Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, fresh start, resolution conquering, goal achieving, risk taking, self-realizing, new year. Or else, a happy, healthy, relaxed, no big changes, accepting, zen, go-with-the-flow, self-realized enough for now, new year. Whichever your current inclination might be! (Mine is somewhere between the two --  though I'm ready to shake things up a little and seize new endeavors this year!) Welcome 2015.

{And... Why New Year's Eve Is My Favorite Holiday}

Cheers! xo

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Good Things/Small Packages

Sweet things in cute packaging is all it takes to show a bit of holiday or seasonal appreciation and love, even last minute to New Year's. A few simple DIYs...

Slip baggies of treats (like homemade fudge) into burlap or muslin bags and adorn with a little message (plus to and from) jotted on chalkboard labels or hanging tags (for less slippage possibility) using this marker

Materials are one trip to Paper Source. Of course, any similar bag and tag that you can round up will work, too.

Jars with pretty cards are always a perfect option. Easiest-peasiest card how-to hereFill 'em up with chocolates, candy, mini cookies, granola, hot chocolate powder topped with mini marshmallows, or any other delectable treat, homemade or whatever you can handle.

For a non-edible sweet package (great hostess gift, too), my fave this year has been Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs (just one or a grouping) in pretty holders and unexpected containers.

You'll be giving this glory...

... and the holders will hold ever after. My supplies this round came from here.

Happy simple gifting!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

'Tis The Season...

I really love the month of December. In the simplest of ways -- the colder temps, twinkling lights everywhere, the yum foods, time off with family and friends, fires going in the fireplace, casual gatherings, favorite traditions, maybe a getaway, seeing the pics on holiday cards, and the overall feeling of festivity in the air. Love all of it. It is divine. 

The rest makes me nuts. Every. Single. Year.

The insane running around and excessive shopping... The constant feeling of being under a time crunch... The pressure to show everyone appreciation at the exact same time (I am truly appreciative, but maybe we could express our gratitude throughout the year rather than piling it all onto one seasonal week). All of this peace and joy is simply exhausting.

As far as presents go, I'd be happy to reserve this part for the kids of our world. Their excitement at this time of year is undeniably adorable, and they're not quite capable of shopping on their own just yet. So if Santa wants to give a few presents, and the Chanukah characters known as parents do, too, I think that's great. As far as being an adult goes, I'm willing to do my own shopping in the name of less mayhem and excess. 

This isn't to say that it's not wonderful to focus on others and smother them -- love, hang-time, food, thoughtfulness, little somethings, and anything at all for those truly in need. That's just goodness all around. But the holidays as mass production -- continually gives me misgivings about what it is we're all actually giving... and how frantically we go about giving it. (Maybe Scrooge was really just a minimalist with an eggnog hangover.)

At a coffeehouse earlier this month, I overheard two older guys discussing the impending holidays. One said he felt so stressed that he'd like to just skip everything between Thanksgiving and January. He then confessed that he and his wife never sent out their holiday cards last year so they're thinking about just using them this year to make things easier. The other one talked about his discomfort with all of it, saying his desire would be to have the season be more about simply celebrating Winter Solstice, but that he can never get anyone else on board. 

I truly hope that everyone is finding a way to enjoy a happy, festive, and stress-free season, whatever meaning the holidays have for you and however it is that you celebrate.  

Merry Holidays to all! And Happy Winter Solstice, Coffeehouse Man. I'm on board. At least in theory.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving Recap And Future Gathering Readiness

It was a stellar one. Simple and sweet. With a perfect, West Coast twist.

we did our baking

berry was first to get its marching orders, followed by pumpkin 

my cutie pie made her own cute pie

... and also adorable signs and place cards

tabletop was sparse and basically season-less, just like california

these were the best homegrown green olives, a hostess gift
they went gloriously with dried apricots + cheese for starters

maximum simplicity

When one of my brothers arrived, he pointed out that it was eighty degrees outside (sorry, rest of the country) and why on earth was our table in the house. We immediately lifted it up, settings and all, and carried it to the backyard just in time to sit down. Brilliant.

It turned into the most beautiful, unplanned meal al fresco for Thanksgiving. We started at around three o'clock, and I stayed sleeveless into the dark. 

it was back inside only to grab some of this 

Unless it's raining, I'll be doing Thanksgiving this way every year from now on. And probably every other holiday as well. And maybe even dinner this weekend.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving... Give Me What I Know And Love

As I've said before, I am an utter traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving. Don't fix it if it ain't broke -- a gem of a saying and I think probably one of the most overlooked keys to happiness in life. Especially in our fast and furious world, where everyone and technology seems to be looking for the next better way to do things. But updates aren't always an improvement. Sometimes, they're just confusing, and glitchy, and unsatisfying. 

So, no exciting new side dishes or exotic stuffings for me. I can be adventurous in the kitchen on the other three hundred sixty-four days of the year. On this day, give me what I know and love, how I know it and love it. Basic, unfussy Thanksgiving fare, with the flavors we grew up on. The one place where I'm game to change things up? The pie crust!

last year's foray into crust adventures -- a dotted edge

my twist on thanksgiving yams is as exotic as i get.
recipe here 

Persimmon Pomegranate salad. Okay, so I broke my no new side dish policy when I added this in last year. But only because it fell into a previously unfilled category -- salad. I'd never had one in the mix, and this was just too spectacular. Says Fall like nothing else. It was love at first sight and bite at this soiree

recipe here

The rest of the menu is classic fixings all the way. Ours goes like this... 

Turkey stuffed with fresh rosemary and thyme, lathered in olive oil, butter, and dried herbs, sprinkled with a little chicken stock, and roasted uncovered at high heat. Yukon gold mashed potatoes made extra rich with cream cheese and sour cream. Stuffing prepared with sauteed green apples, celery, and walnuts, the way I know it. A simple veggie side of either crisp haricort verts with butter, salt, and fresh squeezed lemon, or else Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt, and Parmesan. My Citrus Yams (already at the party above). Gravy usually made easier and lighter with corn starch in lieu of flour. Soft dinner rolls from the bakery ('til I attempt my own bread making). And two perfect pies that I bake the night before -- traditional pumpkin and our family fave, mixed berry. 

Glorious simplicity... every year. 

{One day, I'll put all of the measurements in order and share full recipes.} 

Leftover ingredients, such as persimmons and rosemary, can also make for sweet, last minute additions to the table

candles do the rest

A few more Thanksgiving thoughts here and here.

Wishing all a happy day, soaking up all the goodness that's on your table and sitting around it! xx

Saturday, November 1, 2014

In The Kitchen -- Hot Apple Cider Glory

At the most relaxing Halloween gathering I think I can ever recall, in the home of Kristina of Estilo, I was treated to a divine concoction -- a hot gin apple cider that Stephanie of Shindig stirred up for the grown ups to sip while trick-or-treating. It made for the night's perfect witches' brew, and this warm mug of delight will now be bewitching me throughout the colder days and holidays ahead.

The recipe is adapted from this rum cider punch, but in swapping out rum for gin, it has a lightness that sets it apart from other festive ciders that I mostly find to be overly sweet. This one is simply the best I've encountered. 

It goes like this...

Gin+Ginger Hot Apple Cider


8 cups apple cider
1 apple, thinly sliced in circles
1 orange, thinly sliced in circles
2 cinnamon sticks
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups gin, or desired amount

In a large pot, combine all ingredients except for the gin, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the gin, or else add it to each serving in individual cups. Needless to say, sans any alcohol, this makes for a glorious treat for all ages. 

Welcome, Autumn!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Daytime Dating aka Couples Who Lunch

I've always been more of a day person than night (with the exception of my years living in NYC where I was a round-the-clock person). Longtime favorite daytime indulgence -- stealing an afternoon movie. 

When kids entered the picture, nighttime adventures took on another level of daunting for me. It's simply not that easy to gear up for an evening out when you're... chronically exhausted? And, of course, there's the whole sitter conundrum/expense. 

So lately, I've made a return to my 'I love the daylife' roots and have embarked on a bit of a couples-who-lunch roll. While the kids are at school, my husband and I have been giving ourselves time outs and meeting up for lunch. Other countries have long embraced the art of dropping everything midday to savor life and good food, and it's feeling pretty brilliant to me at this point. Plus, there are no sitters required and I never have to make that end of day choice between motivating to go out or collapsing on the couch in my sweats. 

Daytime dating is fab... especially when you don't have the pulse of a big city keeping you wired for the nightlife. 

there is a table for two somewhere just waiting


sometimes fresh air and a quick food grab does the trick 

when we really play hooky, this occasionally happens

even our anniversary this year was lunch out instead of dinner