December 23, 2010


I am so excited to share this man's Passion, his Chocolate and how he spreads Love to so many. Meet
Chef Alain Roby.  Does his photo look familiar? For some time this has been part of an advertising campaign for kitchen cabinets in all the major design magazines. Before we move on, study his personal kitchen in the background

Chef Roby.........where do I begin? You must visit his website here . There is too much to share, I will however  share some of his personal life and passions from my perspective, as a friend.
But first! Let's enter his world

Back to Geneva, Illinois, USA, where my shop is located and where the last post took place for the Christmas Housewalk. By the way......the above photo was painted by his darling wife Esther, an amazing artist and a special girlfriend.

Esther is from Italy and I forgot to mention Alain is from France. Here she is surrounded by one of her murals. The expression you see is always there

Remember Alain's kitchen? Here it is repeated, the hood, stained glass, stove, Esther's painting, well everything, in 'Callebaut' Belgian Chocolate, in full scale.......YES EVERYTHING


A scale model as designed by Past Basket Kitchens

The tea kettle and the stained glass are spun sugar

As are all the cabinets
In a donated shopfront in downtown Geneva you can take a visit to the "All-Chocolate Kitchen", enjoy tastings, purchase baked goods and sugar spun art, savor Callebaut hot  choocolate, watch demonstrations..........children are entranced. Visit them at 507 S. Third Street, Geneva
Replicating Esther's glassware collection in spun sugar

On the "granite" countertop, delectables in a sugar bowl.

Let's tour the rest of the shop while I share a small bit of their Love Story and a life lead with unending passions. First, the spun sugar art, we will move to his delectable chocolates and finally to chocolate sculptures for the children

When Alain proposed to Esther, he created a spun sugar sculpture with a lid. The ring was inside, which  is still intact today . Remember.....French!

You see they met on a plane, married and came to America. New York was first. Alain worked at 'The Windows of The World' on top of the trade center. Fortunately for this community this committed pair settled here and raised two "American" boys; Jonathon and Adrian.

During High School Football practice Jonathan collapsed. After this scare and an overwhelmingly long wait, it was discovered that he had a heart defect from birth. This discovery led them to an organiztion called 'Saving Tiny Hearts' an organization that is entirely volunteer based for the sole purpose of raising funds for CDH; congenital heart defects, the number one birth defect in America
ABOVE; his amazing confectionaries, which moments before were nestled in his sugar sculpture. take note of the egg shaped chocolate; blue speckled and filled with what tasted to me, like the crunchy top of creme brulee! 

Along with generous sponsors, a portion of the proceeds is donated to Saving Tiny Hearts. And this endeavor is in their spare time. Alain is currently the Senior Corporate Pastry Chef for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts.
This beautiful candied apple has his spun sugar leaves

Double Guinness world record holder with one of his winners; The World's Tallest Chocolate Sculpture, at 22' tall
On the Martha Stewart's 'TALL SHOW'. His cake weighed 1,250 lbs. see the spun cherry on top? This chocoholic can attest to this cake.......the best i have ever tasted......ever......and I have untold experience. The recipe is in his cookbook. The other gentleman in this photo is their son Jonathan!

Here are some of the items from his shop. Our Christmas desserts will be an array of many selections.....I could not make up my mind!

His simple dream is to 'Embrace life and appreciate all it's goodness"
Cheese filled pastry puffs

SIGH......I sampled most.......proper manners prevented me from going for it all, but, I wanted to

How fortunate are those who recognize their life's passion and go for it! Oh yes, last years World Cup winning Blackhawks......back stage after the Stanley Cup win.........GO HAWKS!
This player remains at the shop. His gluttonous leanings turned him entirely into chocolate! Fear I am a candidate. The glove is from the Blackhawks winning game
OK you are getting it, this larger than life sized lizard lives in the All-Chocolate Kitchen, and in case you were wondering, yes, it is chocolate. As is his soon to be lunch residing on a leaf

This dear man at a rare moment of rest always has that warm twinkle in his eyes. I barely touched on this emerging American success story. Visit his website for more
His new book, 'American Classics' is of course, dessert based. As a frequent recipient of their creations, which we all thought were overly complicated masterpieces, turned out to be very doable, even for non-bakers

Would you like a signed copy? Leave your comments and one of you can enter Chef Roby's world of Passion, sprinkled liberally with Chocolate and Love to all.

Merry Christmas dear friends! Wishing you and yours a blessed season
with love

December 13, 2010

Tour "OUR" Christmas House

The charming town of Geneva in Illinois had their annual Christmas fest two weeks ago. (yes, with good intentions, wanted to post earlier.....but Christmas retail and outdoor containers take over.)
One of the highlights is the house tour where five shops each decorate a home. 2,000+ joined the tour!

Join me as I introduce this years enchanting  home, a collective labor of love.

Built in 1896, this workers cottage (on the right) displays it's simple beginnings.........notice the children at the picket fence (wonder if they have sticks). Once a dirt road, this photo shows Italian minstrel's;  three violinist's and a full sized harp serenade(?)! I would love to know about the origins of that

The cottage today...........ooops, forgot to remove the "bootie" bin!

The two front corners, at the walkway entrance are enhanced with curly willow set in the soil and planted urns. Personally I love to bring "the landscape" to the front of the property to provide interesting viewing from indoors
Up close, greens, faux chartreuse berries, yellow/orange candle holders with battery votives, copper tinted eucalyptus and feathers...I love feathers in outdoor containers

Minimal evergreens in the front gardens prompted me to insert spruce tree toppers along the walkway and landing  Something to consider if your garden if mostly flowers and decidous  shrubs.
All of our color choices inside and out were guided by the homeowners selections. Love that she made the windows boxes extra large and with a repetition of color pulled from the front door for a harmonious exterior.
Christmas decor need not include red and green to be festive

Ornamental grasses and hydrangea heads remain for additional winter texture
Please, come in!
The enclosed porch. Neutral tones allowed us to add touches of red

The large pillow was wrapped in seasonal fabric and we added a plaid blanket at the foot.
." Visions of Hot Toddy's danced in our heads" add a good book and a glistening snow fall..........heaven!

Let's head into the Living Room................

Two tree toppers were wired together, set in water inside a black cast iron urn which raised the trees profile.
This is a good option for small or limited space interiors. These toppers are tall and slender with a wispy, natural feel because of space between branches and trunk

"Donner and Vixen" took refuge under the tree which carried through the theme with a colorful plaid blanket, copper mesh cones, faux vibirnums to enlighten the spot (this is a dark home) and a variety of faux greens

GOOD, really GOOD (often expensive) faux's are hard to beat, as in the blue berried Juniper garland. They provide added interest in unexpected spots, eliminate mess and can be used for years to come.Their exceptional quality, will fool the casual observer

Carefully chosen ornaments integrate the settings existing colors
glass hummingbirds, dark bronze glitter leaves,  double sided satin ribbon, wire mesh copper cones and my favorite copper wired lighting strands with miniature seed lights easily wrap in any direction you choose

Everywhere you look take notice of her color scheme
The owner added the built-in cabinet/window seat, filled with her collection of globes. The bungalow/arts and crafts motif is highlighted through-out

Her home reflects her personal loves and life. A magical trip to Cahors France is remembered.
(like a FULL bodied red wine? you will love Cahors, a very little known red)

Note the greeting into the dining room

The lighting chain becomes festive wrapped in double sided satin ribbon

Take note of the desk/bookcase nook in the background
Faux Paperwhites and greens mix with the owners collection of vintage ornaments

The Nook, I dreamt of blogging in this quaint niche.
drapery colors led the direction of all color choices

Owners collection displayed on mini holders and elsewhere in small green flower frogs

The Kitchen

Kitchen, completely refurbished. Note the 'William Morris' styled wallpaper wrapping the walls and the ceiling
I am crazy for the extra wide moulding
Up close.........mercury glass cones sparkle with battery votive candles

                  all concrete items by Richard Taylor, see credits at the end

Thee Mudroom exits towards the drive. Our retro turquoise snow suit

Let's take this exit....... to the garden courtyard
Lattice was installed to minimize the closeness of the rental next door (yes, you know what "rental" usually means.
Hanging "ball" light spheres for illumination in a dark corner. A vignette was hung to create an additional visual barrier to the waste bins next door.
Not visible during the day, but gorgeous at night is net lighting "sheets" tacked to the back side of the trellising.
I truly believe that a "problem" presents interesting design solutions. And oftentimes those solutions produce great results that might not have been  thought of otherwise....embrace those dilemma's!

I did say miniature!
Some of the touches are not easily discernible;
*on the upper tier of the stone wall we created a "forest" by adding upright long needle pine toppers and yellow twig dogwood
     Do what you can for WINTER viewing, not just the Holidays. Here in Illinois, winter is nearly  6      months and i do not stop looking out my windows, still wanting visual interest
*the garden table is draped in "net" lighting, which extends and drapes like a real table covering would.
At dusk a golden glowing focal point
*topped with fresh greens that the light escapes from, plus our copper lantern from London is lit inside with battery votives that cast a stunning glow on the cherub plaque within

An exterior tablescape.............. my favorite to create
Faux bois planter and mushrooms are the focal point of this vignette, nestled in fresh greens
Every proper console needs an accent above. Our concrete frame awaiting a mirror
Mossy lichen encrusted sticks form the base for fresh evergreens, resin bells (withstand freezing temps), and plastic berries
For the front of the garage, a massive composition in a mossed wire sconce, a huge variety of fresh greens and foliage, faux orange and chartreuse berries
Tin planter embellished with fresh greens, lichen sticks, mini terra cotta pots holding battery votives, and a concrete bird nestled in 'angel vine'

Thank you for coming, I hope you enjoyed!

'May the Christmas season fill your home with Joy, 
your heart with love,
and your life with laughter'
by Eshan
* Primary Interior staff; Vicky Whitt, Susan Olson with santa's helpers; Diane Malloy "sister" and myself
* Exterior staff; myself, and big helper; sister. plus lighting and heavy lifting by husband Steve
* All of the concrete elements; my friend Richard Taylor the genius of Flat Earth Designs, represented at Scentimental Gardens
* A HUGE thank you to Kathy B., our willing homeowner that allowed us utter freedom, a designers dream!


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