Yesterday as I was preparing and setting up to host a few lady friends for a gathering I found myself in a rhythm. I truly love to entertain (maybe that’s where Norah gets it) and have found a routine that I seem to follow as I primp my home for guests.
I always rely upon a few items when entertaining. The tools I use for parties and gatherings are part of my every day decor. I don’t have to rummage through cabinets and closets each time I entertain. Because I buy things that I find beautiful and that I truly love, these items are always out on display and easily accessible.
:: My glass pedestals (all thrifted) live on the top shelf of my open pantry. I have a variety of heights and sizes and love how they look all displayed together. Pedestals look beautiful all on their own holding a cake or quiche or towered on top of one another with cookies, bars and chocolates. I find a table presenting foods at varying heights is pleasing to the eye.
:: Cutting boards, many of which were thrifted, are daily essentials in my kitchen. They live stacked up against one another on my counter top and I have a few hanging up almost as artwork around the kitchen. They are all easy to grab and I find myself reaching for them every time I entertain. They work great for anything that needs to be sliced or forked like meats, fishes and cheeses. I like to add a few bowls with olives and nuts on top. Remember this big cutting board I made! I have a variety of shapes and sizes and love the organic feel they bring to the table.
:: I adore my antique cutlery caddy (thrifted) and have it out on full display in my kitchen at all times. It’s beautiful, functional and versatile, the perfect combination. I keep my antique silverware in it which gets used on a daily basis. When it’s party time I add a few paper napkins on the other side of the silverware, grab the handle and plop it where it needs to go. In the dining room, by the stove for soup, outside on the patio. Makes for easy set up!
I so enjoy the holidays and there is always a little bit of sadness that creeps in when they are all over but it hit me today that I think January may be my one of my favorite months.
I love the fresh start of a new year. The deep exhale and peace after the busy holiday season. The rituals that bring us close together. Winter vegetables. A desire to bake and try new recipes. And my tried and true list of essentials to help bear the darkness and bitter cold.
:: Candles. I have a 4:30 lighting ritual when darkness sets. I budget in votives and pillars each month to scatter about. They set a warm and cheery mood.
:: Red wine. A glass of red wine (or two) when I am making dinner warms and relaxes me. I am loving Malbec these days.
:: Citrus. I cannot get enough in the winter. We have a neighbor who always sell boxes of citrus right before the holidays to fund raise for various causes. I always order one or two mixed cases of oranges and grapefruit to get us through the winter. We make fresh squeezed orange juice every Christmas morning. My new favorite breakfast/snack is grapefruit, orange, clementine, kiwi and pomegranate seeds.
:: Fire. We always have a well stocked woodpile on our back porch. We light a fire almost every night before dinner and then gather around after to read, play games and keep warm. On weekends the fireplace will sometimes be lit from morning til night.
:: Wool. I love a winter wardrobe. I love layers, boots, vests, socks and sweaters. I couldn’t live without my wool toggle coat, a 40th birthday gift from my mama.
My slippers, socks and boots are all made from wool. I am always on the look out at the thrift store for 100 percent wool sweaters. They may be a bit itchy but they truly keep me the warmest. I only knit with wool and seek out the softer wools like merino and alpaca.
:: Soup. I’ve written here before about my love of soup. It is my all time favorite winter meal. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner (no lie!) I make at least one pot of soup per week in the colder months and it’s a perfect way to enjoy the winter squashes and roots in our weekly winter CSA share.
:: Greens. I crave dark leafy greens all year long but particularly in the winter. Kale, spinach, tat soi, mache all make their way onto our plates in salads or sauteed with lots of garlic to ward off colds and flu.
:: Fresh flowers. Along with candles I also budget in fresh flowers each week in the winter time. They are worth every penny and bring me joy every time I look at them. There is always a bouquet on my dining table and one in the kitchen. I sometimes add fresh flowers into a arrangement on the mantle as well. I like to incorporate them with clippings from the yard. Right now they are mixed in with evergreens. Lately I have been drawn to ranunculus, tulips and eucalyptus.
:: Forced bulbs. You will always find pots of paperwhite and amarayliss bulbs placed throughout my home starting in December. The green growth is a hopeful reminder that spring will soon be here. I like to create little scenes within the pots of bulbs with glass mushrooms, miniature deer, pine cones and moss. In a month or two I will begin to force branches
Hannah has taken on an internship this year so on Mondays it’s just Norah and I. Norah is a dynamic young lady full of creativity and a passion for cooking, baking, eating and food! She loves to work in the kitchen. She loves to host friends and family for meals and is always concocting up a new recipe. She excels in breaking me out of my “comfort zone” in the kitchen. The other day we were having a friend over for dinner and I was pressed for time and decided to make a vegetable fritatta. Norah insisted (she is a very persistent child) on making a quiche instead. I argued we didn’t have time to play around with a crust nor did I have much experience with quiche but I gave in and we ended up with one of the most delicious meals we have made in a while!
In the new year we thought it might be fun to make Mondays our baking day and to strive to make new things we have never made before. Yesterday we made a new york style cheesecake from this recipe. I have always thought cheesecake was an overly involved and tricky cake with a long list of ingredients but we found it was quite easy and simple really. We didn’t have enough graham crackers on hand so we substituted some homemade gingerbread men left over from the holidays for the crust. We also added a bit more lemon than called for. Santa brought Norah a citrus press for Christmas! It was rich, creamy and delicious with the perfect lemon zing. Norah and I were both beaming as we undid the spring form pan.
Next week…… bagels!!!
We usually drag birthdays out as long as possible around here. The day you were born is an important day to celebrate so why not do it over several days or even a week!
Although Hannah doesn’t turn 12 until Tuesday, we began the festivities with a birthday cake with friends last night. I made this cake and it was to die for!
I am usually a chocolate cake with buttercream or cream cheese icing kind of gal but this cake spoke to me when I read the icing was made with sour cream and bittersweet chocolate.
The tangy to sweet ratio was perfect! Warning: make enough icing to ice your cake and eat it too. It was hard to stop tasting!
When I came home from the store to unpack the cake ingredients I was disappointed to find that I had overlooked the bittersweet chocolate I had bought contained almonds. Chris was nice enough to run back out for me. He couldn’t find plain bittersweet but did come home with both dark chocolate and milk chocolate. He thought combined it would do the job. And he was right. It was perfect.
And there is still cake left over. Cake counts as breakfast right?
my heart (and belly) is happy and full.
i think tomorrow we will start the day with a green smoothie.
activities on a snow day may vary but a few things always remain the same.
recipe for a snow day
hot chocolate makes 4 mugfuls
whisk together in a saucepan on low heat and steep until fragrant and steaming hot
5 cups whole milk
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder
1/4 cup raw sugar
for a extra kick to warm your insides add a pinch of chile powder.
2 parts snow
1 part nature finds, hat, scarf and mittens.
don’t forget eyebrows, mustaches and eyelashes.
dot cheeks with beet juice or watercolors.
always keep firewood and kindling in a dry protected place.
the night before a storm stack enough indoors on the hearth to get you started in the early morning.
hardwoods like ash and oak both burn hot and slow.
due to it’s resin, pine is a powerful fire starter.
hang your wet mittens and hats nearby to dry toasty warm for your next adventure outdoors.
to sooth muscles from hauling firewood and shoveling, there is nothing like ending the day with a hot bath. fill tub with water. pour in Epsom salts and your favorite essential oils, light a few candles and submerge.
we had just a smidge of our homemade applesauce left so i thought i would do it justice by turning it into cake. craft circle was this evening and i served it up with chai tea.
it’s a deliciously moist cake made with warm spices, brown sugar and pecans, tasting a bit like gingerbread. it tastes best warm out of the oven with a dollop of homemade whipped cream but is also the perfect breakfast drizzled with a little yogurt and honey.
preheat oven to 350 degrees
grease and flour one (6 cup) fluted or bundt pan
1 1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon round ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup applesauce
1 cup chopped pecans
sift together flour, baking soda and spices.
cream butter and sugar. add egg
alternate adding flour mixture and applesauce.
scrape batter in to pan and bake for 30 minutes.
cool and dust with confectioners sugar.
adapted from the joy of cooking. i added ginger to the recipe.
i look forward to tuesday evenings with my sister elizabeth (or izzy as my girls call her).
being my only sibling i feel so lucky that she only lives 5 minutes away.
over the last year we have enjoyed dinner together almost every week.
it usually falls on a tuesday night and we alternate hosting each week.
there are no specific rules. no pressure, no stress.
sometimes we eat pancakes for dinner. and sometimes there is a roast chicken and scalloped potatoes.
the kids play while we cook and chat.
and the night is never complete without lots of giggling. usually resulting in me getting the hiccups.
some things never change.