Thursday, December 29, 2016

Sharing Post Christmas Vignettes

It's been a while since I last posted on my blog, the hustle and bustle of Christmas got in the way, of course. I thought with this post I would share some of my Christmas decorating vignettes since I didn't during the Christmas season. I will soon be taking everything down since I've had it up for a month with the exception of the Nativity. That will stay up until after The Epiphany.  I am anxious to begin the New Year with my home back in order.

Starting in the foyer, I usually like a little bit of a quirky look (for me that is) with the glitzy trees and my funky little Santa. Welllllll, it speaks "fun" to me. The Santa is part of a much larger collection as you will see.
Now into the dining room. I did have one small dinner party during the holidays and it was a wonderful evening with good friends.
Therapy to me is putting a fresh flower arrangement together when having a dinner party. Arranging flowers is one of my passions and this arrangement lasted through Christmas. I had arranged these flowers the Monday before.
Using my Spode Christmas Tree china, Vietri salad bowls, Waterford crystal and hotel silver.
And on the buffet my Dickens Byer Choice Carolers with Tiny Tim carried by his father. Scrooge is standing behind another caroler but he is singing and loaded with presents.

 Moving on into the kitchen.

My French Pastry table with Christmas décor.
A very old Fitz & Floyd Santa cookie jar sitting at the end of my island and I did fill it with cookies for my husband, he was delighted.

Joining me at the kitchen sink is a Santa tea pot. This is a reminder of a trip to Callaway Gardens in GA several years ago when I took a trip with girl friends to enjoy the light display, magnificent. I bought this tea pot while on the trip and it is a reminder of a fun long weekend.

Proceeding to the living room, there are many more of my Santa collection.
The Byers Choice Carolers and this is some of the Nutcracker series complete with Clara and her little brother.

The mantle with most of my Santa collection.

Decorating our bar, another of the Santa collection and this funky little tree.
We always place our Christmas Tree in our family room in the bay window.
A tree filled with tree ornaments collected over many years. Most with my children's names on them who are grown with families of their own and now one placed on the tree each year for each grand child, we have seven. Some have worn so that I don't even place them on the tree but even so each and every one are special.
Even my little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Miss Scarlet enjoyed taking a nap under the Christmas Tree.

My most treasured Christmas vignette is of course, our Nativity. My grandmother owned a ceramic shop and hand painted this Nativity for my mother so many years ago. When my mother passed my Dad gave it to me. When my mother first received this Nativity, she was putting it up one year and was so perplexed about how she could hang the angel to look as if she were hanging from above, suspended. We were visiting for Christmas that year and my husband figured out a way to do just that. So there are many memories for me with this Nativity and it IS the true meaning of Christmas.
Of course, I always say, "Back door guests are BEST!!!!!"
Santa sits here by the tree with Mrs. Claus after a long winter's night. The ceramic tree I made myself so many years ago, probably about 47 years ago. It is one of my grands favorite and they see it each time they come in the back door during the holidays.
I hope you enjoyed my home tour of Christmas decorations. I don't do a lot of decorating but try to keep it under control. I hope each of you have a Safe and Happy New Year.

I am sharing this post at Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm hosted by Michael Lee. To see other posts shared you can click HERE.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Cookbook Book Club October Luncheon

This past Tuesday I hosted my Cookbook Book Club luncheon. As hostess I chose the book that each of us would be cooking from and I chose David Lebovitz's, "My Paris Kitchen". This is an interesting book in that it is not necessarily just French foods but as many countries around the Mediterranean take influence from some of their neighboring countries and much of this concept is apparent in this book. It is an excellent book, an interesting read and lots of informative information. I highly recommend this book and it's funny because the first time I thumbed through it in a book store, I wasn't crazy about it but went back and bought it. I'm glad I did for the simple fact is that every recipe that was brought to our luncheon was excellent.
There was only five us lunching this month but six dishes brought. One of the girls had to go home since she wasn't feeling well. Every dish brought was outstanding.
Grated Carrot Salad, different to most carrot salads in that it used olive oil with a lovely mix of fresh herbs. They were divided because on the left side there were raw beets added in, it was amazingly delicious. I actually didn't think I like raw beets but I was wrong.
Lemon-Pistachio Israeli Couscous, another interesting salad with dried fruit, pistachios, a touch of cinnamon and of course the preserved lemons. A delightful light salad.
Scalloped Potatoes with Blue Cheese and Roasted Garlic, I was so anxious to try this dish and have decided that this dish will show up on my Thanksgiving table. It was so creamy and the addition of the blue cheese was excellent. It does call for 10 large cloves of garlic but it was not in the least overwhelming. Absolutely the best scalloped potato recipe I have EVER had.

 Ham, Blue Cheese, and Pear quiche, this too was an excellent dish and one I will definitely prepare. Loved the use of shallots and the blue cheese just put this over the top. The pear added the perfect hint of sweetness.

Dukkah-Roasted Cauliflower, if you are not familiar with Dukkah you are missing a real treat. Dukkah is a combination of spices with nuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, black peppercorns and salt. They are ground and make for a heavenly spice combination. Cauliflower is not a very exciting vegetable but the use of the Dukkah put this dish over the top.
I shared two things at this luncheon a Mixed Green Salad topped with David's vinaigrette and also made our dessert, a Carrot Cake.
David talks in his book about using a less acidic vinegar and he suggest using a red wine vinegar but he most often uses a sherry vinegar. He also talks about using a lighter oil in a vinaigrette such as olive, sunflower, or safflower. I have been making my vinaigrettes most recently with a very good sherry vinegar and I love the change, it's delicious.
1 tablespoon best-quality red wine or sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
2 teaspoons minced shallots (optional)
1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive, sunflower, or safflower oil
Use a fork to mix together the vinegar, salt, shallots, and mustard in a large salad bowl, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Stir in the oil briskly until fully mixed.
I did include the shallots and only used 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard. A simple but delicious vinaigrette and surprisingly there was no pepper added.
This Carrot Cake was very good and a little different from other Carrot Cakes I have made before. I loved the use of the buttermilk and the recipe calls for more spices too. More spices meaning the amounts used in the cake.
This recipe was adapted to be baked in two layers using 10-inch round cake pans.
Carrot Cake
5 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 3/4 cups neutral-tasting vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds carrots, unpeeled, coarsely shredded
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon baking powder(preferably aluminum-free)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt
1 cup walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
Butter two (10-inch) cake pans or springform pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper. Preheat to the oven to 350 degrees F.
To make the cake, in a large bowl, stir together the eggs, buttermilk, oil, granulated sugar, and vanilla until well combined. Mix in the shredded carrots.
In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until there are no lumps.
Gradually add the carrot mixture to the dry ingredients, using a gentle folding motion, until they're completely incorporated. Finally, stir in the nuts.
Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and smooth the tops. Bake the cakes for 45 minutes, until deep golden brown on top. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
Let the cakes cool completely on a wire rack. Run a knife around the insides of the pans to loosen the cakes, and then tip them out.
16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
16 ounces mascarpone
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (unsprayed)
To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixture fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a bowl, by hand with a flexible spatula), beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add the mascarpone, powdered sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest, and beat until combined.
Set one of the cake layers on a serving platter and trim the top so it's flat. Spread about 1 1/4 cups of the frosting over the top of the cake, and then set the other layer on top. Spread a layer of frosting around the sides, then over the top. Refrigerate the cake if not serving it shortly after icing it; the cake will keep for up to 4 days.
I thought it interesting that there was only 3/4 cup powdered sugar and I really liked the use of the mascarpone. I think it set up the icing a little better.
If you are looking for a great cookbook this one is excellent. All of the recipes that were shared were outstanding. The Carrot Cake gets better the longer it is in the refrigerator as well, the flavors kind of meld together.

I think it is fair to say that a good time was had by all. 

I am sharing these two recipes for Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm hosted by Michael Lee. To see other recipes shared just click HERE.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fall Luncheon

 My favorite time of year is Fall with all it's bright bold colors so since I was hosting a luncheon I had set my table with that in mind. Most of our luncheons tend to be a little more casual but I wanted to do my table a little more of what I call casual/elegance. Besides that the only table I can seat very many people is in my dining room but it works for us. Although I could have seated everyone on our screened porch, I used the screened porch to serve liquid refreshments as we were gathering.

I did open up the French doors and served Sangria and wine on the screened porch. It allows for a nice flow with a garden view. It was such a beautiful day that I was able to keep the French doors and windows open to enjoy the fresh Autumn air.

As we were gathering and getting our liquid refreshment we also took a little walk outside to my garden which opens up from the screened porch. My garden is my passion and therapy and I was so glad that my guests wanted to take a look see.
 A couple of typical plants blooming in the garden this time of year in N FL are the red Cardinal Guard and to the right of that this Salvia. Both plants hummingbirds are attracted to and in the evening these two plants attract hundreds of hummers. I took down my hummingbird feeders since I don't need them when these two plants are blooming.
For my table setting I kept it relatively simple using my everyday white Vilroy & Boch pattern, William Sonoma's Botanical Pumpkin salad plates, hotel silver flatware, and Spode Woodlands stemware.
 I most often like to do a fresh flower arrangement since I love putting together flower arrangements but in the Fall my antique dough bowl comes out to sit on my dining room table and I fill it with pumpkins and gourds. It usually stays there until after Thanksgiving.
 Since I am a collector of antique sterling silver napkin rings, those had to be placed on the table as well.
 These are just a few of my collection but I tend to gravitate to more ornate napkin rings. However, I have collected a few that are more masculine to be set for a male guest.
 I collect French ones, English and a couple of American.
 This one is from Czarist Russia with it's red enameling and seed pearls all the way around. This is also sterling silver with a gold overlay. This is my husbands favorite so it is always placed where he will be sitting and it's one of my favorites as well which is why I used it.
 The rattan chargers, pumpkin S&P, Jacquard tablecloth, and the WS salad bowl all added to this Autumn table.
Above each place setting I had a little take home gift for each guest. I had made some homemade vanilla and my most favorite way of making it is with cognac. I have tried making it with vodka, dark rum but I love the flavor the cognac gives. I think my guests liked their little gift especially with the holidays approaching. 
An enjoyable Autumn luncheon with friends.
I will be linking this post to Tablescape Thursdays hosted by Susan at Between Naps on the Porch. You can click HERE to see other inspirational tablescapes.