Sunday, December 31, 2017

Amaryllis: Flowering Bulbs Make Holiday Show

I just wanted to show you this photo I took mid-November at the Squak Mountain Nursery. They had a few amaryllis blooming in pots for sale and this one was my favorite. It was all I could do not to being her home with me.  I did the next best thing and captured her for eternity. That's what I call making the perishable permanent.  This scene, featuring a bright red and white striped amaryllis, could be the December photo in a calendar. Don't you think? 

My amaryllis bulb is doing fine, but I think her timing will be closer to celebrating Martin Luther King Day. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Upcycling: Ornament Storage Solution from Costco

I've been collecting vintage ornaments for a few years now and I want to remind you of my favorite way to store them: in Costco's clear apple boxes and clear organic egg cartons.  Save your clear containers throughout the year and your precious ornaments will have a free place to stay safe and sound. This is upcycling at its best. 

#upcycling #ornaments #storagesolutions #christmasornament #costcototherescue #costco #anappleaday

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Punch: Gorgeous and Delicious

I am sharing a holiday hit: my recipe for 2 Star Christmas Punch

I served this beautiful punch to a crowd twice this year and the ladies drank cup after cup. It is not too sweet and very refreshing. At both parties, people crossed the room to tell me how much they liked the punch. I joked with a neighbor that I had made this recipe years ago and put a "star" next to it. She responded, "Put 2."

Step 1:
Freeze 2 cups of Cranberry Ginger Ale with 2 cups of fresh cranberries in the bottom of a Bundt mold (make sure the width of the mold will fit into your punch bowl). Tuck 5 whole sage leaves around the edge so that some green will show when un-molded.

When this first layer is frozen, pour in the rest of the 2 liter bottle of Cranberry Ginger Ale. My first section un-molded and floated to the top. That is perfect. Allow to freeze. When you place it in your punch bowl, the ice ring will look like this. 

When prepping for the party, pulverize one bag of fresh frozen raspberries (no liquid or sugar added, just berries) in a food processor and place into punch bowl. Add 1 (12 oz) can of defrosted frozen pink lemonade and 1 (12 oz) can of defrosted cranberry juice concentrate

When your guests are about to arrive, add 2 (2 liter) of regular Ginger Ale. Place ice ring into center. Stir and enjoy!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Christmas Village: A Tiny Town on a Grande Scale

Are you all decorated for the holidays?  Can you imagine having the vision to arrange a village that is this intricate?  Look at how the icy steps lead your eye from the children building a snowman at the bottom right, up past the Christmas carolers, on to the church and its nativity scene and then all the way up to the grand building that overlooks the city.  The display is enormous - this is just one section that I framed and photographed.  I just love it!

My friend's Aunt Pam is the artist extraordinaire that created this masterpiece. She and I see beauty in so many of the same things and when it comes to decorating for Christmas, she is a kindred spirit.  

For more than twenty years, Pam has been collecting buildings, townspeople, trees and ice rinks (many by Department 56) with the sole purpose of delighting the eye.  A display like this is meant to be seen and I am grateful that Pam allowed me to photograph it so that I could show you.  My picture above captures only one tenth of her display, which runs the entire length of her living room and is a multilevel masterpiece.
Now take a moment and study this second picture - the scene from a different angle.  If you look way to the top you will see the same grand building and the church just below it to the right...See?  That is the same area shown in the first photograph, just from farther away.  Now do you get a sense of the scale of her work?  I could stand here for hours and let my mind wander.  This is a different kind of story-telling, don't you think?  Where your mind is allowed to wander through each vignette, gleaning what it can from the visual clues.

In my mind, I walk around this magical little town.  I skate on the frozen pond and then buy hot chocolate in the candy store.  I always climb the steps to the greenhouse and walk inside to smell the humid air scented with potting soil. I always have fun and I never want to leave.  

Sometimes stories are best left in your imagination - you can add to them and change things around every time your mind wanders around a Christmas village. Thank you, Pam, for inspiring us all. 

#gifttoall #holidayinspiration #christmasvillage

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Genius Cheddar Cookie Appetizer Made Easier by Salton

I love to serve dry cheddar cheese cookies at cocktail parties because they are delicious with a glass of wine. Today's post is to rave about my Salton Electric Cookie Press. I've had this appliance for years and it is my faithful friend in the kitchen. While you may not be able to find this exact machine, I have noticed that the Cuisinart model looks exactly the same, so keep your eyes out while shopping.

I wanted to show you the ease with which I make my cheddar Spritz cookie appetizers. Please watch my short, unprofessional one-handed video above to see how easily this machine cranks out perfect Spritz-style cookies.

Cheddar Cheese Spritz Cookies

1/2 cup softened salted butter
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
3-5 shakes of Tabasco Sauce
16 oz shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, whirl together cheese, butter, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco until smooth. Mix dry ingredients together. A 1/2 cup at a time, add flour mixture to cheese mixture and blend to smooth. Mix until dough forms into a ball. Turn off food processor, remove dough from bowl and shape it into 3 logs that will fit into your cookie press shaft. Follow directions on your machine and press cookies onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 min until cheddar cookies are dry and lightly brown on edges (be careful not to burn them). Cool on a cooling rack. Enjoy! 

*Note: I like these cookies to be dry and crumbly. I don't advise keeping them in an airtight tin because keeping them "fresh" makes them too soft.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Sheets for Christmas: Hallmark Gets Me Again

My mom and I weren't 5 minutes into the Hallmark movie, Switched For Christmas, when we saw these cute sheets and knew we were going to love this movie. We both yelped when we saw this scene and both wondered, "Why don't we have Christmas sheets?" 

I rewound the movie a few frames, took this picture of star Candace Cameron Bure in her darling make believe bed and tweeted out this picture and a comment on how this Hallmark movie is bound to be good if they put that much thought into the sheets.

The movie was darling and another happy December evening in front of the fire was complete.

Fast forward a week or so...I was shopping with my mom and we found the sheets from this movie on an end cap in Target! The exact same sheets (fox, trees, Santa, deer. Repeat) were on sale for less than $22 for a King! They didn't have every size on the shelf, so I opened my Target app on my phone, found the sheets and sent one set to my house (King) and one set to my mom's place (Queen). Poof! We both started smiling as we rolled on with our Christmas shopping.

If that isn't a Hallmark Christmas movie moment, I don't know what is. If you ever see that moment on film, you heard it here first (wink).
#Target #BullseyeIndeed #HallmarkGetsMe #SwitchedAtChristmas #Hallmark

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Seattle: Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet

It was a perfect December afternoon. Two new friends and I were in the second row of George Balanchine's Nutcracker and as we settled in our seats, I could hear the strum and squeaks of the orchestra warming up. I heard a quiet tap-tap-tap and the music began. 

After a childhood spent listening to records in my bedroom, I was looking forward to seeing the Nutcracker ballet come to life. At nine or ten, I didn't think too much about the story or the setting, I just loved listening to record in the beautiful white record jacket. Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. Over the years I have seen excepts of performances on television, but I don't remember ever seeing a live performance. 

The performance was simply wonderful.The costumes were vibrant and charming. The ballerinas were incredible and danced each scene with grace and stamina. Each moment was so vibrant and engaging, I hope the children in the audience are listening to the music at home as well. I want them to learn to appreciate what they were hearing as well. The orchestra was magnificent.

Photographs are not allowed during the performance, of course, so I must direct you to the official website to marvel at the costumes and dance scenes. When the holidays roll around next year, find a friend and treat yourselves to The Nutcracker and a few hours when time stands still.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Vintage Christmas: Pastels Look Festive

If vintage Christmas decorations were edible, I would never have anything to display on my mantle. But I would always be sated, and there's something to be said for satisfying a sugar craving, yes?

My point is that my jumble of vintage Christmas ornaments and pastel paper houses outdid themselves this year and looked downright delicious.

The paper village was made from a kit by K & Company called Swell Noel Paper Village Crafting Pad. My niece and I put this village together one afternoon after school almost 6 years ago. We cooed over the pastel barn and congratulated ourselves when we figured out how to make the bell hang (from sewing thread) in the church bell tower.  It was so much fun.  

I would say our best moment was when, after fumbling with tree construction, we gave in and read the directions (gasp!) and realized that the tree branches were supposed to be held aloft and apart on cinnamon stick trunks.  Thank heaven I have a well-stocked pantry!  

I pulled out a jar of cinnamon sticks and the trees went together quickly.  What I liked about this moment was that it showed my niece that whoever planned this darling paper village was creative and willing to do something ridiculous in the name of making it cute.  A cinnamon stick is the perfect trunk.  It looks like wood, is the right scale and it smells wonderful.
I can imagine that the person who designed this village had to stand behind this idea in a corporate office somewhere.  "But cinnamon sticks aren't a household item," they would tell her.  "It's too much to ask of the customer to buy additional items" etc.  But the designer persevered and they were right.
If it's cute, it is always worth the effort.