Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Parties - Last Minute New Year's Eve Party

Epicurious has a VERY in depth cocktail party guide up. Frankly, I find it pretty intimidating and misleading. Throwing a party shouldn't be THAT hard. Mix some drinks, invite a few amusing people, and serve them some food. This is not rocket science. So, if you don't feel like braving the bar scene tomorrow evening to celebrate the New Year, here is my guide for a fun, easy, last minute New Year's Eve cocktail party. You can download a shopping list based on 10 guests here and a pre-party time line here.

Let's start with the cocktails. Nothing says New Year's Eve like champagne, so how about a champagne cocktail bar. Put out the champagne with some peach puree for Bellinis, orange juice for mimosas, and cranberry juice. I don't know if the cranberry and champagne combo has a name, I just call it tasty. You can substitute any sparkling wine you like for the champagne, try cava from Spain or prosecco from Italy.

For the non-champagne drinkers, pick up some beer, a lager and a dark beer, and a few bottles of wine.

Moving on to decor. Go to any local hardware or grocery store and buy up the leftover poinsettias en masse. They'll be super cheap now that Christmas has passed, and you can give them one last hurrah. Group them around the house in visible areas, and throw one in the bathroom if there is space.
While you are at the grocery store, pick up some pretty Christmas paper plates and napkins in a white theme. Again, they should be marked waayy down.
If you have time, run some of those pretty twinkly Christmas lights around the house.

Cocktail party nibbles can be as simple or complicated as the host chooses to make them. For a last minute party, it's best to keep it simple. Some nuts and olives, a cheese board, simple veggies and dip, and mini sandwiches will fill your guests up and allow easy prep before they arrive.

So, if you feel the itch to host, try out this simple party. Once you've thrown a great basic bash, you'll feel empowered to plan something bigger and better next time!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Recipe - Cheesy Bread

Cheesy Bread
The holidays have been crazy, so here is a super easy and delicious recipe. The spread is pretty adaptable, try it in a grilled cheese, in miniature on baguette rounds, or on a large slice of sturdy bread, which is how the husband and I ate it the other evening. Experiment with the proportions until you find what you like best.
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 - 1 cup mayonnaise (light is OK)
1-2 Tablespoons dry ranch dressing mix
Bread of your choice, in 1/2 inch thick slices
Combine cheese, mayo, and ranch mix. Spread on top of bread slices. Broil until cheese is melted and delicious.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Amusing - Holiday Decor at the Office

Hehe, I love this competition. It cracks me up. Hopefully, all of you are out of your offices and celebrating the holidays by now. If not, perhaps these photos will inspire you to do some re-decorating to get in the spirit!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Recipe - Lemon-Raspberry French Toast Strata

Would someone please make this delicious-sounding recipe for Christmas morning and let me know if it is good? My crowd this year doesn't like sweet breakfast foods, otherwise I would be making it myself! :)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holidays - Snapshots from my home

Christmas houses

It's taken me awhile, but here are a few corners around my house decked out for the holidays.

Christmas Houses

Christmas Cardinals

Christmas Cards

Entry Table

Kitchen Window Sill

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dress Up - Silk Scarves

I have long been an advocate of the silk scarf. They are gorgeous works of art, gloriously retro, and add glamour to any outfit. I have been ridiculed for my love of them (mostly by men), but many of my girlfriends are anxious to wear them because they don't know how. Enter Hermes with a solution. They are offering (for free even!) a downloadable pdf guide with step by step drawings for 20 different ways to wear a silk scarf. They range from a simple tie around the neck to a daring halter top. In these tough economic times, it's nice to know one simple accessory can be so incredibly versatile. Consider yourself prepared if a silk scarf shows up in your stocking this year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Amusing - The Doghouse

Once again, my grand friend Terri Lee sent me a gem of a link - The Doghouse. There's even a spot to nominate someone for the doghouse. HILARIOUS. My husband has been good for many years so he won't be nominated, but in the past I have on separate occasions gotten new pans and a new microwave for gift-giving holidays. I especially love the loop of advice in the background - 'Stop checking out other women in restaurants.'

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gifts - Nearly Last Minute Ideas

There is still time to order last minute gifts from some great shops online. Wouldn't that be better than braving the mall? I've pulled together a selection of picks that would make great gifts AND are not too expensive.

The glassware above is Heavenly Glass from Rosanna Inc. It's just lovely. I also like that it is more winter themed than specifically Christmas. It could be proudly displayed and used right up till spring. Some of the pieces are already sold out, but the votives and bottles are still available. BONUS - Free 3-day shipping going on right now at Rosanna, Inc.

These gardening gloves from Hable Construction are adorable. They come in 11 different color/patterns, too. They'd be a great gift for the gardener on your list OR perhaps someone who has just moved out on their own.

I love love love these whimiscal candle holders from Art Dept. Everything they make is great. If the candleholders don't speak to you, check out their jewelry, tiles, or letters instead.

I giggled out loud when I saw this apron at Vintage June. It's funny, in a sick sort of way. Perfect for any man who thinks he is a grill master.

I find the pop-able calendar intriguing. It IS kind of a brilliant idea. Who doesn't enjoy popping bubble wrap? It would be like a little treat every morning.
Good luck with any remaining shopping! Let me know in the comments if you have any other suggestions or have found a great deal.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Movie Love - Steph's Top 5 Christmas Movies

I have to admit I am having a hard time getting in the holiday spirit this year. This is extremely unusual. Normally, I am, as one nephew puts it, 'crazy for Christmas.' This year, though... eh, not so much. I thought putting together a list of several holiday movies I really enjoy might kick start my Christmas spirit. Or, at the very least, kick this year's inner Grinch to the curb.

I can put Borrowed Hearts in the same file with beef jerky and the Twilight series - things I shouldn't like, but do. It's a story about a mean rich guy who has lied to a business partner about being a 'family man' to curry favor. WHOOPS, now the business partner's on his way to spend the holidays with Mr. Liar-Pants, so he has to come up with a fake family, pronto. Cue the Touched by and Angel girl and her annoying daughter. It's pretty predictable and very hokey, again, why do I like this? But, sadly, I do. If you give it a chance, perhaps you will, too.

The Bishop's Wife is an outstanding movie, in general, it just happens to take place during the holidays. Cary Grant is at his most crush-worthy and David Niven, well, is perfectly David Niven. Essentially, Cary Grant comes down to help David Niven and ends up more or less falling in love with wife. My favorite part is when Cary Grant buys the wife that HIDEOUS hat. It really is one of the most ridiculous pieces of head gear I have ever seen. I can only wonder what the costume designer was thinking.

The Muppet Family Christmas is from the 80's and is a favorite of mine and my siblings. Mom taped it (on VHS even!) when it originally aired on TV, and we would watch it over and over again. In it, Fozzy takes the whole gang home to his mom's house (uninvited) for Christmas, and Muppet mayhem ensues. So, if anyone feels like shelling out more than $100 bucks to get me the DVD, I promise to love you forever!

Do you know anyone who isn't fond of the Grinch? Me neither. It's a holiday classic of epic proportions. My husband and I watched it on TV this year and sang along to all the songs. The theme of redemption is always timely AND Max is the cutest cartoon dog ever. Pass a piece of the Who Roast Beast, please.

My all time number one favorite holiday movie is White Christmas. It is REQUIRED viewing on Christmas Eve in my family. While watching, my mother, sister, and I drive everyone else in the room crazy as we repeat each and every line along with the actors. Including singing... and occasionally we get carried away and follow along with the dance numbers. Occassionally.

How about you all? Do you have any favorites that I didn't include? Any suggestions for chasing my own personal Grinch out would be appreciated!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Dress Up - Avoca

Thanks to the Julia at Red Otter shop for turning me on to Avoca. Who wants to jump on a plane to Dublin with me and blow a few thousand dollars at their brick and mortar store on Suffolk Street? Yes, I know it's the holiday season and we're not *supposed* to be spending money on ourselves, but we can pick up some gifts there, too. Any takers?!? No? Oh well, here are a few of the things I would pick up while there.

All images from

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Recipe - Cheese Coins

Cheese coins

Now that we are nearing the BIG holiday season, I thought this would be an appropriate recipe to share. I've made these several times in the past month for parties, and they have been a big hit. They would also make great edible gifts wrapped up in a pretty tin or glass jar. They'd also be a tasty addition to any buffet or just to have on hand for holiday house guests to munch on.

The recipe seems more complicated that it actually is, but it does take around an hour from start to finish. I've also included a list of the equipment you'll need. If you assemble all the ingredients and equipment before you start, it will make it go faster. To add even more to the time commitment, please PLEASE shred the cheddar yourself. It makes them taste fresher and it builds great arm muscles (or you can cheat and use the food processor).

You can use either a hand or stand mixer to combine the ingredients. The stand mixer is by far easier to use, but it makes the coins just a wee bit tougher. Beware if you use the hand mixer, though. Bits of cheddar and butter will leap from the bowl and attach themselves to your cabinets, your hair, the floor, and any nearby pets or loved ones.

8 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Extra flour for work surface
Kosher or sea salt


1 large mixing bowl
1 medium mixing bowl
Hand OR stand mixer
Rolling pin
1 1/2 inch biscuit cutter
2 large baking sheets

Take the butter out of the fridge and place in large mixing bowl. Preheat oven to 375.

In medium bowl, combine flour and cayenne and black peppers. Whisk to combine well.

Add cheese to butter in large mixing bowl. Using hand or stand mixer, beat until well combined. Slowly add flour and continue to beat until it forms a crumbly dough. Knead dough in bowl. As it warms, it will combine into a large ball.

Place dough on a floured work surface. Roll to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into individual rounds using the biscuit cutter. Reroll scraps and cut some more. Place in single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. They won't expand much, so you only need to keep 1/2-1/4 inch space between them.

Prick the top of each coin with the fork and sprinkle with kosher or sea salt. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden. Cool on a wire rack and keep in an air tight container. I don't know how long they'll keep, though, since we always eat them all up in a day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holidays - Sephora Mistletoe Makeover

Got some time to kill and a head shot of yourself handy? Head over to Sephora to get a Mistletoe Makeover. Thanks to TL for finding this and spreading the holiday cheer via make up. To be really amused. you can click here to see mine. There, you can click my newly madeover face and make me dance around. Have fun!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holidays - Gorgeous Garlands

image from pamgarrison

If you're a little stuck for holiday decorating ideas, check out these 2 great tutorials for making garlands. The one above is especially gorgeous and would be appropriate any time of the year. It's got me thinking about a shower I am hosting in the spring, hmmm...

image from trillium mama

I like this one, too, and it could be easily adapted to the shape and colors of your choice.

image from scissor variations

This one is super simple and I love how she paired it with an unusual color. So, if you're feeling crafty, why not try one of these out as part of your decorations this year? Any of them would add a lovely homemade touch.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gifts - 2009 Calendars

Forgive me, I have been a bad bad blogger. The holiday season has me in it's clutches and I've been running around in a manner similar to a headless chicken. I did decorate the house for the holidays this weekend. I'll snap some pics and put them up soon.

The gift countdown has already begun. Still have some shopping to do, though? I've picked out some gorgeous calendars that would make great gifts. I know, I know, calendars are BORING, right? I have to disagree. All of these are gorgeous and anyone would be lovely gracing someone's desk.

image from Etsy seller littlebrown pen

This one cracks me up. PLUS you can actually print this one at home, how great is that?
image from Whimsy Press

I love everything Whimsy Press does, and this calendar is no exception.

image from Papayalicious

I think even I would be inspired to keep organized with this lovely calendar from Papyalicious.

image from See Jane Work

I love this one for it's cute designs and the unique way to stand it up (and handy pen/pencil holder).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wednesday World Travel - German Christmas Market

Now that the holiday season is seriously upon us, I have several themed travel ideas for this month. To start, how about a river cruise through Germany to soak up all the goodness of their traditional Christmas markets? The above picture is from Erfurt, Germany, one of the more famous locations. It's a little winter wonderland straight from a fairy tale!

image from Flickr member tim ellis

I swear, the Christmas spirit must run amock in these places. Look at this whole village made out of gingerbread! Sweet!

image from Flickr member tim ellis

So, while being infected with the holiday spirit, you can also chow down on some serious German food. I'll take 2 bratwursts, please, and a large beer.

image from Flickr member pterodakyl

And did I mention the shopping? The glorious, glorious shopping! Good news is, a lot of cities in the US (especially ones a lot of Germans settled in) have their own Christmas Markets. If money or time gets in the way of travelling to the real thing, check here to find a market a little closer to home.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Gifts - penandpaper at Etsy

I am loving this series from penandpaper over at Etsy! They fit so well into my personal collection of girls with birds in their hair, I had to snatch one up for myself. She does such lovely work. Many of her pieces would be a sweet gift for a mom or sister this holiday season. Or just for yourself, like me! Go check her out and maybe you can check someone off your shopping list.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Holidays - Holiday Letter Header

Holiday Letter Header

I'm in the midst of writing our annual holiday letter right now. I try and design a new cute little header for each one, so I thought I'd share this year's version. To download the original size click here.

I love getting holiday letters in the mail and finding out what people have been up to. My holiday letters tend to be pretty straightforward. As you might have noticed, I am NOT the world's greatest writer. I love to see the different formats people use for their letters, though. One friend always writes it as if he's trying to talk himself out of actually writing the letter. I have an uncle who writes a page and a half and then includes a whole page of pictures.

Does anyone else do a letter this time of year? If so, what do you include?