Holiday cranberry squares and a tribute

Although this post is a departure from my usual, I have been wanting to share this very personal holiday story for awhile now. It’s about a woman named Gail Cronin and her holiday cranberry squares. This story actually began over thirty years ago, when I was a newlywed. My husband and I, for a reason I no longer remember, decided to give up our cute but very noisy apartment in Harvard Square and move to an idyllic little coastal town North of Boston called Ipswich.

On one of our very first weekends there we happened to drop by a Christmas fair that was being held at the First Church of Ipswich. While looking over the offerings at the bake table we decided on some yummy looking cranberry squares. They were the best cranberry squares I had ever eaten (actually they were the first cranberry squares I had ever eaten). I asked the woman at the bake table if she knew who had made them and if it was possible to get the recipe.  She took my number and said she would inquire. I really didn’t expect to ever hear anything back, but the very next day I received a call from a very sweet elderly lady named Gail Cronin. She not only said she would love to share the recipe but would like it even more if I would come for a visit and have some tea.

The following weekend I paid a visit to Gail. She was the nicest, kindest, woman imaginable. She was well into her eighties and what she told me I have never forgotten. She explained that she was an only child who never married. She had no family whatsoever and most of her friends had either passed on or were very ill and in nursing homes. She told me she was an “unremarkable woman” who had an “unremarkable life”. Her final words struck me profoundly when she said, “when I die, it will be like I never even existed”.

I just couldn’t shake off how sad I felt for her and how very alone she was. I promised to pay her another visit right after the holidays. Well not surprisingly my busy life at the time got in the way. The holidays came and went and I never did contact Gail. Months later, when I did finally reach out to her I learned she had passed away just a few weeks earlier. I barely knew this woman but in some weird way I felt like I had failed her since I broke my promise to visit her right after the holidays. Her final words of  “when I die it will be like I never even existed” haunted me. I made a vow that I would never forget her and that I would keep her name and my memory of her alive. I can honestly say, I have done just that. For over thirty years I have been making her cranberry squares every Christmas. Originally my family thought it somewhat strange that I pay tribute to basically a stranger but they know it wouldn’t be Christmas without Gail’s Cronin’s cranberry squares.

Here is the original recipe card she gave me if you too would like to try them. It’s time worn and stained but it is in her handwriting which somehow makes me feel more connected to her.

Gail Cronin's Cranberry squares 1

Gail Cronin’s Cranberry Squares side one

Gail Cronin's cranberry squares2

Gail Cronin’s cranberry squares side 2

Within months of our move to Ipswich the novelty of living in a cute little town had worn off.  The reality of a 3-4 hour daily commute most likely had something to do with it and we moved back closer to Boston.  Now I am not a religious person at all but I am somewhat spiritual. In looking back, I  don’t know why we ended up living in Ipswich for only a matter of months but I do know something, or someone guided me to Gail Cronin. I spent less than an hour with her over 30 years ago but she has been a part of our holiday ever since.

I want to wish you all a very Happy New Year and if you have any inclination, please say a little toast to the memory of  “an unremarkable woman” who had an “unremarkable life” named Gail Cronin. I have never forgotten her, and I never will.






Five days and counting

I am so excited! I feel like a little girl going to Disney for the first time because in just five days I will be flying out to attend what is simply referred to as “High Point” or “Market”. Held in High Point NC, this event is the largest industry trade show in the world. All the top furniture, accessory, and lighting companies introduce their newest products to the trade, while celebrity designers host parties, seminars and “meet and greets” throughout the thousands of show rooms.

Social media is all abuzz with which parties to attend and which vendors are “must see” however the number one question is “what are you wearing? Yes, crazy I know but hey, this is the design world equivalent to attending the Oscars and one must “dress”. Of course this whole wardrobe dilemma is complicated that by fact that the hotels are all far away (45 mins. drive) so once you leave in the morning there is no going back to change. This means, walking through show rooms for 6-10 hours a day, followed by evening cocktail parties. SOOO what’s a girl to do?

In my case, I made a call to my good friend and wardrobe stylist Susan Kanoff, the owner of A great New Look . Susan is down to earth, kind, and somehow makes what could be a very unpleasant experience for someone like myself (who is not confident in either my looks or body) actually feel good about clothes. I don’t know how she does it but she does.

Susan Kanoff of A Great New Look

Susan Kanoff of A Great New Look

Susan worked her magic last week and now all my stress about what to wear is completely gone. Before we met (in my closet) Susan had “pre-shopped” for me and sent me a number of online links to dresses, jackets and shoes that she thought would be good for the trip. I ordered most of them so we started out our session with me trying on everything and Susan either giving her approval or disapproval of fit and over all look. Luckily everything Susan had me order was free shipping and return so I ordered WAY more than I needed and we had plenty to choose from.

We spent the morning putting together all my outfits and Susan accessorized everything with shoes, bags and jewelry.  So that I wouldn’t forget what goes with what, she photographed everything for a style book right on my cell phone. At High Point, all I have to do is scroll through my cell phone and choose an outfit. So easy!

These are a few possibilities Susan put together for me.

outfit #1

I loved how she made it so easy for me by accessorizing everything.

same dress different look!

So in five days I will be there soaking it all in and sharing all my exciting new discoveries of trends and products with my clients and my readers. If you want to see a bit of High Point for yourself be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook where I will be posting photos and updates throughout the week.

How about you? have you heard of or been to Market at High Point?

Have you ever worked with a stylist?






Friday’s Photo

I am so excited to share this photo of the newest member of our family.

Sex: Male, Breed:Pointer/Spaniel mix? Age: 9 months-1 year.

This little guy has had quite a first year. Given away by his first family, then heartlessly abandoned by the side of the interstate in Tennessee by his second family. Rescued by a good Samaritan and shipped to The Pixel Fund in Maine, he was adopted by a third family only to be returned a few weeks later (their existing dog kept biting him). He was then fostered by a fourth family for a few weeks until my husband and I saw his photo on Petfinder last Saturday. Sunday we filled out the adoption application, Monday we found out we were approved, and on Tuesday we drove to Maine to give this guy his fifth but permanent home. I still can’t believe I said yes to getting another dog after loosing Tucker but here we go again!!!

He is sweet, loving, full of energy and most surprisingly; house broken and knows “sit”. The one thing this guy doesn’t know is his new name:  T. NEVERS (Nevey for short). T. Nevers is a reference to where we used to vacation on Nantucket (Tom Nevers) as well as a reference to me saying over and over “I will NEVER get another dog”.

Which just goes to prove…Never say Never!


Patiently Waiting For Spring

I am not one of those New Englander’s who is constantly complaining about the snow. I actually LIKE the snow. There comes a point though (late March) when one more storm is just enough to push me over the edge.  So today, rather than spending the day as planned with clients, I am snowed in at home while we get another 12″ of snow.

To give myself a little lift and to remember to be grateful for the beauty of the snow and not focus on the inconvenience of it all,  I wanted to share some of my favorite snow photos with you. All were taken near my home over the past few Winters.

farm after a snow storm at sunrise

This was taken at sunrise and the fresh covering of snow was so beautiful.

snowy farm at sunrise

Aren’t these colors gorgeous! I could design a whole room around this Color palette.

after the storm trees at sunrise

The snow was actually this pink when I took this photo just as the sun was rising.

I have “a thing” for old barns in the snow..what else can I say?

apple trees covered with snow

I Love how these Apple trees became snow sculptures after the storm.

snowy stop sign

yes, that is a Stop sign under there.

farm with snowy carts

Traditional horse drawn carts waiting for Spring and all the families that will soon descend upon the Farm.

blue mail box in snow

This is my street just after the snow ended. I love the little pop of blue in the corner. It reminds me of accessorizing a White sofa with a bright Blue throw pillow.

 Even though the snow is indeed beautiful, what has really cheered me up today during the storm is this beautiful Yellow Orchid sitting on my kitchen counter. I really feel like Spring is so close….oh wait…what was that they said about this weekend??…more snow!!!

How about you, love the snow or ready for Spring?

If you would like a Spring pick me up for your home give me a call and ask about my Designer for the Day services.

Happy New Year and One Goal For 2013

Happy New Year! I hope you had a wonderful holiday with family and friends. In a follow up to my previous post where I shared how unready I was for Christmas, I want to let you know that at the 11th hour I  managed to pull it all together, got the presents wrapped, the tables cleared and set for Christmas and I really enjoyed my down time with my family. Now however, I am SO ready for 2013. I love the start of the New Year.  It’s an opportunity for a redo, a fresh start and a clean slate.

Although I have never been big on New Years Resolutions, I do like to set  goals for both my business and my personal life. This year I decided that one simple goal will cover it all. My 2013  goal is to feel good everyday. I believe if I focus on feeling good everyday and making the choices that I need to make in order to feel good everyday, 2013 will be my best year yet both personally and professionally. This saying from my Inspirational Quotes Pinterest board sums it up perfectly.


Simple right? I know if I follow the above rules I will accomplish my goal and feel good everyday. Anyone want to join me?

I want to wish you all a Happy New Year and thank you  for reading my blog. I am grateful and it makes me feel good.

How about you? Do you make New Years Resolutions or set goals? I would love to hear.

My Shocking Christmas Confession with Photos!

Several years back when I was still working full time as a photographer I used to have the most beautifully decorated house at Christmas. My photography business slowed down right after Thanksgiving and I had a full month to decorate, shop, wrap, and bake. I would spend hours at the kitchen table creating Martha Stewart inspired Christmas crafts and searching through my cookbooks to bake complicated and jaw dropping sugar creations. One year I made 10 fresh cranberry Christmas trees to give as teacher’s gifts. I can still remember my finger pain from pushing all those pins through hundreds of fresh cranberries.

cranberry tree

Now that I make my living as a decorator I am so busy this time of the year with clients that I have no time to decorate my own home. We did get the tree up but as far as shopping, wrapping, baking and decorating…to say I am behind is an understatement. As a blogger however, I feel huge pressure to show you photos of my spectacularly decorated tree and my perfectly decorated home. In fact, for the very first time in my entire adult life I have a shocking confession… My house is not decorated!

Yup, less than a week away from the big day and not a sprig of holly in sight.  So to take pressure off  myself and maybe help some of you feel less guilty if you too are in a similar “undecorated” situation I am going to bare my soul and show you what my house REALLY looks like.

My kitchen table that I wished looked like this:

christmas table

Home DIT

actually looks like this….covered with grocery bags and a wet paint chair on top.

orange chair

You see, I am in the middle of painting two kitchen chairs for a client that will be delivered on Friday.

My dinning table that I would love to have look like this

martha stewart table

Martha Stewart Christmas

actually looks like this

Really bad…I know. This mess is actually caused by my son who has just launched a new Boston food delivery service. He and his business partners have been working 18-20 hour days and splitting their time between crashing at the office and working on the website at my dining room table.

Our presents under our Christmas tree which should look like this

actually look like this

Totally embarrassing I know…so as you can see…I have some work ahead of me. My last client appointment is this coming Saturday so you can only imagine what I will be doing Sunday and Monday….or not.

I did have to laugh though as my poor husband in an attempt to help decorate, did this on our deck chair with the left over branches cut off the Christmas tree.

I haven’t had a chance to ask him but I’m wondering if he saw this image on my Pinterest board? Actually, I doubt he even knows what Pinterest is.

I hope you don’t judge me and I hope you got a laugh over my shocking Christmas confession. (In full disclosure I do plan on taking the presents out of the Amazon boxes and wrapping them)

Next year I vow to have a beautifully decorated house…with photos…I promise!

So are you done with your decorating? Anyone in the same situation as me? I would love to hear.

Goodbye My Sweet Boy

On September 27th we lost our 13 year old Weimaraner, Tucker…A.K.A. Tuckman, Tuckey, Big Boy.  It was a very sudden and traumatic loss as there was no warning and he had no illness. He passed away at home after suffering from complications from a very minor surgical procedure to remove a cyst on his eye lid.  Our family is heart broken as he was the the special one, the once in a life time dog, the dog “love of our lives”.


In order to deal with my grief I felt I needed to dedicate a post to Tucker; not as a sad narrative of loosing him but to celebrate his wonderful happy and long life.

Tucker was my older son Ben’s 13 Birthday present. He had begged for “his own dog” for several years as his younger bother had claimed our first dog Maddy as “his dog”. This is Tucker the day we got him Sept. 7th 1999.

He was the cutest little puppy and adored our other dog Maddy (kind of looks like my younger son who’s in the photo is claiming both dogs as his).

He grew big really quickly and soon towered over our little Madddy… hence the nick name”Big Boy”, as Maddy was now “Little Girl”. He was such a big part of my boys life and was in every Christmas photo until recently when we stopped doing Christmas photos because the boys got “too old” for Christmas photos.

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit but Tucker was very spoiled and never shy about making himself comfortable on the choicest spot on the sofa. This usually involved his head on a pillow or two and his arms and legs stretched out.

I honestly don’t think Tucker knew he was a dog. He did almost everything we did and went almost everywhere we went. This past year my husband has worked at home and every single morning he and Tucker went to Starbucks.  Tucker would ride like a human right in the front passenger seat and patiently wait in the car while my husband got his coffee and Tucker got his petite scone or whatever yummy treat my husband thought he would enjoy that day.

Like all Weimaraners, Tucker LOVED to run. I can best describe him as bursting with joy when he was let loose in the woods or on the beach. He would run way ahead then run equally as fast back to us as if saying…come on…Let’s go! This photo is one of my happiest memories of him on the beach in the Winter when dogs are allowed to run free.

We had planned a hike with him this weekend but instead we are mourning his loss. I am grateful though for the memories and photo of the last hike we went on just a few weeks ago. It was a beautiful day and while visiting our son in Burlington VT we decided to hike Camels Hump. This is the last photo I have of him…glad it is such a happy memory…. He was one special dog and he will live in our hearts for ever.

Goodbye my sweet boy, you are now with Maddy once again…rest in peace.

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