If there's one thing that is worth hours of cleaning and food prep it is having friends over to celebrate.
Put out a good spread and get a good bar going.
Fill the room with people who make you smile and laugh.
A Yankee Swap adds to the festivities. Everyone goes home with a gift.
Sometimes with their own gift ; )
The specialty drink this year was champagne punch courtesy of Kathy.
Some funny napkins from Pam's mother.
And a gift to me of the prettiest bottle I've seen all year~!
Reflecting on the past year these were the faces I saw most of all. Many others near and far would be included to round out my perfect crew, but all affirm to me the good things in my life. A toast to all of you who raise me up.
Dear Lord, may one year not be a blur. I confess to not knowing the secret to keeping the holidays neatly organized in your pocket. My friend used to pool the money and instead of individual gifts, the whole family would go on a great vacation right after Christmas. I shall offer that idea up next year!
One small way that makes me feel crafty and a wee bit in charge of things is making my own tags.
These are great, bright and festive! But it's fun to make your own, too.
Just buy some tags at Staples. Then use your favorite catalog or magazine, my preferences are Ballard Designs and Garnet Hill. Cut out cute things...anything will do. A glue stick as an adhesive works perfectly.
And off to the teachers go the gifts.
Merrily we roll along.
I put three boxes of treats plus 3 1/2 bags of marshmallows plus 2 1/4 sticks of butter into a 12x18x2 pan. One batch was made at a time and just layered one on top of the other and it worked fine.
I drizzled some Callebeaut Brand white and milk chocolate that I melted over a double boiler.
Then sprinkled with pretty pink "jimmies".
Butter the pan very well and after the treats refrigerate for a while, tip them over and they will pop right out of the pan. I took out a large knife and cut them in long strips and then cut smaller squares out of each strip.
Then each was wrapped up with an ingredient label on teach one...(kind of a pain, I will admit, but with all of the allergies these days, the food inspector requires it)...and brought over to the Church Faire for sale at the bake table.
Just two years ago I was pretty much buying cakes from boxes and sometimes making my own frosting, sometimes not. Ah, how things have changed. I always dreamed of being a real cake decorator and am enchanted by beautiful wedding cakes. I was always intrigued by all of the metal Wilson tips at the store and what shapes they made, the frosting bags, the flower nails, the desire to make the perfect rose!
So I just committed to it! My own education plan! I have learned from professional chefs and master decorators. I am far from knowing it all, but what I did learn is practice makes perfect.
And by the grace of my friends and putting the word out there that I would be happy to make event cakes for them, I have gotten the opportunity to test my skills through cake orders.
Because I am relatively new at this, every cake style is a "first" for me. So this was my first Red Sox Cake, for a 60th birthday party.
It was very well-received and that is so rewarding! The truth is that it probably took me about six hours soup to nuts, baking, coloring frosting, decorating. It's definitely something you've got to love because like everything else, there is always a "muddy middle" where you want to throw in the towel, put your feet up and watch the Real Housewives.
But then I remind myself that wishes + fortitude + determination = dreams.
Every year on a chilly weekend in November we take a trip to Linda's lake house in New Hampshire. We base it around Christmas shopping, but really it's just all about the food and friendship!
This is the front yard. Take a deep breath. It's really that beautiful on Lake Winnepesaukee in New Hampshire.
Most of us all graduated high school together. Two grew up across the street. Some years not everyone can be there, but we are all together in spirit! On Saturday night after a day of shopping we eat Dolly's eggplant parmesan (to die for)...
Kathy's antipasto salad ...
and her famous cocktails, make a big pot of spaghetti and have a wonderful dinner together.
Dessert follows...a more casual affair usually in front of a movie. We laugh and catch up on life's events.
There are so many bags in various cars and on the floor that we have a hoot going through them all and making sure everyone has the right stuff!
Who bought the blue sweater at Gap? What kind of boots did you get at the Bass Outlet?
Sunday morning usually follows the same comfortable pattern.
Shopping at local boutiques.
But the most important thing about Sunday, the reason to get up in the morning and leave our wonderful scenic vista...is this place. Sunshine and Pa's has hosted us for Girlfriends' Weekend breakfast for at least four years.
It is this wonderfully homey place with the smell of maple syrup in the walls. Mmm...This friendly face always greets us and although 364 days have passed since we have seen him, it feels to all of us like yesterday. We are treated like old friends.
We start thinking about what to order on the car ride over, LOL!
Don't miss it if you are ever in Meredith, NH. 4 Stars.
We have been coming together on these weekends for so long that we used
to go into the kids' clothing stores to buy for our own little ones. Stories of kids' high school graduation have moved to how college is
going, first apartments and jobs.
We've weathered and supported each other through illness, divorce, moves, raising kids and the trials and tribulations of life.
The end of this chapter is that this beautiful lake house is now for sale. So after 10+ years, it's time to find another place to gather. We'll find it, for truly the place does not matter as long as there's antipasto and wine!
This is my view backing out of my driveway. Which I do many, many times in one day. Back and forth, back and forth. Errands, dog walk, grocery store, school pick-up, etc. For about a month we have been blessed with radiant colors. So much so this Fall that perhaps I took it for granted. I kept driving by saying "how pretty" or "that would make a nice picture" but unless you keep one in your car, it's just an extra thing to remember to put your camera in your pocketbook. You know?
But on one trip I did and am glad that I took a minute to capture how magical it really is when the seasons change, one to another. Every day looks different, leaves are raked up and more fall down. Soon enough they will dry and turn brown, then white with the snow, then gray with the mud, then green in the Spring, but for now beautiful orange!
When we lived in our former house it was more in the country. The driveways were very long and when the kids were little they would get winded. I thought of the idea to bring the candy to the end of the driveway to make things easier. From that came a few decorations and after that a full on haunted house.
Some years are more involved than others. The heavy lifters are in college but the 7th grader still gets a kick out of it. So we keep a collection of creepy crawly things and my husband leads the charge to scare the crap of out of the little kids.
Yup, that's kinda scary if you are five years old.
Ewww. Who's hand is that?
Nasty rat with his snack.
And here's Mr. Innocent with a perfectly non-scary corn stalk. But I guarantee he'll tie it to somethin' creepy. We've got lots of great candy at the end of the brick walkway if you d-a-r-e to walk to through the haunts!
Owner of too many decorating magazines to count, love outdoor spaces, my pergolas, my gardens. Photog for 20 years and see life literally through a lens...elevating my life through painting, classes, cake recipes and frosting, fondant and country music. If Jason Aldean needs a baker on tour, I'm gone.