Wednesday 30 November 2011

Kitchen Christmas Vignettes

Christmas Blogger Party Season has arrived!
Last year I spent hours as a non-blogger reading post after post linked up to the various parties out there, so this year I'm super excited to actually be a participant!

There are some great vignette parties coming up so...of course I have to join in!

These shelves in my kitchen have become my favorite to decorate for every season.
Funny...considering how much I disliked them when we first moved into this house (the previous owners left them behind). I'm going with a red/white/silver theme in the kitchen this year, so I have had lots of fun creating something out of both new and old items.

This sleigh was a gift from my sister in law years ago.
My mom let me sift through her boxes of Christmas decor last year (I inherited my Christmas-decorating-disease from her) so her berry and pine sprays were definite must-haves. Love them.

The little silver basket was also from my mom, and I'm inclined to think it was from her mom, but I'm not totally sure about that. I love it and was so happy to see it again in one of my totes this year (I have a habit of forgetting where I've packed things).

The little alpine tree is a favorite and I'm really enjoying seeing it out on display this year.
Of course, every Christmasy home needs some yummy smells too, right?
I thought this apple cinnamon scented reed diffuser fit right in with it's cute little snowflake design!

On the opposite wall is my little peppermint themed vignette, together with the advent tree.

The tutorial for this candy stripe ruffle wreath is here, in case you missed it early this week! 

The kiddies are anxiously awaiting opening up their first advent package tomorrow morning!
Ooooh treats!!

I have been hunting for apothecary jars all year long, and I finally found the taller one last August at a Christmas blowout for one of the local hardware stores in our old hometown. It had been marked down to $11...I grabbed that thing so fast and felt like yelling "start the car!!" to my mother-in-law.
I did restrain myself, don't worry.
The smaller jar is from the local Dollar Store. Love those Dollar Stores!!!

My brother and his family are spending Christmas with us this year and they loooove candy, so these were put out with them in mind (hopefully the sour cherry balls are still there by Christmas!).
 Although I discovered the other day that it's rather tricky to get anything out of that taller jar, especially if you're trying to be sneaky about it!
It's sort of like the monkey with his hand on the banana inside the jar.
You can get your hand out, but not if you're holding onto the candy!

Recognize this shabby chic mirror turned chalkboard from last summer?!

I'm looking forward to showing you the rest of my kitchen soon, along with the rest of the house!

I have some fun ornament tutorials coming up soon, so be sure to check back for those!
Here's a of them involves glitter and another involves fabric, fire and sparkly gemstones! Hmmmm....

Linking up to:

To see the other great parties I'm linking up to, click HERE!

Sunday 27 November 2011

Candy Stripe Ruffle Wreath

Happy Sunday everyone!
To all my American friends...I hope you had a fantastic Thanksgiving and have recovered from turkey overload!

This week I finally finished a project that has been swirling around in my head for some time.

The candy stripe ruffle wreath.
I really thought I was ahead of the game this year with my Christmas projects, but somehow time races away and my "to do" list is still rather long, with not so much time left to scratch things off!

This is the first time we've owned a home that is not more or less "open concept" I've been having loads of fun coming up with a few different Christmas decorating themes for different rooms.
I decided to go with a red & white theme in the kitchen, with a bit of a peppermint candy theme.
So here enters the candy stripe wreath!

Want to make your own?
Here's how!

First off, wreath forms are VERY hard to find in my little town for some silly reason.
I don't think anyone sells pool noodles here when it's below freezing either, so I had to resort to another method. Did I mention the nearest craft store is a 45 minute drive from here?
(And no, I don't live in a mountain cave, but it certainly is starting to sound like it!)
I read a tutorial by Classy Clutter on I Heart Nap Time where they used pipe insulation to create a candy cane form, so I figured it would work just as well for a wreath form.
And hey...I can get to a hardware store in a couple minutes! 
Even better - the insulation only cost me 59 cents. 
Me likey.

Just tape the two ends together with packing or duct tape and you have your form.
How easy is that?
If you need a form that has more structure (for heavier embellishments), you could fish a coat hanger through it too.

**Edited: Wow!! Apparently I have my head buried deep in the sand! Can you believe I had never seen a wreath form like this used in blogland before - with exception to the candy cane form? D-uh. Obviously I don't get "out" enough. I did, however, come across these handy little tips on dealing with foam insulation if it's giving you trouble. Mine never did, but if yours is...go over to this post by The Penny Parlour to get some great troubleshooting pointers.**

Next, I wrapped white satin ribbon around the form.
Because the insulation tends to melt under hot glue, you need to start gluing on the tape.

Then continue wrapping and fastening, by putting the glue on the ribbon - not on the form - as shown in this picture.

Next, I used painters tape to figure out where I wanted my red stripes.
(three cheers for the eagle eye who spots where I ran out of ribbon and used a crepe streamer!)
The painters tape is great because you can take it off and move it around until you figure out exactly where you want your stripes.

Mark little lines along the edges of the tape so you will have a guideline, then remove the tape.

I used a 2.5 inch biscuit cutter as a template for tracing out about a million little circles on red and white felt.
Okay, I exaggerate. Only half a million, give or take a couple thousand. 
Make sure you cut out the circles inside the pen marks! 
Otherwise it won't look pretty and we definitely want pretty. 

Take your circle, fold it in half, in half again and then snip off the point.

Glue down your little ruffle. Repeat many, many, many times.
Put your red ruffles inside the guidelines you drew earlier, and then fill in the rest with white.

I have seen ruffle or rosette wreaths before, but I have not read any tutorials on them, so if there is a "proper" way to do it, I'm not aware of it. I just glued my ruffles down however I thought they would look best...upside down, not upside down, get the idea.
The ruffle/rosette police has not come to my house yet, and I kinda doubt they will come to yours!

There you have it.
Be prepared to burn your fingers silly during the process, by the way.
But I think you'll be happy in the end!

I'm looking forward to showing you the rest of my kitchen soon, but that's another post for another day and another party!
Until then, I'm trying very hard not to eat all the sour cherry candies in that jar!


Feathered Nest Friday

Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special


Weekend Bloggy Reading

The DIY Show Off

holiday home button centsational girl

To see the other great parties I'm linking up to this week, click HERE!!

Sunday 20 November 2011

Pretend Starbucks at Home

When Hubs and I take an overnight trip that requires a hotel stay,
our favorite breakfast is a good cup of Starbucks coffee and fresh baked pastries.
Okay. Maybe I need to correct that.
That's my favorite breakfast.
Hubs would be much more likely to go for a pound of bacon with a side of eggs.

We don't do too much hotel staying in our current phase of life, and the closest Starbucks is a good 45 minutes away. I'm sure you can see my predicament, can't you. 
What's a girl to do on lazy Saturday morning (is there really such a thing as a lazy morning with two toddlers?), when you're craving fresh pastries and a latte?

Enter Pumpkin Scones.
My bloggy friend Susan (she has a private blog, otherwise I'd be sending you all over there)
posted the recipe for these a while back, and I knew I had found a solution to my woes.
This time of year I'm always looking for a recipe to use up my extra pumpkin puree anyhow, so really it kills two birds with one stone, right?

Here's how you can get your own fresh pastry fix...

Pumpkin Scones

2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
 1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
 1 tsp vanilla
Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in butter and crumble well. Mix together milk, pumpkin, vanilla.
Add to dry ingredients and mix together. Knead 3-4 times. Shape into circle and cut into 8 pieces.
Bake 20 minutes @ 375 degrees.
I made mine into mini scones, so I could eat more.
 I just cut the circle into 16 pieces instead...perfect for an afternoon coffee break too!

Now. This part is very important.
You will not have the same experience without the butter frosting.
Trust me on this one.

Whipped Butter Icing
3/4 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 tsp boiling water
2 tsp milk
 2 tsp vanilla
Mix all ingredients together with hand mixer until smooth.
Pipe or spread the frosting over your cooled scones.
Sit down with a cozy blanket, light a fire, pour a cup of coffee or make a latte, and you're all set.

And Susan...thanks for sharing! ; )

And last, but definitely not least...I want to say a big ol' WELCOME to all the new BPPackages followers!!
I know some of you I have been able to welcome through email responses and others I haven't been able to reach (don't forget to change your "no reply blogger" settings!), so I want to make sure to say it here!
I appreciate you all so much! : )


Feathered Nest Friday

Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special


Weekend Bloggy Reading

To see the other great parties I'm linking up to, click HERE!

Friday 18 November 2011

A Very Special Night...And a Recipe

Last week I mentioned that hubby and I were celebrating our fifth anniversary and shared...oh...a hundred or so wedding pictures with you.
 It was fun taking a little trip down memory lane and recalling some of the humorous situations and moments!
Since we've moved to a new town (when am I going to stop saying "new"? It's been almost a year already!), we don't tend to go out much as couple, mainly due to not knowing any babysitters and having no family nearby. I'm one of those freaky parents that has to know the sitter better than my right hand before I will trust them with my children, so...we don't go out much.
When we were trying to come up with some ideas on how to celebrate our anniversary, we decided that instead of going to a nice restaurant as we have done in years past, we would bring the restaurant home and create our own special meal for each other.
We both love to cook for special occasions, but through our long five years together (haha), we have discovered we do NOT, under any circumstances, work well in the kitchen together!
So in order to keep things peaceful and lovely, we each created three courses and essentially stayed out of the other person's way while he/I cooked.
 It worked out fantastically.
In fact, I would say this has been the most enjoyable anniversary yet!!

And because we're dorks, of course we had to take pictures of everything.

We set up a little round table in our room, complete with freshly ironed black and white linens.
 Our bedroom is the only room in the house we've renovated and actually really like, so it seemed like a great choice.  

And, have I mentioned, our bedroom is the only room in the house with a fireplace?

A decorated Christmas tree added some nice ambiance...

...together with some candlelight and pretty, glittery flowers...

 Hubs wanted to create an amuse buche, so he whipped up some scallop ceviche.
It. was. amazing. Bite sized yumminess.

I made parmesan tuile cones filled with a mixture of ricotta, crispy prosciutto, melon and green onion.
They were surprisingly easy to put together!
I'll add the recipe at the end of this post, so can try them yourself.

Hubs wanted to have a deconstructed salad of some sort, so he deconstructed a Greek salad.
It was sooo good.
He said his motivation was the sticks of feta.
Hubby loves feta, and that, my friend, is quite an understatement! 

When I read about Karen from The Art of Doing Stuff making her Smoked Tomato and Roasted Pepper Soup, I knew right away that I was going to make it for this course.
Let me just say this...if you like a bit of kick to your soup, you must try this recipe!!! 
The cilantro cream dollop and chipotle tortilla crisps absolutely MAKE the soup.

Hubs working away in our teeny tiny kitchen, getting ready for the piece de resistance...

Lobster ravioli with crab cream sauce.
Oh my. It was so AMAZING.
He cooked the lobster and make the pasta from scratch...and that sauce...oh my.
Even three days later, the leftovers were incredible.

Why were there leftovers, you ask?
Well, in spite of the fact that we ate slowly and dinner last three hours or so...after five courses, you do tend to get a little full.
 Oddly enough.

Eventually we found room to finish everything off with a light dessert of Raspberry Truffles drizzled with a raspberry lime sauce, and chocolate cream filled strawberries. 
It was dee-lightful. 

It was definitely an evening to remember!
If you have a special occasion coming up and are wondering what to do...hopefully we have sparked some creative ideas for you!

Here is the recipe for the Parmesan Tuile Cones 
slightly adapted from The Essential Fingerfood Cookbook.

5 oz. Parmesan, finely grated
pinch of paprika
5 oz. ricotta cheese
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 Tbsp. milk
3 Tbsp. fresh, thinly sliced green onions,
 3 slices prosciutto
1/4 cantaloupe cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Use a 2 3/4 in. circle cutter as a guide, by placing on baking paper.
Spread 3 tsp. parmesan and a touch of paprika around evenly within the cutter, then carefully lift the cutter off, making sure to keep the parmesan round in tact.
Repeat for each tuile.
Bake only 3 -4 at a time, for 3 minutes or until the parmesan is melted and golden.
Carefully remove from baking sheet with a spatula, and wrap around the end of a cream horn mould to form a cone shape. Cool.
If the rounds start to harden too quickly, return to the oven for a few seconds to soften again.
Beat the ricotta cheese, lemon juice and milk in a bowl until smooth.
Stir in most of the green onions, salt and cracked black pepper.
Grill the prosciutto until crisp, allow to cool and then break into small pieces.
Spoon the cheese filling into a small ziplock bag and squeeze into a corner.
Twist the top of the bag and cut off the corner tip to form a piping bag.
Carefully fill the cones with the ricotta filling, then garnish with melon, green onion and crispy prosciutto.

Savor slowly and enjoy!!

Weekend Bloggy Reading
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