Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Art of Tasha Tudor

As I child, I loved thumbing through my mothers Tasha Tudor's books (I still do!). Next to Beatrix Potter, her illustrations were probably my favorites. I remember being particularly excited to see her being featured in Victoria magazine when I was in elementary school.

She's written many books for a more adult audience, but her children's books "One is One" and "A is for Annabelle" are two of my alltime favourites. What better way to learn the alphabet than with Tasha Tudor's charming illustrations! I recently ran across two websites that carry a wide variety of her work. Cellar Door Books is a Concord company that specializes in Tasha Tudor's work.

Tasha Tudor and Family is Tasha's family website. Quite a treat--especially for those who want to catch a glimpse of Tasha's corgis!(If you read her books you'll know what I mean! They are so cute!). Her garden is also gorgeous. Tasha Tudor leads such a relaxing looking life. It's really inspirational to see a woman in her 90s living at home and continuing to create beautiful things--whether works of art or homemade pies!

Saturday, January 27, 2007


I created this recipe for Stollen this Christmas and I wanted to make sure I recorded it before I forgot!

1 cup currants
1 cup candied melon, cherries and pineapple (or similar combination)
1/2 cup amaretto
1/4 cup lukewarm water
5 teaspoons dry yeast
3/4 cup plus a pinch of granulated sugar
1 cup blanched almonds
5 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon table salt
Finely grated zest of one lemon
2 large eggs, room temperature
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch bits and softened, plus 3 tablespoons melted

1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup cream cheese

1. Combine currants, candied fruit and amaretto in a bowl. Soak at least 1 hour, stirring occcasionally.
2. Pour water into a small bowl; sprinkle with yeats and a pinch of sugar. Let stand 2 to 3 minutes; stir to dissolve yeast completely. Set aside mixture until it doubles in bulk (about 5 minutes).
Meanwhile, drain fruit, saving amaretto; return fruit to bowl; add almonds. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons flower. Toss; coat evenly. Set aside.
3. In a heavy saucepan, combine 1 cup milk, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, and salt. Heat until warm. stirring until sugar is dissolved. Transfer liquid to bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment; add reserved amaretto and lemon zest. Stir to combine. Stir in yeast mixture and eggs. Gradually add 5 cups of flour; beat until well combined. Beat in softened butter until well incorporated and dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Flour hands if dough gets sticky. Knead in one-third of the fruit mixture. Brush a large bowl with 1 teaspoon melted butter; add dough. Brush top of dough with 2 teaspoons melted butter; drape a kitchen towel over bowl and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk (about 2 hours).
4. Preheat oven to 375 fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment; set aside. Punch dough down; roll into a rectangle about 16 by 24 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle remaining fruit over pastry. starting with a long side, roll up tightly, forming a long thin cylinder. Carefully transfer dough to a baking sheet; join ends together.
5. Using sharp kitchen scissors, make cuts along outside of circle in 2" intervals, cutting two thirds of the way through the dough. Twist each segment outward, forming a wreath shape with all the segments overlapping. Brush dough with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter.
6. Cover pastry with a clean kitchen towel; set aside to rise for 30 min. dough will rise only a little. Bake until golden brown and crusty, about 45 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cool before icing.
7. Mix powdered sugar with 2 tablespoons of milk and cream cheese. Drizzle over cooled stollen.

* The more traditional, MUCH easier way of serving stollen is spread all the fruit on the inside of the stolle and roll it like a yule log and bake it like two loves of bread. Delicious and simple! Serve it the other way for an impressive crowd pleaser.

Blue and White for Home Decor

Why make so much of fragmentary blue
In here and there a bird, or butterfly,
Or flower; or wearing stone or open eye,
When heaven presents in sheets the solid hue?

Since earth is earth, perhaps, not heaven (as yet)--
Though some servants make earth include the sky;
And blue so far above us comes so high,
It only gives our wish or blue a whet.

--Robert Frost, "Fragmentary Blue"

I think Robert Frost has a point when he associates humans' fondness for the colour blue with their longing for heaven. Blue certainly has to be one of the most soothing colours in the rainbow. It permeates nature and is probably only second to green in its prevelence (and if we count the ocean along with the sky, then it is actually the most dominant colour on the planet).

It makes sense, then, that blue is such a popular colour for decorating. When I was growing up, it seemed like everything in our house was blue and white. The china, the linens, flowers in the garden, chair coverings. Whenever I go into a new place, I always feel strangely at home if there is blue in the room. I remember the first time I lived away from home, the guest room in the house where I was staying was peppered with lucious shades of blue--a soft sky blue in the pinstripes on the bed and curtains the colour of irises. I instantly knew I could be happy there.

Since I was a young girl I've collected Spode Blue Italian China. I always knew that it would be the perfect china for my home when I grew up. I was fascinated by the process that produced the brilliant indigo patterns on my china. I did go through a brief period about a year ago when I began to question my taste in china, particularly when I realised that Spode was no longer being carried at many retailers. It is not sold at the Bay here in Canada, which is somewhat ironic given that it was the china that the Hudson Bay Company originally brough to Canada with them due to its durability. Despite 190 years of production, the pattern seems to still be going strong, but in a day where Vera Wang china is the "must have" registry item for young brides (and what is she supposed to know about china? She designs wedding dresses for pete's sake!), it will be interesting to see where companies like Spode and Wedgwood will be headed in the future. Nevertheless, I think the world's love affair with blue and white will continue.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Ever since Victoria Magazine ceased publication in 2003, I think there'sbeen a real void in the media. If you were ever a reader of the magazine,you may agree that, although there are a number of magazines todaythat contain beautiful photography and discuss similar subjects (such as House Beautiful and Traditional Home), none of them really capture the inspirational (and much less overtly commercial) message that Victoria shared with its readers: it's alright to long for (and create!) a more romantic reality.

I'm completely new to the blogosphere, but I'm hoping that Earthly Paradise will give an opportunity to discuss and share how to create a beautiful life.