Saturday, May 25, 2013

Book Club * Spring Dinner

This week, I hosted my Book Club for dinner. 
It's a wonderful time of year to host 
because we can have dinner out on the porch.

You may remember last year's Book Club post-

I love to do something special for these ladies
and they are always so wonderful and appreciative.  
We could actually have fun together in a dark basement 
but this is so much better...

The table was set

with my Grandma Evie's Rose Chintz china. 
(You can read about it here)

and some pretty pink glassware.

I used this asparagus platter and tongs that I found at the Flea Market.

The flowers are from my garden...

Things are not as far along as they were last year, so none of Alice's peonies...

Weren't these gorgeous?

The Menu:

Chardonnay from Blustone
Tossed Salad with Dried Cherries, Sliced Almonds and Goat Cheese 
Roasted Asparagus 

Just click on the highlighted links above for the recipes.

The Salad

The Kabobs were grilled to perfection by Mr. Grand.
These were so simple to make and so delicious.  
I found the recipe on, one of my go-to websites for recipes and ideas.  
It had so many fantastic reviews, I thought I couldn't go wrong.  
And I didn't!  This recipe is a real keeper.

The Rice Pilaf was baked in the oven instead of cooked on the stovetop.  

I added some diced carrots for color. 
It was easy and tasty and went well with the chicken.

To make the Asparagus, I sprinkled it with kosher salt and roasted it for 8-10 minutes at 425*. 
It's done when you can easily pierce the ends with a fork. 
Simple and so springy!

You may recall this Tiramisu Cake from a recent post I wrote:

I couldn't wait to make it again, but this time I grated dark chocolate on top 
and it looked a little more elegant.

It was a wonderful way to spend an evening 
with such good friends and great conversation.

And the peonies should be blooming soon...

Linking to:
Pink Saturday at How Sweet The Sound
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Window Boxes

We got the window boxes planted yesterday.
When I say "we", I mean the the royal "we"
because every year for Mother's Day,
Mr. Grand plants the window boxes for me...

I love flowers and I love gardens 
but I don't actually like gardening, or dirt or worms or bending and stooping....
I think I'm actually a better supervisor than worker! 
I like to pick out all of the flowers and design the containers
but the planting, no, not for me. 
Luckily, Mr. Grand enjoys a good project
and suffers my supervision with good humor.  Usually.

These window boxes are pretty wide- over six feet each, 
and so we divide them up into three liners in each box.
Then we set out all of the plants into my vague design and see what will fit.

I may possibly have bought more flowers than we needed, 
but there are always other containers looking for flowers around here.

Mr. Grand had some help this year...

See that orange flag off on the right?

It means that
Darling Daughter is home from her first year of college, 
just in time for Mother's Day!  

Mr. Grand always flies the Illini Flag when she comes home.  

Our son came home to visit, too!
Oh, Happy day!

Back to the window boxes...  
I try to use flowers that do well in part/a lot of shade, 
like Geraniums, Coleus, Impatiens and Sweet Potato vines.

I also try to follow the rule for container gardens- 
there needs to be a thrill, the fill and the spill.
The dark, gorgeous deep rasberry Geraniums are the thrill,
the pale pink Impatiens and the multi-colored Coleus are the fill   
and the Sweet Potato vines are the spill.

You can just see the Coleus in this shot.
It's small now, but usually gets big and colorful in these boxes.

And the Sweet Potato vines will grow long
and spill down the front and sides of the boxes.

They all go well with these hanging Geraniums 
and look nice against the white of the house.

The contrast from the Fall colors is amazing...

Aren't those oak trees absolutely majestic?

And isn't Mother Nature Just*Grand?

Linking to:
Wow Us Wednesdays at Savvy Southern Style
That DIY Party at DIY Show Off
Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now
Masterpiece Monday at BoogieBoard Cottage
Make The Scene Monday at Alderberry Hill
Monday Funday at Uncommon Designs
More The Merrier Monday at DIY Home Sweet Home
Sunday Showcase Party at Stephanie Lynne
Inspire Me Tuesday at A Stroll Thru Life
The Scoop at Cedar-Hill Ranch
Pretty Things Link Party at TwelveoEight
Trendy Tuesday at Sweet Little Gals
Tutorials and Tips at Home Stories A to Z
Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage
Fabulously Creative Link Party at Jennifer Rizzo

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Vineyard Adventures

That was fun.

Mr. Grand and I just returned from a fabulous weekend adventure at Blustone Vineyards, 
an absolute dream of a place, created by our good friends, Tom and Joan Knighton.

Tom and Joan had a dream.
And in November, 2012, it became a reality. 

(I lifted this photo right off their Christmas card because I could never take anything more perfect)

They opened the doors of their BlustoneVineyard Tasting Room last fall
and began welcoming wine lovers to sample their award winning wines.

It's sleek and modern 
and warm and cool, all at the same time.

The setting is spectacular- 
Just a few miles inland from Lake Michigan, 
 atop a rolling hill, 
surrounded by hardwoods and fir trees 
and grapevines and cherry orchards and bucolic farms....
Napa has nothing on this setting!

Acres and acres of glorious views in all directions.

This was a special weekend for the Knightons.  

The wineries of the Leelenau Peninsula in Northern Michigan were hosting a "Sip and Savor" Event 
to entice people to come visit the area wineries 
and taste the wonderful Michigan wines, paired with specially selected foods.
1,000 tickets were sold (sold out!)
and the Knightons asked us to come up, along with some other good friends 
to help greet the guests and pour them wine.  
And act like we knew what we were talking about... (That was the only hard part!)

We had visited the Vineyard before, in its planning stages 
and again for the wedding of Tom and Joan's son Matt and his bride, April. 
You may remember Matt and April 
from this post about the Wedding Shower we hosted for them last summer.

They're pictured here in another photo lifted right off their Christmas card, 
because, again, I could never take a more perfect photo.

My assignment was pretty simple.
Greet the guests, pour them a taste of the award winning 2011 Blustone Pinot Grigio 
and dish them up a sample of a delicious, spring three cheese pasta 
which paired perfectly with the wine.
I only had to do this about 400 or 500 times, 
because my partner, Patti greeted the other 400 or 500 people...

The Sip and Savor Event featured a Hat contest 
and lots of guests were in on that, like these two pictured above with Patti.

Mr. Grand, with his superior intellect and oenophilic passion 
was assigned to learn about all ten Blustone wines 
and to serve tastes of those to the guests.

Blustone Wines have only been bottled for a few years 
and they have already won numerous awards in international wine tasting competitions.

This 2010 Blustone Chardonnay has won two gold medals and one silver medal 
and I have served it at home, to many rave reviews.
I love it because it was aged in stainless steel instead of oak
and it has such a fresh, fruity crisp taste.
"Unoaked" or "Naked" Chardonnay is making it's mark in the wine world
 and it's wonderful - it's all about the fruit.

Here are some folks on the wine trail, some with siilly hats ...
Check out the views from inside!

Very hip.

Love this two sided fireplace... 
Imagine it in the fall, with colorful leaves blazing out on the hillsides.

During the quieter moments, Patti and I were able to enjoy our own wine tasting, 
served by our handsome hubbies. We had so much fun!

The cherry trees were just about ready to burst into flowers.  
 Here's Tom, checking the grapevines for buds...

Be sure to visit the Blustone Website to learn more about this little corner of paradise.

Oh, and here's the view of Lake Michigan from the Knightons home-

Can you say spectacular?

Linking to:
Wow Us Wednesdays at Savvy Southern Style
Oh, The Places I've Been at The Tablescaper

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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Make Your Own Thin Mints!


Don't tell the Girl Scouts-
but my Sister-in-law, Sue, showed me a secret way to make your own Thin Mints style cookies...
And I think they might even be better!

I love the Girls Scouts, so don't get me wrong...
I have nothing against the Girl Scouts- in fact I've been one myself 
and I was a leader for my Darling Daughter's troop for years,
and I order Girl Scout Cookies faithfully, every year.

But they don't last forever and I'm fresh out 
so I turned to this secret recipe and made a little batch to share with you.
Well, not really.  I will probably eat them all myself before you can even get here.
But you can make your own.  

They're super simple (I love it when something is super simple, like this Tiramisu Cake)
and only require two ingredients:
A bag of Wilton Candy Melts in Chocolate Mint or Dark Cocoa Mint 
and some Ritz crackers.
You can get the candy melts at Joann's or Hobby Lobby 
or anyplace where they sell Wiltons Cake Decorating supplies.

That's it!

You melt the candy melts in a double boiler according to the directions on the bag 
and then you dip Ritz crackers into the melted chocolate, one by one, 
letting the excess chocolate drip off.
Place each dipped cracker onto a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.  
When the cookie sheet is full, pop them in the fridge for ten minutes til the chocolate is set.


Extra thick, extra chocolate-y thin mint style cookies.  

Mmmmm.  Good.
Makes about 24 cookies.


Linking to:
 Sunday Showcase Party by Stephanie Lynne
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