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easy candy table favors

September 28, 2012

friday field trip

Don’t you LOVE that section in Target where everything is a dollar?  I can’t walk into the store without stopping to look at everything in that section…I always end up picking up something I have to have!  It is only a dollar, after all!  This trip, I was on a mission to find an item in the dollar section that I can use as a favor to hold candy.  When the college kids are home, it is always fun to include a favor on the table for family dinners.  Candy is a natural with the kids (of all ages) and at this time of year it seems a little more legitimate!  There were quite a few possibilities when I started rummaging through the shelves.  (You can check out a few more of the options on my facebook page .)

But, when I came across these zippered burlap ‘pencil cases’, I knew they were perfect!  Plenty of room for candy and very seasonal!

Here is what I did to dress up my $1. find!

First, I decided I wanted to add the word ‘boo’ in black letters.  A personalization or the word ‘treat’ were also options I considered.  I also toyed with the idea of glow-in-the-dark paint, but decided I liked the stronger contrast of the black against the burlap.  I simply stenciled the three letters onto the bag using cardboard stencils and black acrylic paint.  (Slipping a piece of cardboard in the case to protect the other side in the event paint should bleed through.)



I cut a length of ribbon and tied it to the zipper pull.  I chose a black grosgrain with white polka dots.

And, that’s it!!  Great favor for a dollar, don’t you think?  And, plenty of room to fill with candy!  (Oh…I did buy rubber spiders at Target also…they were 4 for a $1!  Love the white polka dots on this one!)

A photograph of a favor for a seasonal table made from an item purchased from the Target $1. section.



Hope you have some fun creating seasonal table favors from Target’s $1. section –  great for those with a sweet tooth ;)

Thanks for visiting, Jackie


photo tutorial for velvet pumpkins

September 25, 2012

Notes: I decided to try and present directions best I could since I had so many requests for instructions.  I hope this helps.  I think part of the success of this project is to have a beautiful velvet.  I used a silk velvet.  As much as I love white, I think the velvet fabric colors that show depth are more beautiful – you can’t really see depth in the white.  They did not carry silk velvet at the local craft store or many of the fabric stores.  I was able to find it at a fabric store in Norwalk, CT called Banksville Designer Fabrics (  I am sure there must be some sources online also, but I didn’t check.  Banksville had a half yard minimum which cost $12.50.  With a half yard you can probably make approximately twenty 7″ pumpkins.  A 5 lb. bag of rice would probably be sufficient for a dozen pumpkins.  Rice is pretty inexpensive, so if you plan on making a lot of pumpkins, buy a huge bag.  Stems can be found at pumpkin farms from unwanted pumpkins or squash.  I think the crazier stems you can find, the better – the stem can really add personality to the pumpkin.  If you don’t have any farms nearby, you can purchase a small pumpkin for a $1 at a grocery store if you have no other way to get a stem.  I think part of the beauty of these pumpkins are the real stems, but I have seen people use sticks from trees or cinnamon sticks on fabric pumpkins.  I think driftwood is also a fun option.  Of course, you can use the same procedure  I demonstrate to make pumpkins from other fabrics. I love to seek out new fabrics…like at Mood in New York City.  I also often use fishing line instead of thread (particularly on larger pieces) since it is so strong and won’t break.  If you aren’t crafty or would rather purchase some really beautiful velvet pumpkins rather than make them, look at .  This is the company that made the pumpkins that inspired me to try and create some and they sell them in an amazing array of colors.  If you have any questions on how I created mine, please send me an email and I would be happy to help you out! 

Thanks for visiting, Jackie


homage to fall with velvet pumpkins

September 24, 2012

One of my recent visits to Terrain created an intense love for velvet pumpkins…definitely love at first sight!  O.M.G., why have I never seen these before!  The display in the store was just breathtaking…how incredibly beautiful!  As much as I hate leaving summer, I now have a wonderful reason to celebrate fall…velvet pumpkins!!  So, I spent the first night of fall staying up into the wee hours of the night making velvet pumpkins…they are addicting!!

Here I present my homage to the new season, using my new creations…enjoy!

Because so many have asked, I am going to put together a tutorial (another late night!) on creating these beauties and I will post it tomorrow…if you want to try your hand at making them, check in tomorrow for the instructions.








The pumpkins I saw in Terrain, that created such a stir in my heart, can be purchased in an unreal assortment of colors, on this website:  To shop Terrain online:

Hope you enjoyed my velvet pumpkins!  Remember, if you want to give them a try, check in tomorrow for “how-to” instructions.  Thanks for visiting, Jackie


first day of fall

September 22, 2012

Happy Fall!  Thanks for visiting, Jackie

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healthful eating with claire’s corner copia

September 21, 2012

friday field trip

I developed a renewed enthusiasm towards healthful eating after listening to Claire Criscuolo when I attended a presentation she gave recently at the Trumbull, CT library.  Claire is definitely a Connecticut icon.  Her restaurant, Claire’s Corner Copia, has provided a healthy eating location in New Haven for 37 years – starting long before healthy and organic eating became trendy.  Her philosophy of “flavor first with a healthy edge” dismisses any preconceived notions about healthy food not tasting good.  The “flavor first” is evident when trying the first bite at Corner Copia.  Not surprisingly, the restaurant was named one of the top 10 heart-healthy restaurants in the U.S. by MSN.  Although I have eaten at her restaurant many times, I had never before heard Claire speak about her passion for healthy eating and I sure have been missing something!

Claire grew up in a family of Italian heritage with a mom that served a selection of fresh vegetables every day, many from her own garden…It seems she bypassed the whole “Betty Crocker” era of casseroles and Shake ‘n Bake.  Instead, the Criscuolo family ate the way many of us aspire to eat – fresh and healthy with no processed foods and plenty of fruits and vegetables.  When people tell Claire she is forward thinking, she responds by saying that she is backward thinking – eating the way her parents did – like “the old days.”

Claire’s Italian mom told her not to “cheat her stomach” and Claire has definitely taken those words to heart.  Her continuing commitment to educating herself about healthy eating is demonstrated in many ways…most recently by her meetings with researchers to address how food preparation can aid with eliminating cancers.

The session at the library contained a cooking demonstration* for a healthful and tasty salad and was packed with tips for incorporating great foods into daily eating.

*If you want to try one of the recipes from Claire’s newest book, I have included the recipe for the salad she prepared for us at the end of this post.

Probably the #1 tip I took away from the session was to BE PREPARED.  Things seemed to click into perspective for me when Claire asked the attendees why it is that everyone can spend so much time researching the latest iphone, but not the food they put in their bodies?  The key to  being prepared is to always have great food choices available in your home.

Claire has a smoothie for breakfast most days – something I have quickly adopted since I always seem to be too busy to think of a sit-down breakfast.  She always has organic fruit in her freezer and organic spinach in her fridge (part of that ‘being prepared’ thing!).  Unsweetened coconut milk or herb tea can serve as the liquid.  Cinnamon and honey are healthy additions.  I may need to put a juicer on my Christmas list!

Claire is a big proponent of making soups; suggesting this is a wonderful way to add extra fruits and/or vegetables to a meal.  Her idea of hosting a soup exchange will definitely replace the cookie swap on my holiday calendar!

Claire’s store even makes their own cleaning supplies, which you can easily replicate by following the directions on the store’s website (  click on recipes and scroll down to household cleaning).

If you haven’t yet been to Claire’s Corner Copia and happen to be in the New Haven area, the restaurant is located on the edge of the Yale campus, right on Chapel Street.  And, if you are genuinely trying to incorporate more healthful eating into your life, I would definitely recommend checking out Clarie’s books – the most recent title is  Welcome to Claire’s.  At the very least, I hope this post motivates you to spend a few extra moments thinking about your food choices…the time I spent with Claire certainly did that for me!

Chimichurri Quinoa and Bean Salad

  • salt
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, or 1 tablespoon dried
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 small jalapeno pepper, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice (from about 1/2 orange)
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil, dairy-free mayonnaise, or other mayonnaise
  • pepper, to taste
  • 1, 12 ounce can organic black beans, drained
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 small sweet organic onion, diced
  • 12 sweet grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large broccoli crown, florets separated into small pieces

Bring 2 cups of lightly salted water to a boil in a medium covered pot over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low-medium and add the quinoa.  Cover and cook at a simmer for about 25 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is just tender.

Turn the quinoa into a large bowl, and using two forks, toss the quinoa to fluff it and to separate the grains.  Set aside to cool, occasionally tossing the quinoa to facilitate cooling.

Meanwhile, prepare the chimichurri.  Place the garlic, cilantro, parsley, oregano, pepper flakes, jalapeno, vinegar, lemon and orange juices, oil or mayonnaise, salt, and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  cover and process for about 30 seconds until well blended.  Taste for seasonings.

When the quinoa is cooled to room temperature, add the beans, carrot, onion, tomatoes, and broccoli.  Using two wooden spoons, toss to combine.  Add the chimichurri and toss well to coat.  Taste for seasonings.  Serve at room temperature or refigerate for up to 2 days.  Toss again before serving.

Hope you enjoyed this visit with Claire from Claire’s Corner Copia!

Thanks for visiting!  Have a wonderful weekend, Jackie


5 ways to add design personality

September 18, 2012

The best part about home design is adding your own style to your decor.  I would like to share 5 simple tips that can add instant design personality to your home.

INCORPORATE FAMILY MEMORIES.  A great way to anchor your home decor is through pieces that have special family meaning.  How wonderful to see an old family item passed down through the generations, or something that has special meaning in your family, every time you walk into a room.  If you don’t have something like this already, it is easy to collect some items from other family members that you can incorporate into your decor.  I have done this a lot over the years in my home.  I even have one room in my home aptly named ‘the nostalgia room’ that is decorated entirely with old family items and photos.  An old black and white family photo framed in a spectacular or trendy way, or a piece that reminds you of a particular family member, can create instant personality.  An old sign from a family business, your grandfather’s favorite fishing pole hanging on a wall, your grandmother’s favorite lamp – anything that has some family significance can make a creative design piece with personality!

A great way to anchor your home decor is through pieces that have special family meaning.

ADD TEXTURES.  Varying the textures of the materials you use in your decor adds great visual interest.  Incorporating different textures into a room full of neutrals gives instant visual interest and is a design element all on its own.  A monochromatic color scheme is instantly transformed with the use of varying textures.  Think about mixing textures you love when you purchase items for your home.  Any color scheme is enhanced with a clever mix of textures.

Varying the textures of the materials you use in your decor adds visual interest.

CREATE ORGANIZATION.  The way you choose to organize not only makes you feel great by creating order, but also can serve as a design element.  If you look at organization in this way, it is a simple step to add style to your home.

One way I do this in my home is in the way I organize my books.  The way I incorporate them into my decor is the way I cover them.  This is the simplest, but most beautiful way to turn books into a design element.  Use your favorite wrapping paper, nautical or street maps, old sheet music, or even brown paper.  Think about your interests and the color schemes of the rooms where you shelf your books.

Closets can be organized in a visually pleasing way using baskets or attractive containers.  Keep your rings in a pretty dish that matches your decor when they aren’t being worn.  In the kitchen, utilize attractive jars to house those daily calcium tablets!

The way you choose to organize not only makes you feel great by creating order, but can also serve as a design element.

USE SOME PLAYFUL PIECES.  As in life, it is not a good idea to take your decorating too seriously – add some fun accessories to give your home decor personality and to make you smile.  This is an easy thing to accomplish with little expense and can be utilized anywhere in your home.  I like to find playful kitchen items that can make even the most mundane task seem fun.  There are plenty of ways to add whimsy to your decor, particularly in accessories.

As in life, it is not a good idea to take your decorating too seriously.

REMEMBER OUTDOORS.  Don’t miss the opportunity to utilize great decor outdoors.  Simple items can make a big difference and this is especially true outdoors.

One example at my home was my clothespin holder.  The holders traditionally sold for clothespins were visually annoying.  I bought a basket for much less than a traditional clothespin holder and stained it using leftover stain from my house…now I love the way it looks!

White plastic doorbells are another eyesore, but SO easy to change up.  House numbers are also an easy item to replace and can be a big visual element – a great way to showcase your personality by the style of numbers you choose.  Planting your seasonal flowers in colors to complement your front door is an easy way to make your plants a great design element.  Adding design features to your garden is also an instant way to add personality and can make your weeding session more fun!

Be sure, also, to use pieces you really love for outdoor dining or entertaining.  I love the acrylic water glasses I found for my outdoor entertaining.  Clearance racks are filled with outdoor dining accessories at this time of year and some smart purchases now are sure to put a smile on your face come Spring!

Don’t miss the opportunity to utilize great decor outdoors.

Hope you enjoyed these five simple tips to easily add your own design personality to your home.

Need some ideas for something in your home that you’d like to turn into a design element?  Send me an email, I would love to help!

Thanks for visiting, Jackie


10 arts in philly

September 14, 2012

friday field trip

On one of the really hot weekends this summer, I had some time to kill wandering around Center City, Philadelphia waiting for my daughter to finish classes (yes, she attends class all through the summer)…I thought I would visit the lobby of the Ritz-Carlton so I could AGAIN check out 10 Arts (…how many visits would qualify as an obsession?). I always hope, somewhere in the back of my mind, that I will run into Chef Ripert on what, I assume, is his occasional visit to Philly.

My daughter attends school in Philly and one of my ‘Philly goals’ has always been to dine at 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge. This is Eric Ripert’s restaurant. You probably know of four star Chef Ripert because of his fame with Le Bernardin in New York City…how could you not? That, and the fact that he is, um…how should I say it…gorgeous! (Honestly, there is no way around it!)

10 Arts is in a magnificient location – in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Center City. Because the building was a bank at one time, it

has some really cool features. The interior is mostly marble…I have heard the kitchen is too, although I haven’t seen it for myself.

Anytime I am in Center City, I stop in, look around (aka gawk) and talk to some of the staff.

Photo of lunch, 10 Arts style


A photo of dessert at 10 Arts Bistro & Lounge in Philadelphia…frozen snickers.

If you follow Food Network or the cooking shows (like you know I do if you have been reading my blog), you may know that my favorite former Top Chef competitor, Jennifer Carroll was selected by Chef Ripert to lead his kitchen at 10 Arts after she served as sous chef at Le Bernardin. It has been reported that Jen, a Philadelphia native is soon to open a restaurant of her own at 33 Greenwich Avenue in New York City…I bet the Philly fans are disappointed she didn’t stay local! I would be! But now I will be closer to where she will be creating her food and I plan to visit her restaurant, especially since I haven’t yet gotten the chance to meet her.

So enjoy the photos of 10 Arts and, if you are ever in the area, be sure to stop in. I plan on spending my daughter’s graduation dinner in those beautiful surroundings! And, I hope to visit Jen’s restaurant in NYC soon and I will share that with you when I do.

Thanks so much for visiting. Have a great weekend, Jackie

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diy paint can packaging

September 11, 2012

Candy in a can.

They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach…the reason food is always an accepted and appreciated gift for any guy. Most guys (or anyone, for that matter) have a special dessert or snack that they particularly enjoy and giving it for their special day can only bring heartwarming smiles . Whether it be pistachios, homemade brownies, popcorn…whatever. In the case of a young relative, it is candy…he apparently inherited a sweet tooth …couldn’t tell you from who ;)

His birthday is coming up and I want to collect some of his favorite confections and package them in a clever way as part of his gift. I am going to use a paint can…doesn’t seem appropriate to go to Home Depot to pick up birthday packaging? Actually, the small paint can is less than $3., so it costs less than some gift bags. Plus, I really enjoy repurposing items in an unconventional way. The bigger cans can be fun for gifts also. And, since they have handles, there are infinite possibilities for cool ‘tie-ons’. For food gifts, I prefer the smaller size especially since I don’t really want to encourage the consumption of the amount of sweets the large size can would accomodate! (The large cans are great for holiday gifts…keep this in mind come December.)

While I am at Home Depot, I also pick up some paint sample swatches…I use them for so many craft projects…they are like construction paper for the adult craft set. They make great gift tags, mats for small photos, etc. And, of course, they come in virtually any color. (I also keep a stack of sea-colored swatches on my desk that I use for note paper.) For this project, I grab some swatches in nautical looking colors since that is what I envision for this gift. I know I want to put some Swedish Fish in the can and the nautical theme will work well with that in mind.

A photo of my paint can packaging. This one is decorated with an anchor cut from chalkboard Contact paper.

A photo of a candy gift packaged in a decorated small paint can.

As it turns out, when I get home I decide to use some leftover chalkboard Contact paper to decorate the can. I cut a piece in the shape of an anchor. I also decorated a second, more ‘adult’ themed can to show you that it is possible to create a more sophisticated look using paint cans as packaging.

So, with a glue gun and some scrap materials, a couple of paint cans are transformed into some great gift packaging. The beauty of these cans is that they mail really well – great to send off to those college kids at Valentines Day, Halloween, or at finals time.

A photo of paint can packaging using more of a sophiscated style…I used scrap ribbon, squares cut from paint sample swatches, and a starfish – all attached using a glue gun.

I just

love the novelty of the recipient having to open them with a screwdriver ;) If you are sending them off to your college student and you don’t think they have a screwdriver, include one in the box – everyone should own a screwdriver.

Have fun creating some designs of your own. If you need some particular theme ideas, I would be happy to help.

Thanks for visiting, Jackie


make the most of grocery store flowers

September 7, 2012

friday field trip

Today’s field trip is to the local Stop ‘n Shop to visit the floral department.  I want to show you how easy it is to utilize the florist at your local grocery store.  Why spend a lot at a traditional florist when you can buy flowers for giving at the grocery store for a more reasonable price.  An added perk is that many grocery stores, like Stop ‘n Shop, are open 24 hours!  You can pretty much buy a gift at any time of the day or night that fits into your schedule.

Use these five tips to make grocery store flowers work for you.

1.  STICK WITH THE SAME COLOR OR VARIETY OF FLOWER.  Instead of buying a bouquet that contains a mixture of colors and varieties of flowers, pick one color or one type of flower and stick with it.  You will get much better visual impact for your budget.

2.  CONSIDER A POTTED PLANT.  Very often, potted plants in season are less expensive than cut flowers and look much better/healthier.  Plus, the recipient has the added benefit of enjoying a permanent plant rather than a fleeting bouquet.  Some grocery stores even sell potted herbs – a nice departure from a traditional flower if the recipient happens to be a foodie!  Containers sold in the floral section are very reasonably priced and can be a great alternative to wrapping.

A potted plant is paired with a cute container that was priced at onlyl $4 in the Stop ‘n Shop floral department.

3.  USE YOUR OWN FLOURISHES.  I always use my own ribbon and tissue when preparing grocery store flowers for giving, rather than relying on the limited selection available at the grocery store.  The gift not only looks prettier, but using your own touches helps give your gift a personal flair.

I used two potted plants and a basket from the floral department for a cost of less than $20 (and less than the price of a dozen roses). I added my own tissue paper and ribbon to complete the look and add my own personal touch.

4.  MAKE THE MOST OF SPECIALS.  If roses are $25 and  a special on tulips makes them a quarter of the price…how much nicer to make a combined bouquet of four bunches of tulips!  A potted orchid on sale may be less than a bouquet and more appropriate for the recipient.  Be sure to check all the specials.

Shopping for cut flowers, two bunches of sunflowers on special were less than an assorted bouquet and provide much better visual appeal.

5.  SHOP FOR ADD-ONS.  With all the items available at the grocery store, there are many options available to you to add a little something to your gift, should the occasion or budget warrant it. What a great added feature of doing your flower shopping at the grocery store!   A gift of engagement flowers can include a wedding magazine or some chocolates…flowers to welcome a new baby can include a bib or pacifier…just hop over to the appropriate aisle.  At this time of year, a trip to the produce aisle can mean the purchase of a pumpkin to serve as a great seasonal container for your flowers.  Perfect to house Halloween or Thanksgiving flowers for giving. (I love the white ones!)  Grocery stores also sell gift certificates, so you can also easily tuck in a certificate for a cup of coffee or the latest music.

Whether you are shopping for yourself, or for a gift, remember these five tips when shopping for flowers in the grocery store.

Hope you enjoyed these tips for making the grocery store florist work for you.  Why not pick out some flowers for your own home?

All the photos in this post were taken in the floral department at Stop ‘n Shop.  Thanks for visiting, Jackie

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fresh tomatoes with penne, feta & dill

September 4, 2012

Best of the season.

You already know I am a feta fan from my watermelon post  This time I am adding it to pasta and boy, it is fabulous.  This is my all-time favorite pasta recipe for the summer.  Not only is it wonderfully fresh and delicious just made, but leftovers can be eaten as a cold salad.

This pasta is served with an uncooked sauce made with fresh garden ingredients.  This is the best when tomatoes are at their ripest..use some from your garden or purchase some at a farmers market.  I only make this at the end of the summer when I can get the best tomatoes…usually from a friend’s garden.

I make the sauce in the afternoon and keep in the fridge until ready to use so that all my chopping is done and everything is cleaned up…I just need to cook the pasta to have dinner ready.  (Bring the sauce to room temperature before mixing with the pasta.)

Summertime Pasta with Tomatoes, Feta & Dill

  • 2 pounds tomatoes, halved, seeded, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped green onions (white and green parts only) approx. 2 bunches
  • 7 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (if they have the tomato and basil flavored feta, I buy that – adds that much more flavor)
  • 6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 16 ounces penne pasta

Mix first 6 ingredients in a bowl.  Set tomato mixture aside.

Cook pasta in large pot of boiling, salted water until just tender but still firm to bite (al dente).  Add hot pasta to tomato mixture and toss to coat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve at once.

A photo of fresh tomatoes served with penne, feta, and dill…the perfect way to showcase end-of-the-summer garden ripe tomatoes.

Hope you will give this recipe a try…remember to use the ripest, freshest garden tomatoes you can find!

Thanks for visiting, Jackie



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