"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer

Add your email address here & receive new posts from This American Home!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015


 They're heeeere!
My seed orders from Rareseeds and the Hudson Valley Seed Library have arrived!
Beautifully illustrated little packets of springtime goodness containing these...
  Hollyhocks, the before picture.
Imagine if the packet didn't have a picture or a label? 
 Is it just me, or is it mind blowing that these tiny plain brown flakes will completely transform into tall, gorgeous flowers. 
It's a pretty strong argument in favor of change and transformation. Butterflies, flower seeds, people...

Maybe if I'm more like the plain brown seed than the flowering hollyhock today that's okay. 

In the meantime, I'm going to make cool little DIY starting pots I found on a great blog called Learning and Yearning and start planting seeds. Stay tuned, I can't wait to show you! 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Spring Fever: Heirloom Flower Seeds

 Many years ago when we took the kids to see the mission in San Juan Capistrano (the one where the swallows return every year) I met and fell in love with hollyhocks -kind of like Frank Lloyd Wright devotee, heiress Aline Barnsdall -only without the oil money, but I digress...

 The tall cottage-style flowers with sturdy stems and happy, colorful petals dotted the pathways like wildflowers and I immediately went home and planted my own.

Along with sunflowers, foxglove, and delphinium (Wow, I am realizing a clear penchant for tall flowers!) they have been in and out of our garden for years.

This year, I am craving them. About a week ago, I went to the seed section at one of the big box home improvement stores and -nada, nothing. So this morning, while many of my friends and relatives are shoveling their way through an epic storm of legendary proportions - I began browsing heirloom flower seeds from online companies.


 For my snowed in friends, I humbly suggest from my sunny room in Southern California -that the process of browsing and planning for spring and summer (yes, it really is coming) is like a working daydream -completely absorbing and a whole lot of fun for very little money. Spring fever as the cure for cabin fever?

Rareseeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds was the catalog I spent the most time looking at because it was one of the first ones I found, and they had a large variety of hollyhocks -of which I ordered several. I also ordered several other cottage-garden flowers and a few vegetables. I'll show you all the packets when they come in! (I might have gone a teensy bit crazy...)

For more online browsing/dreaming check out the Seed Savers Exchange,  the Hudson Valley Seed Library (I ordered the Skyscraper Sunflower: "Nearly a tree in one short season!" although not sure where to plant it yet...), and Victory Seed Company. If you have a favorite heirloom seed supplier I would love to know! Please share the name in the comments below!

The photo above is the Indian Spring Hollyhock I ordered from Rareseeds...

 Fig-Leafed Hollyhock at Rareseeds

Photography and illustration from the Rareseeds Website.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Working Holiday: Craftcation

First came the stay-cation, now behold Craftcation, a four-day getaway designed to inspire, support and educate creative, passionate souls in the process of pursuing their entrepreneureal dreams.

Craftcation, now in its fourth year, is  a spin off of the wildly successful Patchwork Show festivals created by artistic muses on a mission Delilah Snell and Nicole Stevenson. "I’ve always wanted to inspire fellow business people to take that chance and just do it!" says Snell.

Creative entrepreneurs themselves, Snell and Stevenson have designed a conference that blends hands-on craft worshops with bottom line business sessions and networking opportunities. This spring's list of presenters include: Kari Chapin, best selling author of Grow Your Handmade Business and The Handmade Marketplace; Kaari Meng, former jewelry designer for Anthropologie and owner of French General an ultra cool vintage craft boutique and workshop in L.A.; Nancy Soriano, the former editor in chief of Country Living Magazine and co-founder of the Creative Connection Event; Kim Werker, the author of Make It Mighty Ugly, a handbook for banishing creative demons by confronting them head on; along with a host of highly talented bloggers, artists, retailers, financial experts, educators, marketing pros and many more. 

For a complete list of presenters, a schedule of events and registration info, check out the website, DearHandmadeLife.com.  
March 26-29 - Ventura, California 
Crown Plaza Ventura Beach
Early bird registration (until Feb. 15) is $365
Registration prior to March 7 is $400 

Images from the Dear Handmade Life Website.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tempting Read: 50 Shades of Chicken

"...He's clearly not into me. I wait quietly on the counter and watch his skillful, knowing hands work. Desire pools way down in my cavity and in spite of myself I start to daydream while he preps a radish.

He cocks an eyebrow. "Penny for your thoughts Miss Hen?" He appears focused on his task but there's a sly glint in his eye.

I flush. Oh, I was just imagining your hands traveling up my thighs and your teeth nibbling my breast..."

Oh, boy. After reading the clever cookbook parody, Fifty Shades of Chicken by FL Fowler you may never again prep a chicken without blushing.

In the days leading up to the much anticipated premiere of the film, 50 Shades of Grey (in theaters Feb.13), based on the book by the same name - I am re-posting my scintillating review of a cook book that gives new meaning to the adage: "If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen..."

You don't have to have read the original best-selling Adult novel to get the gist.

Miss Hen narrates a saucy seduction tale that takes place between herself and a young, good looking chef, Mr. Blades, in the privacy of their own kitchen.

Offering 50 recipes with names like Mustard Spanked Chicken, Bacon Bound Wings, Coquettish Croquettes and Spread Eagle Chicken this steamy read encourages fowl play. 

Although many of the recipes look seriously tasty, not every home chef will appreciate the titillating take on whipping up dinner. This racy parody cranks up the heat and leaves no innuendo unused.

For a sexy chef with a sense of humor, Fifty Shades of Chicken might be just the thing for Valentine's Day. On the other hand, however some sweethearts may still prefer the romance of a pretty bouquet of flowers and chocolates that don't talk back. 

Kitchen twine sold separately.

Monday, February 9, 2015

I Heart Granola

Following a recent business trip to the Seattle area, my husband brought home the most amazing homemade granola given to him by Mandy Levenberg, chief cook and bottlewasher of Greater Good Granola a small business based on the honor system and created with a mission for giving back to the community. 

Every week, the baker/mother/business consultant whips up batches of granola goodness, packages them in mason jars and leaves them in a fruit crate on her front porch. The idea: take a 1 or 2lb jar, leave your cash. You can also subscribe to the granola service and bring back your jar each week for a refill. Simple as that. Profits are donated to hunger-based charities in the Seattle area. If you don't live in the neighborhood, Levenberg will also ship.

Inspiring on so many levels.

I kept meaning to photograph the cute bag of Greater Good Granola tied up with string for the blog...but I ate it.  I couldn't help myself. It was irresistible on my banana every morning...on yogurt, ice cream, as a snack... I kept thinking: Okay, just one more scoop -then, I'll photograph it...You get the idea.

Once it was gone, I suffered homemade granola withdrawal -and decided it was time to take matters into my own kitchen mitts.

With Valentine's Day coming up, it could also make a great gift! But I have to warn you, like any great love affair, it may be habit forming...
Leaning heavily on the Basic Granola Recipe by Roxanne Weber, I also incorporated elements of the granola recipe in The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook and took inspiration from the Vanilla Almond Granola recipe I found on Sally's Baking Addiction.
3 cups rolled oats 
3 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Add-ins: (note, these are suggested amounts add more or less to your heart's desire!)
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup coconut 
1 cup diced dried figs
1 cup diced dried apricots
1 cup chopped cashews
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup pistachios

1. Preheat oven to 300 and move rack to center position.
2. Combine all dry ingredients in one big bowl: oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Mix together.

3. Next, combine honey, oil and vanilla in a smaller bowl, stir to combine. Then, pour over the dry ingredients and mix until oats are thoroughly coated.

4. Spread the oat mixture in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then stir and continue baking until the granola has turned a light, golden brown -about 5-15 minutes more. For me, it was another 15 minutes.

5. When you take the pan of golden brown granola out of the oven, place it on top of a wire rack and allow it to cool to room temperature.  Stir occasionally. It's hard to wait.

6. While the granola is cooling, about 20 minutes, prepare your add-ins. Dice up larger dried fruits and chop nuts if necessary. I chose dried apricots, cherries, figs, cranberries, shredded coconut, sliced almond and chopped cashews and pistachios - but you could use almost anything - even chocolate chips! In the future, I want to experiment more with seeds. If you have any favorites, please let me know in the comments below so I can try!

7. Finally, gently mix everything together in the big bowl. Woohooo! 

The granola will stay fresh in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks...if it lasts that long.
To give as a gift, consider using decorative cellophane bags; baggies placed inside of brown paper lunch sacks and tied with twine or ribbon; or mason jars tied with a ribbon.

Happy, healthy Valentine's! xo

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Sweetheart of a Deal: Free Hollyhock House Tour

Looking for something romantic (and free) to do with your Valentine? 
For lovers of modern design, architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright, the Hollyhock House in Los Feliz, Calif is waiving admission fees for self-guided tours beginning at 4pm on Friday, February 13 -- and ending at 11am on Saturday, February 14. 
(Following the event, regular visiting hours and fees will resume.)
It's a sweetheart of a deal -and a night to remember.

Recently nominated by UNESCO for consideration on the World Heritage List, the home designed by Wright and commissioned by oil heiress Aline Barnsdall in 1919 would be the first example of modern architecture in the U.S. to earn a place on the highly esteemed list.

Named for Barnsdall's favorite flower, a motif Wright interpreted throughout the home, the residence had 17 rooms, seven bathrooms and a style some describe as:
 Mayan meets medieval.

In spite of ground breaking design and the cache of not only Wright, but his famously talented contemporaries Richard Neutra, Rudolph Schindler and his son, Lloyd Wright, who also contributed to the project - it turned out the structure was not a place Barnsdall wanted to call home and she never lived there. In 1923, Barnsdall donated the building and the surrounding property of Olive Hill to the city to be used as a library and public park. In 2007, the site was designated as a National Historic Landmark. 

This month, following a lengthy, $4.3 million renovation that began in 2010, the Hollyhock House will celebrate by opening it's doors, revealing its painstakingly detailed restoration --and sharing the love.

If you go, the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation hopes you'll share pics online using the hashtag: #WrightAtNight. 

To make the most of what promises to be a memorable stroll through one of Los Angeles' architectural treasures, be sure to read the History of the Hollyhock House written by Cheryl Lee Johnson (read here). Like any good Hollywood story it's got glamour, money, power, fame and heartbreak.

Hollyhock House is ready for its closeup.

Photography courtesy of the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation.

Follow American Home here!

There was an error in this gadget