Friday, March 25, 2011

Flower Power

"Flower Power" by Ellen McHale

Spring finally arrived this week but somehow forgot to pack it's warmth and sunshine for the trip. One can't despair because there are signs of Spring all around - we just have to look carefully and don't forget to bundle up because "Baby, it's cold outside"!


I took advantage of the sunshine today to create the illusion of a garden in my backyard.  All of it shows that I have a hopeful spirit.  A trip to the farmers market the other day yielded me some inexpensive treasures to place in and around our home to begin to flex my garden muscles.  

all photos by Ellen McHale

Ranunculus are my favorite flower.  I love the haphazard way they spill out of their vase with each blossom going in their own direction.  Whether you have one or many the result is a casual display that screams carefree and wild and yet romantic too. 




Now is a perfect time to buy some herbs at the market and plop them into interesting containers that you have on hand at home.  A little twine tied around the container provides a little more texture and visual interest and while you are at it, a little handmade sign that tells you what herb you've potted completes the picture.  Place them on your sunny window-sill and you've got fresh herbs to cook with. Come May - plant your established herbs in your garden and you are good to go!

Bird House

Last week my husband and I took a quick trip to the Boston Flower Show that was held at the World Trade Center in South Boston.  It is a much smaller show than the ones you may remember when it was held at the Expo Center but it still singnals Springtime in New England to me.  One of the more striking garden features was this gorgeous blue oversized bird house.  The size is extreme but it definitely makes a statement.  Perhaps scaling it down a bit for the average sized space would bring a beautiful focal point to your landscape.

terrarium and topiary

A trend that you are seeing more and more is the return of the terrarium.  I think it speaks to the DIY in all of us.  A little bit of green in an antique or vintage vessel or large apothecary jar hits the mark just right in interior design right now.  It looks great on a table-scape and is pretty easy to build yourself.  Maybe we will do a DIY on terrariums in the coming weeks as a way to patiently wait out the sunshine.

Garden Party chair

Moss covered garden chair

Another trend that I noticed was the chair as garden.  You've all seen the one-off chairs being used as decor in the house ( ie: antique chair as bed-side table or in bathrooms to place stacks of towels) but this took it a step further.  Using a cast off iron chair as a base for a moss garden placed somewhere in your landscape or the back of an outdoor chair tied with a basket of flowers for each guest to take home at the end of a garden party.  It makes you long for the outdoors - or at least an invite to that garden party!

Stone Urns

We loved the stone urns that were planted up with trees and enormous hydrangeas.  I've got a thing for big, old, bold urns.  Just ask my husband who wondered why we had to drag a massive urn across the Atlantic from our home in London to our new home in New England! It made it here intact and has housed trees, plants and all manner of holiday greenery.  Can't you see a wonderful old crusty urn in your garden or on your deck?  It just adds a little extra something.

window boxes

The window box display on the shed at the garden show was great as well.  It's got my wheels turning on what to plant up in our window boxes this season.  It's coming, I know it is because look what I found in my backyard today ...

First sign of Spring

Jonquils!  Despite the snow this week, Jonquils are making their appearance.  The March birth flower that signals happiness is making it's way to your door.  

Think Spring!

My Mom one Spring at the Public Garden

I'll leave you with one of my favorite photos of my Mom over at The Public Garden (one of her favorite places) in Spring.  

Enjoy the Sunshine,
See you next week,

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Irish Soda Bread

a Saint Patrick's Day treat

I guess I can't have a company with the name of Nelley Kelley and not have a little posting on St. Patrick's Day - can I?  So here is a fail-proof recipe for Irish Soda Bread to help you celebrate the day.

Simple from your pantry ingredients
True Irish Soda bread is made from simple ingredients that you would tend to have on hand in your larder or pantry: flour, baking soda, salt and buttermilk.  My recipe has a few extras to moisten the bread and kick up it's taste a bit.  I particularly love the addition of a little orange zest suggested by Ina Garten - the Barefoot Contessa.  She has a great Irish Soda Bread recipe in her book: Barefoot Contessa at Home: Every Day Recipes.   In addition to her orange zest, I like to add a dash of vanilla extract to perfume the bread.  Other than the buttermilk, I am sure most every ingredient is already in your pantry.


4 cups flour
4 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
1 extra large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup dried currants or raisins
1 tsp. orange zest


Combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt into your stand mixer.  Cut up the 4 tbsp of cold butter into 1/2 inch dice and sprinkle over dry ingredients. Process ingredients at low speed until butter is incorporated into the flour mixture.

cold butter, diced
In separate bowl combine buttermilk, beaten egg, vanilla and orange zest.  Stir gently to combine.  While mixer is on low speed, slowly add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and combine.  The mixture will be wet and sticky.

Orange Zest, Buttermilk

Add about a tbsp of flour to the currants or raisins so they will not sink to the bottom of the bread when mixed in.  Add the currants and briefly stir.  Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead into a round loaf.

Irish Soda Bread Dough

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the loaf onto it.  Using a serrated knife, cut a cross into the top of the bread.  Bake the bread in a 375 degree oven for approximately 50 minutes.  The loaf is done when a cake tester inserted in the center comes out dry.  

Fresh from the oven

Cool the bread on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.  

 Enjoy this easy bread with a cup of tea this afternoon or toast some up for breakfast in the morning.
I am having mine with my friend, Jo's orange cardamon marmalade.  She dropped some off the other day and it just so happens to be the perfect companion to the orange zest Irish soda bread.  

Enjoy it and Happy St. Patrick's Day to you!

See you soon,

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Books I am loving ...

Bookplates by Nelley Kelley studio

Some of you may know that I was sidelined by a skiing accident over our February vacation.  I broke my pelvis chasing my 14 year old son down the mountain at Sunday River in Maine.  I have learned that I am no longer 14 as I no longer bounce like I used to and I am currently learning the virtue of patience ~ probably one of the more difficult virtues to master.

I have had a good deal of sitting around time and thought that I would share with you what I'm currently  reading to keep my spirits high and my creative juices flowing.  

My reading list
Let's begin with Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese - an exceptional read that takes place in Ethiopia, New York and Boston.  It is so beautifully written that I was moved to tears by the end of the book.  The Los Angeles Times said it was so good that " may never leave your chair." Well, I couldn't leave my chair and yet this was the one time that I was glad that I didn't have to.

The Encyclopedia of the Exquisite by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins is a perfect little read that requires little from you. Each one or two page entry details the history of various luxuries or artifacts in food, art, travel, home, garden and beauty over the centuries. 

Water, Paper, Paint by Heather Smith Jones and Paper + Craft by Minhee and Truman Cho  have kept me dreaming of getting my hands dirty in the studio again.  This is where the patience comes into play - I want to start trying out some these projects so badly but instead will just keep bookmarking them.  Soon!  
You can't think of crafts without looking through Martha Stewart's Enclycopedia of Crafts - there isn't a thing that she left out in this book.  It belongs on every aspiring crafter / artist's bookshelf.   

Maira Kalman's book, Maira Kalman Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World) is inspirational to me.  You may know Maira Kalman as the creator of many covers for the NewYorker.  Her artwork inspired me to be confident in my artistic abilities and to feel comfortable enough to put it out to the public. 

All of these books can easily be purchased at Amazon but why do that when you can visit your local bookshop and make it more of an event for yourself.  My favorite book shop is The Concord Bookshop located on Main Street right here in downtown Concord.  It was my first official outing when I felt safe enough to take to the streets with my crutches.

A page from Vera the art and life of an icon
I almost forgot to mention Vera, the Art and Life of an Icon by Susan Seid.  I'm sure you remember the famous Vera scarves from the 70s and 80s.  One of my first jobs as a teenager was working in the iconic Filene's Basement.  It was a coveted job by any Boston girl and I got this job courtesy of my Uncle George's friendship with one of the executives of Filene's.  I worked the booth that was stocked with scarves and most of them where by Vera.  Oh - if I knew then what I know now! 

 Her imagery has stayed with me for all these years and when I saw this book - I knew,  I just had to have it.  Right now I'm inspired by her florals and am currently working on my own floral series that I hope to turn into fabric and ultimately some cool products.  Stay tuned - and check out this book if you love great, graphic artwork!  

Flowers from my husband
My husband sent me these flowers the other day.  They are from my favorite florist of all ... Winston Flowers.  Are these not the most gorgeous calla-lillies that you have ever seen?  Every morning that I wake up they bring a smile to me because they just scream happy and sunshine!  A big love-filled thank you to my wonderful husband and son who have taken such great care of me and to all my friends and family who have visited and kept us well fed - thank you. 

I am mobile and getting better every day and I'm planning to tackle some of these wonderful projects that I've dog-eared over these past couple weeks.  Stay-tuned next week to see what I come up with ...

see you soon,

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Lemon Pick-Me-Up ...

Meyer Lemons

Last week I was at Costco shopping for my pantry staples and I stumbled upon these gorgeous Meyer Lemons.  Just when winter has got the best of you, little jewels like these beckon to you and whisper that sunshine and warmth will indeed return.  Meyer lemons show up in gourmet stores January through April and are more expensive than our garden variety lemon.  They have an orange tint, are less acidic than regular lemons and much sweeter.  They smell divinely floral ... mmmmmm.  I couldn't pass these beauties up and the price could not be beat.  

Meyer lemons can be thrown into a salad or juiced into a delicious salad dressing.  Use them in any recipe that calls for ordinary lemons - the result is sweeter and less acidic.  I'm going to make a meyer lemon curd with my extra lemons and will show you how ...


Gather your ingredients.  Pantry staples really - with the exception of the Meyer lemons, all the ingredients are most likely in your kitchen:
1 stick unsalted butter
6 eggs (yolks only -  save egg whites for tomorrow's omelet)
1 cup sugar
3 Meyer lemons  (you will need the juice and zest from the three lemons)

egg yolks
Separate your egg yolks.  As you can see here, my eggs are probably not the freshest as the yolks just collapsed when I put them in the bowl.  I saved the egg whites and plan to make some merengues later. 

Meyer Lemon Zest

Zest all three Meyer Lemons.  You are going to love the aroma of these lemons.  Just a beautiful floral smell that really will perk up your day.

Juice Lemons

Juice all three lemons.  You should find yourself with about 1/2 cup of Meyer Lemon juice.  


You will need 1 cup of sugar.  Many recipes call for superfine sugar (because it dissolves easier).  If you don't have superfine sugar on hand (as I did not) just run the cup of sugar through your food processor or grinder and that will do the trick.

Straining the curd

I used a double boiler but you could also cook this in a heavy bottomed pot.  The main thing to look out for is turning your yolks into scrambled eggs.  Try not to bring your curd to a boil and remember to keep stirring and adjusting the heat as you go.

In your double boiler (or pot) whisk the yolks and sugar  together until the sugar dissolves.  Add your lemon juice and continue to stir the curd until thickened (appox. 15 mins).  You should find that the curd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Cut up the stick of butter and stir in a couple of chunks at a time until all the butter is fully melted into the curd. Take your pot of the heat and strain the Meyer Lemon curd through a sieve over a bowl.  You'll be able to extract any cooked pieces of egg this way and ensure yourself a silky, smooth curd.  Discard the solids that remain in the strainer.  Whisk the Meyer lemon zest into the finished curd.

1/2 pint jars from The Concord Shop

Pour your finished Meyer Lemon Curd into 1/2 pint jars.  This recipe will make 2 half pint jars.  Meyer Lemon curd will last in your refrigerator for approximately 1 week so it is probably best to create little 1/2 pint jars to keep and to give away.  I found these darling jars at my favorite kitchen store, The Concord Shop. (If you find yourself at The Concord Shop one day make sure you say hello to the owners, Meg and Bob, and let them know that you are following one of these projects.)

Meyer Lemon Curd ready to give away

Voila!  The finished product.  Yes, I did lick the spoon and the pan and could have eaten the entire jar but I did manage to restrain myself.  I kept one for my family and I gave one away to a friend.  She served hers with croissants in the morning and used the left over curd to spread on merengue cookies.  I confess that we ate our's out of the jar with a spoon.  It was simple and without ceremony but it was delicious!  

Give it a try especially if you find yourself with a plethora of Meyer Lemons like I did.  It is simple to make and requires few ingredients and is totally worth it.

See you next week