Thursday, December 31, 2009

H.N.Y.

This is a reproduction of a vintage snowflake decoration (love of the past) that was created and sold recently (living in the present) shown to you via the most modern method of all...the internet (surely our future).

So I in honor of these modern times, I am texting you my wishes for a bright and prosperous new year.

HNY!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Delightful Year

2010 is going to be a delightful year!

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!

What is "Subscribe To Delight?"

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

Book Club Books

This is the type of bookshelf I am drawn to...packed with knitting projects, recipes and decorating ideas.

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

Christmas Tea

Every year we have a small Family Tea with our mothers, aunts and their children. It brings the ladies together for a cup of tea and conversation and lets the cousins play together for a few hours.

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

Baked French Toast

If your holidays are anything like mine, there is still a lot of celebrating to do. I thought that a simple (but gorgeous) breakfast dish just might come in handy this week. As long as you have pecans in the house, everything else you need should be on hand.

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?)
4 eggs
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.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas



May you have a
delightful holiday
filled with family
and friends.
Love, Anne

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Family Tree

Over the years, I have loved giving you ideas for Christmas ornaments that you can make yourself. There have been:

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

Map Wrap

My use of maps as wrapping paper is driven purely by its visual impact (rather than environmental) but nevertheless, "being green" is relevant and this counts!

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

O Christmas Tree

"O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
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

Toffee Time

I have wanted to make toffee for years - I even own 2 candy thermometers - but I had never tried it until this weekend.

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)
Despite my mental list above, I had hung onto a "making toffee" article from Southern Living (since 2004!) in the hopes of figuring it out one day.
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

3-D Christmas Card

I received an I loved it! note from a friend who came to dinner last week.

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

Christmas Stockings

I gave myself permission to combine whatever materials I wanted to make stockings for the family room.

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?


Cookie Cutter Spotlight

I thought that you might like to see...

My ever-growing cookie cutter collection has a "spotlight" in today's Detroit Newspaper "Cookie Cutter Collection has sentimental value"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Clear & Sparkling

There are so many ways to indulge at the holidays, I am finding that more & more of my guests are opting for sparkling water as their beverage.

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

Gingerbread House

This year I wanted to highlight the softer side of gingerbread and decorate in all shades of white, biscuit and tan.

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

Cookie Exchange

I love a good cookie exchange. A chance to bake some cookies, bring them to a party and leave with a smattering of everyone's very best baking.

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.

Bon Appetit!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Electric Enthusiasm

A quick drive-thru McDonald's for a hot chocolate and I was ready for a light tour!

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

Holiday Entertaining

I love love love to have people over for dinner - especially around the holidays.

I start with a pretty tablecloth (Xochi), add special dishes (my grandmother's pattern "Jewel" by Spode) and use lots of votives for candlelight. Every time I walked into the kitchen and saw this table, it made me happy.

Wouldn't you want to have a Christmas dinner here?


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.

Delightful Chicken

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.
Yum!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cozy Nights

Michigan had a sudden cold snap and as I drove to my "Euchre Night" last night, the car thermometer read 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrrrr......
Normally at our card parties, the hostess sets up tables and provides the cards and beverages, but doesn't need to worry about food. Then the players descend on her house with appetizers and dessert bites at 6:30.
So when we all tromped up the front walk in the biting cold, it was such a surprise to find that our hostess had made a big pot of chili to warm us up.
Nothing could have tasted better to us than homemade chili topped with cheese, sour cream & hot sauce. I am telling you this because I believe her gesture exemplifies what it means to be a good hostess. Considering the event, the guests and the circumstances to make everyone feel at home. It was a cozy evening of cards by the fire and I loved every minute of it.
Are you hosting an event this season?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Crackers

Feeling British? Why not decorate your holiday table with some English Crackers?

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

Sweets for the Sweet

You know how I love candy. So you'd expect nothing less than for me to have a candy-themed tree, right?

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.

Thanks, Martha.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Candy

Beautiful and Interesting - that is what makes for fun Christmas candy! I made my own variation on traditional bark simply by selecting a different kind of candy cane.

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!

Pink Poinsettias

Now this is an ornament! When I saw a pack of soft pink balls at Michael's, I knew I had to dress them up into something wonderful!

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!

Love it!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holiday Tea

Day in and day out, my tea of choice is English Breakfast. But when the holidays come around, I can't resist buying the entire collection of Celestial Seasonings' Holiday Teas.

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
Gingerbread Spice
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

Advent By Candlelight

Could there be a nicer way to spend an evening?

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

Button Tree

Do you want to make the cutest Christmas tree ever? Get out your glue gun, girlfriend, this super cute tree is within your reach!

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

Baker's Delight

Have you ever given someone a cookie cutter?

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

Cookie Ornaments

When I move into the Edible phase of my holiday preparations, I'll be making scores of gingerbread men. Tied with a ribbon and hung on the tree, nothing beats the sweet tradition of having edible ornaments.

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!