Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Homemade hot chocolate and Marshmallows

In Decembers past, I have quickly burnt out over too much on the calendar, too much on my list, and too much sugar. This year I tried a different approach: I made a conscious list of the "memory making essentials" that were really important to me and my family. This includes a few activities and foods that I don't want to miss out on. Everything else can go. This has really helped me to not feel bad about having to say no- whether it's to activities or events we are invited to, or rich foods that aren't on my list. At the very top of that list though, is our December first tradition. We started the tradition of decorating the tree and house on December first years ago when Connor and I were newlyweds, and about five years ago we added in homemade hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows to the mix and have not looked back. The hot chocolate is good, but the real winner is the combination of the two, with the homemade marshmallows melting inside. If I'm going to give myself one pass on sugar, this would be it.....not just because it's amazing (I have only had one hot chocolate from a gourmet chocolate shop that rivals it), but because of the memories surrounding it.
 Ps. This tastes best with board games or a christmas movie.
~

Creamy Hot Cocoa
-1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
-3/4 cup sugar
-1 pinch salt
-1/3 cup boiling water
- 3 1/2 cups of milk
-3/4 tsp. vanilla
-1/2 cup half & half (only if you are omitting the marshmallows)

*Combine cocoa, sugar, & salt. Blend in boiling water. Bring mixture to a boil while stirring. Simmer for 2 min (still stirring). Stir in milk until hot but not boiling. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour into 4 mugs. (add cream if not using marshmallows)




Homemade Marshmallows  (via Smitten Kitchen)
- 3 1/2 envelopes unflavored gelatin (2 TBLSp. + 2 1/2 tsp)
- 1 cup cold water, divided
-2 cups sugar
-1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 tsp. salt
-2 large egg whites
-1Tblsp. vanilla (or mint/almond extract, but I prefer vanilla)
-1/4 cup powdered sugar

* Oil Bottom of a 13x9 pan and dust with powdered sugar. In a large saucepan cook sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 cup of cold water, & salt over low heat (stirring) until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil mixture (stirring) until candy thermometer reads 240 degrees F (takes about 12 minutes). Remove from heat and pour over gelatin mixture, stirring until gelatin is dissolved. Beat the mixture on high until white & thick and has tripled in volume (6 minutes for a standing mixer and 10 minutes for a hand held). In a operate bowl (with clean beaters), beat egg whites until stiff peaks. Beat whites and vanilla into sugar mixture until combined. Pour into the baking pan. Sift 1/4 cup of powdered sugar on top. Chill until firm (3hrs- 1 day). Use cookie cutters for shapes, or cut into 1 in. cubes. Last up to 1 week in cool room temp.






Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Advent Calendar

Until this year, I haven't officially done an advent calendar with my family. Fall is a busy time for my us with lots of visitors, and there's something about going from  halloween costumes, to menu planning for Thanksgiving, to birthday planning for my daughter, to getting ready for Christmas. By the time December rolls around, I'm just tired and this is one of those things that usually slips through the cracks. This year I decided to do an "activity" advent (in the loosest sense). I've filled it with simple things like "reading the Christmas story" and "watching 'White Christmas' ", and a few bigger activities that we are already planning on doing. There's something about having it written down that is fun and exciting for the girls. In an effort to not get caught up in the hustle and bustle of this season,  I also reserve the right to rearrange and substitute as necessary. Feeling exhausted? Maybe today's activity is to watch a "Elf" instead of going ice skating.  Here are some of the things we are doing:

1. decorate the tree & house
2. drink hot chocolate & play board games
3. watch White Christmas
4. make cookies for the neighbors
5. go to the Nutcracker ballet (a favorite tradition every year)
6. watch Elf
7. pick out a toy to donate to a child
8. decorate christmas cookies with friends (already on the calendar)
9. read The Nutcracker
10. make christmas ornaments
11. leave something special in the mailboxfor the mailman
12. watch Miracle on 34th Street
13. make gingerbread houses
14. eat santa pancakes
15. make a gift box for a child in need
16. make gingersnap cookies
17. make paper snowflakes
18. choose nonperishable items for a food drive
19. go to the christmas tree lighting downtown
20. go ice skating
21. visit NYC and see the Christmas tree and lights (we are already doing this)
22.make paper chains (my girls were obsessed with this last year)
23. watch A Charlie Brown Christmas
24. Read The Christmas Story



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

With Thanksgiving around the corner

If you're like me, you had the sudden realization that Thanksgiving is next week (and you're hosting!).  I've compiled a few things to get you in the holiday mood, whether you are up for a project or prefer to keep things simple.
~

DIY paint splattered napkins OR these are adorable (link):

DIY wooden chargers OR these are pretty:

Love these DIY place cards OR these are darling:

Also:

5 simple table design tips for the person who would rather be meal planning
I made this homemade stuffing last year and had requests for it again
12 tips to help you be a good host over the holidays
Not this year, but I'm dying for some matte black dishes
9 healthy holiday eating strategies
Along those lines- apple chutney & brie puff pastry pockets




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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Painted Trim

My feelings on this subject have made such a dramatic change in the past year. While I blame my previous dislike for painted trim on design choices I witnessed first hand as a kid growing up in the 80s (red trim anyone?), I can credit my newfound love for it from some of the below gorgeous images. It's understated and elegant, and I'm all about it.
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Friday, October 20, 2017

Wrap around Built-in bookcases

One of the "problem areas" of our new house was the living room. There was one average sized window in the center of the living room wall. I quickly fell in love with the idea of built in bookcases that wrapped around the window. Not only does it look more finished to me (than just having two bookcases on either side of the window), but it also fits really well with our old house. There will be a DIY coming to you soon, meanwhile here are some images that have been my inspiration:
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Thursday, October 5, 2017

On trends

Whenever I'm feeling uninspired creatively, I take a step back and examine how much time I am spending looking at other designers or on instagram. Blogs and other forms of social media are a great platform to see design projects and designers I might not otherwise see, to share current projects, and even to grow a business. One of the downsides though is the rise in trends, they come in a flurry and then all of a sudden we all look the same and decorate the same. We lose what makes us unique (and in my opinion, interesting). I am not taking an anti-trend stance (just visit my house and you will see many trendy pieces), but rather I'm advocating to really be in tune with your personal style to where you would know whether or not a specific trend suits you. The best compliment I can get as a designer is for a client to tell me that their home feels like them. Here are a couple spaces where I breath out a sigh of relief and think to myself "I haven't seen that before":
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Friday, September 22, 2017

Currently loving: Banquette Seating

Lately I have been stumbling across image after image of the most beautiful dining areas with banquette seating, and I can't get enough of it. Maybe it's because I'm using banquette seating in one of my client's spaces right now, or maybe it's because I'm considering it for my own house (hey space saving solution), but either way- I'm loving it. I think we are all used to the banquette seating that's been around for years......the kind that usually includes white built-ins (which I still love by the way). However, the banquette seating that's been catching my eye is fresh and unfussy. It's stream-lined, yet cozy. I love it all, I can't even choose a favorite: 








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