So I in honor of these modern times, I am texting you my wishes for a bright and prosperous new year.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
So I in honor of these modern times, I am texting you my wishes for a bright and prosperous new year.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
I am excited about my gift subscription company, "Subscribe To Delight" and I know that there will be lots of women running to the mailbox each month to see what I have sent!
Each month, subscribers receive a surprise in the mail that I think is beautiful and interesting. The gift-wrapped package includes a narrative that explains what it is, why I chose it and how it can bring DELIGHT. The narrative adds to the experience and gives some talking points to explain delight to others. The purpose of SUBSCRIBE TO DELIGHT is to give the subscribers a “lift” and to let them know that someone is thinking of them. My goal is to add some fun and anticipation into our subscribers lives. Do you know a woman that would love a subscription to DELIGHT?
Have you read the write up in Country Living magazine?
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
But tonight I must focus! My book club is meeting tonight (first at a cozy restaurant for dinner & conversation) then on to a bookstore to chose our books for the next six months.
Each member is expected to come with suggestions of books for us to read and why. We'll pool all of the titles and then vote for the ones that sound the best to us. I have been polling my friends and have a few suggestions up my sleeve.
Have you started using Shelfari yet? It is a free online "book shelf" that lets you keep track of books you've read, are reading and want to read. I love it because I can never remember the titles/authors of books once I have read them and it keeps my literary history all in one place. Try it!
Monday, December 28, 2009
This is my year to host and while many of you are nibbling on the remains of the cookies tray, I am beginning to bake!
See my strand of Christmas lights? I bought this copper cookie cutter years ago and was so happy when I found silver sugar to replicate the metal base of the bulb! This season, I saw Christmas light bulb cookies touted as a great hostess gift in House Beautiful and Oprah magazine. Don't you love how they look?
I hope you find a cookie on the cookie tray to "light up" your afternoon.
Saturday, December 26, 2009
I bake this recipe in an Emile Henry oval baking dish (approx 1 qt: oval 11 x 7 x 2) and it serves 6 generously. When it comes out of the oven, invert it onto a large platter to reveal the sticky sweet pecan detail on top. Yum!
Baked French Toast
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 Tablespoons butter
1/4 cup maple syrup
Enough pecan halves to cover bottom of a baking dish (1 cup?)
3/4 c. milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
10 slices of white bread
Melt brown sugar, butter and maple syrup together in a saucepan over low heat. Pour into baking dish and spread evenly. Arrange pecans (top side down) so that they cover the entire bottom of the pan. Arrange 2 layers of bread in the pan, tearing pieces to fit. Whisk eggs, milk and vanilla together. Gently pour egg mixture over bread. Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight.
Uncover and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Invert onto a platter and serve with a pitcher of maple syrup.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Thursday, December 24, 2009
all custom-made for my "family tree."
The focal point of this tree are the ornaments I've made from family photographs.
Yesterday, a reader asked to see the whole tree and I felt silly that I hadn't shown you before! Of course you need to see how they all work together.
Here is my delightful family tree filled with wedding photos, baby pictures and lots of love.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Stacks of old AAA maps from our travel adventures have given us the most beautiful packages. I even think that they look best without any ribbons at all. Isn't it neat how all maps "relate" to each other in color, scale and print? Fabulous.
Back in 2007 (when I first used maps as wrapping paper) I used an adhesive crystal to denote a spot that was meaningful to the recipient. My family & friends just loved it - touches like that are so simple, but they have an emotional impact.
Then I switched gears last year and played up my love of sewing by wrapping packages in sewing patterns! So pretty and unexpected.
What inventive wrapping will 2010 bring? Time will tell.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Your branches green delight us.
They're green when summer days are bright;—
They're green when winter snow is white.
O, Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!"
I had an amazing Sunday afternoon with my nieces and nephews (age 11-18). It was "cookie day" and they came to spend the day baking with us.
Our big family tradition is to bake together and we had a wonderful time rolling, baking and decorating dozens of Nama's Sugar Cookies.
This gorgeous tannenbaum stole the show with its string of lights and gold sugar star.
Monday, December 21, 2009
I think I had combined everything in my mind that I had seen and read about candy making and psyched myself out. Here is a list of what I was worrying about and if it was relevant to toffee making.
- use a copper pot (nope)
- swirl, don't stir (nope)
- brush the sides of the pan with water while cooking (nope)
- temperature is everything (yes)
- don't let it foam/boil over the top (yes, but you are stirring so not a concern)
- keep ice water on hand (yes, safety first)
That day came when my friend Alison (who goes on my "Sugar Secrets" field trip with me every year) said she was up for the challenge. I waved the article (loaded with gorgeous toffee shots) and proclaimed that it was our inspiration page.
I have since received another toffee recipe from a friend and it uses salted nuts and different chocolate. I think that recipe (similar in all other ingredients and proportions) will be a notch better. For your first go around, try this recipe using pecans, and a better quality dark chocolate.
Viva La Toffee!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
She described the trees, the colors and the little holiday touches everywhere. She particularly loved our marshmallow village at the front door.
She said that being in our house was like "walking around inside a Christmas card."
I can't think of a nicer compliment!
So tonight, when you are sitting by the tree with a warm drink in hand, take a deep breath and spend a few moments pretending that you are inside a Christmas card. It feels wonderful.
Friday, December 18, 2009
I got creative and layered elements that I love.
I started with aqua and white cotton dishtowels - I love everything that happens in the kitchen, so I sewed the foundation of the stocking from them.
Quilted white fabric was the perfect "applique" to add some puff to the basic shape.
My favorite part is the fringe I made from a map of northern Michigan!
On Christmas morning, I hope mine is brimming with candy, lipsticks and pretty note papers! What do you hope to find in your Christmas stocking?
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Fantastic! As a girl that kept Perrier in her dorm fridge, I am all for it. And when it looks this pretty, who wouldn't be?
My secret is to put 1 Tablespoon of cranberry juice concentrate in the bottom of a glass, fill with Cap10 sparkling water and top with a lemon slice.
Don't stir it and the cranberry juice concentrate will not mix with the water. It will just make a raspberry-colored tinge on the bottom of the glass and look very festive!
A pretty Tracy Porter glass doesn't hurt either.
Your conversation and your beverage will be clear & sparkling. Cheers!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
It turned out pretty, don't you think?
I used oyster crackers as the siding (love it!) and the window shutters are vanilla wafer cookies. I wanted a simple pine nut walkway (to replicate stones) and made a snow-covered thatched roof by using Frosted Mini-Wheats.
A dried orange-rind star in the eaves is the perfect natural holiday touch.
Get yourself one of those pre-made gingerbread kits (make sure that it includes pre-baked walls and pre-mixed icing. This kit even had "tabbed" walls to secure into the gingerbread base for more stability - fabulous!)
Construction and decorating takes less than an hour and you'll be left with a mini-masterpiece.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
A few years ago the cookie exchanges around here got out of control - the only ticket in one was to agree to bake (wait for it) eight dozen cookies. Good grief, as if we aren't frantic enough this time of year. But things have settled down again and I just attended a cookie exchange (2 dozen) at a Junior League meeting.What I noticed was how happy the women were as they selected a cookie from each plate. I could see the wheels turning: tea, neighbors, mothers, hospitality, chocolate! All of these lovely thoughts swirling around in their heads, triggered by the bounty before them. Everybody feels better when they have something sweet to offer.
Monday, December 14, 2009
We have friends that are new in town and we have invited them to go on a drive next Saturday to "look at the lights." It is such a fun way to get in the holiday spirit and we had a few spectacular spots in mind. But in order to determine our route, we went on a pre-tour this weekend to find the best displays.
I find it very relaxing to have Bing Crosby on the radio, warm drink in hand, driving around "Ohhhing and Ahhhing" at electric enthusiasm.
I love this time of year. Is your enthusiasm electric?
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Now for my secret recipe. This simple chicken recipe makes a fancy dish perfect "for company" and has been my go-to main dish for many years.
This recipe is my gift to you. Make it and you will never again worry about having friends and family over for dinner - I guarantee.
8 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 cups bread crumbs with Italian seasoning
1 can evaporated milk (classic, not 2% or fat free)
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dip a chicken breast in evaporated milk, dredge in bread crumbs and then roll the chicken breast up (starting from the thicker end) to make a "hump." Place each rolled breast (resting the weight of the chicken on the tip to keep it from unrolling, also could be described as laying it "seam side down" if that makes more sense) in a shallow baking pan. Drizzle a generous tablespoon of melted butter over each mound of chicken. Bake for 1 hour (until internal temperature reaches 165 F).
Serve with homemade or store bought cranberry relish, chutney or sauce.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Boxed sets of English Crackers are all over the stores right now and make a great party favor. I think there is something so fun about pulling the ends, hearing the snap and shaking little trinkets out. What's not to like?
But I also wanted you to show you my version. Inspired by an old issue of Country Living magazine (British Edition) that features a trio of handmade English Crackers on the cover. I have thought about doing this project for years and years until I finally walked into the powder room last week and unrolled 3 complete rolls of toilet paper in order to get the empty tubes I needed. Seriously.
It was a piece of cake after that. Simply center the tube on a doubled piece of tissue paper, roll it up and place a piece of tape on the seam. Wrap a smaller piece of decorative paper (the same length as the tube) over the tissue layer and tape. Tie a pretty piece of ribbon on each end to gather the tissue and close the tube.
I didn't fill the tubes with candy & treasures (before tissue paper step), because I could see from the papers and ribbons that they would be too gorgeous to snap! I used pink tissue paper and a vintage-style map of Paris.
Make your own English Crackers...it's a snap!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
In 2002, the Martha Stewart for Kmart collection featured gumdrop people as Christmas ornaments. I bought one (or more!) of the pink girls, orange boys, red girls with hats, snowmen and angels. They are just darling and some of my favorite ornaments.
I have a wooden "gumball" garland, old-fashioned candy sticks and bows made from candy dots on paper. I keep my eye out for sweet treats to enhance my collection, but really nothing could make me happier than the adorable gumdrop people that I already have.
Monday, December 7, 2009
There are so many beautiful candy cane collections available, I wanted to think of a way to use them! The colors of the "Sweet Tart" variety won me over, although there is a "sweet & sour" aspect to the candy that I question. I think next time I will choose a gorgeous color palette, but will make sure that the flavor really compliments white chocolate, like strawberry.
All in all, I think this candy is so pretty and tart or not, I can't keep my husband away from it!
Enter: glittered pink poinsettia floral picks and a few spools of wired ribbon. As I carried my bounty around the store, I got approving glances from all the ladies.
I set to work in my kitchen one night and ended up with a row drying (the glue gun glue had to set) on my oven door- it was quite a sight!
Saturday, December 5, 2009
When I offer someone a cup of tea, there is always a lot of interest in trying something special this time of year and who could resist choosing between:
Candy Cane Lane
Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride
Sugar Plum Spice
or (my favorite) Nutcracker Sweet.
I am giving you the heads up that this collection is not stocked in all stores and is available in limited quantities, so buy it if you see it. I am happy to say that the online store works well too and since this year I could not find Nutcracker Sweet (black tea with a hint of vanilla) on the shelf, I'll be ordering online too!
Who do you have tea with?
Friday, December 4, 2009
Last night my Mom and I hosted a table at our church's annual Advent By Candlelight event. Over 200 women participated in this quiet evening that celebrates the beginning of advent. There was a church service (a sanctuary filled with women singing!), a chance to walk around and admire the different table decorations and then an hour or so for tea and dessert.
We put a pink & white antique quit on the table and then added our vintage-style buildings to make the perfect little town square. We had a pond for ice skaters and even a tiny horse-drawn sleigh. It was a beautiful December night in our little town, just after a marshmallow snowstorm! We had so much fun planning this table and had many admirers admit that they had snitched a marshmallow. Now that spells success in my book.
I hope you can relax and enjoy this season of advent.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
This adorable tree is made from just 6 craft store items.
You'll need a Spruce tree (from the Christmas Village department of the craft store), a pretty base (I used a plastic dessert mold, but any sturdy cup will do), some pastel buttons, a painted wooden star (from the wood shapes area of the craft store) and a piece of ribbon.
I used hot glue gun to glue the tree into the base, then I glued the buttons to the branches, topped it with the star and tied a ribbon at the base. Voila!
A super cute Christmas tree that anyone would love to receive!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I have a huge collection of cookie cutters (easily over 250) and I can tell you where I got each and every one.
There is the giant tree from my friend Toni. A Dr. Seussian candy cane that my Dad was sure I had to have. One year, my brother even gave me the entire alphabet. When I sort through my collection, I remember everything.
The next time you see a display of cookie cutters, think of the casual bakers in your life and choose the perfect cookie cutter for them. Pick something unusual like a sweater or a house (My craziest cookie cutter is a sewing machine!).
They will think of you every time they use it, I guarantee.
Now that is a Baker's Delight.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
It is also important to me that I show you simpler ways of getting the same effect. Want cookie ornaments but don't have time to actually roll, cut & bake them?
This time of year, IKEA sells ginger heart cookies (baked with a hole!) that you can hang on the tree. In this photo, you can see that I simply tied each one with chocolate satin ribbon.
Now this is edible art!
Monday, November 30, 2009
This system has worked for me for years and I thought it might help you to make the most out of the next 33 days. I think of everything in terms of whether it is: Visual, Edible or Givable. I realized long ago that taking care of the visual part of the holidays first always makes things run smoothly.
When the house is decorated, I am ready for unexpected guests, I can have neighbors over for a cup of tea, I can step in and "host" something if plans go awry. I do not bake, or shop or experiment in the kitchen during this first phase. If it doesn't get me closer to a decorated house, I don't do it. This time is dedicated to making the holidays beautiful. These few days go quickly and then I can sit back and enjoy the atmosphere.
So this week I will be posting some visual touches for the holidays. Think of me covered in glitter, dotted with glue and happy as a clam.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
December 1st is right around the corner, so today I am making an advent calendar from a We R Merry & Bright Advent Calendar die cut. The 25 days have pre-punched windows that open - what could be better?
I am going to cut a piece of poster board to be the same size as this house. Then I will affix a holiday sticker (sled, candy cane, ornament) behind each window and then glue around the perimeter of the house to attach it to the poster board. I'll staple a striped ribbon to the back of the board (at the corners) so my calendar can hang on the wall. Love it!
Have you found (or made) yourself an advent calendar?
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
In honor of today's tasks (3-D turkey made of cornbread, cranberry jello mold and green bean prep), I am posting a photo directly from the set of Martha's television show. I was in the audience a few years back and took this photo between segments.
Good luck with all of your holiday preparations and tell me, are you cooking with Martha?
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
My Mom & I made fast friends with a table of ladies and talked about Swedish baking and such while we snacked on the plate above (Drommar Dreams, Rye Logs and Cardamom Rolls). The smorgas (open face) sandwich had meatballs on a bed of beet/dill/apple/leek salad over limpa (caraway/rye/fennel) bread. Yum!
We browsed the collection of Swedish dishtowels & decorations for sale, scanned the selection of food items (they had my Swedish Pearl Sugar!) and left with a bag full of homemade Swedish baked goods. Right now I am eating a vanilla-butter taffy called smorkola this is so good I want to book my flight to Sweden right now! I started with a bag of 7 hand-wrapped pieces and there are only 4 left! I love Swedish Sweets!
Friday, November 20, 2009
Okay, I didn't really make the paper napkins, so much as I embellished them.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
But now that Christmas is coming, I am on the hunt for one of my favorite green touches...a rosemary tree!
I like to have a big one next to the sink in my kitchen. It smells like heaven, mimics the look of a Christmas tree and is fabulous in marinades! What more could a girl want?
This photo is of a gorgeous shop called Boxwoods Garden & Gifts. If I lived in Atlanta, I know that a good portion of my Visa bill would read Boxwoods each month.
I literally wanted everything in this greenhouse! This garden mecca would have a rosemary tree for sure. Where is your favorite greenhouse?
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The ultimate "Fall" cookie - gingerbread cookies shaped like acorns!
For whatever reason, many people have stopped over this week and they all got a cookie. It feels great to be able to offer them something special with a cup of tea.
I made these cookies from a box of Betty Crocker gingerbread cake mix (instructions are on the side panel) and frosted the caps with a bottle (read: easy to dispense) of Wilton white cookie icing. You can find an acorn-shaped cookie cutter here.
Note: Stores often run low on the red box of Betty Crocker gingerbread cake mix. Seriously, one year I had to scour the local markets looking for (what felt like) the last 6 boxes of Betty Crocker gingerbread mix. So now I buy them when I see them and always have a few on hand. If you go to the Betty Crocker website, this mix (in the red box) is strangely absent. Is it limited edition? Seasonal? Top secret? All I know is that it makes wonderful gingerbread cookies and you should buy a box when you see it.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
I want to shake hands with the person that proposed this color palette. It is very Laura Ashley meets House Beautiful and I love it! The one I am drinking today (center top) is Tilleul (Linden) which is described as doux & delicat (smooth & delicate).
Monday, November 16, 2009
We are hosting a potluck dinner for fourteen this December. Our group had to "iron out" a good date via email, so they know the day they are coming over and why. But I won't be happy until this is in their mailbox. Something that says I'm excited that they are coming for dinner and have already starting planning.
Honor your parties by sending real invitations. It will make your guests feel special and be a wonderful visual cue for the fun times ahead.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
After the book signing, I was able to join in the fun and attend the last stop on the progressive (a discussion on steeping & keeping tea) at Summer Kitchen Interiors.
Lots of ladies were gathered around the super-cute shop listening to the speaker and tasting tea and sweets. It was all very "girl-y" and I loved it. I am telling you about it today because I came across the favor we all received. A silverplate teaspoon tied with a teabag and business card (naming the tea on the back). Smart smart smart.
- Mix & match silverware is very popular, so another teaspoon is always welcome.
- The attendees all love tea and now they could sample one at home.
- The tea & tag presentation was so cute I kept it "as is" all this time.
On another note, the amazing backdrop shown is a paper die cut from BoBunny. Although it is intended for scrapbooking, I use it as a doily! So pretty and dynamic on a wood tray.
Friday, November 13, 2009
First, if you build the look around one showpiece (in this case, the salad plate) it is much easier to find your way. If you need a show-stopper, head to the discount shop (Homegoods, Marshals, TJ Maxx). Right now they are loaded with transferware-like salad/dessert plates with turkeys on them for $6-8 each. They are really handsome, inexpensive and a great way to update a dinner plate that you already own.
Second, I made a "napkin ring" out of laser cut scrapbook paper from Michael's. Just cut the sheet into strips, wrap a strip around a plain white napkin and tape the ring closed on the back.
Third, the placemat shown here is a piece of fabric that I cut in a rectangle and "serged" the edges. If you don't have a serger, my advice is to "pink" the edges with pinking shears and you are ready! This should keep the fabric from fraying and eliminate the need to sew anything.
Need matching glasses for eight? I bought the mocha-colored acrylic glass shown here at Target for $1.99!
My advice is to lay out the plates, linens and candles that you have, look for a color theme and run with it! Even using just one of my ideas could help make your holiday table feel brand new.
Happy Thanksgiving-planning from me to you.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
When I was in Bar Harbor, I found this beautiful pergola in a park across from the main shopping area.
I walked the entire length of it, then pivoted and walked it again. The combination of shadow and structure was so pretty I didn't want to leave.
This is a moment of delight.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
- Knitting Needles
As a result of this, I have so many sets of knitting needles that it's silly. I give a set away whenever I teach someone, but still! So from now on I am getting smart and bringing a set of needles along. If you hear me mention a trip on Facebook, remind me, okay?
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Do you like my marzipan vegetables? Fall is here!
Monday, November 9, 2009
A friend of mine suggested brunch after church a few weeks ago. She said that everyone was talking about a local nightclub that serves breakfast (!) and she wanted to check it out. Hmm...okay, I'm game.
We found it (a little bar in Ferndale called Club Bart) and were seated at a high table with bar stools in the window. When we heard the specials, we were hooked. We picked the omelette-of-the-day and the pumpkin pancakes to share. Just look! The syrup was a homemade brandy sauce (yum!) and we devoured every bite.
No matter where you live, it is very likely that the local breakfast spot is whipping up pumpkin pancakes. Maybe its time to invite a friend to brunch.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
When I was on Little Cranberry Island (Islesford) in Maine, our new friend, Soos, drove us around the island on our own private tour. She loved that I was a photographer and went out of her way to make sure that I got every shot that I wanted.
Every time I gasped, she slammed on the brakes! It was like Happy Whiplash.
The crowning glory was a stop at her family home where I took this photograph.
Thank you, Soos, for making my first trip to Maine so wonderful.
Friday, November 6, 2009
The trick was that I covered each pot with 2 layers of bricks. The squirrels couldn't get the bricks off to dig down and eat my bulbs! Hallelujah.
I have had my share of tulip-tastrophies too. Note to self: If you make custom-fit wire screens for the inside of your pots to keep the squirrels out, you have to remember to remove the screens from under the dirt in the Spring or your bulbs will be trapped! I kept waiting and waiting and couldn't understand why no green sprouts were coming up. By the time I realized my mistake, the bulbs were beyond saving. The next year I was back to bricks!
My point is, don't be discouraged if you have tulip challenges. Be creative...and then write yourself a note on your calender so you remember what to do in the Spring! The result is SO worth it!
Thursday, November 5, 2009
I used Sobo glue to attach lime green faux crocodile paper to the box. After the glue had dried, carefully use an X-acto knife to trim the extra paper off. I chose a flat gem set from the jewelry section of the craft store (you may need to cut off the attachment loop on the back with needle nose pliers so that it will lay flat - this particular piece was already flat.) Use Gem-Tac to attach gem set to the top of the box. So pretty, right?
When you are shopping for the gem set, start thinking about the holidays. If you find the perfect combination of paper and stones - get enough to make three! They make a unique hostess or teacher gift.