Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Leap year is such an odd thing to me—a day that only exists every four years. So weird. The Gregorian calendar is pretty amazing though, and it's great that they've fine tuned it so well... otherwise the seasons would rotate throughout the year and we'd be celebrating Christmas in July! 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Orange and fennel mezzaluna salad

Mezzaluna is the Italian word for crescent, so in honor of that spectacular crescent moon in the sky these last few nights here is a salad I made with mezzalunas of orange segments, purple onions, and fennel. Salty black cured olives balance out the sweet orange and fennel, and then an orange dressing was spooned around the plate. This is a light and refreshing salad.

Orange Dressing
1/2 tsp grated orange zest
3 tbsp fresh orange juice
1/3 cup grapeseed (or olive oil)
1 tsp minced shallots
Salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste

Whisk orange zest, orange juice, oil, shallots, salt and pepper in a
small bowl until well blended. (Or combine ingredients in a small jar,
secure the lid and shake until blended.)

Monday, February 27, 2012

And the winner is...

graphic, Diane Carnevale

The Artist won for best picture!

And the 2012 Oscar winners are...

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin (The Artist)
Best Actress: Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady)
Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer (The Help)
Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer (Beginners)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dressed for the Oscars

dress graphic by Diane Carnevale

I love Oscars night! Even though I enjoy the reason why they have these award shows in the first place, the films, I confess that for me it's really more about the dresses on the red carpet than the actual award show. In the spirit of a kid playing dress-up, I wear my diamond tiara and matte gold opera gloves and sip champagne while watching the Hollywood fancy frock fantasy. Specifically, I love the jaw-droppingly elegant style, the fairytale Princess elegance, the old school glitzy glamour of all the svelte and beautiful thespians. And the gowns, the gorgeous, gorgeous gowns!! Sublimely sleek Grecian goddess wearing hand beaded-glittered-shimmering-chiffon-taffeta-tulle-silver crystal mesh-strapless-floor length-figure hugging-corseted-cut away-asymmetrical-one shoulder-strapless-plunging neckline-demure-daring-whooshing feathery-powder puff-Southern Belle style GOWNS made by big-name designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Jean Paul Gaultier, Calvin Klein, Versace, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani, Chanel, Valentino, Dior, Guy Laroche, Vera Wang... just to name a few... Phew! And THEN there are the accessories, the dazzling Harry WInston, Cartier or Bulgari diamonds, the flash of red lipstick, the shoes, and amazing hair and up-dos.... It's some enchanting evening. The guys look pretty good too, in their tuxes (Hi George!). They can't mess up too much though (they just have to make sure that their socks match) but the gals have to take chances and make risky fashion statements. My favorite look is the classic, old Hollywood style (think Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly) but maybe I'll see a new favorite dress tonight. I am doing a home spa day and the champagne is chillin'... see you on the red carpet!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Currently coveting...


...these beautifully crafted inlaid mother of pearl pieces offered through Wisteria catalog. Black stained mango wood has been intricately fitted with hundreds of pieces of pieces of bone and mother of pearl. They'd look absolutely smashing against a colorful wall—like magenta pink or the tiffany blue shown in the photo below. Find the mirror and chest of drawers, chair, tray and bedside table all at Wisteria. I can't afford them, but I love them!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ribbons and strings

Photo, Dan Ryan

Lengths of blanched leeks make perfect ribbons to tie string beans into bundles. To keep them looking green and vibrant, the beans were boiled in salted water then shocked in cold water. To reheat them, the bundles were rolled through a garlic and parsley infused butter. Green with envy.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

31 days of Oscar

Add caption
photos from the TCM website
Graphic, Diane Carnevale

I've been all around the world this month. Let me explain: During the month of February the Turner Classic Movies channel has been playing "31 Days of Oscar," — 349 films made over 5 decades — all leading up to the Academy Awards at the end of February. Each film they've shown had won some sort of Academy award Oscar. They are breaking the films into locations and they marketing this series on their always amazing Web site with an old school leather suitcase and travel labels. Great idea, don't you agree?

+ + + 

The Ancient Rome day was great—Swords and Sandals! They showed Quo Vadis, Cleopatra (the 1934 Claudette Colbert version, not the Taylor / Burton one), Spartacus, Ben-Hur, and A Funny thing happened on the Way to the Forum. Just another reason why I love TCM!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Beet and carrot medallion salad

I used my mandolin to make super thin slices of carrots and gold and red beets, then blanched each of them (separately) for less than a New York minute in salty water. I playfully arranged the root medallions on a plate along with dabs of goat cheese, parsley and toasted walnuts, then I drizzled the plate with a honey orange dressing. Crazy fun!

Honey orange dressing 

1/2 shallot, minced
2 tbsp grapeseed oil 
1 tbsp orange blossom honey
1 tbsp orange marmalade
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
salt + pepper to taste

Heat all ingredients in a saucepan 
to melt in and blend the honey 
and reduce. This thickens it a bit.
Adjust flavors to your liking.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Elissa's poppies

Elissa's poppies  9 x 12

Snake heads rising through a wicked tangle of silver foliage, 
their carmine fiery tongues waiting to emerge... 

This is my interpretation of my friend Elissa's patch of poppies that I painted over the weekend. The buds are just about to emerge into orange-red blossoms. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

A sea of "Oneseas"

Need a baby gift? I just found out that an old friend of mine from college has an adorable business in Gloucester called Gloucester Oneseas™. Each item is made of 100% organic cotton, is made in the USA, and the company partners with The Ocean Project to "inspire action to protect our world’s ocean." You can find a list of stores that carry these playful Oneseas™ on the website, there are also t-shirts and other irresistible things too. And check out these fabulous designs...way to go Jill!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Breakfast pinwheel

A cluster of black raspberries surrounded by swirling slices of creamy avocado and sweet ruby red grapefruit make a fun breakfast pinwheel salad. The combo is perfection. Drizzled with a rich avocado oil and it's even more divine. Photo, Diane Carnevale

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Curry in a hurry

This curry chicken and pineapple appetizer can be made faster than you can say Gilligan's Island! After cutting Trader Joe's curry chicken tenders into bite sized pieces (okay, maybe I added a bit more curry and some coconut milk, too) I quickly sautéed them. Then I slid the cooked chicken cubes onto bamboo skewers along with cubes of freshly cut pineapple, sprinkled each bite with shredded, sweetened coconut, and placed the skewers in a long row on a tropical looking leaf. Hey... where's that guy with the tropical drinks?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Green growing things

The 1920s classic Gardener's Bed Book from House & Garden magazine, and other books like it, help us gardeners get us through our long winters. This classic includes "Short and long pieces to be read in bed by those who love green growing things." Love that. Whether you actually read this book in bed, on the train, or in your favorite comfy chair, you enjoy it and be inspired. Read more about the book and order it here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Stealing from the peacock

There's no doubt that the colors of the peacock have influenced my Blue Dreams series of paintings. The first two paintings below, Hydrangea and Lily Pads can be seen at the Gallery Della-Piana's upcoming show of local artists called Creative Differences. I have several other paintings in the show, which opens February 25th and runs through April 7th. 


Lily Pads

Through the Marsh

Griffin at Castle Hill

Scottish Mountains

Gloucester Marsh

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Grab a slice!

It's citrus season! Is there anything more delightful than that spritz of a fresh orange wafting through the air in the dead of winter? There are loads of interesting ones at the markets besides your basic Navels these days, including Cara Cara oranges, Honeybell tangelos, Valencia, Mineolas, Darling clementines, and for a wicked splash of purple color, Moro blood oranges. Grapefruit is nice this time of year too, and my favorite kind are the Ruby red ones. Check out the citrus terrine and citrus blossom I made.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Be mine

A lot of cynics think that Valentine's day was created by the major card companies to generate booming sales once a year, but that's not true. Honororing love (and fertility) has been around since the days of ancient Rome with pagan rituals. Another interesting fact about this date, February 14th, is that Alexander Graham Bell applied for his patent on the telephone on Valentine's Day in 1876. Who knew?

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Beauty of a Second

There is beauty in every second of our lives, and here's proof. 
You absolutely must click here to watch this "Beauty of a Second" film.
Life goes by quickly—stop and smell the roses, will ya?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Carnevale di Venezia 2012!

It's Carnevale time in Venice! Everyone has heard of Carnevale di Venezia, but it is extra special to me because my last name is Carnevale. The word Carnevale means "farewell to meat" or "meat is gone." The Catholic Lent obligated people to fast during the period up to Ash Wednesday. All meats, butter and eggs had to be used up, so this religious formality gave Venetians a good excuse to have one heck of a party. Carnevale starts around two weeks before Ash Wednesday and ends on Shrove Tuesday — day before Ash Wednesday — also known as Mardi Gras. The international carnival is also one of the oldest, dating back to 1268, when the use of masks were first documented. The masks were used to shield the identity and social status of the wearer, so no differentiation could be made between the commoners and the nobility. They all mingled together, visiting brothels, theaters, cafes and wine shops. Or they could gamble, see exotic animals, rope walkers or jugglers. I hope to go Carnevale di Venezia one year — I hear it's a good time. Eat drink and be merry!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Into the fire

photo, Diane Carnevale

Yesterday was a warm February day, one of way too many this winter, and a super perfect day for our annual bonfire! In February we are either still buried under snow or it's much too cold to turn on the water and hook up the hoses, so this annual event doesn't generally happen until late March or April. Alas, the warm weather prevails. All season long we gather fallen or pruned tree branches, pruned flower stalks, raspberry brambles etc. You name it—if it's too twiggy for the compost heap it goes into the burn pile—our garden pyre. The ashes from this fire get tossed onto the compost heap, which will go into the garden beds. It's a beautiful thing, this garden cycle.

Have a listen to Sarah Mclachlan singing her song Into the Fire
And into the fire
I'm reunited
Into the fire
I am the spark
Into the fire
I yearn for comfort

I will stare into the sun until its light doesn't blind me
I will walk into the fire until its heat doesn't burn me
And I will feed the fire

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bistro roasted chicken dinner

photo, Dan Ryan

Dan made us a delicious roast chicken dinner recently using Gordon Hamersley's roasted chicken with garlic lemon & parsley recipe. We like that this recipe uses classic French bistro flavors like dijon mustard and herbs de Provençe (thyme, lavender, rosemary, etc.), and the herb and lemon infused sauce it makes is so yummy you'll be tempted to sip it! Along with the chicken we had honey glazed roasted carrots, and a fried medallion of goat cheese on tender bibb lettuce. I sprinkled some herbs de Provençe into the French vinaigrette dressing that I made, which echoed the herbs used in the chicken. Here's a little trivia for you, "bistro" actually means "quickly" in Russian. Russian cossacks having their meals and wanting to be served quickly would shout "bistro, bistro."Even though it's a bistro style chicken, relax and take your time making this meal

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Check out this beautiful typography by Indian artist Sabeena Karnik. She's cut, curved and swirled tiny strips of paper into magnificent pieces of art. See more of her paper art here.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Crocuses in February!

photo, Diane Carnevale

We've had crocuses blooming in March, but never in early February! I have thousands of crocuses planted in our Japanese maple grove, and the yellow ones always bloom first, followed by the lavender and purple ones. I wonder if that groundhog was right, and if we'll ever get some winter weather?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Gorgeous portrait—Veronica Lake

I've always loved this photo of Veronica Lake—the famous film noir femme fatale of the 1940s who was famous for her peek-a-boo hairstyle. Why I love it so much is the juxtaposition of the vertical and horizontal stripes... and her innocence. See many more photos of VL here.

Click on the gorgeous portraits label below for more gorgeousness!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Heathers + winter blooming heath

It's no secret that I love snow and have my fingers crossed for a big storm soon, but one nice thing about the lack of snow this winter is that we can actually see our heath and heather garden. The past few winters they have been blanketed under insulating snows, which helps with their delicate root systems that don't run very deep in the ground. The summer lime green colors of this heather (above) turn a stunning red in the winters, and is appropriately named "December Red." In the photo frost covered silvery wholly thyme cascades down over a wall in front of the striking red foliage. And even sweeter, look at the blooms of our heaths (below)! These delicate little pink bells are a rare treat in the dead of winter, but are so small they are easy to miss.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Italian ice...

...and snow! 
We've had hardly any snow here on Boston's North Shore this winter, but Rome—the ancient city with palm trees—just got 4 inches this week! It was the first time in 26 years that snow fell on the city, and it literally halted transportation as Romans are simply are not equipped to deal with snow.