December in Photos

December in Photos

 

December was a very emotional month, full of equal parts joy and sadness.  There was a lot of stuff going on that resulted in a lot of stress, upset, etc. in my world.  So I felt a bit like I was balanced on a razor’s edge throughout the holidays.  But, there was definitely a lot of good stuff in December.

Over the months leading up to the holidays, Eric and I spent some time doing some home improvement and a little bit of decorating.  We really wanted to have some things “done” before we had guests over for our holiday party.  One of the big things we did was buy two rugs.  We bought one for the living room back in October, you may remember, and you can see it in the photo of our dessert table.  At the beginning of December, our second rug arrived for the kitchen.  It took us a long time to finally find something we loved, and as you can see Thutmose loves it too!

We also got snow near the beginning of the month, and ice with it, so we were cozied up in the house for several days waiting for it to thaw out so that the roads were passable.  The ice storm put us a little behind in getting our tree, so we were rushing a bit to decorate this year.  Once all the decorating was done though, I always realize how happy the site of a decorated tree lit up makes me.  It’s amazing the transformation everything goes through at this time of year.  Magical!

I worked on some Christmas projects – one was a mystery stitching piece that a part was released each Sunday from Thanksgiving through December 10th or so.  It’s the little nativity scene you can see.  I loved working on it, and most especially I loved that each Sunday I was able to focus on a related Bible verse and really think about the season.  And I also bought the backing fabric for my Christmas quilt so that I could get it finished up.  Those hot cocoa cups just did me in.  So cute!  One of the things I do love about my time off around the holidays is getting to work on some of my crafty projects while I’m home.

We had our dessert party as usual, which was lots of fun.  Of course, I always love picking out recipes for treats I’m going to make so that each year it’s a little bit different.  I loved the vintage look of our Christmas cards too (Target!).  And Thut’s favorite napping spot was on the table with my Dickens Village.  He was so happy there, and every time we would see him, we’d comment that he was scaring the villagers.  So funny!

We took my niece to see the Trains at Northpark at the end of the month, our other annual tradition.  It included lunch at Pie Five and that chicken pesto pizza is to die for!

I also started and finished the last book in the Beautiful series on one decadent Saturday morning, had my very first macaron, and treated myself to a facial.  Such fun!  So, as I said, there were definitely some great moments of joy and peace during the last month of 2013.

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November in Photos

Nov in Photos

November started off with a bang!  The first Saturday I attended a book signing for Christina Lauren for their latest book in the Beautiful series – Beautiful Player.  I’ll have a post up soon on the series and the book signing too, but I finished Beautiful Player shortly after getting it at the signing!  And speaking of books, I also got to go see Catching Fire the night it came out in the theatre – loved it!

I spent some time during the month looking at my in progress craft projects, working on some, and planning for some new things.  One of my big projects towards the end of the month was working on finishing some Christmas ornaments I’d stitched.

Of course, one of the things I was excited about was visiting a local camera store and checking out a variety of camera bags in preparation for my trip to Germany/Paris.  I loved the bright yellow of the one in the photo, but I ended up going with something slightly different.  Post to come on that as well and why I chose what I did.

As the holidays approached, I celebrated with a super blingy manicure – I used my new polish, When Monkeys Fly, over a gold I already had on hand and wowza!!  Eric and I made apple pancakes for breakfast, which is our tradition for Thanksgiving morning, and then watched the parade.  We went to my mom’s for our cozy Thanksgiving dinner and it was really a nice, relaxing day.  So much to be thankful for!

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A Birthday Declaration

My birthday is a week away, and I’ve come to some conclusions.  Maybe wisdom comes with age?  Maybe it’s just a result of my TILT posts and thinking about all there is to be grateful for in my life?  But, in the past (as I’ve blogged about here before) my birthday has been a bittersweet occasion for me.  It just sometimes felt overlooked, sometimes felt disappointing, sometimes was filled with tears.  And the past couple of years, I’ve tried to “manage” my birthday in an effort to do some damage control.  But, I’ve realized that the only person who has control over how my birthday turns out is me.  So, after coming to the conclusion that birthdays are meant to be celebrated, I’ve decided to do just that.  So this little post is just a shout out to the universe that I’ve made a little promise to myself that my birthday is a precious thing and should be celebrated as such.

So there should be champagne (in coupe glasses, of course).

There should be a lovely, elegant dress.

There should, naturally, be nail polish.  I’m currently coveting this Chanel Diwali.

There should be delicious food.  I’ve requested pink pancakes from Eric.  Just because I can.

And so, from this point forward, my birthday shall be celebrated in Marie Antoinette style.  Because above all else, birthdays should be fun, shouldn’t they?

Oh and sparklers, I definitely need sparklers!

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Things I Love Thursday: Getting Together

This past weekend I was invited to a local get together and I got to catch up with a couple of friends, meet a few in person that I’d only talked to online and also be introduced to some others for the very first time.  Nerve-wracking to be sure.  But, I was so completely honored to have been invited and so glad that I was able to go.  We had a couple of ladies from Canada, one from California, two from Nashville, and so on.

I had a fantastic time and there was so much amazing food (see the Pavlova our hostess made above – photo courtesy of one of the other attendees).  We had some planned shopping outings as well as dinner out each night.  I mostly behaved myself on the shopping!  But, as you can see on my previous post, I had lots of inspiration going on, so there will probably be polish shopping and swatching going on here soon!

It really is so amazing to get together with women who share the same interests and be able to share, laugh, support and inspire each other.  And I loved floating between conversations and also sitting still and just listening to the flow go on around me.

So, that’s what I’m loving this week – getting together and enjoying the company of other women.

And I thought I’d spend a few minutes and list some other things I’m grateful for this week:

  • Pretty polish on my nails
  • Coca Cola in a bottle (Mexican Coke!)
  • Listening to A Little Crazy on my iPod that I’d forgotten was on there
  • Meeting someone that was so helpful and kind to my dad
  • Ramses and Thutmose sleeping with us at night
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Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve used to be a night spent at Eric’s parents’ house.  But the past couple of years, Eric has wanted to host Christmas Eve at our house.  He always does a magnificent job with planning the menu and creating an amazing meal.  This year he asked me to make a dessert, so we went on the hunt for something worthy of our fancypants holiday meal.  We decided on Giada’s Zuccotto.  On Christmas Eve morning, I got to work on my dessert.  I used a premade poundcake, as Giada suggests.  After all the baking I’d done the week before, I didn’t want to bake anything else!

Once you cut the slices into triangles, it makes this pretty spiral in the bottom of your bowl. 

Once you get your “shell” created, you put in both layers of filling – an outer chocolate layer and an inner almond layer. 

Once you’ve put your filling in, you create the base of the dessert by adding a layer of poundcake in another spiral over the top of your bowl.  After it sets, when you’re ready to serve, you invert your dessert and it comes out looking like a very intricately created dome that is supposed to be reminiscent of the dome of a Cathedral.  A sprinkling of cocoa powder over the top and you are ready to serve. 

It’s a pretty impressive looking dessert that doesn’t require a lot of prep.  And it tastes so good.  The chocolate/almond pairing is wonderful.

Of course, it’s a long while before we get to dessert.  We always start out the evening with antipasto and champagne.  This year we served bruschetta, two kinds of marinated olives, several kinds of cheese including a Triple Cream, one with truffles, a Dubliner, and of course Provolone.

There was prosciutto and hard salami.  And Eric did a wonderful take on caprese salad – he stuffed cherry tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella and a little fresh basil.  So delicious!

Of course I always somehow get too busy eating and never get photos of the actual meal.  It was amazing, once again.  Eric’s menu consisted of seven courses:

Antipasto

Steamed Clams

Italian Caesar Salad with sundried tomatoes and pine nuts

Pasta with Pistachio Pesto

Tuscan-Style Grilled Tuna Steaks with Garlic-Roasted Asparagus and Zucchine al Forno

Roasted chestnuts, Fenoccio and Figs

And Zuccotto for dessert.  Eric’s sister also brought the traditional Pizza Dolce – and we had both!

It was such a delicious dinner, and as usual spanned several hours.  I had a lovely time and was so proud of my husband who makes such wonderful meals.

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Holiday Entertaining

One of the things I enjoy about the holidays is entertaining.  It’s a lot of work, but so worth it in the end.  Every year we hold an Eggnog & Dessert Party for our families.  It’s one of the few times both families get together during the year.  This year, I spent the week before baking and preparing for the party.  You may remember I spent a good amount of time trying to decide what to make this year?  I finally decided I would make cranberry walnut bread (since Eric had been asking for some, salted chocolate cake balls (because I really wanted to do something with sea salt and chocolate) and old-fashioned butter cookies (why not?). Of course, each year whatever I make seems to be a new experiment as more often than not, I’ve never made these things before.

I was really happy with how everything turned out, with the exception of the butter cookies.  I had intended to use a cookie pan for these that has holiday shaped forms to press the cookies into.  Well, batch number one was undercooked (so Eric ate those – he can’t stay away from cookie dough) and batch number two was overcooked.  At that point I just scratched the idea of using that pan and just made drop cookies, which Eric helped me decorate with sprinkles.  They tasted good, just not what I had in mind.

The salted cake balls were delicious!  And OMG I got so many out of this recipe.  I decided to make half salted and half unsalted (because our families are not known for being adventurous).  Well, the salted ones were a total hit and now I’m wishing I’d just done them all that way.  Live and learn!  The recipe I used for these fortuitously came from a tweet and subsequent blog post by symigoddess.  I can’t thank her enough, these were delicious!

And ever since we’ve started having these little shindigs each year, I’ve wished I had holiday napkins.  Well, guess what.  This year, I finally took matters into my own hands and swore that I would have holiday dessert napkins if it killed me.  So, half an hour before our guests arrived, I was still sitting at my sewing machine, pedal to the metal, making napkins.  But, damn are they cute!

I bought yardage of Kate Spain’s 12 Days of Christmas fabric and my little napkins turned out about 5 inches square once folded – the perfect dessert size!

Of course, with all this baking I thought of one more thing I really should have added to my list for Santa…

Maybe next year…

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Being Martha

I’ve been spending some time doing a bit of holiday planning.  We’ve got our annual Eggnog and Dessert party planned for the 18th.  So, I’m trying to decide what to make this year.  I pulled out my Martha Stewart Christmas Cookbook to try to get some ideas.  

I also needed to make something to bring to my guild’s holiday party.  I decided to make something simple, so I went for a batch of fudge.  This is a recipe that my friend Julia shared with me years and years ago and it is so simple and delicious – it’s my go-to holiday recipe. 

This photo reminds me I need to get back to my cookbook project.  I’m in the process of collecting all of my recipes and printing them up on nice paper.

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Tea at the Arboretum

TRSG 10th Anniversary Tea

On Saturday, in honor of my needlework guild’s tenth anniversary, I attended Afternoon Tea at the Dallas Arboretum. It turned out to be a gorgeous day, even with the threat of a spring rain. Of course, the Arboretum is lovely this time of year with bursts of color everywhere you look. I arrived early to help set out gift bags and other goodies. We’ve been planning this tea for months, so it was exciting to finally see our efforts come to fruition.

TRSG 10th Anniversary Tea

The room we were in was beautifully appointed and the menu was amazing as well. For our first course, we were served Zucchini Dill Soup with a Cheese Wafer. This was delicious. I would have gladly had about four more of these.

TRSG 10th Anniversary Tea

Our first course was accompanied by Watermelon Peach Mango tea.

TRSG 10th Anniversary Tea

And tea was served by a very sweet gentleman in white gloves.

TRSG 10th Anniversary Tea

Our second course was a selection of tea sandwiches including Turkey with Herb Butter on Rosemary Bread and Egg Salad on Onion Bread (top tier), Banana Nut Bread with Cream Cheese and Creamed Cucumber on White Bread (middle tier), and also Chicken Salad on Croissant (bottom tier).

TRSG 10th Anniversary Tea

The sandwiches were no less delicious than the soup and were accompanied by Strawberry Vanilla tea.

Dessert was presented on a three-tiered server as well, and of course I had to have one of each (except the strawberry only landed on my plate for photographic purposes – no allergy attacks here!). Our third course consisted of Pecan Tarts, Petit Fours, Chocolate Dipped Strawberries, Lemon Bars, and Orange Currant Scones with Strawberry Jam (none for me, thank you) and Clotted Cream. The scones were still warm and were absolutely scrumptious paired with the clotted cream.

TRSG 10th Anniversary Tea

Tea for our final course was a choice of Earl Gray or Papaya Hibiscus Herbal. I chose the more exotic of the two, although Earl Gray is a favorite of mine.

TRSG 10th Anniversary Tea

It was a lovely afternoon, and I wished I’d had more time to walk through the gardens while I was there.

TRSG 10th Anniversary Tea

I think high tea could become a habit of mine.

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Clean Cup, Move Down

Cranberry Rose Tea

In December, a small group of friends got together for a tea party. The party was to honor one of our dear friends who was moving to Germany. We booked High Tea at a local tea room. I have never been to High Tea, but having a love of the art of Tea as well as those wonderful Victorian and Edwardian eras, I loved every minute of it. If I had been dressed better, I would have felt like I was in the midst of an Ivory-Merchant film.

We chose several different teas to sample, the pot in the photo above held some Cranberry Rose tea. Delicious, and appropriate for the season. I tended to stick with the Earl Gray, personally. With milk and sugar, as is appropriate.

Earl Gray

The mis-matched china was so fun too. I loved all the different tea pots.

Pot of Earl Gray

Our hosts at the tea room spared nothing to make sure we were well taken care of and prepared with every possibility for our tea.

Lemons

And, then they brought out the first course. Little sandwiches on a pedestal. With the crusts cut off no less. Be still my heart. As well as I remember, there was wild rice and chicken salad, cucumber (naturally), turkey breast with cream cheese, and one other that escapes me.

Tea Sandwiches

All on delicious bread, no less.

Sandwiches

Next we indulged in scones and sweet breads. These were complete with Devonshire cream and fresh strawberry reserves (alas, I am allergic so no preserves for me). I believe we were treated to lemon poppy seed bread, cranberry walnut bread, cranberry scones and cinnamon scones. These were all melt in your mout delicious. And the Devonshire cream added just the perfect touch to the scones.

Scones and Sweet Breads

And then onto the pastry course. A little key lime tart, with strawberry on top (mine was removed quickly thereafter), a little almond (I think ) pastry covered in powdered sugar, and a decadent little chocolate cake in the shape of a rose dusted with powdered sugar. So good.

Pastries

We ended our tea by sharing memories of our friend, bestowing some going-away gifts on her, and many many photos of all of us together. It was such a lovely afternoon, and one I will remember fondly. I hope there are many more High Teas in my future too.

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Holiday Entertaining

Snow - Christmas Eve

There may be a part of me that feels like you’ve finally reached adulthood when you start hosting holidays at your home. While both our families are nearby, it is nice to begin our own traditions too. I mentioned a couple of posts ago that the past few years Eric and I have been hosting an Eggnog and Dessert Party before Christmas each year as a way to get both our families together in our home. With our fourth wedding anniversary coming up in April of this year, it feels like we are really starting to count on the new traditions we’re creating together.

Setting the Table

Christmas Eve dinner has always been a very important part of Eric’s family traditions. Last year, we took this over from his mom and we continued it again this Christmas Eve. What I love about it is that it is a wonderful opportunity to use our wedding china, crystal and silver. This year Eric had such an elaborate meal planned, consisting of so many courses, that I was forced to turn to the internet for help in my place settings. Be assured, I think Ms. Post would be proud.

Setting the Table - Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve Dinner

Antipasto
Bruschetta on Rosemary Bread
Two kinds of Olives
Salami
Prosciutto
Fresh Mozzarella
Two kinds of Hard Cheeses
Champagne

Antipasto - Christmas Eve

Dinner in Five Courses
Steamed Clams
~~~
Spinach Salad with Walnuts and Raspberry Vinaigrette
~~~
Bow Tie Pasta with Plum Tomato Sauce
~~~
Tuna or Chicken with White Wine Vinegar Sauce
Warm Bean Salad
Roasted Vegetables (Yellow Squash, Zucchini, Eggplant and Tomatoes)

~~~
Roasted Chestnuts
Fenoccio

Dessert
Pizza Dolce
Three-Color Cookies
Espresso

Dinner was really lovely, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Eric really makes a stunning meal, so no one went away hungry!

It snowed on Christmas Eve, which lasted through the Christmas morning. It’s the first white Christmas I remember having.

Wreath with Snow

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