Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by and/or commented on my blog and/or sent me an email and a big, fat New Year's smooch to my regular blog peeps! And a really extra long inappropriate hug with a butt squeeze to Decorno. Go vote for her. Shit. You don't want to spend early 2009 listening to her whine about not winning*. I mean, she took away comment moderation and everything.
Here's to a happy, healthy, prosperous and, oh yeah, rockin' 2009!
*Okay, I am on my second cocktail from the last post and I think this is hilarious so keep that in mind. Besides, if it wasn't for Decorno, I would never have started a blog.
I fought the crowds the day after Christmas to get these saucer champagnes (on sale) for tonight. One of my all-time favorite cocktails is this Champagne-Grand Marnier Cocktail. I stole it from P.F. Chang's which is a lousy restaurant but their cocktails kick ass.
I always use Veuve Clicquot because I like it and it's what I tend to have on hand. But any brut should work. You can try it with Prosecco but that may be too sweet due to sugar content. Perhaps just remove the cube.
Champagne-Grand Marnier Cocktail
sugar cube 2-3 drops bitters 1 oz. Grand Marnier 3 oz. chilled champagne
First, rim a flute or saucer champagne glass with sugar (sanding or fine sugar is best) - run a half lemon or orange around the glass and dip in sugar. Put sugar cube in glass and add bitters. Next add Grand Marnier and top with chilled champagne. Delish! But it packs a punch so be warned. I have made up some of my best songs after a couple of these cocktails. And a particularly memorable phone call.
A variation on this cocktail is to use 1/2 oz. cognac and 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier.
I used to order champagne cocktails when I was young and I didn't know what to order. It's perfect for a night like tonight. Another favorite that I discovered this summer an elegant old classic, The Negroni.
1 oz. good gin 1 oz. sweet vermouth 1 oz. Campari
Stir with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass 3/4 filled with cracked ice. Add a splash of soda water if desired. Garnish with a half slice of orange.
I actually prefer to make it like a martini - shaken with ice until it's very cold and strained into a martini glass, without the soda, garnished with orange peel. If you like Campari and gin, you will love this.
2008 - What a year it was. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times - personally, politically, financially. It was a year of firsts: First black president, first woman running for the office, first time gas shot up over $4 a gallon ($5 in some areas), the first Depression since the last Depression. Let's review:
Our new first family.
Mad Men takes off.
Ms. Tina catches fire. Finally.
Bad aim. Perhaps you can do better. Play the game here.
Too bad Jews don't believe in hell.
Speaking of hell. Looks like another recruit.
I am still waiting for A) My money back; or B)The ceremony where Meryl Streep gives back at least one of her Oscars for this atrocity.
Lehman goes down. And takes its investors with.
Madonna goes down...town with her man-arms.
Nathan's Top Design winning room. Ugly. Coyote ugly.
And in a category all its own:
I would love to see some adds to this. Favorite or worst movie of 2008? Book? Event? Reality show? And then let's kiss this baby (a la The Dating Game) Goodbye!
I am usually drawn to white kitchens with marble counters but I find I am tiring of the look due to its ubiquitousness. Don't get me wrong; I still love it. It's just that all of my favorite kitchen renos in the past few years have resulted in white kitchens with carrera marble counters and stainless appliances.
It looks like black is gaining ground, starting with the black beauty above. The cupboards are beautifully done in Benj. Moore's Midsummer Night. I like the difference in materials on the island versus the counters but I could do without the cordoned off appliance "garage." I'm also not sure of the necessity or utility of two sinks that close together, even though one is for prep. I love that the top cabinets go all the way up. I also like the counter stools from Crate & Barrel, even though they appear to be major butt coolers. The floor looks like mosaic tiles or something but I believe it's floor runners. The cow head is a nod to Country French kitchens but I'd love to see an unfitted cupboard on that wall (assuming it'd fit) or some art rather than the mirror, even a blackboard such as that in the photo below.
Industrial Strength kitchen, Mary Engelbreit Home Companion, Dec. '08/Jan. '09.
I do not, however, like shiny black appliances. Except for Viking Ranges and this massive La Cornue (neither of which are shiny) which appears in Ina Garten's (Barefoot Contessa) Paris apartment in the Nov. '08 issue of Town & Country. You really have to be a major kind of a cook to warrant it and it helps if you live in Paris, just because.
The floors are very good-looking trompe l'oeil wood painted to resemble limestone and tumbled marble. Again, perfect for Paris.
I am loving the black but my absolute favorite kitchens are unfitted. I'll try to do a post on unfitted kitchens after the new year.
Am I the only person out there who didn't realize that "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" and "God Save the Queen" were/are the same tune?
My daughter pointed this out to me last week after having learned "God Save the Queen" which they will play in London on New Year's Day and then I noticed it again this morning on Pigtown Design.
Apparently, this was intentional. And changing the lyrics, specifically the very last lyrics from "God Save the Queen" to "Let Freedom Ring" was the equivalent of a middle finger to the Crown.
That's not all we stole in the music department. In my few minutes of research on this, I found that apparently Francis Scott Key did not just whip our National Anthem out of the recesses of his mind, unless his mind was preoccupied by a British Drinking Song, "The Anacreontic Song." It was the official song of the eponymous 18th century club made up of amateur musicians, otherwise employed as doctors and lawyers and whatnot. Technically, whether it's an actual drinking song is up for debate, but it sounds good and suits us, I think.
I am all about the balls at Christmas. I never realized to what degree. Yesterday I made Snowball Cookies (most well-known as Russian Tea Cakes) and Cocktail Meatballs to freeze and heat in sauce for Christmas day. The sauce sounds unusual combining chili sauce and grape jelly but I promise you it's good. I don't really eat red meat but it's a much-requested favorite.
Today I am going to make old-fashioned cocoa fudge (in squares!). It's not too creamy and has a richness new fudge lacks. It's what my mom made when I was a kid so I'm partial to it. It's on the Hershey's website here. Then I am making many other non-ball-shaped things including spinach and blue cheese phyllo pastries and Scotcharoos (Rice Krispie treats with peanut butter and butterscotch and a layer of chocolate - the kids love this). I am going to be absolutely rotund by the new year.
I am in love with these wreaths. They look like mercury glass and can't you just imagine them with big, fat velvet bows at the bottom? From Zofia Designs, they are a little late for this Christmas, but you can get a jump on next year. Only $55.
The Sunday Breakfast Mission, Wilmington, DE, News Journal photo
I know I don't need to remind you awesome people, but please don't forget about your local food banks and breakfast missions or soup kitchens. They're desperate this year due to the extraordinary number of people in need.
What you can't see from this photo is that more of these people are employed than ever before. And the line includes more women and children than ever before. Where the clientele at the Sunday Breakfast Mission, a soup kitchen and shelter in Wilmington, Delaware used to be mostly homeless men, women and children are now making up approximately one-third of the clientele. The Breakfast Mission is currently unable to accommodate women in its shelter so it is in the midst of a fundraising campaign to build a shelter for women so they do not have to cross state lines for shelter. The Food Bank of Delaware is struggling with need up 25% from previous years. I imagine the hundreds of places across the country, in your neighborhood, are no different. And look how happy you will be if you volunteer at the Food Bank.
There are also the animal shelters to think about. They, too, are experiencing food shortages from donations being down due to the economic crisis.
Not telling you anything you don't already know. These types of charities count on donations during the holidays when people are feeling especially charitable and hope they receive an overage of supplies to get them through what is sure to be a tough winter.
I'm entering my house in the Hooked on Houses Holiday House Tour. Welcome. It's all dolled up for the holidays which suits it (it's actually a jeans and diamonds kind of a place - a little fancy but you're not afraid to kick back and get comfy). Let's grab a cup of eggnog and go.
I made this faux snowlady out of grapevine balls - she's perched on an urn on the front porch:
It's a Liberace meets Pocahontas Christmas on the sunporch with some feathers and a little bit of bling:
There is always a puppy curled up in front of the living room fire.
Okay, first I accidentally added the photo without the stockings and now that they're here the story behind that long, skinny stocking is that I made those stockings for the kids and I was running out of fabric with one left. It was for my 6'4", very slim stepson who gained that nickname from me as a result of being John V. So...
There's usually one curled up in the bookcase as well.
My husband brought home this Nutcracker for me the other night (along with tickets to see the Nutcracker on Christmas Eve in Philly). Isn't he handsome?
Just a touch of Christmas in the dining room (which is attached to the living room so the fireplace is right there) with this dried box wreath hanging on a chartreuse satin ribbon.
The real tree is in the family room. It's not real but unlike the fun tree on the sunporch, this is our actual tree. I wasn't sure if we'd be in town so I put up the fake tree this year and bought extra pine-scented candles.
My daughter bought the angel topper one year for my Christmas present. It's topped the tree ever since. It's also covered in my favorite ornaments - some of which I've had most of my life.
Tiny decks for the cabinets on the sides of the window seat.
Right next door is the kitchen eating area with a light over the table that my husband bought when we were visiting family in Chicago one year and had sent back for my Christmas present (with the help of one of my little elf girlfriends). There will be a beautiful bouquet of white flowers with winter greens on the table in a few days.
More chartreuse satin ribbon in the kitchen.
Outside of those same doors.
It's getting dark so early. Tour's over. So glad you came.
To see some of the other homes in the Holiday House Tour, click here.
My little furry people also love a treat. Here is a great dog cookie recipe that I got from the December issue of the about-to-be-defunct Country Living. I have tried quite a few, being the awesome dog mommy that I am and this recipe is definitely a keeper.
Yes, those are absolutely fire hydrant and kitty cookie cutters. If you're gonna do it, do it right.
Cheesy Dog-Bone Biscuits
4 oz. Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Grated 4 Tablespoons Butter, softened and cut into about 16 pieces 3/4 cup All-Purpose Unbleached Flour (plus extra for rolling dough) 1/4 teaspoon salt (it calls for half but I reduced it) I added about 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder (dogs love it) 1 Tablespoon Half-and-Half (I needed a little more, about double)
Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, combine cheese, butter, flour and salt; pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add half-and-half; process on low speed until dough forms a ball (add a little more half-and-half if ball doesn't form).
On a lightly floured surface (again, I used the large Silpat for rolling) using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough out to approx. 1/8-inch thick. Cut biscuits with a cookie cutter and transfer to an ungreased (Silpat- or parchment- covered) cookie sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Let cool.
The finished product: Puffy, golden, cheesy.
One happy customer:
My old girl. She'll be 15 in February.
Stella sat by the oven the entire time they were baking. My furry girls loved them and your dogs and your friends' dogs will love them, too!