed an extended weekend with family, and I hope I will have pictures to share soon. Blessings to you and yours!

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dressed in Blue and White

You would be surprised how often during the work week we realize our staff at Victoria magazine is dressed in blue and white. With entire issues dedicated to this beloved color combination, is it any wonder? Recently online ladies clothing boutique eShakti reached out to offer me a sample garment. I was intrigued with their customization options for style and fit. I'll show you my selection, but first I wanted to show you a few of my favorite late-summer classics. Above, I have my eye on this Piped Trim Pagoda Print Dress.

So which option did I choose?

Why, the Victoria, of course! I was drawn to the feminine styling of this knee-length ruffled dress. I chose mine in pink with cap sleeves, but the blue and cream versions also look like pretty wardrobe staples. Thanks to eShakti for allowing me to shop! I have gotten so many compliments on this dress and appreciate that it was tailor-made for me. Find your favorite style here, and connect with the company on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. Through September 28, get 10 percent off your order of non-clearance and non-overstock items with promotional code "alittleloveliness."

"Fashion changes, but style endures." ~ Coco Chanel

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