Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Party Recipes

The next few posts offer recipes for easy to prepare party foods. They're perfect for a large bash on New Year's Eve or a small gathering of intimate friends.

May the New Year bring health, prosperity, and happiness for you and yours.

Remain safe.

Baked Brie with Pecans

If I was forced at gunpoint to choose one favorite cheese, it just might have to be brie, and being born and raised in the South, the pecan has a special place in my heart. My ninety-one year old father raised pecan trees from saplings that are still bearing nuts. So when I was looking for New Year's recipes to share, I couldn't resist this one. I hope you enjoy it.

Toasted pecans and maple syrup complement the creamy Brie in this hors d'oeuvre. For the best texture, let the cheese cool before topping it with the syrup mixture.


Serves 8

  • 1 small wheel of Brie or Camembert (about 9 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup pecan pieces
  • 3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • crackers or sliced baguette, for serving
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cheese on a rimmed baking sheet; bake until softened, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a serving plate; cool about 20 minutes.
  2. While cheese cools, place nuts on a clean baking sheet; bake until toasted and fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle nuts over cheese.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and maple syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat; simmer until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Drizzle warm sauce over slightly cooled cheese and nuts; serve with crackers or baguette.

This recipe is by Everyday Food reader Kathy Quinn of Montclair, New Jersey.

Prep: 10 minutes
Total: 45 minutes

Source: Martha Stewart

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blue Cheese and Walnut Spread

  • 4-ounce bar of cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 4 ounces (1 cup) cold crumbled blue cheese, such as Stilton
  • Crackers or crostini, for serving
  1. In a medium bowl, stir cream cheese with a wooden spoon until softened. Mix in walnuts; season with salt and pepper. Gently fold in blue cheese, breaking up as little as possible. Transfer mixture to a small bowl; smooth top. Serve with crackers or crostini. To store: Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate, up to 1 week.
This spread is also delicious served on apple or pear wedges. Rub them first with lemon juice to prevent discoloration.

Source: Martha Stewart

Spiced-Up Hummus

The ginger, cumin, and cilantro in this recipe are anti-inflammatory, and the chickpeas are full of fiber. Toasted whole-grain pita is great for scooping up hummus.

Per serving: 187 calories; 13 grams fat; 14 grams carbs; 5 grams protein

Prep: 15 minutes
Total: 15 minutes


Makes 3 cups

  • 15 (1 can) ounces chickpeas, drained, reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground star anise (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped, plus whole leaves for garnish (optional)
  • 1 plum tomato, peeled, seeded, and very finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, very thinly sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper


  1. In a food processor combine beans and reserved bean liquid, tahini, lemon juice, 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, star anise (if using), ginger, and cumin; puree until smooth.
  2. Transfer to a serving bowl and stir in cilantro, tomato, and scallions; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons oil over the top of the hummus. Before serving, garnish with cilantro leaves if desired.
Source: Martha Stewart

Toast The New Year

In Spain, revelers mark the new year by quickly eating a dozen grapes at midnight. The fruit is said to be a predictor of the year ahead: Each sweet grape represents a good month, each sour grape a less-than-lucky one.

Adopt the tradition by threading grapes onto skewers, and serve each in a glass of Champagne just before the countdown.

Source: Martha Stewart

Good Luck!

I grew up in the South. It was our tradition to eat black-eyed peas on the first day of the new year. My mother always placed them in a pan and covered them with water on New Year's Eve. She allowed them to soak overnight to reduce the cooking time, and she cooked them with a ham hock the following day. To this day, I wouldn't think of facing a new year without eating black-eyed peas for good luck.

I found the following recipes at Martha Stewart where you can find other suggestions for ringing in the New Year.

Dish out some serendipity to family and friends by giving them lucky New Year's foods. In Italy, lentils are thought to bring prosperity when eaten on January 1 because they resemble little coins. In the South, eating black-eyed peas shows humility and thus invites good fortune. Both are delicious with ham or other pork roasts. For a gift, package dried black-eyed peas or lentils in a jar with a bouquet garni of dried herbs, such as bay leaves, oregano, savory, and thyme. Attach a gift card with handwritten cooking instructions.

Black-Eyed Peas
Serves 4 to 6

You can buy a bouquet garni or make one by tying dried herbs, such as oregano, savory, thyme, and bay leaf, in a piece of cheesecloth.

2 cups dried black-eyed peas
Dried bouquet garni
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Soak peas overnight. Drain. Bring peas, 3 cups water, bouquet garni, salt, and pepper to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until peas are tender; begin checking after 15 minutes (cooking time will vary). Discard bouquet garni.

Serves 4 to 6

2 cups lentils
Dried bouquet garni
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Bring lentils, 3 cups water, bouquet garni, salt, and pepper to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are tender; begin checking after 20 minutes (cooking time will vary). Discard bouquet garni.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Gift of Gratitude

Photo Source: Lantlif

And so, we finally arrive at the eve of the long awaited day. The mantles have been decorated, the wreaths have been hung, the trees have been trimmed and the packages have been wrapped in preparation for the big day.

In what may seem an overwhelming sea of errands, responsibilities, and that niggling desire to make those we love happy, it's easy to lose track of what truly matters. The traffic lights, and the crowds are all behind us now. In less than forty-eight hours it will all be a blur.

This has been a difficult year for many. Jobs and homes have been lost, and something ominous is knocking at the door of our country in a way that our generation has never seen. Yet we find ourselves on the threshold of one of the most hopeful holidays known to mankind.

I have a Christmas challenge for you. Do whatever you must over the next two days, but at some point endeavor to carve out five minutes of your scarce time. Find a place away from the hustle and bustle, and simply be quiet. Be still. Let all the trappings of the day slide away. Forget about the dishes, the stuffing that was too dry, a rude uncle, the child who wasn't grateful enough.

Allow the excitement, the frustration, and the celebrating to slide away, and look at what lies beneath. That's where we find what truly matters: family, friends, compassion, the husband who was faithful, the sick child who recovered, the son who will go off to college next year, the grandmother who is with us for another season. Try not to let this holiday pass into the night without a moment of contemplation. Give yourself the gift of gratitude this year. That is my wish for you.

Thank you for stopping by this fledgling site. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Foto: Aina
Source: Modern Country

Tips For Easy Holiday Entertaining

Photo: Charles Walton IV
  • Plan your menu at least a week in advance. That will give you time to locate hard-to-find items and shop the sales. To avoid long checkout lines, visit the grocery during weekdays or off-peak hours.
  • • Skip the experiments. Prepare items you've successfully made before. Besides, guests may be looking forward to your specialties.
  • • Use a few convenience foods. For a quick appetizer, top a whole Brie wheel with prepared mango chutney and serve with plenty of thin ginger snaps.
  • • Set out plates, serving pieces, glasses, and flatware the night before. It's less stressful to search for that stray serving spoon without an audience.
  • • Clean as you cook. Unless you've enlisted a kitchen helper, stopping to wash and put away pots and pans will save time at the end of the day (when you're most tired).
  • • Don't overclean your house. Remove clutter, dust large items, dim the lights, and set out a few candles and perhaps some poinsettias or other bright floral arrangements. That's all you need to create a festive ambience. Focus cleaning time on the guest bath―it's brighter in there.
By Julia Dowling Rutland
Source: Coastal Living

Make-Ahead Appetizers for the Holidays

Unexpected guests are part of the holiday season. Be prepared with these make-ahead appetizers when the doorbell rings. Keep apple cider, eggnog, or a bottle of wine at the ready. Offer your guests some already prepared tidbits, pour a cup of cheer, and relax. Keep it simple, and don't miss out on the best part of the season - friends and family.

Walnut Red Pepper Dip

Annabelle Breakey, Karen Shinto

Perfect for those unexpected guests, this ultra simple dip only takes 10 minutes to prepare and kicks up the flavor with roasted red peppers and walnuts. Serve it with your favorite bread rounds or pita chips.

Prep Time: 10 minutes.


Makes 2 cups


  • 2 cups shelled walnuts
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jar (12 oz.) roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

In a food processor, pulse walnuts, cumin, sugar, and salt until walnuts are finely ground. Add peppers, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. Whirl until smooth.

Note: Nutritional analysis is per tbsp.

Lynn Lloyd, Santa Cruz, CA, Sunset, DECEMBER 2007

Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Jan Gautro

Hot Artichoke-Cheese Dip
This warm dip is just the thing when you hanker for a creamy, cheesy snack. And because you are likely to have the ingredients on hand in the fridge and freezer, it's also great for impromptu entertaining.


12 servings (serving size: 2 1/2 tablespoons dip and 2 baguette slices)


  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 green onion, cut into pieces
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
  • 1/3 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 12 ounces frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and drained
  • Cooking spray
  • 24 (1/2-ounce) slices baguette, toasted

1. Preheat oven to 400°.

2. Place garlic and onion in a food processor; process until finely chopped. Add 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and next 4 ingredients (through pepper); process until almost smooth. Add artichoke hearts; pulse until artichoke hearts are coarsely chopped. Spoon mixture into a 3-cup gratin dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with remaining Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until thoroughly heated and bubbly. Serve hot with baguette.

Photo: Jean Allsopp
Marinated Olives and Manchego


Makes 3 cups


  • 1 cup kalamata olives, rinsed
  • 1 cup manzanilla olives, rinsed
  • 1 cup diced manchego cheese
  • 1 teaspoon minced lemon rind
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil Preparation

Toss ingredients together gently. Let stand in glass jar 1 day.

Coastal Living, APRIL 2007

Find more recipes at Coastal Living.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Foto: Mari Eriksson

Cozy Christmas Dinner?

Photo William Dickey / Styling Buffy Hargett / Food styling Angela Sellers

Though Southern Living bills this menu of pork loin roast with Carolina apple compote, butternut squash risitto, and bacon-brown sugar brussels sprouts as a "cozy Christmas dinner," you may be a traditionalist who would never give up your holiday turkey, ham, and Grandma's candied yams. Still, this is a dinner that could be enjoyed on any occasion when you want your guests to feel special. Click on the links to get the recipes.

photo: Pinecone candles give the dinner table a warm glow. Use extra serving pieces to complement the color palette and provide protection, if needed, from dripping wax.

Heavenly Holiday Desserts

They look impressive and taste divine, but the really extraordinary thing about these fabulous desserts from Southern Living is how easy they are to prepare.

Double Citrus Tart
Mary Allen Perry

Easy as icebox pie, this party-pretty tart pairs the bright fresh flavors of lemon and orange with a crisp gingersnap crust. It's just the right finish for a rich holiday meal, and freezes beautifully. Prepare the tart up to 1 month ahead, omitting the whipped cream and garnish; chill as directed. Remove the metal rim of the tart pan; cover and freeze in a zip-top freezer bag. Thaw overnight in refrigerator; add whipped cream and garnish up to 4 hours before serving.

Prep: 30 min., Bake: 25 min., Chill: 4 hrs.


Makes 8 to 10 servings

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Garnishes: fresh mint leaves, lemon and orange slices

Stir together first 4 ingredients. Press mixture evenly into a 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom; set aside.

Whisk together sweetened condensed milk, orange juice concentrate, lemon juice, and egg yolks until blended.

Beat egg whites at medium speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form; fold into condensed milk mixture. Pour into prepared crust.

Bake at 325° for 20 to 25 minutes or just until filling is set. Remove to a wire rack, and let cool completely. Cover and chill at least 4 hours. Remove tart from pan, and place on a serving dish.

Beat whipping cream and granulated sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Dollop around edges of tart; garnish, if desired.

Mary Ann Lee, Marco Island, Florida, Southern Living, MARCH 2005

Chocolate Fudge Cheese Cake

Mary Allen Perry

Never fearing too much of a good thing, SL topped their best-ever brownie batter with a ribbon of feather-light cheesecake, and poured on a chocolate truffle glaze.

The recipe makes 2 triple-layered treats – perfect for serving a crowd or sharing as a gift.

Prep: 30 min.; Bake: 1 hr., 15 min.; Chill: 8 hrs.


Makes 2 (9-inch) cheesecakes

  • 1/2 cup toasted, chopped pecans
  • 4 (1-ounce) unsweetened chocolate baking squares
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 7 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 Chocolate Glaze (follows)
  • Garnishes: fresh mint sprigs, sliced strawberries

Sprinkle 1/2 cup pecans evenly over the bottom of each of 2 greased and floured 9-inch springform pans.

Microwave chocolate squares in a microwave-safe bowl at MEDIUM (50% power) 1 1/2 minutes, stirring at 30-second intervals until melted. Stir until smooth.

Beat butter and 2 cups sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add 4 eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add melted chocolate, beating just until blended.

Add flour, beating at low speed just until blended. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and chocolate morsels. Divide batter evenly between pans, spreading over chopped pecans.

Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth; add 1 3/4 cups sugar, beating until blended. Add 7 eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Stir in 2 teaspoons vanilla. Divide cream cheese mixture evenly between each pan, spreading over brownie batter.

Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until set. Remove from oven; cool completely on wire racks.

Spread top of each cooled cheesecake with 1 recipe Chocolate Glaze; cover and chill 8 hours. Remove sides of pans before serving. Garnish, if desired.

Note: We topped each cheesecake with 1 full recipe of Chocolate Glaze. For a thinner layer of chocolate on top, divide 1 recipe of glaze between the two cakes.

Southern Living, DECEMBER 2005

Chocolate Glaze


Makes about 2 cups

  • 1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream

Melt 1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate morsels and 1/2 cup whipping cream in a 2-quart microwave-safe bowl at MEDIUM (50% power) 2 1/2 to 3 minutes or until chocolate begins to melt. Whisk until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth.

Southern Living, DECEMBER 2005

Raspberry Tiramisù Bites

Photo: William Dickey; Styling: Lisa Powell Bailey

These luscious little gems are so quick to fix you can make dozens at a time. Inexpensive shot glasses sparkle as contemporary dessert dishes. For large parties, miniature (5-oz.) clear-plastic tumblers, available from party stores, are a great option.

Prep: 30 min., Chill: 2 hr. There are crisp Italian cookies also called ladyfingers, but be sure to use soft ones in this recipe. Look for them in the bakery or produce section of your supermarket.


Makes 8 servings

  • 3 tablespoons seedless raspberry preserves
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur
  • 1 (3-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 8 ladyfingers, halved crosswise
  • 8 fresh raspberries
  • Garnish: fresh mint sprigs

1. Microwave raspberry preserves in a small microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 20 seconds. Stir in liqueur.

2. Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy (about 1 minute).

3. Beat heavy cream with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Fold into cream cheese mixture. Spoon into a zip-top plastic bag. (Do not seal.) Snip 1 corner of bag with scissors to make a hole (about 1/2 inch in diameter).

4. Press 1 ladyfinger half onto bottom of 1 (1 1/2-oz.) shot glass. Repeat procedure with 7 more shot glasses. Drizzle about 1/2 tsp. raspberry mixture into each glass. Pipe a small amount of cream cheese mixture evenly into each glass. Repeat procedure with remaining ladyfingers, raspberry mixture, and cream cheese mixture. Top each glass with 1 raspberry. Cover and chill 2 hours. Garnish, if desired.

Stephanie Hawkins, Charleston, South Carolina, Southern Living, MARCH 2008

Source: Southern Living

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Foto: Aina
Source: Modern Country

More Than One Way To Have A White Christmas

For holiday sparkle, choose white and silver accents for a shimmery holiday glow.

Photos: Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn
Source: Coastal Living

Norman Rockwell

I showed the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.
— Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell created a product on which people could depend. Though this is reflected in more than 4,000 illustrations completed throughout his 47 year career, he is most famous for his contributions to the Saturday Evening Post. Beginning in 1916, he produced 332 covers for the Post. It was not unheard of for The Post to automatically increase its print order by 250,000 copies when an issue had a cover by Rockwell.

To learn more about Norman Rockwell, click here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Secrets of Simplicity

Learn to Live Better With Less

By Mary Carlomagno
Illustrations by Andrea Cobb

The following review was found on Chronicle Books.

"Secrets of Simplicity -- Bulging in-boxes, out-of-control stress, and even climate change serve as reminders that when it comes to being happy and healthy, less is more. In this interactive journal, organization expert Mary Carlomagno leads readers on a journey toward release and discovery.

Guided by the principle that the way you spend your time and money should reflect your true priorities, Secrets of Simplicity shows how to make practical changes to unburden your closets and calendars and make room for what's really important. Readers can record their successes, as they de-clutter their homes and in the process, their minds.

Mary Carlomagno is the founder and owner of Order, a company that specializes in clutter control. Her philosophy has been featured in Woman's Day, Redbook, and the Washington Post. She lives in New Jersey."

I found this review on Chronicle Books . Chronicle sells the book for $19.95, but I found it had been reduced to a reasonable $13.57 on Amazon. It can still be delivered in time for Christmas, but you must choose two day shipping. For delivery after December 24, this item is eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping on orders over $25.

What will change look like in White House décor?

Click on photos to enlarge.

Who will the Obamas choose for their interior decorator at the White House? Curiosity is rising and rumors abound. Some say the smart money is on Nate Berkus, Oprah's favorite interior designer, and frequent guest on the famous TV host's show.

In a New York Times article, What Will Change Look Like in White House Décor?, Penelope Green explores the possibilities and offers a bit of information to the Obamas about the interior design experiences of some past occupants of the White House. Be sure to check out the slide show of historical photos.

Black and white photo of Jackie Kennedy at the White House.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Today's Christmas Wreath

photo credit: Minna Mercke Schmidt
Country Living

Garlicky Green Beans

Oh, the holiday season. It’s good spending time with family and friends but all of the festive food can make healthy eating a challenge. Americans put on half of our annual weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Though it’s only a pound or two, if it happens year after year, it can add up.

Check out the nutritional profile of these garlicky green beans.

Low Calorie | Low Carb | Low Sodium | Low Cholesterol | Low Sat Fat | Heart Healthy | Diabetes Appropriate | Healthy Weight

You can cook then cool the beans in advance so they can be heated up and seasoned moments before the meal. If you don't like tarragon, substitute dill or leave it out completely.

Makes 8 servings, about 1 cup each

ACTIVE TIME: 35 minutes

TOTAL TIME: 45 minutes


2 pounds green beans, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place a large bowl of ice water next to the stove.
2. Add half the green beans to the boiling water and cook until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer the beans with a slotted spoon to the ice water to cool. Repeat with the remaining beans. Place a kitchen towel on a baking sheet and use a slotted spoon to transfer the beans from the ice water; blot dry with another towel.
3. Just before serving, heat oil in a large Dutch oven or large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the green beans and stir. Add parsley, tarragon, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until heated through, 1 to 3 minutes.

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 92 calories; 6 g fat (1 g sat, 4 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 10 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 4 g fiber; 148 mg sodium; 186 mg potassium.

Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (25% daily value), Vitamin A (20% dv), Fiber (16% dv).

1/2 Carbohydrate Serving

Exchanges: 1 vegetable, 1 fat

MAKE AHEAD TIP: Prepare through Step 2 and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.

Source: Eating Well

Food for the Mind, Body and Spirit

If you find yourself feeling irritable or sluggish, you may need to tune up your diet. How you eat, and when, can make a huge impact on your mind, body and spirit.

Nutrition experts offer diet guidelines and expert Q and A, as well as an interactive quiz that tests your knowledge of how your diet can affect your mind, body and spirit. Plus, delicious recipes to nourish you and keep your moods on an even keel.

Read this article in its entirety at Eating Well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

au naturale

If you're thinking of forsaking the traditional red and green, why not try the natural colors of nature found in this beautiful garland?

photo credit: Brooke Slezak
Source: Country Living

Friday, December 12, 2008


Styling: Jeanette Lindell Foto: Minna Mercke Schmidt

A chair, much like the one in the photo, sits in my family room. I first laid eyes on it many years ago. It was sitting in the bedroom of my husband's mother. Overflowing with clothes that had been hanging on a clothesline in the sunshine only a few hours earlier and were now waiting to be folded, its features were all but completely obscured.

It had originally belonged to a lifelong family friend, to whom she always referred as Cousin Clair. I noticed one of the arms peeking out from under the clothes. I found myself removing the clothes in search of what was hidden beneath. When she realized that I liked it, she insisted that I take it home that very day. A frugal country woman, my mother-in-law eschewed all things "fancy." This chair is most certainly not fancy. I love its rustic nature, and I enjoy the idea that many babies have probably been rocked into slumber by its soothing motion. Most of all, it's a gentle reminder of a pleasant memory.

Simple Decoration

A rustic door and luxurious velvet ribbon make for an elegant but simple detail

Healthy Tips For Surviving The Holidays

Apricot Canapes

I used to subscribe to Eating Well Magazine. Yesterday morning, I knew that I would spend several hours sitting in a waiting room while my husband underwent a routine procedure - a procedure all too familiar to those over fifty years of age. Just before leaving the house, I noticed several out-of-date copies of Eating Well sitting in a basket in the corner of my bedroom. I grabbed a few issues, envisioning myself thumbing through the glossy pages, hoping to divert my attention from the results of my husband's procedure while I sat waiting in a room filled with strangers.

As I thumbed through the slick and colorful pages, looking at beautiful photos of appetizing and healthful foods, I recalled why I subscribed to Eating Well in the first place. The recipes are simple and healthful, the articles are informative, and the topics are inspirational - inspiring the reader to choose healthful alternatives which can lead to a lifestyle that enhances quality of life.

The following article is only one example of the tips and recipes you will find.

Holiday celebrations can be a major obstacle for people watching their weight. So how to avoid gaining weight, but still have fun? These tips and recipes will help you eat healthfully and deliciously all season long.

Read the entire article about healthy tips for surviving the holidays.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Today's Christmas Wreath

Photo: Minna Mercke Schmidt

This season, look no further than the backyard to find what you need to fashion natural and elegant holiday wreaths. Photographer, blogger, and floral design teacher Minna Mercke Schmidt crafts wreaths and arrangements from materials culled from her farm and garden in Sweden.

To read more about this wreath, click on the photo.

Source: Country Living

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Today's Christmas Wreath

Blue Spruce Wreath Trio

Ring in the winter holidays with an impressive yet easy-to-make decoration for the front door that packs a beribboned triple punch.

For information on how to make this trio of wreaths, click on the photo.

Source: Martha Stewart

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Small Space Ideas

Check out this 900 sq/ft apartment in Arlington, Massachusetts. You'll find lots of small space ideas.

"Istvan and Conchita"
Arlington, MA
900 sq/ft
Years lived in:
Owned 8 years

The challenge of accommodating two totally different functions into a single space always churns up creativity. Our friends’ ground level apartment in a two-family home in Arlington is a lovely example. The soft, cohesive color palette of the living spaces keeps the office environment light and refreshing while the organizational attitude of the work space keeps the home environment neat and tidy. Throw in great art and a few design classics and you’ve got a home that packs quite a punch...

Go to Apartment Therapy and see it all!

Today's Christmas Wreath

Photo: Robin Stubbert

Hydrangeas always remind me of my mother. They're a lovely and old fashioned flower. She grew them when I was a little girl, and I was lucky enough to get an offshoot of one of her original shrubs. My husband planted it in a flower bed in our yard for me. On long summer days, I can look out my window and see cool, blue spheres swaying in the breeze.

Blue hydrangea blossoms are the stars of this wreath. Green apples, fresh pine and cedar are the background singers. While this wreath was made for Christmas, I think I will make one like it for spring, and every time I look at it, I will think of Mama.

Source: Country Living

Asian-Spiced Pecans

This is one of my favorite snacks, and we've all heard about the health benefits derived from eating nuts. Spiced nuts make a wonderful gift anytime of year. I haven't tried this recipe yet, but that will change soon.
Becky Luigart-Stayner; Leigh Ann Ross

Other savory pecan recipes have as much as <1/2> cup butter per 4 cups of nuts. Here, we use only a teaspoon of butter and add a little tomato paste to give the spice mixture enough body to cling to the pecans.

Yield 4 cups (serving size: 2 tablespoons)

  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons Thai seasoning (such as Spice Islands)
  • 1 teaspoon butter or stick margarine, melted
  • Dash of black pepper
  • Dash of ground red pepper
  • 4 cups pecan halves
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, and stir well with a whisk. Add pecan halves; toss well. Spread mixture evenly onto a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350° for 12 minutes, stirring once. Remove from oven, and sprinkle with salt. Cool completely.

Note: Store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to one month, in the refrigerator for up to 3 months, or in the freezer for up to 8 months.

Nutritional Information

93 (90% from fat)
9.3g (sat 0.8g,mono 5.7g,poly 2.3g)
Source: Southern Living

Traditional Christmas Table Setting

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner

There are as many choices as there are people, but you can't go wrong with the traditional colors of this holiday table. Red napkins, a green boxwood garland, and white candles and china make this setting both traditional and beautiful.

The garland doesn't have to be boxwood. You can probably find something beautiful growing in your back yard. Put a pillar candle in a glass container and pile cranberries around it for the rich color. And sometimes you don't even have to bother with a table cloth or place mats. No need to spot clean Grandmother's table linens before you go to bed on Christmas night. Now, that's simple.

Source: Cooking Light

Monday, December 8, 2008

Display Your Antique Ornaments

Sadly, I have no remaining Christmas tree ornaments from my childhood, though, I've taken great care to properly store the ornaments from my son's childhood. Every year I wrap them in tissue paper, and they're never stores in a garage, basement or attic. They're placed in a closet that's located in a part of the house where the temperature and humidity are relatively constant.

Fortunately, some of the ornaments from my husband's childhood survived. Every year we place some of them in an antique fruit compote that belonged to his mother. It may be my favorite decoration of the season. The compote is not especially large, and the ornaments are not particularly elaborate or of great value, but they are part of his tradition, and that is where their true value lies. As we unwrap them every year, we admire the beauty of the subtle colors and the soft patina that can only be achieved with the passing of years. It's a ritual that reminds him of his mother and father and Christmases past.

Some of the following ideas that could be utilized in displaying fragile antique ornaments, remind me of our own holiday tradition.

Photo: Steven Randazzo

Janis Nicolay

Keith Scott Morton

Robin Stubbert

Photo: Steven Randazzo

Photo: Keith Scott Morton

Country Living

Today's Christmas Wreath

Silver Stars

Put some sparkle in your outdoor decorations with this small, sparkly wreath.

How to make it: Add a spray of chenille stems and pre-cut wood stars to an evergreen circle, and you have a wreath to wish upon. Wrap a length of bead garland loosely around the bottom, and add stars with holes drilled into them for hanging. Wire the chenille stems into the greenery.

Source: BHG