Sunday, December 30, 2007

Pecan Delight

I have to tell you about a delicious dessert I had in Houston over the holidays... Goode Company "Brazos Bottom" pecan pie. A family tradition for many in Texas, this pie is so popular that Goode Company provides a drive thru window for special order pick up during the holidays!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Gingerbread Neighborhood

This is one of my gingerbread cottages - it makes the whole room smell delicious! 

Have you ever walked by a gingerbread house? It is heavenly.  Keep your eye out for a local hotel/resort that builds their own Gingerbread masterpiece.  It would be a fun place to stop by.

I hope you enjoy this post and have a wonderful holiday season!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Family Traditions

An issue of Body & Soul magazine has an article about the importance of tradition in our lives as a source of stability and as "powerful organizers of family life." I have attached a link to a summary of this article for you. 

In my family, when we bake Christmas cookies, someone has to make an "elephant with a purple blanket" for my Mom. It is something she must have requested back in the 60's, because as I started baking with my grandmother at age 4, I was instructed to not forget the elephant with the purple blanket for my Mother. 

This year my Dad actually put the elephant cookie in a plastic baggie and hung it with an ornament hook on the tree. It is that important. 

In part of the article, author Barbara Ehrenreich says, "Festivity plays a critical role in our lives; it's mood-lifting and community building." 

What are your traditions? Enjoy the old and make some new ones too.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Neighborhood Progressive Party

Tonight my neighbors and I are having the world's smallest neighborhood progressive. The guys are getting together to play cards, so we decided to host a progressive to let the children have some fun too. 

Our theme is "Sweet & Savory." We will start at my house with apricot-glazed pork tenderloin on biscuits and a mixed green salad. I am making my famous coffee punch (inspired by the DELIGHT cover "Holiday Parties") too. 

I'll have holiday music playing and I know the kids will enjoy looking at our candy-themed tree. Then we will tromp through the snow to the "Garden Club" girls' house next door for dessert and a Christmas movie. Now that's the holiday spirit!

Coffee Punch

Warm 5 cups of nonfat milk over low heat.  Add 1/4 cup white sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/3 cup of instant coffee (*decaf instant coffee might be a good choice) and a pinch of salt.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until serving.  Serve in glass punch cups.  

Speaking of Santa

You have to be the first to hear... I saw Santa Claus yesterday. Seriously. I was winding my way through the back streets of our neighborhood and as I approached a stop sign, I saw a huge red late 60's Chevy convertible with its top down barreling toward me from the other direction. We both stopped at the intersection and behind the wheel was Santa. Red suit. White hair. Pink cheeks. No hat. He looked absolutely fantastic. And I froze. I did not think to yell out my address or that I've been good or anything! But after we both crossed the intersection, I thought to give a little "beep! beep!" with my horn. When I looked in my rear view mirror, there was his gloved white hand waving back at me. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Track Santa

You can track UPS packages, email delivery and the stock market...why not Santa? My friend, with technology, nothing is impossible. Every year the folks at NORAD provide a wonderful free service called Santa Tracker. Go to their website here on Christmas Eve and you can see exactly how Santa Claus is progressing around the globe. If you want it can be in 3-D with the help of Google Earth. Children love to run back to the dinner table and announce "He's in Peru!" So while everyone is bustling around the kitchen getting ready for the big holiday meal, make sure your laptop is set to Santa Tracker.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Candy Cane Lane

Have you noticed the huge selection of candy cane colors lately? They are gorgeous! I have 2 painted glasses filled with soft pink candy canes (bubblegum flavor) and they look just beautiful on our sideboard. Next year I am going to order all white candy canes online here. Doesn't that sound pretty? I will tie one on top of each gift-wrapped package next year - a Winter White touch. I have been reading White Christmas: Decorating and Entertaining for the Holiday Season and it has gotten me thinking about pure white decorations.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Gift Wrapping Party

My friend, Suzanne, hosts an annual Psychic Gift Wrap party. By the 3rd week in December, every minute of holiday prep counts. She thought that instead of wrapping presents alone in her spare bedroom, it would be more fun to make a party out of it. She provides drinks, snacks and has card tables set up with scissors, tape etc. She also has a local psychic on hand to give 30-min consultations on the upcoming year. We arrive with shopping bags full of treasures, spend a few hours talking and laughing with our girlfriends and magically leave with one more task checked off our list. This year my gift wrap color scheme is aqua & coffee (from Target) with faux birch boxes and recycled maps to keep it interesting. When I wrap with a map, I use an adhesive crystal to mark a location significant to that person. When my Mom saw these presents above she said, "I want mine wrapped in a map!" I knew she'd love it.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Decoration of Houses

Can you stand it? A tiny Christmas tree bedecked with boxes of laundry detergent and bottles of bleach! 

I wanted my laundry room to be as sweet & festive as the rest of the house, so I turned dollhouse treasures into a holiday vignette. 

A string for a clothesline and miniature clothespins to keep it secure. The ironing board (and notice that the iron is hot glued to the tree!) are from my childhood dollhouse.  You can print, fold and glue your own miniature laundry detergent boxes here.

I made the set of sheets by folding 2 squares of fabric (and 2 smaller ones as pillowcases!) and tacked them together with thread so that they would stack easily.  My tip is to show the folded edges; it makes the sheets look realistic. 

My laundry tree was mentioned in the Somerset Collection's "Sweet Memories" article, so I wanted you to be able to see it for yourself. Happy decorating...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snunder & Flightning

We are in the middle of a blizzard right now! 8" so far and seven more hours of snow in the forecast. We are so "in the thick of things" that Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel is broadcasting a half mile from my house. It has been thundering and lighting here too (which is unusual during a snowstorm) and apparently the Weather Channel has coined some new terms. I swear I heard Jim Cantore say "Snunder" a few minutes ago. It reminds me of a winter storm we had years ago when I worked in our family ski business. We all love skiing, snowboarding and winter activities and watch The Weather Channel non-stop during ski season always hoping for snow. One day I turned on the TV and noticed that they were broadcasting from a satellite truck near our offices. I dropped by mid-blizzard and banged on the truck door. When Kristin Dodd and her crew emerged, I handed them 4 cappuccinos and welcomed them to Michigan.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Vintage Ornaments

A few days ago I mentioned that I make ornaments out of old family photographs. I have had so many people ask me about them, that it's time for their blog debut. I think that they are simply charming. The best part is that the photographs are scanned and printed on printer fabric, so I can make multiples without harming the original. This is my husband's grandparents on their wedding day in upstate New York in August 1930. A bit of pink glitter in her bouquet and on his boutonniere coordinates with the border and adds just the right amount of sparkle. Here comes the bride!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Art of Baking

When you have a light green shelf in your kitchen where you display Japanese aloe drinks & coconut milk, you don't know quite how you will make it Christmas-y. 

Then one glorious day you stroll through Kmart and see the 2007 Martha Stewart Holiday collection. Pale green ornaments made from 1/2 scale kitchen implements - perfect! 

And when I found this print of a 1920's girl with rolling pin in hand, well, I had my vignette.

Today my goal is to bake gingerbread men and another batch of sugar cookies. Do you have a cute apron? It makes all the difference...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ornaments & Objects

Is your tree overloaded with Christmas delights? You don't have to hang ornaments to enjoy them. Make a little display in a cardboard ornament box and position it beneath the tree. I have a tabletop tree that features ornaments I have made from vintage photographs. A pink & white quilt is the soft skirt below. So for my display, I've collected ornaments & objects in pinks, white and silver. A large jingle bell, a glass ball I filled with tapioca pearls and a glitter "A" (for ANA) are among the beautiful objects. I love how this looks. Yes, I made the robed angel with the bubble wrap wings...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Postcards from the Heart

Every once in a while I come across an old postcard suitable for framing. I'm not looking at the vintage artwork on the front, but the heartfelt message on the back. This one begins "My dear Mark, It is so lonely without you..." Now who wouldn't want to receive that! It was written in 1908. Email is fantastic, but just because it is quick doesn't mean it has to be abbreviated. Before you launch into the who/what/where, tell them how you feel.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Glitter Butterflies

Want to add some subtle sparkle to your Christmas tree? Buy a box of paper butterflies and a tube of glitter from the craft store and in minutes you can transform them into showstoppers. Butterflies are usually sold in multi-colored sets of six. Make sure that each butterfly has a wire attached to the body. Brush on a solid layer of Elmer's glue and then dust with the glitter of your choice - voila! Allow to dry, wire to a branch and you have a masterpiece to punch up your ornament collection. Glitter & wire the extra butterflies to special packages - your friends will faint! Also, check out the December issue of House Beautiful - they showcase 101 ornaments for your tree and where to buy them - I love it.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Sugar Secrets

Pssst...You don't have to get your cookie decorations at the grocery store or even at a giant craft superstore. 

Live a little and plan a field trip to a local cake decorating supply store (Google : cake decorating store your city). 

You will flip when you see the selection! I tagged along with a friend today and had so much fun. What did I buy? 

Red sugar, white snowflake sprinkles, tiny pastel circle sprinkles, white jimmies, a Santa mold, almond paste (for my next Stollen) and a button-shaped lollipop mold. Seriously, you will love it. 

Would you rather shop online? Check out Fancy Flours...and as you are clicking and happily baking in your mind, remember who sent you.

Friday, December 7, 2007

The Gingerbread Effect

I love preparing for the holidays. This is my first holiday season with a blog, so I will take you through the fun day-by-day. There are always so many things that I want to accomplish that I have come up with a very specific approach to get it all done. Visual, Edible, that order. Visual is first because I want to be able to enjoy the lights and sights for as long as possible. Christmas trees decorated, vintage village on display, and a fresh gingerbread house proclaiming "Welcome Home!" Today is the day to build my house. And I want you to know that buying a kit with pre-constructed walls is the way to go. I buy the "Create A Treat" kit for $10 at Costco. Or buy one online here. For years I have made, cut & baked my own walls and roof and there are so many variables that can "halt construction." If you use the lovely, smooth and solid walls from a kit (and the perfect royal white icing that is included), then you can put your heart & soul into the decorating. Need more inspiration? Watch Gingerbread Challenge on the Food Network!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sugar Cookies

Today was "baking day" at my house. The magazine article I mentioned a few days ago spotlighted this family tradition of ours - 7 nieces & nephews, scores of vintage cookie cutters and one prized recipe all come together for a day of old-fashioned fun. That is my grandmother's rolling pin in the picture - she received it as a wedding gift in 1932 and the handle has been missing since before I was born. I wanted to share Nama's sugar cookie recipe with you...enjoy it and be sure to pass it on. Good recipes are meant to be shared.
Old Fashioned Rolled Sugar Cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 Tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
Cream butter in mixing bowl. Beat in sugar, egg, milk & vanilla. Add flour, salt & baking powder. Mix well. Divide dough in half and wrap in waxed paper. Chill in refrigerator at least one hour. Use plenty of flour on board, rolling pin & cookie cutters to prevent sticking. Roll out dough 1/4 inch thick and cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Bake at 375* on an ungreased cookie sheet for 5-8 minutes.
Nama's Frosting
Mix 2 Tablespoons of hot water to 1 cup powdered sugar. Mix with knife. Tint with a drop or two of liquid food coloring. Note: Using hot water makes the frosting shiny. Add hot water as needed to perfect consistency.