Thursday, January 19, 2017

Winter Birds Table Setting

We recently hosted three couples for dinner. The plans were made on rather short notice so I didn't have a lot of time to think about how I would set the table. For me, part of the fun in entertaining is creating a nice table ambiance. For this occasion I pretty much had to run with what I have in my cabinets. Currently on our dining table is a winter bird table runner that I got from Pottery Barn a few years ago.  It has a lot of browns in it, with little pops of blue and burnt orange. I grabbed some blue Fiestaware plates, which went well with the blue in the table runner, and placed them on white chargers.  The flower mart had burnt orange Gerbera daisies, which really brought out the orange in one of the birds on the runner.  I threw them in some blue mason jars which tied the two colors together even more. A few candles on the table, in clear glass jars filled with bird seed, further enhanced the bird theme. I didn't go too crazy with the decorating as I was serving the food at the table, rather than buffet style. There's no room for food if there's too much stuff on the table! Every thing was a mix 'n match, but it made a nice and informal table setting.







By using items I already had, I didn't blow my budget on new things.  That doesn't mean I was a Saint, however.  I was browsing online, looking for bird salad plates.  Pier 1, which is quickly becoming my favorite store, had these plates showcased on their "new items" category.  They were perfect for my table setting plan so I drove across town to get some. My store didn't have them in stock yet so back home I went without spending a dime! I haven't been back out to see if they have arrived in the store, I'm trying very hard to resist the temptation!



I'm linking up with Tablesetting Thursday.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Biscuits

I'm not a big breakfast eater.  I have to be awake a bit before food even begins to sound good.  By the time I'm fully awake it's time to go to work, so I usually have a bowl of oatmeal or a few slices of toast before heading out the door.  However, breakfasts on the weekends are a different story! I like to make things such as cinnamon rolls, breakfast casseroles, or waffles and eat around mid-morning. Eating late means I get out of having to worry about what's for lunch, too!  I often have ulterior motives!

My Hubbers' favorite breakfast is sausage gravy and biscuits served with scrambled eggs. A real stick-to-your-ribs meal and one he especially enjoys during the winter months. When we are traveling in the RV I usually buy frozen biscuits, but at home I always make my own. In talking to people I'm always amazed at how many people have never made biscuits, they think they are too hard to make.  They are so easy to make and taste so much better than the Pillsbury biscuits in a can!


This is my favorite biscuit recipe.  They are a little unusual in that they have sugar and cream of tartar in them.  The sugar gives the biscuits a little sweetness.  I find some biscuits to be rather bland and I like the addition of sugar in these.  The cream of tartar helps with the rising, the goal being a nice fluffy biscuit. For best results, the butter needs to be cold.  You want to see small pieces of butter in the dough.  When putting the biscuits on the baking sheet make sure the biscuits are touching each other.  Not only does this help them rise, it also means that the sides are soft and flaky like the insides.

I had a cart that needed assembly.  Making my Hubber's favorite breakfast means I now have a workable cart on my timetable!

Biscuits may sound boring but, seriously, is there anything better than a hot buttered biscuit with jam?

Biscuits

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup ( 1 1/2 sticks) cold butter
1 egg
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Using a pastry cutter, cut the butter in until you have small, pea-sized pieces of butter throughout the mixture.

Add in the egg and milk and mix until the ingredients are just combined.  The dough will be sticky but don't over-work it.

Turn the dough out onto a generously-floured surface.  Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough so it won't stick to your fingers and knead 12-15 times. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky to work with.

Roll or pat the dough to a 1-inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter or glass.  Re-roll scraps.  You should get about a dozen biscuits. Place the biscuits on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Lemon Shortbread Cookies

I have a sweet tooth.  I think I inherited the gene from my Dad.  He needs his piece of chocolate each night.  I'm not a chocoholic like he is, but I do like a little something sweet each day. I can't eat pies and cakes every day or, if I did, I would have to exercise a lot more than I do! Cookies are my go-to sweet.  They are easy to make, easy to pass out to friends and neighbors, and a cookie or two eases my craving for sweets!

After all the richness of Christmas treats I wanted something a little lighter and more plain.  A shortbread cookie seemed perfect.  This particular shortbread cookie has lemon zest and juice in it.  The lemon flavor is very subtle but it gives it a little something extra. These cookies take no time to make and were the perfect sweet treat for my afternoon tea break.



Lemon Shortbread Cookies

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons lemon zest finely grated (I used Meyer lemons)
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Process sugar and lemon zest in a food processor for 30 seconds (or make sure the lemon zest is finely grated).

Cream butter, lemon zest-sugar mixture, and salt in a large bowl with a mixer at medium speed.  Add in the egg yolk until well blended, then the egg, vanilla, and lemon juice. Reduce speed to low and slowly add in the flour until just combined. Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Working with one batch of dough at a time, roll out the dough to 1/4-inch thickness.  (The dough is sticky so use a well-floured surface or roll between two sheets of waxed paper). Cut out shapes using cutters. ***

Bake until the cookies are slightly golden brown at the edges (about 8 minutes).  After baking, immediately transfer to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.

***  My Mom bought me this cute cookie stamp a few years ago (thanks, Mom!)  I stamped the dough, then cut out with a round cookie cutter.  If you don't have a cookie cutter, you can also cut out using the open end of a drinking glass.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Moscow Mule

Sometimes I am a little behind the latest trends, I must admit.  Such is the case with a Moscow Mule.  I've been hearing about this drink for months now (probably longer).  I've seen the cute copper mugs on display at stores. The main ingredient in a Moscow Mule is ginger beer. I always veered away from trying one because I can't drink beer.  Can't as in not only do I not like the taste, but it does not agree with me.  Ugh, the reaction I get! Well, come to find out, ginger beer isn't really a beer. Who knew?  It's a naturally sweetened and carbonated, non-alcoholic beverage.  It is produced by the natural fermentation of ginger, yeast and sugar. So, a few weeks back I tried one. Oh, yum! Now I know what all the hoopla has been about! It's a light drink, with a slight ginger flavor and lots of carbonation from the ginger beer.

I've been experimenting and have found a combination that my Hubbers and I like.  Of course, you know I had to get the copper mugs, too!



Moscow Mule

1 1/2 ounces vodka
1 ounce fresh lime juice
4 ounces (approximately) ginger beer
Lime wedge, for garnish

Add the vodka and lime juice to a chilled mug or glass.  Fill the mug with ice.  Add the ginger beer. Stir gently and garnish with lime wedge.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

New Year's Eve Dinner By The Fire

We aren't New Year's Eve party people and have not been out on the holiday since 1983 (I remember because our son was 6 weeks old and it was our first date-night without him!) If we see the ball drop at midnight, it's only because we are watching the New York activities as they happen on our West Coast time zone! We are usually awakened by inconsiderate neighbors lighting off fireworks at midnight, but we quickly go back to sleep. Our dog, Harley, is now deaf so the fireworks no longer bother him! As you can tell, we aren't real lively for this holiday!

I do like to have a nice quiet dinner, to celebrate the end of one year and the anticipation of a new year.  Some years we have another couple or two over, some years it's just us.  This year was just the two of us. We are finally getting some rain and wintery weather here, it's the type of weather where you want to be inside and near the fire.  This gave me the perfect excuse to set up a table in front of the fireplace. The combination of the fire and twinkly lights on the table provided a nice setting for our cozy dinner.


I used my wedding china, Fragrance by Noritake, placed on a gold charger. To avoid making things too formal, I added a decoupaged salad plate with a clock motif. There are some orange and yellows in the fabric that coordinated well with the floral colors on the china rim. Black napkins helped to tie all the colors together, too. A quick run to the fabric store for some sparkly material (on sale for $4.25!) provided our table runner. We have the most wonderful floral mart in town and I was able to get two dozen white roses for $18! (Four days later they still look wonderful!) I told my Hubbers there wasn't a restaurant in town that could provide this sort of ambiance!






The only problem with our fireside dining was (1) there is no kitchen help and (2) it got a little warm sitting next to the fire! Overall, it was a wonderful evening.  We enjoyed a nice dinner and a bottle of our favorite wine. We didn't have to get dressed up, fight the crowds, or worry about drivers who drink and drive. And my Visa charge isn't holding a big restaurant bill! Priceless!

I'm linking up to Tablescape Thursday.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Fabric Decoupage Plates

By now, you know that I love to play with dishes; to mix and match dishes, napkins, and silverware to create fun table settings. I enjoy setting a pretty table for my guests and it's a nice creative outlet to put things together.

Sometimes I get an idea for a table setting but can't find all the pieces to make it work.  Such was the case for New Year's. I wanted to do a table setting using clock plates. A few years ago Pottery Barn had some clock plates.  I didn't buy them at the time, they are now discontinued, and I'm not paying E-Bay prices for them. I remembered that one of my local fabric stores had a display for plates that they made with fabric and Mod Podge, which is a decoupage medium. So I made a trip to the store, bought a few clear glass plates and some fabric. I grabbed their instruction sheet, as well as turned to the internet for guidance. They were very easy to make and I love how they turned out!


I always have Mod Podge on hand, the one I used was for a matte finish.  They make one for outdoor use, which probably holds up to water better, but my store didn't have any in stock. As the Mod Podge is on the back of the plates, you are able to eat off the plates.  To clean, hand wash them gently and avoid soaking them in water, then lay them upside down to dry.

Now that I've done my first few plates, I have many ideas for future plates and chargers.  It's a great way to have special occasion dishes at a very low cost.  Glass plates can be found quite inexpensively at most hobby and dollar stores.

Step 1:  Cut out a fabric circle large enough to cover the plate, about 1" wider than the plate all the way around.  You can lay the plate upside down on the fabric and draw a circle around it.  I stacked two plates together and cut.


Step 2:  Make sure the back of the plate is very clean. Lay it upside down on an old towel or waxed paper.  Using a sponge brush, paint a good even coat of Mod Podge all over the back of the plate.


Step 3: Place a fabric circle, right side down, on top of the plate and gently smooth it out to cover the plate and remove any creases.  You can use a credit card like a squeegee to remove any air bubbles and to make sure everything is stuck tight to the glass.

Step 4:  Paint a light, even coat of Mod Podge over the entire back surface of the plate and allow to dry.  I set them on top of a bowl so they wouldn't stick to my work towel. 


Step 5:  Using very sharp scissors, cut away the excess fabric around the edge of the plates as close to the edge as possible (you could probably trim it with an Exacto knife, too).  Paint another coat of Mod Podge onto the back of the plate. Wait at least 48 hours before using the plates to allow the Mod Podge to set up completely.

Friday, December 30, 2016

2016 In Review

2016 has been a rough one for my family.  The year started off with a cancer diagnosis and various surgical procedures for me, all during my busy tax season.  My husband lost two brothers to cancer within a two-month time span later in the year. Our parents are having aging and health issues that has required more of our time. Surely 2017 has to be better, right? In glancing back through this blog, which is basically a journal for me, I have evidence of the positive things that happened during the year.  I grew creatively in many areas, including making my first-ever quilts. I hosted teas and various family events. My granddaughters and I had a lot of fun times in the kitchen. My backyard gardening continues to be both stress relief and a source of pride for me. As bad as the year felt at times, there are also a lot of good memories and accomplishments.

January:

January found me joining an online weekly sew-along where I progressed on my first quilt.  Each week we would get instructions for a new block. I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot, too.  I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep up with my tax season schedule but it was actually a great source of relaxation for me.  I would come home from work and do a little each night before going to bed. It was enough to distract me from numbers and dealing with clients. We finished the quilt in May and I've made two quilts since.  I'm about to start another sew-along in a few weeks!



February:

In early February I hosted my family's annual tea.  Normally, our teas are held in December, but due to my granddaughter's role in the Nutcracker ballet we moved the tea until after Christmas. As it was so close to our next major holiday we had a Valentines themed tea.



March:

I taught myself to cross stitch when I was home on maternity leave with my son 34 years ago. I started a new sampler at the beginning of the year and, by March, hadn't gotten very far with it. I'm still plugging along on it, should have it finished in the next week or two! I'm not a slow stitcher but I have so many hobbies and projects and only so much time to spend on each! I did manage to complete two pieces that had been languishing in my to-do basket so I did make some visible progress! I have two other cross-stitched marriage samplers that I've made throughout the years and have ordered a pattern to make another one.  I think a 2017 project may be a marriage sampler gallery wall in my bedroom!



April:

The end of tax season and the beginning of strawberry season coincides in my area of the world.  I always look forward to my first trip to the strawberry field and the big, red, juicy berries. Instead of traditional strawberry shortcake I tried a Tres Leches Cake from the Barefoot Contessa.  It was so good and remembering it has me craving some just-picked strawberries!



May:

We added a storage shed to our side yard, in the form of a small barn.  It added a lot of color, character, and functionality to an awkward part of the property.



June:

My granddaughters are growing up much too fast and scheduling time with them is getting harder and harder. They have so many things to do and that doesn't always mean hanging out with Nana! My two oldest and I had a fun morning in the kitchen making these decadent cupcakes!

 

July:

Mid-summer finds my garden at its peak.  It's full of color and blooms, birds and bees. It gets very hot here at that time of year. I have to do my gardening chores very early in the morning, but the rewards are worth it!

 
 

August:

I love fresh pasta and find each time I make some, it gets easier.  I expanded my repertoire a little with this pasta dish, adding lemon pepper to the dough.  It was very pretty and added a lot of flavor to the dish.


September:

One is never too old to play with dishes is my motto!  A new table runner, and a visit to a local store where some plates caught my eye, found me mixing and matching things and making sugar cookies to come up with this table setting.


October:

I went way out of my comfort zone when I decided to strip down an old door and convert it to an outdoor beverage station.  It took me longer than planned, was more work than I envisioned, but I'm in love with the end result!


November:

Each year I squeeze a gazillion pomegranates to make jelly for family and friends.  The juice makes a great cosmo, too!


December:

My granddaughters have quit ballet so we were able to have our family tea in December once more, thus I hosted two teas this year. The woodland theme was very "Christmasy".  Our wonderful family tradition continues on!



Thank you for visiting my blog this year and sharing your comments with me. Who knows what 2017 will bring, but I look forward to sharing my domestic adventures with you.  Happy New Year!