On Biscay Pond-

Red Bank, NJ April 4, 2020

Sidetracking from British Cottage for a moment so I can post this infomercial about our Maine cottage. We have decided to sell and think this edited version of a much earlier post, “On Golden Pond” will be helpful to prospective buyers.

In 2013 we bought our cottage on Biscay Pond in Damariscotta, Maine. Although my husband and I have a home and business in New Jersey we thought that this would be the perfect spot to connect with our children, and grandchildren, and their cousins and aunts and uncles who live in Maine. For quite a while it was, but now our children live out west and we find it hard to go north as much as we planned and our home is for sale.

We even have a little island to explore right across the pond from our house, which is just the right size for picnics and rock diving!The first thing we did after buying our cottage was paint all the original knotty pine paneling Benjamin Moore’s China White and all the fir trim White Dove…. Yes, sacrilegious to some, but fully supported by legions of Scandinavians  who know how best to live in northern climes. White makes smaller spaces live larger, reflects light and makes the daylight brighter. We restored the floors to their natural pine color, leaving them light so they hardly show the dust or dirt or wear, and when they do one swish of the mop and they look as good as new. 

The galley kitchen was revamped with new cabinets from the factory in Hungary that builds the furniture for our store, British Cottage in New Jersey. We replaced the window over the sink with one double in size figuring washing dishes is much more fun with a water view. 

A large farm table was a must, and this one is 96″ long and can seat twelve–squished–but still,  the more the merrier!  Our chairs are upholstered in black linen; not the fabric you would think of for a lakehouse but I thought they would have to do double duty as extra seating when entertaining a crowd so they may as well be comfortable.  And what else is Scotchguard for?

Cheap couches are a false economy.  Usually, the fabric choices are awful; the cushions are made of synthetic materials that are (besides being toxic) either too dense or too sloppy and breakdown quickly. So we have a really good couch, with two slipcovers (just in case we wear one out)  made in a cotton blend that looks like linen and wears like steel. 

The cottage has three bedrooms; a large open space on the uppermost floor that has room for three beds plus a crib, all tucked neatly inside the dormers. That means everyone is guaranteed a bed, even when the children visit with their children.  Which is really what it’s all about, isn’t it? Family time. When no one is visiting I can channel E.B. White and write at the little desk by the window.

There is a another small bedroom on the main floor and then downstairs there is a master bedroom with room for our king size British Cottage bed and the en suite bathroom even has a Jacuzzi tub!

But, let’s face it, the whole point of a vacation home in Maine is not the interior–it’s what’s outside that counts. As I said in the very beginning, Biscay Pond is just the right size, not too big, and with very few power boats beyond the occasional grandpa revving up his engines so he can tow his grandchildren around the pond. There’s a nice fleet of small sailboats setting sail on windy days and of course there’s plenty of kayaking and paddle boarding too.

We spent many a glorious day at Biscay and hope to sell our cottage to someone who loves Maine just as much as we do. With an abundance of fresh air, clean water, sunshine and family time; what’s not to love?

And did I mention lobster?


Meat Pie Recipe

Homing refers to an animal’s ability to return to a place after traveling far away from it. While I know Keith loves living in the United States (he’s been here over 40 years for heaven’s sakes!) there will always be an England in his heart.  So it was brilliant to pop over the pond and soak up some real ale, visit with the relatives, and just be in that special British kind of groove for a couple of weeks this fall.First stop was in Surrey where we met up with Keith’s Auntie Pat.  No proper English home is without a garden and Pat always has one of the best. Love her hanging basket and bold use of color, so warm and welcoming.Next stop was arguably one of the most famous gardens in the United Kingdom: Sissinghurst, in nearby Kent. Originally owned by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson and now the National Trust, it is a must stop for garden lovers and English lit majors the world over. Vita was a Bloomsbury Group original, lover of Virginia Woolf, and gardener extraordinaire.

In her own words: “My liking for gardens to be lavish is an inherent part of my garden philosophy. I like generosity wherever I find it, whether in gardens or elsewhere. I hate to see things scrimp and scrubby. Even the smallest garden can be prodigal within its own limitations… Always exaggerate rather than stint. Masses are more effective than mingies.” Trust me there are no mingies at Sissinghurst!

It wasn’t huge, as English gardens go, but with allees and walls and hedges and borders, vistas, large and small abound. And the totally famous White Garden, even in fall, was a masterpiece of design with a lush fullness and texture that belied its ostensible lack of color. Green is a color after all. There was not a corner left untended–or unplanted and every turn brought another awesome vignette.I probably took two hundred more photos; everywhere I looked there was a better shot.  But, eventually cocktail hour approached and we were meeting a cousin at a fabulous pub and B & B in Tonbridge  so it was time to get a move on.

And time for a pint.Next we headed to Bognor Regis, a classic and classy seaside resort made famous by King George the V, and our home for the next few days while we enjoyed our niece Chantal’s wedding festivities.Between the seaside and the architecture Bognor Regis is a great place to stay so if you go to that part of the English coast give Brighton, the better known city just to the east, a miss–overcrowded and over-rated in my opinion–and stay in beautiful Bognor.  The wedding was a civil ceremony in the town hall in nearby Chichester. Here we are with Keith’s brother and his partner. (I decided against the fascinator; tempting as it was I felt it best to leave that look to the natives).  The reception was a double decker bus ride away at the groom’s parents nursery and garden center just outside of town.Sadly all good things must pass, even weddings with six surfboard salutes; it was time for us to get to work. First stop, Christies Auction House in London to see how master U.S. designer Michael S. Smith curated that week’s sale. The brief was to show how antiques can be incorporated into everyday design–a no brainer except it seems for everyone under 40 these days.For probably around $10,000. (if the auction estimates were to be believed) you could furnish a living room–and dining room! Granted they were not period antiques, but who cares? Everything in the salesroom, whether antique or merely vintage, was well made, decorative and well worth the cost. We would have and probably should have and may well do in the future.The other designer setting up the exhibition was Martin Brudnizki and his styling was to die for.Check this out.And this:There was just a mad assortment of things old and new and what a great treat to see how these two design Ninjas put this with that and altogether came up with a whole room you just wanted to take home. Kudos to Christie’s for coming up with the idea to show objects in situ.

Our next foray was to Kings Road. Home to iconic shop after iconic shop, it is a little bit of heaven for anyone with a penchant for interior design. Osborne and Little were showing Nina Campbell’s new line.The latest from George Smith was on display.Timothy Oulton (familiar to Americans through his RH connection) had just opened a new store called Bluebird. And clearly was channeling Michael S. Smith’s Christies vibe.Then we spent a long time at Trowbridge Galleries, the leading purveyors of art photography in England, and a vendor we are considering for the store.Next stop was the London  Design Centre,Chelsea Harbour .They were madly putting the finishing touches on many of the showrooms in preparation for the London Design Week. Loved the color of these sofas; clearly you can’t go wrong with pumpkin this fall.  It was a great way to wind up our trip and a fabulous opportunity to see the latest in home decor from a whole slew of world-class designers and renowned retailers.  But eventually all good things must end; it was time for us to go home.

Meat Pie

But I couldn’t stop thinking about the meal we had at Chantal’s wedding. Everyone was served a meat pie and then gravy, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots were placed on the tables family style. I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!So I googled meat pies until I figured out how to do it.  Here’s the Nelson Family version.

Meat Pie

First make your favorite beef stew.  I delegated this to Keith and he made  a Beef Bourguignon, using his favorite recipe from The James Beard Cookbook.  The first night we had this in classic stew form, the next night we made meat pies.  All you need to do is buy some puff pastry–it comes in your freezer section and thaws in the microwave if you forget, like I did, to take it out of your own freezer.

Using an inverted glass, cut circles out of the dough and place in greased cupcake tins.  Fill with stew–a good trick I read and followed–is keep the filling on the dry side.  Next top with a pastry lid, using a fork to press the dough around the edges to seal the pies shut. Cut two small slits in the top, and brush on some egg white. Cook in a pre-heated 390 degree for 30 minutes.

Not bad for a first try–easy as pie! Keith was happy to have a taste of home and now you can too.


Kips Bay Showhouse

Quiche Lorraine Recipe

Philip Mitchell Design
Mark Sikes
Alexa Hampton
Barbara Ostrom
Bunny Williams

For a while I’ve been off showhouses not being a huge fan of modern, slick interiors in garish colors, or the reverse, all grey minimalism.  But this year’s Kips Bay Showhouse had three of my favorite interior designers:   Mark Sikes, Alexa Hampton and Bunny Williams / Elizabeth Swartz  on deck…so Keith and I motored into the city on a particularly bleak Sunday in late May.

Located on East 76th street between Park and Lex in a 51 million dollar townhouse that is the largest on the NYC market today (read all about it here:  (Upper Eastside Mansion for Sale),  this showhouse had seven floors and countless rooms featuring the talents of the creme de la creme in home decor today.  So for your forty dollars you basically got a master’s class in design–not bad.

We started in the foyer–you could have sworn you were in Paris–then stepped into a spacious elevator that zipped us to the top floor which was entirely dedicated to an in-home spa space. Crazy.

On the floor below that was our highlight of the day: the Drawing Room by Philip Mitchell Design. OMG  Just when I had practically convinced myself that my days as a retailer were numbered because the upcoming generations don’t collect things, don’t want things, don’t need stuff–Philip Mitchell’s Drawing Room was the bomb. Anchored by a massive navy blue sectional festooned with a plethora of toss pillows bordered by a seemingly random selection of art, it was love at first sight.Navy Blue Sectional in the Philip Mitchell Kips Bay ShowhouseAnd it kept getting better. Everywhere you looked there was more, and, impossibly better, accoutrement. I’ve always loved the Bunny Williams bar set up in her Connecticut house and this was to rival that. Then there were the overstuffed chairs, flanked by baskets filled with books and magazines, flanked by ottomans, flanked by tables, flanked by–you get the picture.  I could just see myself sitting in this chair, feet elevated, sipping a Gin Fizz, devouring a juicy novel.Bar Set Up in Philip Mitchell's Kips Bay Showhouse Drawing room Coffee tables were all piled high with collections (note to self– take all unpolished antique brass candlesticks out of purgatory stat), more books, even plants. Who said orchids were so over? Note too all the stools and benches encircling the coffee table practically begging you to put your feet up and enjoy the flow.
Coffee Table in Philip Mitchell's Kips Bay Showhouse Drawing Room

Coffee Table in Philip Mitchell's Kips Bay Showhouse Drawing RoomEverywhere you looked there was more to see and enjoy. Game table. Check.Cozy corner with wicker chairs. Check.Tall shelf  nestled in alcove filled with blue and white porcelain. Check. Vintage dog bed. Check.I could go have stayed there forever but there were seriously another twenty or thirty rooms left to peruse so off we toodled.

Mark Sikes was up next.

Part of Mark’s shtick is his adoration of iconic beauties and he rolls with the idea that one of those lovelies has this totally gorgeous bedroom. It worked for me, not an iconic beauty however, but still a lover of blue and white, fab wallpaper, incredibly detailed soft furnishings, vintage objets d’art and antique furniture.The four poster bed was gorgeous, and I love how the base is upholstered to match the headboard and footboard. Pops of royal blue abound, and just imagine sinking into this upholstered velvet armchair after a glam evening out on the town.  I’m not really a huge fan of complex window treatments but l was bowled over by this pinch pleat swag curtain that probably has a proper name–probably French–c’est tres jolie in any case.Mark used  a contrasting fabric as a shower curtain and skirt for the bathroom vanity which I gather is all part of his new fabric collection for Schumacher. Well done!

We hated to leave but Alexa Hampton was waiting–not really–but her room was the next on our A list. Alexa has been on our British Cottage radar ever since we fell in love with her collection for Hickory Chair last spring at the High Point Furniture Market. Rich in color and texture, sophisticated and inspiring; we couldn’t wait to see her Kips Bay living room.

Decorated to the nines and terribly chic, I get it; but sadly  it could not make my heart sing.

Definitely my fault because I am not very fond of red. And that is all I see here. So even though I love love love the secretary, and all the attention to detail…In the end it was all too fin de siecle for me–but I embraced the opportunity to see a master’s work.  I had to marvel at the artistry that created the tromp l’oeil painted tented walls–and ceiling!  And the vision and creativity of the designer to put this all together.

And that is the point of showhouses (beyond of course the charities they support).  You get to actually see and experience a variety of decorative options. Some may be out of your comfort zone or beyond your budget.  But you get to get the idea.

Take Barbara Ostrom’s dining/living room. Noted for her over-the-top decor she did not disappoint here. (We first met Barbara at the initial Stately Homes by the Sea Showhouse in Rumson. She was probably the best-known designer on the roster and created a most opulent and stylish dining room–think Versailles, while we poured our heart and soul into the decor of a minuscule bedroom upstairs in the servants’ wing.)

I loved the placement of furniture and all the objects in her room, which I think may have been intended as a formal dining room, but Barbara being Barbara threw in a living room as well. The dining section features a beautifully set table–another Barbara-ism. And note the Andrew Tedesco mural on the ceiling. Like many of the Kips Bay designers the ceiling was treated as a “fifth wall” and it was literally a highlight of the entire room.And speaking of stuff, Barbara is fearless when it comes to decorating a room. The paintings are from all periods, including one by John Mellencamp, while the bibelots range from the Han dynasty to the present day. As always the color palette is on the vibrant side; in this case high gloss peach from the Farrow and Ball archives.

But I am sure if you are still reading you are wondering if I am ever going to wrap this up. Let’s end with Bunny Williams, co-chairman of the 2018 Kips Bay Showhouse and designer par excellence.

Bunny and her partner Elizabeth Swartz designed a room that was not a fantastical representation of anything–it looked to me like what I think a real life mogul would have in their real life living room in their 51 million dollar mansion off Park. Sophisticated, sleek, expensive, but still relaxing. A place to loosen your tie, plop your feet up and wait for the butler to bring your slippers and serve you a martini made just the way you like it.

There were two comfortable seating areas, fabulous art on the walls, a mixture of antique and contemporary furniture and some pops of color but nothing too too.

Except maybe this. It was a showhouse after all.You can read about all the other fabulous Kips Bay Showhouse 2018 rooms here: Architectural Digest Gallery Tour  

Quiche Lorraine

Meanwhile I just have to tell you about our brunch. You simply cannot go to New York on a Sunday and not have brunch. We didn’t have plans and fortunately stumbled upon a Belgian Brasserie at 240 East 75th Street almost immediately. Honestly it did not look the most engaging of venues, but it was drizzling, we were parched and famished so in we went.

The good news: the interior was spotless, our server excellent and the food terrific. I had my own mini Quiche Lorraine while Keith had French Toast from heaven.

  B.Cafe (Belgian Brasserie)

Thanks to Nicole Holland, I can show you how the Quiche was served.

I always  include a recipe in my blogs and seeing as I already featured Challah French Toast I think it has to be the quiche.  My problem is although I love quiche I’m not very good at making it.  Here is a recipe from Epicurious that might change that. However, I would use ham instead of bacon, like they did at the B. Cafe.

Quiche Lorraine

    • 1 Pre-Made pie Pastry for a 9 inch single crust pie
    • 12 slices bacon
    • 1 cup shredded Emmental cheese
    • 1/3 cup minced onion
    • 4 eggs, beaten
    • 2 cups light cream
    • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Fry bacon until crispy.
  2. Chop bacon and combine with cheese and onions, then place mixture in pie shell.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, cream, salt and pepper then pour into pastry shell.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes in preheated 425 degree oven. Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake for 30 more minutes.
  5. Let stand 15 minutes before cutting

Back to the Farm

Scottish Shortbread Recipe

Built by German immigrants in 1840, Tip Top Farm in Colts Neck started out as a relatively modest asparagus farm, but by the mid-1900s it had become the country manse of the Chairman and chief stock holder of the National Starch Company.  Now it is home to a thoroughly modern 21st century family.

Along the way there were additions; to the house, and property–at one point the farm was nearly 50 acres. Unfortunately there were subtractions too–in the 1980s the property was subdivided and all the farm-related buildings were razed to make way for the houses that sprouted up next.

Fortunately the main house stayed intact, albeit with a bit of tweaking; each of the owners has left their mark.  In lots of ways the story of Tip Top Farm is like a historical novel, the various occupants and their fortunes and misfortunes, mirrored the economic and historical events of their time–Downton Abbey here we come.

While walking through this house is like walking through a time machine; you would never mistake it for a museum. Even though they kept many of the original architectural details like thick crown molding, multiple fireplaces, hand-hewn beams and wide plank floors, over the the last 18 years the current owners painted, updated and transformed every single room– Happily stopping by British Cottage for furnishings and accessories each step of the way.  What a relief to finally visit this fabulous home I’d heard so much about. And trust me it did not disappoint!

I’ll start with the formal living room which is textbook ready for a lesson on how to make a room that is often all buttoned up and off limits–attractive–and cozy.  The overstuffed furniture,  working fireplace and centrally located flatscreen tv keep this room in play. There is no doubt it looks refined but comfort rules.

I liked how they anchored the television with an antique credenza, clustering the oft unlovely family photos below. These look great, and note how the vintage metal frames complement the tarnished brass feet and back railing of the sideboard.Next up is what was originally the library and now I would call it the family room.  I was happy to be reunited with the oversized clock face we bought ten years ago for our Potting Shed from heaven in the second Stately Homes by the Sea Showhouse.  Not many people would have thought to put it here, but you have to admit it does pack a punch. The pine bench to the left is nearly 10 feet long and neatly fills the space–as it did in our upstairs hallway until the homeowner spied it!Next up is the dining room.That is one of our fabulous flip top tables in the window. Closed it is the perfect console table but open it can sit eight.  Everybody wants a more informal style dining table these days–but with a leaf–and mostly they don’t exist. So the two or three times a year you need more dining space this extra table cracks it.  Note that tucked under the console table is a bench for–you guessed it–extra seating.
The red sideboard is another British Cottage find.  Really distressed and on the industrial side so I admit I to being a bit perplexed when this went on the truck, but as you can see it is perfect for the spot.

Adjacent to the dining room is the bar/lounge/sunroom.  Once a screened in porch, it is now a four season room with a wall of windows that really brighten up this part of the house. We bought the antique pine sideboard in England  years ago and it is massive. By now you may be sensing a common thread -these homeowners are absolutely fearless when it comes to decorating.

Another case in point is this most fabulous breakfront we found at Green Square Antiques in Copenhagen. It is an antique Scandinavian pine piece that the owners of Green Square had shipped to Poland to have lacquered. Then it was shipped back to Denmark and finally on to us in New Jersey; it is easily 8′ tall.

Finally I made it to the kitchen and the first piece of British Cottage furniture purchased for this home-the pine corner cupboard.  Although the kitchen was totally renovated a few years ago, the cabinet stayed. I love everything about this room: the porcelain tile “wood” floor, the gorgeous tin ceiling, and the swivel chairs in a bold fabric.On the other side of the kitchen there is a breakfast room with a barn door concealing the pantry on one side. And custom cabinets on the other.Instead of built ins for this breakfast nook/butlers pantry the owners had us make two cabinets to flank a painted pine chest with drawers. Note another decorating secret in action–you can be fearless with green because all greens go together. If you don’t believe me think of a forest.

In the middle sits the nuts and bolts of the kitchen. But note how they still made room for some decorative elements. I’d completely forgotten about the fabulous antique Mora clock in original paint from Sweden…and couldn’t believe I’d sold it. Darn. It is stunning.

But so was the rest of this kitchen. The stained glass window where a door once hung, the gorgeous marble countertop which is really Calcutta-Grey Quartz. (Information that makes reading to the bottom of this blog totally worth the effort.  There are pages and pages written about whether to not to use marble in  a kitchen…this is the answer.)

Recipe for Scottish Shortbread

While there was still so much to see and admire I couldn’t ignore the refreshments any longer.  Who would looking at this mouth-watering display?  Strawberries and scones and homemade Scottish Shortbread. Heaven.  Definitely time for a cuppa as my English mother-in-law would say.

The original recipe from the owner’s grandmother, in her handwriting.  Short and sweet and totally delicious.

1 Cup Butter (1/2 Lb)
1/2 Cup Very Fine Sugar
2 Cups Flour
Blend together thoroughly.
Bake 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Year End Wrap Up

Johanna Roselle’s Bolognese Sauce

Inspiration is everywhere.

 We began 2017 at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, happily wandering through room after room of priceless artwork, and decorative objects from all over the world. Often people remark on how beautiful our store looks, and are amazed that neither Keith nor I have a background in design.  Over the years we’ve gotten very good at selecting and presenting the objects we sell basically by just looking at everything, everywhere.  Most of the largest museums have several floors filled with completely furnished rooms from different periods and even other countries on exhibit–making it possible to soak up several centuries of interior decorating–in just one afternoon.

Next up in January was Atlanta and the America’s Mart, literally over a million square feet of the latest and greatest in Home Furnishings and Accessories, and we wandered around there for several days.  Besides thousands of vendors and products, America’s Mart featured a series of room-size vignettes styled by a half dozen leaders in American interior design.Everything old is new again.                                                                                          While the first interior is from 18th century England, on display at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the second by a very 21st century Austin Texas designer, you can see similarities.  Pattern, color and texture are blended, not matched.  And some objects are simply  timeless, like blue and white porcelain, or an architectural mirror. Which leads me to the next bit of wisdom.

Don’t be so quick to get onto the next trend.                                                      Sometimes a tweak, an addition or a subtraction is all you need.   Maybe adding a contemporary lamp, or a modern painting  will add a dash of spice to a room that is beginning to look dated.  In the photo above, the owners of a fabulous century home were over their formal, darkwood dining room, but they were not about to give up on elegance either.  The answer?  An oversized rustic table partnered with contemporary art and an antique crystal chandelier.  Who wouldn’t want to linger over coffee and dessert in this room?

It doesn’t hurt to try something new.                                                                          One of the happier moments at British Cottage has been the introduction of upholsteryWe started with Hickory White, a third generation, family-owned company from North Carolina and then in the spring added Century Furniture.  Also, family owned and based in North Carolina, Century offers us access to the new miracle fabric, Crypton and a whole host of different designs.

Listen to the experts.                                                                                                       When we get the chance, we buy the floor samples at the Century and Hickory White showrooms when we go to the furniture markets.  That way we get the latest fabrics (which may not be in stores for months) and the newest styles–put together by world-class designers for the next season’s looks in home furnishings.  Along the way, we get a free lesson in design. I mean, who ever thought you would find mid-century modern at British Cottage?  But we loved this sofa with chaise by Century Furniture so much we decided to give it a shot.

Don’t be afraid to take it up a notch.                                                                              We get why RH went all gray.  It takes some thought (and balls) to add in color, but the payoff is huge when you do. Lillian August used these ancestor portraits in her showroom and after thinking about them for a year we decided to get them.  That pop of color and the scale of this artwork makes the whole store look better.  Lastly, have some fun.                                                                                                                   Decorating is all about making your home, and by extension, your life more enjoyable.  It does not have to be perfect; it has to be welcoming.  When I grew up in Rumson 1000 years ago many of my friends lived in huge houses with huge rooms with matching carpets and couches and window treatments and guess what?  Nobody was allowed in them!

Meanwhile, our kid-centric, (there were six siblings plus innumerable chums) pet-friendly house was filled with mismatched, hand-me-down furniture and we had people everywhere. No rooms were off limits; the sunroom might house a ping pong table one year, a pool table might be in the dining room the next.  Trust me, the joint was always jumping.

Mealtimes were huge in our family.  Our happiest moments were when our mom  (of Anglo-German descent who, fortunately for us, grew up next to a large Italian family in Rhode Island) cooked up a Sunday Sauce with Sausage and Meatballs.  However, I think we might have enjoyed this Bolognese Sauce from the Roselle family just as much.  Gene, and his wife Johanna, live in Tinton Falls and have been British Cottage customers for years.  It took nearly a year of pestering, but I finally got the recipe!

Johanna Roselle’s Bolognese Sauce

Add a glug of olive oil to a large cast iron pot, and saute 1/4 pound of diced chopped pancetta until brown.  Then chop and add one  medium sized onion, one stalk of celery, half a red pepper, and four large garlic cloves then cook until soft–about eight minutes

Add one and a half pounds of ground pork or two pounds of ground sirloin (I mixed them together when I made this recipe because it is a known fact I am unable to follow directions). Add salt and pepper to taste, and cook for about ten minutes on low heat.

Raise the heat to medium and add one and a half cups of whole milk and a dash of grated nutmeg and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated–stirring frequently.  Then add one cup of dry white wine, and cook until that nearly evaporates.

Add two cans of plum tomatoes roughly chopped and one cup of chicken stock and gently simmer for at least one and a half hours.    Keep remembering to stir the pot and add more milk if the sauce gets too thick.  Add some fresh basil at the end.

Serve over pappardelle with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

And don’t forget the Christmas Crackers.  Happy Holidays!


Into the Woods

Herbed Mozzarella Bread Recipe

Monmouth County never fails to deliver when it comes to home design.  There’s the eastern seashore with its mix of vintage and ultra-modern roosts built to embrace coastal living, and then out west lie the century old farms that made New Jersey the Garden State.

In between you can find everything from marvelous stately homes to garish McMansions, acres of subdivisions from every era, and finally, hidden in the hills and dales of Middletown, just forty miles from New York City, a slew of fabulous estates.  Over the years many of these properties were subdivided but, by and large, the wilderness was left intact.

When recent transplants from West Virginia had the chance to purchase a house in this section of Middletown, they were hesitant at first.  Empty nesters–they wondered–did they really need five bedrooms and four and a half acres?  Despite these initial misgivings they ultimately seized the opportunity to own an iconic home on a startlingly beautiful property.

Fortunately for us the new owners were in need of furniture and happened upon British Cottage…

Reflected in the mirror over an antique pine bench (from British Cottage) in the foyer of her new home is Angie Lambert.  Angie is a writer and a photographer,  Angie Lambert Photography.com and it was great fun to exchange notes. She and her husband, Eric, bought the house in March from the original owners who had lived there for nearly 60 years!

The Frank Lloyd Wright inspired home saw many additions over the years as that family grew.  From the original, fairly modest structure wings sprouted, hither and yon, inside and out.  There are multi-level decks, bedrooms, offices, suites, great rooms, and a greenhouse.  Amazingly, in a relatively short amount of time, the Lamberts have managed to corral all these various nooks and crannies into a cohesive and charming family home.From the foyer, you are swept into the multi-story living room–which until a few weeks ago housed only the family pool table!  However, since the Lamberts were planning a Halloween/House Warming bash furnishing the living room became a priority.  And one we were happily able to help them with.  I love how the custom Hickory White Chesterfield sofa and Bergere chair, plus the two navy Century armchairs, all look like they were made for this room.

As I said earlier this is a house of many levels, and most of the rooms have multiple entrances and exits. The dining room is adjacent to the foyer and steps lead down into the kitchen.

The kitchen was renovated in the late eighties and was probably the cat’s meow at the time.  Although I am not quite sure about the green countertops–or even what material they are made of–they look nice with the terracotta floor and classic all-wood cherry cabinets.  And I mean really, how many all-white bespoke kitchens with Carrara marble will look this good after 30 years?

On the other side of the kitchen is the family room, which in case you were wondering, is where the pool table landed.  Angie repurposed a huge Pottery Barn hutch to make a fabulous workstation, added a pub table and chairs from yours truly and made another great room for young and old to relax in and enjoy.

Beyond the pool table is the greenhouse that made me–yes–green with envy.  Angie was kind enough to adopt four of my super-sized Boston ferns that were never going to survive the winter outside.

But wait.  There is more!   If you turn left, you can go back upstairs to another den/family room.  In fact, this is the room that first brought Angie into British Cottage.  She was searching for items to furnish this space, which her husband had claimed as his own.

I love how Angie (with a little help from a chum, Denise Dobken) was able to take our large heron print, an antique pine cabinet, a more transitional style coffee table and an armchair upholstered in herringbone and pull it all together. This is a teachable moment for anyone interested in home decor.  It doesn’t have to match–it just all needs to blend.  Don’t be afraid to go big and play around with scale.

But enough already.  Angie was baking and I needed to pay attention.

Herbed Mozzarella Round Recipe

Herbed Mozzarella Round
June Brown, Veneta Oregon

Served warm with soup or salad, this pretty bread is hearty enough to round out a quick meal during busy holidays.

4-1/4 to 4-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast.
1 tablespoon sugar.
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm mashed potatoes (prepared with milk and butter)
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup warm milk (120 to 130 degrees)
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese
1 to 3 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon poppy seeds

In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups flour, yeast, and salt. Add potatoes and butter. Beat in warm milk until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a firm dough. Beat for 2 minutes. Turn onto a lightly floured surface, knead until smooth and elastic, about 5-7 minutes.

Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Punch dough down, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Roll into an 18-in. circle Transfer to a lightly greased 14-in. pizza pan. Sprinkle cheese over center of dough to within 5 in. of edge. Sprinkle with thyme and rosemary. Bring edges of dough to center, twist to form a knot. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine egg and milk, brush over top. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until golden brown. Cook for 20 minutes before slicing. Serve warm. Yield: 1 loaf

You cannot believe how good this smells and how wonderful it tastes.   It was like eating pizza from heaven, a perfect marriage of warm, melted cheese, and freshly cooked bread all enlivened by a dash of rosemary and thyme.  I don’t bake much but that is going to change!

The Maine Cottage

Mussels Marinara Recipe

We really do have a British cottage–it just lives on a lake in Maine.  The outdoor recreation there is fabulous but every so often you just have to put the paddle down.  Fortunately our next favorite thing is interior design so we are always tweaking the decor.  And now, at the end of our fourth season, it is really coming together.

Crammed or cozy–it is a fine line.  But painting the walls and ceilings a luscious BM Dove White makes the rooms seem twice as big and almost airy. Large windows and a super simple color scheme keeps your eyes on the view, which is right where it belongs.  Like living on a boat, it all works because there is a place for everything.  Instead of a console table there is bookcase (from our factory) behind the couch.  The vintage black velvet armchairs add some zip to the room without taking up too much floor space leaving room for an overstuffed slipcovered couch that is perfect for schmoozing–or snoozing.  And we just had to squeeze in a spool chair for balance. We knew we wanted a large, rustic dining table so we could play games, do puzzles, and fold wash there, as well as dine elegantly.  This one works because the wrought iron base, while decorative, is minimal, making it seem a lot smaller than it really is.  Upholstered chairs might seem an odd choice for cottage living, but I figured if we had a crowd they could do double duty as extra occasional seating.

The kitchen was made by the factory in Hungary that makes all of our bespoke furniture.  It is plain and simple and that is the way we wanted to roll.  Dining is important to us, especially when on holiday, but nobody wants to spend time cleaning and fussing.  The two inch thick oak counter tops and painted cabinets are basically spray and wipe which works for me!  The lack of upper cabinets and shelves makes the space feel more open and the fact that everything is put away always makes it look tidy.

We had just enough room to squeak in an island and a pine pantry cupboard–also from the British Cottage oeuvre.  It is nice to have the extra storage and seating, and space to put things away.  Clutter is the enemy of tight quarters!

The master bedroom is down below the main floor in space that was probably carved out of the basement.  It was paneled in floor to ceiling knotty pine, and it felt like you were living in a man cave from the  1980’s.  Once again BM’s White Dove came to the rescue.

A king sized British Cottage bed, flanked by brass sconces from Currey and Co along with an antique chandelier make for a cozy, light-filled retreat, which is all I want when I am on holiday.   The other furniture in the room is a large antique pine chest of drawers from Hungary–which is big enough to share–and a toile slipcovered armchair that came from Domain twenty years ago.  It is the perfect spot to repair to when the gang is in town.

They reside in the loft on the third floor where we have squeezed in a queen bed, a day bed and a regular twin.

The queen is a British Cottage reject–we were fooling around with changing the headboard shape and it did not come out right.  But all was not lost because it fits perfectly into this alcove with just enough space left for an antique pine nightstand.  We have been selling versions of this for over thirty years and they never fail to deliver.

Our British Cottage twin pine bed with the squared off headboard is tucked away to one side. It makes a fine little nesting place for our six year old grandson.

The metal day bed is for his little brother.

And there is still room for a little office space for me.  Some people don’t like to work on vacation but having the internet available 24/7 makes it possible for us to get away as often as we do.

Naturally when in Maine you want to be outside.  But sometimes the rain falls, or the snow drops or the fog rolls in.  Then it is nice to have places to curl up with a good book, sip a cup of strong, sweet tea, or cuddle a small child.  And that is what this cottage living is all about–making time for family, for reading, or even–heaven forbid–a nap!

But soon, always, it is time for dinner.

Mussels Marinara

This recipe is for two.  Buy one sack of the freshest mussels you can find.  Then make a marinara sauce–do not use jarred or canned sauce.  If you can buy a prepared sauce, you can make marinara sauce.

Chop up an onion and toss in a saute pan with a glug of olive oil.  Then put in three (or more) cloves of garlic–dice as desired.  Saute until the onion is translucent and add a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes.  You can chop these up before you put them in a pan but I think that makes a mess so I mostly just squish them with my fingers quickly in the saute pan–before they heat up too much.

If I remember I like to add some grated carrot–you really can’t taste it but I think it adds a bit of texture and extra nutrition to the dish.  Red pepper flakes, oregano, thyme, basil–all or none of the above can go in your sauce.  Keep smooshing the tomatoes; I don’t mind if they are a bit lumpy.  I might add half a can of tomato paste now also because I want a fairly thick sauce to hang on the mussels. (And I can thin it out later with the liquid left over from steaming my mussels.)

And that is where I differ from many recipes for Mussels Marinara.  I don’t like to cook my mussels in my tomato sauce–instead I steam them in a separate pan in a half cup of white wine, a crushed garlic clove, and a knob of butter.  They only need to cook a couple of minutes until the mussels open up.  Strain your mussels, reserving the leftover liquid, and add them to your marinara sauce.

Serve over a warm bowl of hot linquine and garnish with chopped parsley and serve.   I like to add lots of freshly grated parmesan to my portion–but that is clearly a matter of taste–some say you should never sully seafood with cheese.  Either way enjoy!


Christina’s World

Lobster Roll Recipe

Possibly the most fascinating house I was in this year had hardly any furniture and nobody lived there.  It’s where Christina Olson, immortalized forever by Andrew Wyeth’s painting of her crawling up a windswept hill lived her entire life.

I never really liked the painting.  It always seemed creepy and sad but when you summer in coastal Maine it is hard to avoid the legendary Wyeth and I am bedazzled by many of his other works.  At least once a year I make a pilgrimage to The Farnsworth Museum in Rockland to soak up some Wyeth-ness and this year, for a few extra dollars purchased a ticket to visit The Olson House in nearby Cushing.

And boy, was I glad I did.  The house, along with the property it sits on, offers a breathtaking glimpse into the world of this iconic painter and his unlikely muse.  

Everywhere you look; through the windows, at the walls, out the doors, there is a story ready to unfold.  The light streaming through the leaded glass windows reflects, and makes you reflect on the rooms and the lives of the people who lived there. Were they unbearably long and hard or was there joy here too?  For every dark shadow there appears a bright spot, much like an Andrew Wyeth painting.  

If you get a chance, go.  And go soon because it is only a matter of time before the house is cleaned up, and the public partitioned off.  Right now every room is accessible and virtually untouched from the days the Olsons lived there.  You can see the rooms as Andrew Wyeth saw them and know how terrible, and how wonderful Christina’s world must have been.

Make sure to walk the grounds as well as tour the house.  We were early so we wandered through the field familiar to us from Christina’s World. As we approached the riverbank we discovered a small graveyard and were surprised to see that Andrew Wyeth had joined the Olsons in perpetuity.

I didn’t want to leave either.

However, it was past lunch time and those of us still of this world were getting hungry. The good news was we were only twenty or so minutes away from  McLoon’s Lobster Shack.   In the isn’t this a small world after all vein, McLoons is actually owned by a branch of the Douty family, as in our very own Lusty Lobster in Highlands and offer what Yankee Magazine reckons is the number one Lobster Roll in Maine.  Maybe.It was really good, but if you can’t get to Maine anytime soon don’t fret, my recipe may just be better.

Best Lobster Roll Recipe

Lobster Rolls are a cinch to make–all you need are a few key ingredients.

  1. Freshly cooked lobster.  When ever I put lobster on the menu I always get a few extra for lobster rolls the next day.  In Maine we use soft shells because they are easier to crack open, but probably hard shells will be the only option elsewhere.
  2. Hellman’s Mayonaise, yup, it has to be Hellman’s.
  3. Hot Dog Rolls.  And this gets tricky out of Maine because you want them sliced down the middle–not sideways.
  4. Celery (optional)
  5. Butter (essential)

First chop your lobster meat into bite sized chunks and finely chop up a small amount of celery.  (This is where I depart from The Yankee Magazine reviewer; this is how my mother from Rhode Island did it and I like the little bit of crunch–it breaks up the chewiness of the lobster).

Then melt some butter in a frying pan and cook your hot dog rolls inside and out until golden brown.

Add a dollop of Hellman’s to your lobster and celery mixture and insert into your freshly toasted hot dog roll.

That’s it.  Serve with your favorite potato chip.

Carriage House Marina

Grilled Salmon Recipe

A hundred years ago Sea Bright was just a small fishing village nestled on the sand spit separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Shrewsbury River. The humbleness of the town was in direct contrast to the grandeur of the large vacation homes surrounding it.  Mainly owned by wealthy New Yorkers, they employed architects, like the renowned Stanford White, to design intricate, multi-storied shingle style houses so they could enjoy the Jersey Shore’s ample sunshine and refreshing sea breezes in comfort.

Over the years a combination of high tides, arson, and developers, eager to cash in on the easy charms of salt air and sparkling sand, wiped out most of those original mansions.  In their stead, a motley crew of townhomes, garden apartments and condominiums sprouted along the beach and river fronts.   Fortunately, hidden from the main drag behind a pair of those nondescript multifamily units, one of the original structures is still standing, a lovely carriage house that is now home to the owners of the aptly named, Carriage House Marina.

This beautiful building is a survivor–no mean feat considering it sits barely above sea level a stone’s throw from the river.  Nor’easters, and of course hurricanes are a constant threat–the latest was Sandy in 2012.

Then, several feet of water flooded the multi-level interior, but you would never know it looking at it today.  All the original paneling and woodwork, which had to be created by master boat builders, has the lustrous patina of furniture cared for by generations of fastidious housekeepers.  In fact, the interior makes you feel like you are aboard ship, sailing on a vintage schooner down the Shrewsbury River, not just sitting next to it!

Seated at the massive dining room table you feel like the room should be rocking–although truthfully, given the owners’ penchant for entertaining I understand sometimes it does.

The living room captures the feeling of a sea captain’s private quarters.While the side yard is a parking lot–this is a working marina after all–there is a large front lawn that ends where the river starts.   Flanked by daylilies and hydrangeas, and a huge border of what looks to be ornamentals, but is, in reality, a massive vegetable garden, it is the perfect spot for plunking down with a book on a sunny day–or to have a party!

While any excuse for a party is a good one, one particular occasion is near and dear to me.  Every five years or so the owners (see photo below) host a reunion get-together for the husband’s Rumson Fair Haven High School class, of which, full disclosure, I am a member. (And no way am I giving up the year).  The party, which also serves as a fundraising dinner to support scholarships for college bound RFH seniors, is a team effort and our cohorts from all over the country make the journey back home to join in the fun.

The tent belongs to the marina so they take care of putting that up.  Then a gang of us always pitch in to set up the tables and pull it all together.  This year was slightly more daunting as all our prep work took place during a nor’easter so high tides and strong winds made it a bit more challenging than usual.

It certainly helps that another classmate and her husband own Guaranteed Plants & Florist in nearby Navesink.  Their delightful nursery has been a must stop for garden lovers for more than forty years.  With over 8500 square feet of greenhouse space, these horticultural wizards work magic every day.  Our party would not be the same without them.

Their experienced floral designers always make sure we have gorgeous flower arrangements on all the tables (we always do a sit-down dinner).  And they also schlep over these  huge palms that we use to decorate the inside of the tent.

Somehow it all comes together.  It doesn’t hurt that one of the owners of the fabulous Lusty Lobster–the wholesale and retail fish store in Highlands–was also in my class so he, thankfully, is in charge of catering.  The food is always, simply, delicious.

 This year he served a grilled salmon that belied any thought of the Salmon Fatigue Syndrome I have been suffering lately.

The fabulous sunset was a bonus and then it was time for a little old fashioned rock and roll with the Thom White Band.   For us children of the seventies, a party is just not a party without live music.  Thom also went to RFH–albeit a few years before us (although you would never know it by looking at him) and he and his fellow musicians are simply terrific!

So about that Grilled Salmon…

According to Doug (from Lusty Lobster), the only thing on the salmon that evening was salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil.  Just apply all of the former liberally, then place on the grill skin side down. When grill marks appear and the skin gets crisp, turn over very carefully. Continue cooking until the salmon is opaque in the center.  Garnish with lemon wedges and parsley and serve.

I am definitely going to try this at home and will report back to you–it can’t be that easy!

My sister Laurie made a fabulous baked salmon earlier this summer.  She just put a whole salmon filet in a baking dish; topped it with a generous amount of sea salt, a substantial amount of brown sugar and lots of pats of butter, then cooked it at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. It was fabulous but the clean up was a bit intense because all the brown sugar ends up crusted to the baking pan.  But I bet you could do this on the grill in a disposable baking pan.

Meanwhile, The New York Times’ Sam Sifton swears by a Dijon mustard brown sugar mix.  And wisely lines his baking sheet with foil and uses portion sized salmon fillets that cook at 400 for about 12 minutes.  This too could be done on the grill I bet.

The good news is I am motivated to start cooking salmon again.

Meanwhile, I can’t end this post without acknowledging Elise Hughes aka Lisey Baker on the far right,  who took all these fabulous photos and Carol “Martha Stewart” Baird, (center) for pulling the decor together and keeping us on task.  You guys are the best!

Special thanks to everyone who took part in this event–we could not do it without you–and make sure you pencil in July 2022 for the next one!

Laurie’s Cottage

Martha Stewart’s Blueberry Buckle recipe

Part of the fun of having a cottage on the Maine coast is connecting with my sister and her family.  She married a Mainer 30 years ago and has happily lived on the Pemaquid Peninsula–a bucolic landmass encircled by craggy clumps of rock and endless sea–ever since.

Seven years ago, she and her husband purchased a second property on the peninsula.  Built in the 1920’s as a retreat for school teachers on a cliff overlooking the Damariscotta River, and mostly untouched since then, their cottage is a scenic outpost for family and friends all summer long.

Perched on the cliff’s edge with a million dollar view, once inside it feels like you are actually living aboard a ship.  All timber framed with a small galley kitchen, a center keeping room with a large round table and wood stove, with three small bedrooms neatly tucked away in the corners, there is no electricity and water comes from a large cistern attached to the dwelling.

You look out and see what inspired Winslow Homer and the Wyeth men, all of whom honed their artistry on these shores.  Then you feel it in your bones.

In the bedrooms there are patchwork quilts and lace curtains to soften all that knotty pine.  The daybeds are just perfect for curling up for a nap or reading on a rainy day.  And finally, when darkness falls, it is lovely to open the curtains and lie back and watch the stars glimmer while drifting off to sleep.

Minimalism is not Laurie’s thing and collections abound; from bottles to mermaids, there is something fun to see everywhere you look.

But I digress.  Because on this day we were not here to admire the view, or the eclectic interior, even better–we were here for a Lobster Bake!Once a summer they host a Lobster Bake and luckily we were on board for this one.  Trust me, this is not for the faint of heart.  The menu included 48 lobsters, 20 pounds of steamers, 36 ears of corn, 10 pounds of potatoes and 24 eggs!  And let’s not forget to mention the hot dogs and hamburgers, steak tips, appetizers and blueberry buckle–there was, no doubt, enough food to sink a battleship!

And just like going to battle, a ton of preparation is required.  First you have to assemble all the ingredients and then cart them down a steep incline to the cottage.  That is all except the lobsters–they come by sea.

Because this all bakes in seaweed on the shore, timing is everything–you need to do this at low tide.

A fair amount of heavy lifting is required so it helps if a few strong men are part of the program.  First a fire is started:Then the children gather seaweed to line the bottom of metal troughs. Next comes the lobsters.Then potatoes and onions wrapped in foil, and partially shucked ears of corn are added.  (There I am in a key supervisory role on the right).Top with bags of steamers, and a couple of dozen eggs in the carton.

Add the seaweed and lug on top the fire.

Toss in a few buckets of sea water and 45 minutes later it’s all done.

The way you make sure it’s all ready is remarkably simple.  You check the eggs.  If they are hard boiled then everything else is steamed to perfection. Serve on huge platters with melted butter and enjoy.  No seasoning is required; the salty ocean water and briny seaweed lend enough flavor.

It seems like a crazy amount of work but everyone pitches in from the littlest tyke to the oldest hands and trust me, the effort is worthwhile.

Here is just part of the crew on hand that perfect Maine summer day. From 86 to almost two years old a great time was had by all. Even young Oscar here, who clearly did not appreciate his seaweed chapeau…

brightened up after an afternoon nap in the arms of his good friend, Laurie.

Because most of us are not actually going to host a Lobster Bake I thought I would include a recipe for Blueberry Buckle, which was 12 year old Meghan’s contribution to the feast.  She made it all by herself and it was delicious.  I’d never had a Buckle before; we are more of a crumble kind of family.  But I will now.  This recipe is courtesy of Martha Stewart, who has her own fabulous place in Maine, up north in Southwest Harbor.  Let’s hope it tastes as good as Meghan’s!

Martha Stewart’s Blueberry Buckle


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 5 cups wild or cultivated blueberries
  • Streusel Topping


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a springform baking pan, and dust with flour, tapping out excess. Set aside.

  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce mixer speed to low, and add egg and vanilla, beating until fully combined.

  4. Add reserved flour mixture, alternating with the milk, a little of each at a time, starting and ending with the flour mixture. Remove from mixer. Gently fold in blueberries.

  5. Pour batter into prepared pan; sprinkle streusel topping over cake. Bake until a cake tester comes out batter-free, 60 to 70 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove from pan; cool for 15 minutes before serving.

    And to gild the proverbial lily, as they say, there was whipped cream on hand to top the Buckle.  None of that store bought in a can stuff for Laurie, we just shook a mason jar full of heavy cream and voila!  Amazing. Just click on the link below to see how easy it is.

    Make Whipped Cream with Just a Mason Jar

Full disclosure: Many of the photos in this blog were taken by Laurie–who, like many people in Maine, wears many hats: artist, chef, childcare specialist, seamstress, and photographer just to name a few.