Wednesday, November 30, 2011

i'm looking for Christmas

as many of you, i'm sure, i've been eager for the holidays to arrive. i LOVE Christmas, but i don't let myself get into it until after Thanksgiving.

i have a strict rule about playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving has passed, and then, well, it's pretty much all-Christmas, all the time. i have a weakness for Christmas tunes, a sickness perhaps. the "holiday" genre makes up the majority of my itunes library. it's at the point where i can walk in just about any store during the season and tell you the album playing. not just the song + artist--the ALBUM. it's pretty impressive when you consider that I am, admittedly, a music moron. just ask my husband. it's uncanny the way my ability to match notes over the airwaves to artist + album appears for only 4 weeks of the year.

but this year, the spirit, well, i don't know where it is. i haven't been bitten by the bug yet. the tree isn't up. heck, it's still in the attic. i thought a holiday concoction from *bucks would put me over the edge. nope. a post-Thanksgiving trip to the mall to absorb some energy. didn't work. buying a dress for my work party, nah (despite it being super cute and shiny). shopping for gifts for our adopted Salvation Army Angel last night? it helped a little, but still not there.

this morning, i thought i was over the hump. the Angel's musical toys were serenading me along the way to work. with each turn or pothole or sudden stop, a few notes played on the toddler's piano toy. it definitely put me in a good mood, and i even called hubs to tell him about it. chuckles all around. but no magic.

is it because i sorta cheated and listened to the House of Fifty's holiday playlist early? (it's amazing by the way) breaking my own rule? surely there's no such thing as Christmas karma.

whether i've been bitten or not by this friday night, the tree is going up. the garland's being hung. the stockings go into place. we'll sip bailey's + milk. "elf" will be on the TV. holiday tunes will be blaring.

what are your tips for catching your fa-la-la-la?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving Table

i'm linking up to the tablescape party sponsored by Homegoods, so here are the up close & personal details of our turkey day tables:

history: thanksgiving has long been a holiday staple in our family, often having 40-65 cousins gathering in south arkansas. i think when i started dating j, i told him he'd have to agree that my family would always get thanksgiving! i'm pretty sure my cousin and i made a pact when we were 12. over the past few years, we moved the holiday to Texas but it's remained one of the most important holidays to me. as the families grow, new traditions start. so this year was our first year to start a new tradition of our own.

guest list: my newlywed sister was finally within driving distance (she's been on the west coast and unable to join us for the past 5 years). better yet, her husband is from nearby Athens, GA, so his family was able to join us too! my mom was coming from Arkansas, my dad & his new fiance too, my in-laws, and even some hometown friends who are now neighbors got to join the fun (being the BFF of my baby sis, she was a great stand-in for the sister who had too many papers to grade!). all in all, we had 13 folks at the table.

theme: i wanted something a little different than the traditional fall colors, so i drew from the rich palette of cranberries & pomegranates: purples, fuchsia, and metallics. i wanted the table to have a festive and elegant feel (we didn't have any kids attending, so it was safe to keep it "adults only"). this was the first time we were using the china we received when we got married (yes, 2 years ago), so we wanted it to feel special all around! it was also the first time several of our family members had seen our new house, so it was a big occasion.

flowers: i scored some amazing fuchsia peonies at the grocery store, and arranged them in vintage silver serving pieces i thrifted. i complemented the peonies with hot pink & burgundy pom mums, solidago, and other burgundy safari sunset blooms.

linens: the tables were each dressed with flax-colored hemstitched linen tablecloths. the main dining table's square linen was off-set to feature the rich grain of the hardwood table, while the additional folding table's linen hung to the floor.

accents: a pair of thrifted brass candlesticks with cranberry candles were lit in the table's center, while mercury glass votives added extra sparkle. a cranberry metallic ribbon with gold trim weaved its way along the table.

in lieu of wine charms, we tied combinations of plum, cranberry, and gold ribbon to the wine glass stems for easy identification. 

placesettings: alternating gold & silver chargers served as the placesetting foundation, which were topped with china dinner plates from the Vera Lace pattern. a deep plum napkin was placed atop each dinner plate, topped by the salad plate. placecards were displayed in pecan pods i found in the backyard!

serveware: the food was served in a collection of silver serving dishes. my latest Homegoods score, the silver casserole dish, was perfect for the wild mushroom dressing. and my le creuset crock steal from Homegoods matched the sweet potatoes to a tee.

i linked up to centsational girl's the tablescape party/contest.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

thanksgiving highlights

well, our house is awfully quiet today except for the roar of the Georgia v. Georgia Tech game on the TV. the dog is worn out from all of the excitement, and i'm already missing the family.

Thanksgiving has long been a big to-do in my family. growing up, we'd have up to 75 cousins crowding my grandparents house. it was one of my favorite times of the year because i got to spend time running around with my cousins in arkansas. that gathering has since moved to Texas and we get to join the fun there from time to time. but we also decided it was time for new traditions as families keep growing larger + more spread out. we were thrilled to have my family, cricket's family, and our extended families into our home this year. a blessing indeed. 

we started with prep day on wednesday. my mom brought us festive aprons for the occasion, while the guys headed to the golf course to get out of our hair. my sister arrived from ohio much earlier than expected, so that was a nice surprise!

we woke up early on thursday to get started. of course, we couldn't do anything until we each had our fill of the famous spudnuts from el dorado. for those who don't know, these are the best donuts ever. 10x better than krispy kreme, and they're made from potato flour (hence the name) with a flaky sugary glaze. there's a debate as to whether they're best hot, cold, fresh, or a few days old. in our opinion, they're good anytime at all.

the kitchen was abuzz...

[my mother-in-law and my mom cookin' up a storm]
[charcuterie plate featuring hyatt's homemade camembert cheese]
the table was set...

[still can't get over that peony!]
[place cards held displayed in pecan pods]

the turkey was smokin' on the big green egg...

[a 13 pounder after smoking for about 5 hours]
[mark + cricket about to carve]
[dad, cricket, + hyatt carving the ham + turkey]

the house was filling with family & friends...

[dad + his brunette daughters]
[olivia + her new mom-in-law]
[hometown friends who now live nearby]
[cricket's parents]

a serious game of soccer was starting in the backyard...

[mabel put lula to shame]
while one dog was ready for any nibbles to hit the floor...

[lula looking for her plate]

it was a wonderful weekend in atlanta. unfortunately, we missed a few folks + hope they'll make the trip next year! how was your thanksgiving??

diy pecan placecards

since we expanded into a second table for thanksgiving, i was trying to come up with a unique placecard option for the table. i always like to bring in some natural elements for the table, but i was having a hard time figuring out something to coordinate with the brass, silver, bronze, and cranberry palette.

as you may have learned, our beagle has quite a hankering for chasing the chipmunks that have moved into our backyard. these critters have set up house in the small brush pile at the back of our lot. see that hole? that was made from lula's head. i guess she was trying to get up close & personal with Alvin, Simon, & Theodore. you should have seen her face when we pulled her out of it. filthy.

[lula's hole in the brush pile]
so anyway, i went to grab a shot of the infamous hole with the new camera. walking through the yard, i was cautious to avoid dog poop since we hadn't mowed in a while. and what did i look down and see? literally right under my foot?

[my find underfoot]

these amazingly gorgeous pods that had fallen from the neighbor's pecan tree. and they were EVERYWHERE! shaped a little like a lotus flower, these multi-pronged shells have a rustic yet elegant appeal.

[fallen branch with a pecan pod still in tact]

i gathered as many as i could carry and took them inside for a rinse in the kitchen sink. i let them dry on a wire rack for a few hours.

once dried, they revealed some incredible textures + natural tones. i had thought about dry-brushing them with a little gold paint, but no need.

i printed out names on card stock, cut the names into strips, and placed the pods on the tables accordingly. each was different & unique, just like our guests. some were single pods, others in pairs or trios or quads. some still had pecans in them.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

great scott! it's goodwill.

this week i've been perusing goodwill in search of tabletop decor, and i took the day friday to spend at scott's antique market's monthly show.

at scott's, i only have the budget for the South building. and, really, i like their stuff much more anyway. it's been said that the North building dealers often shop the South building on the first day, then mark up their finds to resell during the show! i got there early and browsed around. i could've spent 5 more hours there, but i had a new baby to visit.

here are some finds!
this chippy door has a bright future, so stay tuned.
[oddly, yet precisely perfect, sized door. future project reveal coming!]

[silver trophy. not sure what KLDN&Y Champions means, but it's charming]

[former churn from a creamery turned umbrella stand]

[warty gourds + oversized gourds]

[big ole gourds]
i was fulfilling a personal shopping mission for my boss, too. she needed a trophy to hold her wine at an annual horse racing social event. for $15, this should do the trick. it's nice and solid, too. others were more than $80 and this guy was looking to get rid of it, as he'd bought a whole set. score!
[trophy cup/wine chiller for my boss]
at goodwill, i scored a set of 6 gold chargers. see that original price tag? $25 a pop. see the price scratched onto the back? $2.22 each. nicely done. that's a total savings of $136.68. (who on earth paid $25 for each of these suckers in the first place??)
*granted, my local target has gold and silver versions for $1.95. i bought the silver ones, but these are much heavier and more solid quality.*
[goodwill steal #1]

a pair of brass candlesticks. i really liked the size + scale of these. after a bit of polish, they brightened right up! yep, that says $2.29.
[goodwill steal #2]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

spiced rum sauce

picked up this little gem up over at epicurious. super easy, super rich, super yum. it's perfect with the drunken cranberry bread pudding, or spoon it onto some ice cream, or drizzle it over brownies. um, or both.

1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons spiced rum or dark rum
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

stir brown sugar and butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until melted and smooth, about 2 minutes.

add cream, rum, and cinnamon and bring to simmer. simmer until sauce thickens and is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, about 5 minutes. serve warm.

makes about 1 1/2 cups. 

what makes it great for entertaining? well, it can be prepared 2 days ahead. simply refrigerate it in a covered dish, then bring to a simmer before serving.

drunken cranberry bread pudding with spiced rum sauce

i wanted to add a little perkiness to my bread pudding this week, so i decided to add some drunken cranberries to the recipe. yum AND festive!


1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup grand marnier
1 cup orange juice

8 large eggs
3 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1-pound loaf raisin challah, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 teaspoon cinnamon


For the cranberries: soak cranberries, grand marnier, and OJ in a small bowl for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 350.

Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. 

Cube bread into 1" pieces and set aside.

Whisk eggs in large bowl. Add milk, sugar, cream, cinnamon and vanilla; whisk to blend well. 

Stir bread into liquid mixture, being sure the bread absorbs the liquid. 

Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Cover and refrigerate 2 hours. 

Preheat oven to 350°F. 

Bake pudding uncovered until puffed and golden, about 1 hour 15 minutes. If the top begins to brown too early, cover with a foil tent.

Cool slightly (pudding will fall). Serve warm with Spiced Rum Sauce.