I hope everyone is enjoying the long holiday weekend. I had the pleasure yesterday of meeting up with some of husband’s family to do a little hike on the Appalachian Trail. Can you guess where I was? Here’s three visual clues:

{clue #1}
{clue #2)
{clue #3}

Can you take a guess where I was? Have you been here yourself?


p.s. Just used the Novica gift certificate I won from Clear Blue Skies to order a dress from Bali! Thanks Elizabeth for the great giveaway!

… also, for the question on my top – It’s a coral orange and white stripe cotton/spandex top from the GAP Factory  Store. I picked it up brand new for ten cents at a rummage sale! (One of my best rummage sale finds, ever!)

We have a winner for the Travelite luggage scale giveaway! As you remember, this is one of the inventions of my super-talented brother-in-law Ryan.

I had so much fun reading the descriptions of places people would love to travel to. Really, it was like going on mini-vacations as I dreamed of each place mentioned. Our winner choose Spain and she is…

{The beautiful Wanda Mann source: TheGloss.com}

Wanda, who writes the amazing blog The Black Dress Traveler! Congrats Wanda! (could it be more appropriate for her –  a traveler-  to win this?) Wanda writes of Spain, “…the food,the music, the lifestyle and so many handsome men!” Read a post about Wanda here.

Spain is dear to my heart, too. It’s where husband and I went on our Honeymoon! Here’s a snapshot from our trip of a tiny beach in Nerha, Spain. Perfect in all ways but for jellyfish in the water! This photo brings back such wonderful memories…
Wanda, contact me with your address and I will send your prize asap!

May 24




Our living room will start to look very different soon…

{The rear of my 1978 house, walk out basement…}
As promised, here’s some drawings of our construction project. Here’s an elevation drawing I did of the back of our house, showing the new gabled windowseat…
{These windows are almost 6′-0″ tall, and two more narrow ones flank the sides}

…and here’s an elevation sketch from the inside. These photos are not the best, I snapped them as the light was getting low! The addition will project out from the house by three feet, replacing a fireplace (We tore out the bricks last October),  and fireplace chase.

I’ll share more drawings and photos soon! The windows have been delivered (yeah!) and construction will start this month.  I’m finalizing the last-minute details, and hope to get some opinions from all of you!

p.s. Enter to win my giveaway – Ryan’s Travelite Luggage Scale! I’m drawing the winner May 23.
Dear Vern,
It’s been a year since we met. Thanks for your gracious advice on my house. 
It was super fun to have won the contest at the Albany Home Show and get to spend some time with you. You were gracious, charming and a little sleep deprived as your son was just born. I see he has a new little sister, now. Two kids under two. Wow!
I’ve been drawing plans and elevations – lots of them. Construction starts tomorrow! That “wall of windows” you envisioned has morphed into a windowseat. I think you’ll like it! It’s not as modern as the existing house, but it will be the tail that wags the dog. I’m more of a “modern cottage” girl at heart.
The wall-o-wood is still there. I’m still wishing I could paint over it, but I know in my heart your advice that the slanted installation makes it dated is right. I’ll make it all firewood by the end of the year, promise!
You’re probably asking why a boring stock photo above and not a photo of you and I? Heaven knows Stacey took a gazillion of them. (She though you were adorable, by the way…) She misplaced the camera’s memory stick. It’s in a box, in a drawer, somewhere in her house. Perhaps the readers of this blog will think we never met without that proof, but Vern, you and I know the truth… 
Send some construction prayers my way. You know you started this whole thing rolling…
Yours Truly,
p.s. I know how much you travel. Enter to win my giveaway – Ryan’s Travelite Luggage Scale! I’m drawing the winner May 23.
{Just one of my brother-in-law’s many inventions}
NOTE: This giveaway has ended  – my apologies for those who came to this link from Oh So Savvy Mom’s linky! It auto-filled an old listing and by mistake I posted it! The real giveaway for July 4 is Wow Bow Portable Pet Bowls – I have three to give away and I hope you enter – here’s the link: http://applesandrubies.blogspot.com/2011/06/giveaway-acquabol-pet-waterbowls.html Again, so sorry for any confusion! – Loretta
My last post was on my fantastic-inventor-all-around-genius Brother-In-Law Ryan and his involvement in an Earth Day Recycling project.  As promised, I’m giving away one of his inventions to a lucky reader – the Travelite Luggage Scale.
Flying back from Portland, I was so pleased to thumb through the SkyMall catalog and see Ryan’s luggage scale in the pages! What’s so great about his invention? Let me tell you: “The EZ Weigh Indicator Light (green or red) protects against overage fees by quickly indicating if a bag is over or under the 50 lb limit…” 
…and it’s got a built in LED flashlight! Find out more at www.Travelite.com

The scale has a $24.99 value. To win, be a follower or email subscriber of this blog, and share your favorite travel destination in the comments below. Get up to three more extra chances if you share this on your Blog, Facebook or Twitter! Leave a new comment for each. Good Luck! I’ll draw a random winner at 12:00 noon EST on Monday, May 23. Shipping in the U.S. is on me!


 {The cheerful Starbucks at Forest Heights in Portland, Oregon}
Let me tell you a tale of an inventor I know and a new recycling bin…
(the start of the bin, Ryan to the right}
The inventor is my Brother-In-Law Ryan, and these pics are from my Portland, Oregon trip last month.
{Laura and her mother cleaned all the recycled straws and cups used in the bin}
The recycling bin was the brainchild of Laura Kutner, a barista at Starbucks and a Peace Corps volunteer who worked in Guatemala.

{bottles in a framework of metal and chicken wire, and the finished building}
In Granados, Guatemala, Laura helped build two beautiful classrooms of plastic bottles, adapting a technique started by Pura Vida Atitlan.  The children of the school had to collect the bottles and fill them with plastic trash for strength. They cleaned up so much trash, they had to search in neighboring communities! Here’s a link to an ABC News story on her inspired project.
{my Nephew J got in the act}
Laura wanted to encourage more people to recycle their plastic cups at Starbucks, and dreamed up the idea of a recycling bin made of recycled bottles. “I had never built a trash can out of bottles before,” Laura said, “but I figured if we could do a school and other structures, a trash can couldn’t be too difficult.”
{the team in action}
My inventor brother-in-law helped on the project. “Ryan graciously said he would help,” Laura says, “and he added so many wonderful ideas, (not to mention his time, tools, and expertise!) that made this recycle bin that much more fantastic.  The idea to cover the threaded rods with straws, as well as the double magnetic lid, was all his idea, and it makes the bin that much more functional and aesthetically pleasing!”
{Ryan, me, and the almost finished bin}
I loved this Earth Day project! Congrats to Laura and Ryan and everyone who helped, and a reminder to all to recycle that plastic!
…and look for GIVEAWAYS on my blog soon of two of Ryan’s fantastic inventions!
{My Sister S and Nephew B on the trail}

One of the highlights of my trip was hiking in Audubon Sanctuary, an amazing forest preserve within the Portland city boundaries with stands of old growth Douglas Fir, Hemlock and Western Red Cedar. Portland, Oregon is a city in love with trails and green spaces.

{roads and cul-de-sacs in white, the trails are the dotted black lines}
You expect great hiking in a forest preserve, but in my sister’s neighborhood there are great trails just out the front door. She lives in the Forest Heights, a 601 acre area developed in 1989, where one third of the space is dedicated to public green space and parks. The six miles of  trails in the development mostly follow the low creek beds that flow in the valleys of the steep hillsides.
{to the pond of the old Jones Lumber mill}

The area, like most of Portland, was logged of it’s old growth timber in the mid-1800’s. The old “Mill Pond” for the past logging operations is down this path right behind my sister’s house.

{Portland home construction- crazy!}

Most of the homes, since they are built into hillsides, are tidy one or two stories from the street. But in the back the basements are often built stories down, and may are built on high piers. This is a view of the back of one of them from the trail.

{fern land}
My favorite trail in the neighborhood is the upper part of the “Deer Trail”. Steps away from the houses, it’s just another world. The banks are extremely steep and the trees are romantically cloaked in green moss.
The most restful sound- a creek joyfully spilling down the slope.

 How beautiful are these yellow woodland violets?
Or this trillium?
{upper Deer Trail}
This trail was amazingly serene, with just glimpses of all the houses crowding the tops of the hills on both sides of the steep ravine.

And once the trees leaf out, you will not see any homes from the trail at all, and it will be even more magical.  I’m glad to be home, but I’m already planning my next trip to Portland! 


When I was in New York City for a Manhattan jewelry conference last month,  I stayed with my sister-in-law S and her family in Jackson Heights, Queens.

I’ve shown you the bustling part of Jackson Heights, Queens in an earlier post. Now, let’s go off the commercial strips to the quiet residential streets.


 This area of Queens was developed when the ? bridge opened up the area for development. It’s dominated by beautiful brick “pre-war” garden co-op apartments. Honestly, I’ve never fully understood the word “pre-war”



{my primrose brownie bites}

I had the pleasure of jetting off solo from New York to Portland, Oregon to spend part of Spring Break and Easter with my sister S and her family. They just purchased a gorgeous new home, and our Easter feast included these brownie bites I made topped with marshmallow fondant flowers.

{a little buttercream holds the fondant in place}

Homemade marshmallow fondant is so easy to make- and molding it reminds me of playing with Play-doh. It tastes so much better than commercial fondant!

{Portland Spring drizzle outside the windows}

A nice way to spend Easter morning making the little flowers. I was inspired by the colors of Spring primroses.  Husband took my kids down to his parents in Westchester county, New York and we kept in touch everyday by phone. The big excitement was their Easter egg hunt where crows did much of the hunting. (Lesson: Don’t hide eggs too early)

{too cute!}

Our Portland egg hunt went much better. It was a huge Saturday gathering for all the kids in the Forest Heights neighborhood. Here’s my Nephew J hunting eggs…

{got one!}

…and little Nephew B! I’ll post more Portland photos as the week goes on.

How did you spend the holiday?