LOL

22 Apr
April 22, 2014

“Earth laughs in flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Happy Earth Day! What are you planting today?

Love, Nora

Foodie Friday: Hard boiled beauties

18 Apr
April 18, 2014

You know Easter’s near, when you’re at the market and see the Paas point of sale display parked right beside the egg case. And every year, I can’t resist sticking with one of my favorite traditions and grabbing a Paas box. Good Friday’s the day we’ve always dyed eggs for Easter.

After years of playing around with various techniques, the one that I’m sharing with you today is a favorite. The stripes and plaids in tints of soft pastels and deeper hues are pretty simple to do, but you can’t rush it. These colorfully patterned beauties take a little patience…and are well worth it.

I start with 2 dozen large white eggs that are placed into a large pot filled with water (fill 1-inch above eggs), keep covered, and bring to a boil. Turn off stove, remove from heat, and with cover still on, let sit for about 15-20 minutes. Rinse with cold water, and let the eggs cool.

Using 1-cup glass bowls, place Paas dye tablet in each bowl and add 3 tablespoons of water. As the tablets start to dissolve, pour half cup of boiling water into each bowl as well (this helps the tablets to dissolve completely). Let them cool. These are the soft pastel base colors for the eggs.

For the first pastel layer, I either place the whole egg into a color or hold the egg partially submerged. The longer you leave it in, the deeper the color will be. I use the cardboard egg cartons as drying racks for each dipped egg. As they dry, I have a paper towel on hand to wipe any drips, and turn them over to dip them again into another color. I keep rotating the eggs, and let the stripes criss-cross so the soft plaids start to evolve.

I then add 3 tablespoons of white vinegar to each bowl. The vinegar will make the dye colors more intense. Each egg will get a turn or two getting partially dipped again, and put back onto the egg cartons to completely dry. Keep playing, have fun – you’ll know when they’re done.

I keep them refrigerated in an air-tight container until Easter Sunday, when they’ll be removed and gently placed into a moss filled basket, proudly displayed on the buffet table for all to enjoy.

Wishing you and your family a beautiful Easter!

Love, Nora

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow infusion

14 Apr
April 14, 2014

I love decorating the entrances of the old house with what’s flowering at the moment.  And just in time for Easter, it just so happens that the humungous, wild bank of Forsythia behind the house is starting to burst into the most intense yellow.

Our main entrance to the old house is in back, on the East Patio, where two large whitewashed wooden planters are the focal points from the stone walkway. This sight line has to make a great first impression. Later in the spring through late fall, these planters are home to two fabulous triple boxwood topiaries (they winter indoors), but for now, they’re a great decorating opportunity for an early spring outdoor arrangement.

These planters are already filled with soil, so what I’m planning on doing is pretty easy. I harvest a big bucket of moss from the woods behind the house, and add a layer of it to the top of the soil. With pruning shears in hand, I cut a nice big bunch of Forsythia branches – making sure they’re on the long side. I also have a stash of faux Forsythia branches that I store in the barn that help bring structure to this arrangement. I guess you could say that my secret is in mixing the faux with the fresh.

Starting with the faux, using only 4 branches, I stick them into the corners of the planter. Then I fill in the four sides with the real Forsythia branches – keeping them to the perimeter.  Just like making a ponytail, I pull together the branches close to the top (at the top 1/3), and tie with a piece of twine. I finish it off by adding a wide ribbon and tying a big beautiful bow. (You can change out the ribbon, depending on the occasion. I started with a more delicate sheer organza ribbon, and a week later changed it to a rich satin one.)

One of the beautiful things I learned from making this ‘living’ arrangement is that that is exactly what it does – it lives! Even though the branches were cut (half of the branches were still in bud form), once I stuck them into the soil in the planter they kept blooming and then eventually leafing out!

You can do this in any container you may have on hand. This simple arrangement makes a great statement and will last a few weeks.

Happy arranging!

Love, Nora

 

 

Throw in the towel

09 Apr
April 9, 2014

I believe the secret to styling magic is to always add an unexpected twist. For my Easter table, I wanted to create something very pretty, joyful, and almost playful using a mix of what I had on hand – my collection of antique Moss Rose plates and some newer finds. Exclusively using antique pieces can sometimes make the table setting feel too precious and formal, and as part of my entertaining mission is to make my table as welcoming as possible, mixing new with the old was definitely the best solution.

A trip or two to my local HomeGoods netted part of the solution – appliqued cotton kitchen towels. I dug through the hanging stacks until I found just the right mix of patterns. The beauty of these towels are that they’re colorful, larger in scale than the average napkin, and definitely too pretty for drying dishes.

As I placed each neatly folded towel on the left side of each place setting, I made sure there was enough breathing room so they would be clearly seen. If you find towels that are not available in a great variety of patterns – no worries – just double up on the patterns and be sure to spread them apart…no two of the same pattern next to each other.

Something as simple as pretty kitchen towels brings a note of freshness and happiness to the table any time of year.

Happy styling!

Love, Nora

(P.S. This set of pretty towels, as well as more special touches for the Easter table, will be available this weekend at our Hunt Club shop in the Fairfield County Antique and Design Center…hope to see you there!)

The garden comes inside

05 Apr
April 5, 2014

Nora Murphy Country House -The Hunt Club at the Fairfield County Antiques and Design Center in Norwalk, Connecticut is now in full force and ready for spring. This season we are featuring our best finds from and for the garden. As obsessed gardeners and passionate designers, we are in our glory hunting, finding, curating, and styling this sweet little shop…it just makes our hearts go pitter-patter!

We love the feeling we get by being in our gardens. Bring the outdoors in by mixing indoor painted and iron pieces with well-worn and weathered outdoor finds.  And by adding garden plants or freshly cut flowers only takes the look and feeling that much further.

Come on down this weekend and poke around…see what little gem you may find!

Happy hunting!

Love, Nora

Maybe I’m amazed

02 Apr
April 2, 2014

Birds amaze me. Every morning I sprinkle seed out onto the South Patio, go back inside, and watch the birds show up for breakfast. Each and every morning, I feel like a little kid. I park myself right by the back French doors with my big cup of coffee (the only non-kid part of this ritual), and watch in amazement. The highlight for me is when the bright red cardinal lands right in the middle of the more subdued sparrows, towhees, and juncos. Here in Connecticut I love my morning ritual of observing my fine-feathered neighbors.

And then there’s England – southern England to be exact – where the afternoon ritual is, well let’s just say, extraordinary.

Enjoy.

Love, Nora

Part of the charm

31 Mar
March 31, 2014

My humble collection of mis-matched vintage pitchers, cups, and sugar bowls are just the right mix for any seasonal flower displays. My love of the pretty little details is what makes up this sweet little collection. The beautiful curved handle of a Victorian pitcher, the hand-painted rose on a child’s cup, the charming shape of an early sugar bowl missing its lid is what caught my eye every time. I quite simply bought each one because I loved it all on its own. The color pink made them into a collection of various shapes, sizes, and vintages.

When I mass them together using one kind of flower – whether it’s white tulips in early spring and clusters of pink roses later in the season – the look is always pretty; nothing ornate or overdone.

Happy hunting!

Love, Nora

Foodie Friday: The Hamptons Sorbet

28 Mar
March 28, 2014

If you’re looking for a dessert that can be described as enticing, colorful, heavenly, tasty, simple, cheerful, pretty, refreshing, light, playful, classy, charming, happy, jazzy, showy, and just a little different – then you’ll love our Hamptons Sorbet.

My dear friend Holly came up with this sweet idea for her daughter, and my God daughter, Aileen’s, bridal shower.  This beautiful little dessert was the perfect ending to the evening.

We used small parfait/juice glasses, and scooped into them 3 different flavors – Blood Orange, Raspberry, and Mango (any favorite combo will do). To make clean scoops, dip scooper into a tall glass filled with warm water between scoops. Nip pansy flowers off stems, and place in a pan of cold water. When sorbet is all scooped, place one or two blooms on top of each one. Place all on a tray and they’re ready to be served.

As one of the ladies exclaimed as I brought in this tray of gorgeousness – “Are we in the ____ Hamptons?!” I had to censor her comment, because it was just as surprising and colorful as the dessert!

To read the whole story, go to: http://noramurphycountryhouse.com/magazine/spring-2014/country-house-wedding

Enjoy!

Love, Nora

 

Spring is here!

26 Mar
March 26, 2014

That is, Nora Murphy Country House Style - Spring 2014 is here.  It may not feel like spring here in  Connecticut today, but our newest issue sure does – and is now live!  It’s so saturated with springtime inspiration, it’ll help you get all fired up and ready to officially kick-off this cold (but soon to be warm) season.

So please stop by and say hello!  NoraMurphyCountryHouse.com

And now, Nora’s Notes – It’s all in the Details, tips and how-to’s, will be featured right here on the blog…you can read all about what we’re up to in A Warm Welcome in this newest issue. See you soon!

Wishing you a beautiful day.

Love, Nora

 

 

 

 

 

Foodie Friday: Chewy Gooey Chocolate Chunk Cookies

21 Mar
March 21, 2014

A few weeks ago I sent a dear friend a care package – a big box stacked full of chocolate chunk cookies. She wrote me the sweetest thank you telling me how (with a little help from her friends) the cookies didn’t make it through the night.

I believe it. The “broken and little more well-done” cookies stayed behind, and what a coincidence, they didn’t make it through the night at our house either!

I have to thank Dorie Greenspan and her amazing recipe. Dorie calls the recipe ‘My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies’. With a name like that, I figured it would probably end up being my favorite as well. And it is. The one thing I had to do was to slightly alter the name, changing  the word ‘chip’ to ‘chunk’. Just had to, because any random bite can result in savoring a big chunk of dark chocolate. Oh yum.

Dorie’s (and mine) Favorite Chewy Gooey Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon baking soda

2 stick’s unsalted butter (room temperature)

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup light brown sugar (packed)

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate (chopped/broken into chunks)

1 cup finely chopped walnuts

  • Center rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Line cookie sheets with Silpat or parchment.
  • Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute until smooth.
  • Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so until well blended.
  • Beat in the vanilla.
  • Add eggs one at a time – beating for 1 minute as each egg goes in.
  • Reduce mixer speed to low, and add the dry ingredients in 3 potions, mixing only until each ingredient is incorporated.
  • With a rubber spatula, mix in the chocolate and nuts by hand.
  • Spoon the dough by tablespoonfuls onto the cookie sheets, and space about 2 inches apart.
  • Bake the cookies for 10 -12 minutes (or until the edges are brown and golden in the center), and rotate them in the oven midway. (They may still be a little soft in the middle – but Dorie says that that’s fine.)
  • When done, remove from oven, and let them rest for a couple of minutes.
  • With a metal spatula, transfer them from the pan to a cooling rack.

(For my care package I doubled the recipe.)

I highly recommend pouring yourself a big glass of really cold milk…enjoy!

Happy baking.

Love, Nora