Summer Entertaining

When you live in a resort town with lots of summer activities, it’s nice to take time out to relax with friends. The garden has been planted (see Backyard Habitat), the furniture arranged (see Backyard Retreat) and now it’s time to have a party! Or not… I’d rather have friends over a few at a time but here are some of our go to tips for easy and enjoyable summer gatherings.

  1. Keep it simple. Prepare a few dishes, buy a few pre-made items. That is the Ina Garten rule. For example, make a seafood risotto and an antipasto platter and for dessert, serve store bought cookies and sorbet.
  2. Cocktails outdoors (weather permitting) and dinner indoors makes life easier. One of our favorite summer drinks is a lemon spritzer… one third Prosecco, limoncello and lemon San Pelligrino over ice. Delicious!
  3. A cantaloupe wedge wrapped in prosciutto with a squeeze of lime juice and a big bowl of steamed clams in garlic, basil butter sauce can be a first course or a meal. Serve with crusty bread to soak up the aromatic sauce.
  4. A cold soup is a refreshing meal on a hot summer day. Gazpacho served chilled  along with a pound or two of steamed spiced shrimp is a perfect light supper. Or chilled vichyssoise garnished with spring onions.
  5. This is the time to take advantage of in season produce. Roast chicken on the grill and serve with corn on the cob and a platter of sliced tomatoes dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and fresh basil from the garden.
  6. Grill tip: make up a foil packet of new potatoes, green beans and sliced onions, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Put it on the top rack of your grill and cook for 20-25minutes, Serve with rib eye steaks.
  7. Support your local shops and order a cheese plate to serve as the dessert course along with fresh peaches or plums from a nearby farmers market.
  8. Clean up as you go… best tip of all. Lots of preparing ahead and staying on top of the dishes makes for a relaxing end to an enjoyable evening.

For our favorite summer recipes, check out our blog, Blueberries & Tootsie Rolls. From Farmers Market Gazpacho to Basil Butter Clams to Miss Ione’s Crab Cakes we have summer covered. Enjoy!


Backyard Habitat

We’ve been working on our backyard for awhile now… and for inspiration I’ve been binge watching British gardening shows. Specifically, Big Dreams, Small Spaces where Monte Don helps homeowners re-imagine their backyards and turn them into fantasy gardens. At the same time, we decided to create a Certified Backyard Habitat* so we needed to find ways to provide shelter and sources of food and water for birds, butterflies, lady bugs, bees and toads.

A condo of sorts can be devised using bits and bobs from your garden. Just take a crate or wood planks and stack with bricks or pavers and tuck in bark, pine cones, straw and clay pots to make levels and nesting spaces.  Hang a few bee hotels filled with hollow bamboo nearby and provide butterfly resting and feeding stations with shallow saucers filled with oranges, stones and water.

It is early planting season now, so we are filling our herb garden with pots of parsley, lavender, thyme, lemon balm and several types of basil. Some we are choosing to cook with and some are just beneficial for our garden habitat. We’ve placed clay pots upside down and sideways to make toad abodes and set out several puddlers to provide water and essential minerals for butterflies.

We are seeing lots of activity already! We are also seeding our lawn with micro clover which is evergreen, can be mowed and naturally adds nitrogen to the soil. Next up is the addition of native plants to attract even more critters to our garden. Even though we have a small yard, it is starting to feel like a haven and it is delightful to look around and see all of the buzzing about that is going on.

*To register a Certified Backyard Habitat, go to for more information.

Resources: “Big Dreams, Small Spaces” (Netflix); bee and insect hotels (Gardeners Supply); toad abodes and puddlers (Etsy); Micro Clover seeds (Amazon); herbs and native plants (your local nursery or garden club).




Color Stories

I love to look at creative, vivid spaces and use them for design inspiration. It sparks something in my brain. The 2019 Pantone Color of the year is Living Coral and this gorgeous, saturated hue can be used in lots of ways from boho decor to beautiful dishes. In our shop, Hollyhocks on Main, we use color to reflect changing seasons and decor trends because it is easy and affordable.

For example, we carry Vance Kitira candles in six colors — Cranberry, Tangerine, Lemongrass, Sea Glass, Melon White and Brown Sugar — and each season one or two of these colors are sprinkled throughout the shop. This Spring, the focus will be on coral (decor trend) and yellow with pops of fuchsia (seasonal change) so the Tangerine and Lemongrass candles will be featured.

Faux flowers from yellow forsythia garlands to orange poppies and pink and purple peonies will contribute to the color story while fresh flowers (daffodils and tulips) and green plants will add more color as well as interesting texture. By placing these around the shop (or your home) it creates the illusion of movement as your eyes flit from one thing to another while it draws you in.

We also use seasonal scents to reinforce the theme. This Spring, it is Votivo Saint Germaine Lavender which is a clean scent with notes of white linen, lavender, chamomile, vanilla and patchouli. And Chesapeake Bay Wild Lemongrass with top notes of Verbena, Lavender and Garden Mint and lower notes of Thyme and Coriander. Ahhh, the sweet smell of Spring is in the air!

To try at home pick a color that you love and speaks to the  season… coral, for example! Place a bowl of blood oranges in the kitchen, a vase of orange and pink tulips in the living room and a Himalayan salt lamp in the bedroom (to cleanse the air and improve sleep). For a seasonal scent, burn a Chesapeake Bay Blood Orange candle while watching snow flurries outside your window…

Resources: Vance Kitira tapers and pear candles, Votivo candles and travel tins, Chesapeake Bay double wick tins (Hollyhocks on Main); Himalayan Salt Lamp (Amazon). Blood oranges and tulips in season right now (local grocery store).

Naturally Neutral

For several months now, there has been a distinct trend towards a neutral design esthetic. At first I wasn’t too crazy about it but over time the clean minimalism started to appeal to me. The palette is white, cream, gray and black with textural and natural elements playing very important roles. Here’s how to achieve the look in your own home, room by room (see above for examples).

Living Room: (1) Cream Slipcovered Sofa; (2) Leather Chair and Ottoman; (3) Jute Rug with a Smaller Rug Layered on Top; (4) Live Plants and Flowers.

Office: (1) Wood and Metal Desk; (2) Gray Upholstered Desk Chair; (3) Black Framed Bulletin Board; (4) Shelves and Baskets for Books and Magazines.

Kitchen: (1) Gray Cabinets with White Subway Tile Backsplash; (2) Butcher Block Counters; (3) White Ironstone Dishes; (4) Pots of Fresh Herbs.

Bedroom: (1) Luxurious White Bedding; (2) Rattan Blinds; (3) Sheepskin Rug; (4) Soft Lighting and Scented Candles.

Bathroom: (1) Cream Walls with White Wainscoting; (2) Fluffy White Towels; (3) Baskets and Glass Containers for Storage; (4) Gallery Wall with Mirrors.

This neutral color scheme creates a soothing, hygge-like environment and the wicker, wood and greenery bring in the textural, natural elements. Lighting becomes very important in this scheme. Every room should have lights that can be dimmed or brightened depending on the time of day and your activities. We like Phillips Hue lights which can mimic standard, halogen or fluorescent bulbs or be set to passing clouds, skylights or antique lighting.

While this combination may only appeal to a specific audience, color can easily be added through pillows, rugs, art, flowers, candles and tchotchkes. This is also an easy scheme to change out seasonally with a pop of color – yellow for Spring, turquoise for Summer, coral for Fall and crimson for Winter. Now is the perfect time to re-group and re-decorate or just lie on the couch and dream about it!

Resources: Jute Rugs, Baskets, White Dishes and Candles (Hollyhocks on Main); Phillips Hue Lighting System (Amazon or Lowe’s); Colorful Art, Pillows, Rugs and Tchotchkes (Hollyhocks on Main).




Bohoho Holiday

This season’s Inspiration Board took a bright turn into pink, red and vivid green. It is driven by my love of bohemian decor which I hope, never goes out of style. The more interesting and eclectic your space, the better! It should reflect what you love… from your travels, family mementos, collections and artwork all mixed up together to create your very own personal story.

Imagine taking all of that and then layering in Christmas decorations… it’s a feast for the eyes! Christmas ornaments displayed in a bird cage or metal urn, garlands strung on mirrors (and bar carts), a forest of lit trees, a tray filled with Mercury glass and greenery, a vignette of miniature trees and reindeer on a cake stand… every room in your house can have a dash of holiday spirit.

And, of course, I love the blending of vintage finds with traditional holiday decor. From colorful glass ornaments and bottlebrush trees to Santa figurines and Christmas cards… the combination of old and new is a delightful surprise. During our local Homes for the Holidays Tour, one of the homeowners hung a wreath on a vintage sled propped up by their turquoise front door. Wow!

Christmas decorations are the ultimate journey into our past… opening boxes of ornaments and gently placing them on the tree, unwrapping the decorations from eras gone by brings a sense of continuity and hope into our homes. I know the holidays can be stressful but try to relax and enjoy the ritual and then take a moment to look around in amazement at the wonderland you have created…

Peace and love from your Hollyhocks family!

Resources: Mercury glass candle holders, cake stands, Santa figurines, Vintage holiday postcards, faux greenery and LED string lights (Hollyhocks on Main).

#Me Shed

Besides house love, part of the philosophy behind our home decor shop, Hollyhocks, is the celebration of women artists. We feature several women artisans, from a local fiber artist and jewelry maker to a trained welder making unique luminaries to free trade artists from around the globe.

Each one has a unique and creative way of looking at the world and all their voices speak as one in my shop… which features music from female folk singers to blues vocalists. From our inspiration board to the wares we carry, hopefully, we have created a safe environment to explore and dream about whatever your heart desires.

I’m also intrigued with the idea of a “she shed” (and there’s the commercial of course!) — a place where you can kick off your shoes, take off your bra and indulge yourself. This year the Chincoteague Homes for the Holidays tour which I run on behalf of the Historic Main Street Merchants has not one, but two, “she sheds” or better yet “zen dens” where you can craft or just chill in your own private space.

So while the #metoo movement has empowered women to speak out about injustice and more women than ever before are running for office and winning, anything we can do to nurture the seeds of change has meaning and motive. I am grateful to do my small part in this very big movement and I’m even more delighted that my brand new representative in Congress is a woman!

Autumn Hues

We’ve had a long, hot summer here on the island. It has finally started to cool down and it’s the perfect weather for long walks on the beach and candlelit evenings on the front porch. In the shop we are highlighting the color orange though, for some reason, I prefer white pumpkins so they are also sprinkled around here and there as a cool contrast to the more intense autumn hues.

My inspiration board this season is about the interplay of green with yellow, orange and red… just like the turning leaves. These colors can easily be incorporated into your home with fruits, vegetables and herbs… from wood bowls piled high with apples and oranges to platters of acorn and butternut squash and vases filled with fresh snipped thyme, rosemary and parsley.

This is how Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa) decorates her kitchen and sets the table which has had a big  influence on my entertaining style. Because we love to cook Italian or French country food, we like to use white stoneware dishes, plain cotton napkins and sturdy juice glasses to create our own little bistro or trattoria. Just add music and lots of votive candles to set the mood.

Now is a great time to have guests over for dinner. For the appetizer, steam a large artichoke and set out with a bowl of lemon butter. Roast a chicken (stuffed with lemons and rosemary) on top of seasonal root vegetables and serve with salad greens drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and fresh Parmesan. For dessert, set out a platter of cookies or biscotti, chocolates and Clementines.

The connection between the elements of decorating and entertaining should, hopefully, now be apparent. Tell your Autumn color story by observing the natural world around you going from bright green to vivid oranges, reds and yellows and bring those colors into your home and your food. It’s a full circle.

Resources: wood bowls, platters, vases, cotton napkins, votives and French Bee glasses (Hollyhocks on Main).