Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"Let It Snow!" January 2018...Seasonal Hutch Decor

I scored an amazing deal last January when I was able to use my Christmas money to buy this china cabinet and hutch along with another (that I'll show you soon) from a lady whose antique store was going out of business. This one was larger, so I moved the one that used to be there to my laundry room, took the door off of it, and turned that room into a laundry room/butler's pantry. I'll show you that soon, too.

Since then, I've moved my Friendly Village by Johnson Brothers to the butler's pantry, and moved my everyday white ("White Satin" by Nikko) into this cabinet. (Click the link above to see how my Friendly Village collection came to be.) The white is such a blank slate. Each month last year (or at least most of them), I swapped out a few accent pieces and moved things around to keep it fresh. I blogged about it a few times. You can see them here: Strawberries and Cream for May, Spring Bunnies for April, and Going Green for March. I changed it out a lot more, but just forgot to photograph it and blog it. I'll try to be more consistent this year!

When January rolls around, I put away my Christmas dishes and pull out this snowflake pattern. It's "Winter Frost" by Sakura. I got the first set of eight placesettings at the Oneida outlet mall when we first married. Over the years, I've added to it by buying off eBay. I added some navy salad plates from IKEA that I found at the flea market for .50 cents each.

I found these navy stems and tumblers at the thrift store as well. They are called "Gibraltar" by Libbey. I think I paid $15 for the set of eight glasses.

Various odd pieces of blue were added for pops of color. I love my collection of dinnerwear and stemware and this just gives me a way to enjoy it instead of just having it in cabinets...and closets...and under the bed...

This set of snowflakes was perfect this season as we got TWO snows this year! Today is January 31, and I'm in the process of decorating for Valentine's Day, so I wanted to show you this display before it's changed for February. You know there's going to be some red involved! Check back tomorrow to see what I've done.

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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Friday, January 26, 2018

Italian Wedding Soup

I love cold weather, and I love soup. Good thing, because we've had a lot of both this winter! I chose this delicious soup to cook for my birthday dinner last week. It'd been on my "to try" list for a while. It's called "Italian Wedding Soup", and it is based on the recipe by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I love her recipes and her style! Check out the tablescape I designed when I hosted my cookbook club last year. We all made our favorite "Barefoot" recipes to share.

Like I said in my last post where I shared the Redbird tablescape for my birthday dinner, I had planned my menu ahead of time and done some of the shopping already. I planned to go back for fresh bread and herbs, but since we were snowed in, I had to find something else to do. Never fear! I made a few adjustments, and since I had never made this recipe before, no one knew the difference!

I began by  making my meatballs earlier in the day. They called for ground chicken (which I had bought) and ground chicken Italian sausage (which I had completely overlooked!). I always have a pound of bulk sausage in my freezer for sausage gravy or sausage balls. I substituted it for the Italian chicken sausage, and I really believe it gave it more flavor!

You can find the Barefoot Contessa recipe online. I am sharing my modified recipe below. It was delicious, so when I make it, I will make it just like I did that night...substitutions and all!

Italian Wedding Soup

one pound ground chicken
one pound Jimmy Dean regular ground sausage
two slices of white sandwich bread
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 heaping tablespoon of dried parsley
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan (not the green can)
3 tablespoons milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
salt and pepper

2 tablespoons EVOO
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 carrots, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
10 cups of water
10 teaspoons chicken stock base
1 and 1/4 cup small pasta (I used ditalini)
1 tablespoon dried dill
12 ounces baby spinach

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a food processor, pulse sandwich bread until it becomes fine breadcrumbs. Mix all ingredients for meatballs and form into small balls. (I didn't add all the milk at once. See how the mixture feels. If it is dry, add a little more at a time. If it is too wet, it won't hold together in pretty round balls.) Place on a parchment-covered baking sheet. I got about forty meatballs out of the two pounds of meat. Bake until done and browned - about 45 minutes. Set aside. I made these right after lunch. I didn't put the soup together until about 5:00. 

In a dutch oven, heat the EVOO over medium-low heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Saute until they begin to soften - about 5-7 minutes. Do not let them get brown. Stir them often. Add chicken base and water and mix well.

TIP - I have been buying the refrigerated chicken base for several years now. It keeps a long time in the fridge, and takes up so little space compared to boxed or can stock. And I like that I can add a little extra when I want a stronger flavor. I keep a jar of chicken and beef base in my fridge at all times. This can be found on the chicken stock aisle. Refrigerate after opening.

Bring stock and veggies to a boil. Add pasta and reduce to medium low. Keep it at a simmer. Cook about 8 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Add dill and meatballs to the soup and simmer one minute. Taste for salt and pepper, add to taste. Stir in fresh spinach and mix well. Cook for one minute or until it is wilted. Ladle into soup bowls, and sprinkle with extra Parmesan.

I served this with a Caesar salad and homemade focaccia bread. I made sure everyone got four meatballs. Check back soon for the recipe for the bread. It was so simple, but was so impressive!

This was the perfect meal for a cold and snowy evening. Everyone loved it!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

A Redbird Tablescape

Yesterday was the anniversary of my 29th birthday...which anniversary? I'll never tell, but it's probably represented by a precious metal. Oh, well! Beats the alternative, doesn't it?

My regular readers all know that birthdays around our house are pretty special. The guest of honor gets to chose their menu, and I go all out on dinner and the tablescape. You only get one birthday a year, right? I believe it should be special! And my birthday is no different.

This time it was a little different, though. I'd decided on my menu a while back and done most of my shopping ahead of time. Good thing...we got snow this week! Real, honest-to-goodness snow. As you know, we live in the country, and roads up here are still icy. It snowed Tuesday night and many of our county roads weren't clear until Saturday.

I had meant to pick up some last minute things earlier this week on my grocery run. But alas, I could not make a run...not even for bread and milk! But it's OK. I made a couple of last minute adjustments and all was well.

My parents literally live next door, so they were able to make it over for dinner. It was nice to have them to celebrate with us. While I had thought about my menu, I had not planned the tablescape. However, the snow got me to thinking about what I had, and I thought these stunning redbirds would be gorgeous against the setting of snow. Let me walk you through it.

Nine times out of ten, I begin with my white linen tablecloth and this time was no different. It's starting to show it's age a little. I've stain-treated it for years after each party and even though it has a few light yellow stains, it's still fine when I layer it under all sorts of other fabrics and pretties.

But this time, as I ironed it, I noticed a hole! Oh how sad! I love my white linen tablecloth! I was upset for a while, but then I realized it's almost like a badge of honor. It's been loved and used so didn't earn it's wounds by hanging in the closet! I'm not throwing it out yet. It's still great as a first layer, and luckily, since I've removed my table leaf for a while, it fell underneath a charger. 

This old piece of barn wood was given to me by our neighbors. I've used it several times this season. I wanted to have a very organic and natural theme to showcase my redbirds. This was perfect.

And so were these chargers! They're by Better Homes and Gardens and came from Walmart several years ago. They show up quite a bit during the fall and winter. And since we live in the middle of hundreds of pines, they're always just perfect.

Next I layered these red dinner plates. They came from Dollar Tree a while back. Yes...they were just $1 each!

Next I layered these beautiful salad plates, also by Better Homes and Gardens. I got them at Walmart after Christmas one year for 75% off. They were $1.25 each! Aren't they sweet?

You know how I love my stemmed glasses. I literally have dozens and dozens! Sometimes I think the non-stems get a little jealous! These are the everyday glasses we got when we married. They are "Sweet Swirl" tumblers by Noritake in dark green.

I found these beautifully realistic cardinals and redbirds at a new shop in Eclectic called "Bless Your Heart". It is a beautiful store, and Jewell and I love to go in there. They have clips so they can be attached to a Christmas tree. I took a wooden skewer and stuck it in the plant then hung the bird off it. The closeup view is just for you. It wasn't noticed at dinner by my guests.

My holly bushes grow like crazy. I have to cut them back a couple of times a year. I think they must set berries on old wood, because I don't get a lot of berries each year. But I did find a few lower down where it obviously escaped the blade. Pine cones are myriad on our place. I just had Gerald grab me a few. I stuck them in the oven at about 250 degrees for a half an hour to dry them out.

My centerpiece is a pretty Christmas cactus that was given to me by a friend during the holidays.

When I bought my birds back in the fall, I made sure to get three different ones. I like to decorate with odd numbers.


Here's a complete view of one of the placesettings. I pulled out the muslin napkins I made several years ago. Again, I was going for a natural look. The flatware is "Margate" by Pfaltzgraff. I've had it since before we married.

This cardinal was keeping his eye on me as I worked!

This tablesetting would have been beautiful at Christmas with it's splashes of traditional red and green, but I think it was also perfect for this cold and snowy evening.

One last look. The red plates really pop now that I have redone my dining room. If you remember, it used to be an antique red. Pretty, but overwhelming. This nice neutral shade allows things to pop. I love it!

Check back soon and see what we had for dinner. It was yummy! Here's a sneak peek...

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

Monkey Bread...Cooking with Brack

We got snow yesterday. I mean REAL snow! That stuck. And accumulated! It was beautiful, but mostly, it was cold! Gerald and the kids went out for a while to explore and take some pictures. They came back in cold and hungry. Brack has been anxious to cook with me lately, so he helped me make breakfast.

I hadn't made a mad dash to the grocery store for bread and we had to make do. What did we have on hand? A can of refrigerated biscuits. So I decided it was time to teach Brack to make a favorite from my childhood...monkey bread!

Monkey Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a pie plate with Pam. Open a can of flaky-style biscuits (we had Grands on hand) and cut each individual biscuit in quarters. Melt one stick of butter. Mix one cup granulated sugar with two tablespoons of cinnamon. Use a fork or small whisk to mix it well. Dip each biscuit section in butter, then roll in the sugar mixture. Drop in the pie plate. Bake for about 20 minutes or until brown on top and done through. Right before they come out of the oven, mix two cups powdered sugar with a quarter teaspoon vanilla and enough milk to make a thick glaze. I poured the glaze over the top, then drizzled extra according to individual taste. Serve warm.

We had ours with hot cranberry tea. I'll share the recipe for that tomorrow. Can biscuits are good to have on hand. There's a lot you can do with them!

This was such a simple recipe, that Brack basically did it himself. This is one he can make one day with his kids!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Christmas "Cheer" Luncheon 2017

Jewell is a varsity cheerleader this year. She cheers for the Ezekiel Academy Knights. To say it has been a blessing to her would be an understatement. She has made friends with a wonderful group of young ladies. It was my honor to host the cheerleaders' Christmas party this year. I decided to make it an affair for the girls and their mamas, too! 

I wanted to do something besides traditional Santas and Christmas trees, and as you know, this red and black buffalo check print is EVERYWHERE this year. It was perfect for this party in particular, because Ezekiel's colors are red and black.

The moms sat in the kitchen, and the girls were in the dining room. I started both tables with my white linen tablecloths, then added a runner made of buffalo check with matching napkins. (I bought one VERY long piece of fabric and then cut my runners and napkins. That way, I got to use my 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby.)

I used my dark green Noritake "Sweet Swirl" iced tea stems in the kitchen, along with my wood-look chargers with pinecones embossed along the edges.

A birchbark-covered tri-sectioned box holds mason jars and tealights. Jewell gathered the pinecones for me early in the season, and I baked them at 250 degrees for about an hour to make sure they were critter-free!

The white dinner plates are "White Satin" by Nikko (my everyday pattern). The flatware is "Austen" by Yamazaki.

The dining room was set for seven (one young lady was out of town) and featured a few different components.

The red lanterns were last seen as part of Brack's 12th Birthday tablescape. The big bell jar has been used a couple of times, most recently in a cozy little seafood dinner for two Gerald and I had last summer.  

The dinner plates are the same as I used at the kitchen table, but the chargers were borrowed from my mother. They look like a woven leather.

The glasses are called "Stax" and are a vintage pattern by Libbey. The color is called smoke.

The flatware came from Target fifteen years ago. The pattern is "Abigail" by Hampton Silversmiths.

Everything is sitting on a piece of old barn wood. It came from my neighbor across the street. They are tearing down the old barn (only because it is unsafe!), and they are using a lot of it in their home as trim and even parts of the ceiling! Chuck cut me several pieces to use as runners. No distressing needed!

I placed some black river rocks in the bottom of the jar to hold the candle in place.

Tealights were scattered the length of the barn wood slab.

This picture shows a little of my "new" dining room! More on this in the coming days.

The girls were playing the "saran wrapped gift" game.

The end came down to Jewell and Emily Ann and let's just say, it got exciting!

We mamas exchanged gifts, too. Who doesn't love a little dirty Santa?

These are some sweet ladies!

I have grown to love them as much as their girls!

It's such a blessing to have good friends! This holiday season may have already drawn to a close, but you know me...I'm already thinking about next year!

I'm so glad you stopped by my neck of the woods!

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