Dinner With A Mermaid – Beach Tablescape


Beach Tablescape for Coastal Decorating Style

How to have dinner with a Mermaid

Coastal Tablescape by Feathered Cottage

Coastal Tablescape by Feathered Cottage

Here’s my suggestion for a Mermaid themed dinner – acquire the beautiful painting, “The Mermaid” by Rob Hartshorn, hang it in a prominent location your dining room, create a lovely ocean inspired tablescape, and then invite 5 or so of your best friends over for an evening of food, fun, and dreams of the sea.

Every year I decide to participate in one fun, creative, local design event to support our Cleveland design scene. Two years ago I created a serene Zen tablescape (won an award – yeah,) last year I dressed a mannequin featuring my Belgian linen, porcelain flowers, and white feathers for “Project Runway” at the Cleveland Museum of Art, and this year I was invited to participate in The American Society of Interior Designers, Ohio North Chapter – Art, Wine, and Design show. Anything with the word “wine” in the name must be fun, right? I’m in!
The concept for the show was collaboration – combine a local artist’s work from the 78th Street Studios in Cleveland with an interior designer to create an art inspired design vignette. The participating designers were to select an artist’s work and create a space based on that art piece. Being the beach addicted girl that I am – I found inspiration in a painting by Rob Hartshorn named “Erie Storm.”

Painting Erie Storm by Hartshorn

Erie Storm by Hartshorn

Living on Lake Erie I thought the dark moodiness of “Erie Storm” fit the local lake vibe and I could immediately “see” the whole room by just looking at the painting.
That’s how design often works for me – I can see an item, then I have a little spark in my mind and voila – I can visualize a whole room– from just one inspiration piece.
While researching Rob’s art I toured his main Tremont art studio where I discovered what I think is a visually stunning piece, “The Mermaid.” I instantly knew she would be just right for my beach inspired vision. It is a large format painting so the placement would have to be just right to properly display her in my narrow 8×16 space – but I just had to use her, and kindly, Rob agreed!

I wanted my space to be dark and stormy…atmospheric… yet inviting. In a dark space we are drawn to a point of light so lighting the vignette and the painting would be critical.
With the sea and beach as my design theme, I set off with my wonderful design girlfriend, Lisa, to collect driftwood from Lake Erie for the chandelier above the table. We found some great pieces at a local beach, loaded up my little car, and I headed back to the studio. Driftwood was laid out and screwed together, I added lots of crystals for contrast against the driftwood, three chunky rope lights and viola – I had a show stopping chandelier.

Driftwood Chandelier by Feathered Cottage

Driftwood Chandelier by Feathered Cottage

Feathered Cottage - Kohree String Lights

Feathered Cottage – Kohree String Lights

Really, the chandelier and “The Mermaid” painting stopped people as they walked by and then magically drew them into the space. Lighting is key. To complete the lighting component of the design I ordered a set of multiple strand lights that are suspend down off a main wire for around $30. Great effect for not a lot of money. Shimmering sheers were layered over the lights to create an element of sparkle and mystery.

Coastal Tablescape by Feathered Cottage

Coastal Tablescape by Feathered Cottage

I knew that combining my beautiful white Feathered Cottage ceramic tableware by Montes Doggett with the earthiness of my Libeco Belgian linens would create the perfect table setting for a casual beach inspired tablescape.

Coastal Tablescape by Feathered Cottage

Feathered Cottage Coastal Tablescape – Montes Doggett

Coastal Tablescape by Feathered Cottage

Feathered Cottage Tablescape

I did need a great table to anchor the space. Something earthy and rustic. Dan Quinn with Kiowa to the rescue.

Feathered Cottage - Dan Quinn Table

Reclaimed Barn Beam Table by Dan Quinn

Dan made a custom trestle table just for the Art, Wine & Design show – what a super, nice and talented person! Dan’s business is reclaiming old barn beams locally and then in his downtown workshop he re-purposes his rustic wood into wonderful new furniture. I LOVE THIS! In Ohio we lose a barn a day, Dan helps our historic barns live on in a new and beautiful way.

Feathered Cottage - Kiowa Reclaimed Barnwood

Feathered Cottage – Kiowa reclaimed barn wood

To give the space a modern vibe I purchased clear poly-carbonate chairs from Zuo Modern. I love these chairs. The Anime chairs are clear so they visually open up a space. I think they look simply fantastic with everything. While they are not the classic “Ghost Chairs,” they are very similar and work perfectly. I love the Ghost Chair style so much I have a whole Pinterest board devoted to Ghost Chairs.

Anime Chair by Zuo Modern

Anime Chair by Zuo Modern

Feathered Cottage - Coastal Theme - Urban Floors

Feathered Cottage – Coastal Theme – Urban Floors

The concrete floor in the open gallery just wouldn’t work for my theme – I needed a wood floor with a casual beach vibe to warm up the vignette. The Cleveland Series from Urban Floors provided a great base layer for the casual theme with its slightly distress feel and light sand colored tone. The pieces went together easily and the feel was just right. It took two people about 1-1/2 hours to lay the floor – a big thanks to my sister for all her help!
My next challenge was finding fabric to cover the sidewalls and a sheer for back wall. I wanted a blue fabric to pull in the water feel. I needed 40+ yards of a blue drape fabric and 30+ yards of a sheer fabric. After much fretting and searching I found the fabric in a vendor’s clearance site. Score! It was quite an investment to purchase 70 yards of fabric for a 4 hour display – call me crazy – my husband does all the time!
We employed a suspended cable system to mount the drapes. I made tie backs with 1” rope – super fun detail I think. The ceiling was draped with black tulle for effect. Love, love, love!

Feathered Cottage Table by Arhaus

Feathered Cottage Table by Arhaus

Of all the weird last minute hang ups – and there is always something in a project that doesn’t come together easily – I struggled with finding a console table that I liked. It needed to be slightly rustic, natural, long and narrow, and just the right height for the paining “Erie Storm” to hover above. In a last minute panic I purchased two urns and a marble slab for the top; I just couldn’t settle in with the look though. You know the feeling – you buy something because it is crunch time and you need it but you just don’t love it – I hate that! Yes, it happens to professionals too.
Two days before the show I found a clearance teak table at Arhaus Furniture. I called and pleaded with them to let me have the piece with a rush delivery and Arhaus agreed. Thank you Arhaus!!! The 7:00 am delivery was perfect. They walked the boxed table down the drive way to my car and I drove off to set up.
Assembling the vignette took two days with help from my Sister, my friend Lisa, and my patient and kind husband, Steve. We had about 1,500 people visit the 10 art themed spaces. Food, drink, art, and design – what fun!

Feathered Cottage Coastal Tablescape

Feathered Cottage Coastal Tablescape

“The Mermaid” was glowing from a spray of light cast by an adjacent floor lamp from RW Shea. She looked stunning. While I was taking a long exposure photo of “The Mermaid” the painter Rob walked into the frame. Cool effect – Rob shows as a shadow with his art.
“The Mermaid” has another admirer in town. One visitor came to see her at the show concered because “The Mermaid” was missing from her usual spot at Rob’s Tremont gallery space. Photos cannot do the work justice – Rob’s art is truly beautiful and

-I would love to have “The Mermaid” hanging in my dining room, joining me every day for dinner – now that would be magical!

Feathered Cottage Coastal Tablescape

Feathered Cottage Coastal Tablescape – Sandy & Lisa


Italian Easter Meat Pies – Classic Shadone


Italian Shadones are a traditional Easter staple in my family today.  Meet the little known Shadone – a delicious mixture of Italian meats and cheeses nestled inside a golden, flaky pastry crust – to die for! Such a treat!

Italian Meat Pies

Italian meat pies freshly baked

The exact version varies from family to family.  Sometime regarded as a super, secret recipe, these treasures are shared with family and friends around the Easter holiday table alongside a wonderful sweet ricotta cheese pie, and an orange flavored sweet dough bread shaped like an Easter basket. My ex-Mother-In-Law ties a $5 dollar bill to the bread basket for the kids. The stuff of memories.

I didn’t grow up in a family that had many holiday food traditions (except for Mom’s Christmas 5 min. can’t fail fudge – which kind of says it all – hugs Mom) so as an avid cook with children I have come to appreciate the many ways that food can connect us together and add meaning to our lives.

The following recipe is from my 90 year old amazing ex-Mother-In-Law, Betty.  Over the years I have come to call my cooking lessons – “Baking with Betty” and they are wonderful times that we have spent together with a dash of this, a pinch of that and instructions to mix it until it “squeaks.”   Sharing with you today – Betty B’s recipe for Italian Shadone Meat Pies along with lots of photos of the baking process. Warning – it makes a big batch. Enjoy!

1Lb. Soppressata
1Lb. Pepperoni
1Lb. Italian Coppola Ham
1Lb. Jarlsberg Swiss Cheese
1Lb. Fresh Basket Cheese
1Lb. Dry Ricotta Cheese
6 Eggs, beaten
Dice the meats into very small pieces and place in a large bowl. Dice the Swiss cheese into small pieces and add to the meat mixture. Drain all water off of the basket and ricotta cheeses. Use a ricer if possible to break up basket and ricotta cheese and add to the meat mixture. Add 6 well beaten eggs and mix to completely distribute. Set aside.
Crust – one batch
(You will need approximately 2.5-3 batches of crust for the 6 pounds of filling shown above)
6 C. Flour – unbleached
2 C. Shortening
4 Eggs
½ Cold Water
Cut flour and shortening together. Make a well and add beaten eggs and water. Bring together to make dough. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent drying.
Roll out dough in small amounts and cut approximately a 6-6-1/4 inch diameter circle from the dough. Place a ¼ c. of the filling mixture on one half of the circle of dough. Use a slight amount of water around the edge of the dough circle to ensure a good seal. Fold over half of the dough and use fork tines to crimp and seal the edges. Place the pies on a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Egg Wash
Beat one egg with 1Tbs. of milk. Brush pies with egg wash.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown. Place on cooling rack. Slice when cool to serve. Makes approximately 48 pies.

Store pies individually wrapped in plastic wrap to preserve freshness. Should be refrigerated. Pies freeze well.

Shopping for ingredients

Shopping for ingredients at our local Italian market

Shadone Ingredients

Assembled ingredients

Shadone pepperoni

Remove casing from pepperoni – sorry looks a bit yucky

Shadone Ingredients

Fine dice for all ingredients

Shadone Cheeses

Adding basket and ricotta cheese – through ricer


Shadone filling

Thoroughly mix filling with eggs

Shadone dough

Assemble ingredients for the pastry dough

Shadone dough

Cut in shortening with flour

Shadone template

6″ diameter circle for dough

Shadone dough

Rolling out the dough

Shadone pastry

Cut out the pastry round

Shadone filling

1/4 c. filling per pastry round

Shadone filling

Distribute filling on half of the pastry round

Shadone filling

Moisten edges with water and seal with fork

Shadones baked

Bake 22 minutes at 375 degrees

Italian Meat Pies

Italian meat pies freshly baked – cool then slice – YUM!

Hope you have enjoyed seeing the process.  We love them…and I don’t really eat meat but…I have to cheat with these.  Happy baking!  Happy Easter!


Guide for a Romantic Lobster Dinner


Sharon Cummings Lobster Poster

Romance and lobster just go together! I’m a big list person – here is my list for this year’s romantic Valentine’s Day dinner for two.

The Music
The Beverages
The Table
The Tools – crackers, picks
The Lobster
Lobster & Side

The Music
Set the mood with music! I keep it simple and use Spotify or Pandora. Spotify has a nice Valentine’s Day Playlist that’s filled with love songs to set the mood. For cooking/dining, the Brunch station on Pandora has a good mix.


Spotify – Valentine’s Day Playlist


Pandora – Brunch Station

The Beverages
Lobster can be served so many ways. I opt for a simple boiled lobster which will pair nicely with a chilled Chardonnay or Champagne. Here is a quick guide for pairing wine with lobster.


Which Wine With Lobster – A Guide

The Table
Keep it beautiful and romantic with a few flowers and real candles! Candles boost the romance! Add a pretty tablecloth, cloth napkins and crisp white dishes to accent the red of the lobster and you have an inviting backdrop for the main event.

Candles - photo by Isari Flower Studio

Candles – photo by Isari Flower Studio

The Tools.
We eat lobster often so we have invested in good tools. William Sonoma carries a nice collection of picks and crackers that make the lobster cracking and serving job so much easier. You don’t want to be struggling with your dinner –  tools are key.


William Sonoma Cracker


William Sonoma Picks


Stainless Steel Italian Lobster Pliers William Sonoma

The Lobster
Gee…how many pounds each? That’s always our big question. 1 to 1-1/2 lbs. is an average size for a lobster. This year we are splurging and getting 2 lb. lobsters. Can’t wait!  Boil 9 minutes for the first pound and then add 3 minutes for every additional pound in the pot.
We called our order in to the local grocery store yesterday, (they are happy to special order for us) and our live lobsters will be in after 2 p.m. today. Easy. When they get home the lobsters go right into the fridge.

Loads of videos on how to crack and eat a lobster on YouTube.


Lobster image will take you to Dan the Lobster Man showing us how to crack open a lobster

I want our lobsters to take center stage so I am keeping the appetizer simple and light. We’ll have skewers with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil, drizzled with a balsamic reduction. Other light app options could be cantaloupe wrapped with prosciutto or a light salad. Some folks recommend a cheese biscuit – too heavy for my taste.


Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Reduction

Lobster & Side
This time of year when we cannot fire up the Weber I keep the prep simple by boiling the lobster. Easy, quick and elegant! To complement the bright red color of lobster, I’ve selected broiled artichokes with Aoili as the side. Again, the artichoke preparation will be simple and the flavors will marry perfectly together.

The photo below shows grilled lobster – lovely option too.  Click on the photo to see the recipe for the Aoili dipping sauce.


Grilled Lobster Tails with Saffron Aioli and Grilled Artichokes

Two things that are a perfect match – strawberries and chocolate! Elegant. Sensuous. Chocolate dipped strawberries make a juicy, delicious ending to a romantic dinner. Yum!


9 Secrets to Perfect Chocolate-Covered Strawberries HuffPost Taste

That’s it!  Put on the music, chill the wine, set the table, light the candles and have fun! Enjoy!



Romantic Valentine’s Day Cake


This Heart-shaped Genoise with Champagne-Raspberry Mousse cake is simply to SAMSUNG CSCdie for!  Trust me!  Gorgeous to look at, uber elegant, and oh so delicious.  I have whipped it up for a few Valentine’s Day and Birthday celebrations – this work of art never fails to take center stage.
Published in the February 1997 issue of Bon Appetit this heart shaped raspberry cake recipe by Dan Budd has traveled with me around the country and remains my favorite Valentine’s Day cake.
I have searched on line for a current copy and am unable to find the recipe so I will share the original as published in 1997. Quite a few steps involved in the process – can’t lie about that, but oh so worth the time.

When you click on the pages below they should be legible and easy to use.



Post it covers my notes – 🙂 oh la la


Heart Shaped Genoise Cake Instructions – Page 2

Wouldn’t this cake look stunning on our Rustic Cake Stand with a Balon Cloche?


Feathered Cottage Rustic Cake Stand


Feathered Cottage Balon Cloche


Feathered-Cottage-Wood-Cake-Stand-short3This is going to be the 2015 Valentine’s Day dessert in our house.  See photo below for final result.


SAMSUNG CSCI would love to share photos of your Valentine’s Day desserts – please send pics.
Happy Baking!

PS – The Champagne-Raspberry Mousse – OMG!!