Autumn Pleasures

Autumn is my favorite time of year. The elements that infuse autumn are multiple, layering upon one another to create a spectacular season. From food to scents to colors to sports to decorations, the layers culminate in an appeal to the senses that is overwhelmingly special.

Let’s start with food: I will say it straight out – I LOVE PUMPKIN! I enjoy pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin praline torte, even pumpkin fudge. The fact that I only eat pumpkin at this time of the year makes me crave it even more. Among other fall culinary treats are apple crisp, apple cake and pretty much warm apple anything – but frankly apples take a back seat to pumpkin hands down.

Scents: Not only do the special aromas of baking accompany fall, but there are also those delicious smelling spicy candles, nutmeg scented with a hint of cloves and cinnamon. These wonderful candle scents fill your home and make you feel so warm and cozy. Put some apple cider in the crockpot with some cinnamon sticks and orange peels and you will not only get a tasty drink, but your home will smell great. And don’t forget the wonderful smell of the outdoors on a crisp day.

Colors: Oh the colors! Orange, a color not ordinarily a decorating front runner, suddenly seems to work with everything in your home at this time of year. When orange mingles with brown, cinnamon, gold and green the results are amazing. When the interior of your home reflects the natural beauty outside your window, you know you are onto something.

Sports: I would leave it at “Go Bucks” since that is what is important in my house, but I do have a few great memories of fall high school sports. Football in our area was paramount and the parents enjoyed it as much as the kids. Each Friday of a home game, the football parents were allowed in the stadium early to save our seats for the evening contest. By saving, I mean we brought masking tape and blankets and taped the blankets to the bleachers early in the a.m. (I’m talking 7:00). Then, of course we would go to breakfast. When the gates opened in the evening we were all set. Fall sports also meant Saturday mornings at cross country meets cheering on my daughter and her team. Cool, crisp autumn days – how glorious it all was!

Decorations: Do it up big! Drape your doorway with leaf garlands. Take down that spring wreath that has been up for 7 months and replace it with a fall decoration. Buy some new cocktail napkins with an autumn theme and get out your leaf plates and placemats too. Put a decorative pumpkin basket in your powder room filled with spicy potpourri! Fall decorations are timeless and will lead us right into Thanksgiving.

*Becky Knows Everything: One other special memory – each year my Uncle George would remove his dentures and replace them with caramel corn. How we kids all loved that!

Photos from Pottery Barn


Home Reflection

Currently, living where I do in upstate New York and not knowing too many people, I am doing design consulting work only. There are a few things I have learned along the way - no matter what state I lived in or what the economic times were, the things I've listed below always seem to resonate.

1. Some things never change. Your home will always be a reflection of you and your style, whether you think it is "finished" or not.

2. The things you hold dear will not change - your family photos, special holiday decorations, etc. will always renew your spirit.

3. The colors you liked in your 20's will be the colors you like in your 50's (at least a version of them, maybe combined with something else).

4. Your current accessories do have a special meaning and they will stay on your bookshelves, if you are smart. Of course we all buy an occasional "turkey" but that is only a temporary setback. The best stuff stays.

5. When you hear people say your house looks just like you, that is a huge compliment and should be taken as such. Try not to think of the dresser in your bedroom that is so messy you can hardly open the drawers - no one has seen it but you.

6. When you are decorating your home, remember that each space can tell a story and your foyer is really the most interesting place. It can say "Welcome" or it can say "Wow, a boring person lives here." It can also say, "This homeowner needs a designer." If that's the case, hire one.

7. Details are what it is all about. I admit I am a nut for details. I try not to be too obsessive - like if the fringe on the pillow is 1/2" too long, I can deal with it. Just remember, it's the details that will make your space special.

8. Hang your artwork - I have had guests come into my house and say to each other, "Why don't WE have anything hanging?" Your artwork and its placement tells the story of "you" and it is really OK (no matter what the man of house says), to pound more than one nail to get the picture exactly where you want it. Do these projects when your partner is out of town.

9. You will continually go back to the same look. Most people are not all that trendy. They want furnishings that are functional and comfortable and make them feel good. This applies to all ages. If you like a classic look, but with an updated finish (i.e. a faux paint look), you will always be drawn to the same type of item. That is good - you know what you want. I have found most clients might not know exactly what they want, but they do know what they don't want and that is fine.

10. Trust your own instincts and stick with them. It may be difficult to mesh everything with a new roommate or husband or whatever, but if you can find a way to compromise, you will do great.

Your home is your base, your foundation. It doesn't matter if it is an apartment or a mansion, your space IS you and you can create the perfect, reflective home if you give yourself the time to make mistakes and figure it all out. Building your home and gathering your accessories can take a lifetime - but oh, how much fun you will have!

Photos by Elle Decor.

Annie Rebecca

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about my niece going off to college. Look how cute she is in her new dorm room! I bought her those flags a few years ago and I was so happy to see them hanging in her room.


Becky's Best Breaded Chops

This is one of those delicious family recipes that I have been making for 35 years. I first enjoyed these chops as a newlywed visiting my in-laws in Appleton, Wisconsin. This is a special dish from my mother-in-law, Jeannine.

6 center cut pork chops (not thin sliced), trimmed of any wide, nasty fat – I just take my scissors and cut it off
1 c. or more of plain breadcrumbs, I prefer Progresso
2-3 eggs
½ c. or more flour
½ c. chicken broth
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
Oil, I prefer canola

Here’s what you do:
Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Pour canola oil into a large frying pan so it covers the bottom and comes up on the sides about ¼ inch and turn on med to hi heat.

Take 3 pasta type, large deep bowls from your cupboard – in one pour the flour, one the crumbs and one the eggs. Beat the eggs slightly with a fork. Salt and pepper the chops.

The breading is simple - like breading chicken or mushrooms or whatever. Place a chop in the flour, covering it completely, shake off, dip it into the egg (be sure to turn so both sides are coated) and drop it in the crumbs. Pat the crumbs on both sides and all around the chop. Drop into the heated oil. I don’t use a thermometer or anything fancy. I know the oil is hot when I sprinkle a few droplets of water in it and it crackles – be careful, please.

Repeat until all chops are coated and in the pan. Even in a large pan you can usually only get 4-5 chops, so take your time. Let the chops cook on one side in the oil and when the bottom gets golden brown and a little crispy, flip them once. The goal is to get a pretty chop with cooked crumbs. We are not trying to cook the chops all the way through – that’s why we have the oven pre-heating. As each chop is finished browning, put into a 13x9 pan. If your frying pan is oven proof with a tight lid, it can be used in the oven, but you need to wipe out any excess oil after the chops are browned – so that’s why I just use a 13x9 type cake pan. Pour the chicken broth over the chops and cover tightly with foil. Place in the oven for 2 ½ -3 hours, removing the foil about 30 minutes before you are ready to serve, so they absorb the moisture and the steam subsides.

*Becky Knows Everything: These are soooo good – warm, room temperature and even cold. Make sure you make an extra for lunch tomorrow!


The Bountiful Bizarre Bazaar

I just returned from a quick trip to Cincinnati where I stopped in at my favorite specialty store, the Bizarre Bazaar. Even the name is great, right? It is a fabulous, eclectic shop filled with all manner of home furnishings, gifts and just plain fun stuff.

The store is owned by the parents of a close friend of Adrienne’s (Sara) and we have been patrons for many years – not only because we know the owners, but because it is just the greatest, friendliest place. The inventory is huge – I cannot imagine how Maureen, Sara’s mom, knows where everything is and all the prices, but she just does.

Upon entering the store, your senses are aroused with the wonderful music playing, the aroma of spices and the visual elements that surround and embrace you. Every type of gift item is available, in quantity, style and price range. There are candles and cards and jewelry (I am wearing a new necklace I just purchased and I look fabulous – sorry you can’t see me), ornaments, baby gifts, wreaths, collectibles, home accessories, furniture, mirrors, paintings, flower arrangements, themed areas, etc., etc. I took some photos when I was there so you could experience it all too. When I had my design business in Cincinnati, the Bizarre Bazaar was one of my top places to search for accessories for clients. The store and merchandise have a unique “look” that certainly isn’t duplicated anywhere in Cincinnati. SO, if you ever get to the East Side of Cincinnati, stop in at the Bizarre Bazaar – it will surely charm you.

The Bizarre Bazaar is located at 7767 Five Mile Rd, Cincinnati, OH 45230. You can call the shop at 513-231-6861 and tell them you read this and can’t wait to get there!


Two Shirts and a Dip

This is a goofy story, but if you read to the end there will be a delicious dip recipe for you.

A few weeks ago I traveled to Boston to visit my daughter. After driving through heavy rain on a 7 ½ hour trip (that usually takes 6 hours), I was thrilled to arrive.

Adrienne was working so I had a few hours to myself. Hmmm…what to do, what to do? Here were my two top choices – stop in at Abe and Louie's, a terrific Boston steakhouse and one of my go-to places for a snack and a drink, OR go shopping at the nearby Lord and Taylor, where the SALE signs were everywhere. Shopping won. I headed to the clearance racks and quickly found several tops that I thought were pretty and now affordable.

In the dressing room, I rejected 3 tops but liked 2. One was a Calvin Klein blue top with pleated detailing at the front and sort of puffy sleeves. The other was a white eyelet number with a V neck, short sleeves and gathering under the boob line. Frankly, as I type this description I am thinking, “WHAT was I thinking?” – I mean what 58 year old should be wearing a white eyelet shirt that looks like a maternity top? Must have been the lighting and mirrors because I thought I looked good and I hadn’t even had any wine yet. I returned to Adrienne’s apartment to make a new dip recipe to serve when she and Jimmy (her cute husband) came home from work.

After assembling the dip, I thought I would change into my new blue top so I would look spiffy when they got home. I was feeling good and was so excited to see them. I am sure you know where this is going. The dip is out of the oven, the wine is poured and the baguettes piled high on a pretty decorative platter. As a newlywed Adrienne has some really cool new stuff. We were all sharing the dip when I did what I always do, I “schlopped” it on myself. (This is a family word that means you have once again spilled food on yourself). The dip fell off the baguette and landed right on the front of my new shirt. I tried to clean it up, but no go. One top down and I had only owned it for 2 hours.

I would tell you the story about what happened to the white top, but it’s too long – let’s just say it is no longer with us. All that is left of the two tops is the Lord and Taylor bill which came yesterday!

Now, as promised, here is your reward – a new dip recipe.

Kathy's Deluxe Dip

Another great dip that features our favorite thing, BACON!!

8 oz. cream cheese
One pkg. shredded swiss cheese (6 oz.)
3 oz. pkg. Oscar Mayer Real Bacon Bits
1/4 c. mayonnaise (and use the real Hellman's please)
3 green onions, chopped, including the green tops

Mix all ingredients together, put in a pretty casserole dish (that can go into the oven) and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. The original recipe uses “Frito Scoops,” but I think they are too thick and heavy. I would use regular Frito chips or even better, toasted baguette slices. This is a truly yummy dip and the next time I get invited somewhere it is going with me.

*Becky Knows Everything: I had a few extra slices of bacon I fried up and added to the mix. It made the dip even more delicious!!


Annie Rebecca Goes Off To College

My very special niece Annie (Bonnie’s oldest child) is going off to college next week.

As I talk to my sister dealing with the idea of not having Annie home every day, it brings back so many memories of when my own children left to go away to school and my own college days. So many things you want to tell them, and most you already have. These are in no particular order of importance, believe me.

1. Try not to get too bored or lonely at that awful freshman orientation week. Everyone hates it and everyone survives.

2. How many times is it OK for a freshman to call home? Answer: as many times as she wants.

3. Smile at the cute boys. They are as nervous as you are.

4. Be open to new people and new ideas. Find a volunteer opportunity - dorm, charitable, or environmental.

5. Try not to pour beer in your Coke can and take it to class like I did.

6. Always be aware of what is happening around you on campus – even if you are texting or on the phone be aware of your surroundings.

7. Be patient with what could be a strange new roommate. I once had a temporary roommate we nicknamed “Far Out Barb” since she was high all the time.

8. In 1969 when I was in college, I actually filled in my schedule from 12-1 each day with “All My Children.” No classes for me in that time slot. I mean, come on, Erica was 16 and Tara and Phil were on.

9. When you call home tell your mom a story about how you wanted to buy something but didn’t have the money. Trust me – it will appear in a few days. This only works freshman year.

10. Enjoy yourself. You will have some lonely moments but if you keep in touch with your friends who are also in the same boat you will feel better. They will definitely have a nuttier roommate than you.

11. If you plan on cutting class to lay out in the sun, make a good choice – like cut that Friday afternoon class so the weekend starts earlier.

12. And finally, if your friends get drunk and pass out in the elevator, help them up, put them to bed and don’t do what we used to do – hit “1” again and send them back to the main floor where they might get into trouble. Just be sure to put the wastebasket next to their bed.

Annie, college can be the most amazing time in your life. You will learn in later years, as hard as you worked and as much as you studied, it still will be the most fun and easiest thing you will ever do in your life.

To Paul and Bonnie, you have raised a smart, beautiful and thoughtful daughter. Enjoy her new adventure.

P.S. Annie, Tete Becky couldn’t be prouder!


Perfect Pimiento Spread

I know you are thinking I misspelled this, because I always thought is was p-i-m-e-n-t-o but according to the little jar there is another “i” in there. So there you go.

Here is my favorite pimiento spread recipe. You can make a sandwich with it, serve it in an omelet with some fluffy eggs or serve it the best way – as an appetizer with toasted baguette slices or crackers.

4 oz. extra sharp white cheddar cheese, finely grated
4 oz. extra sharp yellow cheddar cheese, finely grated
½ c. mayonnaise
Half of a 4 oz. jar of pimientos, drained and chopped
2 heaping tbs. hot picante sauce (a hot salsa that is not too chunky will also work)
½ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. pepper
1/3 c. chopped green olives
1 tbs. olive juice
3 tbs. chopped fresh parsley

Very simple: Mix it all together. Chill at least 30 minutes so the flavors can “speak” to each other. Serve with toasted baguette slices or crackers.


Welcome From The Outside In

Eight ideas to brighten the door into your life:

  1. Paint that front door a fresh, bright color. Make a striking note with red, cinnamon or green. Please stay away from beige if possible. The idea is to POP, not yawn.

  2. Hang a welcoming wreath of natural, seasonal materials on that freshly painted door. If birds continually build nests, purchase an artificial bird at the craft store and perch it in your wreath. You won’t see a nest again. At Halloween, try some festive decorations.

  3. Come into the foyer! If you live in an apartment and space is limited, hang the largest mirror you can find on the largest wall. Be sure to hang something interesting on the opposite wall for a good reflection. A mirror actually works in any size space to enlarge and brighten. And, for an added bonus, you can check out how good you look as you leave every morning. (Try not to look at night when you get home).

  4. Buy a slim sofa table or recruit a piece from another area of your home like a chest or a plant stand to put in the foyer. On the piece, place the largest vase you have and fill it with natural blooms – flowering forsythia in spring or dogwood branches, in the fall use those orange berries that I can never remember the name of and at the holidays use cedar or evergreen branches for that heavenly scent. Drama is what we are looking for.

  5. Not a floral person? Use a pretty lamp for ambiance to offer a soft “hello” in the evening.

  6. You need a rug! A good quality rug will stand up to a lot of wear and will be easier to clean than an inexpensive one. Try something wild like a leopard or jungle print or a brightly colored wool rug.

  7. Do you have a place for a chandelier? Nothing beats a beautiful chandelier with a dimmer attached. This will make your space more inviting and make your guests feel pretty.

  8. Remember, your entry is the passageway into your home. When you walk in, it should “speak” to you in a welcoming, pleasing manner. And a little drama thrown will make it special.

Photo by House Beautiful.


Goodie Bag for a Goodie Friend

Teri F. writes, “My dear friend just had hip replacement surgery and I want to visit her at home and surprise her with a fun gift. Do you have any ideas?”

Of course I have some ideas! Here are a few things to try:

Reading materials that suit your friend – when I had back surgery my good friend brought me “The National Enquirer” and a few other trashy magazines AND a big bag of M&M’s. Of course, stick to more mainstream publications, or even a new cookbook – you know cooks read them like regular books. Also, pretty much every popular star on the
Food Network now has a magazine, so that is a good choice.

How about a pretty scented candle, like the aromatherapy ones? There are also some special “friendship” votives out there now with verses on the side with blessings.

You could also give her a new pretty nightgown – she may want a change from all her regular ones.

Try the new indoor “wind-chimes.” You don’t need the wind, as they operate on batteries or as plug-ins. They will chime at intervals and it is a very peaceful sound.

Speaking of peaceful sounds, what about a CD with instrumentals or nature sounds? Or a new movie just out on DVD?

Does your friend have grandchildren or youngsters in her life? Buy Connect Four, a fun game she can play with a child or an adult while still lying in bed. Or buy a fun card game.

Nail polish and polish remover strips are another great option. If your friend gets her nails done, she may not be able to get to the salon and want to do them at home.

I know…she may want to get into beading like me! Buy her the tray, tools and a few packets of beads. She may thank you with a new pair of earrings.

My best advice is to think of your friend and her hobbies – let what she truly enjoys be your guide.