Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas decorating, roses and a cookie recipe too


I work in retail and am responsible for the Christmas tree decorating in the store. It's a huge undertaking. This year there are more than 30 themed trees. I touch every single ornament many times over from mid-September when I start sorting them, until I go to the gift market in Atlanta in January at which time, those that are left, are 75% off and I'm pretty sick of them.

Many comment that I won't want to decorate my own home.  It's very different.

I tell them that my tree is simple, doesn't have a theme and is a hodge podge of memories.  Many memories.  Some years it's really hard to get through decorating my tree without a few tears a good old cry.  I cherish the many memories. Like my sister who loved to give ornaments;  my parents, my dad also deceased and my mom so far away and old now. Ornaments from travels in the US and abroad abound. More memories of happy times. There are White House ones with lovely presidential stories given by our late neighbors each year.  There are many bisque angels from my ex-husband and I still put them on the tree because I still love them. Oy, and all those memories.

But the ornaments that separate my tree from the trees at work are the ones my children made and the ones with their little faces on them.  I can't pay money for anything as dear to my heart.

This year, I'll be in Portland for Christmas with Matt, my son, so I don't even need a tree but it's a tradition, something I do every year.  A comfort.  I actually didn't cry this year.  Don't know why.  I have a good reason with my house on the market now and this likely my last December here.  Perhaps I'm reconciled and ready for a simpler Christmas away.


In all other years, by this time I've pruned back my roses and taken out the thorny branches with the leaves.  This year they are tall and lanky, but for two weeks in a row, I've cut lovely bunches to bring into the house. I may not have said how much I love fresh flowers in the house.  {I adore them.}  I've been given roses in December before, but not these quaint old fashioned ones from the garden.

Today I did some more holiday baking for colleagues, friends and neighbors.  A few weeks ago I tasted some ginger snaps at a neighbor's house. She commented that they were made from a mix.  I was amazed, so I looked for a recipe online.  I've tried three recipes and have found a good one this time.  I also quite adore the Martha Stewart bags with a little snowflake box/base.

Easy Ginger Snap Cookies

18 1/4 oz spice cake mix
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground ginger {I used more}
1/4 cup water
1/3 cup molasses
2 tbsps vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, stir together the cake mix, baking soda and ginger. Make a well in the center and pour in the water, molasses and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly blended. Roll into balls  Flatten slightly. Dip one side in sugar and place them 3 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheet. {I used silver and gold sugar for holiday sparkle.}
Bake for 13 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the tops are cracked and cookies are firm. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.

Here is an example of a tree I decorated at work: the Santa tree. I had the idea to make the boots into a tree topper.  I stuffed a Santa hat into each boot to give it a furry cuff.  Then I stuffed red fabric into the middle of the tree, supposedly for the body {but all the ornaments pretty much hide that now.}  Then a day later I spied the Santa head, and put it upside down.  It's been a humourous tree for many, and bit troublesome for a few children who asked some cute questions.  It's my favourite tree {at work} this year!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Limoncello Cake : Yum!

I needed a break after all the work to get my house ready for the market.  A former neighbor, who lives on the coast, invited me to spend the weekend.  We had a blast. It was such a wonderful diversion from my life of late. We slept in both days, ate plenty of {fresh} seafood . . . . mmmm, had pedicures {I chose the reddest nail polish I've ever had!}, walked on the beach, visited South Port, a quaint seaside community complete with many antique stores, talked way into the nights and also did some smocking on a christening gown she's making. It was all so good.

My friend is an expert at making limoncello, the Italian lemon liqueur.  OMG!  It's like liquid gold!  Served icy cold, you've never tasted anything so smooth, and one feels it warming your throat as it trickles down.  We not only imbibed some one night {2 glasses each, but teeny glasses}, but she GAVE me a bottle to bring home.

As an aside, my first introduction to limoncello was a restaurant so named, in my home town of Cape Town - it stands out with its bright yellow exterior. Shannon lived up the hill from there for a while, and we had a memorable dinner there one night, but we drank cinzano and vermouth instead!

Needing to make a work colleague a birthday cake when I got in last night, I got this bee in my bonnet wondering what a limoncello cake would taste like.  So I added limoncello instead of vanilla, and lemon rind and lemon juice too.  Confession here: I used a bought cake mix and doctored it up.  Then I made a buttercream frosting with butter, flavored with, yes, limoncello, and swirled it onto the layers...Mwah!  It was good, and a hit at work today too!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Visitors at my bottle tree

Last week I was in the kitchen early, making a cup of {coffee} and as I was waiting for it to brew, I walked over to the bay window and absent mindedly looked out into the back yard.

I was happily surprised to see no less than THREE deer sniffing my bottle tree!!!

I watched for a couple of seconds, but just had to run for a camera.  When I got back, 2 of the deer had moved on, but I did snap these.  {Not so good, early morning light-cell phone camera combo.}

Deer are regular visitors in our yards these days.  It hasn't always been that way.  It excites the soul to see these majestic creatures roaming or leaping with their family in tow.  But, alas, when they eat our beautiful, healthy daffodils, impatiens or hosta down to the nub, they leave one a little bit a lot with mixed feelings  :(

Sunday, August 28, 2011


2 weeks from tomorrow til I see your lovely face and drink tea in my favourite kitchen (no matter how it looks)! I foresee a madeline baking in my near future... X!

5 hours ago ·  ·  · See Friendship

This is a Facebook message from Shannon who, as you can surmise, is coming from South Africa to visit in 2 weeks.  I can hardly wait to hug her, hold her, bake madeleines and do what she pleases in the 3 days I'll have her home!

What is less endearing about this time is that, due to circumstances out of my control, I'm having to sell my house and eventually move.  It is one of those times in my life when I get out of bed in the morning and do what I have to do to get through what feels like is another crisis.

Only, I have the most stellar friends in the whole wide world helping me, again, and I don't know what I'd do without their counsel, help {physical and emotional}, support and love.  You should have seen my house bustling with my friends and Susannah pitching in this past week, and they all have such busy lives. I am humbled beyond words.  And I am so blessed.  I was describing this pure Grace to my mother who then said :: "I hope you're thanking God!"  To which my answer was :: "Oh, yes I am!"

I am on my knees.

As far as my blog and my's slowing down out of necessity for now.  It's impossible to get creative juices going to sew, craft, cook, or whatever when you have the responsibility of a move from a home you've lived in for 29 years, raised 3 children in, truly lived very busy lives to the fullest in and have accumulated too much stuff to sort through and pack.  Period.  I hope that in a few weeks, when the dust settles, I can devote the time again.

'til then... XO