Friday, October 30, 2009

Victorian Homes December 2009 Issue

We're very happy to share that three of our ornaments plus one keepsake set have been featured on a page of Victorian Homes Christmas issue. You can click here to see the featured pieces on our website, or click the photo below for a closer look. The keepsake set has already sold out, but you can see what's available by clicking here.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Vintage Christmas Photos Part II: Santa Hits a Home Run

Above, these neighborhood girls in 1922 San Francisco all made sure Santa knew they wanted dolls, and he obviously didn't disappoint.

In 1949, this brother and sister posed happily in front of their Christmas tree in their cowboy and cowgirl outfits.

And in 1927, this young man set up a makeshift baseball diamond in the backyard of the San Francisco's Aki Hotel, to break in his new catcher's glove.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Autumn Moon

Crystal clear weather led us down to the beach this evening to shoot a few surfing pictures. Little did we know, this one of the moon would turn out to be the real gem. Click to enlarge and you'll see pits and craters, shadows and texture galore. It seems so close!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lighthouses off the Coast of France

The above video can only make one wonder if the lighthouse keeper was at home during the storm. I'm not sure if the photo below is a still from this video, but it makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up nonetheless.

Jument Lighthouse in France.

A bit of digging on the history of these French lighthouses revealed this:
Some lighthouses were built under incredible conditions on rocks that were submerged at high tide, and in locations affected by strong currents and fierce storms. The lighthouse at Armen, the most legendary of all, is built on a rock which emerges to a height of just 1.50 metres at low tide, right in the middle of the Raz de Sein. When time allowed, the construction workers drilled a hole for the future anchoring bars. The first year they drilled only 15 holes and only 34 the next year. Throughout the whole of the year 1870, they could only work for 8 hours and for 6 hours in 1873. The construction of Armen was to take 14 years. Construction of the lighthouse known as the Jument, near Ouessant, was to take 7 years.
(Read more here.)

Armen lighthouse.

It seems that as time marches on, the upkeep of these lighthouses has fallen by the wayside. GPS and modern technology have made the lighthouse keeper all but obsolete and the maintenance of offshore locales is challenging and costly. Some have become tourist attractions, but those at sea are too dangerous to approach. There's a fascinating article here that goes into more detail about the state, and fate, of these French lighthouses.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Favorite Garden Visitors

Hummingbirds are frequent visitors to our most vibrant flowers and some of our favorite garden guests. These shots were taken around San Diego County by local photographer Chris Mayne.

This little guy above is an extremely rare leucistic hummingbird -- almost albino, but not quite due to his dark eyes and beak.

All in a day's work, this Anna's Hummingbird takes a break on a dewy leaf. And, yes, he's sticking out his tongue.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vintage Christmas Photos Part I: Christmas for the Horses

In 1918, these kind souls in Washington, D.C. made sure that horses and drivers were remembered at Christmas, with a special tree hung with apples and carrots for the horses and hot coffee for the drivers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thomas and the Disappearing Gophers: A Natural Solution to Stop the Digging

Can you spot Thomas above?

Last year our yards were riddled with gopher holes -- in the lawn, in the flower beds, even the empty field next door had a series of dirt mounds and a subterranean maze of tunnels. Not the neighborhood cats nor the hose discouraged the digging, and one by one our daffodils and bulbs disappeared, plants keeled over with roots eaten to the crown and our frustration levels rose. It only got worse when we saw one of the gophers come part way out of a hole to eat fresh grass shoots -- he was absolutely ADORABLE! So we stopped watering down his soil mounds and filling his tunnels with water and just hoped he'd eventually move along to a different yard. He stayed.

Our favorite visitor, Thomas.

For the last 6 months we haven't seen hide nor hair of the gopher or any evidence of digging. Turns out that an old wives tale of sorts was put into effect and worked like a charm! According to my grandmother, if you put a tuft of cat fur inside the gopher's holes, he'll think a predator is always patiently waiting and move along.

Hiding in the ferns.

Pictured is Thomas, donor of fur and indirect eradicator of gophers. He lives across the street, but shows up for pets, treats and the occasional nap. He has his own brush (source of fur for putting in holes), is treated like he's our own and likes to hide in the ferns by my bird bath and startle unsuspecting birds. While Thomas would have preferred to actually capture the gophers, we couldn't be more pleased that he was around to lend us a hand in another way.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Recipe Thursday: Avocado Bean Salad (& shop news)

One of our all-time favorite treats is the Barefoot Contessa's Avocado Bean salad. With color, texture, flavor, and fresh ingredients, this salad really has it all. It's so delicious, you'll be hard pressed not to devour the entire bowl, even though the following recipe serves six.

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and 1/2-inch diced
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. small diced red onion
2 tbsp. minced jalapeno peppers, seeded (2 peppers)
1/2 tsp freshly grated lime zest
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp coarse salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
2 ripe avocadoes, seeded, peeled, and 1/2-inch diced

1. Place the tomatoes, yellow pepper, black beans, red onion, jalapeño peppers, and lime zest in a large bowl.
2. Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic, and cayenne pepper and pour over the vegetables.
3. Toss well.
4. Just before you're ready to serve, fold the avocados into the salad.

And in shop news: The ric rac has landed!
And it's absolutely gorgeous! Here's a sampling of all the new colors. The first photo shows the velvet options, while the second photo shows the velveteen. You'll notice the scallops of the velveteen are slightly rounder; it also has a thicker pile. These are from different manufacturers and, ironically, the measurement of 3/8" wide differs slightly between styles -- the velvet is about 1/16" wider while the velveteen is spot on 3/8". Go figure. You can find these here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

New Trims, Ribbons and Velvet Ric Rac

This week we're busily adding more trims to our shop -- velvet ribbon, miniature pom poms, and, as pictured above, velvet ric rac! So far, the new colors of pom pom trims are listed, as are the new hues of velvet ribbon. The velvet ric rac however, will be listed tomorrow afternoon (except for this lovely navy, which can be found here). Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Recipe Thursday -- Something Sweet Minus the Sugar: Carrot Cake

Baking without sugar has, for the most part, yielded some delicious treats and things like oatmeal cookies, banana bread, cornmeal blueberry pancakes, and peach cornmeal upside-down cake have all made their way into the rotation of regular favorites. While substituting honey for white and brown sugar is usually pretty seamless taste and texture wise, every so often it's really hard to bake without good, old-fashioned sugar. Case in point: cake frosting. There's no denying powdered sugar when it comes to making frosting... until now. Here's my sugarless version of classic carrot cake with cream cheese frosting:

For the Cake --
3 c. grated carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
2 c. wheat flour
3/4 c. honey
1/2 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
4 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350˙.
1. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
2. Lightly beat eggs, add butter and honey. Mix well. Add olive oil in two portions, stirring well after each addition.
3. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until blended evenly.
4. Distribute evenly in two 9" cake pans and bake for 30-40 minutes.
5. Cool completely on wire racks. Frost and refrigerate immediatley.

For the Frosting --
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 packages of cream cheese, softened, 8 oz. package
2 tsp. vanilla
approx. 2/3 c. of honey

1. With electric mixer beat butter, vanilla and cream cheese on high until creamy and combined.
2. Add honey in two additions and combine well on low speed.

A few observations --
• I used the head of a 24 oz. honey bear for the frosting.
• Don't let your frosting sit out too long before frosting the cake -- the closer to room temperature it gets, the runnier and harder to control it gets.
• I added a few minced walnuts to the top and middle layer.
• This cake was quite well received, especially by my mom, who has lovingly dubbed a few of my sugarless creations "pioneer style."
Pioneer style means the wagon train ran out of sugar so the ladies made something with the ingredients they had on hand and the outcome tastes "close" to the original.
• Carrot cake and a cup of Constant Comment = great breakfast!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

6 New Patterns of Florentine Papers from Italy

We've added six new patterns of Florentine paper to our website, just in time for holiday crafting. Three are gorgeous Christmas prints featuring holly, poinsettias, and mistletoe; the other three are irresistible floral patterns.

All have delicate golden accents and are made in Italy.

From elegant gift wrap to lining shelves and drawers, card making, scrapbooking, even making pendants. these papers have tons of applications. They are even printer-friendly!

They go beautifully with our new selection of velvet ribbon trims when used as gift wrap.

The patterns above and below have stunning orange hues, perfect for Halloween and fall projects.

Be sure to stop by and check out our selection of Italian papers. With over 20 patterns in stock, there's really something for everyone. And our specialty supply section is not to be missed!