Friday, December 31, 2010

Reflections of 2010

I really cannot believe the year is ending. It seemed so quick- yet it was a tough year- but not without it's rewards. Economically, it was the toughest of my professional life, but I learned to just push through it and go on with daily routines. Some of our greatest accomplishments were this past year, including the publishing of Romancing the Home Entertains, a collection of cherished recipes and entertaining moments, the first annual Lake Bluff Christmas Tour, and the wedding of Katha's daughter, Jessica, to Jason. My niece, Morgan, married her sweetheart, Jason. ( Two Jasons married in one year! ). My husband turned 60 and all the children flew in for a birthday surprise. We flew to Virginia for a surprise birthday party for my husband's sisters 70th birthday! Lynda and Jill's dads,Penny's mom and my husband's dear friend of 35 years passed away. But my children all flourished in their careers and each found their own way. Grandchildren continued to grow and everyone came home for Christmas. Friends stayed loyal and healthy - a special gift on its own. Customers were loyal and generous to our business- I am lucky. As I ponder 2011, I think about how to improve and deliver more excitement to our store -always give the customer something to smile about, develop a friendship and just add value to their lives.
May 2011 bring you and your loved ones a glorious life - Happy New Year everyone! And make this New Year's Resolution - Always enjoy your meals by candlelight!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Santa Surprises the Cook!

Having cranberries left over from my floral displays, I decided to make a cranberry sorbet for our Christmas meals. Bringing a simple syrup of half water and half sugar to a boil, I added the fresh cranberries to the pot and cooked them until they popped. After cooling for about 15 minutes, an immersion blender was used to puree the cranberries and then they were strained through a mesh sieve and put in the refrigerator to completely cool. Fresh Market has this wonderful product in their bulk area, a sweetened dried orange slice- they are to die for- scrumptiously good! I chopped about 3/4ths of a cup into smaller pieces and added them to the cranberry mixture and froze the mixture in my ice cream maker. The color was vivid red and the taste and texture was delicious- a little tart, then a little sweet- the perfect dessert or palette cleanser for a heavy holiday meal. As one of the biggest surprises of the year, my husband gave me the set of beautiful compotes from a local antique mall. He and I were shopping together for presents for Christmas ( a rare occurrence) and spotted these exquisite sherbets. Being way out of my price range, I passed them up. He, however, made sure Santa went back to get them for me- I am a lucky girl! I love the way the sorbet and kumquats glisten in the cream bowl - making a festive holiday treat!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Winter Beads endure the Season!

These opulent dripping beads - so beautiful to decorate with- have so many uses. I love them tucked into trees, tucked into chandeliers and just simply tucked into this garden urn. A bouquet of white roses is magical with stems of these iridescent beads added to the arrangement. Imagine the soft glow that they would impart with many candles burning. While they were ordered for Christmas decor, they are simple enough to enjoy the entire winter season.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fruit is not just for Fruitcakes at Christmas Time!

Fruit seems to naturally belong in Christmas decor. Costco provided a beautiful array of fruit to use for Christmas decorating this year. We made a frozen ice bucket of roses and cranberries with greens. Using more red roses for a centerpiece, we added lemons and pomegranates. Red velvet cupcakes perched on top of small trifle dishes, filled with cranberries. A chocolate ganache cake, embellished with sugared lady apples, kumquats, and cherries, sat upon a larger trifle dish, filled with submerged hydrangeas and berries. Fresh, perfectly formed, persimmons and pomegranates added a shot of color to the evergreen and candle display on the coffee table.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Wraps

Mr. RTH wanted something different for his team at work for Christmas, not a candle, and not another bottle of wine. So we decided to put together a dessert - Chocolate Christmas Fondue from France, seedless clementines and an angel food cake. Packaging each of the items in cellophane bags, I tied them all together with a red bow and handmade tag with instructions. A bottle of lemon infused olive oil and red currant mustard fit nicely into Santa's boot. A beautiful bottle of a special rum also went into Santa's boot as a hostess gift for later this week! I love to wrap in cellophane, as it always gives a festive appearance to holiday gifts. Tucking in little sprigs of holiday berries adds a merry touch!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Fireplace Mantels Dressed for the Holidays

Mantels are such a small surface in your home, but they make a big impact! That's why my decoration philosophy for the holidays says "put as much stuff as you possibly fit up there!"
Layers of lit garland, frosted sticks and flowers, ornaments, moss, cherubs, angels, candlesticks, books, clocks, pictures, mirrors, trees, Santa's, fruit and whatever else comes to mind and makes you happy- put it up there! An ingenious invention, Command Strips, allows about twice the normal amount of "stuff" on the mantel for the holidays. These pictures show mantels in several homes - all sharing my philosophy- lots of stuff! See how romantic, how charming and how much they share with us about the personalities of the owners of the homes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Santa Gets a New Saddle

I just love sparkle! While out at flea markets, sometimes I will find old rhinestone trims on old coats and dresses. When the garment is not in great shape, I remove the decals, cuffs, buttons and trim to use in other projects. A pair of rhinestone cuffs from a vintage evening jacket make festive "saddles" for my Christmas reindeer, so Santa can safely ride through the night! A long piece of rhinestone trim from the front of a dress makes a beautiful garland , just draped over a compote of vintage Shiny Brite ornaments. One of my favorite finds is a rhinestone rose that was sewn to front of a coat. It makes the perfect coaster for a Christmas candle. all of these sparkle brightly when surrounded by candlelight! Through out the year, I use these vintage elements in different ways. - Valentine's is just around the corner and I think I know what Cupid will be wearing!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

First Lake Bluff Christmas Tour Happens!

The first annual Lake Bluff Christmas Tour was held on Sunday, December 5th and it was a delicious treat! All five homes were decorated to the nines and all in a completely different fashion. The first 2 pictures are of my dining room and a stocking that I made for my staircase. Next, is Linda Hicks delightful pink and green living room and this fabulous side table, filled with vintage ornaments. Penny's mantel and sideboard display of fiftiess trees and snow houses took us back to our childhood memories of Christmas. Cathy's old 1905 Victorian home was decked out in fresh greens and incredible silver pieces from her mother. Patty's shimmering whites and silvers created a serene Christmas scene and made you want to linger. Hats off the the talented owners - including me of course!. It was a fun day and one we hope to make a tradition in our small quaint Midwestern town! Of course, the snowfall on the previous day only added to our magical ambiance. More to come on the tour this week!