Distinctive R Wood Ceramics, Handmade in America

 

R. Wood Ceramics are absolutely and exquisitely simple and reflect much love and care that goes into making every piece. They are whimsical and playful, somewhat reminiscent of the ceramic ashtrays that children of a bygone era would make at summer camp for their parents. They are entirely distinctive and create an atmosphere of fun and satisfaction. They are suited to be mixed and matched, and look best when combined in a colorful combination.

In an old produce warehouse located in Athens, Georgia, Rebecca Wood started R.Wood studio. Since 1991, it has grown into one of the largest pottery studios in America, where each piece is still entirely made and painted by hand. Renowned for their luscious colors, simple shapes, and inspired by their southern surroundings, they also produce one-of-a kind pieces that are sought after by collectors. The artists at R.wood studio take great pleasure in making dishes they know will bring beauty and enjoyment to their customers for many years to come.

Uniquely Made
All R.Wood dishes continue to be made in Athens, Georgia from NC red clay (AKA terra cotta,) and hand-painted with up to as many as five coats of glazes. Each of their distinctive pieces is slab built by one of their expert artists’ hands, making each piece unique. The glaze is applied by hand, giving the pieces their rich and layered color.

Hearty and Practical
These creations are extremely durable and food-safe, being free of lead and cadmium. They are oven safe, but not microwave safe, as the red clay has iron in it, and the microwave will heat up the iron as it cooks. While dishwasher-cleaning is OK, it’s best to use a natural dish detergent. Hand washing is the recommended method of cleaning.

Selecting Your Dishes
Pick a color or shape that you particularly like, and the rest will simply fall into place. There’s no such thing as a mistake, with these lovely handmade heirlooms. The dinner plates, cereal bowls, latte cups and large bowls are among the most popular R.Wood creations. Often, people will mix and match their R.Wood ceramics. All of the colors are formulated to work well with one another, so again, you can’t go wrong.

The Romance of Lace

Beautiful lace is an amazing creation. What other decorative art form so perfectly captures the essence of both luxury and romance?  Traveling in Europe, I became fascinated with the history, styles and delicacy of lace — its beauty fills a space no other art form has conquered in over 7 centuries. It has survived because its beauty and style have continued to evolve with every generation. And now lace is beginning yet another renaissance. Somehow it balances tradition and an air of quaintness while appearing forever young and delicate (Think brides)!

Its impossible to say exactly where lace-making began, but records show that lace was brought from the trading center of Venice to  Zurich in 1536.  Lace was considered an outrageous concept at the time — cutting holes in expensive fabric? — unheard of!  Oh, those decadent Venetians! But lace caught on like wildfire, and spread across Europe as the latest fashion trend of the time.

By the 1600’s, intricate, high-quality lace was produced across Europe and many amazing styles of lace emerged — each style associated with different lace-making centers in Belgium, France, Switzerland, England, etc. With each succeeding century, lace styles changed to satisfy the needs of fashion for a beautiful, airy embellishment to clothing, linens and drapery.

The industrial revolution and the two world wars delivered huge impacts to lace-making. World War II literally halted lace production in Europe. However, a few lace-making centers were able to return, thanks to nuns who continued their lace-making traditions inside their convents while the war raged on.

While a great deal of inexpensive lace is now mass-produced in China, the traditional art form still survives in a few centers in Europe as well as here in the US.  For example, the lace-makers of St. Gallen, Switzerland are kept busy satisfying the needs of top European designers, such as Chanel, Armani, Dior and Givenchy. And hundreds of craftswomen still maintain local tradition by producing beautiful lace in the primary lace-making centers of Belgium, Bruges and Brussels.

Here in the US, we are so very fortunate to have Heritage Lace. Headquartered in Pella, Iowa, Heritage Lace designs and produces a wonderful array of lace products here in the US. Its important to me to support the efforts of US artisans.

Heritage Lace will launch its new Downton Abbey Collection this spring.   When I saw how the gorgeous Downton Abbey Collection captures the luxury and romance of that wonderful period in English history, I had to bring it home to Ann Marie’s.  Stay tuned to purchase the Heritage Lace Downton Abbey Collection at http://www.annmarie.com/#

Boxing Day Fun

Europe has so many wonderful Holiday traditions. I love choose a few of my favorites and include them in my own festivities. One of my favorites is Boxing Day, a British holiday dedicated to relaxation and fun, on December 26.

On Boxing Day, friends who were busy with their own families on Christmas gather together for an informal buffet of Christmas dinner leftovers and then head out to enjoy their favorite sports. In Britain, the guys might head out to a football match or the race course to catch a few horse races. The gals might head to the park for a leisurely walk or to town to shop for after-Christmas bargains.

The easy informality of Boxing Day makes it fun for all. Why not invite a few friends over for a Boxing Day party?  Plan to offer a simple buffet of Christmas dinner leftovers so everyone can serve themselves. Include sliced bread on the buffet so sandwiches are an option. Consider preparing just one easy British dish — such as Yorkshire pudding or a quick English trifle — to lend that bit of British flair. Then head outside to stretch your legs, breathe some crisp winter air, and enjoy a bit of fun with your pals.

Cheers to you on Boxing Day!

 

A Magical Irish Afternoon – Love of Nature and Pottery

 

After spending a magical morning enjoying Kilfane Glen, we continued our tour with an afternoon visit to the old mill which houses the Nicholas Mosse Pottery factory. I noted that the same thoughtfulness and love of nature Nicholas and Susan Mosse expressed through their gardens at Kilfane Glen are also in evidence at the pottery works. Peaceful themes of flowers and natural beauty are woven into both ventures and influence every aspect of their work.

Nick is passionate about working with clay and has developed his own special clay recipe which he uses to make every piece Nicholas Mosse pottery. Susan’s talents show in her lovely designs, which are hand cut into sponges used to decorate the pottery. Together, Nick and Susan have created a unique line of pottery that reflects the beauty of Irish county life and is sought out by pottery collectors around the world.

Each piece of Nicholas Mosse pottery is lovingly made by hand, requiring over 20 steps from start to finish before it can be shipped to us at Ann Marie’s. Throughout the process, Nick and Susan make every effort to use local resources  to stay in harmony with nature. For example, the river which flows behind the pottery works provides the electricity needed to fire the kilns. Their work is truly a reflection of their passions, values and lives. No wonder each piece of Nicholas Mosse pottery is treasured by our customers.

A Magical Irish Morning – Kilfane Glen

 

When I first saw on a piece of Nicholas Mosse Pottery over 20 years ago, I was completely smitten by its quaint beauty. Discovering this special pottery was the beginning of a wonderful story that would unfold over the years, taking me to beautiful Ireland to meet two amazingly talented and charming Irish potters. I’ve just returned from my second visit to Kilkenny, a place that fills me with child-like wonder. There are many beautiful places in the world, but none I think can compare with the pure “inner” beauty of Ireland.

When my husband Stephan and I arrived at the home of Nicholas and Susan Mosse, we were immediately greeted with warm hospitality by everyone – Nick, Susan, Sophie the poodle and their adorable kitty. On this lovely autumn day, even the apple trees and garden flowers seemed to welcome us. What a happy, inspirational place to live and work. Nick and Susan generously took us on a walk through their property, the magical Kilfane Glen and Waterfall, which is listed as an Irish Heritage Garden. (Yes, its is open to the public at certain times of the year.)

This amazing garden was created the 1790′s, but remained untouched for 200 years before Nick and Susan began its restoration. We fell in love with its green, untamed nature.  Sitting among the streams and rocky paths is a beautifully restored stone cottage, filled with Nick and Susan’s collection of pottery. Some pieces of the collection were made by the Mosses while others are personal favorites they have collected over the years.  To our delight, we were treated to a cup of Irish tea as Nick and Susan shared history of the garden with us.

As we strolled past the waterfall and up the winding path back to the house, I reflected on how fortunate I am to have enjoyed this special place with such lovely hosts. Such a perfect morning!

I invite you to read more about Kilfane Glen and Waterfall at  www.kilfane.com/story.html.

Spicy Apple Garlic Jam

 

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As the Holidays fast approach and entertaining season is almost upon us, I would like to share with you two more recipes from the good people at Earth & Vine Provisions. I find their Spicy Apple Garlic Jam is just fantastic!  I like to keep a jar handy in my pantry so I can quickly and easily prepare these delicious appetizers whenever friends drop by.  While you could attempt to make a similar jam from scratch, I’ve found that Earth & Vine Provisions’ products taste so fresh and homemade, you’ll never feel you’ve compromised. Enjoy!  ~Ann Marie

Gluten Free – 100% All Natural

INGREDIENTS: APPLES, CANE SUGAR, CIDER VINEGAR, FRESH JALAPENOS, FRESH GARLIC, FRUIT PECTIN, THYME, SPICES.

 

APPLE GARLIC CHEESE BALL

Ingredients
16 ounces cream cheese
1 jar Earth & Vine Spicy Apple Garlic Jam
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup walnuts, crushed or finely chopped
1 box whole grain crackers or a sliced sourdough baguette

Preparation Instructions
Whisk or blend together cream cheese, Spicy Apple Garlic Jam, onion and dill until well mixed. With your hands, form a ball and roll in walnuts until thoroughly coated. Plate and serve with crackers or baguette slices.

 

BLUE CHEESE APPLE JAM CROSTINI

Ingrediants
1 sourdough baguette
8 oz crumbled blue cheese
Earth & Vine Spicy Apple Garlic Jam
Olive oil
Fresh thyme sprigs

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:
Slice baguette on an angle. Brush with a light coating of olive oil.
Top with a small tablespoon of blue cheese. Toast under broiler until cheese is melted and toast is lightly golden around edges. Top with a teaspoon of Spicy Apple Garlic Jam, and garnish platter with fresh thyme sprigs.

 

Europe’s Wondrous Outdoor Holiday Markets

As our world grows more busy each year, it can be a challenge to find that wonderful old-fashioned Holiday spirit. But no matter how busy I am, I only need to recall the unforgettable sights, sounds and scents of Europe’s amazing outdoor Holiday markets – traditionally called “Christkindelmarkt.”  I close my eyes and feel that wonderful Holiday spirit coming on – you know, the happy excitement you felt as a child as soon as December appeared on the calendar.

Europe’s famous Holiday markets date back to the early 1300’s in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. On the Friday evening before the start of Advent (4 weeks before Christmas Eve), townspeople gathered in the square in front of the cathedral to welcome the arrival of the Christ child (Christkindel). The role of the Christ child was played by a local child, and the event included music, singing and dancing, specially prepared foods such as gingerbread and seasonal pastries, steaming hot cider and mulled wines, market stalls twinkling with candle light, and local artisans making wooden toys, wreaths, blown glass ornaments and pottery.

In Europe today, the Chistkindelmarkt tradition is not only alive and well, but appears to grow stronger each year. I have been so fortunate to visit Holiday markets in both Austria and Switzerland. These special experiences filled me with wonder, excitement, and of course, that amazing Holiday spirit!

In Austria, the Advent wreath remains an important Holiday market tradition today. Each beautiful handmade wreath is carefully decorated with colorful ribbons and four candles to mark each week leading to Christmas Eve. Holiday pixies wander through the crowds playing practical jokes and stirring up mischief.

In Switzerland, the focus is on children. Swiss Holiday markets are filled with the sounds of delighted children laughing as they participate in traditional games and stare into the lighted market stalls filled with lovely handmade wooden toys and ornaments. On December 6, Swiss children put their shoes outside the door, hoping Saint Nicholas will fill them with treats such as nuts, fruit and chocolate.

This Holiday season, join me in recapturing the old-fashioned Holiday spirit you remember as a child.  I’ve got lots of ideas up my sleeve!

Pumpkin Soothes Cold Weather Cravings

Feeling the chill in the air made me start to crave comforting fall flavors. I tapped Britt, our in-house gourmand, and she came up with some recipes from one of our favorite companies, Earth & Vine Provisions. Ring us to order a jar of their delicious Mandarin Pumpkin Marmalade or you could substitute your own homemade marmalade. Enjoy these yummy recipes.

QUICK PUMPKIN CHEESECAKE

Ingredients
1 jar E&V Mandarin Pumpkin Marmalade
8 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces Mascarpone cheese
7 ounces ginger snaps
1 cube butter (1/4 pound)
9 inch glass pie dish

Preparation and Cooking Instructions
With a mixer using the paddle attachment, blend together E&V Mandarin Pumpkin Marmalade, cream cheese and Mascarpone cheese until light and fluffy. Grind ginger snaps in a food processor or place ginger snaps in a sturdy zip lock bag and crush with a rolling pin or other sturdy object. Melt butter and mix with crushed ginger snaps until well incorporated. Evenly press crumb mixture in glass dish, and gently spread mousse mixture over crust. Chill for a few hours and serve. Serves 6 to 8

PUMPKIN BREAD

INGREDIENTS:
1 ¾ Cup sifted flour
1 Cup sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 Teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 Teaspoon cloves
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon all spice
1/3 Cup peanut oil
1/3 Cup water
2 Eggs
9 oz Earth & Vine Provisions Mandarin Pumpkin Marmalade
1 Cup canned pumpkin puree
¾ Cup chopped pecans
1/3 Cup raisins or dried currants
1 9×5 inch loaf pan

PREPARATION:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Oil and flour loaf pan.
In a large bowl mix together all dry ingredients, add oil, water, and eggs. Mix until smooth.
Add Mandarin Pumpkin Marmalade and pumpkin puree, blend well and add nuts and fruit.
Bake approximately 1½ hours or until fork comes out clean.
This bread is delicious served with cream cheese or Mascarpone cheese.
Loaves Freeze well. Yields 1 large loaf or 4 small loaves

Autumn Memories of Grandma’s Sweet Red Peppers

As the autumn sunlight slants at a slightly sharper angle and the air takes on a clear, crisp scent, I surrender to the urge to make delicious comfort foods that warm the soul. Cooking comfort food always brings precious memories back to me.

One of my happiest autumn memories is of my Italian Grandma’s amazing sweet red peppers. I think Grandma must have brought the seeds from Italy in her pocket, because her red peppers had such an intense sweet, rich flavor. After Grandma finished picking the peppers in her farm’s kitchen garden, she would sit at her rustic kitchen table where she would string the peppers into beautiful red garlands. When every pepper was neatly strung, she’d hang the garlands behind her old wood stove so they’d dry and be ready to use in her delicious meals all winter long. Grandma’s garlands were both a thing of beauty and a symbol of all the delicious comfort foods to come during the chilly months ahead.

Harvesting red peppers and making garlands is still an autumn tradition on family farms across Italy. Lovely red garlands of peppers and cherry tomatoes can been seen hanging in every Italian kitchen. (Fortunately, Italian city dwellers can buy pepper garlands at their local farmers’ markets.) Every time I see a bright red garland, I think of my wonderful Grandma and recall the amazing flavor of her pasta sauce flavored with her sweet red peppers.

Perfect comfort food.

Savor The Last Days of Summer

It always takes me by surprise. Summer is in full swing and then all of a sudden, our endless summer days are down to a precious few!  As far as I know, there’s only one thing to do – I try to make the very most of these remaining summer days and create a few more cherished memories of a summer well-spent.

Here’s my recipe to help savor our lovely last days of glorious summer…

  • Head out to your garden and pick several favorite blooms. Press the blooms in a book that you will plan to read in January or February. On a snowy winter afternoon, the sight and scent of my blooms preserved within the pages of  good book always bring summer back to me…and I smile.
  • No matter how chilly the water seems, take one more swim in the lake. Nothing compares to floating on the gentle waves and looking up at those fluffy white summer clouds.
  • Invite a few friends over for an informal “Farewell to Summer” cocktail party. Gather together outside in your garden or back yard to enjoy a golden summer evening of laughter and fun. Maybe even a campfire. And, yes – wear your favorite pair of white summer pants before packing them away for the season!
  • Grill a selection of fresh garden vegetables outside on the grill. A little olive oil, a little salt and pepper. Perfect.
  • Eat breakfast outside in your garden or back yard. What a great summer start to your day.
  • Grab a basket and head out to harvest fruit at a local farm. The first crop of sweet crunchy apples is ready and waiting for you!
  • The perfect ending to a summer day is to enjoy an hour of star-gazing. I love to lie in the green grass, let my eyes adjust to the darkness, and gaze upon the wonders of the night sky…shooting stars, favorite constellations, the aurora borealis, or even just the movement of the moon.