Becky (Baba) and Jackson Together Again

Recently I traveled to Boston to help Adrienne get ready for the arrival of her first baby, due at the end of Sept. My fun trip became even better with the announcement that Stephanie and my first grandson, Jackson Daniel West Barras, were also coming. For my birthday, Mike arranged for Stephanie and Jackson to travel from LA to Boston. Adrienne was even happier than I was as she had never met Baby J. before.

Well, we had just the best time. Stephanie pretty much had to give up any control of the baby as Adie, me and her husband Jimmy were always eager to hold him and feed him and play with him and pretty much just stare at him! He is of course the cutest baby in the universe (and will be joined by his cousin very soon). He was 11 weeks old when we saw him and he is just that perfect combination of smiles, and chubbiness and he will always fall asleep with his little face in your neck and HE SMELLS GOOD TOO!

We took Jackson everywhere – shopping, out to lovely lunches and for a few nice walks to Boston’s fancy baby stores. He just took it all in stride, never complaining unless he was hungry (every three-four hours) and wow, that was a show. He would go from the calm, peacefulness of sleep to the full volume of hunger, with the clenched fists, and kicking in frustration and the cry. Of course he was even more adorable then and we all argued over who got to feed him.

We took him to get his first professional photos taken and he was so cute in his white t-shirt and jeans and I can’t wait to see the prints. Anyway, a new blog will come soon on Adie’s baby’s room, but I just had to be the typical grandmother and talk about Baby J.


A Pretty Summer Salad

Mike and I hosted our good friends the Bradley’s last Saturday night for dinner and a movie (except the movie was at the theater and by the way it was so bad it would have been way better for us to get a rental).

We saw Eat, Pray, Love and if all you want is a huge close-up of Julia Roberts’ big teeth, than this is the movie for you. I slept through Italy, Keith slept through India and Mike through Bali. Debbie was the only alert one and I am not sure why since she didn’t like it either.

Anyway, back at our house I served appetizers (the movie is very long so we were all starving) and then a simple dinner of the Barefoot Contessa’s Shrimp Scampi, garlic bread and a really pretty fresh summer salad.

Here is the salad recipe and ingredients for four:

3 large freshly grown tomatoes (only really available in the summer of course)
8 very thin slices of red onion
Small can of slice black olives
4 oz. feta cheese crumbled (try to crumble yourself –the other stuff is dry)
16-20 asparagus spears you have lightly blanched, placed in ice water, drained and chilled

Dressing: Mix together 1/3 c. red wine vinegar, 2 tsp. sugar, ½ c. salad oil, ¼ tsp. basil and oregano and 2 tsp. fresh chopped parsley. Shake it all together until sugar dissolves.

On a nice large salad plate, lay tomatoes and onions in a pretty curve. Top with feta cheese. On the other side of the plate, lay the asparagus. Drizzle with dressing.

I assembled everything before we left and drizzled on the dressing when I was ready to serve. Try this – it is pretty and delicious!


Great Do-it-Yourself Websites

My great Mom, who you are all familiar with, accidentally sent herself two subscriptions to Ladies Home Journal magazine. When she called and tried to cancel one, they refused, so she had them send one to me instead. I haven’t read this magazine in years and imagine my surprise when I found some very good articles on design and a few great websites I checked out for you.

In this month’s issue, (September) on pages 76 and 78 there are great design ideas. On page 76, they feature wonderful urethane moulding. Now crown moulding, chair rails etc. always had to be cut and installed professionally because of the corner mitering issues, but now you can order pre-moulded pieces that can be painted and installed easily with adhesive and nails from
Fypon. The website is amazing – if you click on the e-catalog from their home page you will see a bunch of different moulded millwork products. They also have a ton of other ideas, how-to instructions and fun looks.

Next, check out DIY Upholstery Supply. Ladies Home Journal shows an ottoman with nailhead trim which is impossible to install, but this site sells nailhead trim in nickel and brass in a strip where you only have to nail every fifth tack. YES!! A great way to customize a store-bought thing and make it special. They also sell furniture legs and frames. Lastly, and I loved this one too, check out Hollywood Lights. You can purchase lampshades in assorted sizes that are SELF-ADHESIVE and you can easily cover them yourself. They even show a self-adhesive nightlight for $4.79 that I recently purchased at Hobby Lobby for $8 two weeks ago and covered for Adrienne’s baby’s room. You will be seeing a photo of that soon in a new nursery blog. Anyway, take a moment to check out these sites - they are grand!!


Vicki and Pudgie - The Annual Summer Visit

Yes, Pudgie and Vicki, my college friends of 40 years returned to Rochester for the THIRD time for a recent visit. This makes three summers in a row these two have traveled from Cleveland and Middletown, OH to visit Mike and me. Apparently there is some attraction here of which I am completely unaware!

Could it be my cooking? Neither of these two (especially Pudgie) are really into cooking. Vicki has a super retired husband that COOKS AND CLEANS AND GROCERY SHOPS. What the hell is this? Mike has been in the grocery two times in 38 year – when I had the two kids. And then he complained that my list was not aisle by aisle and he managed to run into two food displays and topple them!

Anyway, I tried my best to make Pudgie and Vicki some delicious dinners and a few appetizers that were new. I made a good chicken, tomato and angel hair dish and a sausage appetizer from my favorite Cincinnati cookbook, “When Pigs Fly.”

We did the usual – one afternoon in my neighborhood and one day in Canandaigua at the gigantic
TJ Maxx/Homegoods and the casino (Pudgie was the winner). After shopping, we had a very nice lunch at the New York Culinary Institute. On Sunday we shopped locally again and had a great time. I made my favorite brunch dish, Macadamia Nut French Toast, with sausage on the side.

These two are the BEST HOUSEGUESTS! They entertain each other if I am busy cooking or go to bed early. They eat anything I make and they also make me laugh all the time. We always reminisce about our goofy college days (Pudgie was really quite wild) and we call our other old college friends to see what’s going on. I guess it’s no surprise they rarely answer the phone! Anyway, I feel so happy when they come. Having such good friends for such a long time is the best blessing of all! I hope all of you have true friends like these – they like the people you like, they share their real lives and they love you no matter what!



Have any of you ever watched the HGTV show, “designstar”? It is a reality show that usually starts with about 16 designers and after each week's challenge, one contestant is eliminated. You know, just like “Celebrity Apprentice” or “The Next Food Network Star.”

Well of course, as a designer, I am a weekly watcher of this show and I have a lot to say about how the designers are judged and the way the show is structured!

First of all, there is rarely a design challenge in which the designers can work individually to showcase their talents. They are always in teams and I know from personal experience that “design by committee” can be a disaster.

The latest challenge involved designing a kitchen using appliances from Sears, followed by a photo shoot for the Sears catalog. The design teams chose baskets representing different countries, France and Italy. Each designer had to choose an item from their basket that would represent them in the finished product. Both teams pretty much used the same basic materials -
hardwood floors, stainless steel appliances and granite countertops.

The “Italian” team chose parmesan cheese and garlic as their inspiration. Aren’t both of these products beige?? They had some nice colorful things in their basket – fruits, leafy red lettuce, wine, cheese etc. etc. but they chose the simplest colors. The walls were done in a rustic faux no color finish (I hate this) and the granite was that mixed beige color (no inspiration there). Then they COMPLETELY COVERED THE COUNTERTOPS WITH STUFF!! One member of this team is a photo stylist in real life and you never saw so much stuff on the counters! Well, that is until I saw the other team’s “French” kitchen. This team chose for their inspiration a corkscrew (Alex), escargot shells (Michael, another beige thing) and a baguette (Casey).

The judges, Vern Yip, (who is this guy?), Genevieve Gordon who hosts a show called “Dear Genevieve” and someone else I never heard of were SHOCKED at the clutter on their counters. Genevieve said “I see cupcakes, hydrangeas, mussels, artichokes, wine, herbs and fabrics – what am I doing in this kitchen?”

Good question. Anyway, Casey won, and the other 4 had to “host” their kitchens on camera for the judges and defend them -
Alex was eliminated. I mean really, how do you choose a corkscrew for inspiration and then give the judges something to understand? I guess it didn’t work since he is gone now.

To catch this show watch
HGTV on Sundays at 10, unless you can DVR it while watching “Army Wives” or “Mad Men” instead.

Photo from HGTV


Color, Nature, and Design

Guess what? This is NOT a blog on BACON. Yes, I am finally back to writing about color in design, something I really do know about. (Not that I don’t know a lot about bacon of course).

This weekend I went to a local farmer’s market. It is a little early to have all the vegetables out (I saw very few tomatoes and they were very pricey) but the vegetables and flowers I did see were gorgeous and colorful. The flowers, ranunculus mixed bouquets, were deep, rich and vibrant in tone.

People often choose colors because they relate to them in a personal way, but while they have a “favorite” color they can’t always seem to figure out how to find a companion set of colors to integrate. That is why I always suggest we look to nature. Nature and natural are pretty much the same word and the colors produced in nature seem to have a natural fit with each other.

For instance, I saw some glorious sour cherries (what a yummy pie THEY would make) right next to some orange carrots just pulled from the ground with their long curly green tops attached. Those three colors, red, orange and green work beautifully together – then add some yellow squash for another accent. What a happy room that would be!

I saw the most spectacular rainbow chard with a terrific fuchsia and cream stalk and green tops that looked like kale. They were next to cucumbers, and some wonderful purples – potatoes and eggplant. Think of it all together – dark green and pale beige with accents of purple and hot pink. Your sofa can be dark green and your chairs can be beige with a design of green and maybe purple or deep pink. The area rug and pillow can pull in all three colors! Then add a big bunch of mixed fresh flowers on your cocktail or sofa table. Invite me over – I would love to see how this turns out!

Next time you are at the produce section of the grocery, farmer’s market or even in your own garden, stop for a moment and just enjoy all the colors and the way they unite. It will bring a smile to your face.