Musings from Quince

The Perfect Summer Couscous Salad
July 6, 2010, 5:31 pm
Filed under: Recipes, Seasonal | Tags: , , , ,

The Best Sidedish, Ever!

Well, here it is….the perfect dish to take to a party or serve as a side when you’re entertaining at home….Couscous salad goes with just about everything: burgers, chicken, lamb, etc.  but also is vegetarian/vegan (I just realized this!), so all types of foodies can enjoy this stuff.  Warning, it’s terribly addicting, so watch out!  I basically made this recipe up, and you may certainly make substitutions, but here’s what has worked for me…..

First, buy a box of “Near East” boxed couscous….any flavor but plain….follow directions, then dump in a big serving bowl..let cool….then, add:

1 15oz can drained & rinsed chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

3 or 4 scallions, sliced thinly

broccoli florets, a cup or so

1/2 cup or so of chopped cilantro

1 cup or so grape tomatoes, halved

1/2 cup or so of pine nuts or walnuts

Then, open up the spice cabinet and add salt & pepper to taste, plus  2 or 3 shakes of garlic powder, cumin, & chile powder.  Drizzle olive oil over mixture and stir it all up.  Add additional spices & oil, if needed.  Again, just throw it all together, and don’t go crazy over exact measurements!  Can be served room temp (no mayo, so it does really well at outdoor gatherings) or slightly chilled.

Serves about 6 people…..recipe easily doubles or triples for a larger crowd!

Enjoy!  If you try it, let me know what you think!


The Virtues of Dining… Alone!
July 1, 2010, 8:20 pm
Filed under: Essence, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , ,

My Baby!, c.1970

Well, I can remember the first time I dined alone…..I was 16 and enjoying a phase of self-discovery which had opened up the moment I got my driver’s license.  Not only was I sporting a brand new 1970 Camaro (dark metallic blue, yes!) in 1970, I felt on top of the world with this new-found freedom.  I drove to school during the week, and prayed Mom would hand me a long list of errands to run on Saturdays, requiring me to get in the car and go somewhere, anywhere!  Coral Gables, South Miami, downtown Miami, anywhere!  Usually I headed into the Gables, parking on Miracle Mile, which offered a ton of great shops and restaurants.  One restaurant which was a family favorite was Chippy’s, a New York style deli with a typically lengthy menu featuring all the usual sandwiches, sides, entrees, and desserts (I will never forget their homemade tangerine sherbet!) seen in great Jewish delicatessens.  One day, I was out and about, and decided to pop in there with all my packages, for a cherry coke.  I was seated in a booth and before I knew it, had ordered a BLT….from the first bite, that was the best BLT I’ve ever eaten in my life….was it the perfect bacon?  gobs of mayo? deli bread?  crisp lettuce, runny tomatoes? 

This Started it All

 Who knows, but I spun into orbit, finishing off the entire thing with all the chips on the side.  Wow!  Guess what, I did it again the following weekend, and before too long, this had become my little secret ritual.

Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, Fl

  At the time, I was quite svelte, so I wasn’t compromising my shape in any way. And what does one think about while dining like this?  Plenty!  Making plans, taking notes, reflecting on the week, figuring out my wardrobe for the rest of the weekend, thumbing through the latest issue of “Seventeen” magazine….it went on and on…. Usually that evening there was a school-affiliated game of some sort (foot or basketball) to plan for, or it was date night, or whatever, but I never told anyone what I had been up to earlier in the day!

It’s something that’s stuck with me my entire life.  When I traveled a lot for business and had a free night, it was either go out and explore, or sit in my room and order room service.  Believe me, unless you’re dead tired, ordering room service is a nasty, calorie-laden, expensive waste!  As business travel took me to most of the great urban centers in our country, I became an expert at figuring out the perfect place to go on my own.  My very favorite experience of all time was in Manhattan; I had been traveling all week, was exhausted, and decided to see what I could come up with.  It was around Christmas time (c.2000), so people were having holiday parties in restaurants, filling them up, but I decided I’d take a chance.  I rang up Picholine, a cheese-a-holic’s delight, explained my situation (in town on biz, on my own) and did they have room for a party of one?  The guy couldn’t have been nicer, and said if I didn’t mind being seated in the bar, to come on over….full menu, the works!  So, I got all gussied up, grabbed some design magazines, and ended up having a fantastic evening.  I went crazy – rack of lamb, etc. etc., but nothing prepared me for the cheese cart which pulled up to my table….in the meantime, I’d been conversing with people seated on both sides of me, having a great time, but dialogue ceased when I laid my eyes on the most extensive selection of the most gorgeous cheeses I’d ever seen.  I was handed a tri-fold brochure describing all the cheeses on the cart, and I took my time choosing a variety of 6, with the help of the expert….of course, I then selected a glass of port, and basically ate my way into oblivion ( I was still relatively svelte at that point)…..the bill ended up being about $200, worth every penny, and no, I did not expense this meal.

Picholine's cheese trolley

Which brings me to the present.  Living in Miami, Atlanta, Memphis, Annapolis, Washington D.C., and now Charlottesville, I admit I have practiced solo dining in all of these cities, and to this day find it perfectly gratifying to spontaneously pick a place and order up. It’s scaringly easy to do this after closing Quince at 5 or so every day, and it’s usually a spontaneous decision made at the last minute.  Unfortunately, when I think about the untold dollars and millions of calories I’ve ingested honoring this activity (and no, I no longer can be classified as svelte in any way, shape, or form), I absolutely cringe!  But, it’s a great way to unwind and run into people I haven’t seen in awhile.  I usually treat myself once a week or so – again, I’m not talking about the drive-thru or chain restaurant, but some place I can get a great glass of wine and a tasty treat….and yes, delicious hummus and grilled shrimp (thank you, Mas), an order of the best mussels in the area (thank you, Duner’s), or calamari salad with 60-second sirloin (thank you, Bang) can be respectably healthy for the most part.  And, of course, it’s always a blast catching up with Francois across the street from Quince at The X Lounge, about happenings “south of the tracks” in our Warehouse District neighborhood!

Why do many people resist dining alone?  Everyone should try it a couple of times – it’s a chance to be with yourself and explore your surroundings in an enjoyable way.  If you’re traveling, or have a free night without obligations (that could be a tough one!), grab something to read (if you want to) and head out.  You may end up not reading, but having great conversation with people around you, if you choose! Let me know how it goes!

The Case for Black & White
April 29, 2010, 8:54 pm
Filed under: Color | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Black, White, & Shades of Green

Black and white what?  Black and white as accent colors, but of course!  Bet you didn’t even think about how well b&w goes with everything….and to prove my point, I’m featuring Dexter, Millie, Kosmo, and a surprise model as living proof that these color combos do indeed enhance a space already full of color…take a look above…there’s already a ton of color going on, but what adds even more zip without overdosing on the green, blue, and yellow in fabrics, wall color, and pillows, is a splash of b&w…. a throw, lamp, coffee table, an object d’ art…why not? B&W makes things pop, gives definition, and is really easy on the eyes. Thank you, Dexter! (I swear he’s smiling in this picture..)

Black & Taupe with Black & White

OK, next we have……..Kosmo showcasing black & white against a busy charcoal & taupe print…yes, yes, yes!   Mixing up bed linens (featured in this photos) has been something I’ve always done – I don’t own a single matched set, and probably never will..we’re lucky enough in Cville to have 1 of only 4 outlet stores nationwide for Yves Delorme linens,  and for the past 15 years I’ve been buying mixed up sets of stuff and throwing them together – it works! I’ve actually found $300 sheets there for $30!  I swear! It can be hit-or-miss, but if they’ve just gotten a new shipment in, you’ll go crazy…..just check in with them periodically, and be willing to mix up colors and prints.

I gave up on duvet covers awhile ago and just fold a snow white comforter at the foot of the bed…always crisp and neat, & then go crazy with sheeting & shams.

Coral, Black, & White

And to the left we have Millie, showing off a coral soft suede arm chair!  See how the b&w totally works not only with the chair, but with the celery walls and black table as well.  A striped, paisley, or print b&w accent pillow would work wonderfully with a bright color in the background.    OK, are you starting to get the picture?

Black, White, & More!

To the right, Kosmo shows off the contrast between b&w and a crazy floral print.  See how all of it comes together?  A print like this could support window shades in a b&w stripe, or a striped area rug, or perhaps pillows or accent pieces throughout a room…crisp, defined, with a definite “wow” potential.

At this point you may think I’m a crazy cat woman…not at all – I admit I’m on the nutty side and admit to selecting b&w cats for my own because they go so well with my house interior, but so what?!

And to further reaffirm my enthusiasm for these crazy color combos, please take a look below at this week’s surprise models:

a Case for Black & White

Color Merging with Stripes..

How perfect is the above?  I’d love to have these 3 hanging out in my back field (maybe eating poison ivy plants), hmm, maybe I can come up with something.  That little “zonkey”  is way, way too cute for its own good.  Anyway, I’m signing off for now, but I hope you’ve gotten the urge to consider a little B&W action in your own home or favorite setting!

Terror in the Garden
April 14, 2010, 6:40 pm
Filed under: Seasonal | Tags: , , , , , ,

Almost every morning I traipse through “the grounds” at home to see what Mother Nature has seen fit to rouse after our unbelievable winter.  I usually squeak with delight as I recognize the perennials bursting forth once again….hostas on the way, peonies on the way, helleboris peaking right now, azaleas in full bloom, iris almost here, etc., etc.  That is, until this morning, when my eyes couldn’t believe what they were seeing…..the plant, vine, and bush I hate the most, the one which makes me sweat with fear just thinking about my past experiences wrestling with the leaves, the oil, the roots:  toxicodendron rydbergii…..POISON IVY!!!! 

Don't touch it!


I took these photographs, and even looking at them makes me uncomfortable! 

Rearing It's Ugly Head(s)


Pardon my naivete’, but I assumed after enduring an extremely cold winter, nature would give us a break and we’d skip a year of mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets (not the honeybee, however), and naturally poison ivy, poison oak, and sumac.  But nooo, they’re back with a vengeance and I predict a bumper crop for all the above.  I’m finding these plants popping up in places where they’ve never, ever been seen before…why is this? 

This is creeping me out!


Some of you may not be sensitive to the oil  which can make mincemeat out of your are very, very lucky.  For some of us, despite long sleeves, gloves, boots, and showing the least amount of skin possible, the oil somehow still finds a way to penetrate all layers.  If you have a few minutes to kill and are curious about what this stuff can really do, check it out on the Internet  (link above) where there are many photo galleries illustrating the worst case scenarios.  I’ve tried every gel, lotion, salve, soap,  and natural tx on the market, and there’s only one solution I’ve found which has given me relief when the itching is beyond tolerable….thank you, Doreen, if you’re reading this!  If you want to know what it is, just beg me, I mean, ask me! 

Mmmm, delicious!!


Anyone “herd of goats” taking care of the problem?  Apparently they can eat all this stuff with no ill effects….hmm, perhaps renting Billy out by the hour could make someone a fortune….any takers?  There are volumes of resources out there addressing every aspect of PI management, but if you have any special tricks up your sleeve for this Spring season, feel free to leave a comment!  In the meantime, watch out for those leaves and try to avoid terror in the garden…..

Campaign for Color
April 6, 2010, 8:29 pm
Filed under: Color | Tags: , ,
Campaign for Color

Don't be afraid!

Why do people get so wigged out about color?

This has been bothering me for quite awhile!  Color will not bite you, is not the enemy, will not mess up your life;  yet, I come into contact with souls on a fairly regular basis who want to use color in their homes, but just don’t know how to do it.  I sympathize to a point – have you looked at a paint manufacturer’s color wheel lately?  Hundreds, thousands of options – even “white” has a zillion variations!  And the names of paint colors – please!!  Who thinks these up?  It’s a mystery, really, how colors are assigned names – I can imagine a bunch of chemically altered English majors sitting around a table shouting out would-be names, and laughing hysterically as they check one after the other off a list.  Does anyone have the scoop on this process?  We’d all love to know!

Color at Home

Color at Home by Meg & Steven Roberts

Perusing beautiful books featuring color (and there are many!) as a theme is an easy way to get excited about introducing or even changing a look….I highly recommend Color At Home….easily ordered on Amazon, or pick up a copy at Quince.  This primer divides colors into chapters and is low on verbage; the pages speak volumes and it’s impossible not to drink it all in, page by page.  What I have realized is that the color which anchors a room can essentially be the “neutral” in the space – the primary color may be the wall color, fabric color, rug color, floor cover…whatever dominates the room.

Setting the mood through color can be done easily; want to create a haven?  Go with soft, watery palettes….want to go crazy with eye popping points of interest?  Consider all white fabrics against crazy or dramatic accents – walls, pillows, accessories….there may be certain tones you absolutely can’t handle – no problem, don’t use them – it’s that simple!

The Comfortable Home by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams

The Comfortable Home: How to Invest in Your Nest and Live Well for Less

Another resource I really like for exploring color options is The Comfortable Home by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.  This book is packed with practical information on everything from furnishing all sizes of spaces to furniture and color choices!  Not only do these guys know how to do it all, they happen to be really great guys (yes, I can speak personally).  Stop by Quince for a copy, or order by clicking on book.

In the meantime, enjoy the gazillions of trees, shrubs, and flowers in bloom at the moment; nature does her share to keep us in the loop….color loop, that is!  I can’t wait to share my next blog on color….I’ve secured live models to showcase a particular color grouping that you wouldn’t necessarily put together….stay tuned!

Spring Spruce-Up
March 25, 2010, 8:25 pm
Filed under: Seasonal | Tags: , , ,

Spring TulipsI was originally going to pontificate on color this week, but there is NO WAY not to acknowledge the pure, manic joy we’re all experiencing right now with the beauty of spring unfolding in front of us every single minute!  Why, I bet if we stood in front of a branch long enough, we could actually see new growth popping out in front of our very eyes…

So here’s the thing….as we were held captive in our homes throughout winter this year, all of us probably had a chance to visually take note of a few things that needed sprucing up, or re-done.  Right?!  I know I did!  So, what I have here is a list of things you can do to revitalize your space for the coming months of entertaining and “living”, starting with simple ideas and ending with more involved options:

BTW, I recommend a room-by-room approach;  looking at an entire house as one single project can be daunting and there may be a tendency to just shrug it off as too much to do…..focus on the room which is a favorite, sees a lot of traffic, or needs the most overhauling….

These ideas don’t cost a dime:

  1. Hit the local bookstore and park yourself in the home interior magazine section or design book section…flip through and you’re guaranteed to become inspired by new ideas; plus,  it’s a free visual feast.
  2. Give your space a thorough cleaning (the least fun of all) and fluffing…it’s absolutely necessary, so just get it done – whether you do it yourself or have help with it, once it’s completed, you’re all set and won’t wear yourself out thinking about what should have happened months ago!
  3. Try rearranging furniture – you’ll be surprised how much a space can open up or seem like a totally new room;  it’s more fun with a friend or family member there to assist.

Different Accent Pieces

Next (yes, these involve some outlaying of $$):

  1. Consider painting….it’s an easy, yet dramatic way of breathing new life into hum-drum spaces.
  2. Adding a new accent piece or two, whether it’s a couple of pillows, a lamp or two or a decorative accessory, can also rekindle enthusiasm for creating a new look!

Moving right along, perhaps it’s time to change out some furniture – a new sofa, a pair of chairs, introducing new textures, lighting, etc.  Think about what pieces absolutely must stay, and which can be moved elsewhere or out.  Work out the spatial issues (get help if you need to) and go for it!

Final, most dramatic spring spruce-up:  Completely gut and start over….

I’m going to close now….if you have any ideas you’d like to share, please comment…also, if you act on any of the above and are pleased with results, let us know!

One Toe in the Water….
quince plant

from, credit Walter Chandoha

Well, should I say “Here I go…”, or “Here I come…”? I’m taking the liberty of writing just this once about why the Quince blog has popped into reality. This is the third, and final jewel in Quince’s social media crown (preceded by facebook and Twitter), and my vision is clear but I’m definitely in unchartered waters at this point.  From here on out, “Quince” is me, and IS me, though the two will overlap at times and remain separate on occasion!

So, what in the world am I going to do with this blog?  I mean, there are hundreds, maybe thousands of great blogs focusing on aesthetics, interiors, style, etc…so who do I think I am having the nerve to move forward with this?    The whole point is to communicate the essence of Quince, and to offer the reader something to nibble on – whether it’s a bit on color, nature, food, lighting, or whatever strikes our (me and Quince) fancy.  And, we want to hear from you, NEED to hear from you – comments validate that yes, people are checking in and yes, people have opinions which can add depth and interest to the topic at hand. 

Quince will be celebrating the beginning of its 8th year in business this summer – hard to believe, to say the least.  After a rewarding 15 years in the biotech industry, I decided to take a break in 2000, focusing on renovating a c.1900’s country cottage…the “bug” officially “bit” during that time, and I’ve never looked back.  As I try to determine when this style thing took hold, I realize it began surfacing early on; no one ever knew what a kick I got out of decorating my freshman dorm room, and I have to give credit to my stepmother, Julia, whose sense of style and flair left a lasting impression on my own vision (no one could arrange flowers like she could, nor do crewel-work like she could, nor entertain like she could).  My sister, Karen, got me to embrace the color green, and was always mixing antiques with new pieces, with great results…Lila was the first really good friend I had who knew how to “do it”….every time I visited her home on the coast I took rolls and rolls of pictures and poured over them later (how did she figure out those fabrics would work with those paint colors??)…and then Camille and Miles….and then, one day, my best bud Kelley (who not only has great style, but hammered me from day one to move forward with all of this) and I walked into this great store (Bloom) at 50th and Lexington, in Manhattan, and I knew at that moment exactly what I wanted to offer Charlottesville…so here it is, and here I am.  Get ready for a bumpy, fun ride!