Wednesday, June 16, 2010

                                               SUMMER FOODS & WINES
Summer is my favorite time of the year to cook because of the fresh and wonderful vegetables and fruits. The wines that go with them are refreshing and light. 

Asparagus & Tomatoes

I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorite recipes:

Fried Chicken

Alma Wilson has worked with us and been like a member of our family for 35 years.  Her chicken is famous---all of my friends know that coming to our house in the country means enjoying this delicious treat.
It wasn't easy to get this recipe, because Alma has no recipe.  I pinned her down last week and this is what she told me---this will be enough chicken for 4-6 depending on appetites, etc:
Organic chicken, cut up and one dozen wings (my favorite piece)---cut into halves...forget the pointy piece.
2 cups sifted flour
Finely ground sea salt
Creole seasoning for wings---use your favorite---Alma used Konriko or Tony Chachere's.

Canola Oil---she has no exact measurement for this---just use enough that the chicken pieces are almost covered.  Alma uses a deep large pot rather than a skillet.
Wash the chicken pieces and dry well with paper towels. Salt the chicken to taste with sea salt and season the wings with Creole seasoning. Let stand for at least 20 minutes.
Heat the oil in pan on medium high heat---be sure the oil is hot. While oil is heating, place flour in a small paper bag and place 2 or 3 pieces of chicken in at a time. Shake the bag to coat the chicken. Have all of the chicken coated before beginning to fry.


Fry in batches so that chicken is not too crowded---it is best if the pieces are not touching. Brown on one side and then turn over (this takes approximately 5 minutes if heat is correct) and brown other side. Fry larger pieces first, then smaller ones.  

Drain well on paper towels in single layer. Serve immediately. Alma's chicken is good cold as well because it never tastes greasy to begin with.

Devilled eggs

These are so simple that I almost didn't include them. Since they are a family favorite, I decided I would share.
Boil a dozen eggs (be sure to set timer after they come to a rolling boil) for 10 minutes.

While eggs are boiling, mix 1/4 to 1/3 cup of Spectrum Mayonaise with  1 1/2 tablespoon of Durkee's Salad Dressing (this is not easy to find---it would be in a regular grocery store on the same aisle as mayonnaise).

As soon as eggs are done, drain water off and cover with cold water (I usually do this twice). Crack each egg at the large end for easier peeling. It is easier to peel them under running cold water.

After eggs are peeled and drained on paper towels (be sure they are dry), half each egg and place on serving platter. Sprinkle finely ground sea salt on the egg whites after removing the yolks and placing them in a glass bowl.  

Mash the yolks with a fork or a pastry blender. Add more fine sea salt to yolks, then the mayo/Durkees mixture and mix well. I sometimes use a hand mixer to be sure there are no lumps.

Fill each white half with yolk mixture, then sprinkle with Hungarian Paprika. I like them at room temperature, but if doing ahead of time, refrigerate. They need to be eaten the same day they are made.
I like this as a summer dish because fresh tomatoes, okra and corn are all readily available. My mother made a version of this. Then I found a recipe from a restaurant in New Orleans in Departures Magazine that sounded good, so I combined the two---thus the name of the recipe.
 This recipe will easily serve 4-6 depending on your group.

 Creole in pot 
Creole Plated

1 T. Kosher Salt
½ t. cayenne pepper
½ t. paprika (use Hungarian)
¼ t. garlic powder
Mix all of the above together to use after vegetables are beginning to get tender.
A roux really improves this----my mother didn't do this, but I like it better with this added touch.
¼ cup Canola Oil
¼ cup flour
2 T. canola or olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
5 Roma Tomatoes, chopped (you can use other varieties of tomatoes, but I find that Romas are good for cooking)
1 lb. fresh okra, sliced
2 ears of fresh corn (preferably small white corn) removed from cobb
Lawry's Seasoning Salt to taste
½ t. sugar (my mother always said tomatoes need a little sugar to take away the acidic taste and she was right).
2 slices thick sliced bacon cut into horizontal strips (about ¼" wide---I like to be specific!)
1 lb. fresh shrimp (I like to peel and devein my own, but you could buy fresh raw shrimp that has been peeled).  Cut into smaller bite sized pieces.
In a heavy pot, heat 2 T. Canola Oil. Add bacon first, and cook until partially cooked. Then add all of the vegetables and reduce heat to medium. After they are beginning to cook start adding the Creole seasoning along with a little Lawry's Seasoning Salt to taste. Barely cover the mixture with boiling water. After vegetables are almost cooked (don't overcook them as they will simmer later), add the shrimp, then taste before adding further Creole seasoning. I like things salty and you may not, so add less rather than more, so small amounts at a time.
To make the roux, just heat the oil in a heavy skillet....once it is hot sprinkle in flour and stir constantly until brown, but do not burn. When brown, add it to the vegetable/shrimp mixture. Adjust seasonings and serve over white rice (I always cook 1 & ½ cups rice for this amount of shrimp/vegetables.).
This is great served with a Bibb Lettuce salad with a simple French Vinagrette dressing and a glass of white Burgundy or good Italian Piemontese....mentioned later in this post.

Asparagus & Tomatoes

This is a great dessert year round----it is best served right out of the oven in the cooler months, but also tasty at room temperature if served the same day.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees---this recipe serves 4 or 5---it's easy to double to serve 8-10 depending on size of ramekins. 
1 cup sugar
3 T. flour
1 cup milk
juice of one large lemon (don't use Meyer Lemons as they are not lemony enough for this recipe)
2 eggs, separated
½ t. salt
Sift sugar, flour and salt. Stir milk in gradually, then add lemon juice and slightly beaten egg yolks.  
Beat eggs whites until stiff and fold into the other mixture.
Bake for 30 minutes in small ramekins that have been oiled in a bain-marie (1" of hot water). When done, immediately remove from pan and place on cooling rack.


These directions are for one glass:
1 1/2 ounces of naturally sweetened chilled pineapple juice
1/2 ounce St. Germain Elderflower liqueur
Fill the rest of the glass with Champagne

I adore summer wines because they are light and simple. Here are a few of my favorites: 


Sommariva Prosecco---you can buy this at Sigel's in Dallas---it is light and goes well with summer foods.  


Domaine Ott---I mentioned this one last year---learned to enjoy it in the south of France and in St. Barths.  


These reds are great year round, but I especially like the light ones in the summer. Also, the French chill their Beaujolais which is highly desirable during the warmer months. The best ones are Fleuries, Chiroubles and Moulin-A-Vents.
Favorite Pinot Noirs are Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve from the Willamette Valley in Oregon---this one is a bit heavier, and Chad from Santa Lucia Highlands in northern California, which is a much lighter style---great for summer. 



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Thursday, June 03, 2010

                                                      OUTDOOR LIVING            

Outdoor Pretson Hollow

I absolutely love outdoor rooms----and I do mean rooms----rugs, lamps, accessories, plenty of magazines---the works. Of course, it helps if you have a roof or awning over the area. We don't have a covered terrace at our house in Dallas, so when we are having friends over, I place the lamps, flowers and accessories out that day and bring them in the next. 

French vintage garden furniture
Outdoor CP 2

Everyone enjoys it---a great place for drinks before dinner.
At our house in the country, we have two large covered areas. Jim and I use the one closest to the house very frequently----to enjoy our morning coffee and read the papers, or to have lunch or dinner. There are lots of chairs so that when the entire family is there, we can all enjoy sitting outside. Because of the awning and the huge trees, the temperature is always comfortable.

Vintage garden furniture
Outdoor Hillsboro 2

Outdoor Hillsboro 3

This is a loggia we designed in Austin----it could be in Tuscany.

Sutherland Teak / vintage coffee table
Outdoor Austin

My clients use this area for watching football games, having dinner and swimming since it is their pool cabana.

Sutherland Teak / vintage leather deck chair
Preston Hollow 3

This is a narrow loggia that is a perfect place for after dinner drinks in the summer---it has lamps and sconces which allow for great eye level lighting.

Custom furniture & lanterns by Jan Showers
Preston Hollow 2

Remember, there are no rules about outdoor living, other than to make sure you have all of the accoutrements you have inside.  Enjoying nature would be my only rule!


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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

                                                       ALL THE BEST
About a month ago, we completed a model residence in the new Ritz Tower in Dallas.  Ronda Carmen, the fabulously talented creator of ALL THE BEST blog, was in Dallas the night of the opening party.  Ronda was in town to do a SFEERA event and to spend time with all of us who admire what she creates on a regular basis.
Today she posted the photos she took that evening.  Please check them out at and enter to win a copy of my book, Glamorous Rooms.




Tomorrow, Ronda is doing a profile of me, and another one next week about my daughter, Elizabeth Showers and her jewelry. 

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010



Last week there were lots of people in my antiques showroom in the Dallas Design District. So many people commented about our accessories---or l'objet as the French would say---I realized that since accessories and accessorizing are two of my favorite things, it was time for me to write about them.

As most of you know who have read my book, Glamorous Rooms, I consider all of the details we add to a room to be uber important. Without interesting, colorful and shimmery objects on tabletops in a room, you might as well look at a woman with no shoes, jewelry, sunglasses or a great handbag.  Same for a man without the right belt, shoes, tie or watch---well, I see fewer and fewer men wearing ties even though all of the men's fashion magazines say that dressing up is in vogue. Sartorial savvy is key to great style. 

Grace Kelly

Well, you get the idea. There IS an art to this. I consider each tabletop to be a wonderful artistic opportunity and create them as though I were painting. Sometimes, things just happen which is also fabulous---I'm sure the same thing happens regularly with a work of art.
Here are some of my favorite tableaux currently:

Frame collection 


Green glass

All of the above we carefully planned. Here are a few that just happened....

Sycamore decanter 

  Perfume bottles


I never think of books as accessories----I simply love them and want to be surrounded by them. Look at my coffee table!!


Portifino Coffee Table 


                                                  GLASS GROUPINGS
Glass is such a passion of mine---nothing makes me happier than to see wonderful pieces of glass together.
One of my favorites is this chartreuse collection----as many years as I've searched for great glass, these are the only ones I've found that are this stunning color.

Chartruese glass

My husband, Jim, loves Dino Martens glass---here are a few pieces he loves----very manly.   

Dino Martens -good

A color that always makes me happy---

Yellow glass

It is such fun to see collections of things on tabletops. Even though no one smokes in our house, I love these old cigarette lighters---I appreciate them as works of art.   

Cigarette Lighters

Kim and Justin Whitman, two of my favorite clients,  love collections. Justin has a great collection of bulldogs.


And, Kim collects these obelisks....


Here's hoping you have lots of interesting/pretty objects around---no matter how little or how much they cost, as long as you are surrounded by things you love.

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Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Living Room

Last week, I was on a panel for Veranda at the Houston Decorative Center for their spring market.  I was in delightful company with several other architects and designers.  One of our general questions posed by Veranda Editor-at-Large, Carolyn Englefield, was "How is luxury being redefined?" Everyone's answers were similar and came back to two basic ideas---consumers are demanding higher quality, and, they want to know more about what they are buying.
We are seeing this not only in the design world, but also in REAL ESTATE purchases (McMansions are OUT and perfect smaller residences are in), the ART WORLD---the craziness of the mid 90's to mid '10's is gone, and now collectors are not buying works willy nilly. People are buying FINE VINTAGE AND ANTIQUES as well as high quality new pieces, rather than non-sustainable cheap copies. 
So, what do I consider luxury?  Here are a few of my favorite luxurious things:
TIME----I never seem to have enough of it!
A NAP AFTER LUNCH----this one goes along with time.
MY HOUSE----nothing is more pleasing than spending time in the surroundings that I have created for my family and myself.  

Hillsboro Back

Living Room 2

ART----a great piece of art is a true luxury and a joy. 


Art in Entry

BENCH MADE FURNITURE----nothing can take the place of a truly well made, beautifully hand carved piece of furniture or the detail of well executed architectural bronze.  As the old Chinese proverb says, "Buy the best and only cry once". 

JSC Harrison Table
Harrison Detail

JSC Hudson Chair
Hudson Chair detail

HAVING AT LEAST ONE ANTIQUE OR VINTAGE PIECE IN EVERY ROOM----because each room in our houses needs character.  There is no luxury without character.

Sycamore and rosewood Italian buffet attributed to Gio Ponti, c.1950
Italian buffet

Jean Pascaud sofa
Jean Pascaud sofa


SERVICE----I find that if I can buy the same or similar product from two different sources, I will go with the one that provides the best service every time.  Service is the ultimate luxury.
WHAT is your definition of luxury?  Remember---you will be happier with anything you buy if it ages well, and, remember to enjoy the time you have with friends and family.
                                    TOWER RESIDENCES AT THE RITZ


We just completed our residence there and will have photos on my next Notebook.  


The Old State is doing a terrific job with our newly designed website.  It should première late May.  You will be able to see every antique we have online with dimensions and prices. They are photographed professionally with detailed shots---very exciting!


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