Let's Talk Toile

Toile de Jouy is a style of cotton chintz fabric with origins in France (think 18th-19th century). It is characterized with a color scheme of either red, blue or green scenic patterns on a cream background. There are other colors out there now, like black and brown or red/yellow combinations, but they are not the original toile colors.

Pictorial scenes of people, flowers or animals are featured. Toile is still so prominently used today in elegant and casual traditional design because the limited palette allows a designer to easily combine it with other patterns - large checks, plaids or ticking stripes in the same color/cream palette are the most common.

While the patterns can be very busy, the eye sees a simpler look because of the monochromatic color, not a bold vibrancy of too many patterns and colors. Toile de Jouy is utilized everywhere in today’s design, from fabrics for draperies, pillows, bedding, and upholstery to dinnerware, wall-coverings, lamps and shades, table linens and even accent pieces like clocks or frames.

Personally, I love toile – it makes me happy to see it and I often study the pattern to see the layers of interesting details. It is the epitome of French Country Style which opts for a harmonious blend of multiple patterns, rustic yet refined.

If your home is decorated in a traditional style or you want to add a French touch, try a toile. It will work with almost anything and perhaps jump-start your new décor direction.

Let Toile de Jouy bring you JOY today!

*Becky Knows Everything: There are even toile fabrics found in clothing –try to resist, unless it is a cute baby dress or an apron. We don’t really want to dress like our window treatments, do we?


Slo Joe BBQ

I know summertime is perfect for making a beef barbeque with brisket on the grill or pulled pork sandwiches, but with all the rain in my part of the country sometimes you need to stay inside to cook.

Our family has a great recipe for BBQ made in the oven. It is made with ground beef and a number of simple ingredients which you mix all together and then bake for a few hours. It is really more of a Sloppy Joe mix then real BBQ. It is so delicious and I have made it for many gatherings and have been asked for the recipe often. I have never made it in a crockpot, but I do have friends that have warmed it up in a crockpot. It is great no matter what the season or weather and it freezes so well!

I serve this yummy sandwich with "
Sue's Sweet and Sour Slaw" and dill pickles. And, of course a handful of potato chips!

Slo Joe BBQ

2 lbs. ground beef (I use one lb. of the 80%-20% fat content and one lb. of the 90%-10% content – you need some fat or there is no flavor)

In a dutch oven, brown the meat until no pink remains and break into small pieces. Drain off the fat by pouring the meat into a colander, then return to pan.

One large green pepper, diced
One large yellow onion, diced
Two stalks celery, diced
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper

Cook this all together on low until vegetables get a tiny bit soft. I only do this for about 5 minutes and then I add the rest of the ingredients:

One 16oz can tomato sauce
1/8 c. sugar
¼ c. apple cider vinegar (do not use red wine or balsamic vinegar)
½ c. catsup
1 tsp. dry mustard

Mix all together, let it get bubbly, then put the lid on and bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for 2 ½ hours. If you let it cook longer, it is not a problem.

Serve on a sturdy bun (I like Pepperidge Farm sandwich rolls) brushed with butter and broiled until toasty. This keeps the BBQ from saturating the bun too quickly and making it all smushy and soggy.

*Becky Knows Everything: So easy to make and can be done the day before or even weeks before since it freezes so well. I usually make this in advance of a trip and freeze it in small containers, so when we return home we have something delicious and easy to prepare for dinner.


My Beading Career

After much consideration (well...ok, not really) I have decided to resume my beading career. OK, I never actually HAD a beading career but I always knew I could’ve had one.

Here’s how I got into beading. About 8 years ago my Baseball Mom’s group (corny name but we have been friends for a very long time) spent an evening at a new bead shop sort of as a “field trip” before we went out for drinks and dinner. We all paid a fee and a patient instructor tried her best to teach us, amidst our laughter and mockery, to make a bracelet and earrings.

Boy, did we think we were creative. Some of us actually used TWO bead colors and different shapes. We all managed to produce something. I wore my earrings until they broke but I still have my bracelet. For my birthday that summer, my friend Sue surprised me with my own beading tools, tray and instruction booklet. I was 50 when this happened and I still haven’t produced a thing and believe me, 50 is SO in my past.

When Pudgie and Vicki visited recently we went to quite a few specialty stores and whenever I see the beaded jewelry I always know I could make it. I mean I’m creative, I’m smart, and I know color and design, right?

So, I pulled out my beading tools and went to Michael’s, the craft store. When did Martha Stewart explode in there? Where did all those beads come from? Every color, shape and size, and every style imaginable. And pricey, too. I saw photos of ideas, like beaded candles and pillows and fruit, Styrofoam shapes, ornaments, hair jewelry and even glassware. And the “findings” (the parts you need to put it all together) – so many, many choices. Did you know you could even make your own beads from polymer clay that you bake in a TOASTER OVEN? Sounds like Girl Scouts to me.

Well, I am starting with a simple necklace. When I get it finished and win an award for it (I have confidence), I will take a photo and show it to you. Keep reading, you can always say you knew me when.

*Becky Knows Everything: OK, all of you watch out – one year I learned to knit and everyone I know got a scarf for Christmas. This year – beaded bracelets for all!! (Or maybe a pair of flip flops for my really loyal readers).


Pillow Talk

Have you seen the beautiful new silk pillows out there? Fabulous dyes of deep, rich colors like burgundy and chocolate brown and a range of greens. I love the embroidered ones!

Need to make a small update in your family room or living room? Try purchasing a few new pillows. Add some colors that you don’t always use and enjoy the punch! Your current pillows probably need to be replaced – they begin to look worn a bit if people nap on them or the dog accidentally drools on them. Do it! There is some good pricing out there and what a change they can make.


Bonnie's Luscious Lemon Bars

If you are in the mood for a sweet and tangy treat try my sister's recipe for "Bonnie's Luscious Lemon Bars". They are simply wonderful. A great summer treat.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with foil, then spray PAM on the foil. (This sucker is NOT going to stick!)

Crust ingredients:
2 ½ c. flour
½ c. sugar
2 sticks cold butter

Mix ingredients either with a fork (or pulse in the food processor) until crumbly but sticks together. Pour into pan and pat down on bottom and up the edges a little. (The crust is my favorite part. Buttery and yummy!)

Bake for about 30 minutes, until crust is golden. While the crust is baking, mix together filling (I use the same processor bowl).

Filling ingredients:
4 eggs
1 ½ c. sugar
1 tbs. lemon zest
6 tbs. lemon juice (fresh is best, but bottled works too)
¼ c. flour
½ tsp. baking powder

When crust is done, take out of oven and pour the filling over hot crust. Return to oven for 20 minutes until set. When cool, you can just lift the foil out of the pan for easy cutting and serving. Cut into squares and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

*Becky Knows Everything: This is my sister's recipe. She is a fantastic baker, so these are sure to be delicious.


Vicki and Pudgie Come to Town Part II

Another quick note on the Pudgie and Vicki visit. One morning I slept later than Pudge and Vick and they decided to empty my dishwasher. When they visit, I cook every night so the dishwasher is constantly running. Well, it has been 2 weeks and I still cannot find my strainer, my garlic press or my favorite chopping knife. AND yesterday, I found my toaster in the cabinet where I keep cleaning supplies - shows you how often I look in that cabinet! I know those two are trying to be funny or make me crazy or both. I found my best spatula not in the utensil jar but in the FREEZER! They do manage to give me a chuckle each day, and that is a good thing!


Vicki and Pudgie Come to Town

Pudgie and Vicki are two of my dearest long-time friends. We all met as college freshman 40 years ago attending a private, female only religious school – we sure were happy to meet those cute boys at neighboring Xavier U. Pudgie and Vicki were assigned roommates that first year and very quickly became good friends. A lot of people wanted to be friends with Pudge since she had a very cute brother at XU and we figured she could be of great benefit to us. This is way before the phrase “hooking up” ever existed.

I happened to room with a high school friend of Vicki’s and was lucky enough to be included in their group. I lived on a different, and frankly way cooler floor, (yes, there was only one dorm) but spent a lot of time hiding in their closet when the floor supervisor (a tightly wound nun) did her “bed checks.” I wonder what they would call “bed checks” now?

We drank too much beer, laughed way too hard, watched “All My Children” each day (Susan Lucci was 16!!) and had a ton of fun – which we are still having. Pudgie even pierced my ears one night after I was asked to leave French class for laughing too much.

Since I left Cincinnati 4 years ago, Pudgie and Vicki have come to visit me each summer. The first year they came to N. Washington, visited Pike’s Place Market and enjoyed the beauty of the Northwest. For the past 3 summers they have come to Rochester.

Each year, as a good hostess, I try to make a “plan.” Each year I am determined to show them the local highlights. Each year they decline. Once again this year I offered to take them to Niagara Falls. The Canadian side is very cool and there is this great boat tour that goes under the Falls. My sister and I did it last summer, we got soaked but it was fun. Vicki said “do you get wet?” and when the response was “yes” she said “no.”

Next I proposed a tour of the
Corning Museum of Glass and they said it was too far (it’s only 1 ½ hours away).

Then I had another great idea - the
Mackenzie-Childs Factory and Showroom are not far. No thanks again. They are very polite.

Next, I offered the George Eastman House (the founder of Eastman-Kodak) — remember when Paul McCartney married Linda Eastman and everyone said she was the daughter of the founder of Kodak—ok, not true. In case you were wondering, that idea received a big no too.

My last idea was a walking tour of the Erie Canal given by my husband. I made the mistake of telling them he likes to sing “15 Miles on the Erie Canal” as he gives the tour. Boy, they declined that one in a hurry, even though I threw in ice cream at the end!

So, we did what we always do – sat on my porch and laughed and shared memories in between trips to the local casino, the mall and the discount stores. It was great!

*Becky Knows Everything: We made Becky’s Perfect Pizza one night for dinner and Vicki’s looked so good it was photographed for the blog.


Becky's Perfect Pizza Recipe

This recipe will make a variety of different shaped crusts: 6 thin, irregularly shaped crusts, 15 appetizer size pizzas, 3 nice dinner size pizzas, OR just one large crust!

½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. honey
2 tsp. olive oil
1 ½ tsp. crushed rosemary
2 ½ c. flour
1 c. warm water (NOT TOO HOT, but really warm)
1 ½ packages dry yeast or 2 cakes yeast

Put the salt, honey, rosemary and olive oil in a large bowl. With your wire whisk, blend in the warm water until honey is dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast on top. Let sit for about 20 minutes so the yeast can “proof” or get a bit bubbly.

Add the flour and mix until all is blended. Turn out onto a floured surface and gently knead for one minute. Return to bowl. Drizzle a little olive oil on dough, turn and drizzle a bit more so dough has a slight coating. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place. In the summer heat, this is not a problem and will create a super nice soft dough. In the winter, the dough will not rise as much, unless you are my mother and keep your house at 85 degrees year round. Sometimes in the winter I preheat my oven, turn it off and let the dough sit on the open door. Let the dough rise one hour.

Time to make the crusts! Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from the bowl and cut in half, then cut each section into 3 pieces. Of course this depends on how many pizzas you are making. Roll each section out on a floured surface and place on large cookie sheets that you have sprayed with cooking spray. I usually get three sort of long and narrow crusts from each piece. Repeat until all crusts have been rolled. Using both oven racks, bake pizzas for about 7 minutes, then switch cookie sheets and bake about 4 minutes more. Only the bottoms and a bit of the edges will be golden. If you over-bake, it is OK – but remember, you will be baking again when you put the toppings on.

Store crusts in the freezer in a jumbo plastic bag. When ready to use, prepare your toppings and go for it! There is only one pizza sauce that is store-bought that I like and it is Contadina Four Cheese. It tastes as good as when I make it myself. Top with pepperoni, sautéed mushrooms, black olives, red pepper pieces and I use both crumbled feta and mozzarella slices. Anything you like will do. When topped, bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted. YUM!