Won’t you be my Valentine?

I love banners and bunting and pennants that signal celebrations and happy times and holidays. I made a banner last year for Valentine’s day :

20140119-154209.jpg
Then I found some Christmas decorations from Ikea I had bought years ago and they are perfect for Valentine craft, so I built another garland. I embellished it with beads and silk flowers and little air dried clay hearts I made myself. ( I’ll be making more for the 14th of February). I ran it across the windows in the living room. Needs a little work on spacing, but that’s an easy fix!

20140119-154700.jpg

20140119-154713.jpg

Mastering the master…bedroom

Our master bedroom, along with the dressing room is in search of an identity. It had an identity when we first moved in, of the chocolate suite, but we got tired of that and moved in a very disorderly fashion to a lighter scheme. Then other events overtook us, and the bedroom was just eh, still comfortable and cozy and full of afternoon light, but no oomph. So this is part 1 of the saga of mastering the master. Completely forgot to take a before picture, but here’s the after:

20140116-230328.jpg

Exhibited are clear hints for the coming color scheme….I like ocean and beach colors, so you see a lot of green and blue and browns in our rooms. Navy will be a big influence. Along with crisp white and “greige” walls? But it needed a little punch. So I’m going to add orange, like a buoy. I had this chair in the bedroom already, and again, Hubs did all the work. New coat of navy satin paint, covered the seat in a beautiful remnant of tone on tone embroidered orange linen. Found at Calico Corners for less than $10. New chair for less than $15. More developments, as they happen, will be revealed. Watch this space…

Attack of the cookbooks and how I tamed them….

Ok, cookbooks were everywhere. In a household of two voracious readers, who have gone almost, but not quite,totally digital for reading, the cookbooks were noticeable in their number. They were beside the couch, in the bedroom, under the coffee table, in the office, under the television and most critically on the top shelf of the pantry. The same pantry that I struggle to keep in a clutter free state and where I seem to be the only one who can visualize a beverage bar that incorporates an electric kettle, a Keurig, and a Nespresso. All heavily used I might add. Someday I’ll have the pantry as a blog topic, but to get the beverage bar, I need to move some things around…the cookbooks needed a new home.

I know other cooks have way more, but every cook’s books are important no matter the number and I think mine look great in their new home. And much closer to hand than the top shelf.

20140116-224433.jpg

Here’s the best part. $40 bucks. IKEA rules. The Hubs put it together in 1/2 hour. AND it is an almost perfect match in width to my chopping block handed down from my father from the old First National Stores HQ in Somerville MA. I figure when I get my beverage bar, I can order a matching piece of stone to cover top of bookcase and top of chopping block and it will look like it was designed that way. Watch this space….

THEY’RE BACK!!!!!!!

Cadbury Mini Eggs…..all time best candy ever, except for Milky Ways. At Stop & Shop. If you start now, you can stockpile enough for a year. Last year mine lasted till 4th of July. Really.

20140116-222509.jpg

In honor of the Dowager Countess

Downton is back! So much to catch up on! Branson’s back! Really, just the thing for post holiday, take down the tree and candles let down, especially with no Patriot’s game because we managed a bye this week. In honor of the occasion I took my own advice and made a new batch of macarons on Sunday afternoon in honor of the Dowager Countess, Lady Violet.

COURTESY OF ©NICK BRIGGS/CARNIVAL FILM AND TELEVISION LIMITED 2013 FOR MASTERPIECE.  The Dowager Countess, Downton Abbey’s long-running M.V.P., and her world-famous side eye are back.

COURTESY OF ©NICK BRIGGS/CARNIVAL FILM AND TELEVISION LIMITED 2013 FOR MASTERPIECE.
The Dowager Countess, Downton Abbey’s long-running M.V.P., and her world-famous side eye are back.

In honor of her name the macarons are violet hued and I tried out my new edible fairy dust on them! Simple buttercream filling, but still satisfying!

For Lady Violet

For Lady Violet

Now I’ll have to think of what I can make in honor of Branson….

And if you want to enjoy the funniest, tongue in cheek review of Downton every week, make sure to check out the Vanity Fair blog here:

http://www.vanityfair.com/online/oscars/2014/01/downton-abbey-season-four-premiere-recap

Enjoy!

Macarons, the magnificent obsession….

Honestly, I considered doing a Macaron a week for 2014 but I thought the blog would be enough to commit to. Instead I’m aiming for the Macaron of the Month Club page so I can record the different ones that I make. I have been obsessed with macarons since visiting Paris. Who wouldn’t like them? Small, cute, they can be decorated or remain utterly simple and they come in all flavors and delicious colors! Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz you could make macarons to match your decorating theme or party theme. That would be something I would do. I tried to make them on and off for years without any success. I burned them, didn’t color them right, and definately didn’t have a a clue about the nuances of baking them.

So while walking a mall last year a couple of days after Christmas I wandered into Sur La Table. I know they have classes for cooking and baking and I knew that they had a macaron class. I had wanted to take it with a girlfriend in another store, but she thought the class was demo only so we didn’t take it thinking if we were going to spend our hard earned dollars, we wanted to get our hands dirty. So I asked the clerk if it was a hands on class and she assured me it was. Sold. I signed up in December for the Valentine Macaron class and it was the best $75 I have spent in a long time on something other than cute shoes.

There were about 20 people in the class and the instructor was terrific. This women had done her dissertation at the Culinary Institute of America on Meringues, and approached it totally scientifically. We learned the first macarons were a mistake in a bakery, I think the famous Laduree because they have made a reputation on macarons. Other key takeaways, you need a scale, you have to fold the air OUT of the batter, the batter should be shiny and “sigh” when it is moved in the bowl and a little gel food coloring will go a long way. (We also learned Swiss buttercream that same day, but that’s another post.)

The first batch I did after the class were perfect! And I don’t bake a lot for the simple reason that you have to be way to precise to bake and get great results. Before macaron class my baking was limited to Irish Soda Bread ( I made 200 loaves for wedding favors for my reception) and double chocolate brownies with ganache frosting.

But I played with the technique off and on for the past year when I could and not at all in the summer. The humidity is a complete deal breaker. The key to macarons is DRY air.

So as the year progresses and I share each month’s macaron, I’ll give some more insight into them.

So without further ado here is the Christmas Edition macaron, made for our holiday open house recently.

IMG_0519

And then I found myself on the day after Christmas with some time on my hands. What’s a girl to do? Make macarons of course. This batch was orange flavored with chocolate ganache filling and candied orange peel on top.

orange macarons with ganache

orange macarons with ganache

And it seems the worst of the winter has set in this week, with 2 days of snow on Thursday and Friday. I could get ready for Downton Abbey on Sunday nite by making a batch of “Violet” macarons in honor of the Dowager Countess….hmmm. Watch this space!

Finish Work – Mirror, Mirror Tags

I was going through some projects on New Year’s Day that I started before the holidays and noticed one that had no pep. So I figured I would put it up here and see if anyone has any ideas. Originally I wanted to use the stamp as a mirror frame a la Snow White and put a tiny mirror in the middle opening, but I haven’t been able to find oval ones, only round. What else does it need?

 

photo (3)

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!

I always think that taking down the holiday decorations on New Year’s Day is a way of resetting the switch. Cleaning out the corners that have been hidden by greenery and gifts. Good to have all the furniture back in place. I will miss the window candles, however , as I have always been a sucker for the light they add to a house at nite, and being able to have them on and no other lights in a room except maybe the christmas tree and candles. Just lovely.

So I stuck with my tradition of taking down the tree and decorations during the Rose Parade. This was after a feast of lobster and champagne last night, another one of our holiday traditions. We have had that for dinner on New Year’s Eve almost as many years as we have been married (17) and definately every year that we have lived in this house (8).

Last year after a feast of lobster and champagne I was playing with the corks and wire cages that keep the cork in place on the bottle. It was early days in my “craft a week” challenge and I had seen a picture somewhere of champagne cage creations made by people with far greater skill than mine. Well, in for a penny and all that. This is what I made last year

Evernote Camera Roll 20130120 203659And this is what I made this year…

.photo (11)

So much cuter don’t you think? If I still had a Barbie dream house I would use these on her patio!

I also fooled around with a new recipe this week and have posted pictures of two differant batches of macarons I made in the last two weeks. Check out my recipe and macaron pages and come back and visit whenever you can!