First of all, here’s a peppermint hot cocoa for you. Love these mugs. You can never have too many mugs is my motto.
|I am in love with these hand painted bowls and plates from Italy. So glad I got these to deliver Christmas goodies in. Homegoods again a few weeks ago. Wish I bought more.|
|First toast your almonds.|
|Love my new happy measuring cups from Pier 1. They make me want to bake.|
|Love this brand and the licorice smell!|
|Turn dough into two logs, on parchment.|
|Slice the logs a bit diagonal to make longer biscotti.|
|Place them cut side down on wire rack and bake again.|
|Pop a cute bottle topper on a your favorite wine and tie with a pretty postcard with a handwritten greeting. Got this box of Xmas postcards from Barnes & Noble and they’re perfect for gifts. Love the owl bottle stopper from Pier 1.|
|How about an Ivy or Rosemary topiary? Trader Joes has both. This is a gift anyone would love in their kitchen after the holidays. Tie on a cute card or add a pot and it’s adorable. I used a poinsettia card from the same box.|
|How cute are these mugs?|
|Our hot cocoa bar.. Kids loved the sprinkles and candy canes the best.|
|Our neighbor, Abby with a mug she decorated.|
|A holiday table at my dream French Chateau.|
|Her tree skirt. Sorry I was so busy getting the cute Eiffel Tower in that I cut off the tree top. 🙁|
The great part about burlap is it’s a utilitarian fabric. No sewing needed. Just cut and arrange! You can’t hem this stuff! ( It would be hard.) Another great thing, it’s CHEAP, if you didn’t already suspect so. The downside- darn scratchy… Well, I hope you’re not wearing it! In a pinch, linen will have the same look, much higher price. Linen is for investment pieces, like the ones sold at Restoration Hardware.
|Linen walls and books covered in kraft paper.|
Great table and tree skirts. Love the stockings trimmed in linen or burlap.
|My favorite frame from a trip to Hawaii.|
|Another Pottery Barn frame. Love this photo of my Grandma and grandkids.|
|Burlap pillow cover from Pottery Barn bought last Christmas.|
|Here’s the find of the week. Mini-trees from Trader Joes in darling burlap wrap. I think they were $5.99! What a cute small gift! Bet they are going quick.|
|via An Urban Cottage. Love the branches and this looks like boxwood.|
Another crazy day, but I thought I’d post a few pics of wreaths and doors I’m loving right now. Seems like a small thing, but how cute are some of these homes? Makes you really want to rethink your door color and more. I may be needing to up my curb appeal soon.
I’ve added some more wreaths that were accidently left out yesterday.
|Habitually chic. Love the colors and multiple wreaths.|
|A swag is always a easy alternative to a wreath.|
|Canadian House and Home. More branches.|
|This acid green looks so fresh for Christmas.|
|Olive wreath with lights.|
|Like the addition of the Joyeux Noel sign.|
|Maybe for my next door color?|
|Can’t you just hear your boots crunching up the gravel?|
|I want this door!|
|Aqua blue door and greeny-gold ribbons are a nice compliment to each other.|
|White doors looks new. Like the pairing with silver.|
|via Nine and Sixteen. It’s classic and perfect.|
|via My French Country Home. Love the unadorned trees and foliage.
How do you like to decorate your door?
|Got to have a Golden Gate Bridge here in the Bay Area!|
I am recovering from last weekend! I had a cookie exchange, my youngest son’s 10th Birthday party, our town’s Christmas parade, (which my cub scout was in), got the tree, did the house lights, decor and I am fried! Oh, and I ordered my cards on-line last night, while bleary-eyed. I hope they come out okay. It was about 11:30, usually not a good time to conduct business.
|Le mantel. I have a motley collection of stockings, but we like it that way. No matching monograms here.|
Yesterday afternoon, I was all carols and lights! I was ready for the decorating! To get started, I always must have requisite Christmas playlist, hot cocoas and cappuccinos, and all the family involved! We start out by opening each boy’s box with their ornaments. Each year the boys collect one or two new ornaments and we date them and if they are a gift put from whom. I personally love unwrapping our photo ornaments. Each year, I try to frame one from our card or a pic from that season. Then we unwrap old family ornaments and of course the precious school ones. I had to laugh as my youngest placed a huge, gold 5×7 macaroni one with his photo from preschool in the front and center of the tree! In fact, it became a bit of a problem that each kid was placing his favorites in the prime real-estate of the tree. After a few renditions of, “Grandma got run over by a Reindeer,” and a bit of a scuffle over who owned the ice-cube Santa, it seemed everybody split and I was left with the dregs. Left behind were the, “Meh,” decorations, a floor littered with fir needles and a tree seriously imbalanced! After finding all my favorites crammed towards the back, I went to work rearranging everyone’s handiwork so the tree could look half decent!
|Griffin’s preschool macaroni frame.|
|Jackson’s preschool ornament.|
A basket of ornaments on my library shelf.
|Some more xmas fluff. I added tree cuttings to my favorite candle, furry throw and a stone pine cone.|
Of course living here in Northern California, we always get a live tree! I love that smell when you walk through the door. We are very close to the Santa Cruz Mountains, which is home to tons of tree-farms. However, I don’t go that route, after one too many bad experiences with Douglas Firs. Yes, I am sorry to say it, but I’ve had red flying beatles in my house and dead trees after a week of cutting! Since those mishaps, I have been a Noble or Fraser-Fir convert, and go to a local nursery for one of those from up in the Great Northwest. This year I went to a very close local place, The Green Thumb, and the trees were gorgeous and actually priced very reasonably. The nurseries usually have very inexpensive wreaths and I always get one at the same time. Last year, mine smelled so good and I kept it up until February!
|My wreath. I am actually starting to like this blue door.|
|Some favorites. Bird nests in the tree are supposed to be good luck. I am always attracted to initials.|
My father has a wonderful tradition of doing a Christmas snow scene with little houses and people that he had collected since his childhood. I always adored it as a girl and played with it. My boys also love helping put it up and seeing it. That is something he still does with them. My Dad also collects nutcrackers and when my oldest, Jackson was small, he started a buying them for him too. Now, Jackson has the start of his own collection, which he lovingly arranges and displays each holiday. Now that he is 13, he decides where they go and how they look best. Each one has the date and place gotten and from whom on the bottom. Griffin, my 10 year old, also has a collection. He collects lighthouse ornaments. He has been obsessed with them since he was very small, and so it seemed a natural choice for him!
|Jackson and part of his collection he arranged.|
|One of Griffin’s lighthouses.|
|From my Mom.|
|From where my husband grew up, a magical place.|
My favorite ornaments, besides the photos and kid creations, are the ones from my husbands and my childhoods. We have some my Mom got for me, like ballerinas and skiing angels and whimsical ones I cherish. I also have some sea-themed ones from my husband’s hometown of Trinidad, California on the ocean. Globes, Eiffel Towers, and travel mementos are also favorites. I truly love a tree that tells a story about the family and I’m afraid mine won’t be featured in Elle Decor, anytime soon!
|From one of my favorite photo cards of the boys roasting marshmallows on the beach.|
|I wasn’t the only one worn out! My buddy Hobbes, after all the excitement.|
Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We did. Besides our family dinner on Thursday, we were almost all alone on our little court for 5 days. In fact, the whole town, seemed to go away for the holiday. It was nice to be here. We saw a Arthur’s Christmas with the kids, (super), and had a date night movie too. We saw George Clooney in the Descendants – great movie and George is… (husbands look away), a total fox! We ate lots of leftovers, walked the dogs we were sitting through the leaf-filled park, and got together with good friends. We even hit a farmer’s market on Sunday. The best part is the pace of these kind of holidays and the quality time together. Being with all my family on Thursday was really special.
|My youngest walking Ruby, one of our charges this weekend.|
When my favorite neighbor and good pal Kim returned from her holiday, we brain-stormed some pre-tree holiday fluff for the home. Recently she had snagged a faux mercury glass vase at Homegoods and was wondering how to display it for xmas. Our phone rings and she asks, “Hey, will your husband mind if I clip a few berries for my vase?”
|Some of the lovely foliage on our court.|
“Are you kidding?, ” I said, “He probably wouldn’t know if the tree got taken down! I’ll meet you outside with the hackers!” From then on, we had a jolly time clipping away at this and that in the hood. I’ll say it worked out for the best that most people were away. Anyhow, we used berries from Pistachio trees, Juniper branches- the ones’ with white berries look best, and some Sequoia sprigs (thanks to the beast in my front yard.)
|Kim’s vase with her creation.|
Kim’s creation came out lovely and partnered with her new runner and glass bulbs acquired on the Homegoods run, her home looks darling. This inspired me to begin a new regular feature I will call, CHECK OUT HER HOUSE! Coming later this week, the first edition and more on the stylish Kim, a French teacher, and her Gallic-inspired home! Here’s a preview.
|Her holiday runner and pretty bulbs. Don’t they look festive? She added a topiary she had from Restoration Hardware.|
|My arrangement on the mantle for now. The berries are quite heavy, so they will tend to hang.|
|Another view of what I used.
If you don’t have berries, any conifer tree branches will work. Add in pine cones and a bright ribbon or colored vase and you have a show-stopper for your entry, table or mantle. Anything natural is much more beautiful and smells better than any fake store-bought greenery. A bowl piled with Pomegranates or walnuts with a nutcracker, bring in the natural and add richness to your home. You can even use pieces from your Christmas tree if you already have it. You’ll get that holiday feeling without going all Kris Kringle on your home yet. And don’t forget to check out your neighbor’s yard. 😉
|This is my Thanksgiving table. I used olive napkins and aubergine zebra plates. I kinda like the contrast.|
In the spirit of the holiday here’s a bit of all my thoughts and photos that were meant for several posts, but never got written. It’s been so darn busy the past week! I cobbled it all together, so I could get it out before everything turns Christmas. Hope you can cope with my haphazard style on this…
I love Thanksgiving. I just hate ironing. Right now, I’m ironing when I could be one with couch and watching the Dancing with the Stars finale! I swear there is no such thing as, “permanent press” tablecloths! Just sayin’ Ralph Lauren.
|Flowers I bunched together. I’m not good with flowers. I may make this into a bunch of low small arrangements. I really liked the colors though.|
|Check out these glasses. $2.99 at Homegoods. I know. They made the tables!|
Anyway, as much as I despise all the grunt work involved with a big family gathering, it’s what we do. I want to have my boys grow up appreciating family celebrations and the rituals that go along. Yes, they have to wear sweaters or nice shirts, use their best manners, chat with grandparents, deliver drinks, help serve and clean-up. I did it too when I was little. They feel like hosts when I ask what music we should play and which napkin looks best. I hope they will one day do the same in their own homes.
|My other tables.|
|My mantle now. I’ll add candles on Thanksgiving day.|
|My boys last year.|
The decorating and entertaining part is fun to me. The cooking itself, not so much. I don’t know why, but as a forty-something woman, I still haven’t become comfortable with making turkeys. Maybe that’s because my Mom has done it for so long, and well. why mess with a good thing? The last time I made the turkey I left that bag of stuff, (yucky- gizzards and whatnot), in the turkey. Everyone was grossed out! From then on, I became the side-dish chef and head of table decor, which was fine by me!
|My Mom and I at my first Thanksgiving as hostess, 1999. Love my Mom.|
I do like making sides like parmesan brussel sprouts, gourmet mashed potatoes, harvest salad with apples, cranberries and walnuts, green beans with almonds, sweet potato casserole, and rolls. My Mom will bring her yummy stuffing and gravy. My Dad is making the turkey with a new recipe! (Hmm, we’ll see about that, Dad. We like to encourage him though 🙂
|Grandma with my sons about a year ago.|
My 94 year-old Grandma will bring her cranberry jello with mini marshmallows that the kids love and all her pumpkin pies made by scratch. Yep, she still is making them all and they are delicious. We are so blessed to have her. My brother Peter’s family of five will join us from El Dorado Hills. I can’t wait to see my sweet niece and nephews and my sister-in-law, Line. This year we also have my Aunt Wendy and Uncle Tom from Discovery Bay. They will be bringing the wine and they know what is good. Lucky us!
I am fortunate to have a husband who is more than helpful. He’s my sous chef, my bartender, my dish-washer, and handsome co-host. I couldn’t do it without his help! He is patient with me when I start to freak about 15 minutes before everyone arrives! I can’t help it, it’s just how I am…He usually gets me a glass of champagne then.
|Look at this cute pumpkin from my friend Ann, love it!|
My house is a bit on small side, so I will be piling all the tables into the living and dining together. I really want us all to be in one room, including the five kids, (now all teens and pre-teens.) No, I don’t agree with the kids table in Siberia thing. I want to chat with them too. So, I’ve moved some furniture and have three tables. I’m hoping I can make it all look pulled-together, get the fire going and have it cozy.
|This is my friend Jen’s house- don’t you love her mantle? Super cute with the books and pumpkins.|
In the past, I’ve also moved the house all around. My husband absolutely hates that. Here’s a picture of the first Thanksgiving we hosted. We had no dining room, so we turned the family room into one giant dining space using the yard table too. I think it looks cute, considering we were young and had no clue. My 13 year-old was just one! I’ve always gone for the natural look and used gourds, pumpkins and leaves to decorate. It didn’t cost me hardly anything then either.
|Us 12 years ago. What were those red things? I don’t remember, maybe pomegranates.|
We try to include my two boys in the production. I get them making place cards and arranging the tables. We start by foraging around the neighborhood for acorns, or pretty leaves. They always come out so cute, I’ve saved a few for keepsakes. Those are sweet to me and the grandparents always love it too.
|From two years ago and below a bit longer. My littlest wrote, “cookie grandma, ” which is what they call their Great-Grandmother, who makes them cookies all the time.|
|Another year when my smaller guy and I made a candy corn cake. This year we made acorns with dark kisses.|
|I have to always include these chickens and turkey hand whittled by my husband’s Great-Grandad from Kentucky. Aren’t they amazing? They look very primitive. Usually put ’em on the kids table.|
|I will be wearing my camel sweater and trying to look like this ! (photo by Tommy Ton.)
With Thanksgiving less than a week away I’m starting to feel the twinges of seasonal anxiety coming. I just celebrated one son’s birthday last week, will be hosting Thanksgiving for 14, and then a week later son number two’s birthday comes. Usually, if I survive that it’s like, “Yikes! How did I get to this point in December with no cards/shopping/decorating, etc. done?
Today, instead of inspiring you with shots of turkeys and pretty tables, here’s a post I wrote a before this craziness began. I did want to show what I finally ended up adding to my own closet this Fall.
If you read my past bit on wardrobes, you’ll know, I tried hard to be a minimalist! A few things to spice up the old wardrobe and give a smattering of polish to what I already own. To wit:
1. A Burberry trench. No, I did not spend $1,000 on this coat. It was on sale in July, during Nordstrom’s Anniversary sale. I also had a windfall from selling some patio furniture, and put it toward this coat, which I am hoping will last me through a few decades! Total cost, (with sale and savings applied) $180! By the way, Nordstrom’s once a year, Anniversary sale, in July, is one not to miss and worth making a investment purchase at.
2. Two pairs of Tom’s shoes. If you aren’t already familiar with this wonderful company, they give a new pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair you purchase. That’s a win-win. Get some cute shoes and help kids who need it too. I bought a pair of the super comfy flats in taupe, and a pair of yellow corduroy wedges with peep toes. Love them both. One practical and one for fun!
3. Camel colored sweater jacket from Nordstrom on sale. A little polish and warmth at the same time. Love the color and it’s cute with animal prints too. Camel is very Grace Kelly to me and always looks classic.
4. A very soft leopard and zebra print tan and white scarf from Banana Republic. Love the bit of metallic on it for the holidays and I think it will be usable for Summer too.
5. A tiny bendable rhinestone wrap bracelet, from a boutique in town. Looks like diamonds and can mix and match with all my bangles. This shows a stack of them, which could be pretty too.
6. AG Jeans in a dark straight leg. These were also an investment, but I haven’t bought jeans in a year or so. I know they will be worn so much they are worth it. This is my first pair of these. They fit well, don’t stretch out and I love where the waist is, higher, but not too much and it hits at the perfect spot to flatter.
I also bought a custom made shirt dress in a grey blue that I am very excited still to get. I will give more details on that experience in a later post.
That’s it! Well, also got a rose scarf and a yellow print blouse at Gap. Now I’m trying to mix and match with the few other basic T’s I bought and my favorites I always wear.
On my wish list:
A FEED bag. Have you heard about these? This company started by Lauren Bush is all about making caring for others on this planet cool. The cross-body bags are chic, and at the same time you are funding a worthy cause. Depending on the style you choose, you could be helping buy school lunches for the UN World Food program, immunizations in Africa, vitamins in South America and more. I love that by wearing one you are saying, “Hey I’d rather give my money to this cause than a designer. ” Check them out. Hoping to get one myself soon. I can’t decide which style I like best! I think this one is a super cute bag for weekends and running errands. I’d wear mine with a chunky beige sweater and my jeans. Love it.
I’m working on a few posts, but in the meantime, I couldn’t resist sharing this gem from Andy Rooney that my friend Manuela posted. I loved Andy and was so sad to hear of his death last week, just a month past his retirement. I thank Andy for his common sense wisdom and also making 60 minutes bearable as a child who had to watch it. I especially love this. It made my day. Another reason to love being over 40…
Andy Rooney on Women Over Forty
|Pumpkins carved during our streets’ annual pumpkin carving get-together.|
Last night was the warmest Halloween I have ever experienced in my past 40 plus years here in Northern California. It was absolutely gorgeous and after sharing some pre-trick-or-treat chili with friends, we headed out to enjoy the neighborhood. Grabbing our glasses of red wine we had to dash to chase the kids and chat with the neighbors. I especially loved seeing all the older people who still decorate and enjoy the kids. We are grateful to have a neighborhood with lots of them. With the balmy weather, (we were just in T-shirts), and the local wine in hand, it felt very decadent and we were saying how lucky we are to live here.
|Couldn’t resist posting this pic of the neighborhood kids with their creations.|
This news flash…it’s November!! One of my very favorite months and not just because my Dad and my oldest son have birthdays. November is filled with LOTS of school holidays and I love that! Things seems to slow down a bit after hectic October. I can’t say I’m not happy to get the webs off if you know what I mean…
So welcome to my kitchen! In honor of November, a bit of cookery for you. Though you might be in sugar shock right now, (maybe I should have rescheduled this post), here’s my newest, most favorite version of chocolate chip cookies yet. I found this recipe in an old kid’s cookbook with my youngest son. In their version, you melt the butter and refrigerate. Because I didn’t really read the directions, (a bit of a bad habit according to my husband), I made it the usual way without the frig or melting and they were awesome. To me, the best cookies are crunchy a bit on the outside and gooey inside.
Here’s a few pictures and as you can see I had assistants. Not sure how much help they really were…!
|“Cleaning” up for me. 🙂|
|Walnuts are my favorite and of course California ones are superior!|
|The only chips I use now. Guittard also happens to be a California company. Love them.|
|Very important in baking- do not over beat the dough once the flour is added or you’ll end up with tough cookies.|
|Large drops…we’re talking golf ball size folks.|