Harvest Chicken Salad with Lemon Aioli

MakeThis elegant, fall-inspired twist on the classic Waldorf salad, is perfect on a sandwich or piled atop a bed of greens. For an upscale, yet easy appetizer, scoop some into pre-baked phyllo cups, or just serve as a simple cracker spread. For this recipe, I used a lemon aioli to bind everything together instead of mayonnaise (however, plain ol’ mayo would work just fine). I like how the flavors play off of each other; the tartness of the lemon is balanced by the sweetness of the apples and cranberries. And the nuts and apples provide a nice texture in every bite. However you choose to enjoy this sweet and savory dish, it’ll become a staple at your fall table!


chicken salad

Harvest Chicken Saladi
  • For the salad:
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (skin removed)
  • About ¼ cup dried cranberries, like Craisins
  • About ¼ cup chopped pecans
  • 2 small apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • About ½ cup of lemon aioli (you can also use regular mayonnaise if you prefer)
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • For the lemon aioli (recipe courtesy of Havens Kitchen):
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1½ cups vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • Kosher salt
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • Cold water, as needed
  1. Make the aioli: combine the egg yolk, mustard and lemon zest into a bowl. Whisk to combine, then start to slowly add the vegetable oil in a slow, steady stream until a thick emulsion has been created. When it becomes too stiff and looks like it’s starting to split, add some lemon juice or water. Continue to add the oil. Season with salt and lemon juice.
  2. In a bowl, combine the shredded chicken, cranberries, apples and pecans. Add the aioli. Mix well.
  3. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.


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Rustic White Bean Soup with Prosciutto & Pasta

MakeAs soon as the weather turns a bit chilly, I crave a hearty bowl of comforting soup. It’s been said that soup is good for the soul and I’m definitely a believer. As a young girl, I remember my great-grandmother making soup every Monday night as soon as the weather began to turn. The family would enjoy a hearty bowl of homemade soup for dinner, usually accompanied by a simple green salad and lots of Italian bread. Today, my mother continues the soup tradition for my three children. This flavorful melange of creamy white beans, tender carrots and celery and salty cubes of prosciutto, is the perfect way to welcome dinner guests to your table or help you unwind after a long day. I like to serve this Tuscan-inspired soup with crusty bread and lots of grated Italian cheese on top.

Crafty Tip: this recipe yields a very large amount of soup, so be sure to have plastic soup containers on hand to freeze for another meal!

bean  soup

Rustic White Bean Soup with Pasta & Prosciutto
  • 2 lbs. dried cannellini beans (soaked overnight)
  • 4 oz. diced prosciutto (I like to use the Citterio brand; it's already diced)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large carrots, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped into small pieces
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 32-ounce containers low sodium or unsalted chicken stock
  • 1 lb. of ditalini pasta
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • Olive oil
  1. Soak the beans in a large pot of cold water, preferably overnight. Drain off the water and rinse the beans under cold water.
  2. Add beans back to pot, cover with water by two inches and bring to a boil. Cover and remove from the heat; allow to stand in the hot water for 20 minutes, then drain. Set the beans aside.
  3. In the bottom of the same pot, heat some olive oil. Add the onions and garlic. Allow to soften, but you don't want them to get too brown.
  4. Add in the carrots and celery. allowing them to soften just slightly.
  5. Add in the prosciutto.
  6. Return the beans to the pot. Pour in the chicken stock. If you need more liquid, you can add more stock or water.
  7. Place the bay leaves in the pot. Season with salt and pepper; cover and bring to a boil.
  8. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer, keeping covered. Allow the soup to slowly simmer for at least one hour or until the beans and vegetables are soft.
  9. In a separate pot, cook the pasta to al dente.
  10. Once the pasta is done, drain off the water and carefully add the pasta to the pot of soup.
  11. Stir and taste; if necessary, adjust the salt and pepper according to your taste. Simmer for just a few minutes longer and remove from the heat.
- This makes a very large amount of soup. Freeze in airtight plastic containers for future use.

- If you prefer to use canned beans, rinse under cold water and drain. Add the beans to the soup towards the end or they will get too mushy.

- Remove the bay leaves before serving.



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BeautiFALL Accents: My Fall Home Tour

CreateFall is the perfect time to get cozy and bring the warmth and beauty of the harvest season into your home. A home that’s embellished with fall accents is inviting and welcoming; it’s like giving your guests a warm hug and a hot cup of cider! The earthiness of an autumnal palette is warm and inviting; hues of orange and rust, deep yellows, rich greens and shades of brown ranging from mocha to chocolate. Throw in a pop of deep purple or maroon and it really comes to life.

Decorating your home for fall is also very easy to accomplish; you really don’t need anything fancy or expensive to beautify your home for the harvest season. Almost every grocery store or local farmstand sells a gorgeous variety of gourds, pumpkins, Indian corn and the like, making it readily available and inexpensive. Add a few accent pieces with a unique, handcrafted appeal and the look is complete. Here are a few ideas from my fall home that I hope will inspire you!


Large, bright mum plants, my favorite fall garden bloom and a hand-painted sign welcome guests as they arrive.

A trio of pumpkins add the perfect fall touch to my outdoor decor; prop one on a ceramic pot that's turned upside down and you have an instant pedestal.

A trio of pumpkins add the perfect fall touch to my outdoor decor; prop one on a ceramic pot that’s turned upside down and you have an instant pedestal.

The table in my foyer is a welcoming display, including a bronze glass pumpkin, trio of softly lit candles and a vessel with fall branches.

The table in my foyer is a welcoming display, including a bronze glass pumpkin, trio of softly lit candles and a vessel with fall branches.

Whole hazelnuts and real leaves that fell from the trees, add a freshness and earthiness to a vessel with faux fall branches.

Whole hazelnuts and real leaves that fell from the trees, add a freshness and earthiness to a vessel with faux fall branches.

My favorite rustic wood tray from Raymour & Flanigan gets all dressed up with a tall, rust-colored wheatstack and three mini pumpkins and ghourds.

My favorite rustic wood tray from Raymour & Flanigan gets all dressed up with a tall, rust-colored wheatstack and mini pumpkins and gourds.

A wicker cornucopia filled with white Baby Boo pumpkins shows off the bounty of the season! The tray can be moved from room to room to add instant fall beauty, whether o the dining table or kitchen island.






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Garage Sale Style

CreateIt’s been said that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. This adage is certainly true for Linda Glaser, an avid garage sale hunter and expert on sought after Depression Glass. Glaser also happens to be the mother of the wildly talented Nina Pace of Ash & Anchor, so the creative eye definitely runs in the family! Scouring local garage sales and flea markets for pieces to add to her huge collection has become a favorite past-time and insatiable passion for Glaser, who’s been collecting Depression-era glass for the past fifteen years. She also keeps an eye out for Asian pieces, such as ginger jars, fishbowls and figurines. Along the way, she’s also scored some gorgeous furniture pieces, proving that you just never know what you’ll find at the next sale. The New York home that she shares with her husband and two dogs displays her highly curated collection of pieces, both old and new, which she’s expertly mixed to work perfectly together. Check out a few of her favorite pieces below!

Like Glaser, many people (almost 700,000 to be exact!) have turned to garage sales to find collectible items, furniture pieces to refinish or just unique things that catch their eye. Some hunters also resell their finds on eBay, generating an average profit of nearly 500%, according to a study done in 2013 by StatisticBrain.com. An average of 165,000 garage sales per week are seen in the US; 95,000 of them are listed each week on Craig’s List.

Now that the crisp, fall season is here, garage sale hunting — whether you’re an old pro or newbie — is a fun weekend activity. If you’re a first-timer or feel apprehensive about pulling up to your first garage sale, here are a few tips from Glaser to help you get started.

Glaser’s Garage Sale Hunting Tips:

  • It’s normal to feel awkward if you’ve never been to a garage sale before. Just keep in mind that the seller’s WANT you to browse through their stuff or they wouldn’t have put it out for all to see.
  • If you really like something, but feel that the price is too high, ask them if they are firm on their price. Most likely, they will be flexible and you can negotiate a price that you are both comfortable with.
  • Not sure if something is worth a lot of money? Don’t worry about it! Go with what you love and the hunt will have been worth it!
  • If you are beginning a collection, check eBay to get an idea of what something is worth.
  • Depression “Crackle” Glass — turn the item over and feel the bottom; if it’s rough, it’s probably authentic.
  • Depression “Vaseline” Glass — if you put the item against a black light and it glows, it’s the real deal!


Glaser mixes a deep red chest from Pier 1 with garage sale finds like a crackle glass pitcher and Asian fishbowls and stools.

Glaser mixes a deep red chest from Pier 1 with garage sale finds like a blue crackle glass pitcher and Asian fishbowls and stools.


An Asian figurine is poised between a table-top garden of plants.

An Asian figurine is poised between a table-top garden of plants.

Amberina Depression glass adds a bright pop of yellow-orange-red color to a curio of collectibles.

Amberina Depression glass adds a bright pop of yellow-orange-red color to a curio of collectibles.

White hobnail glass, created a milky, romantic display.

White hobnail glass pieces create a milky, romantic display on a side table.

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Pumpkin Spice Parfait

The Crafty Hostess: MakeEven though we are only halfway through September and the first official day of autumn is still a week away, we are in a pumpkin frenzy. I was grocery shopping today at my local Stop & Shop and noticed a big sign that touted “more than 50 pumpkin products” available in the store brand. And that’s just one brand! I even noticed Pumpkin Spice peanut butter (honestly, not sure how I feel about that one)!

In keeping with the pumpkin takeover (which is fine with me because I happen to love pumpkin), I decided to make a Pumpkin Spice Parfait using leftover ingredients from my Mason Jar Pumpkin Pie Trifle, and one of my very favorite, comforting desserts — Kozy Shack Original Rice Pudding. Not only is this the perfect fall-inspired treat, but it’s a nice gluten-free alternative to traditional pumpkin pie. It has all the same great flavors of the classic pie, but with the added benefit of being rich and creamy. It’s beautiful to serve in individual parfait glasses and can be made ahead of time, covered and kept refrigerated until ready to serve.

pumpkin parfait

Once all of the ingredients have been made,  it’s a cinch to compose this semi-homemade dessert in parfait glasses. Just make the ingredients ahead  of time, cover and refrigerate. Here’s how to assemble the parfaits:

  • First, spoon the rice pudding into the bottom of the glass (about 1/3 — 1/2 of the way up)
  • Next, spoon the pumpkin pie filling on top of the rice pudding (about 1/3)
  • Top off with the mascarpone cream
  • Dust the top of the cream with pumpkin pie spice

Crafty tip: If preparing the glasses ahead of time, omit the mascarpone cream layer and dusting of pumpkin pie spice until right before serving.

Enjoy. Happy Fall!

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Back-to-Fall Nesting & Organizing

CreateAs a kid, I always loved the back-to-school time of year. Sure, I missed the lazy days of summer and frolicking with my girlfriends. But there was something mesmerizing about the crisp smell of a brand new notebook, writing with a freshly sharpened pencil and, yes, I may be dating myself, but I couldn’t wait to organize the folders in my shiny, new Trapper Keeper! Now, as an adult and mother of three, laying out the kids’ school supplies and labeling backpacks and lunch bags kicks off what I like to call “back-to-fall.”

Back-to-fall is not just an event, it’s a mindset. It’s about nesting, organizing, stockpiling and getting ready to cozy-up to the colder months that lie ahead. Fall is my favorite season, hands down (I know, I’ve said that a hundred times!), so this process is very exciting and nurturing for me. Here are some of the things that I do to nest and organize at the start of fall, along with a few of my tips to get it all done — just in time to sit back, get cozy and sip a hot apple cider!


‘Makeover’ your makeup case.

At least once a year (if not more often), it’s good personal hygiene to purge old cosmetic products. In particular, pay close attention to makeup products like eye liners and mascaras that could form a bacteria that can cause infection in the eye area. Refer to these general guidelines from Everyday Health for more info on when to toss your makeup stash. Once you’ve cleaned out the expired products, you’ll have room to stock up on some of the seasons hottest new colors, like Bare Minerals High Shine Eye Color in Teal, Gold and Khaki!


  • Lipstick
    • Every two years
  • Foundation
    • Six months to one year
  • Eye pencils
    • One year
  • Mascara
    • Within 3 months of opening
  • Lip gloss
    • Six months
  • Loose powders and eye shadows
    • One to two years


Fridge freedom.  

If your house is anything like ours, your refrigerator is a place to display every stitch of artwork, letter sent home from the teacher, school lunch calendars and countless other paper items. You know the fridge is a bit too full when stuff begins to fall onto the floor every time you open the door! (Not to mention, the clutter can be a little off-putting to look at.) With the summer behind us and a new school year ahead (filled with lots of artwork!), it’s time to wipe the fridge clean — literally — and either file away or stash all of the papers that adorn it.


Prep the pantry for fall fare.

Once summer is over, I like to clean out my food pantry and take inventory of what I have on hand for fall/winter baking and cooking. During the summer, when more of what I cook is fresh, farm-to-table fare, I neglect the pantry a bit, simply because I turn to farmstand staples and quick, grilled foods for my family’s meals. As the weather turns cooler and the family meals become more comforting (think soups, stews, one-pot dinners and casseroles), it’s a huge time-saver on a busy weeknight to ensure that the pantry is well-stocked. This also comes in handy as you begin your seasonal baking with fall favorites like apples, pears, pumpkins and butternut squash. Here are a few essentials to make sure you have on hand for seamless, stress-free meals!


Pantry essentials:

  • An assortment of oils and vinegar
    • Canola for frying
    • Regular/extra virgin olive oils
    • Red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar
  • Salt, Pepper & Spices
    • Kosher and/or sea salt
    • Fine salt for sprinkling on baked goods or caramel/fudge
    • Black pepper and red pepper flakes
    • Garlic powder
    • Onion powder
    • Paprika
    • Nutmeg
    • Cinnamon
    • Pumpkin pie spice
    • Dried herbs
    • Bay leaves (great for soups and stews)
  • Sugar
    • Granulated
    • Brown (dark and light)
    • Confectioners
  • Flour
    • All-purpose
    • Specialty types like whole wheat, rice, almond (this depends on what your baking)
  • Boxed baking mixes and frosting
    • I like to have these on hand for quick baking projects with the kids or to whip up at a moments notice
  • Evaporated and condensed milk for baking
  • An assortment of nuts
  • Cooking stocks and broths
    • Bouillon cubes or packets also come in handy if you don’t have ready-made stock on hand
  • Extracts


Flip the flip-flops. 

I like to keep the sneakers, casual pair of boots and Crocs I wear most often on a shoe rack in my foyer closet. During the summer, the rack space is full with flip flops in every color of the rainbow. With the colder weather upon us and my feet going into hibernation, it’d time to stow away the flip flops to make room for my fuzzy slippers! Use a plastic storage bin or basket to stack flip flops and stash on a shelf until next year.



Cleaning made easy.

Hard to clean shower doors will never look squeakier with this simple, homemade cleaning solution. Perfect for surfaces like glass, ceramic, porcelain or Formica, the mixture cuts through soap scum, mildew and everyday grime and leaves a beautiful, streak-free finish. Here’s how:

  • Pour equal parts Dawn Ultra dish soap and distilled white vinegar into a spray bottle.
  • Shake it up so it’s combined well.
  • Spray the surface, agitate with a sponge soaked in water.
  • Rinse and wipe clean.

Dawn soap


Toy story.

We are fortunate to have a finished basement in our home, which is a life-saver when it comes to stashing the kids’ toys. With three kids and a TON of toys, it can get pretty unruly. Luckily, I can close the door and forget that it exists — until I walk down the steps!

Recently, we decided to have the berber carpeting in our basement professionally steam cleaned. Fall is the perfect time to do this since you can leaves the windows open to allow the fresh air to help the carpet dry. And with less humidity in the air, it dries within 8-10 hours. I took this opportunity to ransack the toys, puzzles and games. I made three piles:

  • Keep — this was everything that was in good condition that the kids still play with
  • Discard — this pile consisted of broken toys and missing/random pieces
  • Donate or giveaway — this pile consisted of toys that were no longer age-appropriate for my kids, but would be the perfect donation to a local church or day care center, as well as items that we could give to friends and family with babies/toddlers

A free-standing cubby system loaded with baskets and bins, like the one below from BHG, makes it easy for kids to reach their toys and books. Plus, it looks great!

toy room_BHG




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‘Mason Jar’ Pumpkin Pie Trifle with Mascarpone Cream & Caramel

BakeAh, fall. It’s truly my favorite season of all. I’ll take the crisp air, changing leaves and endless mugs of hot apple cider hands down over any other season. It’s a time to nest, organize, get cozy on a haunted hay ride, pick apples from the orchard and of course, eat and drink all things pumpkin! Pumpkin has become such a popular flavor in the United States over the last few years; it really is symbolic of the season. From pie to coffee, bars to cookies, breads to soups (I’ve even seen roasted pumpkin pizza!), it’s a pumpkin takeover!

As an International Delight featured blogger, I couldn’t have been more excited when their Pumpkin Pie Spice coffee creamer recently hit the shelves. Sure, it’s a heavenly dose of fall in your morning cup of hot java. But did you know that it can also be used in other ways, like for baking? Before you check out my original, semi-homemade creation for Pumpkin Pie Trifle (which I layered into a rustic mason jar!), be sure to check out the International Delight web site for all of their limited edition seasonal flavors and to join their online community.

ID_Trifle 1

ID_trifle 2

ID_trifle 3

Ingredients for the pumpkin pie filling:

12 ounces International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice creamer

1 package of Betty Crocker Limited Edition Pumpkin Bar mix (bake according to the package directions)

About half of a 29-ounce can of Libby’s pure pumpkin

2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

Smuckers Salted Caramel topping (can be found in ice cream section of grocery store next to sprinkles, toppings, etc.; I used to drizzle in between trifle layers)

Ingredients for the mascarpone cream:

1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature

8 ounces of mascarpone cheese, at room temperature

3 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract

How to:

Bake the Pumpkin Bar mix according to the package directions. Set aside to cool completely.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the two eggs with hand mixer. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture until combined. Gradually stir in the Pumpkin Pie Spice coffee creamer and stir gently until well incorporated. Pour the mixture into a buttered, 8 x 8 glass baking dish.

Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 45 minutes or until set and a toothpick inserted in center comes clean.

Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. If you are not assembling the trifle until the next day, cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated.

To make the mascarpone cream, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone cheese and extract in a bowl. Beat until the mixture thickens into the consistency of a whipped cream.

To assemble the trifle (I used a 12 ounce, wide-mouth mason jar):

Begin with a layer of the Pumpkin Bar. Cut a chunk from the pan and then break it into bite-sized pieces with your fingers. Gently press it into the bottom of the jar. Next, top with a layer of the pumpkin pie filling, about 2-3 heaping teaspoons worth. Add about 2-3 teaspoons of the mascarpone cream on top of the filling, smoothing it with a spoon. Then drizzle the salted caramel topping over the cream. Repeat as necessary depending on the size of the trifle you are making.

Crafty Tips:

  • This dessert can be made in individual bowls or jars, or can be made in one larger trifle bowl. Serve with a hot cup of coffee that’s been flavored with International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice creamer.
  • All of the elements of this dessert can be made ahead of time and assembled just before serving. Just be sure to allow time for the pie filling and cream to come to room temperature.
  • It’s also very important for the Salted Caramel topping to be at room temperature or warm, so it can be easily drizzled.


Notes: this recipe should yield about four 12-ounce mason jar desserts. Mug shown, tag, available at Christmas Tree Shop; napkin shown, Pier 1 Imports.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of International Delight. The opinions and text are all mine.

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Fall/Winter Trend Outlook: Catching Up With Ash & Anchor!

It may still be hot outside, but Fall is definitely in the air. Before you know it, we’ll be swapping the light, gauzy fabrics of summer for warm, cozy sweaters, comfy blazers and colorful scarves that make it all pop. Nina Pace, portrait and still-life painter, illustrator and textile designer, has found success by blurring the lines within her artistic skill-set. Best known around the country for her luxurious, bold, bohemian-inspired infinity scarves, the Ash & Anchor founder handcrafts each and every textile in small batches, ensuring that each one is as beautiful as the next. Her collection of work embraces a highly-detailed, skilled artistry, as shown in the vibrant and colorful patterns that embody every product she creates in her New York studio. While infinity scarves remain at the core of her line, Pace has branched out to create an exquisite home collection, including aprons, tea towels, pillows and table runners. I caught up with her recently to get a glimpse into what she’s working on for fall/winter 2015 and what trends we can expect to see in home decor!

Anodyne1_b81a6cc0-53d9-4b29-89b4-68f549f3f339_large (1)




TCH:  Give us a little background about how you got started; how was Ash & Anchor born?

NP:  The idea for Ash & Anchor started back when I was in grad school creating portrait and still life paintings with highly detailed, patterned backgrounds. A visiting artist noted that I seemed far more interested in painting the background than the foreground– and she was right! This triggered all new ideas for me, most importantly that I could do similar work with different applications. I formed my creative studio as Ash & Anchor and started to take on freelance work and began selling paper items with my patterns on them! My freelance work eventually brought me a lot of textile design projects and seeing my designs printed on fabric was a complete game-changer.


TCH:  You started with a gorgeous line of luxurious, but affordable, infinity scarves. Were throw pillows and towels a natural extension of the product offering for you?

NP:  Thank you! Yes, I have always had in mind that I wanted to expand the line. Every time I draw a pattern, I dream up what else I can put it on, but the process gets slowed down a bit trying to figure out sourcing the right quality materials and construction. I’m definitely overjoyed to have a home collection now!


TCH:  Can you tell us what you’re working on for fall/winter 2014-2015? What can we expect to see in the line?

NP:  I’ve been having a lot of fun designing for fall/winter. I wanted the new line to be a bit more subdued than my usual palette (we’ll see how that goes!) and I’ve been bringing in some more geometric shapes. I’ve also been focusing on limited color palettes for each design to help allow certain aspects of each design to stand out.


TCH:  Your prints are so vibrant, organic, detailed and nature-inspired; where do you find your inspiration? Do you look to your own backyard for the next pattern idea?

NP:  Absolutely! I find myself taking pictures on walks and hikes all the time. I’m drawn to all the patterns already created in nature and love finding my own way to interpret them. Of late, I’ve been obsessed with different types of seed pods; the weirder or more detailed, the better!


TCH:  You have a Masters in Fine Arts. Do you also consider yourself a textile designer or fashion designer?

NP:  I like how blurred the lines can be these days, with so much opportunity out there to cross fields and allow your work to take on many different forms. I think I’ll always consider myself a painter and illustrator because that’s still at the base of what I do, but textile designer is definitely added to the rotation!


TCH:  What home décor trends are you seeing for fall/winter 2014-2015? What colors should we be watching out for?

NP:  I’ve been seeing a lot of exotic or ethnic prints accentuating simpler or more subtle designs. Along the same lines, I think we’ll keep seeing bright accent hues over natural, unsaturated tones. Colorwise, watch out for gorgeous jewel tones and possibly lots of blues. Turquoise will still be going strong as well, which makes me happy!


TCH:  Birds, butterflies, botanicals – what’s the next iconic print to hit textile design, in your opinion?

NP:  Lately, it seems as though the pineapple is the new go-to icon. I love its history as the symbol for hospitality, so I think it’s worthy of this comeback.


TCH:  What’s your personal style? What things make you feel most at home?

NP:  I feel like my style is a bit of a melting pot of different styles meshed together. I love mixing vintage pieces with new ones and one-of-a-kind pieces with simpler ones. I feel the most at home amongst items that all have a story or a special history — or items that you can tell were made with care.


TCH:  What’s on the horizon for Ash & Anchor? What’s next?

NP:  I have a few possibilities on the table to create some non-textile home items which I’m really excited about. I have to get the samples and prototypes worked out before I can really share but it feels exciting to explore new avenues!


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Summer-Inspired Bloody Mary with Melon & Basil

The Crafty Hostess: MakeSummer tomatoes are at their peak and the heirloom variety is as pretty as a picture. I just love the colors, shapes and textures of these sweet, summer jewels. Whether you’re slicing them to top a killer BLT sandwich, pureeing them for a homemade marinara sauce, or juicing them to make the base for a fresh Bloody Mary, they are ripe for the picking and ready to be added to an array of summer dishes. When the go-to source for gourmet foods and professional cookware, Williams-Sonoma, asked me and a group of other bloggers to put our own spin on the traditional Bloody Mary using ripe, summer tomatoes, I jumped at the opportunity to make something that’s inspired by the many flavors of summer. For me, that includes ripe, earthy tomatoes, sweet, juicy melon and bright, tender basil. Enhanced with a little heat and some saltiness, it’s a perfectly unique, summery twist on the classic Bloody Mary base.

I’ve been researching the many juicer options on the Williams-Sonoma web site recently, but haven’t taken the plunge yet. I’m eyeing up the Breville Juice Fountain Elite for its large feed tube. As a busy mom, easier is always better, and the extra large tube eliminates the need to precut ingredients. That’s a huge time-saver and it would allow me to make fresh, healthy juices for my family in a flash! In the meantime, I’m using my handy dandy blender to whip up shakes and purees. For this recipe, I decided to broiled the tomatoes first, which helps intensify and bring out their deep flavor. I removed the skin and pulsed the whole tomatoes in the blender. It’s an extra step, but I know that it’s fresher and healthier than pre-bottled juices.

Take advantage of summer’s sweet bounty this Labor Day weekend and give this cocktail a try. It’s a great way to savor the last days of the season. Crafty Tip: you can also freeze the puree for the base in airtight containers so you can enjoy summer-inspired Bloody Mary’s for weeks to come!

Bloody Mary


Ingredients for the base:

(Makes about two servings)

1 lb. of ripe heirloom tomatoes (plum or campari would also work well since they are naturally sweet)

1/4 of a ripe cantaloupe, seeds and rind removed

Few dashes of Tabasco sauce

Few dashes Worcestershire sauce

3-4 basil leaves

Sea salt (to taste)

Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)


How to:

Broil the tomatoes whole with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Once the skin begins to blister and the tomatoes are soft, remove from the oven. Allow to cool just enough so you can handle them. Peel off the skin and discard.

Place the tomatoes, cantaloupe and basil leaves in a blender. Puree until smooth. Add the Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, to taste. Give it one last quick pulse to blend.

In a glass, place a few ice cubes. Pour in about 1 1/2 ounces of vodka. Pour some of the base into the glass. Give it a stir to incorporate. Garnish each glass with a bleu cheese stuffed olive and melon ball on a cocktail pick.

Alternatively, you could also place all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with with ice.

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Chic & Stylish Home Security Ideas

CreateTinkering, tweaking, and constantly changing out the design elements in my home is one of my passions. I love to create an atmosphere that’s not only stylish, but conducive to a busy family like mine. Despite the fact that I’m a lover of beautiful home decor, I’m a mom of three young children, so it’s equally important to foster a practical, safe, secure environment for my family. When it comes to home security, there’s a bit more to it than a “beware of dog” sign in the front yard. Top-of-the-line alarm systems will definitely offer peace of mind, as will a WiFi home security system, such as Dropcam, which allows you to monitor (and record) the activity in your home from your smartphone, computer or tablet — from anywhere. However, there are also seemingly small design elements that you can incorporate into your home décor scheme that are not only chic, but add another layer of security, too. You’d be surprised at some of the possibilities – and none of them are lacking in style or beauty!


Mirror, mirror on the wall (or floor!). 

Mirrors are a timeless, classic design element that can be used in a variety of ways. Functional and necessary in a bathroom or dressing area, mirrors are also a stunning addition to many other spaces throughout the home. They are excellent light reflectors and can help to give your home a feeling of openness and brightness. Mirrors can help add a security value to your space, as well. For example, a large mirror mounted over a fireplace in the living/family room, or a horizontal-shaped mirror hung on the wall in the hallway, allows you to see the activity of the day, as well as people coming and going from room-to-room.



If your children are older and child-proofing your home is not of concern, consider large, floor-standing mirrors that are intended to lean against a wall. This is a stunning statement for a bedroom or living space and can even be used in a large entry hall.



Taming the kitchen beast. 

Nowadays more than ever, the kitchen has truly become the central command tower of the home. It’s where everything happens and where everyone gathers. It’s more than just a place to cook and share a meal, but it’s a place to do homework, browse the web, pay bills, read a magazine on your tablet and countless other daily goings-on. It is the hub of the home and as a result, it can quickly become a place to leave all of your personal belongings, including expensive, portable electronic devices.

kitchen clutter

Many homes have a deck or patio space off the kitchen, which means French doors or sliders that provide gorgeous natural light and access to the outdoors. In fact, according to HGTV FrontDoor.com, adding a porch, patio or deck will increase the value of your home and provide the maximum return on investment. If you prefer not to cover up the beauty of French doors with draperies or blinds, consider concealing costly items instead of leaving them out in plain view for potential burglars to find attractive.

A decorative and functional way to do this is by incorporating a wall-mounted file folder/magazine holder into your kitchen scheme. Available in a variety of sizes and finishes like wood or metal, they can be purchased inexpensively at retailers like HomeGoods. Use the pockets to hold magazines and newspapers, the kids’ homework, take-out menus or anything else that needs to be corralled. By slipping a costly device, like a tablet, into one of the pockets, you’re designing with security and safety in mind — and keeping the kitchen clutter under control!

magazine rack

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