MONDAY MUSINGS: HOLIDAY PIES

 

8BA7BF4F-E8D2-4322-B045-811E87C4B615

I love pie!!!!!! Actually any pie but particularly Holiday pie such as pumpkin, mincemeat, pecan and…..you name it and I’ll eat it. Yum, yum, yum… Now about making the pie crust, I’m not good at it at all. Mom did the best pie crusts you would ever want to eat..I would work side by side with her (from the time I was little) and I either handled it too much or too little so, guess what I do, I buy Pillsbury piecrust, yes, I do!!!!  Now you know my secret. I do make graham cracker, vanilla wafer, and ginger snap crusts but in today’s post most of the pies are shortening crusts with decorative details. I thought you might enjoy trying one or two for your Holiday pies.  I’m including a few recipes as well  Happy Holiday’s!

AA7515DD-3336-4515-B62A-8C034AC68A00

The cartoon above from  The New Yorker….

4B3BCDB1-9135-47C0-B04C-6BC62B1AB92CD39F4E60-4C41-4E30-860A-41B5EA16C066

2BA37727-BC3A-4E16-9EBA-1E3B34AF7485

55CD3695-D2E3-432D-AE84-B8E12DB9E0E5

Suggested toppings for pumpkin pies use your own mixture for your filling, I always use Libby’s pumpkin as shown.
B11AAC5C-2404-4E47-9141-62BEE16767810727D7F6-C863-4FBC-B279-1A44CEC982339AC80321-FDE2-4A18-BE25-4C0D73248EB354881256-B3C0-45C8-B0D7-5E6396E0F8D6FDE046E5-A053-44EB-A420-FC2A3DAC1406   I always add more brandy, a bit of lemon zest and juice to the mix and use either None Such or Crosse and Blackwell. I serve with hard sauce, I make my own but you can tart up (add brandy) to store bought.  Above photos are suggested special toppings for mincemeat or fruit pies.

Two more glorious toppings…the first is one I am doing for my mince pie, I’ll share my finished pie on Instagram,

5FD05FB9-D34E-4ECE-8096-9327F4E75AB1

TOMMY’S APPLE-PUMPKIN PIE

FILLING:

1/3 cup brown sugar

1 Tablespoon corn starch

1 teaspoon cinnamon, divided

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon all spice

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup water

2Tablespoons butter

3 cups Granny Smith apples peeled and sliced

3/4 cup packed canned oumpkin

3/4 cup evaporated milk

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg beaten

DIRECTIONS

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare your own pie crust for a 9” pie.

In a skillet combine brown sugar, corn starch, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, add the vanilla, water, butter and bring to a boil stirring.  The mixture will thicken creating a caramel sauce.  Add the apples and continue cooking over medium heat for 4-5 minutes stirring constantly.  Pour mixture into the unbaked pie crust and set aside.  Whisk together pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, egg, 1/2 teaspoon, nutmeg, all spice and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Pour over the apple layer.  Bake at 375 for 50 minutes until a knife comes out clean.  Cool completely before cutting.  This pie should be refrigerated.  Serve with whipped cream

TOMMY’S PECAN PIE

Heat oven to 400 degrees

Prepare your own pastry pie crust

Beat together with a beater

3 eggs

2/3 cup sugar

1/3 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup melted butter

1 cup dark corn syrup

Mix in 1 cup pecans

Pour into pastry shell.  Bake until set and pastry is browned.  Bake in 400 degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes.

4D25B38D-AA88-4B92-A767-D1204A3F6B1F

Isn’t this glorious….let’s all strive to create something fun, pretty, perhaps a bit over the top, why not it’s the Holidays, the most special time of the year!  Most of all relax and enjoy the season!

10085429-2ED4-480B-AF25-79AEB2358B38

All photos from Pinterest, photo credits unknown as is the top illustration. Above  illustration from Norman Rockwell.

 

 

 

Advertisements

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: HALLOWEEN STORIES

F2CD6998-FFAF-4173-B2F7-41F8C33A07F6I have mentioned that I am asking my friends to be guest contributors to nenasnotes    so on this special day, Halloween,  I am featuring several stories from Virginia Heaven, a historian, teacher, author, curator, raconteur and very good friend, which she has entitled “Halloween: Culture Is Everything”.  You are in for a treat.

6DBC8FC5-499C-4B87-A986-51C3751BF989 This vitrine is up all year in Virginia’s home.  She likes to use her huge collections differently each year and, of course, constantly adds new items…that is what a collector does!  Speaking of collections be sure to check out the Halloween blog post I did for the  Randolph Street Market.

Story #1

Now, I love Halloween (well, the sweet kind). It’s magical because it’s really fun and kind of scary for me all at the same time. I’m from London and in my day (and neighborhood) Halloween was not celebrated. Although there is ample evidence that it was celebrated all over the UK as All Hallows Eve.

When I first came to America, Halloween fascinated me and I gradually began to gather a few decorations, and I loved pumpkin carving. But most of all I loved the children coming around to get their candy. All those kids dressed as their heroes or some fantastic creature, how fun is that? And the tiny ones are so funny!

49C4ABDF-9B46-479F-B4D9-A669751D9C5C
When my cousin (who is like my sister) had her first three kids, they lived in a small English town where there was no Halloween celebrations either. So, I would pack up a box in September of all the fun Halloween things I could find and post it off (all big boxes were sent by ship then, remember?) and her kids were the only ones in the town to have a Halloween party which made them very popular! They are all in their 30s now but still remember the box arriving each year and the excitement of opening it to find what was inside! By the time her last two babies were born (now in their 20s) Halloween was popular in Britain too, but I still sent boxes of American Halloween tchotchkes for the parties!

CD74B173-3391-4C4E-94CD-90F7A5F1FB39

Story #2

I was dating a guy (who later became my husband, but after this stunt it was by the skin of his teeth!) who loves haunted houses at Halloween. He insisted that I would find it really fun, it was part of his Halloween “tradition” that he wanted to share with me. We found one in Milwaukee that looked pretty good and off we went.

I began to have misgivings when I realized it was a derelict building entirely made over into a pretty spooky looking house. We entered. The actors were excellent, the scenes superb, the lighting magnificent and after the first “scare” I didn’t stop screaming! At first my date, and presumably the actors, thought it was all in good fun, until it was evident I was actually traumatized. I’d never seen anything like this; I put my coat over my head (sobbing) and was led outside. The people in line were very excited when they saw the state I was in—“wow! It must be great!” I heard someone say…

64BFBCAE-476D-49B8-9C79-7F78B24D23C6
Needless to say I have never entered another Haunted House, and after about five years I forgave the man I married, but I still shudder at the memory.

Story #3

I have been to Mexico twice to celebrate The Day of the Dead. The first time was after the loss of my Father and a beloved Aunt. I went to Mexico City by chance was still grieving but, I had a wonderful time. It was colorful with alters everywhere and in the Zócalo there were orange marigolds and magenta cockscomb flowers laid out in patterns: beautiful. It was a wonderful and strangely healing experience because there was an acceptance of the inevitability of death rather than a resistance to loss.

A4725FD0-5E70-4B24-BCD1-6D6B637A1B9C

Some years later I was in Oaxaca at the same time. That time was very different, just as moving but more visceral. I was taken to a graveyard where families sat around graves sitting with and laying out offerings of food to the dead. It was very dark and the graves were mounds of earth with simple crosses. Death felt present rather than removed under heavy stone monuments. As the night progressed more and more people arrived and they brought candles and flowers and eventually it was as light as day in the candlelight and the atmosphere was quietly celebratory. It was a very beautiful and soulful experience.

1C1E9001-D7CF-49CF-8B83-D36DD3A46AC7989C7D1E-40FF-4599-B860-1BF26425BD000E22D125-1FFC-46F7-9F96-DD2D77FEB59A37AF4589-C754-4D30-AF64-205E86D503F7All above photos courtesy of Virginia Heaven….a million thanks for the wondeful Halloween memories and the awesome decorations….what a way to begin my guest posts!!!!!

ECDF1099-BDEC-407C-905B-5DBE8913FA40
D51F4D06-391F-4FAC-876E-294DA8D98F1B

Above photos from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

Love these charming plates from Williams-Sonoma.

ECBC8E35-3C9E-410B-B1DA-CB5A1ABC391A

Hope I get these in my treat bag……

7805BE80-E54C-4793-B7E8-2429CC3E68D4

AF3DC503-D0DC-4FBD-95BC-8B1F50282378

EASTER BUNNIES: WEDNESDAY MUSINGS

71087135-6488-4DE9-8A23-937746C049FFIn last year’s Easter posting I highlighted wonderful Easter eggs (actually eggs in general, including my collection) I’m featuring our hopping friend the Easter Bunny this year in many guises. When I was visiting Council Oak Antiques last week I found a treasure trove of Easter items that I wanted to share with you. Above is a wonderful painting of two charming rabbits sharing a cabbage leaf.

C1F1AF83-53BF-4884-BC07-CAFDAC509222A little boy with his pet bunnies in this delightful Victorian print. Love the nostalgia.

Always peek into corners and shelves where you will discover hidden treasures and look offseason as well you will find adds to your collections year round.

Oops…do I see a lamb by a basket of eggs…well this post is celebrating Easter and the arrival of Spring after all!!  And I love the cart of carrots. The vignettes of each vendor is lovingly executed.

I do have a couple of bunnies….one a Royal Crown Derby, I was lucky to visit and tour the factory on several occasions, (an upcoming post for sure!) that was given to me by a dear English friend who happened to live in Derbyshire. One of my fondest objects.  Isn’t he a beauty.

1BCB442F-2219-4C67-BCE6-21B75F5239C9

Here is a cutie pie holding on to her duckie, she is a handpainted wooden fierce young lady that I acquired, many years ago, at the Randolph Street Market the March Market is this Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25 from 10 to 5 always the place to spend a fun day browsing the extensive collections, gaining knowledge from the vendors, sipping a delicious Bloody Mary that Candy superbly prepares for you and snacking on Artesian food. Bring your friends and make a day of it.

1D3B7017-1EF9-4462-89A6-BFCCEE322531

A Sabino piece from my collection  D391567D-5E4D-443E-B137-9F1CA2BBD1D1

A reminder to read Paisley Rabbit and the Treehouse Contest yourself and to every child, you can find. Read my review on nenasnotes posted on February 27th ,

62703EB9-B1F7-4507-B597-96643EEEBB67

What would Easter be without candy?  Nothing, in my opinion, I give up sweets for Lent and usually stuff myself with goodies Easter Sunday I don’t see this year as being different (FYI as a child we celebrated Russian Easter as well…I thought that very, very cool and Daddy did the most incredible eggs for both Easters….again, lucky me!)

I don’t eat Peeps but they are a part of any full Easter basket, to be sure, along with rich chocolate bunnies. Yum, yum!  Photos from Pinterest photo credit unknown

It seems live bunnies are wonderful pets as you can see Mike Hines, the deliciously creative florist of epochfloral, (profiled on nenasnotes on December 5, 2016) has had Murray Sparkles for eight years since he was a baby bunny, now a big boy!! The young Mike is pictured with his childhood friend, Mr. McCloud. In Mike’s words ”I’ve always been a sucker for a bunny.” Photos courtesy of Mike Hines

48E71C9D-F1A5-48D2-BF25-173F223174DE

I found these precious plates, along with other pieces in the set, on the Williams Sonoma site, love them!!!!!

How are you celebrating Spring, Easter, Passover…..do share your traditions and perhaps a recipe or two. I think I will do a leg of lamb this year and have leftovers to do the lamb curry that I shared with you a couple of weeks ago. Easter dinner followed by lots and lots of sweets!!!!!!

A8AF4485-F6B0-4538-AA65-4DD682320B1E

 

 

All photos unless otherwise noted taken by me with my iPhone.

CELEBRATIONS: CHAMPAGNE!

imageI do love a great bottle of champagne and when better to have it than New Year’s Eve (I say any day, but that is just me!). I thought it might be a bit of fun to look at its beginnings and how it is served.  As with any alcohol drink responsibly….

Of course, there are many ways to serve it, I really prefer a coupe but others swear by a flute and there are so many new shapes of glasses that can make your bubbly even more special.  I think when having a large crowd which is what I will be with this year, flutes are the answer unless you have wait staff to pass on gleaming silver trays! I found a great selection today on one of the blog posts I follow Remodelista.

image

Champagne is both a region and a wine. Only sparkling wine produced in Champagne can be called Champagne. Other sparkling wine produced elsewhere in France or around the world cannot legally be called Champagne. They are sparkling wines.  The Romans planted vines in the region in 57BC according to the World Food and Wine website (a fabulous resource for all things food and wine!)  After the French, the English were one of the first to embrace the wine and are still one of the largest consumers.  We think of the monk Dom Perignon as the first to develop champagne…rather he tried to perfect it in the 1660’s trying to eliminate the bubbles which were, at the time, thought to be a flaw in the production.imageA photo from Pinterest of some of the top brands…..we are having Veuve at this year’s celebration, and plenty of it I might add!!!!  My favorite of all time is Cristal followed by Krug and Dom Perignon.  A good Preseco is also a great choice. Let me tell you about my first experience with Cristal…I was honored to be one of a small group of the Chicago History Museum Costume Council members (I was acquisition chairman at the time) to be selected to be photographed by the world-famous photographer, Victor Skrebneski, for a spread in Town and Country (many years ago)….that is a story unto itself…another time! After all of us were photographed we were invited to dinner at Les Nomades (one of my all-time favorite restaurants in Chicago) very glamorous and beyond delicious…we were all, of course, dressed to the nines and had a sensational time. A few days later a bottle of champagne arrived at my home.  I put it aside and was having a small dinner party several weeks later, nothing special just a mid-week event for four.  I thought I have this bottle of champagne put it on ice and have it.  At the time I was unaware of the brand and found it quite charming in its packaging and clear bottle.

image

We all enjoyed it very much and I decided to get a couple of bottles to have on hand.  When I went to my local liquor store I almost fainted at the price…no wonder it was delicious.  The cost, by the way, should never dictate your choice and as with any wine, it can go off.  It is still my favorite and a rare treat.  Another shocker was on a trip to the UK I was asked to pick up a bottle of Krug (I hadn’t had it before) and said not a problem…again being naive I wasn’t thinking price and again was stunned when I made my purchase and upon researching both these brands found them to be two of the most expensive.  Well, I have never questioned my taste in food and wine I do, however, find that the treats are limited to special occasions.  There are, of course, various vintages in champagne as in wine.

I found a couple of books that you might like to add to your library for more detailed information.

imageimageimage

I found so many variations on champagne cocktails on so many blog posts that I became mind boggled…..I like mine either “straight” or a classic champagne cocktail which is very simple soak a sugar cube in bitters drop into your glass and fill with champagne….yum, yum, yum!  A sprig of rosemary seems overkill to me but to each his own.

image

image

imageAnd then there is the tower, it seems to be the fashion this year!imageI’d like you to meet my escort for New Year’s Eve (we constantly live in hope!!!!!)

 

Enjoy your celebration and let’s all look forward to a New Year of health, happiness, and peace!

 

NEWS JUST IN……

Saks Fifth Avenue has reason to celebrate the New Year and raise a glass or two of champagne as they welcome their new Vice President/General Manager, Matt Brown.  They have shared his information with me to share with you.  I met Matt yesterday and I know he would love to meet all of you, you will find him charmingly down to earth. Do drop by the store and say hello.

 

image

Chicago – Dec. 21, 2017— Saks Fifth Avenue is proud to welcome Matt Brown as the new Vice President, General Manager of Saks Chicago at 700 N. Michigan Avenue. Matt joins Saks Chicago in this position with nearly 15 years of experience in the retail and spa and wellness industries and will manage the day-to-day operations of the 180,000-square-foot, multi-floor retail destination.

“I am looking forward to taking this next step in my career as Vice President, General Manager at Saks Chicago. It is an exciting time for retail in Chicago, as the city thrives, and I couldn’t be any more proud to manage such a prestigious retail destination,” stated Brown.

Brown spent the past seven years of his career at Saks, holding positions of increasing responsibility in store leadership, most recently acting as Vice President, General Manager of Saks Philadelphia. Prior to joining Saks, He held various management roles in the spa and wellness industry.

 

A FASHIONABLE CHRISTMAS

imageWhen these two gentlemen greet you at the door of Casa Hyder/Smith you know you are in for a great time, their annual Christmas Tree Trimming Party was not an exception.  I have been after Greg Hyder since I began nenasnotes to join me with his stories, all of a sudden he became shy and kept putting me off.  I finally said, “you are off the hook”!  A sigh of relief from him and then he thought better of it and said: “how about coming to our Tree Trimming Party and documenting it!”  Why not indeed! I have known Greg for years and Jim for just about as long.  I worked with Greg when I was still at Saks and he was always very generous with chefs from The Peninsula Chicago, where he is Director of Style and Community Relations, when I had events that featured the top chefs in Chicago, in addition he never said no to door prizes for special shows and events.  We have had many too many glasses of wine together, obviously both our sign of a good friendship!  Silly us!!!

Well, all I can say is when someone tells you they are obsessed with something believe them!  There isn’t a square inch of their exquisite home that isn’t decorated to the nines.  It is extraordinary, to say the least.  Let me take you through it, at least a little bit of it.  The scale is something else.  The tree is gigantic, I have no idea how they got it up three flights of stairs.

imagePicking out the perfect tree at Gethsemane Garden Center

imageLights on and the ornament placement begins….each area of the tree has its own themed ornaments, let’s look at some of them, there are hundreds!  Many collected on their trips and many are family traditions.

image

imageimageimageimageAnd, of course, a Cubs section!!!!  Our hosts are avid Cubs fans!

imageSome baubles were held aside for the party guests, remember the theme of the day was a tree trimming party!!!!  We were told if their placement didn’t meet with Mr. Hyder’s approval off they would come (after the party!)  Pictured are Tim Emond, Becca Smith (Jim’s daughter), Julie Machmon and Jean Antoniou.

On to the Santas….

image

The custom-made Cubs Santa next to the fireplace….glorious!!!!

image

imageimageimageimageimageThe crystal chandelier is festooned with red ribbon and the bobeche are filled with cranberries rather than drippings of candle wax, finished with a huge ornament.

imageAnother chandelier looking from the hall into the living room.

imageThe hall from the living room into the rest of the home.

imageSanta has forgotten his hat on the bed…

image

image

Jim’s painting over the chest in the bedroom, it is only displayed during the Christmas season, another takes its place the rest of the year.  I was quite taken with this painting.  Obviously a talented artist.

imageAnother wall in the bedroom, I love icons and have done a post on them.

imageOne of the bathrooms, of course, in its festive attire!

How about a couple of wreaths…..

imageIn the dining room..

imageAnd inside the backdoor in the kitchen….

imageThe back bedroom with its African theme gets in the holiday spirit!

imageimageimageThe drinks tables…special Christmas Mimosas, yummy!

imageThe tree in the corner of the dining room with more treasured memories

imageimageOh, and did I mention food……my oh my what a spread. Top photo the sweets table (I suggested a cookie exchange next year they were so good!!!!!) Bottom the baked ham, cheeses., paté, relishes and on and on and on……(I got a goodie bag, yay!!!!)

imageJim, Nena, and Greg in front of the tree (still wasn’t finished the tinsel had yet to be placed piece by piece by piece!) that rivals the one in The Walnut Room and this one is alive!!!!!  Thank you so much, my friends, for allowing me to share your Christmas story with my readers, I am most grateful!

The soup served was worthy of my having two cups, here is the recipe beyond fabulous but then so was the entire afternoon…

FROM NENA’S RECIPE BOX

GREG AND JIM’S CREAM OF PUMPKIN SOUP WITH CURRY

4 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 1/2 quarts chicken stock

32 ounces (4 cups) canned pumpkin

2/3 cup brown sugar

Salt to taste

White pepper to taste

Nutmeg to taste

2 cups heavy cream

Chopped chives or parsley for garnish

Serves 12

Melt butter in 6 or 8-quart saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute for 5 minutes until translucent.  Add curry powder and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add chicken stock, pumpkin, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and nutmeg; blend in cream.  Cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Adjust to desired consistency with a roux (equal parts melted butter and flour) or a whitewash (flour and water).  If too thin, cook an additional 10 minutes to cook out the starch.  If too thick, add more cream.  Adjust flavor with seasonings.

Blend in a blender until smooth and creamy.  Ladle into bowls or mugs and garnish with chives or parsley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: CHRISTMAS CRACKERS

imageBy now you are well aware that I am a major Anglophile and I become totally English at Christmas (it is in my DNA, my Mom was English and German), I adore all the tradition of an English Christmas and had the opportunity, several years, ago to spend Christmas with a family in the English countryside.  It was a glorious week….roasts every day and major celebrations with presents and extraordinary meals for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

image

I remember sitting in the parlor one evening and said out loud that the perfect end for that day would be a glass of port and Stilton….out of nowhere in came my hostess with a whole wheel of Stilton, the proper silver scoop server, crystal port glasses, and a decanter of vintage port…..talk about hospitality!!!!!   My hostess adored Christmas Crackers and we had them for all three days.  They were quite elaborate and, of course, we all sat around with our paper crowns and read aloud our silly messages housed inside. I don’t remember all the tokens inside but they were very special.  I know she got at least one set from Harrod’s. Years later back home in the States I was entertaining for Christmas Day with the traditional standing rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, etc. and wanted to do Crackers for my guests (and me!) and thought I would order them from Harrod’s, you can’t get much more authentic than that….well they started around £200 at the time and went up from there….needless to say I found some locally!

imageI found these last year, obviously for the ladies in attendance got others for the gentlemen.

In past years I spent time with friends for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and I always brought the Crackers and have found many locally, ones that I adored were from Burberry with super gifts inside, I got a beautiful red leather tape measure in mine one year.  I have also found stunning ones at Costco (they are actually Tom Smith’s Crackers!!!)…yes, you heard correctly as well as by mailorder from  Olde English Crackers where you can even create your own.  Probably too late this year but you might try the Costco route, who knows.  You might even get lucky at Randolph Street Market Holiday Event this Saturday and Sunday from 10 to 5 and find some vintage ones, wouldn’t that be perfection.  You know you will find things for yourself and for gifts as well as some vintage Victorian ephemera.

imageChristmas Crackers covered in Liberty of London prints, charming.

You knew, of course, that I would give you a bit of background on when and where this tradition began, it is an interesting story.  In  mid-19th Century Victorian England,  Tom Smith, who was a candy maker and baker, discovered while in Paris a version of an early Cracker, a sugared almond wrapped in decorated paper twisted at each end.  He decided to wrap his sweets at home in the same way.  The trend didn’t catch on.  Being an entrepreneur he decided to include a trinket.  The idea of the snap came from fireworks and in 1961 Smith presented this version to the public and shall we say the company has never looked back.  The legacy of “Bangs of Expectations” was carried on by Tom’s sons, Thomas, Henry, and Walter.  In 1906, Tom Smith’s company was granted the Royal Warrant by the Prince of Wales, which entitled the company to become a member of the Royal Warrant Holders Association.

imageI found this advertisement quite delightful.

imageStart now and you will be all set for Christmas 2018!image

image

imageCovers of the boxes

imageOf course, a book recommendation for further research and enjoyment!

imageAnd another one for fun!

imageI know there isn’t time to make your own plum pudding (I do have a super recipe that I will share next year in plenty of time!) you can get really good ones from Crosse and Blackwell or you can make a mincemeat pie (my most favorite, I can eat an entire one myself, not all at one sitting….well maybe!) and serve the following hard sauce (which, by the way goes beautifully with poached pears or just by the spoonful!!! Bad Nena!) It is by far the best hard sauce ever, it was given to me by one of my Saks Store Managers, Bob Pike, along with the Plum Pudding recipe.  Enjoy!!!!

FROM NENA’S RECIPE BOX

BOB PIKE’S HARD SAUCE

2/3 cup soften butter

3 cups confectioners sugar

1/4 cup Calvados (or a bit more like I add)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Place butter (in pieces) with sugar in a food processor add Calvados and vanilla.  Process until creamy.  Chill.  (I use a hand mixer, I no longer have a food processor and you can lick the blades!)

 

All photos are from Pinterest no photo credit available

 

 

 

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: HOLIDAY READING

imageIf you are this far along with your Holiday plans it’s time to sit by the fire with a glass of “real” eggnog, a slice of the fruitcake, I gave you the recipe for last week, or some of the cookies that I am featuring at the end of this post, and a Christmas Story or two….here are some thoughts for you and, of course, for gifts.

A couple of new ones this year by two of my favorite authors who by the way, have new books coming out early 2018…can’t wait!!

imageThis is a charming mystery with one of my most favorite detectives, Charles Lenox.  He is almost my favorite but I’m afraid Armand Gamache still has the biggest part of my heart!!!  But I must say Charles Lenox is very close….You can get this on your Kindle for a major bargain.  An easy read and one I know you will enjoy….the mystery had me guessing until the end but not so Lenox, the smartie!!

imageI am crazy for all of Rhys Bowen’s stories and have followed Molly Murphy since the series began.  Yet another mystery but set in the US, you know I am a bit partial to an English mystery as you shall see.  Read for your pleasure and give as a party gift or a perfect grab bag present.

imageA charming bit of fluff and why not.  If you are addicted to all the Christmas films on The Hallmark Channels…this is for you.  I’m more a White Christmas (I cry every year!), kind of gal!

imageimageOf course, a couple of Christie’s in the mix…definitely in the English spirit of the Holidays and a bit of murder thrown in, oh my!

imageA beautiful vintage A Christmas Carol, nothing more classic and again a perfect gift…I’m mad for this hand tooled leather volume.

imageNew this year and the basis for the film in theaters now…looks fabulous and both are on my to-do list before the end of the year.  And, of course, an annual must-see is the Goodman Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol, I never miss it. It runs through December 31st.

imageAnd speaking of a must-see have you gotten yourself and everyone you know to The Joffrey Ballet’s exquisite version, you have until December 30….hurry, you don’t want to miss it, if you have gone I suggest you go again the details are so intricate you need to see it more than once, that is a given!  How about a doubleheader with both The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, treat yourself to a couple of days in our beautiful City with a stay at one of my favorite hotels, The Peninsula,  The Ritz Carlton or any one of our fabulous boutique hotels with a special dinner….it is the holidays after all!  So much to do and it is already the middle of December, oh dear!

imageA charmingly nostalgic short story made into a vintage 1966 TV piece, you can watch on YouTube, with Geraldine Page. Capote narrates it.  Talk about a tearjerker!!!!  It is my chum Tom Mantel’s favorite and The Toms and I watch it every year while doing our holiday marathon baking weekend.  The strangest thing happened last week, I was going to bed and turned on WFMT-FM, my favorite station, and heard a familiar voice, no it wasn’t one of the hosts, it was Truman Capote reading A Christmas Memory, karma, I think so!

imageA beautifully written book and one I read every Christmas Eve when I was commuting from Evanston to work, I still read it every Christmas Eve day.

imageA lovely book on the Festival of Lights, Hanukkah which begins on December 13th.

These are just a few of the Holiday books that are available, each of your Independent Booksellers have tables full of more suggestions, not to mention all the cookbooks, children’s books and on and on and………..As you are well aware nothing pleases me more than a book at any time of the year.  Enjoy!

imageThis charming scene is actually a pop-up book, well not really it is a record album cover in The Tom’s magnificently decorated home.  I took this photo all others are from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

Remember the last Randolph Street Market is Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17.  You will be able to complete your Christmas list, enjoy a glass or two of spirits along with some goodies.  A perfect place to fill those holes in your list or grab last minute items for stocking stuffing (Mom and I always got special goodies in the toes of our stockings, no coal for us…thanks, Daddy!), grab bags or to take to those many holiday parties on your horizon.

I’m leaving you with one of my most favorite cookie recipes that I have made since I could stand on a chair and help with the baking (and cooking), so for a verrrrrry long time.  I don’t remember if I shared it with you last year, I think not, but in any case, worth having in your recipe box.  The cookies just get better with age in their cookie tin.  You won’t be able to eat only one!

From Nena’s Recipe Box

Russian Teacakes

1 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup finely chopped nuts

Heat oven to 400º. Mix thoroughly butter, sugar, and vanilla.  Work in flour, salt, and nuts until dough holds together.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Place on ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 10 to 12 minutes until set but not brown.  Watch carefully so as not to burn.  While warm, roll in addition confectioners’ sugar.  Cool and roll in sugar again.  I use quite a bit of sugar.  Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.  (I can eat all 4 dozen in one seating, don’t but can!!!)

 

COLLECTIONS: BOTTLE BRUSH TREES AND OTHER CHRISTMAS TREES

image

This display of bottle brush trees and small houses was found at the last Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com you will find similar trees at the last RSM of 2017 on Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17 from 10 to 5 along with many, many other treasures for yourself and for gifts.

We all know that Queen Victoria’s beloved husband, Albert, brought the Christmas Tree to England from his native Germany…you know I love to research my posts but unfortunately, there isn’t a book on bottle brush trees so I will regale you with photos today some with a brief note or two….enjoy.

I do have a couple of very small trees in my very small apartmenet but I am a collector of angels at Christmas.  However, we always had a magnificent tree each year.  My mother, Ruth, created miniature trees, for years, using friends and clients (we sold them in the Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago Holiday Boutique that I managed for many years, I posted about it last year, check the archives) costume jewelry to create these tiny gems….I only have a couple left, I have, over the years, given mine to her friends who wanted a token from her.

imageHere are two of Mom’s tiny jeweled trees I keep them out all year under domes, each is around 6″ tall.

imageHere is one of my collection of vintage Christmas angels holding a teenie tree.

imageA village with bottle brush trees in one of the bedrooms at Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel’s home (every room in the house as well as outside decor is in the festive Holiday spirit).

The above photos were taken by me with my iPhone 7.

imageimageimageimageimage

The above photos were taken just before the Council Oak Antiques, in South Bend, Indiana, Holiday Open House a few weeks ago (you may not find exactly what is pictured) by Patricia McMahon Smith’s son, Jack, especially for nenanotes.  I am obsessed with this Antique Mall, it is well worth the trip to South Bend in between your RSM vists.

While satisfiying my browsing Pinterest fetish I found the following pins, unfortunately uncredited photography but look at the many ways you can incorporate bottle brush trees and small live trees (you can plant these in your garden!) in your holiday decor.

imageimageimageimage

image

imageimageimage

Just a reminder that the Christmas in Blue Island celebration is this Saturday, December 2….here are all the deets….

image

 

And I leave you with another holiday recipe, forgive me if I posted this last year…I hope you will give it a try,  Next year I will soak the cherries in bourbon or brandy…it is truly a yummy cake that keeps well and is a greate hostess gift and/or grab bag gift.  Enjoy….

From Nena’s Recipe Box

BRAZIL NUT/DATE CAKE

12-16 oz. shelled Brazil nuts

1 lb. pitted dates

8 oz. candied red cherries

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Put nuts, dates, and cherries in large bowl.  Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt over nuts and fruit, mix until coated.  Beat eggs until foamy, add vanilla, stir into nut-fruit mixture until well mixed.  Turn into 4 small and l medium size pans that are well greased.  Spread batter evenly.  Bake at 300º for l hour and 45 minutes.  Cool before slicing with a saw tooth knife (the cake is very dense)  I used aluminum pans with plastic covers, tie with a pretty vintage bow.  Be sure to keep one for yourself! I have had this recipe since 7th grade, needless to say, a very long time!

image

 

 

COLLECTIONS: HOLIDAY SHOPPING AT RANDOLPH STREET MARKET

image

There are two more Randolph Street Markets for 2017 the first of which is Saturday and Sunday, November 18 and 19 from 10 to 5 with the preview party on Friday, November 17 from 5:30 to 7:30 to benefit The 606 Project and The Trust for Public Land.  The December Market will be Saturday and Sunday, December 16 and 17 also from 10 to 5.  Both these Markets are so much fun, not only with wonderful items for you and gifts for everyone on your list, but also fabulous food, drink (oh look, Moët & Chandon Champagne at the Friday night party!!!!), music, gift wrapping, and more…let alone free onsite parking.  Bring your list and get your gifting on!!!

I will return next week with another suggestion for a collection…could it be Holiday driven, what do you think…….

As you know I am obsessed with RSM and attend each month and share many of my finds and suggestions for collections on my Thursday posts. Do mark your calendar and join the festivities, I’ll be watching for you!

COLLECTIONS: HALLOWEEN

PLEASE CORRECT STEPHANINE LAKE’S WEBSITE THE CORRECT INFORMATION IS www.stephanielakedesign.com MY APOLOGIES FOR THE ERROR!

 

imageGrab your candy corn this is going to be a long post and I hope a fun one, we all love Halloween don’t we!!!!  It seems that everyone now decorates for this spooky holiday and spend over 9 million dollars on it, oh my, that is scary!!!! I wonder how much of that is spent on Pumpkin Spice items…..or maybe that would be another several million!!!

CORRECTION SHOULD READ 9 BILLION $$$$$$$$

image

The holiday began in ancient times, the Celtics had the festival of Samhain to celebrate their New Year began on November 1. All Hallows Eve became Halloween sometime in the late 1800’s a time to go trick-or-treating, carve pumpkins, get dressed up in costumes and all in all come to the end of a season and get ready for winter.  There is so much to learn about ALL the traditions that I encourage you to do a bit of research on your own and, of course, be sure to watch the Giant Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, a yearly tradition…he will appear one of these years!

image

Let’s begin with pumpkins…having a very talented artist as a Father I had amazingly glorious carved pumpkins and I could carve my own acorn squash, I don’t remember having the charming small pumpkins and other decorative gourds back in the day.  We always had several, one was never enough and I got to help scoop out the pulp and seeds anytime I could spend with my Daddy I did so and I very happy to say he always had lots of time for me…only great memories.  I now see painted pumpkins, glittered pumpkins, gilded pumpkins, and on and on…love them all.  Here are some photos of some of the thousands you can find on Pinterest and Instagram…enjoy…

image

imageimageimageimageimage

Do come to Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com this weekend, October 28 and 29 from 10 to 5 where you will find lots of vintage Halloween items. I had a huge Halloween party every year from grade school through high school.  Everyone, of course, came in costume, mine, for several years, was a white fringed cowgirl outfit that Mom fashioned each year worn with handtooled white leather boots that we got each year when we spent the summer in Midland, Texas (yes, you heard that correctly!), cowgirl hat and gloves….I thought I was Dale Evans (I was crazy about Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger, what can I say!) Mom decorated every inch of our homes with crepe paper and traditional Halloween paper goods (see what you can find at RSM, I can assure you lots….)  We always had a sit down meal also themed as well as games.  We went trick-or-treating on Beggar’s Night as well as Halloween alternating different neighborhoods…it was the best time ever!

A couple of books on collecting Halloween items….

imageimage

Here are some of the decorations we had when I was a child….

imageI had all of these…aren’t they super and now very collectible, see what RSM has…

imageimageimageWe would often have these to go trick-or-treating….hard to find now but great fun to fill with goodies.

imageAbsolutely love this, I want to go to this party…a great way to display all the collectibles you will find at Randolph Street Market.

imageWhen you are in the South Bend area please make a stop at Council Oak Antiques at 50981 S.R. 933 N. as you can see the vendors are ready not only for Halloween but for the rest of the Fall celebrations.  They are open daily and I am mad for the Owner’s Instagram account patricia_mcmahon_smith, do check it out. Photo courtesy of Council Oak Antiques.

There are a zillion haunted houses to visit, parties to go to or host your own, my favorites are at The Peninsula Chicago, hurry home from the Randolph Street Market on Saturday don you costume and attend this year’s extragranza…here are the details…image

And for the children, the party is Saturday morning, also at The Peninsula Chicago www.chicago.peninsula.com….Party invitation graphics courtesy of The Peninsula Chicago.

image

Here is our precious Odette modeling her butterfly costume exclusively for nenasnotes photo by Stephanie Lake….

imageimageimageJust perfection…..

imageWorking on Halloween Haunted House….

image

TheFinished Halloween House…scary!!!!

imageimageThe above seven photos courtesy of Stephaine Lake, www.lake@stephanielakedesign.com  go to the nenasnotes archives for the week of December 12th for the series of profiles I did on Stephanie…you wont’t be disappointed!!!

imageAfter the festivities I am ready for my treats…and you!!!!!

imageOn my way home…….

 

 

All photos from Pinterest, credits unknown, unless otherwise noted.