Arranging flowers with what you’ve got

Peonies are one of my favorite flowers. They bloom big, come in stunning shades of pink, white and purple and look stunning in a bud vase alone or grouped en masse.

Here in Lausanne, the sun refuses to shine with any regularity, but summer’s showing signs of her arrival with peony blooms all over the city–in parks, gardens and at outdoor markets. I couldn’t resist buying a bunch today even though I lack a single vase at home. Luckily, my kitchen’s equipped with the basics, so I disected my bouquet and decorated my kitchen, my bedroom and my bathroom with the huge, wonderfully fragrant flowers.

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I peeled the top foil off a pretty wine bottle, snipped the end of two stems on an angle and slid them inside the bottle. I cut a third stem really short and stuck it in a white teacup, but the scale was way off when I put the two vessels side by side on my kitchen table. To add a bit of height to this centerpiece, I put the mug on a makeshift pedestal–a wine glass turned upside down.

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I chopped two stems and tucked them into a pretty cross-cut juice glass on my nightstand.

Bathroom peonies

I sliced all but a very small portion of this final stem off, floated the oversize perennial in a dessert dish and placed it on a shelf in the loo.

What creative vessels have you arranged flowers in?

Help select the fabric for a window treatment


Behind this pretty window treatment lurks dated vertical blinds and a hideous valance, but this client’s a renter and didn’t want to do anything that wouldn’t be really simple to take down/remove when she and her beau move. So we concealed what was there completely.

Because this installation is temporary, we wanted to keep costs low and materials light so I wouldn’t have to make too many holes in the ceiling. I constructed this pelmut box using foam-core poster board, 1/2 yard of Thom Filicia’s Burnet fabric in Shadow, hot glue and L-brackets. The complete how-to will follow in another post next week.

Michelle was so happy with the effect that she asked me to help her spruce up her mom’s rental house in Encinitas, California. The renovated kitchen lacks color, so we decided to put a pelmut box above the small window over the kitchen sink. We’re currently picking fabrics to complement the cabinets. The adjacent dining area will feature this print.

Swimming pool print, Zazzle

I’ve narrowed the sea of pool-blue choices to these four. Which one do you like best?

Fabric selection

Clockwise from top right: Lewis & Sheron’s Beacomber in Teal, Calico Corner’s Zebra Skin Outdoor in Aquamarine, Nate Berkus’ El Toro in Aquamarine or Lewis & Sheron’s ODL Doodle in Caribbean Blue?

Wine barrel lighting

You might not know this, but the Swiss drink a lot of wine–four times more than their U.S. counterparts. In fact, starting mid May, there’s at least one wine festival each weekend celebrating the opening of the caves. We went to one this past weekend and took my cousins with us. Do you like the glasses-round-the-neck souvenirs?

The McCues at the wine festival

When I got home from the festival, I became slightly obsessed with finding a light fixture for my dining room. I really want a vintage wine barrel chandelier. I love the rustic authenticity of this one, crafted from discarded French barrels.

Restoration Hardware

I like the price of this one better, but its faux aged finish lacks charm.

Shades of Light

And then I found this one on Craigslist. It’s not as massive as the others and it’s void of that curved teardrop shape, but I love the detail on the four wooden staves crafted from vintage European oak wine barrels and the price ($275 but likely negotiable) is great. Advertised as custom made, light fixtures may created on a made-to-order basis. Here’s hoping.

Craigslist chandelier

While this listing expired, this find reminded me to ALWAYS check Craigslist first when it comes to hunting down something I want. Use keywords like “wine barrel chandelier,” “crate chandelier,” even “wood lighting fixture.” If it’s an item you’ve been searching for, expand your search. I virtually searched as far as Santa Barbara for the wine barrel chandelier (I was thinking wine regions outside of Temecula but not as far north as Napa or Sonoma).

Making traditional Swiss fondue

Making traditional Swiss fondue
I love food. When I travel, I base destinations around my stomach. So when we arrived in Lausanne, fondue topped my cuisine wish list.

Scott and I found the local favorite in our small town, a nondescript restaurant in an arcade that’s been cooking up a meal of melted cheese since 1951. Cafe Romand did not disappoint. We dipped our white bread in cheesy deliciousness and sipped our small glasses of red wine. Final cost? About $53–kind of pricey for a pot of melted cheese and some bread, no?

Luckily, I found a traditional Swiss fondue pot–steel exterior with an enameled finish on the inside–at the Geneva flea market, which only set me back $5. Unlike the purists at Cafe Romand, I served my cheesy dip with chorizo, sliced chicken, pears, a baguette and potatoes.
Serving fondue
I researched several recipes before coming up with my own version of traditional Swiss fondue.

1.5 cups shredded gruyere cheese (Note: Don’t go overboard with the gruyere. Too much gives the fondue a gritty texture. Stick to 1.5 cups)
1.5 cups shredded emmenthaler cheese
.5 cups shredded Appenzeller cheese
2.5 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 garlic glove
1 cup dry white wine
One teaspoon fresh lemon juice
A pinch nutmeg
Fresh-ground pepper to taste

1. Rub the garlic over the inside of the fondue pot. Heat the white wine over medium heat. Don’t let it boil. Just get it hot.
2. Mix all cheeses and flour in a bowl.
3. When wine is hot, add lemon juice.
4. Put a handful of the cheese and flour mixture in the wine. Stir until the cheese is completely melted. Repeat until you’ve used all the cheese mixture. Lower heat and constantly stir, allowing the cheesy mixture to bubble slightly.
5. Stir in the nutmeg and pepper and serve.
**We don’t have a burner so we put our pot on a wooden cutting board and started dunking.**
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Grad gifts with an eye on design

I recently did a graduation gift guide for Parade magazine. You can see that article here. But there are a lot of other great, inexpensive gifts for your favorite grad’s new home.
Graduation gift guide
Stackable demitasse cups and saucers don’t have to be for espresso alone. These bright mugs make an ideal vessel for ice cream, even hardy little succulents.

A vivid hamper doesn’t need to be relegated to the back of the closet. This cylindrical version is sleek enough to become dorm room decor.

Wrap your favorite grad in a cozy cotton throw that features a graphic print like this turquoise chevron stripe.

Cameras, smartphones and mp3 players have cords that can quickly become a jumbled mess. Control the dorm-room chaos with this gadget charging station that stashes all the cables out of sight.

The wooden speaker dock amplifies an iPad’s tunes and holds the tablet in place so she can watch videos or Face Time without having to hold it.

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