Shopping Houston

Two weeks of sitting in front of my computer - editing photos for upcoming magazine publications has left me with eye strain and an aching shoulder and right arm. The landscapers are here with their leaf blowers, mowers and trimmers making a racket outside of my open window. I need a break. So I'm off to explore a shop or two that I haven't been to and a couple of my favorites. This is work related (that's what I tell myself) for some H&G articles I'm working on. Inspiration is never far away in the city of Houston, where Interior Design is taken very seriously.
These photos are from the website of Meredith O'Donnell, whose shop I've been wanting to check out for some time. Love the clean lines and soothing colors.
A pop of blue/green/grey contrasts nicely with the white................................After that I'll cruise over to - Indulge. - always a great place for beautiful things.
Indulge carries my favorite lines in furniture, linens and tabletop goodies.

They also design their own line of furniture and headboards - like the one below.
This next one is Blanc d'Ivoire
I've collected Juliska for years.
Now and then, I'll add a new piece to my collection. Juliska is hand blown and oh so thin and delicate.
Arte Italica - I would love to have a few pieces of that.

Juliska serving pieces. They also carry Match and Vietri.
A couple of hours at these shops and I'll want to come home and re-arrange everything in my house.
Top Photos - Meredith O'Donnell
Bottom Photos - Indulge



When we are at our country house in the Texas Hill Country, we make a point to take a drive over to Fredericksburg and have breakfast or lunch at Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe.
Last weekend, we were at the pied á terre in Houston and I had a craving for some of Rebecca's brunch fare, so I tried my hand at the Créme Brulée French Toast and the Individual Baked Omelets.
Rebecca's cookbook "The Pastry Queen" is full of recipes that I want to try. The next one will have to be The "Texas Big Hairs Lemon-Lime Meringue Tarts" featured on the cover.
If you are ever in Fredericksburg, Texas - make sure and stop in to sample some of the delectable goodies. Rather Sweet is tucked back into a beautiful little courtyard and has both indoor and outdoor dining.
Central Market had just roasted up a batch of Hatch New Mexico Green Chile. There are those that would say you haven't lived until you've tasted a Hatch Green Chile, still warm from being roasted over an open fire. I don't know if I'd go that far - but they are delicious. I chopped them up and put them in the individual omelets, along with tomatoes, chives, potatoes and apple smoked bacon.

I added blueberries and a blackberry reduction to the French Toast. You can either make the it in a baking pan or do like I did and make elegant individual ones in 4-inch ramekins.
The individual omelets are baked in muffin tins, but I think next time I would try them in a 3 inch ramekin. Sort of like a mini soufflé.
I often have a group over for brunch and these will be on the menu next time. Both can be made a few hours ahead. The ingredients in the omelets can be varied as can the toppings for the French Toast. A carafe of coffee along with Champagne and everyone is happy.
The French Toast recipe calls for 3/4 cup sugar. As a rule - I always cut the sugar in half - so I reduced the sugar to 2 tablespoons and did not add the sugar topping. The blueberries and the blackberry reduction added plenty of sweetness. Next time - I will skip the sugar altogether. Crunchy on the outside and creamy in the middle - this may be the best French Toast I've ever had.

The Recipes:


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium russet or red-skinned potato, peeled and cut in 1/2 inch dice
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped into small pieces
a fresh tomato, seeded and finely chopped
6 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream or half-and-half
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Dash of hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter 6 Texas-size (3 1/2 inches in diameter and 2 inches deep) muffin cups or line them with muffin wrappers. Melt the butter in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Add the potato, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt; sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the red pepper and sauté for 15 minutes longer, continuing to stir occasionally. Taste to make sure the potato is cooked through; if not, cook for a few minutes longer, until the potato is fully cooked but not mushy. Remove the vegetable mixture from the heat and stir in the bacon and tomato.

Whisk the eggs, cream, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, the pepper, and hot sauce together in a large bowl. Stir in the vegetable mixture. Pour the egg mixture evenly into the muffin cups. (The egg mixture may almost reach to top, which is okay.) bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Lightly shake the pan; if the omelets look or feel runny in the middle, bake for 5 minutes longer, until firm. Serve warm. Yield - 6 omelets

Créme Brulée French Toast

1 large loaf of challah bread
8 large egg yolks
4 cups heavy whipping cream or half-and-half
3/4 cup plus 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Grease a 2 1/2 - quart oven-safe casserole or soufflé dish. Slice the challah into 1/2-inch slices, then into cubes. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, cream, 3/4 cup sugar, salt, vanilla, and butter. Put a quarter of the bread cubes in the casserole dish. Pour in enough of the cream mixture to cover the bread. Using a spoon, press the cream mixture into the bread so that it is thoroughly soaked. Continue layering in the same way until all the bread is soaked with the cream mixture. Cover the casserole tightly with aluminum foil and refrigerate at least 1 hour, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Put the casserole in a larger baking pan and set it in the oven. Pour enough boiling water into the larger pan to reach halfway up the sides of the casserole. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, until the top is light brown and set.

Remove the casserole from the oven and sprinkle the 3 to 4 tablespoons sugar over the top in an even layer. Use a broiler set on high or a kitchen torch to cook the topping until the sugar becomes brown and liquefies. (It will harden as it cools) Serve warm or at room temperature.
Yield - 8 to 10 servings

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Sotto Il Monte Vineyards



I celebrated my 50th birthday in July and received a very special gift from a very special friend.
"The Beaded Pillow" My friend Susie worked on this pillow for two years before presenting it to me. She lives in Europe and called me while she was on a layover to Amsterdam. "Where did you put the pillow?" First I put it on the little French chair that once belonged another good friend, Stephanie.Then I tried it on the white linen sofa. (Please ignore the unfinished walls, floors and the stack of windows and doors behind the sofa - story of my life) It really brightened up the room. Susie spent a few hundred hours working on this pillow, it is very intricate with hundreds and hundreds of beads. (Click on the photo below for detail) When she gave it to me - she said "Every time I worked on this pillow, I thought of you." She has a heart of gold - always giving - I feel blessed to have her as a friend.
Next - I tried it in the library. Certainly added life to my vintage leather club chairs. One of which used to reside in Susie's house. We were antiquing one day about 15 years ago and spotted these chairs. I dearly wanted them both - but it just wasn't in my budget. Susie said "You buy one and I'll buy the other." She didn't need the chair and it didn't really work with her decor - but she knew that they should not be split up. She held on to the chair for a few months and then said "This chair doesn't work at my house - you should have it." That had been her intention all along.
Even the back of the pillow is beautiful with a silk stripe and confetti trim.
Back on the sofa.................................
But the pillow really belongs on the little French chair. Susie is a world traveler, last week she was in Tunisia next week Thailand, this pillow has been more places than I have. She would take it with her and work on it during long flights and layovers. This delicate chair used to belong to Stephanie's Mother who lived in France. I treasure this petite chair. Jim is a tall drink of water at 6'3" and I can almost look him in the eye when I have heels on - so this pint sized chair doesn't get much use from the two of us. It is however, a perfect spot for the pillow. I wouldn't want to place the pillow where it would receive wear and tear. It is a true work of art and I will always cherish it - the pillow makes me smile every time I see it - and every time I look at that pillow - I think of Susie.
Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Sotto Il Monte Vineyards