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signature creation

August 30, 2013

D & P Signature Cocktail

I attended a very special wedding this summer when my nephew married a wonderful girl from New Jersey.  At the wedding, I drank more than my fair share of the couple’s signature cocktail…D & P Pimm’s Cup.  aphils wedding 277

For today’s Friday field trip, we are taking a trip to Fiddler’s Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, New Jersey  (the magnificent wedding venue) where the bartender graciously shared the recipe for this addicting concoction!  (All except the recipe for the club’s house made lemonade…I improvised my own on this!) 

Pimm’s Cup is a gin based British liqueur, and with its subtle spice and citrus flavor, it is a perfect summer (or, anytime) drink component. 

It was the first time I had tasted Pimm’s Cup, but based on the D & P Pimm’s Cup sightings in the wedding photos, I made up for it at the event!  Well, I had to properly honor the couple, didn’t I ? ;)

Fiddlers Elbow

Before I put the drink together for myself at home, I made up my own batch of strawberry basil lemonade.

strawberry basil lemonade

Pimm's cocktail sightingTo make my own, I started by making a simple syrup.  I used 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar combined in a saucepan and heated, while stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolved.  I put this aside to cool.

I then pureed a cup of strawberries and 2 oz. of fresh lemon juice in a blender on high until smooth, straining it into a pitcher.

To the pitcher, I added 6 oz. of fresh lemon juice, simple syrup to taste (about 1/2 cup), 3 cups cold water, and a cup of fresh basil leaves.  I also added a lemon I had leftover – washed it and sliced it up.  I stirred this together and refrigerated before using.

This gave me plenty of lemonade to use for making my D & P’s!

For a quicker version, you can always add some strawberry puree and basil leaves to purchased lemonade.

D & P Pimm's Cup Recipe

Make up a batch of D & P’s for your end of the summer bash!  The recipe is easily adjusted for those under 21 (by eliminating the Pimm’s), so it is a wonderfully refreshing addition to any gathering!

Since I am still soooo excited about the wedding and all my new family, I am sending out official D & P Pimm’s Cup recipe cards to anyone that requests one – simply email or inbox me your address!  Enjoy!

D & P Pimms Cup

Have a wonderful holiday weekend and remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

Sharing at The Tablescaper, Craftberry Bush, and The Shabby Nest.


embracing the season

August 27, 2013

hydrangea centerpiece

The best flowers for decorating are the ones that embrace the season.  Here in New England, hydrangeas are a favorite.  While putting together some arrangements for a wedding rehearsal dinner, I knew this seasonal flower was the best choice.  Wanting to personalize the arrangement in some way, I decided to add the future bride and groom’s initials by creating monogrammed tie-ons crafted from natural elements.

stamping a monogram

I used some cocoa colored stamp pad ink and stamps to stamp on pieces of wood.  If you aren’t into cutting and sanding wood, you can easily find something similar at a craft store or on Etsy.

rubber stamping a monogram tie-on

rubber stamping a monogram tie-on

picking hydrangeas

An easy and wonderful way to help the spacing stay consistent when stamping is to simply use an elastic to hold the two letters and ampersand stamps together while applying the monogram.

Once your tie-ons are completed, you can save them to add to your completed centerpieces.  Harvest (or purchase) the seasonal favorites you plan on using. If you are truly embracing the season, it is best to use something that is presently in bloom…such a great way to evoke feelings of gardens and the season. :)

Hydrangeas are really great all on their own.  These were being placed on a chocolate colored table cloth so I just added a couple curly sticks as accents and tied twine around clear vases.  Perfect!

hydrangea centerpiece

rehearsal dinner hydrangeas

In appreciating every last bit of summer, try to find some of your own ways to embrace the season…bringing some of your garden (or a friend’s garden…thanks Phyllis!) indoors is certainly one great way!

hydrangea rehearsal dinner centerpiece

Enjoy your week.  Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

Sharing at Mona’s Picturesque and Craftberry Bush.

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cotton candy grapes

August 23, 2013

photo of cotton candy grapes

To continue this week’s food trend theme, today we are taking a look at cotton candy grapes!  When I heard about cotton candy flavored grapes, I was a little skeptical.  Available since 2011, I hadn’t seen any in my little part of the world…until now.  For Friday field trip this week, I made a trip to Stew Leonard’s in Norwalk, Connecticut to pick up some of these grapes and perform a little taste test.

Without any genetic engineering or artificial flavors (as reported by NPR), apparently the flavor of these grapes is obtained by cross-breeding different varieties of grapes.  They look just like any other green seedless grape…

Can a grape taste like cotton candy?  You know what?  They do!  I think the flavor is something of a vanilla note.  The combination of that and a sugar content that is 12% higher than a regular table grape gives the fruit a sugar spun flavor reminiscent of cotton  candy.  It really is amazing.  I keep wondering if I would think they tasted like cotton candy if I didn’t know they were called cotton candy grapes…I think I would!

cotton candy grape skewer

Here I combined cotton candy grapes with pieces of angel food cake dipped in white chocolate and pink sugar.

A pound of the grapes at Stew Leonard’s here in Connecticut sell for $4.99.  From what I have read in Time and NPR, these grapes are grown in California, although no indication of this is present on the Stew Leonard’s packaging.

cotton candy martini garnish

A cotton candy grape rolled in sugar and chilled makes a great garnish for a cotton candy martini!

The grapes taste wonderful all on their own, but of course I did a little experimenting and want to show you some of my favorite ways to use the cotton candy grape!  You can use them in any way you would normally use a grape.  I am sure they would add a nice sweetness as a component in chicken salad or a nice accompaniment with wine and cheese.  But for me, I most enjoyed them as a part of something sweet (especially white chocolate)!  Take a look!

cotton candy grape dessert

An elegant but easy dessert with cotton candy grapes. The grapes are added to white chocolate instant pudding poured into an angel food dessert shell and drizzled with white chocolate.

cotton candy grape skewers

Cotton candy grapes taste wonderful on their own, but here I combined them with mini marshmallows on skewers for a fun dessert.

cotton candy grape salad

A great ‘salad’ for a sweet tooth. Combine cotton candy grapes with this sweet dressing and serve ice cold. For 1 lb. of grapes, combine 2 cups sour cream and 1 cup brown sugar and mix with grapes.

I hope you can find some cotton candy grapes near you and give them a try!  If you already have, I would love to hear your comments!  Have you tried any other food trends this summer?

Have a wonderful weekend and remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

Sharing at The Tablescaper.


food trend ramen burger

August 20, 2013

photo of a ramen burger

Always intrigued by new trends, I decided to make my son a ramen burger this week.  I am not a big burger eater and I knew he would be game to try a new creation.  The ramen burger seems to be getting a lot of attention.  Have you heard about it?  It is a burger that uses ramen as its bun.

recipe for a ramen burger

Here is my take on it:

I started with 1 lb. of ground beef and a package of ramen.  Since ramen has an Asian feel, I decided to add some Asian spices to the beef. 

Originally, I thought I would add the spice packet for the ramen noodles to the beef, but decided against it.  Instead, I added a couple splashes of teriyaki sauce, ½ tsp. ground ginger, some ground pepper, and half of a crushed clove of garlic.

To make the ramen bun, I first cooked the noodles according to directions, but discarded the spice packet.  Once the noodles were cooked, I rinsed them to cool them off and then drained the liquid.  I mixed in one egg and divided the mixture into two…this would make up the two parts of the bun.  I shaped each half into as close to a bun shape as I could and put them on a plate and into the refrigerator for a half hour…it made it a little easier to keep them in shape. 

how to create a ramen bun

I heated up a skillet with a little oil and fried up the two halves…it kind of reminded me of making hash browns.  Once they had a nice brown color on each side, I set my ‘bun’ pieces aside.

ramen bun

Using half of the ground beef (I made two burgers from the 1 lb. package);  I cooked a burger on my outdoor grill. (I added cheddar cheese, because my son happens to prefer cheese burgers.) 

Once the burger was cooked the way I wanted it, I put it on the ramen ‘bun’ and garnished it with chopped scallions, a splash of soy sauce, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

According to my son, it was a winner. :)

the trendy ramen burger

I don’t know if the ramen burger will become a lasting trend, but I feel confident in creating one…my version anyway!  

Stop back on Friday when we will continue the food trend theme by seeking out (and finding!) one of the hottest (and most unusual?) food items! 

Thank you so much for stopping by!  Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

Sharing at Craftberry Bush.

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summer in the cape

August 16, 2013

cape cod

Cape Cod, Massachusetts is one of those places that holds many happy memories for me.  During my childhood, I enjoyed many family vacations in ‘the Cape.’  I had an opportunity to visit my old vacation spot recently, when I attended a service to honor the life of a special friend that had passed.

Wequassett Resort in Cape Cod

While there, I got the chance to reconnect with some friends that live in Chatham…not only did I enjoy spending some time catching up, but also enjoyed the beautiful view at the Wequassett Resort…

Visiting Wequassett Resort in Cape Cod

I thought I would share some of the beautiful view with you in today’s Friday field trip.  Now remember, this is just a brief point in time at the Cape…dinner with friends as sunset approaches…Can you even imagine the beauty when you live there full time?  Enjoy the photos!

Sunset at Wequassett Resort in Cape Cod

Sunset at Wequassett Resort in Cape Cod

Thanks so much Ed & Steph…for sharing…not only your friendship, but your special spot. :)

Sunset at Wequassett Resort in Cape Cod

Wequassett Resort in Cape Cod

Wequassett Resort in Cape Cod

Sunset in Cape Cod

Wequassett Resort in Cape Cod

Sunset in Cape Cod, MA

Wequassett Resort in Cape Cod

Reconnect with some old friends and enjoy the rest of your summer to the fullest!  Have a wonderful weekend, Jackie


its always half full

August 13, 2013

diy beach sign

Talk about pleasure in simple things…I can‘t believe how excited I got recently about a piece of garbage that ended up in my yard! 

When pieces of a neighbor’s rickety fence started falling into my backyard, I got a little irritated…until…one day, I went out to cut the lawn and found the most beautiful piece of old fence out in the grass.  It was one of the pickets from the old fence and it looked like a wonderful old weathered piece of driftwood.

photo of the shore

Such a simple thing…but repurposing that piece of fence gave me so much pleasure :)

I put that lovely piece of fence into my freezer for a few days…I always figure if there are any bugs or insect eggs inside the wood, they would not be able to survive the freezer!  Hope that is a correct assumption! 

beach sign from a fence picket

When I was sufficiently satisfied the piece of fence was bug free, I wrote “beach” on it with a white Sharpie oil based paint pen.  I had planned on sanding it after that to make the writing look worn.  But, as it turned out, the pen soaked into the wood in spots and created something of a worn look all on its own.

I love my beach sign!

I think I was meant to learn a lesson from that old piece of fence.

John Wooden quote

Thanks so much for stopping by!  Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

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the nation’s first hospital

August 9, 2013

Pennsylvania Hospital - the nation's first

One place I have been meaning to go when visiting Philadelphia is the Pennsylvania Hospital…it is the nation’s first hospital and I have been really curious to see the operating room…especially since it existed before electricity!

For today’s Friday field trip, I am taking you to the nation’s first hospital and sharing some of the interesting facts I learned during my visit.

Even today, considered one of the finest examples of Colonial and Federal architecture in the city, the hospital was founded in 1751 by Dr. Thomas Bond and Benjamin Franklin “to care for the sick-poor and insane who were wandering the streets of Philadelphia.”  At the time, Philadelphia was the fastest growing city in the 13 colonies.

The Great Court at the Nation's First Hospital in Philadelphia

The Great Court was restored in 1976 for the nation’s bicentennial and was completed using traditional colonial colors.

The Great Court at the Nation's First Hospital in Philadelphia

In 1847 the American Medical Association designated the Pennsylvania Hospital library as the country’s most important medical library.  The collection now contains over 13,000 volumes dating back to the 15th century – including medical and scientific volumes as well as books on natural history.  The library includes the nation’s most complete collection of medical books published between 1750 and 1850.  The collection also contains several incunabula, books written before 1501, when the printing press was invented.

The Historic Library at The Nation's First Hospital in Philadelphia.

Some old plaster casts were displayed along the front wall.  They were the only method of teaching anatomy during the 18th century since using human cadavers for the study of medicine was illegal at the time.

The top floor of the Pine Building is the home of The Nation’s First Surgical Amphitheater, the “dreaded circular room.”  The Amphitheatre served as the operating room from 1804 through 1868.  Surgeries were performed on sunny days between 11:00 am and 2:00 pm since there was no electricity at the time.  Candles also were used to help illuminate the room.  The light in the center is a reproduction of a gaslight and was probably not used until the 1830’s.

entrance to first surgical amphitheatre

The Nation's First Surgical Amphitheatre

The surgeons who first used this room were considered skilled craftsmen.  In this Surgical Amphitheatre surgery became the nation’s first medical specialty.  Medical students and locals paid to observe the surgical procedures.  Posters were placed around town to notify the public of the procedures being performed and the surgeons in attendance.  The Surgical Amphitheatre seats 180 and with those standing up to 300 people might be present during any given surgical operation.

The Nation's First Surgical Amphitheatre

The Nation's First Hospital

The most common surgical procedures of the day included amputation; removal of internal and external tumors, bladder stones and cataracts; repair of hernias; and the setting of fractures.  Patients were carried up the three flights of steps strapped to chairs or on stretchers before their operation.

The Nation's First Surgical Amphitheatre

The Nation's First Surgical Amphitheatre

Anesthesia was not used until the 1840’s.  Even then, anesthesia was used only on women because it was believed that they were less resistant to pain.  Prior to the use of anesthesia, the surgeons got the patients “blind drunk, gave them opium or administered a sharp tap on the head with a mallet enough to render the patient unconscious and hopefully not dead.”

The Nation's First Surgical Amphitheatre

Sterile technique was not used in this country until the 1890s.  Before that the surgeons washed their hands after the procedure.  They wore coats to protect their clothing and hung these coats outside the Amphitheatre on hooks on the walls – unwashed for years at a time.The Front Lawn of the Nation's First Hospital in Philadelphia.

The dry moat surrounding the hospital was used to exercise the mentally ill.  Out of morbid curiosity, townspeople gathered on Sundays to watch the patients.

A Physic Garden was proposed in 1774 to provide physicians with ingredients for medicines.  But, because of financial circumstances,  it was not until 1976 as a bicentennial project of the Philadelphia Committee of the Garden Club of America and the Friends of Pennsylvania Hospital that the garden was planted, containing the plants and herbs that were used for medicines in the 18th century. 

The Physic Garden at the Nation's First Hospital

More than 250 years later, Pennsylvania Hospital continues to thrive.  Pennsylvania Hospital has been designated National Historic Landmark since 1965.

If you find yourself with some free time in Philadelphia, I recommend you take the Pennsylvania Hospital Walking Tour and visit some of the oldest parts of the hospital…particularly the Nation’s First Surgical Amphitheatre!  I hope you enjoyed today’s Friday field trip.

Thank you so much for visiting!  Have a wonderful weekend, Jackie

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summer napkin fun

August 6, 2013

DIY watermelon motif napkins

It is that time of year…the time when we all wonder how the summer could be flying by so fast…and a time to try and pack as much summer fun into the remaining days as possible!

Today, I want to show you some DIY ways that I am making my summer entertaining more fun.  With meals that can include lobster, corn on the cob, and watermelon; summer fun can be messy!  I love to use dish towels as an inexpensive and practical napkin for summer meals.  IKEA is a great spot to pick up some dish towels (for less than $1. a piece!) that can easily be embellished to fit a summer party theme.

In a previous post, I made wrapping paper using an anchor shaped sponge.  Now, I am using it to add an anchor motif to a set of dish towels that I will use as napkins for a summer meal.  These are easy to create by simply dipping a patterned sponge into acrylic paint and applying to a dish towel.  Print the pattern a couple of times on a piece of scrap paper before painting the fabric…this removes some of the paint from the sponge and creates more of a ‘worn’ look to the anchor when it is painted; rather than a solid pattern of paint.

DIY anchor motif napkins

Be sure to put a piece of cardboard under the spot where you paint your design to protect your work table.  After letting the paint dry for 24 hours, use a hot iron or your dryer to set the paint.  You may want to use a paint specifically for fabric…I use acrylic paint that I already have – it has always worked well for me.  I find washing, drying, and ironing the fabric before painting it gives the best results.

DIY anchor motif napkins

Another way to add a motif to a dish towel is by stenciling.  I always make my own stencil from a piece of cardboard or baking parchment paper.  One of my favorite designs for summer is a watermelon…I love the graphic quality and the colors.  Another great summer napkin!

DIY watermelon motif napkins

I can never resist adding a playful scattering of plastic ants when I am creating a watermelon designed item. :)

DIY watermelon motif napkins

For something a little more formal than a dish towel, a linen napkin with a napkin ring is a great summer entertaining choice.  Like the dish towels, these napkins were purchased at IKEA.  I created a napkin ring by using a piece of rope and some Plasti Dip.  In the same way that I used Plasti Dip to create a set of seafood forks, I used it on some rope to create a really great napkin ring!  You can purchase a jump rope from the dollar store or use any scrap piece of rope you have hanging around the garage to make your napkin rings.  After tying a knot in each napkin ring, I just dipped it in some Plasti Dip that I had tinted pink.  I love the way pale pink looks with linen and Plasti Dip is easy to tint any color…I dipped each napkin ring into the Plasti Dip three times (waiting between coats as listed on the instructions) to achieve this look.

DIY Plasti Dip napkin rings

I decided to coordinate the napkins by adding some painted pink polka dots along the hem.

Dotted linen napkin & Plast Dip napkin ring

After looking around the house to find something to create the size polka dot I wanted, I decided a carrot was perfect!  I mixed the color pink paint I wanted and used a freshly sliced carrot to paint the polka dots along the hem of each napkin.

Painting polka dots on napkins

I hope you enjoyed these summer napkins ideas and are inspired to create some fun summer napkins of your own!

DIY napkins from dishtowels

 Thanks so much for stopping by!  Remember to take pleasure in simple things, Jackie

Sharing at City Farmhouse and Craftberry Bush.


revisiting a butterfly garden

August 2, 2013

photo of black and blue butterfly

Although I am not a big butterfly fan, I couldn’t help but visit the butterfly garden when I was recently at The Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.  You may remember my last trip to the Butterfly Garden.

Today’s Friday field trip is a revisit to the butterfly garden at the museum.

butterfly at ANS butterfly garden in Philly

I think the intriguing thing about the butterflies is their short life span…it does seem sad that they don’t live beyond a couple of weeks.  For me, the intriguing part is that every time I am in Philadelphia, I can stop by the butterfly garden and every single butterfly will be different from my previous trip!

butterfly in ANS butterfly garden in Philly

So, even though my intention was to just visit the “Glow” exhibit, I found myself stopping by the butterfly garden before I left the museum.  And, this time I got to thinking about butterflies in literature…wondering how others documented their feelings about butterflies.  I have included my favorite findings with the photos.  Enjoy!

butterfly at ANS in Philly

But these are flowers that fly and all but sing:

And now from having ridden out desire

They lie closed over in the wind and cling

Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire.

~Robert Frost, “Blue-Butterfly Day”


butterfly at ANS in Philly

butterfly at ANS in Philly

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your
grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.

~Nathaniel Hawthorne


butterfly at ANS in Philly

butterfly in the butterfly garden at Philly's ANS

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes

it has gone through to achieve that beauty. 

~Maya Angelou


butterfly in Philly's butterfly garden

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have

sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” 

~Hans Christian Anderson

butterfly in butterfly garden

I only ask to be free.  The butterflies are free. 

~Charles Dickens


butterfly in Philadelphia butterfly garden

She liked being reminded of butterflies. She remembered being six or seven and crying over the fates of the butterflies in her yard after learning that they lived for only a few days. Her mother had comforted her and told her not to be sad for the butterflies, that just because their lives were short didn’t mean they were tragic. Watching them flying in the warm sun among the daisies in their garden, her mother had said to her, see, they have a beautiful life. Alice liked remembering that.
~Lisa Genova, “Still Alice”

Philadelphia butterfly garden at ANS

I hope you enjoyed our Friday field trip to the butterfly garden at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.  Thank you so much for stopping by.

Remember to take pleasure in simple things and have a wonderful weekend, Jackie

Sharing at The Tablescaper and Mona’s Picturesque.

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monthly book giveaway for august!

August 1, 2013

author colum mccannWriter Colum McCann

Congratulations to Jacqueline, who writes the blog Marbles Rolling, for winning July’s giveaway!  I know you will enjoy the signed copy of Wonder by R. J. Palacio!

The August selection is a New York Times bestseller written in 2009.  I read Let the Great World Spin some time ago and found it so wonderfully fascinating that when I got the opportunity to see the author speak in Philadelphia last week, I jumped at the chance.

Colum McCann spoke at the Free Library in Philadelphia and read selections from his newest book Trans Atlantic.  Although his newest book seems to contain the same poetic passion that I enjoyed in Let the Great World Spin, I decided to have his last book signed for the giveaway since it was such a favorite of mine.  A passionate, beautifully written book set in New York City in the ’70’s,  McCann provides a very unique reading experience that includes a richness of characters and a vivid depiction of New York.

The New York Times Book Review wrote:

“An emotional tour de force…electric, profound…Like a great pitcher in his prime, McCann is constantly changing speeds, adopting different voices, tones and narrative styles as he shifts between story lines…It is a mark of the novel’s soaring and largely fulfilled ambition that McCann just keeps rolling out new people, deftly linking each to the next as his story moves toward its surprising and deeply affecting conclusion…Let the Great World Spin (feels) like a precursor to…The Bonfire of the Vanities.”

Meeting Colum McCann in Philadelphia

My favorite part of meeting Colum McCann was when he asked me to signed his book!  How fun…although it did catch me off guard!  I guess I should have been a little more thoughtful in what I wrote (Big Fan!?)…but, I was so excited to meet him!

Be sure to leave a comment on a post or on my Facebook page (or Twitter or Instagram) to be entered in the random drawing to win a signed copy of Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin.  Good luck!

Thanks so much for visiting, Jackie

P.S.  Instagram users, please read on for the August word prompt challenge!  Share your photos daily with hashtag #pleasuregram.

august instagram challenge