Saturday, November 29, 2014

Our Thanksgiving In Pictures

Welcome back!  Meaning me, actually!  I'm sorry to have disappeared.  For those that follow me on Instagram you might have seen that my computer crashed about a week and half ago.  Magnets (no matter how small) and laptops should be kept far, far away from each other.  Thankfully, I got my repaired laptop today and I'm back in business (sort of, all my files were lost)  Despite the initial shock, most of what I need is blissfully stored in Google docs and Picasa.  I'll survive.  :)

While things have quickly switched to Christmas mode, I did want to pause and capture a few pictures and memories from our Thanksgiving celebration.  As I mentioned before, I hosted this year.  Normally this is one of my Mum's holidays but their 13 year old golden retriever, Emma, tore her ACL about 2 months ago and is still recovering (brave girl).  Between my brother and his family staying at their home, along with all that goes into hosting Thanksgiving, I told her I was taking over the reins this year.  It turned out to be a really relaxing and beautiful dinner.  I made everything except the pies (I picked them up from my favorite local bakery, Frieda's) and the stuffing (my Mum's contribution).  I had planned to share a couple recipes last week along with my schedule but without my computer I couldn't.  Here is a breakdown of the week and our menu, just in case anyone would like to save it for next year (myself included) or copy it for Christmas dinner.

Saturday - Grocery shopping for bulk of staple ingredients.  This way I avoided the weekday crowds.

Monday - Picked up turkeys (1 big bird for Thanksgiving dinner, 1 smaller bone-in, breast for left-overs.)

Tuesday - Picked up flowers. Set table. Made cranberry sauce (this recipe). 

Wednesday - Made glazed onion relish (recipe at end of this post), cooked turkey breast (this recipe), blanched French green beans, covered and stored in fridge. Pick up apple and pumpkin pies.

Thursday - Made turkey (a combination of two recipes, I will share if anyone is interested), made gravy (the BEST recipe, at the end of this post.  worth the effort and time.  promise.), finished the onion relish with almonds and sherry vinegar, warmed green beans by tossing them with sautéed shallots and olive oil, roasted the caramelized butternut squash and made mashed potatoes.  Set up cheese board for appetizers.  Whipped cream before dessert.

^^ I loved our table this year.  Set with magnolia leaves, seeded eucalyptus, pinecones and clementines.  Long tapers and white plates are from Williams-Sonoma, white pillars from Ikea.  Block print napkins from a local store, wine glasses and water goblets are La Rochere, runner from Pottery Barn. ^^

^^ Children/cousin table was set more simply with handmade kraft paper "Mayflower" place cards.  DIY instructions here.  Fabric from Ikea was used for a tablecloth and paper napkins. ^^

^^ If you haven't tried Cambozola cheese, you must.  It's a brie and gorgonzola combination.  I prefer it to traditional Stilton.  I could eat the entire wedge! ^^

^^ I still make the herb roasted turkey recipe I grew up with from an old Bon Appetit magazine.  I make a few modifications though, the cooking temp is lower and I add 1/2 cup of white wine to bottom of roasting pan.^^

^^ My Nana's old gravy boat. ^^

Hope all of you have much to be thankful for this year and enjoyed a celebration among family and friends.

Recipe | Glazed Pearl Onion Relish
(adapted from Bon Appétit)
2 pounds pearl onions
1 cup dry Sherry
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
2 TBS butter
1 tsp fresh thyme
2/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
4 tsp Sherry wine vinegar

Bring pot of salted water to boil.  Add onions and cook for 3 minutes to loosen skins.  Drain and cool slightly.  Cut root ends from onions and squeeze onion at stem.  (note - this part is every bit as tedious and time consuming as it sounds.  You can skip by using frozen, peeled, pearl onions.  For special occasions though, use fresh because it just tastes better.)

Combine peeled onions through thyme (save almonds and vinegar till later) in a heavy medium to large skillet.  Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer till liquid evaporates and onion caramelizes, stirring often.  I removed lid after 45 minutes and let liquid finish evaporating over medium low heat.  Season with salt and pepper.  Can be made up to one day in advance.  Before eating, warm relish in skillet, add vinegar and almonds.

Recipe | Best Homemade Turkey Gravy
Turkey giblets and neck
2 TBS butter
1 celery stalk, cut up
1 medium carrot, cut up
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
1 tsp salt
8-12 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
4 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup flour
turkey drippings, at least 1/3 cup

Wash and dry neck and giblets, then brown them in butter on all sides in a medium saucepan.  Add everything else, except the flour to the pan.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to very low and simmer for 2-2.5 hours, until you have 2 1/2 cups of broth left. Remove turkey parts and discard. Strain broth, pressing vegetables in a sieve.  Set aside.  When turkey is removed from roasting pan set drippings in a measuring cup in a bowl of ice water.  Once the fat separates (it will rise to the top, the oily looking liquid) skim it off.  Add 1/3 cup of the remaining drippings + 1/3 cup flour to the saucepan and whisk over low heat for a minute to cook the flour. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the broth.  Add any additional drippings if you have them.  Continue to whisk over low heat till thickened, about 5-10 minutes.  Will be the best gravy you've ever had.  :)   

^^ Gathered around watching Andrew's latest Thanksgiving Day film! One of my favorites so far!!^^

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

thanksgiving recipe | mini "deconstructed" pumpkin pies

Did I mention I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year?  It's been a long time since I hosted and I'm really looking forward to it.  My brother, sister-in-law, and their three little boys will be in town so we'll have a full house and table!  My Mum will make a few dishes (right, Mum?!!) which is a huge help and frankly how Thanksgiving should be, everyone sharing and pitching in.  I will probably make the turkey (favorite recipes anyone?  I use an old Bon Appetit recipe, but I'm open for new ideas), gravy, and a few sides.  And while this post is all about a dessert idea, I will be picking up a couple pies from my favorite local bakery this year.  However, if I was attending dinner, especially a large gathering, I would absolutely bring these mini cups of pumpkin pie.  They would steal the show!

One of the homes on the kitchen tour last weekend served a version of these in mini shot classes, about half the size of what I have here. (they were created by Amy Tobin, a local chef in Cincinnati.)  I knew right away I would recreate my own version this week.  My family LOVED them and couldn't quite believe they were getting pumpkin pie before Thanksgiving, like it was their luckiest day ever! :)  And for my non-crust loving children (how can they possibly be related to me?) this is the ideal way to serve and eat pumpkin pie.

^^ Are these not the cutest?  Little pecan acorns! Probably my favorite detail and super fast and easy to make. I melted semi sweet chocolate chips in the microwave until just melted, then spread a little in between two pecan halves to stick them together.  Then I dipped the tops in more melted chocolate and chopped pecans to create the little acorn hat.  I let them set up at room temperature, which they did pretty quickly.^^

^^I used pre-made pie crusts, the kind that you unroll, to create the leaves.  I prefer Trader Joe's brand simply because it doesn't contain BHT, a petroleum based preservative that Andrew is sensitive to.  The mini leaf cutter is an old Pampered Chef item.  I brushed the "leaves" with an egg wash (one egg + 1 TBS water) and topped with turbinado sugar, then baked at 350 for about 12-15 minutes.^^

Crustless Pumpkin Pie Recipe
(Adapted from this Molasses Spice Pumpkin Pie)
**you can use any favorite pumpkin pie recipe you like, just skip the crust and grease the pie dish instead before pouring in the filling**
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 tablespoons mild-flavored (light) molasses

Mix first 6 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Add pumpkin, eggs, cream, milk, and molasses; whisk filling to blend.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour filling into greased pie dish. Bake pie until set in center and slightly puffed around edges, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Pie will still giggle a little when you remove it from the oven, it will finish setting up as it cools.  Let pie cool at room temperature for at least 2 hours, then place in fridge.  Pumpkin pie is best made a day in advance.
To assemble - cut a bite size, or slightly larger if using ramekins like I did, piece of pie.  Top with fresh bourbon whipped cream (1 cup cold, heavy whipping cream, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 2 TBS powdered sugar, 1 TBS bourbon (optional), add a couple pie crust leaves and a pecan acorn and you are set!  If not eating right away, they should be kept on the fridge.  
(Note: For children I did not add bourbon to the whipped cream ;))

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Few Autumn Touches in Our Home

Last week was a busy one...  I was trying to get the house tidied up for a home tour on Saturday, we had doctor appointments (some routine, others not - walking pneumonia for C), there were meetings and decorating consults and just a whole lot of running around.  Whew!  It must have worn me out a bit because I picked up Charlie's virus and haven't quite gotten over it yet.  So this week I'm slowing down a bit.  My plans include a matinee movie with a girlfriend (Hi Steph!), tinkering with a yummy new twist on a traditional Thanksgiving recipe and a couple afternoons devoted to working on the beautiful homes of two very lovely gals (Hi Jenn!  Hi Elizabeth!) - much more my speed.

This weekend we opened our home for the Junior League of Cincinnati's annual Tour of Kitchens, which in our case became a tour of the entire downstairs.   I couldn't believe how many people attended (around 250, I believe). And how much food was provided by the caterers.  I wasn't sure how it all would fit into our small(ish) home, but everything did and when they left there wasn't a trace anyone had even been here.    I went on the tour with a few friends so I was only in our house for a small portion of the event.  It was a bit like being a fly on the wall listening to people talk and comment on your home.  "it's so cozy" "how does she keep her shelves that organized?" "maybe she doesn't cook that much." "it smells so good." I had a few chuckles for sure.  Here are a few pictures I snapped.  And yes, I'm well aware the time for fall home tours in blogging has long since passed.  Never really have my act together like those gals...

^^I wanted to recreate this table arrangement, but a lot of my pumpkins had started to get moldy, or were eaten by squirrels, so it ended up a bit more colorful than planned.  This was taken before the home tour hoopla started.  I'd love to do something similar for Thanksgiving dinner this year but I'm afraid all the pumpkins have vanished from the stores in these parts and Christmas is in full swing.^^

^^I love orange and red berries and flowers in pewter.^^

^^Lots of winterberry in my house at the moment.  I suppose red berries might be a bit more December-ish, but I like them in November too and buy them as soon, and for as long, as I can find them. ^^

^^ I love wild and unruly greens on a accent or coffee table, especially when placed in an antique pitcher.  I left a copy of the magazine article out too - might as well milk my 15 minutes of fame for as long as I can. Ha. :) ^^

^^My boys picked pine cones from neighbors yards to fill in the bottom of the hurricanes.  I like how the added texture and brown color mixed with all the pumpkins and they worked beautifully alongside my antique barley twist candle holders (a gift from my parents after a fall trip to Cape Cod many years ago.)  This is how the candles look after burning for about 7 hours.  My absolute favorite sources for candles (and I'm picky) are IKEA (the white, non-scented kind) and Everyday Occasions, they burn nicely and for so long.^^ 

^^ Every fall my nesting instincts go into over drive and all sorts of projects I've put off for ages start getting checked off the list.  An impending home tour also expedites decorating projects!  I recently had seat slips made for our dining chairs and I LOVE them!.  I used an indoor/outdoor fabric from Lewis and Sheron that is no longer on their website. Ugh.  Has the look of an oatmeal linen.  Try Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware for similar options.^^

^^ The little wooden stool is a new addition that keeps moving around.  A fun little find from my favorite antique store, City Mouse Country Mouse.  Another new addition are the large seagrass rugs in the dining room and living room.  They were purchased from Overstock.  Our old wool one was just too small and potential wool replacements (that I like) are just not in the budget right now.  So far, so good with the seagrass.  It has dark gray banding that matches the gray banding along the bottom of our wingback chairs.^^

^^All our woolen throw blankets are back out, just in time for the arrival of the Polar Vortex! :)  Unfortunately, the etsy shop where I bought these last year no longer carries them.^^

^^ Flowers were arranged in a vase and then placed in the silver bowl, I hid the vase with fresh apples. "Oh look, those apples are real!" (another comment I heard a couple times. Haha.)^^

Hope to be back soon with some of my favorite Thanksgiving Day recipes!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Midwest Living Magazine | Our Christmas Feature + A little behind the Scenes

By now many of you have seen or heard that the Nov/Dec issue of Midwest Living Magazine is on the stands!  I sincerely thank each and every one of you that has sent emails or left instagram notes sharing in the excitement of seeing our home featured in this beautiful magazine.  I'm so happy with the photos and article, both for how our home looks and equally for the way it captures our family and Christmas traditions.  I have safely tucked away pristine copies for the boys to become treasured keepsakes.

Now for all of you that haven't been able to find copies of MWL where you live, I'm sharing a few pictures on the blog!  You can see ALL of them here and read the article as well, if you are interested.  Thank you again for being part of this experience with us! (all photos by Helen Norman)

A little background on the process...  About 2 years ago I was contacted by Midwest Living Magazine asking if I was interested in being the featured home for their 2014 Christmas issue.  As Andrew has pondered countless times since, "they could choose any home in the entire Midwest and they chose ours?!?!"  Yes, well, that was pretty much my reaction too.  I kept expecting a follow up email or call saying they had reconsidered.  Which is honestly why I didn't tell anyone for a long time.  Well, time crept along, and there was no change of heart, then about 6 months before the shoot the action started happening.  Lots and lots of emails and photos were exchanged with MWL, things they saw on my blog that they wanted me to recreate - gingerbread house, garland around the doorway to kitchen, a brunch table setting, the large wreath in our dining room window, etc.  And there were inspiration pictures of ideas they wanted to consider incorporating, such as the styling for the mantle.  I have to say, one of the things that surprised me most was their genuine attempt to be authentic to my style and not overly stage our home.

^^ For the entryway, fresh greenery was sent in place of the faux I typically use here.  Those are actually my boots, the logs and basket belong to them.  I set up everything the day before they arrived.  Then a whole day was devoted to tweaking or enhancing what I had done by a stylist and the producer of the article.  They let me be a part of every step of the process. ^^

^^ This was another version of the entry that I adored, with a boxwood initial F.  This version is not the one that appeared in the final article.  When you see the article, the title text hits right where the initial is hung so this shot wouldn't have worked in the spread. ^^

This is probably the angle where they made the most changes from our typical set-up.  I usually have a large brass urn lamp on the gate leg table behind our living room sofa.  It would have taken over the
entire shot, so it was replaced with a fresh tabletop tree, decorated with thin, red velvet ribbon and brass bells.  A festive wreath pillow (Pottery Barn) replaced my typical floral throw pillow.  Poinsettias were added.  Little details like pinecones in my small silver bowl atop the ottoman tray or the brass bell are things that I would never notice in and of themselves in a photo, but they make a big difference in the overall composition.  I now find myself zeroing in on those details in magazines.
^^ This may be my favorite shot of the whole article.  MWL sent tons of stocking options to try but they ended up liking ours the best.  I'm so thankful since these are extra special, from my friend, Tiffany's shop, Holiday & Crew^^

^^ Neither one of these are the tree shot they used in the article.  I love the one they chose, but I also like these two as well.  Andrew was home from school on a snow day.  All the shots that feature us were somewhat impromptu.  It was very casual and relaxed and all of a sudden someone would say, "how about we put Charlie in here?"  Or, "Tessa could you walk down the steps, hold still for 7 seconds and try look natural?"  I didn't really think through what any of us were wearing too much.  I probably should have, but with all the house prep prior to their arrival, I didn't have much time.  

^^Again, not the image used in the article.  I actually prefer myself in this one.  I made the cookies and gingerbread house a couple days before their arrival.  No bakery props for this shoot! Ha.  You wouldn't know it from looking at it, but to get my kitchen at this angle the dining room table was moved out and Helen's assistant held our chandelier up and far away.  Now you know why my kitchen shots never look this good - it requires an entire team! ^^

^^ The door to the kitchen was removed to make room for the extra full garland that frames this shot. I didn't really want to replace it afterwards since we almost never close it, but we did.  We were so lucky to have so much fresh snow outside too, it bounced much needed light into our home.  PS.  I never wear shoes when I'm cooking but Jimmy really did drink the beer he is holding and it was only about 8:30 in the morning....^^

The dining room was the first room that was shot and it took a couple hours (or more).  I was a little worried they would never make it through their checklist in two days if that was how long it took to take a couple pictures.  I learned that the first shot always takes longer than any others.  It was super dark and early in the morning when this was taken.   You'd never know it by looking at it. I set the table before they arrived.  A few changes were made - fruit was added to the centerpiece and paperwhites and berries in the hurricanes.  I loved both.  I had seat slips on the ladder back chairs that were removed because they looked too busy in the shot.  You can see a full shot of the dining room on the website link above.

I loved how this little nook in the playroom turned out!  Again, my larger scale, ceramic lamp was removed and replaced with the lanterns and bottle brush trees.  I do love that they referred to this table as "salvaged" in the article. Sounds so much nicer than saying I picked it up out of a neighbor's trash.  :)  They added the green throw pillow and I thought that was such a perfect Christmas touch.  I will be doing that again this year too!

^^Our bedroom is definitely one of my favorite rooms in our home.  Unfortunately it didn't make the final cut. I can understand why, because layout wise it would have looked odd.  I do really like this picture though.  Charlie's bedroom was also photographed (it was not on the original list) but only a little vignette made it into the magazine - you can see it in the magazine or online.^^

That about does it!  My eye lids are getting heavy.  Thanks so much for letting me share!

A few sources that didn't get listed in the magazine 
that were a big help as I was getting things ready:

For her pretty kraft boxes that were out of stock online but she let me have a few from her own stash.  I knew I would bake for the crew (Ina's Raspberry Almond Squares) and make pretty packages.  I didn't know they would end up in the magazine though!!   I also used her gorgeous red satin ribbon on the outdoor wreaths.

My favorite local antique store.  Most of my blue and white platters are from their shop.  I also have more art in our home purchased there than from anywhere else.  Thanks Nan, for being such a supporter of my blog too!!

And last, but not least, my good friend Holly Mathis
First and foremost for all the ways she has helped and encouraged me with my decorating!  If she hadn't blogged about our home, this opportunity might never have come along and I certainly wouldn't be doing decorating consults of my own now either. :)

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween in Pictures

Happy November all!  I'm downloading pictures from last night and typing this post while I sit in front of a fire and watch snowflakes fall outside.  The memory of last year's brutally cold and long winter is still a little too fresh and I'm absolutely not ready to let go of autumn yet.  While we had a pretty spectacular October, the forecast yesterday just wasn't ideal.  It rained all day, making Andrew's outdoor haunted trail impossible and forcing the sweet elementary school parade indoors.  The children were all smiles and didn't seem to mind in the least that pictures were being snapped in the gym instead of the beautiful tree-lined streets of our village.  Thankfully the rain stopped just in time for trick-or-treat and held off the rest of the evening.  Umbrellas and Halloween costumes don't mix well!  My boys and I managed to create a "haunted hallway" inside our home that was equally fun and a little spooky.   So all's well that ends well!  Here are a few pictures from our day...

 ^^ Charlie and I made sugar cookies the day before Halloween.  He was in charge of embellishments.  I used this recipe for cookies and icing - still my favorite!  We packaged up a few to share with teachers and friends! ^^

 ^^ Amazing Proton-Pack made by our dear friend, Matt.  I had planned a DIY post, I think I will save it for next year though since costume making is no longer on anyone's mind for a while. ;) ^^

 ^^ Who you gonna call?  This guy with ketchup on his face from lunch?! ;) ^^

 ^^ Rapping Grandpop was Andrew's make-the-night-before Halloween costume this year.  The costume was just for the parade at school.  He didn't trick or treat, just worked on scaring others in our Haunted Hallway!^^

 ^^ What could be cuter?"

 ^^ I wasn't able to get inside pictures because it was too dark, but here is the lead in, all created by Andrew + Charlie.  They get free rein of Halloween, so long as I get Christmas.^^

Hope your Halloween was filled with lots of treats and a few (spooky) tricks. :)