One thousand years ago I attended an event featuring Genevieve Gorder. This was when Trading Spaces was in its hey day and I was an avid watcher because I was newly married and newly mortgaged and sans children. And while I don’t remember much, I specifically remember Gorder saying something like “any colors you find in nature work in design.” True.
I find inspiration everywhere – nature, magazines, social media, television, movies, happy hour. Nature is my first love. After our safari to Botswana, I transformed the boys’ bedroom into an African lodge. And after our recent trip to Maine, I hung hummingbird feeders and asked Andy to build a quasi tree house. I am pretty sure he was thrilled, but he was really downplaying it with a lot of grumbling and little bit of swearing.
Magical Maine - bar harbor inn and spa
But I must admit that after nature, restaurants and hotels are my favorite sources of inspiration. Maybe it’s because being in those types of spaces is often a result of a celebration or a vacation.
Maine is amazing. I’ve heard that heaven is whatever your favorite place is and, for the record and in the hopes that I make it to heaven, I pick Maine. Tell any of the higher ups for me please because I am going to be super annoyed if I end up in a Wal-mart, which, also for the record, is my hell.
But while I am a lover of restaurants, it’s not because of the food. My foodie friends don’t understand this. At all. I care about the ambiance, the service, and the fact that I don’t have to cook. Put a piece of chicken in front of me and I’m good.
So spending a Maine afternoon both in nature AND in a gorgeous restaurant was divine. After dining at Jordan Pond Restaurant and eating a lot of their famous popovers, I decided to make popovers. I bought the mix and the jam and lost both in a 48-minute stop at TSA. Even the TSA knows I shouldn’t be baking.
I called on my favorite foodie, Emily Vannoni, and asked HER to make popovers - it’s called outsourcing.
And she did! She made amazing popovers while simultaneously writing a weekly blog and raising her twin girls and putting the final touches on her first and soon-to-be-published cookbook.
Not only did she make a couple of batches of popovers, she sampled some at Neiman Marcus and Blondies and Salt & Smoke in her hometown of St. Louis, MO. She wrote a piece about her experience here. I highly recommend you follow her blog, Garlic & Olive Oil because it inspires even me, who doesn’t love spending time in the kitchen unless it’s to reorganize a shelf or reheat my coffee.
I'm sharing two of Emily's recipes and this gorgeous photos below - you can find her blog post on this topic here
Recipes: Courtesy of Emily Vannoni, Garlic & Olive Oil
This is based off the King Arthur Flour recipe with a few tweaks. In researching popovers, my girls and I discovered that the darker the popover the more we liked it. So, don’t be afraid to let these cook and get a nice dark golden brown before you pull them out of the oven. If you have a popover pan, great! You can make at least 6 popovers. If you don’t have a popover pan, don’t worry! This recipe will make about 12 popovers in a standard muffin tin.
1 ½ c All-Purpose Flour
¾ tsp Kosher Salt
4 Large Eggs, at room temperature
1 ½ c Whole Milk
3 T Unsalted Butter, melted (plus extra for the pan)
Place oven racks in the top and bottom third of the oven (you want your popovers to have room to “pop”).
Preheat oven to 425.
Thoroughly grease the pan with softened butter. If using a muffin tin butter the entire top as well as the cups.
Combine the flour and the salt in a small bowl, set aside.
Microwave the milk for 30 seconds and stir. The milk needs to be lukewarm, not hot. Continue to microwave at 15-second intervals if necessary.
Stick the greased pan on the lower rack of the oven.
Place eggs and milk in a blender and blend until well combined.
Add the flour mixture all at once and blend.
Slowly stream the melted butter into the batter while blending, until frothy.
Using potholders, remove the pan from the oven and immediately fill the cups 2/3 – ¾ full.
Place the pan on the lower oven rack and bake for 20 minutes without opening the oven door.
Reduce the heat to 350 and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes for a traditional popover pan or 15-20 minutes for a standard muffin tin.
*Popovers are best straight from the oven. However, if you like you can make ahead or even freeze them. Reheat in a 350 oven for a few minutes before serving.
Small Batch Blueberry Jam
This blueberry jam is delicious and so simple to make. It only takes around 20 minutes and makes about 4 ounces of jam, just enough for a family breakfast or two. Making jam doesn’t have to be an all day project!
6 oz Blueberries
¼ c Sugar
Zest and juice of 1 Lemon Wedge
Combine all ingredients in a small heavy bottom pot.
Place on stove over medium heat and stir often until all the sugar is dissolved.
Once the mixture is at a simmer, stir constantly for about 10-15 minutes until jam is set*.
Let cool a bit before serving.
Refrigerate any leftovers.
*Ways to tell jam is set:
The “Saucer Test”- place a small saucer in the freezer for 5 minutes. When you think the jam is ready place a small dollop on the cold saucer and return to freezer for 2 minutes (meanwhile, turn the pot on the stove down to very low heat). Take the saucer out and push the jam with your finger. If it starts to wrinkle it is ready. If your finger goes straight through continue cooking. Repeat test as necessary.
Wooden Spoon- when stirring the jam, run the wooden spoon right down the middle of the pot scraping the bottom. If it takes a second before the jam comes runs back together, it is ready.
Temperature- when the temperature is at 220 degrees F
If you need some inspiration in your life, go on Safari. Or to Maine.
Kidding (not kidding.)
But pay attention when you are in different places and spaces. Look at something besides the menu or your phone. If you love a restaurant or a hotel lobby it is partly because of the lighting, the décor, the scents, the music, the flowers; all of which are easy to incorporate in your own home design on your own dime.
Here's some local eye candy to get you going:
See you next time at The Neighbor's House! Or on some fabulous vacation. Or in line at TSA.