Monday, July 26, 2010

Finding Nemo Cake

This weekend had a small gathering of three families with kids in tow. I offered to bring the dessert, and so put together a simple cake that would be pretty easy to replicate. I just used a two-layer 6 inch cake, which fed 10 pretty well with a piece left over. Here are the steps:

1. Use a box cake - they make the box for a reason. Don't go thinking I'm sitting there sifting flour and whatnot. I have fondant to get to.

2. After the cake cools, you will ice it with buttercream. This way, if some people don't like fondant, they still have icing instead of just dry cake. Also, the fondant adheres to the buttercream, which it does not do to dry cake. So there. I put a layer of buttercream in between the two layers. Seals in the flavor. If you are interested in making your own buttercream, which I strongly recommend, you can find the recipe here.

3. After you have applied this layer of icing, stick the cake in the fridge for an hour or so to let it cool.

4. Now you get to play with fondant! Here is my fondant recipe I use, made with marshmallows so that it is stretchy and tastes good. You can dye it many colors, using icing dye from any Michael's or Hobby Lobby. I used a blue fondant for the ocean as the base.

5. Fondant figures - I like to make mine in advance so that they can set and then you can usually do the rest all in one night. For Nemo, this is just molded fondant which had been dyed orange, with white fondant accents.

6. For the detail work, I just did it all freehand. The coral pieces were kind of fun, because I just rolled out extra fondant and then curled it up like a yoga mat!

Here are a few pictures of the finished product - I told Audrey to "lean in."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Foyers of 63108

The Central West End area of St. Louis has some amazing homes. I'd love to see what the neighborhood looked like in the 1900s, when many of the homes were built around Forest Park.

Tennessee Williams, T.S. Eliot, and William S. Burroughs all grew up in the CWE. The Central West End was also the location of Sally Benson's home, the setting of the stories which were adapted into the movie Meet Me in St. Louis. (See my post about 5135 Kensington here -

Should come as no surprise that many of these homes have grand, elegant and stately foyers. If you think about it, the foyer of your home is important. It should be what sets the tone when you come home each night - where you picture your kids running in after playing in the yard, where you greet your visitors, and the last light you turn off at night.

After some browsing around, I've decided that the foyers of 63108 (the CWE zip) deserve some attention. All eight of these foyers are the foyers of homes currently for sale, too! So, if you have $1.1m, or $2.5m, even better. If not, just take a look and wonder, as I do, whether the people who live in these homes wear ascots and smoking jackets.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Built-In Kitchen Seating

I have a small kitchen. It's beautiful, and very well done, appointed, etc., but it's just freaking small - approximately 10 by 12. I daydream (and night dream) about expanding my kitchen, and including some more casual space for dining - right now, we eat around the tall kitchen island on bar chairs, or in the formal dining room. Totally fine, but in a few year the kids will want a place to hang out, do homework, etc. If you have a smaller space, as I do, one attractive option is a built-in eating area. It saves a lot of space, and avoids the chintzy pine kitchen set (blech). It just looks cozy. Here are some ideas for inspiration!

Antique Canopy Beds

Not sure I would go for one myself, but these antique canopy beds are very impressive. Hard to imagine sleeping in one of these. Certainly not practical, and most of them are pretty costly.

Many antique beds were built right into (and were part of) room paneling (called "boiserie"), and as a result, not that many genuine antique beds survive to this day. Further, antique beds were not built to our modern standard sizes (e.g., Eastern King, Cal King, Queen, etc.)--and very few people want to do custom matresses and linens.

Some key terms:

Lit (pronounced "lee"): the word for bed in French

Lit à Colonnes (pronounced "ah coh LUN"): a four poster bed with a full canopy. Here's an example of an English Jacobean lit à colonnes.

Here is an antique Javanese bed in solid teak. This can actually be used indoors or outdoors. How cool would this be to have outside?

Now check out one you can actually purchase - this is from Horchow (the motherload). A mere $19,000! Dates to 1900 from China.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Old Edwards Inn, Highlands, NC

Just returned from a quick three-day jaunt to a great inn in the mountains of North Carolina called the Old Edwards Inn ( Great little spot, though very tough to get to, in a quaint mountain town!

The hotel has two parts, really - the Lodge and the Inn. We stayed at the Inn which is the main building, with reception. Each room has a name, and ours was the Berkshire. The other main building, shown below, is the Lodge, complete with a huge patio with rocking chairs which lead out to a croquet court.

Here are some shots of the Inn and grounds itself. They did a great job of winding the landscaping into the structures!

I loved walking through the library and lounge (full bar) throughout our stay, watching people sip cocktails and just relax.

The spa at the Inn was recently named the #1 spa in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler. We sampled the massages and they were great. Hard to say if they are worth the steep prices, but the waiting room and facilities were wonderful. Check out the hallway leading up to the waiting room - hardly looks like a spa at all! Featuring black walls, it was an interesting touch but somehow, it all worked.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Beekman Mansion

I've been turned on to this new show, the Fabulous Beekman Boys. Two fabulous gay guys who live in a restored farmhouse, after leaving Manhatten. Oh, the shenanigans. The house is just amazing and was restored in the 1990s after being abandoned.

The Beekman Mansion was built over the course of two years, from 1802 to 1804, for the family of William Beekman. The home, which can be described as a combination Georgian/Federal structure, was based on the designs of Asher Benjamin and William Spreatts of Connecticut, and was constructed by master builders Wakeman and Parsons.

William Beekman was a "boy soldier" in the Revolutionary War, and as an adult became a successful and respected businessman with a general store situated across the road from where he would eventually build his Mansion. He married Joanna Lowe, and had eight children – only two of whom made it past the age of twenty. Beekman was appointed the first judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Schoharie County in 1795 and held the position until 1833. He also served as State Senator from 1799-1802. William Beekman died in 1845 at the age of 78 – outliving all his children – and was buried on the property in the Beekman Family Crypt.

While many consider The Beekman Mansion’s wraparound back porch to be its most distinguishing feature, the porch was in fact added during recent renovations. The porch’s design was modeled after another historical house designed by The Beekman Mansion’s original architects. The Beekman Mansion’s original signature architectural accent is it’s large front palladium window, and it’s fourteen foot wide center hallways.

Local lore claims that there was once a tunnel running from The Beekman Mansion to the crypt which was used to hide slaves fleeing northward. While no evidence of a tunnel exists today, The Beekman Mansion is well documented as having been a stop on the Underground Railroad. Other oral histories of The Beekman Mansion recount a savage Indian attack which killed a young girl as she fled up the attic stairway. While no records of such an attack have been found, The Beekman Mansion’s proximity to Cherry Valley – where a brutal Seneca Indian attack in 1778 killed nearly all of the town’s inhabitants – would’ve made the threat of Indian ambushes very plausible.

Before The Beekman Mansion was restored in the late 1990’s, it had been abandoned to the weather, wild animals, and whomever else decided to stop by and spend a night or two. Graffiti lined the wide center hallways, and the rain poured through the roof. It was only through the generous spirit and resources of Frederick and Patricia Selch that The Beekman Mansion was saved, and is now a registered historic landmark.