Saturday, December 22, 2007

Xmas Goodies

The Hubby and I have offered to make Christmas dinner this year at my in-laws, however the scary part is it will be in their kitchen! My in-laws, who are well into there sixties, are way over cooking, even if it’s the Christmas feast. In fact, they would just as soon do instant mashed potatoes and Stove Top stuffing. They have warned me, no more cookbooks—ever, ever in their lifetime! My mother-in-law has stated that her husband (A New Orleanean) should have a Food Network show called Cooking With Envelopes With Andre’ (The Cajun New Orleanean)—hey I like it! Move it on over Emeril! I have to admit the crawfish etouffee is pretty good (somehow though I cannot find that envelope). Basically envelopes are the extent of their cooking, and if it does not come from an envelope then it does not get made. The good news is since Michael and I will be doing the cooking, no instant mashed potatoes. Tis The Season!

So after making 18 dozen cookies this past weekend (how I got myself in this situation of volunteering for cooking, I don’t know. My husband made me do a bill of materials and create a production operation), I have decided to do something different! After watching Giada from Everyday Italian, I have decide to add a little Italian flavor to our Christmas this year. In one of Giada’s episodes she does some Italian goodie bags, and one of the things she added were Amaretti cookies, which are not so easy to find here in Nashville. The best part about these will be that I don’t have to make them, as they come indivually wrapped in beautiful old world looking tissues. I sent the hubby out to Marche’s, a Italian market here in Nashville, thinking they would have them--no such luck! The amaretti cookies they had are in the red tins and are not indivually wrapped; I have to have the ones that are individually wrapped! Hey, it all about the presentation. I found them through and decided against spending the huge shipping fee, but with a little work I did find them in Atlanta, which is where we are heading anyway. So I’ll be heading to Harry’s Farmer Market, where they even put a few boxes on hold for me. So with my Italian goodies bags and antipasta platter of meats, cheeses and olives—we’re set! Now, I just need to get my hands on some rosy goat cheese for my father-in-law!

Amaretti cookies

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sprucing Up The House For The Holidays!

Picture Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living

My buddy Cruella and I were talking this afternoon about decorating today; however, it was different than normal--it was about decorating for the holidays! Cruella is one who likes to really go all out to decorate her home for the holidays. In fact, I don’t hear from her for weeks because she is decorating her house, and then she moves on to her friend Sarah’s house, next she goes to her sister’s house, and then it’s on to her Mother’s house. Today, Cruella and I were discussing why some people like to go all out to decorate for the holiday, and why some people choose to keep it somewhat simple, like me, for instance. I do tend to keep everything very low key, and this is for several reasons:

· First, my house is quite small.
· Second, I don’t want to go down our dark creepy basement to gather up our
Christmas decorations-- don’t need the Cat in the Hat that bad.
· Third, my Hubby always has me on a shoestring budget.
· Fourth, and on top of all this, we’re going to be away for over a week.

But here are some things that I have found where you don’t have to put a lot of money or a lot of effort into to create a nice festive feeling!

Picture from Martha Stewart's Decorating For The Holidays

Starting with the outside: Wanting to create a nice warm welcome, one thing I had to do was change my outside sconces. As I’ve mentioned earlier, my husband and I are slowly working on our house and the sconces that we had needed to go. Thanks to House Beautiful I found a pair that I liked at Home Expo. Next, I added just a wreath with a pretty red ribbon. I always try to buy a few real wreaths, simply because I like the smell, but a faux works as well.

Thanks to Martha Stewart’s Decorating For The Holiday I now like to go to the market for ladies apples, cranberries, clemantines, pears, nuts and what other fruit that may come my way. Next, I like to use a lot of pinecones, and in if you’re in the South you can easily fetch them for free. Another thing, I’ve found that you can do a lot with is tree clippings. Some home improvement centers will give the clipping away for free, but I noticed here in Nashville a few of the high-end centers would like for you to pay for the clippings because they have figured out that you can do a lot with them. I tried to plant nandinas this past summer and I was told they would have berries-- but not a berry to be found! My neighbor Trish has them but I don’t think she would appreciate it if I came over with my sissors. I may have to do without them this year. Once cut, nandinas will last for a long time. Cruella still had hers at Easter.

Picture Courtesy of Martha Stewart (Decorating For The Holidays)

Martha Stewart's Decorating For The Holidays

If you are expecting company and want to make your house a little more cozier, try adding some pillows --Silk Trading Company is a good choice for ready made pillows and curtains. Plus a nice new throw always works.

How about some nice new towels for your company? Two years ago when we first moved to NashVegas and I was expecting my in-laws in for Thanksgiving and I bought the Thomas O’Brien towels from Target. My mother-in-law complements me on them and I noticed Domino mentioned them as well—overall, nice for the money. Now I just need to get a few more to have monogrammed. Last but not least make sure you have enough wine & champagne glasses and serving pieces. I just found some pretty etched champagne glasses that have some age to them at Antiques and Beyond that would be perfect for sorbet or champagne. Not too bad for twenty bucks for a set of six. Too bad I’m going to be away! Oh well, there is always next year.

Picture From Martha Stewart's Decorating For The Holidays

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Time To Wrap!

Picture Courtesy of Carolyne Roehm

One of the things that I love to do around the holidays is to pick out gift wrapping paper and pretty ribbons-- although wrapping, Ill admit, has never been my forte’! This is a task, that I easily assign to my hubby, not that I’m being mean and trying to give him extra work but he can tie a ribbon better then me--I believe this is a talent he acquired from his mother. However, I still love to shop for gift-wrap and all the trimmings!

Over the years, I’ve found I would often spend more on wrapping paper, ribbons, and tags then on the gifts --sometimes I would even buy my paper before all of my gifts (like this year). Currently storage is a huge issue at my house, so I don’t want to spend a lot of money on gift wrapping paper because when Xmas is over and the paper that is left over will be going in my cold, very dark, dirty, infested 1930’s basement that even my hound dog won’t go down into! So now, I just wander into certain stores for inspiration. So for me, the best advice I ever read was in Carolyne Roehm’s Winter Notebook. Carolyne suggests that if expensive paper is out of your reach, then try using white freezer wrap or butcher paper to wrap your presents in, and to splurge, instead, on beautiful ribbon. She also removed the faux fruit off an old wreath and tied that to the ribbon. This is very clever, and indeed a nice way to dress up your packages, and to save some money in the process. Since I’m in the South I even like to use pinecones that are plucked from my own yard.

Picture from Carolyne Roehm's Winter Notebook

I have used just basic white paper the last two years-- I actually bought Crafty Kraft paper from Michael’s retail store. The first Christmas morning, after Michael had wrapped some gifts, his mother popped into the room and said she had some paper upstairs in her wrapping room (she’s very lucky—although it does share space with her washer & dryer). He told her he had it covered, since I had already trained him. Later, when she saw the finished product, she was complementing--how pretty! In the end, I was happy because I saved some money and I still had a nice pretty package to give!

The nice thing is you can use the paper year-round, and you don’t have to worry about snowmen paper, although if you have tiny tots at home, you have to have a little snowman paper. For Valentines Day, of course, just add a red ribbon or for Mother’s Day, you can do pretty light blue, sage green, or pink silk ribbon (unlimited possibilities). So, since I have plenty of Crafty Kraft paper left over from last year and the year before this is one less thing I have to buy! So I am off this morning to fetch some pretty red velvet ribbon!

Picture from Carolyne Roehm's Winter Notebook

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gifts For The Avid Gardener!

After watching several episodes of Clean House , I sometimes try to stay away from giving my girlfriends home décor accessories--unless I know exactly what they are looking for. I have fears of watching this show someday and seeing one of my friends uttering how this was a gift from their beloved friend, the antique lover. I would hate to see one of my friends display a piece just because they felt obligated. Giving home décor accessories to even a close friend is very hard So after a lot of trial and error, this is what I have come up with! I will use my buddy Cruella for this analogy.

Cruella and I spend a lot of time shopping with one another; therefore, we know what each other likes and dislikes. In fact, we have even rub off on each other. We both love French and English antiques, but not all French and English antiques. We both love interior design but not all interior design. And we both love to dabble in cooking and we both love gardening-- her even more so then me. In the past, I’ve have given Cruella accessories for her house-- Papier Mache boxes, Papier Mache coasters--basically I could not go wrong in the Papier Mache department (Cruella loves Papier Mache, in case you could not tell). Now I like to give her books on design, cooking, or gardening, as I mentioned in my Dear Santa blog. However, a couple of years ago, I decided to give Cruella something different--I was out antiquing on a small budget and came across this prissy looking jewelry box. When I picked the box up, I thought oh, this looks like Cruella and the price is right, I’ll get it! Dresser set items have always been more in her field, after all, I sold French iron junk! Once opening the gift, Cruella cries out, in her always bubbly, passionate voice “Thank You, I love it”! And then she told me she was going to store her bedroom’s TV remote in it. Basically, the worst gift I ever gave her! I don’t blame her for wanting to throw the box underneath her bed.

I felt bad because she could not return it! The box had come from an antiques mall and not Stein Mart. I realized I should not have jumped into uncharted waters when I purchased it. I did tell her to sell it, after all, how could she go wrong? Note, this is what I learned-- knowing that Cruella spends from March to November in her yard, I can assume that she is truly an avid gardener. So why not give her something she could use that did not cost a lot but something she would probably not buy for herself! So a gift were I did score was Smith & Hawken 's garden tools – Cruella tells me that she keeps them on display in her kitchen- I was pleased. Hey I wasn’t even going for a home accessories, just a nice tool she could have for her yard.

Smith & Hawken 's Trowel

Smith & Hawken's Garden Essentials Gift

So for all your gardener friends try Smith & Hawken-- a few nice planting tools with a seasonal plant placed in a box with tissue. You can even throw in some nice garden gloves. Or you can just purchase a lemon or orange tree, or rosemary wrapped in burlap with a pretty ribbon.

Smith & Hawken's Women's floral Gloves

Rosmary Topiary

Just add a red bow!

A gift that Cruella always scores high in --is a gift subscription to Southern Accents to your truly!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Gifts for the Women (Mothers-in-law) Who Have Everything!

Buying presents for your mother-in-law, or for the woman who has everything, is never an easy task. My mother-in-law, for instance, is no exception; she is very hard to buy for-- she has everything, and now she is becoming a minimalist–if that makes sense! This leaves my husband, Michael, and I with very few choices. In fact, I believe the best gift we ever gave her was not a gift for her, but for her husband (his father), a hi-tech gift that Michael (her son) had picked out in a spit second – Tivo! Before his dad got hisTivo, my mother-in-law made it crystal clear that under no circumstances did they need such a fancy hi-tech gadget, that cost $16/month as well, and would do just fine without it.

Fast forward to this past Thanksgiving holiday. Her son was messing around with her Tivo and messed something up to the extent that Desperate Housewives did not get recorded! He was warned never to go near the Tivo ever again, or be prepared to be left out of the will! So now she can’t live without her Tivo--she is totally independent and can now program Dancing With The Stars by herself! Since her son is now out of great gift-giving ideas, he leaves it up to me. So here it is:

My mother-in-law loves birds—she has decorated her home and cabin around them. She has bought every gadget you can possible name to keep the squirrels away from her bird feeders. The huminingbirds always stop by in the fall to say hello to her, and to fill up for their journey to Brazil. So yes, over the years I have added things to her bird collection. Being the antique person, I have given her old bird prints, old bird tins, bird soap, et cetera et cetera! This year I’m thinking Bird Songs –I looked for this book over mother’s day last year and I could not find it-- so I’m prepared this year! Now, not only will she be able to look at the beautiful illustrations, but she learn the songs as well!

Bird Songs

Bird Songs Fom Around The World

Next, I’m thinking a throw—what woman who has everything could not possible use another throw? I personally like the herringbone or chenille throw from Restoration Hardware and they have been marked down.

Also, earlier this year, in the May issue of Martha Stewart Living --I thought this was a beautiful mohair throw. As always, depending on budget, I think both are very nice.

Picture Martha Stewart Living (mohair throw from Yves Delorme)

Finally, one can never go wrong with beautiful stationary. Being a Southern Belle my mother-in-law always writes nice thank-you notes, never misses friends, families or daughters-in-law birthday or anniversary--so she can always use this!

Stationary from Kate's Paperie