Chicken Tortilla Soup


I love soup any time of the year, but especially so as the weather turns cool.  It’s  a meal that is satisfying but one that doesn’t leave you feeling “stuffed”, the leftovers freeze well and it’s healthy.

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Touches of Fall

Adding seasonal elements to my decor would probably never happen if I didn’t have friends over.  Maybe I would plop a pumpkin here or there, but otherwise, probably nothing.

Luckily, it seems we often have friends over, especially in the early fall.  Everyone is back from summer trips and there is that lull before holiday entertaining kicks in.

That being said, I still prefer to inch my way into full on Fall.

The mantel is a good place to start.  It’s one of the first things anyone sees when they come in the house.
After thinking about it for months I finally bought these sconces at a nearby thrift store.  I couldn’t believe they were still there.  I needed something in that large space.

Simple and symmetrical is working for me right now.

I put together a somewhat fall-ish centerpiece for the dining table.  I use a piece of burlap as my table runner, then put together a simple arrangement of mums and alstroemeria.
I knew some more texture would be needed so I purchased artichokes at the grocery store.  Next, I went out in my backyard looking for some leaves or seeds or something.

I found this:

I am not sure of the name of this shrub since it was part of the landscaping when we bought the house.  Possibly it is a type of pittosporum.  But it has these glossy green leaves all year round.  I use it to fill out arrangements and to add volume to garlands or background for candles, etc.  I love those buds and it seems as if there are more this year than ever before.

My centerpiece for our recent dinner party.

Later I changed it up, bringing in my wooden candle holders and placing the mums in the moscow mule mugs, adding a few ceramic pumpkins.

And the buffet needed a change from the Fourth of July decor that was sitting there, ha!

This base will stay in place, until Thanksgiving probably.  I will make a few additions like mums and a few more pumpkins, but we don’t need much more.
And I have to say that I am glad we have a few weeks, maybe even a month, of summer left.  I don’t want to think about cold weather yet.

Have a great weekend!

Linking with Remodelaholic


When I have a dinner party I like to spend most of my prep time on the dinner.  That’s the star of the show right?  But that attitude often leaves the appetizer as an afterthought. And you don’t want it to be an afterthought because you are setting the tone for the evening with this first offering.
So I have come up with some easy appetizers, which get everyone in the mood for a fun evening, but are easy to make.

I wanted an appetizer with cucumbers recently because Mr. DB had an outstanding year for them in his garden.  They are so much juicier than any you can buy. I have seen other versions of this recipe but decided to create my own,
smoked salmon on cucumber rounds.

I don’t peel the cucumbers, but you could peel strips off the whole cucumber before slicing them into rounds for a little more interesting presentation.
Then I mix one package of Boursin cheese with a half cup of Greek yogurt (I like Fage 2%).  Drop teaspoonfuls of this mixture onto the cucumber round.  Next top the filling with a piece of smoked salmon.  I cut the salmon slices with scissors.  Finally, top with a sprig of dill.
And that is it.  In under 30 minutes you have a tasty little bite for your guests.

We usually serve some olives and some peanuts or some other nut mix, maybe marcona almonds, as well.   I also love cheese straws or cheese biscuits. 

And of course we have on hand a variety of white and red wines, and booze, with sparkling water and regular water.

I promise with these smoked salmon appetizers your guests will feel cherished and appreciated,  all the things you want them to feel at your home.

Do you have any easy appetizers that you serve at dinner parties?  I’d love to add some new ideas to my repertoire.

Master Bath Renovation is DONE

We had a busy Labor Day weekend attending our nephew’s beach wedding.  This wedding was a small, intimate family affair full of charm and simplicity.

On the way home it occurred to me that a wedding at the beach is the perfect way to end the official part of summer.  You have the beach, you have romance, and there’s a party! I highly recommend it.

Because of taking off for the wedding, I did not have time before now to do a blog post on the master bathroom renovation.

But it was finished last week.  It’s wonderful to have a beautiful and functional bathroom again.  Did I tell you that my shower had not been operational for a year?  Yeah.  Over a year actually.

The old shower developed a leak that required tiles to be removed in order to repair it.  So we had the leak fixed until we could decide what we wanted to do.
And that took a year.

Let’s take a quick look at where this bathroom began.

What can I say?  It was, and still is, small.  But it’s no longer dated and I have a shower that works.

I knew that I wanted white and I wanted simplicity.  And I am very happy with the way it turned out.

I will probably change that mirror at some point but I have not found anything I love.  
The wall color is Dovetail by Sherwin Williams.

I love the grainy look of these tile floors.  All tile is from The Tileshop.

If you haven’t gotten your fill you can see more about the bathroom reno here and here.

I loved it so much that I started some updating in our other bathroom.  More on that later.


The most important decision, after the decision to remodel your home, is which contractor to hire.

(1) Apart from the obvious considerations to make sure your contractor is licensed and bonded, you want to have a contractor that listens.  Some contractors think you are paying them for their design opinions.  It is important that a contractor pays attention when you talk about your intent, your desires.  I have had more than one occasion where the contractor had his own thoughts of what would look best.  Yeah, I’m not talking about the aspects of the job where they are the experts, some of them weigh in on design.

“Oh, I’d never use ceramic tile.  It must be real stone.”

“You’re going to put a chandelier in the bedroom?”

When I have a contractor come to give me an estimate, if he starts telling me what he would do without asking me what I want I know that he is not the guy for me.  I want the one who says what do you want to do in here?

(2)Ask about the workers who will be coming into your house.  I have always had good luck with the contractors who do not use sub-contractors.  They know their employees and trust them.  And you will want to know their hours.  I like to be showered and dressed when they arrive.

(3)References are important.  But reviews are helpful too.  I have found good contractors on Yelp.  I always read the reviews.  And I write reviews.

(4)Read and understand your contract carefully.  If there is anything you don’t understand, ask about it.  Remember if it isn’t on the contract, it is not included in the project.  If you forget to specify a niche in the shower wall, you won’t be getting one.

(5)Once hired, you will have a variety of workers in your house.  I wondered how to treat them, meaning should I offer them coffee or water, maybe even bake cookies occasionally? Even though you are not a hostess, it is good to have a big container of water and some cups for the workers, particularly when it is hot outside.  And showing a little appreciation with cookies might get you some extra mileage.  ‘Couldn’t hurt.

(6)Inevitably there are delays.  I find it hard to determine what caused the delay.  The contractor likes to blame it on their suppliers and it may be so.  I wonder if I am getting the full story.  I know contracting is an uncertain field and they have several jobs going at once.  They have to do this in order to survive.  So, unless it gets out of hand, I accept this is the way it is.

(7)Remember that you are the boss.  My first time using a contractor I thought of it as a collaborative relationship.  We want the same things right?  While the reputable contractors do want you to be satisfied, they also want to move the project along and get on to other jobs.  If something isn’t going the way you want it to, speak up quickly and decisively.  Stick to your guns. They will say things like, “that’s going to be expensive” (ask “how expensive”) or “that will throw off our deadline”.  Be firm, point to the contract.

(8) How payment is made is usually specified in the contract.  For my recent bathroom remodel I paid half of the total cost when we signed the contract, one fourth halfway through and the rest at the end.   For larger jobs lasting months there is a different structure, but the expectations should be clear for both sides.  And this protects everyone.

Here are some more good tips on renovating from BHG.

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