Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas | Brunch Menu + Table

Merry Christmas!  I'm enjoying a little peace and quiet in front of the fire now that all the excitement of the day has passed.  The boys were up at 7:15 (really just Charlie, but he was offering wake up service for the rest of us). Over the next hour all the stockings and gifts were opened and then while the boys got busy enjoying their new things, I finished up our brunch prep.  My parents came over to spend the morning and afternoon with us.  It was a relaxing and good Christmas.  Andrew made a little film for us to watch and Charlie showed off some new basketball tricks and moves.  I thought I would share my brunch menu and links to the recipes.  There were a couple new items that I really enjoyed.  This would be a wonderful New Year's Day or special occasion brunch too.  It is easy to assemble with a couple day in advance items which is the best part about hosting brunch!

^^ Paperwhites were in full bloom.  The above was taken on a brighter day earlier in the week.^^

^^ I packed up some peppermint bark for my parents to take home.  Details and recipe to follow in next blog post. ^^

Menu || Recipe Links
Ham and Cheese Stuffed French Toast (made day before)
Herb Scrambled Eggs (see below)
Bacon (not pictured, I took picture after we ate and it was all gone.)
Whipped Yogurt with Fruit
Sour Cream Coffee Cake (I make this in a bundt pan instead and place all streusel topping in the middle.  I also made this the day before and covered with plastic wrap)

(The yogurt was so delish.  I served with it fresh pineapple, toasted coconut, dried bananas and papaya.)

To make the scrambled eggs - In a large bowl, whisk 8 eggs, add 2 TBS heavy cream, salt + pepper, 4 ounces cream cheese and a handful of diced basil, parsley and green onions.  Warm a couple TBS of butter in a large skillet and cook eggs slowly over low heat until just set.  (Stir frequently while cooking)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Our Home at Christmas, part one

As usual, my blogging is lagging far behind and there is always so much I want to capture this time of year both in writing and photos.  So, even though I didn't intend to do multiple Christmas decorating posts, that's the way it's going to be.  I managed to snap a few pics last week, and will hopefully get the rest this week.  I have some cute packaging ideas for treats (at my rate, you'll likely be able to use them for next year...) but nonetheless, I promise to share!

December, while flying by, has been filled with some of my favorite things already.  I tagged along with Jimmy on a business trip to Boston a couple weeks ago.  I spent my days strolling through the city and Beacon Hill (picture perfect in December) and we spent our evenings dining at cozy, romantic little restaurants followed by long walks through our favorite city all lit up with twinkling lights.  Our first evening we walked arm in arm for several miles back to the hotel, down foggy cobblestone streets, past old cemeteries and quaint storefronts, while church bells chimed the time and it was all really quite magical.  I kept saying, how pretty is this?  Our new favorite spot for dinner was Aquitaine in the south end (still mourning the closing of Hamersley's).  When we came home it was luminaria (see here and here for old recaps of our village tradition the first Saturday of every December).  Then, last week we got to enjoy both Charlie's Christmas performance and Andrew's band concert at school - they were such wonderful nights!  Our tree is up!  Our home is decorated!  And even amidst all this Christmasy goodness, it doesn't quite feel like Christmas yet.  It could be the odd, warmer days we've been having (ahem, 62 degrees this past weekend!)  or maybe that my children are getting older and this time of year just feels different.  It's lower key, less fuss, maybe a little less anticipation too, even though Charlie still very much believes in Santa!  I can't quite put my finger on it, it's still my favorite time of year just a little more relaxed than it used to be.

  ^^ Just inside the front door, I hung two little preserved boxwood wreaths over our old English hunting prints.  I picked up 4 wreaths while in Boston and added gold satin ribbon. 
Ribbon tying tutorial in the works - you all asked, I listened. :) ^^

^^Outside everything is fresh (or at least was - warmer weather is making it a lot less likely that I'll leave the greenery up till the end of January like I usually do) ^^

^^ the temple bells ended up on the banister this year ^^

^^ a trio of small bells hang on the wreath over the mirror.  faux garland embellished with pinecones we've collected on walks^^


^^ fresh greens have been put in water inside little pewter pitchers ^^

^^ a small grocery store table top tree placed in my big blue and white bowl (from Wisteria) and decorated with gold pinecone ornaments I also picked up while in Boston.  A nice little keepsake to remember my Christmas visit there.  We did remove the nail connecting this tree to the plastic stand because it was not drinking water.  We made a fresh cut and then placed it back into the stand (anchored in oasis). ^^

^^ my mantle somewhat looks the same every year. ha. This year I kept all the greenery faux though making me much more likely to light the fire.  I'm so much happier without having to fish out and replace the dried out greenery. ^^

^^ I still love the basket, but it's been leaking this year.  I placed plastic under the little rug that it sits on so our floor will be protected.  I have plastic bags lining the inside of the basket too, so I'm not sure what is going on, it's not a perfect system.  

That's all for now..  Going off to run errands because our pantry is empty and hello... Christmas is in 11 days!!!!  

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Christmas Inspiration | A Cozy Cottage

I hope you all thoroughly enjoyed your Thanksgiving celebrations!  Ours was relaxed and cozy, so even though I hosted I felt full of energy to start getting our Christmas decorations out this weekend.  I'm sticking with my vow to skip fresh greenery inside this year (unless it is in water - vases, tree stand, little pewter pitchers...).  I've tried it ALL and no matter what, fresh greens look great for 1-2 weeks tops and then I start to regret having used them.  I'm not sure if the air is drier in our old home?  But whatever it is, faux is the route I'm going inside when it comes to garlands and wreaths this year. Outside, I'm still using fresh greenery and I will also use real in our dining room but I will wait until the week of Christmas to use inside.   I've decided to embellish the faux garlands with lots of pinecones (real ones!  they don't dry up! ;)).  I've also added a few containers with paperweights (God willing, they will bloom) and tucked a little fresh topiary tree here and there to balance things out.  I will post pictures in a week or so.  In the meantime, I have a treat for you....

Last week I escaped by myself for a couple hours at a favorite bookstore.  I grabbed coffee and HUGE stack of Christmas shelter magazines and savored all the homes while gathering lots of inspiration for this year.  My favorite was the Christmas issue of the Cottage Journal. Excellent from cover to cover.  It was the only magazine I couldn't bear to put back on the shelf.  Every now and then I come across a home that I know will stay with me for many years to come (see here and here for some I still love).  This Alabama home, designed by Bill Ingrim, now has a new owner and I adore what she has done with this sweet 1,700 square foot space.  Here are a few of my favorite shots that were featured in the article.  There are more pictures in the magazine, including a bunk room addition for her grandchildren.  (For the record, I scanned all these images - just like the old days of blogging!!  The time before pinterest!  I couldn't find the images anywhere else online yet.)

^^ wall + trim color: Creamy White, Benjamin Moore.  I love the little touch of gray on the plate racks filled with ironstone, the painted floors (from previous owner) and the built in banquette that almost hides the kitchen counter on the opposite side.  The wreath, paperweights, and mini trees are the perfect Christmas touch, feels festive + cozy without adding clutter. ^^

^^ I adore the table top tree in the blue and white bowl.  you might see this idea again, hint, hint... :) ^^ 

^^ Closet turned butler's pantry, food is stored behind the skirted bottom.  Years ago we turned a large closet in the playroom into a spare pantry - I wish I'd seen this image before because I would have made ours much more charming.^^

^^ My favorite room in the house.  It's perfect. ^^

I was going to do a little before and after so you could compare the new pictures to the old since both have been published, but it's late and I'm going to turn in, so if you are curious, here is a link to Bill Ingrim's version of the same home.   Which do you prefer?

(image source: the Cottage Journal)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

My kitchen is clean and closed for the night, my ingredients are prepped for tomorrow and my schedule is written out, so while Charlie is at basketball practice I thought I'd pop on here and share a few pictures of our table setting, since I had time to capture it my good camera today.  No promises for tomorrow though.  After I publish this post,  I plan to put away my camera. phone and computer for a few days and just be present and enjoy time with the people I love most.  Hey family, did you hear that?  I won't make you pose holding a plate of food! :) You're welcome.  As for my game plan that I published earlier in the week.... Well, I made a few changes... I ended up baking a pumpkin pie and my Mum made the glazed onion relish (we'd each rather make what we ended up making.  Pearl onion peeling isn't my favorite.)  I also ended up buying a whole bird rather than just a breast - it just didn't feel festive enough without a whole bird.  Nevermind we only eat the breast meat and carve it up before going to the table so no one really sees it but me.  Especially now, since I just vowed to stay off Instagram and put my camera away...  I also skipped the gratin.  It was a beautiful day today and after making a few sides I wanted to get outside and bike to the park with my boys.  Otherwise though, I'm right on track. ;)

So with a thankful heart, I hope tomorrow brings you the chance to celebrate and reflect on the things in life for which you are most grateful.  I thank you for reading this blog, whether you leave comments or not, whether you've read from the beginning or just discovered me today.  I'm thankful to be part of such a supportive  and creative community here and on Instagram, you all encourage me more than you know.  Many blessings to all.   xx

^^ I wasn't quite sure how my table would turn out this year but I LOVE it. I had ordered a beautiful set of scalloped antique pewter plates that didn't arrive in time. (They'll be making an appearance for Christmas brunch instead).  This gorgeous blue and white bowl was a birthday gift from Jimmy and I'm so glad it worked for a centerpiece too.  It sits on our table all the time.  It's from Wisteria.)  Flowers are anchored in Oasis. ^^

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thanksgiving Menu + Game Plan

I did a double take at my calendar this morning, Thanksgiving is next week?  Wait.  What?  I missed a week somewhere.  Between the blogging and instagram community in full deck the halls mode and us just celebrating Charlie's birthday last weekend (he turned 7 in October!), I'm all out of sorts time wise.  Since I'm hosting, I decided to get my thoughts together on what I'm serving and how I'm planning my time. (The new Barefoot Contessa Thanksgiving special yesterday helped!)  I (like everyone else) try to make as much ahead as possible, so the kitchen isn't pure chaos on Thanksgiving day.

Here is my menu and day by day plan...

This Week
1. Order pies (ie. call and tell my mum she is in charge of desserts. ;)) 
2. Order turkey
3. Plan menu (check)
3. Plan table setting, buy new linens or candles if needed. 

1. Grocery store

1. Prepare Cranberry Sauce (this is my favorite recipe)  
2. Prepare apple sauce (Mum's recipe)

1. Flower shopping for table and buffet
2. Last minute forgotten groceries run (inevitable)  - usually Jimmy's job!
3. Start setting table

1. Make Herb and Apple Bread Pudding (recipe
2. Blanch Green Beans, cover and refrigerate 
3. Make glazed onion relish (my recipe
4. Peel and cube butternut squash, refrigerate 
5. Prep potato + fennel gratin (recipe)
6. Set out and label serving dishes in buffet area

1. Several hours before dinner: Prepare turkey (recipe) - making a breast instead of a whole bird this year since there will only be 6 of us!
2.  Prepare gravy (star of my Thanksgiving dinner, recipe)
3. Bake gratin
3.  An hour before dinner: peel and make make mashed potatoes, roast butternut squash (toss with pecans and dried cranberries before serving), finish green beans - warm them up by tossing in pan with olive oil and browned shallots. Warm up apple and herb bread pudding. (This all sounds like a lot, but really it is just putting things in the oven or tossing them in a pan. The only thing requiring minimal work is the mashed potatoes - Charlie's favorite! Uncork wine.
4. About 20 minutes before dinner, light candles and freshen up :)

I'm sure you noticed a theme with the recipes. Ha.  I stick with my girl, Ina, for holidays like Thanksgiving. And if the recipe isn't hers, then it's likely my Mum's.  I should note, I do have two ovens which helps a bit (even though one is teeny tiny) since the gratin, turkey, bread pudding, and butternut squash will overlap in time.  Also, when planning a menu this big I have a wild card, an item that I'd like to make if time is running smoothly and I'm enjoying myself, but I can easily cancel too if needed. In this menu, it's the potato and fennel gratin.  I'd like two potato dishes, but if it doesn't happen it really doesn't alter the menu much.  I will just make it on Friday to have with leftovers instead.  Also, we still need to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner on Tuesday and Wednesday and I don't want it to be fast food and take out, so I try to have easy nibbles for those meals so the boys (including Jimmy) can help themselves.  It just isn't fun to be in the midst of prepping a holiday meal then stopping to prepare another.

Enjoy the prep and planning but don't stress the small stuff.  Everyone enjoys the day more when the cook is relaxed and it's not all too perfect.  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

October + Halloween In Pictures

Was this not the most spectacular October?!  The foliage was especially stunning (or is it this good every year and I just forget?), the days were sunny and the mornings and evenings were chilly enough for fires, hot chocolate and spiced lattes.  Every morning Charlie and I bike to school and I always think the same thing, can it get any prettier?  Is this town for real? I am so very grateful to live where I do and to experience an October like we just did.  Pictures and words do it no justice.  Jimmy and I had planned to steal away to Massachusetts for a weekend but canceled and I'm so glad we did.  October here is my favorite and it already goes by far too quickly, I don't want to miss any of it.  Plus our weekends are filled with soccer and football, also things I hate to miss.  Fall getaways will have to be saved for many years from now and that is fine by me.     I am sad that the vibrancy of October can't last longer, but I suppose that's part of the magic, right?  And hey,  it's still Autumn, with Thanksgiving to look forward to (I'm hosting again), many more days of falling leaves (and raking!  oh, the the never ending raking!), crunchy leaf walks,  pumpkin spiced desserts and scented candles - so, welcome November!

I snapped a few pictures throughout the month and many last night (why can't Halloween always fall on a Saturday?).  Here are a few snippets from around our village and home...

^^Homecoming parade in the beginning of the month. Charlie is in the front row, waving at everyone but me, so this was the best I could get. ^^
^^ Jimmy jokes that I take this same image every year, but how can I not? ;) ^^
^^ stone walk and gate to village cemetery ^^

^ The evening of Charlie's 7th birthday, we went to watch the High School football game where Andrew played in the halftime show in a combined Junior and Senior High band performance.  It was a fun night.  Charlie got sick the following day (3:00 AM in the morning to be exact...) and we had to cancel his party plans, so I'll wait till the rescheduled celebration to post pics and talk about his special day. Hopefully, illness free next time...^^

^^ We bike past this tree every morning and Charlie and I love watching it change color and start to lose its leaves.  Such a beauty. ^^
  ^^ Halloween!^^
^^ Homemade caramel popcorn and hard cider for our friends that went trick or treating with us.  Kids did not drink the hard cider, only the parents!!  But they did eat the popcorn.  Ha.
Popcorn recipe here, Printable tags here ^^
^^ Before the school Halloween Parade on Friday ^^
^^ Andrew playing trumpet in the parade, wearing pieces of a recycled patriot costume ^^
^^ The first graders making their way down the street ^^

^^ Before trick or treat.  Charlie and I spent 2 days after school carving these pumpkins.  He was such an enthusiastic helper this year.  My skin might be dyed a permanent shade or orange. ^^

^^ Football player, ninja, business man, and Abe ^^
^^ A couple phone pics of our pumpkins - C and I loved them so much! :) ^^