April 30, 2011

A Reliable Wife

This month's book club installment featured Robert Goolrick's novel A Reliable Wife.  I've grown to love this once a month event and look forward to what our next discussion will have in store!  Unanimously, our little book club agreed that this book was far more dark and twisted than the title portrays, but generally we gave it thumbs up reviews. 

A synopsis of the book:
He placed a notice in a Chicago paper, an advertisement for "a reliable wife." She responded, saying that she was "a simple, honest woman." She was, of course, anything but honest, and the only simple thing about her was her single-minded determination to marry this man and then kill him, slowly and carefully, leaving her a wealthy widow, able to take care of the one she truly loved.
What Catherine Land did not realize was that the enigmatic and lonely Ralph Truitt had a plan of his own. And what neither anticipated was that they would fall so completely in love.
Filled with unforgettable characters, and shimmering with color and atmosphere, A Reliable Wife is an enthralling tale of love and madness, of longing and murder.

The literary banter was lively and the food and drinks were flowing.  A good time was had by all.  Since it was my turn to host, in true charmed life styling, I whipped together a little casual tablescape of nibbles perfect for noshing during our discussion.  And of course we had a theme for our entertaining buffet, Book Work Treats.  Each of the oh-so-simple appetizers was named for a famous literary work.  Hey, it's not every day we get to dine on Hamlet sandwiches and The Inferno pretzels!

Quick and Easy Nibbles to Enjoy During Lively Discussion

 With just a little creative thinking, your creatively named book worm menu isn't as far away as you may think!  Our buffet menu included:
  • Hamlet sandwiches
  • Oliver Twists
  • The Inferno pretzel mix
  • Peter Pan dip and apples
  • Chocolat brownies
  • And of course, a bowl of adorable "book worms" :)

  • Peanutty Goodness!  Peter Pan Dip and Apple Wedges
    Oliver Twists:  Spanish Olives + Puff Pastry =  RAVE Reviews

So grab a few friends, a juicy read and a few fun apps and have your own book club!


April 29, 2011

Royal Bandwagon

It's official, I can't resist ... I'm on the Royal Wedding bandwagon with every other red blooded TV / gossip viewer and royal enthusiast.  How can you not be???  I've had a far and away crush on dear Prince William since his teenage days and now think he's met a suitably adorable match in Miss Kate Middleton. 

Due to a crazy schedule of Book Club Thursday, Baby Shower Saturday and serving as a B&B for some out of town guests, hosting my own royal viewing party was out of the question.  And so, as a suitable alternative, I've persuaded my dear B&B guest, bestie A, to watch the royal media parade on DVR with me Friday evening.

After a casual dinner, we will partake in tiara wearing, a spot of tea, short bread cookie delights and enjoy all things royal as we watch a marathon of specials on the royal wedding event.  I have all the appropriate accoutrements ready to go; a Staffordshire Tea Service that was received as a wedding gift from a family friend years ago, my three tiered stand of treats and of course ... the tiaras!  Yes, proudly I own not one, but two lovely rhinestone tiaras and love a rational excuse to dawn one of them! 

So sit back, relax and celebrate being British if even just for a day!

~ charmed b

April 28, 2011

Dear Tory

Dear Tory (Tory Burch - and yep, we are like BFF on a first name basis and all),

You have once again out done yourself.  Your spring and summer collections are chock full of "must haves" and perfect pieces that are so classically versatile I may just have to make them all my own.

I just don't even know where to start with these beauties!  You can pre-order many of the summer 2011 designs on Tory's site now and save the rush later!

The Stacked Logo Classic tote is the ultimate in versatile and great for summer days on the go!  I love the classic navy with tan, but there are so many colors to choose from!

The Meyer dress is the perfect frock for any occassion and easily transitions from spring all the way through fall!  This vintage print is adorably versatile and can go from work to a night out with ease!  LOVE IT! 

Does it get any more adorable than the Raffia Pom Pom Hat?  How precious with khaki shorts and a white top?  Or maybe even a cute black tube dress ... oh the possibilities! 

You know I love green - well this Square Reversible logo hip belt is the perfect flare for any outfit!

The Bradshaw Sandal in natural tan is just as sophisticated as Carrie herself!  I love this dressy espadrille heel - a glamorous alternative to the everyday wedge!

The Jacy Cardigan is another ever so versatile piece!  The back sports a really fun khaki and navy polka dot print that makes for a more stylish alternative than most basics.  Perfect to wear with shorts or with jeans! 

The Short Shelbee Dress just screams of summer.  It's cool weight is relaxed and pairs perfectly with heels, wedges or even flat sandals at the beach!  You know me ... it's going with those fantastic heels that are in the picture - LOVE!

My version of the everyday "flat" ... a wedge.  It's supportive and still gives me my go to comfort of a heel.  (and yes, I just said comfort and heel in the same sentence!).  The Criss Cross Espadrille sports a fresh geometric pattern that will give your outfit the splash of color and fun you need!

I better start looking for a second job because these beauties are growing on me and I might have to take them all home (or beg Dear Hubs to excuse the price tags!)

~charmed b

April 27, 2011

Springy Wreathes

Now that the Easter wreathes have come and gone, it's time to hang my front door decor that will wish a warm welcome to visitors until the patriotic festivities are hung this summer!  These new wreathes will definitely do the trick.  In search for "something different" than my other wreathes, I made these and am so pleased to report that they can be done on a shoe string budget (did you hear that Dear Hubs?  Cost conscious!)!


The Dish (what you need):
  • wreath form
  • hot glue and glue gun
  • inexpensive silk flowers in a single color (you can find these at discount and dollar stores)
  • ribbon for bows
Craft in a Snap (what you do):
1.  Begin by removing ALL of the stems from the flowers.  Most silk flowers have a bloom that will just pop off if pulled gently.  For my wreathes, I used about 10-12 stems of 5-7 flowers each stem.  The amount you need is determined by how closely you bunch the flowers and the size of your form and your blooms.
2.  Affix hot glue to the back of each bloom and attach to the wreath form.  Take special attention to work in a specific area and move around the wreath.  You don't need to cover the back of the wreath, just a few on the sides will cover the form well.
3.  Leave about 2 inches of space for the hanger.
4.  Cover the blank space with a bow.  I recommend a wire trimmed ribbon that holds its shape well.

Wreath form

Pop off the blossoms

Bunch tightly around the form

Ta Da!

Dazzle up your front door with these adorable and springy wreathes!

~charmed b

April 26, 2011

Simple Silhouette

There's something traditional and classy about a simple silhoutte.  I remember back to 4 year preschool when my teacher, Miss Pat, took each one of her prized pupils and had us stand as still as a 4 year old could and traced our outline with a complex setup of lights and overhead projector.  She took those drawings and transferred them to black cardstock and made a surprisingly beautiful silhoutte for the parents of each student.  Wow, what a teacher and what patience! 

I've always loved silhouttes; on notecards, pillows, framed - you name it.  And, as my ever expanding baby belly keeps growing; I decided it was time to try my hand at making one to capture the moment.  While pictures certainly do the trick to show a progression of your pregnancy, another more decorative (and frameable) option is a simple silhoutte.  This is a great option for silhouetting anything - you don't have to have a baby bump to try it! 

The Dish (what you need):
  • Exacto knife
  • 2 colors of cardstock in opposite colors (a dark and a light color)
  • picture
  • cutting board

Craft in a Snap (what you do):
1.  Take a profile picture of yourself.  It doesn't have to be an adorable outfit (that won't be seen), but just a nice profile - the lines of your outline are most important.
2.  Print the picture to the appropriate size.  You can print this on a basic printer - no need for fancy photo paper, you are just making a template.
3.  Using an exacto knife on a cutting board, cut out the outline of your profile.
4.  Trace the outline onto the color of cardstock you will use for the silhoutte.
5.  Cut out the solid color outline using same process as above with the exacto knife and cutting board.
6.  Affix the cut out to the other sheet of cardstock.  If you have pencil lines visible, be sure to flip the cardstock before affixing.
7.  Frame.

The original picture

In progress - steps 3 and 4

The finished product

I'm so excited for this little craft!  It's so easy and I now feel competent enough at the art of hand silhouetting that I think I might have another project in mind!

~charmed b

April 25, 2011

Comfort Food

As you have probably noticed, I'm a sucker for comfort food!  I'm a bit of a foodie, but I love to leave the complex delicate meals to the experts at restaurants and when I cook (which I love to do), I focus my attention on hearty, delish dishes that warm the soul. 

I've been making warm chicken salad for a number of years.  I remember shortly after my last move, I made this for a few new friendly neighbors.  The response from the girls and their misters was "anytime you can incorporate potato chips into a dinner entree, you know you have a winner!".  Well, I'd have to agree and as a result I love making this warm chicken salad from time to time.

Makes a great meal on its own - or add sides if you wish!

Chips for dinner - what could be better?
Warm Chicken Salad Recipe
  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 1/2 - 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 can water chestnuts, diced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 small pkg slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 2 tbsp grated onion OR onion powder
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 bag Ruffles ridged potato chips (note - low fat or baked chips do NOT taste good in this and mush when you cook them!)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
1.  Combine all ingredients except chips and cheese in a large mixing bowl.  Be sure the sour cream and mayo are combined well with the hard ingredients.
2.  Spray a 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray.
3.  Crush the bag of potato chips.  Spread 2/3 of the bag into the bottom of the casserole dish.
4.  Cover chips with the chicken mixture evenly.
5.  Top casserole with remaining chips and cheese.
6.  Bake approx. 20 minutes at 375 until warm throughout. 

This is a meal on its own, but a steamed green veggie and homemade muffins are great sides too!


~charmed b

April 23, 2011

This Year's Bunny Roundup

Earlier this week, I shared a few cute snapshots of Easter's past.  I just couldn't pass up the chance to share a few pics from this year's decor as well as a few reminders of cute, quick fix tips for last minute special holiday touches.  Don't forget to check out the Bunny Tails post from earlier today and the past postings for the Sweet Easter Topiary  and Presto - Chango for some additional pics and how to's!

Festive Foyer Display - no peaking in the packages!
The bunny wreathes - featured earlier this season in the Presto Chango post!
Delish Snicker topiary from the posting earlier this week!

The kitchen island

Close up of our ceramic bunnies - all were gifted to me or Dear Hubs in our youth

Bunny Tails

Even in the charmed life blogosphere, things don't always go perfectly.  Earlier this week with a perfectly adorable Easter crafty in mind, I set out to make meringue cookies for the first time.  Much to my dismay, at 10pm and after baking these lovelies at a super low temperature for more than double the recipe noted time, I admitted defeat to meringue 101 and learned the valuable lesson that you must not overbeat your egg whites else they will never, ever, ever no matter how hard you try dry into the delish cookies you intend them to be.

So far so good ... almond meringues ready to bake (and bake and bake ....)

I pride myself on being a resourceful Renaissance woman, so off to the store I go to procure these adorable treats to complete my craft.  Store bought shame aside, the end result is just adorable and these "Bunny Tails" are the perfect sweet treat for little Easter gifties!  So make your own (I'm going to try it again) or buy yourself some delish meringues at a local bakery / grocer and package them up with a cute ribbon and tag proclaiming them as bunny tails and you too will have a cute, witty treat for yourself and friends!

This makes a great last minute Easter basket filler for big and little kids alike!

~charmed b


April 22, 2011

Good Friday

Today marks the important date on the Christian calendar of Good Friday.  This day is significant because it is the day on which Jesus died and we use today to remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and his death.  While this sounds like a terribly morbid topic to bring up, the blessing of it all is that as we celebrate on Easter Sunday, Christ was resurrected by his (and my) Heavenly Father.  Because of this event and Jesus's sacrifice we all have the opportunity to be saved and spend eternal life in Heaven with him. 

As I reflect on the real meaning of Good Friday and the Easter holiday, I know that there is more to it than the cute bunny displays, Easter egg hunts and the other fun, secular celebrations that surround the holiday.  And while I sure do love those celebrations, I really wanted to take the holiday moment to reflect on the true meaning of the celebration and also share a story of my bestie S and some of the work she is doing in the coming weeks to help the lives of some children on the other side of the world. 

Through the sponsorship of North Point Community Church and Global X missions organization, Bestie S will be making a return trip next month for the second year to the New Life Orphanage in Cambodia.  While she is there, she will be working on projects at the orphanage as well as with the children directly.  S will travel over 20 hours to reach her destination, and while there work in conditions that are truly "third world".  In a country that has endured genocide, agricultural challenges and struggles for advancement; her mission is to support the local children with love and help to provide them with a safe, Christian home.  Sadly, this is something that many children in this country may never know. 

The mission team and children

Ruins of a temple in Angkor

And so on this Good Friday, I ask for your prayers for S and her team as they embark on this trip.  Prayers for the team members to raise the necessary financial support, for unity as a group during the trip, for safe travels and that God will prepare the hearts of the team members and those that they meet to do wonderous things.

The streets in Phnom Penh

S and one of the girls

S doesn't know I'm posting this today, but I think her words really sum up the experience she had last year best and inspired my support for the cause she finds so dear.  Below is an excerpt of a letter she wrote upon her return.

We were travelling a total of 20 hours on a plane and then boarding a bus for a 6 hour trip to the New Life Orphanage in Battambang. How could I not have any expectations? I have to say most of mine were self-focused around my basic needs for what I considered to be simple quality of life expectations – things that we don’t even think twice about on a daily basis, such as “I will need air conditioning”, “I also will need adequate room on the bus for the long journey to the orphanage” and “Please tell me they have coffee. I will need coffee.” Well, our guide was right, I shouldn’t have set ANY expectations because, air conditioning basically doesn’t exist in Cambodia (where the low temperature was 88 degrees Fahrenheit), the seats on the bus were tighter than the seats on the rides at Six Flags and I quickly learned that Cambodians are not even in the running to be considered coffee connoisseurs.

That said, it did not take much time for my needs to subside and my focus to be shifted drastically. I’ve never laid eyes on the true definition of a third-world country, but the second we walked out of the airport, hit by the hot thickness of the air, my eyes were gripped to the sights of this foreign world - the countryside, the busy and buzzing streets (and there are no traffic lights), the local markets and most importantly, the children. Cambodia truly is a Kingdom of Wonder. And what I determined from the moment that we stepped foot on the orphanage grounds is that the 38 children in this place were the luckiest kids in the country. They have the financial support and love from their sponsors in America and they are sheltered and protected from the extreme poverty and hopelessness of the outside world surrounding them.

What was most overwhelming, was the hope, happiness and love that these children showed me and my team. I use these words - hope, happiness and love - in the purest form and the true definition. Throughout the two weeks, I went through emotions of being speechless just from my utter amazement of these kids to being filled with so many words, that I couldn’t write them down on a piece of paper fast enough.

To support the Global X ministries; please visit their website.

April 21, 2011

Decisions, Decisions ....

I am impatiently waiting for my backyard project to kickoff in the coming days.  With a complete yard transformation planned in my mind and dear Hubs reminding me that we need to "do this in phases", I'm hopeful that my lofty expectations are moderately satisfied.  I just can't wait for the screened in porch to be ready for entertaining and spending casual evenings at home!  Given the project's looming start, my eyes are peeled for furniture, pillows, accessories and serveware that will make my porch complete. 

While attempting to be cost conscious (afterall, there's a baby on the way), I have it in my head that new serveware and outdoor dishes are a must have to kickoff porch season.  I have plenty of platters and decanters ready for the entertaining; but adorable, durable dishes are something that I need to round out and be dinner ready!  After scouring Pottery Barn, Target, CB2 and many shops and catalogs in between; here's a few that have caught my eye ... now, which to choose?

Adorable punchy polka dot plates from French Bull

Artsy swirly serveware by French Bull

Love this drink caddy from Pottery Barn

Galvanized serveware from Pottery Barn
Black and White Stipes
Dots to go with the stripes!
Adorable geometrics are all the rage - love these Target finds in green!

Happy Shopping!
~ charmed b