l o v e l y t h i n g s


Lunch on New Years Eve

This time of year there's a lot of discussion in our family about food.  What we'll eat, where we'll eat, where we'll shop for food.  I think it's because we have the time during the holidays and of course, our love for good food.  After a long walk on the beach we came home to a bowl of French Onion Soup.  The only way to make French Onion Soup is Julia Child's way.  Sure the recipe may include 26 steps, but it's worth every step...and #26 is simply...Bon Apetit!
French Onion Soup gives off the most amazing aroma in the kitchen...there's no need to shop at a special market (which I actually love doing), but not necessary for this recipe.  This soup will satisfy the taste buds and the soul...it's that good...and the ingredients probably cost less than $5.  How many amazing things can you make that you can say all this about?
                                                                         Happy New Year!  
                 Will you be cooking on this New Year's Eve or you going out someplace fun?

                                              Linking with:  http://thecorsoncottage.blogspot.com/


Soaking up the December Sun

Next year at this time we will be back on the east coast...so this year, we are soaking up every minute of the warm weather we have been having in Southern California.  Yesterday we met up with our East Coast friends for a little picnic lunch...California style.
Preparing for the picnic...we made Ina Garten's corn chowder and kept it warm by heating a pizza stone and a Le Creuset and then putting the soup cups in the heated pot until we got to the beach. This kept the cups of soup piping hot until we arrived at the beach.  Box lunches included sandwiches, chips and chocolate chip blondies with sea salt wrapped in parchment paper.  We loaded the car with beach chairs, table in a bag, cooler and footballs and had a wonderful afternoon enjoying 75ยบ temperatures.


setting the holiday table

Yesterday I stopped at Micheal's and purchased inexpensive Chargers (on sale for $1) and came home and painted them with chalk board paint.  Today I wrote our names and Merry Christmas in different languages on each.  I used a vintage bed spread to cover  the table, votives in jars wrapped with a little bakers twine, a crystal tree given to us by my mom and glassware purchased a long time ago at American Rag Cie in Los Angleles.
The Advent Calendar was looking a little empty...so as the cards began filling the mailbox, I started to hang them in the spaces that once held the bags filled with little gifts.  One more to go...
This arrived a few days ago...from Amber.  You may know her as The Girl is Craftee.  I have to tell you it made my day!  Thank you Amber and to everyone who leaves a comment or takes the time to send an email...it means the world to me.  Wishing you all a Merry Christmas! 



holiday baking on the 23rd of December

I don't bake a lot. . . even at the holidays, but as a young girl I always wanted to bake the most complicated cookies.  My mom always steered me to something a little more on the simple side and sometimes it's for good reason.  Chocolate Crinkles are as good right out of the oven today as they were back when I was a child.  This recipe is from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book.

all gone. . .



A gift from a dear friend . . . I adore the packaging.  I can't wait to do some holiday baking with it and will forever keep the bottle.  Thank you Lisa!


Holiday traditions

Holiday traditions...we all have them in some way.  For some it means getting up early and driving for hours to cut down their own tree.  For us, we were just happy hopping into the car and heading to Stew Leonard's to pick out the perfect tree.   This year it was a tree lot along Pacific Coast Highway just as the sun began to set.  Another family tradition was dinner at Union Square Cafe in NYC sometime during the holidays.  We were never organized enough to make reservations so that meant arriving at 5:30 just as they opened their doors and grabbing four seats at the bar.  We have so many fond memories of dinners in the city...just the four of us.  So this year I made Union Square Cafe's Bar nuts to reminisce about the past while we make a few new traditions to carry on in the years ahead.  
Recipe courtesy of Nigella Lawson/Food Network
  • 2 1/4 cups assorted unsalted nuts, including cashews, walnuts, pecans and whole unpeeled almonds
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 350 degree.
Toss the nuts in a large bowl to combine and spread them out on a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden brown, about 8 minutes.
In a large bowl, combine the rosemary, cayenne, sugar, salt and melted butter.
Thoroughly toss the toasted nuts in the spiced butter and serve warm.  Yum!

To send to out of town friends, I put the dry ingredients into the small jars and nuts into bags.  All they have to do is pour the nuts onto a baking sheet and toast.  Add melted butter with the ingredients in the jar and mix all together, serve warm... and enjoy!  


Oh Joy. . . Christmas comes to Juxtaposition in Newport Beach, California

One of my favorite places to shop or just for a little inspiration is Juxtaposition.  It is located along the Pacific Coast Highway in the Crystal Cove Promenade in Newport Beach, CA. 
Even as often as I visit Juxtaposition, there's always something new.  I loved these wonderful candles made from old jar and bottle molds and the reclaimed apothecary bottles to hold matchsticks.  It's a great place to buy gifts, but I have a hard time parting with anything I buy at Juxtaposition.  They wrap everything beautifully and every ticket is hand written on a three-copy sales slip...just like it used to be done everywhere...I love that!
At 3,000 square feet there's plenty of space to move about and it usually takes me at least twice through to make sure I haven't missed something new.  The staff is very knowledgeable and helpful, but will let you look around at your own pace.
I wish this were my closet...I love everything they have...from bags and shoes to boots and clothing pieces...a very well edited collection that fits my style perfectly.
I love this sign that sits out front.  There are several wonderful restaurants right in the same shopping center, like Pacific Whey  next door,  but for the best view...head across the street to the Shake Shack.
Just across PCH (north) is the Crystal Cove Shake Shack, now owned by Ruby's, but still one of the best views.  Right after leaving Juxtaposition I drove over to the Shake Shack and it was just after the rain had cleared. . . It's not everyday you get to see a school of dolphins swimming this close to shore. 
               Thank you Michele and Ellen at Juxtaposition for allowing me to photograph! 


Small But Charming . . . flower(s) in the holiday house

I never miss a party at Jane's ...but looking around my house I have plenty of fresh greens, but only this one rose...I mixed it with my new beads I purchased at The Groves Antique Market in Irvine, CA a few weeks ago.  I even added a string around my re-purposed fig jam jar. 
So Jane, I hope you don't mind that I came to your party almost empty handed...just the one rose, but we are not all professional like you.  Check out Jane's blog for a little holiday inspiration and join the party.
                                                       Linking with:  Small But Charming


pizza + appetizer

Last Friday I quickly made a pizza dough and while I waited for it to rise,  I looked for something to put on it...not wanting to leave the house...I found that we had a bag of small fingerling potatoes, a shallot, fresh thyme and goat cheese.  So I made a salad and this was dinner... it was delicious.
I washed the potatoes and put them in a sauce pan with ice water (since having the convenience of instant hot water, we have realized that it's not always perfect.  I have started adding ice cubes to the tap water before bringing them to a boil because if the water is too hot when you start, the potatoes do not cook evenly).  Boil for about 10 minutes, they should be tender, but still hold their shape and skin.  Slice each potato into small circles.  Toss with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and fresh thyme.   Bake in a 375 degree oven on parchment paper for about 8 to 10 minutes.  Prepare the pizza dough, drizzle a little olive oil and add potatoes and goat cheese and bake until the crust looks lightly browned.  You can add a few caramelized shallots as you are about to serve.  
On Sunday I needed an appetizer that would travel well.  I loved the taste of the pizza, but knew that would not work.  I made tiny little puff pastry tarts using the same idea from the pizza on Friday. 
For the appetizer, I used two sheets of puff pastry that I let defrost in the refrigerator overnight.  I rolled them a little thinner and then used two round cutters.  The larger one is about 2 1/4" and I used it to cut them out.  I used the smallest one (about 1 1/4") to score the inside of the larger one.  I used the tines of a fork to prepare the pastry so the well part would not puff up.  I covered it with an egg wash using a pastry brush and then filled the center with a little goat cheese crumbled and two or three tiny potatoes on top.  Baked for 8 minutes and then sprinkled the crunchy caramelized shallots on top. 
The great thing about puff pastry, besides that it's easy and so good is that it's best to prepare ahead and refrigerate for at least an hour or longer.  Puff pastry needs to be really cold when it goes into the oven, so I made them ahead, put them in the refrigerator and I popped them into the oven as I was getting ready.  Do you love puff pastry too?


pretty packages tied up with string

Since December 1st I've been thinking about how I will wrap my packages this year...staying on the same track as my holiday decorations, I used items I already have around the house and stayed with a very simple theme.  I spent about an hour looking in my pantry, desk for office supplies and even the garage for twine and string. 
For wrapping paper I used kraft wrap and a roll of white paper we've had around forever that my kids use for school projects.  The kraft wrap is sold in drug stores, but the best kind is sold at Olive Manna.  It's a little thinner and makes wrapping a dream. 

Spools of twine and an assortment of tags I've purchased over the years at old fashioned stationery stores, art supply stores and even Staples.  Most of my supplies are stored inside my desk/armoire in silver boxes purchased at Ikea.
Next year I would like to find a spot in our house to have all of this set up on an old table or desk...out of the way, but not too far.  Jars of buttons, tags, twine, mini clothes pins, markers and stamps.  It will look festive and be perfect to wrap a hostess gift at the last minute.
                                                           linking to:  From the Girl Creative


Honey Madeleines: Ann Willan, #27 of Gourmet's 50 Women Game Changers

Week # 27 of the Gourmet's 50 Women Food Changers is Ann Willan, the founder of the prestigious La Varenne Cooking School.  I didn't know that much about her, but as soon as I started doing a little bit of research I was instantly wondering...How did I not know more about her.   I am so grateful to Sue of the beautiful blog The View from Great Island who introduced me to this group of bloggers cooking and baking their way through the list which was started by Mary from A Perfect Bite.  
I chose Ann Willan's recipe for Honey Madeleins.   I only recently purchased a Madeleine tin when I made them for my Madeline's 17th birthday party.  After carefully following Ann's recipe and directions, I now know how to make proper Madeleines.  She gives very specific directions which of course is not at all surprising with her impressive background.
Ann writes, "Bake the Madeleines until they are puffed, golden brown, and just starting to pull from the sides of the molds, 8 to 10 minutes. Note that the peaked centers will be lighter than the rest of the cakes. Turn them out on a rack to cool. They are best eaten warm from the oven."  The recipe is perfect, of course.  At eight minutes in a 400 degree oven and the cakes were doing exactly as she said. 
They are delicious right out of the oven, but I'm sure my kids will enjoy them in their lunches today as well.  What has been wonderful about being a part of this group is that I have learned so much just in the few weeks in which I've participated.  The following bloggers are participating as well and I always enjoy reading everyone's choice of this week's game changer.  


flea markets & winter white vegetables

At last Sundays flea market in Irvine, California I found quite a bargain!  A complete set of china for $75.  Twelve 6-piece place settings and lots of fun serving pieces.  I was absolutely thrilled.  It was wrapped in clean bubble wrap and in two plastic bins.
The set includes a full tea, coffee, cream and sugar set, two covered butter dishes,  covered serving bowls, a soup tureen, several serving platters, bowls and plates.   I also found the adorable silver ornament and tree topper set, for $5.
I have been searching thrift stores for shallow soup bowls...this set came with 12.  Today I made a winter white vegetable soup that will be perfect for a holiday dinner party.  Recipe below.
Knowing that my kids will probably not go for the winter vegetable soup, I went ahead and made some mashed potatoes and picked up a rotisserie chicken at the market.  I love the way they look in my new china bowl!
Winter White Vegetable Soup
1 onion, chopped
1 head cauliflower, cut into pieces
2 medium turnips, peeled and cut into 1" dice
1 medium celeriac, peeled and cut into 1" dice
2 russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1" dice
2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 large fennel bulb, sliced
2 cloves garlic, skins removed and cut in half
2 TBSP butter
2 cups whole milk, heated (be careful to not let it come to a boil)
4 cups water
Melt butter in large heavy pan like a Le Creuset and add onion.  Cook until tender and add the rest of the vegetables and the 4 cups of water.  Add 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil.  Then let it simmer for about 45 minutes or until vegetables are very soft.  Off the heat add the hot milk and blend with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender.  Garnish with fresh chives and roasted beets cut small.  You can roast beets, but as a time saver I prefer to buy them at Trader Joe's already roasted.


Advent Calendar + decorating with old familiar things

  Lovely Things has moved here, please come and check it out.  Thank you!
I started thinking about decorating for the holidays with planning this year's advent calendar.  I decided to stick with things I have around the house, my recent thrift and flea finds and my usual color palette of natural, black, white and silver with touches of green.  The first thing I did was paint a 4' x 4' piece of 1/4" plywood with chalkboard paint.  Then I emptied my candy jars, washed and filled them with holiday treats.  I used my black and white ticking stripe pillows from Juxtaposition to wrap around little trees I found at a local nursery for $5 each.  The entire project including the supplies for the chalkboard were less than $50 and it's a whole new look from last year. (You can see last year's advent calendar here).
I used lunch bags and twine and filled 24 bags with little presents for Madeline and Patrick...12 each.
I can never have too much candle light...especially when the days are shorter.  I found all my old jars that were large enough to hold a votive, wrapped twine around the top to give it a little something...my favorite jars are the ones that have writing in the glass like the Bonne Maman jam jar and the De Cecco one.  The candy jars are filled with things from Trader Joe's.  I wish I had not sampled the waffle cookies with chocolate and peppermint...I can't stop thinking about them.
I searched my cabinets for anything silver, gold, black and white and a little green.  The little match holder is also from Juxtaposition and it is a reclaimed apothecary bottle that has been scored on the bottom so that you can strike a match. 
I filled silver Revere bowls with pine cones and silver balls tied with black ribbons.  My favorite bowl is one that my husband won in a ski race.  I remember seeing it shortly after we met on a shelf in his book case...Salt Lake Area Corporate Ski Challenge Series, February 4, 1984, 3rd Place was engraved on the bowl.  I said, "You are such a good skier, I would think you would have come in first."  And yet he still married me...I know....
So are you decking the halls?  Are you using old or new or a combination of both?  Enjoy the season!
Linking with:  Mod Vintage Life
I just noticed that this post is featured here today: blog.holamama....Thank you! And at ABCDdesign today-- Thank you Amy!  and here:  Momjeanz.  and The Corson Cottage.
  Thank you Paula  at Two Ellie!