Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Look Back and A Step Forward--

As I reflect on 2013, I would like to tell you how grateful I am for your support over the past 6 months. Since launching The Lavender Bouquet on June 3rd, our fan base has continued to grow monthly. I am humbled by your kindness and support, and blessed beyond my wildest dreams!

Please join me on January 6th as I launch the first blog post of 2014. Feel free to pass along our URL to your friends so that we continue to grow.  http://thelavenderbouquet.blogspot.com

Wishing you all a blessed New Year!


Monday, December 23, 2013

Wishing You a Joyous Holiday!

Here we are.......only two days left until Christmas, and I am ready. Bring it on! The girls all arrived home safely, my husband is on vacation, cookies are baked, gifts are delivered to friends, and it's 70 degrees here in New Jersey!

I will be taking some time off to be with my family, returning on Monday, January 6th. Wishing you a joyous holiday with your family and friends!

See you in 2014!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Planning ahead to 2014------Organizing your Holiday Ideas!

It sounds a bit crazy, but here goes.......great idea for Christmas/Holiday 2014 organization!

Purchase a scrapbook or loose leaf binder, and start filling it with décor and food ideas you have found in magazines, online, etc. to use next year.

What a great way to relieve some of that holiday stress by planning ahead.....start clipping and copying  today!

Snowflake Cookies

No cookie plate is complete at holiday time without a great cut out cookie. I love to arrange all of the different types of cookies on a tray or pretty plate. By adding a beautifully decorated cut out cookie the tray is complete.

The past few years I have used a Paula Deen recipe---Snowflake Cookies. They are easy, delicious and are a great add to a tray.  (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/snowflake-cookies-recipe/index.html)

It's only five more days until Christmas------have a wonderful weekend!


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Family's Favorite Holiday Cookies!

Every family has their favorite cookies at holiday time. Now that the girls are older we have those they love from their childhood, and then I throw in a new one occasionally. Here are some, but not all of the cookies that made the 2013 list in our house this year:

 Peanut Butter-Chocolate Candy Cookies   (http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/peanut-butter-chocolate-candy-cookies/a3563f6e-96b0-443f-ae0a-53cef4be6db6) 

 Raspberry Almond Shortbread Thumbprints (http://www.landolakes.com/recipe/2534/raspberry-almond-shortbread-thumbprints)

 Last year I added a new favorite of mine,  Orange Mexican Wedding Cookies. (http://www.familycookbookproject.com/recipe/2628244/orange-mexican-wedding-cookies.html)  I love the hint of citrus. A twist on an old favorite........plus they sure are great with coffee or tea too!

Please feel free to share with us your family favorites. We would love to hear from you!

Happy Baking......


Sunday, December 15, 2013

It's a Wrap----Wrapping Ideas For Your Holiday Gifts!

It's all in the details.....there is something exciting about seeing a gorgeous gift wrapped under the tree when it has your name on it!  Don't you just love a gift wrapped with a beautiful paper and ribbon?

One of my favorite designers, Carolyne Roehm, has some of the most gorgeous giftwrap in her collection. It is beautifully designed with such color and detail. Any gift wrapped in her paper makes such a lovely presentation.

Another designer this year for Ballard Designs was Suzanne Kasler. Her red tartan plaid paper with  its rich deep colors is perfect for the season. I complimented it with a Christmas green riboon that I use every year. Gotta love that red and green!

These tiny gift boxes are from Carolyne Roehm also. Filled with all kinds of sweets, they make a perfect party gift for your guests. A gift tag is not necessary when using a personalized ribbon  as seen here on my gift.  http://www.crafta.com/personalized-products-imprinted-ribbons.html

Dress up your gifts with a pretty paper or ribbon.  There are so many patterns and colors available today, the choices are endless.

Happy wrapping--------


Friday, December 13, 2013

House Tour 2013--Family Room

 Our family room is always the gathering place for family and friends, but during the holidays I love to transform it into a winter wonderland!  I love to see the faces of my husband and daughters as they see the room for the first time.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.........the girls childhood stockings, made by Betty Munson, my NY neighbor as a child, still adorn our mantle. Our girls love them! I chose a live Boxwood wreath from Trader Joe's this year and added a simple red satin bow. I then hung the wreath on the mirror, using a 3M Command hook. It works great, easy on, easy off!

With the house now decorated and the flannel sheets on the beds, we are awaiting in anticipation of the arrival of our 3 daughters for the holidays!  

We "Wish You All A Very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!"


House Tour 2013-Table Vignettes

I love making festive vignettes throughout the house. Little surprises here and there of more holiday cheer. Here are a few of my tabletop creations this year.

Last year I found this covered house. I just fell in love with it. I added leftover greens from other projects, ribbons, lights and glittery poinsettias and this is the final creation on our coffee table.

This is the very first year I have ever displayed our nativity on a sofa table. I normally placed it underneath our Christmas tree. I rather like its location this year, as it is much more visible to everyone as they enter the family room.  I actually painted this in ceramics class in "1981."  Our nativity has been displayed in all of our houses, and traveled well throughout all of our moves. It is one of most precious Christmas displays we have.
This year I added another Villeroy Boch piece. I loved this scalloped dish and the gorgeous detail.
1. The first photo is of our tree skirt. This was embroidered in Perrysburg, OH years ago. Santas and our family last name complete the beautiful skirt.
2. Santa and his bag of toys, mercury glass candlesticks and DIY Christmas trees made from styrofoam and ornaments glued on,  are on top of our TV unit.
3. A new addition this year in the next photo is the green ceramic Christmas tree from Pottery Barn, and the hurricane lantern next to it. The Pottery Barn tree may be lit from within with strings of lights for a really pretty affect.
4. The next photo features the  NOEL DIY pillow project that I made earlier this season, and a beautiful Tartan plaid Santa--a result of a Home Goods shopping trip!

 Last but not least, I transformed my previous DIY chalkboard giving it a more festive look. I added the framed "B" and of course the 3 tiered glass pedestal dishes were filled with snow, glittery pine cones, silver ornaments and my little white owl, a new gift this year! I added the lights as a nice touch for an evening glow.

Isn't he cute?

This completes the vignettes throughout the house, but wait there is more  holiday decor coming up!


House Tour 2013-Dining Room/Staircase

Every year I keep the dining room decor pretty simple. Adding a festive table runner, ornaments in the crystal bowls, and a touch of shiny garland and ribbon, make things quite easy.

I keep the buffet easy as well, adding ornaments to my Tiffany dish, fresh candles in the Waterford candlesticks and a beautiful angel that I found in Home Goods a few years ago.

Moving along to the staircase. I changed the decor this year a bit. I used red Tartan ribbon for my bows at each post, and intertwined some icicle garland into the evergreen lit garland. By adding an occasional red poinsettia to the garland, gives a nice pop of red to compliment the red Tartan bows.

More to come........


House Tour 2013-Kitchen/Dining Room

It's been a bit crazy this week trying to get all of my decorating done and ready to go to print. I apologize that I have not posted photos sooner. Since blogging is all new to me this year I didn't realize exactly how much work was ahead of me. I promise next year will be much more streamlined.

Starting in my kitchen and dining room-- I love to decorate some of the little nooks and crannies with a little holiday cheer. We may as well be festive while we are cooking our meals and baking our cookies.

Displaying  my Christmas cookbooks and festive coffee cups in my new DIY coffee nook was a given.  The display shelf in the kitchen is a great place for my Villeroy and Boch Christmas themed platter. I love it in the evening when the lights are on. A corner on my countertop keeps the Santa cookie jar close at hand for the kids, and the skate centerpiece lights the area.
I purchased the veggie/fruit basket in Sur La Table a couple months ago, because I needed something I could keep in a convenient spot while preparing food. A little transformation with some garland berries, and adding some pomegranates, turns it into a bit more festive look. I also bought the Rosemary tree in the grocery store, re-potted it, and added a bow.........oh how fragrant my kitchen is. On the corner of my island I added a snowy covered reindeer full of shiny brite Christopher Radko ornaments, a  cranberry candle on a mercury glass candlestick, some  glittery greens, and of course my calendar Santa.

The other two photos are from my dining room. I attached a miniature Dogwood wreath to the
back of each formal dining room chair with a black and white stripe ribbon. The photo of the beautiful hanging spray is a gift from my niece. I have two of them and they are attached to my dining room buffet lamps for a bit more shine.

 Hope are enjoying the photos! More to come........



It all starts with the Christmas tree in our house. Last year we found a wonderful tree farm just over the Pennsylvania border called, Colivita's. Beautiful, full, healthy trees over 10 feet tall filled a large area stacked against a big barn. A field full of meticulously manicured smaller trees awaited that perfect family to take them home. The entire experience is picture perfect.

My husband picked out this years tree, while I was sorting the wreaths for our front door. It's probably the finest tree we have ever gotten at Christmas. They delivered and set-up the tree in the family room, and when they cut the netting around the tree.....we had to move furniture to make room for it!  It was like Chevy Chase's tree in the movie, Christmas Vacation!!

The following photos reflect our decorating process from beginning to end. We are pretty proud of our tannenbaum----INTRODUCING----- our 2013 Family Christmas tree!

We would love to hear your Christmas tree stories.  Please feel free to share your beautiful creations with us too..........tis the season! Drop us a message on THE LAVENDER BOUQUET Facebook page, or simply click on the COMMENT section of this email.

While you are running around shopping, or decorating or whatever your weekend may bring you.......please remember to stop and take a moment to ENJOY these very special days!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013


This week's DIY comes from my middle daughter. She was such a busy ELF yesterday!  Instead of  buying gifts for her team, she chose a little secret "Operation Cheer," as she called it.

Her team arrived at work this morning to a beautiful wreath in each of their cubicles or on their doors. She left a sticky note with an anonymous "Merry Christmas" on their desks. She made a beautiful Tartan bow by following a U-Tube video http://tidbitsandtwine.com/diy-inexpensive-fall-wreath-and-fancy-bow/---these being the first bows she has ever made, and attached one to every wreath.

Awesome touch........and such a thoughtful gift.


1. 12" Tabletop wreaths from Trader Joes $5.99 each
2.  Large spool of Tartan Ribbon  (Shops at Baileywick)- $25.99
     --she has TONS of ribbon left for other projects!!
3. Command hooks (Walmart) 6 for $8.88


Cost of seeing her teams faces as they walked in to work this morning---PRICELESS!
This is a perfect example, that it is not "how much" the gift costs, it is the thought behind the
gift that warms our hearts!

Thank you to my sweet daughter for sharing her DIY with us today!

P.S. While her team members were trying to guess who had given them such a lovely surprise, one lone "blonde hair" was found on a wreath........guess she's the only blonde in the office! :)

Have a wonderful day!


Monday, December 9, 2013


This year I decided to change up the traditional wreath from using one to adding three to the front door. I used a wide burlap red Chevron patterned ribbon (WalMart) to anchor the background of the wreaths on the black door.

The wreaths are filled with a variety of different types of evergreen branches and a touch of red berries. We purchased these at the tree farm where we bought our big Frazier Fir for the family room. They are just beautiful the way they are so I chose not to add any decorations to them. I love simple greens!

The black side urns that flank the front door are filled with lit cedar topiaries, and evergreen garland with multi-colored ornaments. By adding the contrast of the white twigs and clear lights to the urns, gives them a more wintery feel.

This year I used a "live looking" garland around the top and sides of my front door. Adding lights makes everything glow and allows the garland to be seen from the street as well.

We would love to see your front door creations, please share with


OOPS-- there goes the Christmas tree lights!

A happy mix of snow and evergreens! Yesterday as we were finishing up decorating our tree, a beautiful light snowfall began. Light snowflakes gently falling to the ground making a backdrop for such a lovely photo. Even though we only received a bit of ground cover, the effects were so beautiful I had to share.

My husband started a nice fire in the fireplace as we sat and admired our beautiful creation from across the room. All of a sudden our tree went dark......of the 7 strands of brand new GE Constant On lights, 2 were still shining brightly at the bottom!

Have you ever had that moment when you talked your husband into something (ie. buying the lights that will stay on even if ONE bulb fails) and it backfired? Oh dear....luckily my husband is a patient man. He located the issue, removed the strand of 150 lights that were the culprit, wound it up and politely said, " Please tell Home Depot we would like a new box." I sheepishly, said, "ok."

I then ran to the kitchen, grabbed his favorite bottle of red, poured a glass for both of us and toasted to the "best holiday husband ever!"

Do you have any similar stories......please share as we live, love and laugh through this beautiful holiday season!


Friday, December 6, 2013

Foodie Friday----Maple Syrup--It's not just for Breakfast Anymore!

My husband received our first Christmas gift in the mail a couple of days ago. It was from our dear friends from Vermont. The box was a bit heavy as the postman handed it to me, so I couldn't wait for my husband to get home from work to open it. All of my family members will tell you that I am just like a child at Christmastime no matter how old I get!

When my husband came through the door I told him there was a package for him. Knowing how excited I get about packages he opened the box immediately. Inside was 1/2 gallon of VERMONT Pure Maple Syrup.  How delightful.......there is nothing like "pure" maple syrup on just about everything! Many thanks to the Jansen's for thinking of us during this holiday season!

I immediately started browsing recipes that contained maple syrup and found two of them that I made and am sharing with you today. One is a delicious cookie, Quebec Maple Pecan Drops, which I will be adding to the list of Christmas cookies that I make each year now. http://recipes.howstuffworks.com/quebec-maple-pecan-drops-recipe.htm 
I also found  a beautiful, delicious breakfast granola,  Nekisia Davis' Olive Oil and Maple Granola.

Both recipes were easy to make and delicious!  I am saving the granola for our Christmas morning breakfast, but the cookies went to the office with my husband and received rave reviews. There are tons of ways to use maple syrup in recipes---------Maple Syrup isn't just for breakfast anymore!

I hope I have encouraged you to buy some delicious Maple Syrup and make some of these delectable delights or some of your own!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fruit Cake is Back and It's Calorie Friendly!

Who would have ever thought that a fruitcake wedding cake would spike the sales of fruit cake all over the world. US bakeries reported a 20% spike in sales after the wedding of William and Kate.

We all know that fruitcake is not typically a "figure friendly" dessert choice with calories spiking nearly 600 calories per slice in some recipes. I have found a Cooking Light recipe for a fruitcake with 233 calories per slice. It is a dense cake packed with fresh apple and pear, tart cherries and golden raisins. For the past two years I have made this for my mother for Christmas. She loves an old fashioned fruitcake, but has become a big fan of this lighter version. I thought I would share the recipe with you. It makes a beautiful holiday gift--------or just make one for yourself to enjoy during the holidays!

Happy Baking!

Lighter Fruitcake
  Photo: Randy Mayor; Styling: Cindy Barr                

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving
  • Calories: 283
  • Fat: 8.9g
  • Saturated fat: 2.9g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 3.7g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.6g
  • Protein: 4.2g
  • Carbohydrate: 42.4g
  • Fiber: 2.8g
  • Cholesterol: 33mg
  • Iron: 1.3mg
  • Sodium: 202mg
  • Calcium: 59mg
  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries                 
  • 1/2 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 3/4 cup Calvados (apple brandy), divided
  • 5.6 ounces unbleached all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)              
  • 4.75 ounces whole-wheat flour (about 1 cup)              
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon              
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
  • 5 tablespoons butter, divided              
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil              
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, divided              
  • 2 large eggs              
  • 1 large egg white              
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind              
  • 2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup chopped peeled Pink Lady apple              
  • 1/2 cup chopped peeled pear              
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • Baking spray with flour (such as Baker's Joy)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine first 3 ingredients and 1/2 cup brandy in a medium glass bowl. Microwave at HIGH 2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute. Set aside.
  3. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours and next 6 ingredients (through allspice) in a bowl; stir well.
  4. Place 4 tablespoons butter, oil, granulated sugar, and 1/2 cup brown sugar in a bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Add eggs and egg white, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add ginger and orange rind; beat 30 seconds. Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately to sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Fold in cherry mixture, apple, pear, and pecans.
  5. Spoon batter into a 10-inch Bundt pan coated with baking spray; smooth top with a spatula. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Remove from pan; cool completely.
  6. Combine remaining 1/4 cup brandy, remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar, and remaining 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes or until reduced to 1/4 cup, stirring well. Drizzle over cake.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Family Favorite Munchie Recipe---great for Hostess Gifts!

About ten years ago when we lived in Ohio, one of my neighbors gave me a recipe for a delicious munchie mix for parties. It has become a family favorite with my Mother making it every year for our Christmas celebration. Packaged in a beautiful jar or holiday container, this makes a delicious hostess gift!

 2 6 oz. boxes corn bugle snacks, original flavor
1 9.5 oz. box mini cheese-it crackers
1 10oz. pkg. oyster crackers
1 60z. pkg. original flavor tiny goldfish crackers
4 cups pretzel sticks
2 tsp. dried dill weed
1 tsp. lemon pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1 pkg. original Ranch salad dressing mix
3/4 cup buttery flavor popcorn oil

In a large roaster or bowl combine bugle snacks, all crackers all crackers and pretzels. In a small bowl combine dill, lemon pepper, garlic powder and salad dressing mix. Sprinkle evenly over dry snacks. Slowly add oil, stopping occasionally to gently toss with rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Store at room temperature in a covered container for up to one week. Amount: 24 cups

***This recipe may be found on my Facebook page THE LAVENDER BOUQUET also.


Friday, November 29, 2013

Foodie Friday------Matzo Ball Soup for Hanukkah

Hanukkah began on the eve of November 27th this year. Many families celebrated "thanksgivukkah," as Thanksgiving is celebrated the day after the first Hanukkah calendars are lit on Wednesday.  The merging of these two holidays will not happen again for another 77,798 years.

In honor of Hanukkah I decided for Foodie Friday to feature a delicious recipe for Matzo Ball Soup. I found this recipe on the Food Network website and decided to make it for my brother-in-law. He gave me rave reviews so I thought I would share this recipe with all of you. The combination of fresh herbs and vegetables resulted in an absolutely delicious broth that could be used as a base for other soups as well. My photo reflects a more tomato broth  look because I added extra tomatoes. Usually the soup will look more like a chicken broth. (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/matzo-ball-soup-recipe/index.html)

Wishing you wonderful weekend and a Happy Hanukkah--Lance and Patty!


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Countdown to Christmas--Week #4 DIY---Christmas Ornaments

I can't believe this is Week #4 of my Countdown to Christmas DIY projects. This week I am featuring some Martha Stewart Adhesive Stencils that we used to decorate clear ornaments. Along with the purchase of the stencils, I also bought several colors of stencil paint, and small spouncers for paint application. Tiny items like jingle bells, gingerbread men, and snowflakes were added for a little added interest to the inside of each ornament. A pretty red ribbon, tied in a bow was added with a loop at the top for hanging on the tree.

The photo below features a "Merry Christmas" ornament that my 18 year old niece created during our evening crafting. She did a lovely job laying out the stencil and applying the paint with a spouncer. She also crafted two other ornaments, one for herself and a matching one for her boyfriend for a Christmas gift.  She monogrammed one side with each of their initials and then stenciled a Christmas design on the other side. They turned out so beautiful. I am sure he will love her very special gift from the heart!

This is such a fun and easy craft for children and adults gathered around the family table. It is an inexpensive gift that may be personalized for that special someone on your Christmas gift list or just make one for your own tree.

Happy painting!


Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving Thanks For Family and Friends!

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, we are in full preparation mode. My husband and I arrived in WNY safely. We drove through just a few bouts of snow flurries and ice in the usual areas, the Southern Tier, Syracuse and Rochester. Nothing like the snow we witnessed as kids growing up in WNY. Sure hope those days are behind us when the snow is up to the my Mom's clothesline!

My mother has much of the preparation under control. Her lists were made a long time ago and everything is purchased except those last minute food items with a short shelf life. I think she has been baking for her grandchildren and children for months making everything we all LOVE for the holidays.

The flights bringing all of the grandchildren home start today and continue into Thanksgiving morning. A full house by noon on Thanksgiving day..........no more quiet moments, just laughter, great food and wonderful new memories to be created.

I am thankful for our families and the fact we will be able to see most of  my husband's family and my entire family. We will be together for our celebrations of Thanksmas-----one Thanksgiving dinner and two Christmas dinners all in one weekend..........whew! We may have to jog back to New Jersey after consuming all of the goodies!

As we approach Thanksgiving, we would like to wish all of you a safe and blessed holiday!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Foodie Friday---Delicious and Beautiful Taste of Christmas Trifle--sure to WOW your guests!

I am a big fan of trifles. They are easy and the ingredients seem to meld together nicely for combinations that suit all seasons. They are a simple and beautiful if you are looking for that extra WOW for any dessert. I came across this recipe that was so pretty and festive I just had to make it.

It is called the "Taste of Christmas Trifle" and I found this in a 2011 Southern Lady Holidays magazine.

Gingerbread Cake

Makes 1 9-inch cake

1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups cake flour, sifted
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick baking spray with
flour. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper, and spray again; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, and molasses Add egg and vanilla; whisk until smooth.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together flour, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom allspice, and salt. Add flour mixture to oil mixture, whisking until combined.

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil; remove from heat, and add baking soda. Add hot water mixture to batter; whisk until just combined. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 20-30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; remove from pan, and cool completely on a wire rack.


2 (10.oz.) packages frozen cranberries, thawed
3 pears, peeled, cored, and diced
1 (12 oz.) can pear nectar
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a large saucepan, combine cranberries, pears, nectar, sugars and vanilla. Cook over medium-
high heat, stirring often, for about 15 minutes or until slightly thickened. Remove from heat;
cool to room temperature. Store covered in refrigerator for up to 5 days.


3 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 tablespoon orange zest
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, seeds reserved

In a large bowl, beat cream, sugar, zest, and reserved vanilla bean seeds at medium-speed with an electric mixer until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes. Store covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Gingerbread Cake, cut into 1 inch cubes, divided
2 (12.25 oz.) jars caramel topping, divided
Cranberry-Pear Compote, divided
Orange Crème, divided
Garnish: sugared cranberries, sugared rosemary

In a large trifle dish, layer half of the cake cubes,  jar of caramel topping, half of the Cranberry-Pear
compote, and half of the Orange Crème. Repeat layers, garnish with sugared cranberries and sugared
rosemary, if desired. (I used only the cranberries, but dipping the rosemary and cranberries in sugar prior to decorating gives a snowlike shimmer.) Store covered in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

I hope you enjoy this beautiful and delicious trifle. It is sure to WOW your family and guests during this holiday season!

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Countdown to Christmas--Week #3 DIY---Holiday Gifts

I love giving unexpected gifts at Christmas time. There are so many people that make our lives easier through the year we try to remember most of them with some token that lets them know how much we appreciate what they do for us. For instance, we have a new mailman this year who has been awesome, our trash and recycle people I feel are forgotten. They pick up our trash at 6:30 a.m. whether it is raining or snowing, they are here. Our little neighbor girl, is just a life saver when it comes to watering our plants while we are away on vacation. Our priests who are some of the
busiest, kindest men. And the list goes on.

This year Santa's helper stopped by to help me with my gift making. Our youngest daughter was in town and she loves Christmas anything! We decided to make a delicious recipe from Martha Stewart for the Hot Cocoa Mix.  http://www.marthastewart.com/353001/homemade-hot-chocolate  and to make up our own concoction for beautiful little Candy Cane Marshmallows for dipping.

The homemade hot chocolate mix yields 5 3/4 cups of cocoa. We were able to find some adorable small lidded jars for the cocoa and cute mugs in the Dollar General. I should be able to make about 6 gifts from this mix.

For the marshmallows we melted 1 bar of Ghirardelli's dark chocolate, crushed up some candy canes, stuck the end of the candy cane in a marshmallow and then dipped them in the chocolate. We cooled them on parchment paper. So easy!

I also thought a nice Chai tea mix would be delightful for winter days and nights, and maybe a bit more mature for some of the people on our gift list. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/chai-tea-mix/

Whatever you decide to do for those on your list.....whether you prefer to buy a little something, make it yourself or write a simple note of "thanks" on a beautiful card. The idea of showing your appreciation to those people that make our lives a little easier during the year is a wonderful act of kindness.........that comes from the heart!

I hope you have enjoyed this quick and easy idea for those on your list. Happy gifting!


Friday, November 15, 2013

Foodie Friday----Delicious Pan-Roasted Brussels Sprout Gratin--Great side dish for Thanksgiving!

Do you cook Thanksgiving dinner every year or is it your turn to bring a side dish? My mother cooks our family Thanksgiving dinner. My sister usually brings a side dish to contribute. I am in charge of the tablescape. The entire family loves Mom's menu the way it is, so according to the kids, no changes are allowed.

It is a different story at our house. The girls are all home for Christmas and prefer a turkey dinner then also. There are certain things the girls don't want changed, but the vegetable at our house is not one of them, so I can experiment........which they know I love to do! At holiday time I tend to make more decadent dishes, hence this has a good amount of heavy cream in it!! Remember, everything in moderation.

I came across this recipe that uses Brussels Sprout in a gratin and it sounded delish. Is it Brussel or Brussels???????........

WIKI says The Brussels sprout is a cultivar in the Gemmifera group of cabbages, grown for its edible buds. The leafy green vegetables are typically 2.5–4 cm in diameter and look like miniature cabbages. The Brussels sprout has long been popular in Brussels, Belgium, and may have originated there.

Now that we have that cleared up........this dish is a creamy, almost sweet tasting twist on plain old Brussels Sprout.  It is quick, easy and really quite delicious. I think I will be making it for our Christmas dinner this year. The nice thing about this dish is that the preparation is pretty simple and can be used for a casual dinner or a more formal dinner party as well.


1 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed
2 large shallots, halved
(Use a food processor fitted with a cling blade, slice the Brussels sprouts and shallots.)
4 tbs. unsalted butter
Kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
3 1/4 oz. (1 1/4 cups) finely grated Gruyere
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cayenne
3/4 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (I used a quiche dish for a prettier presentation.)
Serves 6-8

In a 12 inch skillet melt the butter. Continue to cook the butter until it begins to brown and smell
nutty. Set aside 1 Tbs. of the browned butter in a medium bowl.
Add the Brussels sprouts, shallots, 2 tsp. slat, and 1/2 tsp. pepper to the pan and toss to combine. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the Brussels sprouts and shallots begin to soften and brown in spots, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

In a 2 qt. saucepan over medium heat, combine the cream, Gruyere, nutmeg, cayenne, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Heat until the cheese is melted, whisking occasionally, about 4 minutes. Do not boil.
Add the sauce to the Brussels sprouts, stirring to combine and pour into your baking dish.

Add the panko, Parmigiano, rosemary and a pinch of salt to the reserved butter and mix
thoroughly. Top the sprout mixture with the panko mixture.

Bake until the crumbs are browned and the Brussels sprouts are tender 10-15 minutes.
**Recipe from Fine Cooking

Please let me know if you make the recipe and what you think. I would love to hear from you!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Countdown to Christmas--Week #2---DIY Duster Wreath

Welcome to the second posting for Countdown to Christmas- Everything DIY.  For the next six Wednesdays I will be posting some quick and easy ideas to encourage your inner foodie, decorator, and "gift giver." Today I am posting something that my youngest daughter and I made over the weekend.
When I saw the idea, I said to my daughter, "I thought of you because you are my vintage girl. What do you think?" She really liked it, hence today's project.

Welcome to Week #2- Duster Wreath


1.  6 boxes of dusters at Dollar General
2.  1- pipe cleaner is needed to hang the wreath--I had a white one on hand.
3.  1-coat hanger
4.  Ribbon of choice for bow


Step 1-Unfold the hanger making a round circle open ended.
Step 2-Slide open the end of  a duster and slide onto the wire until the complete circle is filled.
Step 3-Wind the 2 open ends together.
Step 4-Locate top of wreath and form a loop with the pipe cleaner, attaching it to the coat hanger frame--this will enable you to hang the wreath
Step 5-Make bow in ribbon of your choice color and attach.


*$5.00 for dusters
*$2.00 for ribbon

I hope you have enjoyed this DIY segment. Sometimes the simplest materials have the most beautiful
See you on Foodie Friday!


Monday, November 11, 2013

Festival Fun!

 A few weeks ago when my husband and I toured the Cranberry Bogs in Chatsworth, NJ, we also attended the 30th Annual Cranberry Festival.  Local artists and craftsmen were on hand to sell their delicious foods and beautiful handiwork. We had no idea the festival was so large!

Since we were at the "Cranberry" festival we took full advantage of sampling everything cranberry! We had Cranberry Chili, Cranberry wine and Cranberry ice cream. They were all surprisingly delicious! 
The Whitehorse Cafe  was a roped off area filled with crowds of vendors, people and music. Everything from crab cakes to sausage and peppers......they had it all.

If you love a good festival, full of craftsmen, food and cranberries.....you may want to add the Cranberry Festival to your 2014 calender. It is worth the trip!


Friday, November 8, 2013

Foodie Friday--YUMMY Apple Crostata

This week we had friends in visiting from out of town for lunch at our house. I haven't held a luncheon in quite some time. My lunch skills were a bit rusty so I starting browsing for ideas. Since it is Fall, my first thoughts gravitated to a nice warm soup, something hearty. Our friends were headed to a soccer game after they left our house, so they needed something to hold them over because they would most likely be having a late dinner.

I came across a recipe that my husband and I both love for soup; Ellie Krieger's Beef & Mushroom Barley. (see link below) At first, I thought a nice warm sandwich would be a good accompaniment to the soup, however, the idea was to visit and catch up with our friends, not stand at the stove top. I had to keep things easy. I quickly changed my mind and searched for a tasty side salad. I came across an easy Ina Garten recipe for Orzo with Roasted Vegetables that I could make ahead. I added a sliced Ciabatta baquette and dessert. Again, using Ina Garten and her Apple Crostata recipe for dessert completed the meal. (see link below)

 Ellie Krieger-(The Food You Crave fromCookbook --http://www.food.com/recipe/beef-and-mushroom-barley-soup-450503),

Ina Garten-Barefoot Contessa Parties Cookbook (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/apple-crostata-recipe/index.html
and http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/orzo-with-roasted-vegetables-recipe/index.html

I have never made a Crostata before. I have made pies for years, but not a Crostata.  A Crostata is an Italian baked tart in the form of a pie. It is actually quite easy. I have included a set of visual steps below for you. I was a bit rusty with my pie crust skills. Next time I would like my disk shape to be more perfect.......without the little tears in it. Darn tears!

Apparently, tears weren't a problem----I passed the tasty test. Both my husband and our guests all seemed to enjoy the Crostata very much!

My Crostata is displayed on a beautiful platter that was a gift from my husband's nephew, and family from Brazil. It is simply gorgeous----I love the detail!

Since apples are so plentiful right now why not give the Apple Crostata a try? It is easy and so delicious warm!  Some say a bit of whip cream OR vanilla ice cream might complete the package!

I hope you enjoyed this Foodie Friday segment. Now go practice up on those pie skills to impress your family and friends. Please share a photo with us if you decide to make one yourself.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!