Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year's Eve

It's New Year's Eve!

I hope you are dressed to the nines (like my mannequin friend here) and are heading out for a night of fun.

I am going out for a lovely dinner with friends and then on to a party to ring in the new year.

Raise your glass and toast all of the delightful possibilities in 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Are you home sweet home this time of year?  I am home for the holidays and it feels wonderful.  I've celebrated this fact by baking a cake in my new favorite cake pan by Nordic Ware, "Gingerbread House." 

If given the chance, I would have named this pan, "Home Sweet Home."  The design certainly transcends the holidays and will be my "go to" cake whenever a friend moves into a new house.  I can't think of anything that would say "Welcome Home" better than this!

Made this cake earlier in December with a gingerbread cake mix and cream cheese icing (piped on the eaves and windows) and it was a hit!  This version was both super cute and super easy, because I used a box of Betty Crocker Super Moist cake mix (Butter) and decorated with just a dusting of powdered sugar snow.  Love it!

This is a place to call home.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Twitter: Find Delight

"Rockin' Robin! Tweet-tweet!"

I love technology, social networking and how tiny the world can be if we let it. 

I have had nothing but positive experiences with my "Moments of Delight by Anne Reeves" Facebook page.  I post pictures, thoughts and inspirations as I go about the week planning my photos, blog posts and business ventures.  I have also been on the receiving end of technology - getting streams of "must see" suggestions from my "fans around the world" when I was travelling through England this Summer.  It was so much fun.

Twitter is a bit more illusive, but I am determined to use it in a meaningful way.  My account is Find Delight and if you are interested, I hope you will open a free Twitter account and sign up to follow me. 

I will post an idea, thought or suggestion every few days, which will give you a sneak peak about what is on my radar.  I just tweeted my book club's picks for the titles we will read in 2011.

Interested?  Tweet-tweet!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Map of Paris

I can think of nothing better to make coasters out of than a map of Paris.  It encourages me to dream of my favorite city at all times of the day.  With a cup of tea, a glass of wine...

It was such a delightful surprise to receive these coasters in the mail from my dear friend, Kerry.  I love, love, love them.  Can you believe how well the colors go with my house!?  I was even lucky enough to get a tile with "my" street (Rue Jacob) on it!

If you'd like to dream of Paris along with me, check out my series on the City of Light here.

Kerry, you know me so well.  Merci!

Monday, December 27, 2010

All is Calm

I am loving these quiet days between Christmas and New Years.

You know what I did this morning?  I finished a book that I have been trying to read for weeks.

You know what I am going to do next?  Read another book.  And drink tea.  And maybe, just maybe, finish making a pillow for myself. 

My favorite thing I designed this year was a Christmas pillow to give as a hostess gift to my friends.

I used this charming vintage scene from a tiny antique Christmas card.  I scanned the image and printed it onto a piece of 8 1/2 x 11 printable fabric.  Then I sewed a wonderful wool fabric (that picks up all of these gentle colors) onto the back to make a pillow.  I have given several away, but never finished one for myself! 

Today is the day (I think) and the finishing touch will be some Swarovski crystal stars twinkling in the night sky.  Can you hear the quiet?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

Tracking Santa on Christmas Eve

Before you look to the sky tonight "to see if reindeer really know how to fly," you can check the NORAD website to see Santa's exact location on their "Santa Tracker." 

As I am writing this, it shows that Santa Claus is in Burgas, Bulgaria!  How cool. 

Merry Christmas! 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Vintage Gift Wrap

Tah-dah!  This is my color-scheme for Christmas 2010: mint, cream and black.  I am celebrating the music that has filled our lives from day one.

You might remember that I was going a different direction with my colors this year - thinking white, silver and craft paper brown.  I completely changed my mind when my new friend, Julian came to my house, saw my "world" and gave me something precious...vintage sheet music! 

A member of his family was a musician, who collected a roomful of sheet music over the years.  I have been given the most beautiful pieces of paper with the purpose of crafting with it!  It took me a while to get up my courage, but I have come up with a plan.

The paper fans, pleating and canisters you see above are made with the actual vintage music sheets and I will treasure them always.  The flat panels that adorn the packages are color copies!  I can admire the beauty of the paper, while not "wasting" something vintage.

Each music score comes with gorgeous cover art that is worthy of being framed (see one in the background of this post).  I will scan those covers into my computer so that I can work with them without harming the originals. My plan is to frame the originals for the house.  I am having so much fun with this.  Thank you, Julian, your thoughtfulness has been music to my ears.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Breakfast Recipes

I wanted to share with you my favorite breakfast recipes.  Whether you are looking for something Sweet, Sticky or Savory - these are all delish.  I hope your celebrations include lots of hungry friends and family at breakfast time!

I LOVE to make my (click link) Baked Pecan French Toast - this year I am taking it to my friend's house for Christmas Eve brunch.

You should know about my simple Brunch Casserole too.  Butter 13 x 9 pan. Line it with 6 pieces of white bread.  Sprinkle sliced or chopped ham, frozen broccoli (cooked and cooled) and liberal amounts of shredded cheddar cheese.  Top with 6 more slices of bread.  Mix 6 eggs, 3 cups milk, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, 2 Tablespoon minced onion (fresh or dried) and salt/pepper.  Pour egg mixture over casserole, cover with cling wrap and let stand in refrigerator at least 6 hours (better if left overnight!).  Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 hour.  Let stand 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

Eggs Baked in Tomato Cups (shown above)

6 medium tomatoes
6 eggs
5 Tablespoons of butter, softened
1/2 cup of shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 cup of Italian-style bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash tomatoes.  Slice the top off of each tomato (take as little off as possible) and then remove and discard the pulp/seeds from inside.  Lightly salt the tomatoes.  Place each tomato in an individual ramekin (mine are by Emile Henry) or group them together in a classic baking dish with sides.

Break one egg into each tomato cup.  Crack pepper and salt over each egg.  Bake for 35 minutes.  While baking, mix softened butter, bread crumbs and shredded Swiss cheese into a paste.  When eggs are finished baking, top each egg/tomato with equal portions of the cheesy breadcrumbs.  Bake a few minutes more until the cheese melts.

Serve and enjoy! Careful, this dish is piping hot inside.

Get out some cute linens and celebrate with a delicous hot breakfast!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Capture the Moment

This year, when you have finished decorating the house, I suggest you walk around and take some photographs.

I love pictures of family and friends, of course.  But I LOVE to look at photos of my house over the years. These pictures serve as a digital time capsule.  I find myself thinking, "I remember that chair!", "Whatever happened to that vase?" or "So that was the year we put up wallpaper!"

Take a few photos of the inside of your home and store them in your computer picture file under 2010.  Years from now you will marvel at the subtle changes that have happened over the years and have fun taking a peek into the past.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Light Box

I was mesmerized.  And then speechless.  And then jealous.

Look at this gorgeous framed masterpiece that my friend's Aunt Pam made.  She told me that years ago, she and her friends all worked on a project like this.  One that uses plywood, electric Christmas lights, and black velvet to highlight small objects.

Pam made this sparkling tree with a collection of costume jewelry from a dear relative.  Here we have earrings, buttons, brooches and bracelets artfully arranged into the most sentimental Christmas tree of all time.

I just love it and hope to make one for myself someday.  This is the epitome of beautiful and interesting.  Are you inspired too? 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Frosting and Fellowship

Years ago, my friend Angie and I decided to plan regular craft nights for our friends.  We'd set the date, gather some snack foods and invite our friends to join us for "Glue & Gab," a dedicated time to work on projects in the company of other like-minded people.  Fun, right?  Well, for whatever reason, Angie and I were the only regular attendees and ultimately it became just me going to her house or her coming here.  We faithfully still refer to our crafting as "Glue & Gab" and I was so happy when she called to invite me to her next brainchild, "Frosting and Fellowship."  Ha!

So this week I headed over to her house to experiment with Royal White icing. In all my years of baking, somehow I had never tried it!  I knew all kinds of tips and techniques from my years of watching Martha, but I had never put my knowledge in to practice.  So with all the time in the world, we gave it a try. 

A friend had shown Angie a technique for decorating cookies with Royal White icing that involves piping an edge around the perimeter of each cookie and then "painting" in the open area with thinned icing and a paint brush (as opposed to flooding with a pastry bag).  It worked like a charm and our cookies are gorgeous!  What I like about this icing is the smooth finish and "stackability" - the icing hardens and it won't get dented or ruined on a cookie tray or in transit to a party.  

Long live "Frosting & Fellowship!"

Friday, December 17, 2010

Antique Calendars

Do you love it?  When I noticed this paper plaque (the top portion of a calendar) at an antiques show, I could immediately see it on display here on my baker's rack.

I went to an antiques show with my parents and I had only been there about five minutes when I noticed this gorgeous plaque.  I couldn't play it cool.  I didn't bargain or act aloof.  And I certainly wasn't going to walk away, only to circle back later.  I couldn't risk having someone else snag this!  I was smitten and I'm sure the look on my face made it clear to everyone that I simply had to have it.

Lucky for me it was very reasonable, being that it was only half of the original piece.  If the paper calendar from December 1930 (?) was still attached, I know that the price would have been much higher.

I love it, love it, love it.  Pressed paper in shades of mint green, aqua, pale rose and mustard depicting a perfect moment in the countryside.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Decorations

My master plan for Christmas decorations is all coming together!

Remember when I started collecting vintage Christmas ornaments?  I bought a half dozen or so (one by one) at antique shows and then ended up caving and buying some on eBay to give me enough for this display.  I love it so much, I don't mind that I missed "the hunt!"

This is my living room where you can see my little Nativity scene all set up and surrounded by dried orange rind stars -cute, eh?

I love to sit in this room at night and look at the lights twinkling on the tree.  It feels like I am sitting inside a Christmas card.  All I need is a mug of cocoa or my hot cranberry glogg!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday Clock

Sometimes the thing you need the least, can be something you enjoy the most.

Did I need a holiday clock on the kitchen counter?  Nope.  But boy does it make me happy every time I see it!

After making a gingerbread cake with Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa gingerbread mix (yum), it was impossible for me to throw away this box. It's just too cute! 

In fact, before I baked the cake, I liked how the box looked sitting on the counter building some anticipation.

I don't see this exact box available on the Barefoot Contessa website, but any of the boxes would make super cute clocks!

To make this project, you will need a box, an inexpensive clock movement (I find them at craft stores), scissors, strong tape, a pen and a battery.  That's it! 

Open box.
With a pen, mark on the box where the clock center should be.
Poke a hole (as large as the clock mast that will poke through) on that spot with scissors.
Open the clock movement package and determine with parts stay in the box (battery, mast, washer) and which parts go on the face of the clock (hands, washers)
Put battery into clock base.
Put clock base into box and poke mast through hole.
Attach clock hands etc. (in proper order, see clock packaging) on face of clock.
Screw pieces on, as directed.
Set time by gently spinning hands clockwise.
Determine if clock base inside box needs a piece of tape to secure it.  Can't hurt.
Tape top of box closed and enjoy!

Do you have a cute box left over from your holiday baking?  Turn it into something wonderful!  Thanks, Ina, my holiday kitchen looks adorable!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Santa Claus is Coming!

Can you believe your eyes?  It's Santa and his reindeer flying in from the right!  A blur of delight!

I made a new friend at Dana & Lance's party - Lance's Aunt Pam is a kindred spirit!  We were invited to her home to see her Christmas decorations and when I rounded the corner and saw this display I was speechless.  She has built a Christmas Village display in her living room that is worthy of a museum.  The photo above captures about one fifth of the display!  It runs the entire length of the room and is a multilevel masterpiece.

Gondolas slowly advance across a wire in mid-air taking passengers up to the ski resort.  Small children make snow angels (moving their arms and legs!) while their older brothers play hockey nearby.  I could have looked at this display forever - each tree, shopper and building were so thoughtfully placed that this village looks as "real" as Frosty when he wears his magic hat.
  
Pam has been collecting buildings (many are made by Department 56) for twenty years now and she says she is still not done!  This artist extraordinaire has the magic touch and I am so grateful that she was willing to let me share her vision of Christmas with you!  This is delight.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Spirit

I have seen the spirit of Christmas and actually walked around inside of it on Saturday night.

My dear friends, Dana & Lance, invited me to their home for a Country Christmas party.

I brought my friend Chrissy along and we took advantage of the hour and a half drive north to really catch up.

What took our breath away?  This 14-foot (although it looked like at least 20 to me!) fresh cedar Christmas tree.  What a sight.  The house has a lighthouse-like alcove that allows for this kind of majesty.

We were offered homemade Elderberry Wine (yum!), listened to live music played by their friends (banjo, fiddle, bass and guitar) and were truly welcomed by the group.  What a lovely way to spend a Christmas evening.

On our way home, Dana took us to Lance's aunt's house to see her Christmas spirit!  Tomorrow I will show you something incredible.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cookie Walk Cookies

I thought that you might want to see the finished product!  120 sugar cookies (made with my grandmother's recipe), all frosted, decorated and ready to be delivered to the Cookie Walk.

What an accomplishment!  I couldn't have done it without my niece, Heather, who helped me roll, cut & bake these beauties.  I also owe my sanity to my parents who came and helped me frost and decorate all of them in one morning.

My favorites were the sweaters!  Who wouldn't want Santa's red sweater complete with snowflake buttons and white cuffs?  I am happy to say that our time was well spent.  The cookies were well received at the Cookie Walk and they sold out quick!  Have you ever been to a Cookie Walk?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chocolate Monogram

How do you like my white chocolate monogram?

A long time ago I saw a dish of chocolate letters and have been carrying the idea of making a chocolate monogram in my head ever since.

I decided to reinterpret the classic white chocolate peppermint bark (that is so popular at the holidays) and this is my super cute result!

All you need is an alphabet mold, a bag of white chocolate chips, crushed peppermint starlight mints, a glass measuring cup, spoon, knife and a microwave. 

Simply put enough white chocolate chips to fill 3 letters (21 chips?) in a glass measuring cup.  Microwave at 10 second intervals, stirring in between, until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Spoon the chocolate into each letter of the monogram.  Level off each letter by removing excess chocolate with a knife.  Sprinkle crushed mints on top of chocolate and place in freezer for 5 minutes.  Remove from freezer and pop out chocolates onto a tray.  Cute, eh?  Now repeat as many times as you want.

This candy is the perfect after dinner sweet.  And who doesn't love a monogram?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Designer Water

You know that I instantly fell for these Evian water bottles!  And naturally I wanted them for something other than their original purpose.

These lace-like beauties are part of a series of designer water at Evian.  In 2008, Christian Lacroix designed this gorgeous limited edition bottle.  Three of them now serve as candlesticks and bring Swedish elegance to my window sill at Christmastime.  Love it!

I have also collected a few of the bottles designed by Jean Paul Gaultier in 2009.  Bold blue graphics makes it really stand out.  I bought several that year and brought them to parties instead of wine - fun, eh?


My collection is missing the 2010 bottle. I have yet to see the Paul Smith Evian bottle in stores, but have not given up hope!  It has swirls of colored ribbon on it and I think it is gorgeous.

The latest bottle to be introduced showcases one bright flower on clear glass and was designed by Issey Miyake.  It feels like Spring and will be perfect for outdoor gatherings.  Have you ever seen these designer waters?

This whole concept is that they are making Designer designer water. Right?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gingerbread Men

I am bringing an army of gingerbread men to a cookie exchange tonight!  Yes, they are more work than a traditional bar or drop cookie, but isn't the cute worth it?


My grandmother always made gingerbread men to hang on her Christmas tree.  A red ribbon around the neck (tied with a bow) was the perfect place to catch the wire ornament hanger.  These boys hung all over her tree and we were "allowed" one as a snack when we dropped by.  Picking a cookie off of a tree (like an apple!) was a thrill when I was eight.  These edible ornaments continue to be a tradition in my house.


The trick is letting them dry out a bit - they need to harden up to be able to withstand the pressure of hanging.  When you make your batch, don't roll them too thin.  You are looking for a sturdy cookie.  The recipe? "All you need is a red box (there is also a pouch, but I've never tried it) of Betty Crocker Gingerbread Cake and Cookie mix (plus a bit of water, flour and melted butter).  The recipe is on the side of the red box and they come out perfectly every time.  The cutter?  I found this website and the "7 1/2 inch tin plated" gingerbread man looks a lot like the shape of mine.


This year if you are invited to a cookie exchange, instead of resorting to a bar cookie, maybe you can find time for the cute. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Vintage Paper Ornaments

Just because your vintage object didn't start off as an ornament, doesn't mean that it isn't perfect for the tree!

When my husband was on a business trip to Savannah, he went to my favorite store, @ Home, to scout things out for me.  He called from the store and it was so cute listening to him trying to describe notions, ribbons and cupcake papers over the phone. 

He did a great job, though, and when he said there was a stack of never-used vintage paper ice cream lids that he thought I would like, I said, "Ohhh...I need one!"

It is 6 inches across and looks gorgeous now that I have glittered the most important words: ice cream!

I attached a thick deep red cord to the back and hung it, as is, on the tree.  It looks so pretty and is exactly the kind of thing I like.  Something that is beautiful and interesting.

Try to find an old photo (craft with a photocopy of it) or postcard (something paper), glitter it a bit and make your own Vintage Paper Ornament.  Then send me a picture!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Vintage Nativity Figures

It all started because my Mom was looking for some more animals for her nativity scene.  I was heading to our church's rummage sale a few months ago and she asked me to keep my eye out for cows and sheep.  In the 1950s and 60s, the dime store figures she uses in her nativity scene were very popular. She thought that there might be a chance to expand her flock at the church rummage sale.

Lo and behold, I found a small bag of mismatched Wise Men, shepherds and one sheep!  Some were plastic, most were broken or chipped and the bag was missing a key figure...Baby Jesus!  But for 25 cents, it was a wonderful start. 

I've kept these pieces on top of a cabinet in my office (as shown) since October and arranged them so that you couldn't tell that any key figures were missing!  The more I looked at this distressed bunch, the more I liked it. 

When I showed my Mom the bag of figures on the day of the sale, she insisted that I keep all of them.  In the meantime, she has given me an "extra" Baby Jesus that she had in her box of Christmas decorations. 

I already had a pristine nativity scene, complete with camels and a moss-covered manger, when this treasure hunt started.  But this little vintage scene has stolen my heart and usurped the more complete display for now. 

I have arranged my little collection on a woven charger with a garland of dried orange stars encircling it.  It is center stage on our living room coffee table - keep your eye out for it in a future post!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Ice Sculpture

It's Frosty the Snowman!  Just after I took this photo, the artist brought out a blow torch to "polish" his masterpiece.  I'm not sure how, but after a good torching, the ice sculpture shines crystal clear!

Last night I attended Birmingham, Michigan's first annual outdoor "German Winter Holiday Markt."  There was a chorus singing Christmas carols, vendors selling German (and handmade) wares and actual roasted chestnuts for sale. 

I planned on having a mug of Gluhwein (hot mulled wine) to warm me up, but the line for food was a bit too long.

I was drawn to this event because I took German language classes in high school (and have been to Germany a few times).  It was fun to hear German being spoken and I could pretend I was back in Munich for a moment.  Guten Nacht!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tea Station

This is my little holiday "Tea Station."  Step right up and make yourself a cup of something delicious.

I wanted to remind you about the limited edition collection of holiday teas by Celestial Seasonings.  With names like "Nutcracker Sweet" (my favorite and it's caffeinated!), "Gingerbread Spice" and "Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride" - how can you resist?

When my friends stop by, they almost always chose one of these special holiday teas, even though I have "the basics" on hand too.  I think the idea of having something that is available only at the holidays adds to the appeal.

Can you see that the top of the table matches the wallpaper?  I took a scrap of extra wallpaper and covered it with contact paper and then cut it to size.  I now have the perfect (and temporary) touch to set off my cream and red accessories.

When I found this plaid tea tray, I knew that it would look pretty with my Comptoir de Famille cream & sugar and a row of Gingerbread Cookie Boxes.  My next project is to make a batch of gingerbread spoons! 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cute Aprons

Every house needs a cute apron.   As a baker, mine has about a dozen!

I thought you might like to see my "collection" of aprons.  My husband and I have a tradition of baking Christmas cookies with our seven nieces and nephews and wearing an apron is a big part of the ritual.  Each child could start baking with us when they turned four years old.  The kids are now: 19, 19, 17, 17, 15, 15 and 12 (and all but two are taller than me)!

Needless to say, everyone has a favorite apron.  I remember the day that William (now 17), first noticed the blue Williams-Sonoma apron when he was a little boy and thought that surely it was made just for him.  He's worn it every year since and when he gets married, I'm going to wrap it up and give it to him as a shower gift!

I have cute aprons from cooking schools (my one from Patricia Wells' class is still at my parents from Thanksgiving!), aprons that were gifts (I received the cream embroidered heart one when I was 17!) and aprons that I have made for myself (ANA).  They all are pretty, sentimental and help me get the job done.

When was the last time you bought yourself a pretty apron?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Window Displays

I love the idea of "a little something extra." 

On Monday night, a nearby town celebrated the beginning of the holiday shopping season with a tradition called "Lagniappe," which is a Creole word meaning "a little something extra."

Shoppers are given a small gift (a lollipop, pen, glow-in-the-dark necklace) as a thank you for their support throughout the year.

It was a cold night, but the town was packed.  Everyone was excited to see the holiday light display turned on and celebrate the fun of a free holiday activity.  I peeked in some stores, heard a barbershop quartet sing carols in 4-part harmony and saw Santa.

This small town celebration made me think of the holiday weekend I spent in a big city.

I was lucky enough to be in Chicago in December a few years ago and was able to see Macy's holiday window displays in person.  The theme was a magical tribute to the Nutcracker Ballet.  I loved making my way along the crowded sidewalk to take in "a little something extra" designed just for holiday shoppers.

When you are planning your December nights, I want you to remember to take in the sights.  Bundle up, walk around, drink some hot chocolate and breathe.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Glittered Shells

I named my style of decorating, "Swedish Beach House" years ago when I was assembling furniture and linens for our new house.  Painted tables, oval back chairs and plate racks coupled with a seashore palette of cream, shell pink, and blue gray.

This holiday season I wanted to add some sparkle in unexpected places around the house.  I decided that if I am truly a Swedish Beach House, I should have more shells around!

I took an inexpensive container of shells from the craft store, painted Sobo glue on them and then glittered away with a collection of Martha Stewart fine glitter from Michaels craft store.  They dried in minutes and you can see that I have them displayed in an antique dish.

When the sun shines into my family room, this display actually twinkles! 

Trust me, if you want to add a little gentle fabulousness to your house this year, try glittering something.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Advent Calendars

Would you believe that this sweet paper cottage is also an advent calendar? 

I love to countdown to Christmas with an advent calendar and have decorated my house with many cute ones over the years.  Remember the one I made with scrapbook paper?
 
I bought this pastel advent house years ago (by artist Camilla Ashforth for her illustrated series about a bear named, Willow) and have resisted bending back the paper doors until now.  It felt too pretty to open (and looks so great with my "Swedish Beach house" decorating!) that I liked having it on display just as it is.  This year, though, I've decided to open each window and peek into the world of a teddy bear as he prepares for the holidays.

We have just two more days until we can open the window marked 1.  Does your house have an advent calendar?  If not, you can head to the nearest bookstore (or shop online for darling ones here!) and find one to help you count down the days until Christmas.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sheep Cookies

Every year I like to experiment with a few new cookie recipes in case I am missing something wonderful.  This year, these sheep take the cake! 

I have found that ever since my drive through the Cotswolds this Spring, I am drawn to anything "sheep."  I found this idea and recipe in an old issue of Country Home magazine in an article about farm yard-inspired cookies.  The magazine is no longer being published, but many recipes are still available online.  Print yourself a copy from the link above - who knows how long the content will be available.

Everyone loves the touch of powdered sugar (to emphasize the fluff) and many think the chocolate feet & face are the best part (for dough like mine, just add 2 Tablespoons of Hershey cocoa powder in lieu of the suggested food coloring).

What are your plans for holiday baking?

Friday, November 26, 2010

William and Kate

How wonderful!  Prince William has announced his engagement.  He will marry the lovely Kate Middleton at Westminster Abbey on April 29th, 2011.

I can only imagine that little shops all over England will be celebrating with displays like this.  (I took this photo in Stow-on-the-Wold at the height of the World Cup!)  I love visual enthusiasm.

I have been an admirer of Princess Diana since I was eleven-years-old and have a collection of commemorative objects from the Royal Wedding in 1981.  I can't wait to add a small dish or glass that commemorates Prince William's engagement to my collection. 

When I was a girl enjoying the excitement of a Princess' wedding (and the years following with the birth of her children), I never looked ahead and realized that I would be able to watch her children grow and marry too.

As one of the millions of people that loved Princess Diana, I am here to send my Best Wishes to the happy couple. 

To Prince William and dear Kate, if you need anything just let me know.  I am a friend of your mother's.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Classics

You know that I call my stash of Thanksgiving recipes "A Salute to the 1950's."






















A Cranberry Jell-O mold, French's Green Bean CasseroleHoliday Sweet Potatoes...my inner "Foodie" takes a break this time of year and I resort to making the classics.  To me, this is comfort food at its best. 

I chose this picture to represent "the classics," because so many of the core ingredients for tomorrow's meal come from a can!  Mushroom soup, cranberry sauce, yams...I like to think of Thanksgiving as the "recycling" holiday.

No matter what you are cooking for tomorrow's meal, I hope it that it brings you comfort.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Candy Dish

This post is my pitch for the return of the candy dish.  There is something fun and generous about having candy out "for no reason."  When people discover this little display, I can almost hear inside their head, "Candy? For me?"  They act like it is a really big deal and a little unexpected chocolate makes them happy. 

I made this pedestal candy dish from an antique china dish, a candlestick base from the craft store and some Gorilla brand "Super Glue."  The quickest project ever (Open glue, run a bead of glue around the top of candlestick, center the bottom of dish over candlestick top and press together.  Allow to dry. Voila!) and I think it looks so pretty and old-fashioned.

My grandmother always had a jar of something sweet on her sideboard and it was Destination #1 when we stopped by for a visit.  This inspired me to put out my own candy dish and I tell you, these M&M chocolates are going fast!

True story:  Our giant grocery store (Meijers) has added a bulk chocolates section, including M&M-like chocolates in lots of colors.  I wasn't sure about the process - the item #, where you write that number, how it gets weighed etc., so I asked a nearby clerk for some help.  He was an older gentleman and was happy to walk me through the entire process.  Then he handed me an empty bag and I immediately started scooping out the gray candies.  He couldn't believe that out of all the colors available, I wanted the gray ones!  I may be the only person buying gray, but I think they look just gorgeous, don't you?  In design, context is everything.    

Monday, November 22, 2010

Advent By Candlelight

I think that a night with "the girls" is a perfect way to find some calm before the holidays.
Every year, our church holds a quiet service and dessert for women called Advent by Candlelight.  After the church service, the members and guests file out of the sanctuary singing "Silent Night."  The next 30 minutes or so are spent strolling the rooms and admiring the decorated tables.

Each hostess is given a table assignment, a table and cloth and invitations to send to her 7 guests.  The hostess provides the dishes, glasses, dessert and decorations to transform her table into something special.

I love everything about this event - the camaraderie, sweet treats, pretty dishes and license to talk the night away. 

I have been part of a Mother/Daughter table for years and I love it.  We take turns hosting the event and this year we are the guests.  Remember our "Marshmallow Snowstorm" from last year?

I wanted to show you another table (above) that my Mom and I decorated a few years ago.  Our theme was "Retro Kitchen" and the tree in the centerpiece was covered in tiny spatulas, whisks and cookie cutters - so cute!  The mint green & red tablecloth, napkins and touches on the petit fours made our table look fresh and bright.

We placed vintage houses around the base of the tree and gave our guests some old-fashioned ribbon candy as a treat to take home.

If you have the chance to participate in an Advent By Candlelight event - do it!  It is a lovely way to start the holiday season. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Swedish Christmas Fair

Don't you love these giant "Gingerbread Cookies" made of cardboard?  Seeing these giant decorations (3 feet tall!) is part of what I love about going to our local Swedish Christmas Fair.

A few years ago I met the woman who made them.  She uses big sheets of cardboard (from an appliance box) and paints them gingerbread brown.  If memory serves, I think she uses grout in a tube to make the 3-dimensional "icing."  Aren't they wonderful?  She made at least 12 of these and hangs them high on the wall all around the fair.

I drank some hot glogg with raisins & almonds, listened to live Scandinavian folk music and nibbled on Swedish Dream cookies while I wandered the gift area.  My big purchase was a homemade Cardamon Twist ("Vetebrod") coffeecake in the shape of a wreath.  I know it will be delicious, but my favorite part so far is the ingredient list on the tag:  mjol, smor, mjolk, socker, agg, jast, salt, kardemumma and kanel - isn't that fun?

I am going to freeze it and bring it out to serve with coffee on a snowy morning in December. 

God Jul! (that's Merry Christmas in Swedish)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cookie Walk

My church is having its first ever "Cookie Walk" fundraiser on December 4th and I'm a baker!

A cookie walk is a short term sale of cookies made by church members.  Homemade goodies are displayed on a series of tables.  Shoppers stroll the length of the table and have gloved volunteers add the cookies they choose to a box.  At checkout, the box is weighed and the cookies are paid for by the pound.  Fun, eh?  Who wouldn't want a big selection of homemade cookies at the holidays?

I offered to bake and decorate 10 dozen of my grandmother's famous sugar cookies for this fund raiser.  I started this week by making the dough and rolling, cutting and baking 92 cookies (so far) with the help of my 12-year-old niece.  The cookies are in the freezer and I'll frost them the day before the event (I've enlisted my parents to help with that!).  I think they will sell out quick.

From my cookie cutter collection (only the Christmas cookie cutters are shown above!), I chose to make sweaters, mittens, trees, reindeer, stars, candy canes and a string of light bulbs.  I'll show you a picture when they are all decorated. 

It was fun to talk about this event with my niece and explain that, as we were standing in my kitchen covered in flour, we were "volunteering."  That is delight.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Turkey Tip

How can I make your Thanksgiving a little easier?  By making sure you know about the Stuffing Sack.  It is my #1 must-have item for cooking a Thanksgiving Dinner.

The Stuffing Sack is a cheesecloth bag that is inserted into the open cavity of a turkey and then filled with stuffing.  Once the turkey is roasted, you simply pull the stuffing sack out of the turkey and empty it into a serving dish and fluff.  It eliminates 100% of the anxiety related to removing the stuffing from a scalding hot bird in time for dinner.  Voila!

Note:  When you find these in the grocery store (packaged in a box), buy two or three.  Keep one for next year and give the other to your best friend.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Drinking Chocolate

I know it won't come as a shock to hear that sometimes I have an overwhelming desire for chocolate.

This normally results in my making a big pot of fudge, problem solved.  But yesterday, out of nowhere, my brain startd demanding, "Drinking Chocolate!"

I went to the fancy cupboard and pulled out my special occasion-only Marie Belle Aztec Hot Chocolate mix.  Tuesdays are special, right? 
All I needed was some boiling water and I had a cup of liquid fudge.  Ahhh...heaven.  If you are a Chocolate Girl, this is the magic potion for you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ribbon Wrapped Votives

You know how I feel about the beautiful ribbons of the world.  I wanted to show you another way to maximize the impact of ribbon, while minimizing the expense.

I purchased a yard of this gorgeous multi-dimensional tobacco-colored ribbon and have wondered how to "make the most of it."

At $17/yard (before my coupon), I didn't want a bit of it to go to waste.  
A few beads of Sobo glue was all I needed to transform these inexpensive poured glass votive candles into something you would find at the loveliest boutique.

Have company coming for Thanksgiving?  Maybe you'd like to make these simple ribbon-wrapped votives to add a decorator's touch to your living room.

There is nothing like the soft-glow of candlelight to calm everyone down.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Amaretto Diamonds

Are you ready for this?  I made these "diamonds!"  They are candy!   

Amaretto-flavored diamonds and I am over-the-moon about them.  This is what I love...things that are beautiful and interesting.

I used a gem candy mold, Isomalt, water and a smidge of LorAnn amaretto flavoring and followed the directions (on the Isomalt package) or listed in the text here.  Or you can purchase ready-made candy diamonds here.

Can't you see these scattered on a coconut cake?  When I showed my mom, she immediately suggested that I attach one to a pendant base and wear it as a necklace.

This takes "making my own jewelry" to a whole new level, don't you think? Ha!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Reflections

Isn't this gorgeous?  The lines and reflections in an empty boat house on a quiet Fall morning.  It made me wish for a chance to go out on the river with a travel mug of coffee and a camera.  I would have loved to get some more pictures of the yellow leaves reflecting in the water. 

This picture reminds me that everyone needs time to reflect.     

Friday, November 12, 2010

Colonial Williamsburg fruit

Do you know what I mean, when I say "Colonial Williamsburg" fruit? 

The area is known for decorating with fruit (in outdoor wreaths and swags) at Christmastime.  You can see some examples from Colonial Williamsburg here.

I have always dreamed of visiting that area during the holidays.  Think of the photographs! 

I love the Colonial Williamsburg "look" so much that I have a wooden plaque that hangs over the front door.  It is a semi-circle that comes with nails pounded into it in a pattern.  Every few years when I am inspired, I press apples, lemons and a pineapple onto the nails and hang this giant display over our front door.  It looks gorgeous, although sometimes my guests get a drop of pineapple juice in their hair when they cross the threshold! Oops!

All of this keeps coming to mind because of this display in my kitchen.  I have a multi-tier plastic tray (cream, grey and pink tiers!) that I found years ago at IKEA.  When I unpacked my groceries the other day and noticed that the fruit looked very "Williamsburg Wreath" = can you see it?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Travel Lifesaver

This is how I keep my sanity on an important trip.










I am a writer and photographer, but I am also a creative.  I physically make all of my own jewelry, scarves and purses.  When I am out & about, I want to look my best and showcase my designs.  It is really fun, but it takes some planning.

I found out early on that once I have packed a stack of scarves, a box of jewelry and lots of classic pieces, it is hard to remember all of the best combinations, particularly on a ten day trip!

So now when I am packing, I assemble the outfits on a hanging rack in my spare room.  I group the jacket/sweater, shirt and accessories together and take a digital picture of each outfit.  I find that this method also keeps me from wearing "too much black," as I can see the whole collection in one place.

Once I have photographed the outfits, I transfer the pictures to my computer and print them out on my color printer - 4 outfits to a page.  I tuck these sheets in the pocket of my suitcase and off I go.  What a lifesaver!  While I am on my trip, I can see what I have and what I have worn. 

I will never go back to my old hodge-podge method packing - taking all of the pieces I love and hoping for the best.  I hope this system helps you on your next big trip.  You will be "fool proof cute."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Foyle's War

I subscribe to Netflix, a mail-order movie rental service that let's you manage an online account of the movies/shows you want to watch.  After you watch a movie, you mail the DVD back and the next item in your queue is automatically sent to you.  I love it, mostly because I can get Independent Films and British movies/shows that aren't readily available at a video store.

Last night I was happily watching the latest DVD of the British television series, Foyle's War.  I have loved this gentle World War II drama for ages.  It has wonderful loving characters, fun detective work and the  beautiful scenery of rural England.  It revolves around a police station on the southern coast of England and the issues and crimes that happen in small towns everywhere.  The war and its effect on the homefront also features prominently.

So imagine my shock last night when the characters started "shutting down the precinct" because Winston Churchill was about to announce VE Day.  What?

The loyal driver was looking for a new job.  The steadfast Sergent was promoted.  The main character (and father figure to all) was retiring.  Good grief - what was going on?  It finally occurred to me that this must be the final episode!  I was reeling.  I actually had to pause the show and collect my thoughts.  I decided right then and there that Foyle's War would be today's blog post.  I have come to love this show (and its characters) and I want you to too.

And then as I was finding the links to write this post - oh joy!  The original series ended back in 2007 (who knew?) and fans devotion to the show caused them to write 3 new episodes this year!  They aired in England in Spring 2010.  I found out that PBS' Masterpiece Theater also aired Foyle's War.  Woosh!  So now I have another 3 episodes to enjoy and you can start the series from the beginning.  I know it will bring you delight.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Christmas Cake Stencils

Yodel Eh Hee Hoo....Okay, that may not be how you spell a yodel, but you get the idea.  In my mind, I am in the middle of Switzerland and I have the cake to prove it.

Actually, my dear friend just had a baby and I am bringing her dinner tonight, complete with this alpine-inspired cake.  I find that nothing perks up a gingerbread cake mix like a few cocoa reindeer.

This food-safe cake stencil is part of the new Martha Stewart holiday collection at Michael's.  If you can't bear to leave the kitchen during your pre-Thanksgiving preparations, you can also follow this link to purchase Martha Stewart Holiday Cake Stencils online.

I'll say it again, "Yodel Eh Hee Hoo..................."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Beet It

I always like to have a portable project that I can take along with me when I have to pass the time (waiting room, jury duty, airport).

I am in love with my latest scarf because of its cozy rosewater color.  I was drawn to it in the knit shop and was "sold" when I found out that it was dyed with beets.  Real grown-in-the ground beets.  Isn't that neat?

The color is gorgeous, natural and a great conversation piece - what more could a girl want?

If you are interested in seeing products by this small-batch yarn producer, visit Vibrant.  Or contact the store, Wool & Honey to see what they have on the shelves.

Did you notice the yard of silk ribbon coiled in the back?  I bought it to sew into a cluster of roses that I can attach at one end of this scarf.  So pretty!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Turkey Cake Pan

Last year was our best Thanksgiving dinner ever. 

We made all of the classic dishes, of course, but the star of the show was my Cornbread Turkey!  I am showing him to you now so that you will have enough time to get a pan for yourself!

My "classic turkey mold" is from Nordicware . You can order him online or call a shop that sells Nordicware to see if they have one in stock.  I followed the directions on 2 bags of Marie Callender's corn bread mix and my turkey baked up sturdy and delicious!

Isn't he fantastic?  I "glued" the two halves together with cream cheese frosting and nestled him in a cranberry-filled pie plate for stability.  He was the centerpiece on the table when we had appetizers and then we cut right into him on the buffet for the meal.

All I can say is, "Gobble! Gobble!"