Take A ‘Peek’ (A Fun Blogging Tool)

Hello Friends! With Hanukkah and Christmas fast approaching, I’m guessing most of you are pretty busy right about now! But I hope you’re not too busy for this. I came across a web site a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been chompin’ at the bit to share with you! It’s called Peek and I love it, and you’re gonna love me for sharing it! Not only that, it can really help you gain some valuable insight into your website. Sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in a rut with my blog, but when someone else points something out that could use a little tweaking, it kinda gets my rear in gear, kwim?

 

Test Your Website

 

Here’s how it works: Once on their site (link below) simply put in your URL, the email address you want the results sent to, and you’re done. Just go about your business of saving the world, and in less than 24 hours, you’ll receive a video of someone ‘critiquing’ your website…yup, the good, the bad, and all the rest. So you need to put on your big girl panties and be brave, ’cause whoever is checking out your site isn’t going to like everything. 

As for me, a comment was made about the color of my MadMimi subscribe option in my sidebar. It was bright red and I have to admit I didn’t like it either, but hearing someone else articulate that (he specifically said it looked too ’90’s’) motivated me to change it. Another HUGE issue, at least for me, is that my site is not mobile friendly. You DO know that a big portion of users are viewing our sites on mobile devices, right? (Don’t worry, I’m not. I’m lucky I can read on the iPad version).

So…want to know if your site is responsive? That’s really easy to do also. Just click here and enter your URL and you’ll get your results in seconds. There’s also a link once you’re there to help you if you want to get your site up to snuff. It doesn’t always involve code, so don’t get nervous! Sometimes a plug in will do the trick, like Jetpack if you’re on WP for example, and I’m sure Blogger has a few as well.

Ready? Just click here for a look at the Peek website and an easy way to try this yourself. Feeling nosey and want to see the results of my mobile test? Click here. If you decide to do this, remember to have your site tested on a desktop and a mobile device as well. (Peek makes it easy because once you’re there they will ask, and they’ll also send you a follow up email reminding you.)

Oh, and did I mention it’s free? You get to request a test up to three times a month and a really cool feature is it doesn’t even have to be your site! You can test any website out there. So go ahead. Test out that blog’s website you love (or hate).

One caveat: the people who are testing are random people, so they may or may not fit your target market. If you have a Mom blog and a 75 year old retired lumberjack is checking out your site, chances are he may not get what you’re trying to do so take the critique with a grain of salt. In my case, I didn’t really change anything that wasn’t bothering me in the first place. I still have a few things to work on but I’ll get to them in due time. There’s also a paid version which gives you more options and you can even select your target market to check out your site, and there’s lots of other cool features. 

Give it a try and I’d love to know what you think!

 

In other news…

 

We had the grandkids this weekend for one last visit before we leave for two months. We took them to see A Christmas Carol at a cute little local theatre Friday night, and last night we went to a holiday light show called Bright Nights. I’ll share some pics soon, but suffice it to say it’s spectacular and most likely unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

In honor of our possible upcoming RV purchase, my friend picked this up for me, totally tongue in cheek ;).

 

gingerbread house

 

In year’s past, I made some very cute gingerbread houses with our oldest grandson which you can check out here, and this weekend we had fun today assembling this one. Thanks Elaine! 

A Trio of ‘Christmas’ Bark

chocolate christmas bark

 

Call the blogging police. I cheated a bit with the title of this post. There’s none of these in these barks,

candy

and there’s none of these,

candy

and there’s definitely none of these.

candy

 

*Note* This post has been updated on December 14th. I learned I wasn’t supposed to include the Salted Caramel Recipe here on the blog but I could link you to it.

There’s just gooey caramel, good quality chocolate and lots of other yummy goodness that will be sure to bring a smile, and a few pounds, to the teachers or co-workers, or anyone else, on your holiday gift list.

Chocolate bark is one of my favorite ‘I’m feeling lazy but want to make something’ things to make. It’s unbelievably easy and takes less than 30 minutes to put together. It’s super versatile too. Go ahead and put your favorite ingredients in, or use whatever you have on hand, (which is exactly what I did with the ‘Tropical Christmas Bark’).

I came across the Salted Caramel recipe over on MissInformation’s blog and couldn’t resist giving it a try. While I was at it, I gathered some ingredients and made the ‘Tropical Christmas Bark’ which I adore since I’m a coconut freak (hey, it has cranberries so that kinda counts as Christmasy), and as luck would have it, I came across another recipe in today’s local paper which sounds awesome, but I haven’t tried it so proceed at your own risk. ;) I’m just including it so I get to say ‘A Trio of Christmas Bark’ in the post title. Sounds better than ‘A duo’, right?

 

Tropical Christmas Bark
Yields 20
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. Approximately 16 oz of dark, good quality chocolate (I used Ghirardelli)
  2. Approximately 8 oz of good quality milk chocolate
  3. 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  4. 1 cup flaked coconut (sweetened or unsweetened. I used unsweetened. It's a matter of personal preference).
  5. 1 cup of chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. 1. Place a piece of parchment or wax paper on a cookie sheet (see tip below)
  2. 2. Place both packages of chocolate chips in a separate bowl and melt in the microwave (or over a double boiler). If using the micro, set it for 2 minutes on high then stir. If you still have lumps, continue microwaving it in 30 second intervals.
  3. 3. Spread the melted chocolate with a spatula on the parchment, making sure the chocolate goes all the way to the edges.
  4. 4. Place the cranberries, coconut and pecans on top, distributing them accordingly
  5. 5. Place your cookie sheet in the freezer for 20 minutes
  6. 6. Take it out of the freezer and break the bark into pieces. The best way to do this is turn it over while attached to the paper and use a mallet to break it apart.
  7. 7.Pull off the paper and layer in a food safe container with parchment separating the pieces. Will keep for up to one week if refrigerated.
Notes
  1. Tip: use a damp sponge to lightly wipe the cookie sheet before you place the paper on it to prevent it from moving while spreading the chocolate.
  2. When melting chocolate, I like to take it to the point where there are still some lumps and then stir until the lumps disappear. I find this yields a creamier, glossier end product.
HouseHoneys.com http://www.househoneys.com/

chocolate bark

 

christmasbark1

 

Now here’s the recipe I mentioned that was in today’s paper:

Grown Up Crackle Bark
Serves 18
A satisfying sweet treat laden with peanut butter and honey
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 tablespoon coffee beans, finely crushed (see notes below)
  2. 3 tablespoons barley malt syrup
  3. 6 tablespoons honey
  4. 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  5. 2 cups crushed Shreadded Wheat breakfast cereal
  6. 1/2 cup Grape-Nuts breakfast cereal
  7. 1/2 cup dark chocolate bits
  8. Coarse Sea Salt
  9. 1/2 cup chopped lightly salted peanuts
Instructions
  1. Have 2 sheets of parchment or waxed paper the size of baking sheets nearby.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the coffee beans, malt syrup, honey and peanut butter. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in both cereals until everything is evenly coated. Spoon the mixture onto 1 sheet of waxed paper, then top it with the second sheet.
  3. Working quickly, use the back of a large spoon or a rolling pin to flatten and squash the mixture into a thin sheet about 1/4 inch thick. Remove the top sheet and top with the chocolate bits. Allow to sit for 2 to 3 minutes so the chocolate can melt.
  4. Use a butter knife or offset spatula to spread the chocolate evenly over the top of the bark. Sprinkle generously with sea salt and peanuts.
  5. Allow to fully cook, then break into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for us to a week.
HouseHoneys.com http://www.househoneys.com/
Just in case you haven’t had enough Chocolate Bark for one day, take a look at my Trader Joe’s Copycat Chocolate Bark. OH.MY.GAWD. It’s awesome!

 

In other news…

 

Are you completely bored yet with hearing about my Birth Certificate fiasco? I know I am. Here’s the latest: I sent my Confirmation Certificate last Wednesday certified mail to them. As of today, they are saying they don’t have it, although the post office indicates it was received Monday at 9 a.m. ARRRGGGGHHHHHHH!

 

 

Easy Homemade Holiday Gifts-Part 2

Here we go again. Just in case you didn’t get the hint with last week’s post, I really want you to get out of the mall and into the kitchen. You’ll thank me, your friends will thank me, and your wallet will too.

 

homemade gifts 

I’m kinda crushing on these nutella marshmallows, and the espresso flavored sugar cubes are sheer genius. If you want to send me something, I’ll take those tyvm. 

food collage

 Espresso Flavored Sugar Cubes, Nutella Marshmallows, Best Homemade Lotion, Salted Chocolate Pecan Toffee

I love chai anything. I’ll take a chai tea over coffee almost anytime (except for first thing in the morning), so you can be sure I’ll be making some of this chai concentrate.

foodcollage3

No Knead Ciabatta Bread, Soft Honey Nougat, Brownie Mix in a Jar, Chai Concentrate

This balsamic fig chutney sounds fabulous. I love anything with figs. Growing up we had a fig tree in our backyard and there were few things I enjoyed more than a freshly picked, perfectly ripe fig. I’ve had them on pizza, drizzled with honey and goat cheese or just plain. Truly heaven on earth for me.

giftcollage1 

Lemon Cordial (This link leads you to a website with other homemade gifts, but this one is a purchased item), Gingerbread Cookie Dough, Lemon Garlic Salt, Balsamic Fig Chutney

 

Here’s another link you might enjoy. I didn’t include it in the collages because I would have had to purchase their photo, but I think it’s worth adding in. There’s a few mighty good lookin’ munchies there!

Looking for more ideas? Check out my post from last week here, and my recipe page here, where you’ll find some yummy goodness like my cowboy bark, heavenly hash and pepper jelly.

 

In other news…

 

We’re getting ready to hit the road in a couple of weeks for the Sunshine State, so I’m trying to do what I can to get some posts ready. I’m thinking about maybe a couple of organizing posts since January is a popular time for that and maybe revitalizing a few old posts while I’m at it. Depending on how things go, I hope to give you some updates on our travels, but I won’t have my beloved Mac so we shall see how that goes. Is there anything you’d like to see/learn about? Let me know!

 

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Metamorphosis Monday 

Your Turn To Shine

 

 

 

 

Holiday Inspiration

I’m not doing much holiday decorating this year. Now don’t go feeling all sorry for me or anything. Believe me, there’s no direct correlation between my self-esteem and how pimped up my house is this time of year.

When we moved in April, I got rid of pretty much all our holiday stuff except our ornaments. This will be the third year in a row we don’t have a tree. In December 2012, we sold our home and moved just days before Christmas. Last year, we were in a rental that I never quite warmed up to and I didn’t feel like decorating. This year, we won’t be here for Christmas, so that’s that.

The last time we had a tree it looked like this:

christmas tree

I like my men lean but my trees fat. Fat, and decorated in white, silver or gold. Or all three. I think it makes everything stand out more against the dark green of the tree. That year, I used very few ornaments, and now that I’m looking at the picture, I see the lights look like the cat had at it…except we didn’t have a cat.

Now back to feeling sorry for me. Don’t. I’m still getting my holiday fix.

Case in point: a few weeks ago I went to a holiday display celebration at a nursery with a friend. So there. If I was wallowing in self-pity, would I venture out to such an event?

This nursery always has such cute things, so I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos to share.

 

holiday decorations

 

botanicalgarden-3

 

botanicalgarden-4

 I think if we had a tree at the cabin, these would be just about perfect for it…

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and so would this! 

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botanicalgarden-8

 

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In my last post I mentioned I would be putting together some wreaths with a couple of friends this past Monday for a fundraiser. It was held at the Botanical Gardens in Stockbridge and they supplied all the materials, which were primarily nature inspired. 

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On Friday they will have their ‘preview’ fundraiser. The tickets are $150 each, and I’ve been told that most of the wreaths sell for more than $100! Well, it’s good to know our time will be put to good use. How many tickets do you want?

 

In other news…

 

The drama never ends. The night that we went to the nursery event, I purchased a cloche to send to our daughter in Singapore. (She needs something to display the brooch bouquet.) I liked that the bottom on this one is clear. They’re pretty hard to find in the size that she needs (a height of at least 18″ and a width of at least 10″) so I was thrilled after searching on line for weeks to find this one for $140 which was a pretty decent priced compared to many others I’ve seen.

cloche

So I go to UPS to send it and they wanted nearly $400! Seriously??! I was sending a 13 lb cloche, not the Titanic. I ended up sending it via the Post Office, which was around $170.00. Surprisingly it reached her in a few days, but unfortunately, this happened:

glass cloche

glass cloche

In case you’re wondering, I did insure it, but it’s difficult to ever get reimbursed, especially when you’re dealing with an overseas government. They want her to bring it to the post office, but that’s not happening. The box needed to be brought to her via a hand truck, and she’s in a city without a car. They’re just trying to make it difficult in the hopes we’ll forget about it. Guess they haven’t met me.

Now aren’t I just a little ray of sunshine today??!

And how was YOUR day??

 

 

12 Easy and Delicious Homemade Edible Gifts

There are so many reasons to take the time to make an edible gift…

  • They’re always appreciated, particularly when you take the time to consider what the lucky recipient likes
  • They’re typically inexpensive to make
  • They’re personal. Nothing says ‘I care’ more than something homemade
  • You can usually bang out several gifts in one afternoon
  • And last but not least, they keep you out of the mall

Here are 12 easy and delicious gifts of food, with something for everyone. Whether your recipient has a sweet tooth, is a gourmet cook or a health enthusiast, you’re sure to find something they’ll love receiving!

(If you have no interest in making anything homemade (gasp!), please skip to the bottom of this post for an important update regarding email updates)

 

Delicious Homemade Gifts

 

edible gifts

Sugar Cookie Buttons, Smoky Paprika Peppers, Edible Fruit Arrangement, Homemade Granola

secondfoodcollage

Dried Apricot, Date & Ginger Chutney, Hot Chocolate Truffles, Infused Olive Oils, Hot Fudge Sauce

edible gifts

Gingerbread Box & Mason Jars, Vanilla Hot Chocolate Mix, Salted Caramel Sauce, Barbecue Rub

 

I had a lot of fun curating these homemade goodies for you, so I think I’ll continue on and come up with some more I think you might like, maybe adding some some non-food items as well. But I can’t let you leave without letting you know about what I consider to be one of the best homemade edible gifts ever, especially if you have to send it to your recipient. They keep for weeks, are not delicate (important when mailing!) and perfect for the chocolate lover in your life! I’m talking about my world famous biscotti :).

 

chocolate biscotti

 Click here for the recipe!

Tomorrow I’ll be heading out to put together some wreaths for a fundraiser with a couple of friends and I’ll be sure to take some pictures and share them with you. This is the third year we’ll be doing this. The first year we made some wreaths which you can see here, and last year we worked on centerpieces which you can see here

 

In other news…

 

If you subscribe to my posts via email, you might have noticed you received two updates today. You also might have noticed you received an update for the first time today, even though you subscribed a while ago. I’ve mentioned in the past how much trouble I had been having with Feedburner, and I finally moved over to MadMimi (and I’m sooooo glad I did!). For reasons I don’t quite understand, it’s recommended that I not delete my Feedburner account, but rather delete the html source code for Feedburner. Well, I’ll tell you the same thing I told MadMimi…there’s no way I’m messing with code! So…if you don’t want to receive two email updates, just ‘unsubscribe’ from Feedburner. Don’t make a mistake and unsubscribe from MadMimi though! You’ll know which is which because it should say ‘Powered by MadMimi’ on the bottom of the email.

How To Restain A Wood Table Top

I’m probably the only blogger in the history of blogging who writes about a table redo a few days before Thanksgiving! I know I should be writing about food or tablescapes or other things holiday related, but indulge me, ok?

I’ve talked about our small dining table before here and more recently, here where I mentioned the sanding of this table was turning out to be more work than I had anticipated. A little background:We purchased this table more than 8 years ago, shortly after buying the cabin. It was a steal at less than $400, including the chairs. We were able to get such a great deal because the store was going out of business. At just 48″, it was the perfect size for this small space, plus I liked the idea of having a round table. They just seem to work better for ease of conversation, don’t you agree?

Even at the time of purchase, there were scratches because it had been on the selling floor for who knows how long, but it was never a huge issue because the table has an overall rustic feel to begin with. But I must confess I’ve thought about painting it many times over the years. Not only is painting easier than refinishing, but I thought a nice coat of creamy white would help it to stand out a bit against the log walls. But a dark wood table is timeless, and I wanted to try my hand at staining and figured this would be a good opportunity.

table top

 

Here’s a peak at some of the damage before…

wood table

 

…and here’s the ‘after’!

wood table

 

Here’s the low down on how I restored the top of this table in just a few days:

staining a tabletop

 

The first thing I did was gather all my supplies.

wood table

Here’s what I used: 1. stain  2. metal container (this is only needed if you’re mixing stains) 3. foam brushes  4. dust mask  5.  sander  6. sandpaper in medium and fine grit  7. tack cloth  8. wood conditioner  9. latex gloves   10. sanding wedge (not shown-optional)  11.  sticks for stirring/mixing the stain 12. satin poly or wax of choice (I used Minwax fast drying poly, not shown)

The only part of this table that was heavily damaged was the top. Thank goodness for that, because sanding the pedestal would be a difficult, tedious job due to all the nooks and crannies. I wanted to do a test run for the stain so I found a scratch on one of the chair bottoms to use for practice. 

I already had the stains that I would need. Yup, I said stains. I needed to use not one, not two, but three stains to get the color I was going for. In this case it was 3 parts Ipswich Pine to 1 part each of Gunstock and Dark Walnut, all by Minwax.

wood table leg

 

I sanded it smooth using 80 grit sandpaper…  

table-3

 

and here’s the color when I was finished.

tableleg

 

If you scroll back up and look closely, the ‘before’ looks like it has more yellow in it than the ‘after’. This is completely due to the lighting at the time of taking the photos. The truth is, the table has a little bit of yellow, a little bit of brown and a little bit of reddish tones. That’s what made it so tricky to find the right stain combinations, but I wanted the end result to blend in more with the brown tones than the yellows, and I got exactly what I was looking for.

Once I had the right stain combinations, we removed the top from the base and I did the bulk of the sanding outdoors. (Thank goodness it was warm enough, or else I’d be getting rid of dust in my house for weeks!) This was by far the most time consuming part. In total, I think I spent about 4 hours sanding. I’m certain it had more to do with the sander that I was using and also what was apparently a build up of varnish on the table top. If I ever do an extensive sanding project again, I’m going to invest in a belt sander. I had wanted the table to have a uniform finish after sanding, but I quickly realized that was not going to be possible. The nature of this wood, which is pine, is rustic and somewhat uneven and that’s actually the appeal of it. So I gave up that fight and decided this is what I was going to work with.

table-7

After using the wood conditioner (an important step, especially if you’re working with a soft wood) I applied a coat of stain with a foam brush and let it sit for a few minutes and then wiped away the excess. When you’re working with raw wood, it tends to be pretty thirsty so most of the stain was absorbed. After the first coat was dry, I sanded using a fine grit sandpaper, wiped it clean with the tack cloth, and applied another coat. Now, after I applied this coat, I FORGOT TO WIPE AWAY THE EXCESS! What that resulted in was a sticky surface. I used some mineral spirits on an absorbent cloth and wiped the table with a fair amount of pressure and that did the trick. Crisis averted.

The side on the right is after one coat of stain and the side on the left is after two coats. 

wood table

  

I applied three coats in total, and after the third coat of stain dried completely, I applied two coats of satin poly and here she is, good as new!

Actually, better!   

table-11

Now…I love the look of the table, but I still feel like the area needs some brightening up. The chairs have lots of interesting carvings and I’m thinking I should highlight those with paint. Or maybe paint the chairs a light color and distress the areas where the chairs have the carvings. I’ll live with it a while longer and see how I feel.

 

In other news…

 

It’s been another frustrating week dealing with the NY City Dept. of Health regarding the never ending saga of my BC. Here’s an excerpt from my latest email to an attorney at the Dept:

‘I have written to the Mayor’s office in NY, as well as a Consumer Advocacy group here in Massachusetts. If needed, I will also be contacting a local news station, and if none of these work, I will be forced to hire an attorney. I wish this wasn’t necessary, but I don’t see any other way around this bureaucracy.

Can we please put an end to this nonsense?’

 

I’m happy to say she emailed me back asking for additional information, so that’s encouraging. At least I hope so!!

I’m not sure I’ll get another post in this week, so let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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Metamorphosis Monday

 

What’s It Wednesday

 

 

Set To Celebrate! (Part 2)

Are you starting to get into the spirit of the holidays? If not, I think some of these pictures will help :).

If you missed my last post on Sunday, you may want to click here. (Since there were too many pictures to put in one post, I thought I’d divide them up a bit.)

 

place settings 

Although most of the tables had a holiday or ‘grown up’ theme, not all did. What do you think about this circus themed table? Pretty elaborate, especially with the added canopy!

circus setting

This next table garnered a LOT of attention, and it was well deserved. Of course, you wouldn’t be able to sit down at this table, but I suppose that’s a minor detail ;).

place settings

Sweet little birds were placed strategically through out the branches, and I really liked the combination of natural and glamorous touches, but I’ll be perfectly honest and say I’m including this because I just love this picture!

placesettings-38

 

placesettings-37

 

placesettings-39

Here’s a cute little table set for a young lady’s birthday celebration. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather have three small cakes with different fillings than one big one! Let’s see…maybe cannoli filling in one, chocolate mousse in another and coconut/lemon in the third. Yup, that would pretty much be heaven for me!

placesettings-27

 

place settings

This next table was another crowd favorite. Everyone, including me, seemed to be fascinated with the centerpiece. It’s really quite simple to make, using plastic, glittery beads, adhesive and LED lights. If you stay tuned, I think I may be able to show you a diy version soon. ;)

placesettings-29 

And isn’t this clever? A complete table showcasing various napkin folds. There must have been at least 50!

placesettings-30

I showed this table in my previous post, but forgot to include this shot of the front of it. If you look closely, you’ll notice those are ladles wrapped around the ends of the ribbon in various  heights. Very cool!

placesettings-23 

 Do you have a favorite? 

 

In other news…

 

I think my site was down for a good part of the day. I tried to log in around 3 to write this post, and it wouldn’t load up on the back end or the front end. I contacted hostgator and after chatting for 30 minutes (and that’s AFTER a 30 minute wait time) they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. As soon as we ended our chat, the site was working! They wrote a ‘ticket’ and said an administrator would contact me, but so far no one has. Good thing the site is up and running because if I had to wait for them to figure it out I’d still be waiting. It’s making me wonder if I want to stay with Hostgator. Who host’s your site? Have you been satisfied?

 

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What’s It Wednesday

Tablescape Thursday

Tweak It Tuesday

 

Set To Celebrate!

Are you looking at this from your phone? If you are, you may want to consider moseying on over to a desktop, or at least an iPad. You’re going to want to see this from a larger screen so you can fully appreciate all the delicious eye candy you’re about to see.

Saturday I went to a fundraiser called ‘Set To Celebrate’ in Hartford, Ct. that showcased table settings designed by various artisans. Most of the participants were florists or interior designers, so it’s safe to say they know they’re stuff, and it showed. But don’t take my word for it. Get comfortable and see for yourself.

Each table represented a different theme, and although it’s nearing the holidays and there were several Thanksgiving and Christmas themed tables, many were not. I’ll start with the more rustic, ‘Autumnal’ tables and work my way toward Christmas and then a couple of tables that would be fabulous for New Year’s and then my favorites, wedding tables. 

SET TO CELEBRATE

 

Set To Celebrate

 

placesettings-3

I thought the shape of this plate was unique, and pairing a rustic napkin with it was a touch of the unexpected! This table was filled with succulents, moss and various plantings. Perhaps not the most practical table setting, but interesting nonetheless.

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Ok, so I cheated a little bit here. This was a garland at the end of a staircase. I really like the mix of orange ribbon against the bright green evergreen, and it really shows how simple elements can make a huge impact. 

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 Notice the chicken wire? How cute is that?

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Each table, or in this case, vignette, were labeled with their theme name. This next one was located on a stage area and was labeled ‘A Posh Picnic’, and indeed it was!

place settings

 

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This next table, with an Asian theme, was called ‘Christmas with the Goldberg’s’. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but in our part of the country many Jewish people go to a movie and out for Chinese food on Christmas, so this was a bit tongue in cheek.  

placesettings-8

 

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Here’s a table that could easily be used for a wedding as well as New Year’s, or even Christmas. I love the classic combinations of gold, cream and crystal!

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Here’s a close up of the napkin in the above picture. Interesting buttons sewed on make for a unique, albeit unpractical, napkin!

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This table, filed with antique hard to find Steuben glass, is so festive for a Christmas celebration.  

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Placing roses on top of cranberries in a compote dish is such a pretty, elegant way to add color and interest to a table.

set to celebrate

This next table, perfect anytime but especially for New Year’s, represents what a table might have looked like at the famous Algonquin Hotel in the 20’s when it was a well known hang out for the movers and shakers at that time.

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Tucked away in a corner was this stunning wedding table vignette. That was a real goose, stuffed of course! 

set to celebrate

Take a good look at this detail. Can you believe how beautiful this is?? It was even prettier in person!

wedding tea pot  

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On the other side of the room was one of my personal favorites (but there were so many!). I loved the use of pearls, crystal and soft apricot colors that this table showcased. So romantic, don’t you agree?

wedding table

 

set to celebrate

 

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In all, I took over 130 photos. Of course, some of them aren’t worth sharing but there are many more that are so I will show you those in another follow up post later this week.

Update: Click here for the follow up post

Now you can go back to your phone ;).

 

In other news…

 

I don’t know if you’re tired of hearing about my birth certificate debacle, but let me tell you, I’m definitely tired of it! I thought I might have gotten things straightened out, but no such luck. One of the items they (Dept. of Mental Health) asked for was a letter from a Dr. I’ve seen for ten years or more. Well, there are only two that fall into that category…my gyno and my dentist. My dentist was easier to reach and communicate with so I sent a letter from him with the information they were asking for. Well, it looks like that wasn’t good enough because he’s not an ‘MD’. He also said that normally I would need a court order to change my name from ‘Dorien’ to ‘Doreen’ (even though the instruction document indicates otherwise) because the pronunciation is different. I almost asked him if English was his second language, because anyone with a 3rd grade education or above knows the pronunciations are the same.

Just shoot me now.

 

Sharing At

 

Tablescape Thursday

 

 

Jalapeno Pepper Jelly

Jalapeño Pepper Jelly is one of my all time favorite things to eat. Trust me. It’s AMAZING! It’s tart and sweet, with just enough of a kick to keep you coming back for more. Paired with some mild cheese like goat or cream cheese, it’s the perfect bite.

Our friend has served this several times as an appetizer at get togethers but until recently I never made it, but now that I have, I’m hooked. EVERYONE who tries this loves it and says it tastes like a fancy jelly you’d find at a gourmet store, and they’re right!

I found a few recipes on line but ended up tweaking them and came up with the following recipe, which seems to work for my taste buds. If you like things a bit spicier or milder, adjust the jalapeños accordingly.

 

jelly

 

Jalapeño Jelly
A fabulously tasty jelly perfect as an appetizer paired with goat or cream cheese and crackers
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Ingredients
  1. 1 large red bell pepper
  2. 1 large green bell pepper
  3. 12-14 jalapeños (leave a few seeds in)
  4. 1 1/2 cup white vinegar
  5. 1/2 tsp salt
  6. 6 cups of sugar
  7. 1 pouch of Certo liquid fruit pectin
Instructions
  1. 1 - In a food processor, finely chop peppers, scraping sides once or twice. Place peppers in a large pot with the vinegar, salt and sugar. Boil for 10-12 minutes, stirring often. Add Certo pouch and boil 1 more minute.
  2. 2 - Using a funnel, fill canning jars and place lids on, being careful not to tighten them too much.
  3. 3 - Place in water bath for 10 minutes, remove with tongs and cool.
Notes
  1. The jelly will appear to be runny for a day or two. Don't worry. It will set up.
  2. When boiling, make sure you watch the pot closely, or you might end up with an over boiled pot of sugar and pectin on your stove top...just sayin' ;)
  3. Any kind of cracker goes great, but I like Triscuits.
  4. You can also use this as a dipping sauce for meats and poultry!
HouseHoneys.com http://www.househoneys.com/

Did you know jalapeños can vary in their degree of hotness? So how can you tell what you’re buying you ask? Here’s a tip: jalapeños get hotter the older they get and eventually turn bright red. During the aging process they develop white lines (sort of like we do, only we call it cellulite and unlike the jalapeño, that’s not hot). The more lines, the hotter the pepper. (You can see in the photo above the differences between some of the peppers.)

If you’ve been thinking about doing some canning but are concerned about the fuss, there’s a canning pot I highly recommend. It costs a bit more, but sooooo worth it! Here’s a link (not an affiliate link) in case you want to have a look. This type of canner eliminates the need for filling a large pot with water and submerging the jars. A HUGE PLUS!

Did you miss my post on ‘How To Create An Awesome Cheese Platter‘? Click on over for some easy ways to create a beautiful and delicious platter that all you guests are sure to love! (You can get a glimpse of the jelly in use in that post.)

 

In other news…

 

I spent more than three hours yesterday and today sanding the top of our dining table, and I still don’t have all the stain removed. It’s turning out to be a bear of a project, and I think I might have opened up a can of worms, but I’m determined to make it work. 

 

Autumn In New England (and other random tidbits)

Autumn in New England is special, and I don’t take it for granted. Not for a minute.

People come from all over to experience the beauty that is Autumn here in New England, and why wouldn’t they? If there is anything more spectacular, I have yet to see it.

maple tree 

autumn in new england

On my way to the gym, (at least twice a week. You didn’t think my Beyonce-like body was come by naturally, did you?) I pass this property and have been crushing on it. I posted this picture on Facebook October 4th, and four weeks later I noticed a ‘For Sale By Owner’ sign. Serendipity perhaps? I think not. Fisherman would rather lose an appendage then give up…

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this. Where he spends a great deal of time on his boat, weather permitting. Can’t say I blame him. 

lake

I dug this next picture up from the archives from a few years ago. Looks like it might have been around September, as the leaves are just beginning to turn.

(When my daughter saw the picture of that property on Facebook, she said it looks like the kind of place where someone would drag her into the barn and murder her. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was left on our doorstep.) 

fisherman

Vistas like this are commonplace around here. 

farm

A few days ago we went to the Smith College Chrysanthemum Show. I took lots of pics, but here’s one of my favorites. Completely unedited except for the watermark. Isn’t it gorgeous??

mum

This Japanese Maple was located on the property of the college, just outside the greenhouse. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one quite this vibrant. These are such fabulous specimen trees, and it looks like this one has been around a while. 

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Now for the ‘tidbits’…

Last month Susan Branch was having a book signing at a library and a friend and I went. The library is housed in a beautiful, old, historic building, the likes of which you rarely see anymore. I think it might have been a bank at one time. Nowadays, banks are utilitarian boxes with as much character as a zit. 

(Excuse the blurry picture por favor. I take no ‘credit’ for this one.)

susanbranch

I have my own special greeting from Susan! How cool is that!? 

calendertwo

I didn’t get her book while I was there, but I picked it up this past weekend at a small, family run book store. Just like the beautiful buildings of days past, it’s getting harder and harder to find businesses that haven’t succumbed to the onslaught of the horrendous big box stores.

book

We took the grandkids to The Springfield Museums a few weeks ago. It’s a cluster of museums in one spot that truly has something for everyone. I learned that Springfield is where the automobile was invented, and that Dr. Seus grew up there. Here’s Maddox striking a pose in the Dr. Seus sculpture garden.

drseus

There was an aquarium in one of the museums and I couldn’t resist the colors and textures of this display. 

shells

We later went to a Halloween Event at Forest Park in Springfield and he wore a police uniform. That’s where we saw the ‘creature’ I showed you in this post (it’s actually a turtle!). 

Do you get the feeling he likes having his picture taken?  He looks so angelic in this picture…if only. ;) 

maddox

The next day we went for a walk, looking for ‘big leaves’.

maddoxwalking

And just in case you missed it the first time…

mapletree

 

wonderful world 

In other news…

 

We’ve got some projects in the works. I’m hoping to add some crown molding to the tops of our kitchen cabinets. Last week, some trees were cut down and I’m thinking about using some slabs for a walkway, and maybe some smaller ones for plate chargers. Next week I’m going to a fundraiser that will be showcasing about 30 tablescapes for the holidays. I’ll be sure to share that with you!

 

 

 

 

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