The Doves of Downton Abbey Debut

Tonight’s the night! The 20th anniversary of Project Return’s Annual Birdhouse Auction. This popular event attracts whimsical and creative structures for indoor and outdoor use as well as bird themed art. It all goes to a great cause supporting girls in crisis. The auction is held at the Rolling Hills Country Club in Westport CT after a preview of the artwork is displayed for two weeks in the storefront windows of Westport CT. This will be the third year I’ve participated in the event.

20 years

Most people think of me as a cookbook author but there’s another side of me—The side that grew up drawing  from life as I saw it on Saturday morning cartoons.  Those were the days when cartoons were still created on cells before the age of computers. I particularly liked all of the detail in the really early Disney cartoons that my parents used to watch in movie theaters with feature films. It got to the point where I actually “dreamed in cartoon”. I loved my two dimensional world. It was a happy retreat for me where anything was possible. My imaginary friends weren’t invisible to my family, I’d drawn portraits of all their familiar faces.  Best of all was  I wanted to design my own hat or coat I’d just draw them and like magic they were right there before my eyes.

There was just one problem with my artwork then and now… I never really mastered the human form or face. My people always looked more like political cartoons (recognize Nixon, tailors Haldeman Erlichman and “Little Johnny Dean?).  As a teenager, I wrote a fractured fairy tale turning Watergate into The Emperor’s New Clothes !Watergate cartoons

So I decided to stick to what I know best whether it was  dressing  household pets  to prehistoric animals as paper dolls. Here I have some dapperly dressed dogs :dapper dogs sketchdapper dogs color

And some “Designosaurs”CelesteDaphne:

For the 2013 Project Return Birdhouse Auction, I decided my paper doll concept was for the birds and created the character Alfred Albatross who ended up in the window of Brooks Brothers:

alfred albatross

brooks brother's window


This year I got this inspiration to dress doves in the Edwardian and 1920’s attire from Downton Abby and put them into a coatrack frame. It was on display inside Brooks Brothers until tonight where it will be up for silent auction. sketcheson the red tableclothfull view with shirts

This will be the first year where credit card bids will be made by cell phone so the mantra is “CHARGE”— Both as much as you can!







Celtic Creamed Kale Sprouts and Corned Beef

Some people like to mix things up on Thanksgiving with pomegranate glazed turkey or hazelnut stuffing. I’m not saying I’m one of those but I do tend to deviate from the norm now and then on Saint Patrick’s Day. Many times I’ve substituted Brussels sprouts for boiled cabbage or I will make an “Irish Tiramisu” using Bailey’s for dessert. This was one of those years for me. I decided to serve my corned beef as a side dish. In this case, I only needed about 6 oz of slivered deli corned beef but you can make this dish even better the day after if you have your own boiled corned beef from the main event.

I’ll admit I was inspired by kale sprouts I’ve recently started seeking out at Whole Foods. They are a product of Belgium and come in a 150gm bag.

bagged kale

They are really quick to cook. I simply trim off some some of the brown leaves from the sprouts and arrange in a large shallow glass bowl. Fill with about 1 1/2″ of water. Sprinkle with sea salt and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Stop microwave, redistribute them in the water, and cook 1 minute longer.

about to be steamed

Drain Sprouts well on a paper plate and allow to cool to room temp.

DRaining on paper plate

Roll sprouts in a paper towel to squeeze out excess moisture.

rolled in paper towels

Now for the cream sauce: heat 2 cups of milk with 2 tbs fresh snipped chives in the microwave for 2 minutes.

chives in milk

Make a roux by melting 1/4 cup butter and blending in 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp onion powder a few grinds of black pepper and a dash of nutmeg. Blend together with a wire whisk over medium heat until bubbly and smooth.

making a roux

Blend in heated milk and bring to a boil, stirring until thickened.bechemel thickens

Take about 6 ounces of deli sliced corned beef, roll up and slice into julienne strips. (If you are using home-cooked corned beef, just chop up leftover meat since the texture tends to break apart more when simmered on your stove.sliced corned beefshredding corned beef

Stir into chive cream sauce. Add drained kale sprouts.sauced corned beefFolded sprouts into sauce

Spread into a casserole and cover with buttered breadcrumbs.

Unbaked Crumb toppedBake at 350° for 20 minutes or until breadcrumbs are golden and bubbling.Finale kale

This actually a great post- St Patrick’s Day dish just like a turkey casserole after Thanksgiving. There I go again comparing the two holidays. I can’t tell you how many times I say Happy Thanksgiving to people on St Patricks Day!






Kite Season


kite Tree

Well here it is the first of March and looking outside at yet another snowstorm doesn’t make one feel that spring is around the corner. I grew up believing that the first rite of spring was bringing a kite out into Loose Park where I grew up in Kansas City. Perhaps  spring arrives a little later New England or six month winters are the new normal nation wide. One can still dream of warmer,  windy days ahead as it was when this column of mine first appeared in The CT Post in 2006.

Kite season

March usually comes in like a lion and goes out like a lion with a few lamby days in between. It’s those bucolic, breezy ones that send us out in the field for the springtime tradition of kite flying. Kites have gone pretty high tech, these days. Others are as elaborate as Chinese dragons or flying fish. However, I love the classic diamonds in the sky as seen in so many calendars from my childhood. I grew up reading Peanuts comic strips and (just like Charlie Brown) was frequently foiled by a “kite eating tree”. Something about a windy day really stokes the appetite of large oaks. This project takes a branch from one and turns it into a miniature tree… a perfect magnet for mini kites. It’s a fun table centerpiece and lends itself to a group project where kids can put their names on the kites. Just as nature intended, some should be hanging upside-down or impaled on a branch. For added interest, throw in a box kite or two. I don’t know about you but I could never get one of those off of the ground!



Branch from a tree or bush (any species with plenty of twigs for small branches)

Flower pot or planter,

florist clay or Play Doh,

pebbles or colored sand

Wooden shish kebob skewers, wire cutters

Lightweight string or crochet yarn

Construction paper, scissors, glue stick, marking pens, transparent tape

Assorted colors of 1/8” thick satin ribbon

Anchor branch in the center of a pot or planter using a large lump of clay. Fill in around the sides with pebbles or colored sand. Use wire cutters to cut skewers into 3” and 4” length sections. (For diamond shaped kites, you’ll need one 3” and one 4” stick. For box kites you will need four, 4” sticks) For diamond kites: Bind 3” and 4” sticks together like a cross, tying with string in the center. Cut assorted colors of construction paper into diamond shapes that fit across the cross sticks (make one diamond as a pattern and cut the rest the same way). Cut contrasting strips of construction paper to glue on as stripes. These can be vertical, horizontal or diagonal. Make kite tails by knotting short lengths of alternating colored ribbon in a chain. Tape tails to the back of kites. Tie a 12”, or longer, length of string to the center each of kite’s crossbar (from back). Tape paper fronts on to kite, from back, leaving flying cord free. If desired,label with children’s names.



For box kites: Cut two, 1” x 6” strips of construction paper for each kite. Fold strips six times at 1” intervals. Overlap two ends and glue together, forming a square. Connect squares by taping edges of 4” sticks at the the inside corner edges. Tie a 12” or longer length of string to an exposed stick. Tape tails inside of bottom section. Arrange kites in the tree as if they crashed into it or became hung up in a branch. The more string tangled in the branches, the better.

Box Kites