In most cases, I believe less is more. And when it comes to photo shoots, less in front of the camera is so much more impactful. The camera may be working with less, but behind the scenes it’s just the opposite…there’s a whole lot more going on than meets the camera’s eye!
This past Valentine’s Day, we launched a brand new article in our e-mag, Nora Murphy Country House Style, Country House Weddings – The Art of Styling a Bride - http://noramurphycountryhouse.com/magazine/winter-2014/winter-wedding/jewelry . Connecticut-based bridal stylist, Bridget Kellogg,(http://www.bridgetkellogg.com) gave us the inside scoop on the importance of accessorizing.
To best show what Bridget had in mind, we scheduled a photo shoot to take place at Ricci’s Salon and Spa in Newtown, Connecticut (http://www.riccissalon.com) where the multi-talented, and beautiful, hairdressing students from Ricci’s Academy worked their magic behind and in front of the camera; styling hair, doing make-up, and actually modeling. Our photographer, Duanne Simon, and Ricci’s Salon owner, Dan Riccio (an accomplished photographer – just one of the many hats Dan wears), set-up and pointed their gear at the damask-wallpapered flat (a.k.a. dummy wall) that Bridget hauled in and set-up at the very start of the day.
There were lots of moving parts during the shoot: make-up, hair, dress, jewelry, head pieces, and bouquets. Staging areas for each part were created to streamline the process as much as possible (with so many people and so many parts it can become chaotic at times). The objective is always to get as many different styling combinations, and as much photography, as possible in one shoot. The light is key, as well as the energy of the models, the stylist, and the photographer.
It was a great shoot. Literally, a non-stop day that started with the load-in at 8a.m. and ended with a load-out at 5 p.m. ”It’s a wrap” is always music to my ears – happy that we got what we needed (and then some). And very happy that I’m one step closer to a big glass of wine and a good long soak in a hot bath!
For all the last minute lovers of beautiful quotes (like me), here are some of my favorites that may come in handy:
“When I saw you I fell in love, and you smiled because you knew.” – William Shakespeare
“Traveling in the company of those we love is home in motion.” – Leigh Hunt
“On this day, my hand is yours to hold, my heart forever yours to keep.” – Irish toast
“It’s by your side I make my home.” – Dave Matthews
“In all the world there is no heart for me like yours. In all the world there is no love for you like mine.” – Maya Angelou
“The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” – Audrey Hepburn
“Music is love in search of a word.” – Sidney Lanier
“Being with you is like walking on a very clear morning, definitely the sensation of belonging there.” – E.B. White
“Happiness seems made to be shared.” – Jean Racine
“I vow to love you even when you are old and wrinkly.” - Unknown
My very favorite: You’re the only fish in the sea for me!
Happy Valentine’s Day dear friends!
Cheese Straws that is. Over the holidays, I whipped up batches of these for nibbles until dinner was ready to be served…the perfect nosh for friends while they hung out in the kitchen. These Cheese Straws are good hot out of the oven or cold. But that night, they never had the chance to get too cold – they were snatched up and polished off as soon as I pulled them out of the oven.
That cheesy aroma and flavor was downright irresistible…perfect for Super Bowl Sunday!
Party Cheese Straws
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese (optional)
2 sheets of puff pastry – defrosted
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F, and line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.
- On a Silpat, wood or marble surface liberally sprinkle Parmesan cheese.
- Apply 1 puff pastry sheet to sprinkled surface, and with a rolling pin, roll out a little bit to make a little thinner.
- Sprinkle with Gruyere cheese and roll surface. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
- Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut pastry dough into 1/2-1-inch strips.
- Twist each strip and place on parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Space about 1-inch apart.
- Bake about 10-15 minutes – until the straws are golden brown.
Repeat the process for the second sheet. Depending on how thinly you slice the strips, each pastry sheet yields about 20-30 cheese straws.
Back in December, Jennifer Bissell for the Fairfield County Business Journal interviewed me. We had a great phone meeting that covered a wide range of topics, and resulted in a wonderful feature story with the headline, Cozy Incorporated – A Country Lifestyle Brand from Newtown.
Cozy Incorporated truly captured my feeling of home, especially for this time of year, and played a big part in inspiring this wintry issue. http://noramurphycountryhouse.com/
Get cozy, stay warm, and enjoy A Country House Winter.
My son Conor is turning into a foodie; he truly savors the meals at his weekend part-time gig at our hometown eatery – My Place.
When he’s not up to his elbows in soap suds, he’s buzzing around bussing tables. He likes his gig. Other than the good feeling of making his own money, and being part of a tightly knit network of fellow classmates who rely on each other to cover shifts (I’ve come to think that this gig is a rite of passage for high school boys) – I feel the best perk of all are the delicious meals the chefs make for him. It really is all about the food.
Last Sunday was not his turn to bus, so he was missing his usual My Place breakfast of 2 eggs over easy with bacon and hash browns. Eggs and bacon are always on the Sunday menu here at Connecticut Country House – but not hash browns – not before last Sunday. But they are now.
Conor’s Hash Browns
Potatoes (My rule of thumb: 1 potato per person)
Bacon (as much as you can fit into a large skillet pan)
Salt and Pepper
- Peel potatoes, cut into small 1-inch cubes, place in a pot of salted water, bring to a boil, and cook until fork tender. Drain.
- Chop one small to medium-sized onion.
- In a large non-stick skillet, fry bacon until almost done. Remove from pan and set aside.
- In hot skillet with bacon drippings, keep burner on medium heat and add the onion. Saute until softened and translucent.
- Add potatoes. Let sear, and flip with spatula.
- Break bacon into smaller pieces and add to potatoes.
- Press down with an iron patty press. Flip potato mixture again.
- When golden brown, turn off heat, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.
- Serve hot.
I can sum it up in one little word: Yum.
Have a great weekend, dear friends!
Spring has sprung at Connecticut Country House! The halls have been un-decked, and the trees dragged out to the big composting ditch down in the back 40. The rooms are looking pretty stark and bare – with the exception of plants that came inside last autumn to winter indoors. Looks like everybody’s happy. In our newly edited January interiors the show is just getting started.
Year round plants, like my pair of Cymbidium orchids, always take center stage. I call them “Sister and Brother”. I don’t know why, other than Rick and Conor bought me the first one (Sister) for Valentine’s Day about 10 years ago, and then about 2-3 years later came Brother. They live side by side and have been re-potted twice. I don’t do anything special for them. I don’t feed them. In late spring I put them outside, behind the house under the Forsythia shrubs, and let Mother Nature do her thing. They only get watered when it rains or when I remember to.
By October, before the first frost, when they’re covered with crunchy fallen Maple leaves, my annual ritual is to very gently unearth them in search of a surprise or 2 or 3 new flower shoots. What a happy feeling it is every year to find them! Sister flowers consistently and profusely, while Brother usually trails behind with one smaller, yet equally beautiful shoot. The two flower from November all the way to April. Amazing.
Speaking of amazing, another fabulous twosome is my pair of skinny little Azalea topiaries. They too, were gifts (Mother’s Day) from the boys. Year round, they live side by side inside and out. They’re the same size as when they first arrived, but are in full bloom from September to March – usually taking a break for a couple of months and then by summer they’re back in full bloom again.
My white geranium is a monster, and bloomed throughout the holidays. After a couple of weeks of rest, she’s all budded up and about to burst into blooms again.
I keep the bulbs going – Amaryllis and Paperwhite Narcissus – through March. And a sweet little basket of Primroses are always welcome.
If only these plants knew how much their beautiful presence fortifies my eyes, my state of mind, and most definitely my soul!
It’s cold and snowy outside and all I can think about is what to make for dinner. One of my very favorite meals is a well-stocked Chicken Fajita. You can make the whole thing on the grill or the stove top. I love this dish for the hearty comfort it provides in the winter, but whipping this up in the summer with fresh-from-the-garden ingredients is pretty fantastic as well.
The prep work is probably the most time consuming part, so it makes for a great family and friends (all hands on deck) – grab an apron and roll up your sleeves – kind of cooking project.
Connecticut Country House Chicken Fajitas
6 boneless chicken breasts
1 cup chopped cilantro
juice of 1 lime
1 cup of olive oil
6-8 garlic cloves
6-7 small Bell and/or frying peppers
1 very large onion
1 package flour tortillas
Homemade guacamole (see recipe link below)
1 jar Desert Pepper Spicy Black Bean Dip
1 jar salsa (your favorite brand)
1 small container of sour cream (room temperature)
Wash chicken breasts and place in large mixing bowl. Add the coursely chopped cilantro, juice of one freshly squeezed lime, olive oil, and a big pinch of salt – make sure all is well incorporated. Using a garlic press, add garlic and incorporate well into the mixture. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in fridge to marinate for at least 1 hour.
In the mean time, cut peppers and onions in even strips. Starting with the peppers, saute in a large non-stick pan. When they are lightly browned, add onion and saute until onions are lightly carmelized. Set aside.
For homemade guacamole, see http://www.connecticutcountryhouse.com/2012/05/holy-guacamole/
Place chicken breasts on a pre-heated grill, turning once you get grill marks until cooked through. Set aside.
One flour tortilla at a time, place on gas stove top or grill and let each side warm up and get grill marks. Place on dinner plate and let the fajita building begin! (Makes for great leftovers too.)
Enjoy, and let me know how you like it.
Each and every year, as soon as we haul down the boxes of tree trimmings from the attic, I feel like a little kid – I can’t wait to dig into those boxes and see my old friends again.
I’m a romantic at heart (actually a pretty big mush) when it comes to these ornaments. Pretty much everything has a joyful and playful vibe – whether it’s from my childhood, handmade little masterpieces by Conor and his cousins, or a sweet reminder of a wonderful trip. I’ve also found that by adding all kinds of hand-crafted small animals to the tree makes everyone smile. So when I came upon these sweet handmade creatures at this year’s Brimfield Antique Show…I was immediately smitten. And when Rosemary (the co-creator) pointed out all the unique hand done details….and that these intricate details were vintage…I was really hooked!
I’ve kept one of these sweet little buddies for our family Christmas tree (also a beautiful reminder of one of my favorite antique jaunts in the whole world), and thought the rest of the clan would go to fellow romantics (a.k.a. mushes) like me. As I was photographing them, and zooming in on their details, I was reminded of Rosemary’s beautiful little tidbits of info, and found that I was falling in love with these little guys all over again.
Shop Hunt Club right now!
Merry Christmas…make it happy, happy!
When I find something that speaks to me, it always finds its way back home. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very selective – I guess you can say downright picky – and only buy what I find to be unique and interesting. And if it makes me smile, all the better.
And ever since the start of my on-line magazine this past summer, we (being my treasure seeking colleague Maria and I) have been on the hunt for really unique things that speak to both of us – whether it’s for photo shoots or our ever-growing curated collections – we are queued up for 2014!
Our new on-line shop is called Hunt Club (aptly named). We bring to you offerings that are not so easy to find – we really had to hunt for them. We’re launching Hunt Club today with the first group of happy little fellas Maria and I spied at Brimfield. Unusual Christmas ornaments that we instantly fell in love with, and on closer inspection loved them even more, so we bought the whole family!
Shop Hunt Club in the upper right corner of the page. I hope you’ll find wonderful things that will bring a piece of Nora Murphy Country House to your home.