Fashion Inspired by Nature: Selby Gardens

Nature was my fashion muse as I explored the exotic wonders at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

The utter femininity of these fuchsia and yellow flowers combined with the delicate strength found in each petal is the perfect inspiration for a scarf or wrap.

Anthropologie

The umbra shading of the colors combined with the snake-skin print bring girlishness and edginess together!

Green Plant from Selby in Sarasota

This box plant’s reticulated leaf pattern and delicate structure brings to mind a certain clutch…

Intrecciato satin knot

Simple and elegant. The tailored shape, emerald green color and classic style pack a powerful punch.

Polka Dot Plant

Polka dots found in nature are as adorably surprising and fanciful as those found in fashion.

Black and White Polka Dot Dress

This Silk Dress by Oscar de la Renta from Saks Fifth Avenue has a sweet jewel neckline, cap sleeves and bodice pleats–ideal for a day at the office or a walk around town.

Selby Botanical Gardens

This plant is extraordinary – in shape, vibrance and individuality. The same goes for these fabulous Alexis Bittar hoops, which are an exclusive for Nordstrom.

Nordstrom Exclusive with Alexis Bittar

Don’t these shell-like beauties make you feel like you’re at a resort bathing in a cerulean sea?

White Flowers

Fashion Inspired by Nature

Experience the exotic look of tropical flowers, grass and sand.

Floral Print Sleeveless Blouse and A Line Skirt

You will find unending inspiration for resort-wear in Oscar’s latest collection, which is reminiscent of the 60’s.

Old Tree at Selby

This tree is over 500 years old and stands stalwartly at the heart of Selby.

The serpentine straps of this heeled sandal are evocative of the twisted, winding roots of the ancient tree. P.S. Each photo takes you to someplace special online. Feel free to click for a little added fun!

What is your fashion muse?

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Keeping In Touch With Your Inner Child

Being grown-up certainly has its perks, but I so appreciate those moments when childhood winks back at me. There are lots of fun ways to stay in touch with the whimsy and imagination we used to access so easily. Some of the things that keep me playful:

crayola crayons

Doodling with some old favorites.

felt puppy

A soft, lime green puppy lying atop a sea of pink and white stripes.

comfort food

Mac and cheese (although now, as a grown-up, it’s Annie’s with salt and pepper.)

Cupcakes, and did I mention cupcakes, and, oh! cupcakes! This book by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson has some playful ideas.

cupcake recipes

Arts and crafts.

handmade tags

Handmade gift tags (there’s nothing quite as extraordinary as the feeling of giving a gift.)

gummy bears

Gummy bears. (Don’t forget to brush your teeth before bed!)

Oh, and bendy straws.

Someone close who watched me grow up shared a few more… “Barrettes, baby dolls, laughter, frosting licked from beaters, surprises, sidewalk chalk, bouncy balls, dress-up!” So true!

How do you keep in touch with your inner child?

Easy Cookie Recipe: Polka Dot Cookies With Tracey Rapisardi

Get Started Baking

Baking bright and cheerful Polka Dot Cookies made me happier than a warm chocolate chip muffin with a dollop of whipped butter. I had the pleasure of designing this recipe for you from scratch – I hope you enjoy it.

The ice cold milk with the muffin was that I was fortunate enough to collaborate with Tracey of TraceyRapisardiStyle. Wait till you see what she did with the cookies once they exited the cooling rack. But more on that later; let’s get our hands floured up first!

Add the Butter

Add the butter to your mixing bowl;

Add the Sugar

then add the sugar.

Butter and Sugar Get Creamed

Cream ingredients until fluffy. Don’t you just adore the movement captured in this still image?

A big thank you to Mandi Rapisardi for her brilliant eye and creative approach to photography. She added a very special touch to this post and was a blast to work with!

Vanilla in the Polka Dot Cookies

Then add the eggs, one at a time and pure vanilla extract. I always use pure as it really packs an unmatched flavor punch.

Dry Mixture

Whisk together the baking powder and flour; slowly combine with wet mixture to form a sweet, buttery dough.

Dough for Polka Dot Cookies

Form the dough into balls and…

Sugar Rolled Cookies

roll in sugar for a little something extra. They will look slightly sugar-kissed when they are done.

Prepare to Bake

Line ’em up and press!

Flatten to Bake

I used the bottom of a drinking glass for the flat ones,

Patterned Dough

the bottom of a patterned glass for the sunbursts,

Filled Cookies

…and the bottom of the cookie scoop for the fillable version.

butter cookies

A big huge heaping XOXO and thank you to the brilliantly talented Tracey Rapisardi for styling this blog post. To see what she did with the sweet and scrumptious Polka Dot Cookies once they were finished cooling, please visit her blog here and don’t forget to sign up for email updates.

But, wait, before you go… What was your favorite photo in this post? What do you think about the recipe? What would you like to see next? I love hearing your feedback so feel free to comment below!

Oh, and here’s the recipe. 🙂

Polka Dot Cookies from Kitchen à la Cate

Ingredients

1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), room temperature

1 ¾ cups sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon baking powder

3 cups all purpose flour

food coloring (liquid or gel, I used McCormick’s neon green + yellow for lime green; blue + green for the dark teal; Wilton rose gel for the dark pink)

¼ cup sugar in a small round bowl

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy and light in color. Take your time with this step; the mixer should be creaming for at least five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for two minutes after each addition. Mix in vanilla.

Whisk baking powder and flour in a separate bowl to combine. Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture. Once combined, add the food coloring of your choice. The dough will be warm; wrap it in plastic wrap or pop into a plastic bag. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

Using a 1¼ inch cookie scoop, form cookies. Drop dough into your hand and roll into a ball. Roll ball in the ¼ cup of sugar to coat and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet.

For flat cookies, press each dough ball with the bottom of a flat or patterned glass and bake in preheated oven for 7 to 8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 1 minute and carefully remove cookies from sheet to finish cooling.

For filled cookies, bake the sugar coated ball shapes in preheated over for 7 to 8 minutes. Remove from oven and form a well in each cookie, while hot, using the backside of the cookie scoop. Remove cookies from sheet to finish cooling. Once completely cooled, fill with your favorite– whipped cream, frosting or ice cream.  Jimmies add an extra charming and colorful look!

Lunch and Shopping in Downtown Sarasota: Posh on Palm

Restaurant on Palm

Posh on Palm is now open for eats! Owners Mark and Susie Holt have reorganized the inside of the chic boutique to now boast a kitchen, coffee/dessert bar and vintage inspired seating area where you can lunch-eon. I recently had the pleasure of meeting up with a fellow blogger there and needless to say, the vegetable quiche and the company were divine.

Lunch Counter

Meet Mark, who was merrily taking orders at the counter.

We arrived just in time for fresh home-brewed, bottomless iced tea with our lunch. (And a larger than life portion of moist and spicy, nutless carrot cake for after. If it makes it that long. Wink.)

Lunch-eon area

Post-lunch, we continued to indulge – only this time on the antiqued, whimsical boutique offerings. Posh has a variety of interesting, pretty conversation pieces you can pick up and touch, smell and enjoy. It’s an experience…

Couch of White

Wall Hangings

These sparkling, shimmering letters would make a great decoration in a little girl’s bedroom or on a living room bookshelf. Much to our dismay, they were all out of “M’s.”

Display

Pretty Things

Dresser Knobs

My eyes are on these glass knobs for a dresser I’m re-painting (more on that later.) For now, if you are in downtown Sarasota, Florida and looking for a sweet spot, Posh on Palm takes the cake. Who doesn’t adore eating and shopping?!

Posh is located in a Grand Hotel one block off the Bayfront at 33 South Palm Avenue.

Failure Happens in the Kitchen

Great ideas can stem from small packages, especially when they come from the local kitchen store.

I picked up this adorable cookie shape along with a biscuit cutter to remove the center cookie dough.

Cookie Cutters

These fancy-dancy edible shimmer dusts…

Gold and Silver Dust

And I was a little overly excited (which is not unheard of) to use my handy new piping bag and tips.

Bag

Tips

I was going to make engagement ring cookies and send them to my favorite jeweler as a thank you. You see, they made some repairs to my bauble and I wanted to do something to express my gratitude. These cookies were just the ticket. (Or so I imagined.)

The breton biscuit dough baked up buttery and slightly browned on the edges. Boy, did I think I was onto something good.

Diamond Ring Cookies

Then I started to decorate. (Not my brightest idea.) I wanted to make them look just like my ring so I carefully piped the edges with white royal icing and filled in the lines. The plan was to brush some with silver and some with gold dust, but it didn’t end up appearing as dark as I had imagined. A second coat didn’t really change that. Oops!

Icing the Cookies

Then I thought, I am going to tint the icing yellow for the diamond. The first batch of frosting turned out egg-yolk-yellow, which wasn’t pretty at all. The second batch was more of a pastel-ly yellow, so I filled in the gem areas on each cookie. The icing was too watery and started to run, so I cleaned them up as best as I could and let them dry. They looked so non-realistic I could have cried. Double oops!

Looks like my engagement cookie idea was a real recipe for disaster. But there are positives in everything – sometimes they are just hard to see at first.

On the sunny side, I got to experiment with tools and ingredients in the kitchen, which is one of the most heartwarming things to do. Kevin and I laughed and got a bit sentimental as we reminisced about our engagement and our friends at McTeigue and McClelland. And although those rings looked, truthfully, completely sad, they tasted kind of sugary and good. *Blush* (What? Did you think I threw them away?!)

Not only that, but I had the perfect excuse to bake more! Fudgy chocolate brownies from scratch with Ghirardelli cacao to the rescue. Thanks for a reason to bake twice and to experiment with royal icing and edible metallic dust, MC2…

Brownies

Have you had success with royal icing? Please share your tips!

Problems Finding A Swimsuit?

Using my most discerning eye, I clumsily grab what equates to a giant mound of bathing suits to try-on. Padding! (So I don’t look flat). One piece! (To cover up my belly, which used to be flat.) Two piece, striped, string, elastic, fuschia and flowers everywhere.

As I grapple with my final selections for the dreaded dressing room, I can’t help but feel a sense of hopelessness. This can’t be good. I drag my feet toward the fitting room thinking to myself, “more caffeine before this venture might have been a good idea.” Stranded and shivering in the dressing room at a random department store, I ask myself WHY is it so impossibly difficult to find a swimsuit?

Maybe it’s that extra portion of casserole I had at my mother’s or maybe it’s just the logistics of the fitting room, but something’s amiss. “Yikes, it’s bright in here! Can a girl get some assistance? And can someone please just turn the air conditioning down a little?” Then I simply leave (after dressing again, of course), half putting things back onto the hangers due to my discouragement.

Ladies, we have all been there before, right? Well, I have a winning suggestion; a brilliant solution to this annual conundrum.

Her name is Karla Colletto and she has a supreme eye in bathing suit design. The sales girl at Juno & Jove in Sarasota, Florida told me all Karla Colletto swimsuits are “cut to order,” which means there is no fabric wasted, making them friendly to the earth (bonus). It also means they’re available in limited quantities so while you are soaking up the sun, you don’t have to worry about someone showing up in your bathing suit (double bonus). Goodbye, designer-which-shall-remain-nameless swimsuit on the athletic blonde in the exact same color as mine!

If you didn’t think it was going to be a triple decker, you were mistaken. Bonus number three: the stretchy fabric in this swimsuit is a dream; it perks me up where I was once flat and the vibrant color makes me feel like a million bucks. So much so, that I leave with not one, but two Karla Colletto’s. They cover where I need it most in the back and hug my curves.

Me and my Karla Colletto

Don’t forget your sunscreen and hat, dollies!

Now picture yourself on a perfectly sunny day, lying on a sandy island, sipping an iced tea feeling confident, comfortable and sexy without a cover-up (even if, like me, you’re sucking in a little). It’s all completely possible.

Juno & Jove is located at 1425 First Street within the Whole Foods Centre in Sarasota, Florida. For a look at the current collection, check out JunoAndJove.com. The Turquoise Plunge is one of my favorites.

Don’t forget to check out the sizing chart and call for help if you need it (I work as a consultant for Juno & Jove and can assure you they give expert style advice, although this is not a sponsored post).

Recipe: Shrimp Madras and a Chiffonade

A dear friend of Kev and I, Barbara, also shares a certain – what do you call it – “foodie-love” with us. It is evening in our tiny, romantically-lit, 1970’s inspired kitchen in the Berkshires, and Kevin hands me a recipe. (By romantically-lit, we’re talking one little baby lamp on the counter top and a floor-to-ceiling thing we picked up at Wally World; and by 1970’s inspired, I mean pieced together actually in 1970…)

Along with the recipe from Barbara is a bag full of exotic and fragrant, dark green Kari leaves. Just looking at them and taking in the aroma makes me wonder what traveling to India would actually be like. They appear strong and glossy and feel silky under my hands.

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Earlier, I put good use to the grocery list from Kevin, happily searching for ingredients for the dinner (what is Garam Masala?) gliding up and down the aisles of Guidos. Plus, I was eagerly anticipating the taste of the homemade curry powder my very talented chef cousin, Gregg, gifted me with on Christmas. (All about him on another day, I promise.)

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Here are the ingredients.

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Isn’t this watercress outrageous?

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I chiffonade the Kari leaves by layering them all into a stack…

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Rolling them tightly…

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And slicing thinly on a slant. For such little strips they are abundant with robust fragrance.

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I use chicken instead of shrimp in these photos (taken at a later date in a different kitchen) to add my own variation to the recipe.

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Pressto. As the meal comes together and the whole apartment fills up with intense and deep, complex aroma, I feel India in my heart and decide that one day I will travel there.

For the recipe, click here. Thanks Barbara 😉

Have you been to India? What recipes in your file inspire you to travel?

Yoga For Beginners

Cate at Rosemary Court Yoga Studio

I am a perfectionist. For those of you who don’t know me, I really like things to be in order— the house, the food, the car, the clothes, or the workout. I am not saying I’m perfect, because for those of you that do know me, we all know it isn’t so!

I am simply saying that sometimes the desire for things to be perfect can get in the way.

For years, and let me emphasize years – through college at a great place, Saint Rose, where I met some of my best friends; through meeting the love of my life and relocating from a small town to another small town (this time in the mountains); through learning how to run (which was not easy, but that’s a story for another day) and donating blood for the first time, I avoided yoga like the plague.

The perfectionist had overtaken all systems. I couldn’t try yoga, although I knew it would be perfect for me, because of the excuses that were in the way: I wasn’t in shape. I felt nervous about being in a class where people would be looking at me and judging my clumsiness. I was not in a comfortable place with my mind and body. I felt unattractive and disconnected.

I used to be a dancer in another life, but that discipline and means of expression still held great appeal, like a life force replete with what I was supposed to be doing.

I bit the bullet. It had been long enough. I was sick of making excuses. It was time. It was finally time to discover what yoga was all about.

Enter Rosemary Court. It popped up on a Google search and it was close by. When I pulled in for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised. Here I was, downtown. Nearby: a school, a few furniture stores and abandoned buildings, yet this little courtyard made me feel like I was in another world. A blink and I was back at Saint Rose in the sunny, tulip-filled spring, where I met my girlfriends. Another look and I was in the Berkshires on a dandelion-seed-floating afternoon on the blanketed grass with Kevin. Then I was back in Florida, with all the things that had kept me from trying yoga…and all the things that had brought me to the courtyard that day.

What I found, over just a few months, was that everything that had been keeping me from trying yoga was the polar opposite of what it was all about. Yoga is healing. It is all about what your body needs, what your mind needs and what your spirit needs. Yoga is welcoming. You don’t need to be in shape to practice. Yoga is non-judgmental; other practitioners are mostly self-aware. In fact, focused stretching and meditating are great ways to reach a low-stress state of mind and focus on what’s important to you in that present moment. It’s beautiful, really – reconnecting to your inner self with purpose.

Now I am a die-hard yoga lover. I would go every day if I could. What can I say? I am not letting myself get in the way anymore.