nye: quick party app + bubbly ideas.

December's Real Simple had a great spread with easy-looking recipes and suggestions for having fun at your own party. We usually celebrate New Year's with a few, good friends in the comfort of someone's home, and we all bring food + drink to share. Some ideas...
On recommendation from amazing sis-in-law no. 2, Real Simple's crab and chive puffs (p. 229) were a hit at her holiday party earlier this month, and I've been looking for a fun and easy puff pastry pastry. Also tempting in the app dept. is their hot ricotta dip. Check out the entire article, which starts on page 226.

And, if you're looking for ways to dress up champagne, check out the Food Network's quick list of party cocktails.

Have a great rest of the week, and I'll see you in 2011... with party pics. I can't wait to share the joy.

Hope your new year's eve is extra bubbly!


a little late, but worth the wait.

I hope everyone had a bright and merry holiday! On Christmas eve eve, I finally got some baking in, and though it wasn't my all-time favorite (sugar cookies), it's a very close second. It is, however, at the top of my family's list: Kahlua Cake.
This might be the easiest bread/cake you ever make, and it will quickly become a favorite. It's super moist and fluffy and a guaranteed crowd pleaser. Having friends over for New Year's? Cheers to midnight with Kahlua Cake.

My mom makes this in large loaf pans, and this year, Whitney, made the cake into mini bundt cakes, similar to {frolic!}'s suggestion. Note to self: get one of these because they were a-dor-a-ble. (Whitney also finished them off with a dusting of snow - I mean - powdered sugar. Cute.)

My mom's Kahlua Cake
1 box of Yellow Cake Mix (suggestion: Duncan Hines Extra Moist)
1 small (5.9 oz.) box of instant chocolate pudding
1/2 cup Kahlua
1/4 cup Vodka
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
4 eggs, room temperature

for the glaze:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup Kahlua
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or grease two large loaf pans or one bundt cake pan*. Mix all ingredients together (a stand mixer with paddle attachment makes this extra easy), adding the eggs one at a time. Pour mixture evenly into pans and bake for 50 minutes or until done.

Let cool for at least 20 minutes in pan and get your glaze ready: combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil for 2 minutes. Pour over cake as desired (I skimp on the glaze, so I usually have plenty leftover). Cool completely before removing from pan.

*You might remember: I'm a mini loaf person, so this recipe yielded 5 mini loaves, and I shaved the cooking time by about 10 minutes (and, I have an unpredictable oven, so keep an eye on 'em depending on yours).

Two more quick notes:
Disposable loaf pans from the market work well with the glaze, because you can play with the pan to widen it to allow for ample drippage and soakage down the sides of the cake.

If you're serving (or gifting) within a day or two of baking, wrap tightly with plastic wrap after cooling, and keep in the refrigerator. This cake also freezes well, tightly wrapped, for at least a month (and I'm sure for more).


merry merry.

Happy Christmas eve eve. May the magic of this holiday bring you joy and inspiration, like you do for me everyday.


'tis the season of giving (and receiving).

I have an amazing friend who is the definition of a giver. She puts her family and friends before herself, and is simply beautiful, inside and out.

I was reminded of her generosity when, out of the blue, mixed in with Christmas-y catalogues shouting "buy me!," Sunset magazine showed up in our mailbox this week.

What a tiny, unexpected pleasure that will keep me smiling well into January.

This is my first official subscription to the substantial and wonderful magazine of 'how to live in the West,' and I look forward to sharing it with you. If you're curious about how truly perfect it is, Lovely Morning profiled it a few months back in detail. And, if you're considering things like... a last minute trip to Mammoth this winter, or what produce to buy or what flowers to plant in January, you might just want to pick up an issue for yourself.

Martha: thank you for reminding me what this season is all about.


party details: the favors.

As you might recall, we had a little French theme going for my mom's 60th. As if there was any other option, Fleur de Sel caramels made for a yummy parting gift for our guests, made very simple with the help of my mom's best friend and Crate expert, Jane.
Last weekend, I got started on the bags. I ordered cotton muslin drawstring bags* and stamped them with PS' Flourish in black ink, which first made its appearance on the invitations.
With two tins of C&B's sea salt caramels and a roll of parchment paper, I individually wrapped two for every bag, a la The BC's recipe.
The fun little sacks made for a tasty favor that was easy and got my creative juices flowing. Most of my energy was spent measuring 4"x4" wrappers while I played mind games with the open tins of caramels. How inviting they are.

*I highly recommend the muslin bags for stamping projects, but if you have the luxury of time, order a sample or two so you can see and feel the texture and size of your desired bags. They're all unique, but on the whole, I'd say they were about 1/4" smaller than listed, in both length and width, and next time, I might try the imported bags.


wrapping by rainfall.

What a wet weekend we had in our neck of the woods. The rain dancing on the house made for a perfect gift-wrapping marathon on Saturday morning.
There's nothing like wrapping to the sounds of my favorite Christmas music to really get in the spirit of the season. This year, I stuck to cherry red Divine Twine, kraft postal wrapping paper and chocolate brown DIY gift tags, which made wrapping inexpensive and simple.

In the favorite department, these boxes take the cake. Wrapping paper need not apply. From Anthropologie, of course.
Our shopping is done, wrapping almost complete and on Saturday night, we rang in my mom's 60th birthday. It was so fun to celebrate with our family and friends, and my go-to photographer, Robert Mora, took some amazing snaps that I'll be sharing with you soon. In the meantime, I'll fill you in on party favor details tomorrow.
Happy Christmas week!


one week to go.

Oh, the last weekend before Christmas is upon us! I'm starting my day with last-minute shopping, and I'm actually looking forward to the list-crossing. Before I skip out, I wanted to share my all-time favorite toasty beverage for the season: The BC's Mulled Wine. Try it this weekend. It makes the house smell like Christmas and it warms the taste buds and the soul.
{via Crate & Barrel}
Mulled Wine from The Barefoot Contessa
4 cups apple cider
1 bottle (750-ml) red wine, such as cabernet sauvignon (something you'd uncork and drink)
1/4 cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange, zested and juiced
4 whole cloves
3 star anise
4 oranges, peeled for garnish

Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, zest, juice, cloves and star anise in a large saucepan, bring to a boil and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Pour into mugs, add an orange peel to each and serve (maybe even into glass mugs like the ones to the left - I can confidently say that they're perfect for this warm drink!).

Note: I usually double this recipe, and once heated, I let it sit on the stove covered... for hours. It's that delightful. Merry weekend, all!


last minute, easy hostess gift. wrapping suggestion included.

Two years ago around this time, a little brown box wrapped in baker's twine arrived at our doorstep. Inside, we found packets of gourmet hot cocoa and giant marshmallows. We devoured the warm treat, but I've held onto the brilliant idea, compliments of our amazing wedding planner Rebecca Stone. And this year, I'm stealing it.

If you're close to a Crate & Barrel, and you love it like I do, you can give this concept a peppermint twist, simply and inexpensively. To start:
Peppermint marshmallow pops = $7.95 for 4 (btw: white choc-covered-marshmallows with a pepp crust.)
Peppermint plaid dish towel = $3.95 (on sale now!)

Add to the peppermint treats a couple packets of your favorite hot chocolate mix. I bought a box of Swiss Miss dark chocolate cocoa on a market run, which yielded 8 packets for less than $3.

To wrap, use the dish towel as your vessel, cut some cellophane and a ribbon and wrap two packets of cocoa plus two pepp sticks inside, like a bottle of wine. Maybe throw on a festive tag that you DIY'd.
Grand total per gift: less than $7.

PS: While you're at The Crate, check out a few other hostess gift ideas. I also recently tried - for the first time - their sea salt caramels. I don't know what took me so long, but these are now my new go-to, chocolate-y gift for the season. YUM.


christmas tags.

Wrapping is in full-swing at our house. First thing I did: get my tags in order, a la the guide I posted in October.

One thing I did fail to mention: the key to tag-making is allowing for plenty of dry time. Let them sit overnight if you can. No sense in making beautiful tags that smudge. Another tip: a giant pastry board makes for a sturdy work surface and transporter if you like to punch and stamp by the lights of your Christmas tree like I do (thanks, Krisa!).

I invested in two stamps this season and I'm loving them. Both from Paper Source.
Sidebar: really into snowflakes this year. It's a first for me.

Coming tomorrow: an inexpensive and festive hostess gift, inspired by The Crate.


she knows me well.

On Sunday, I got such an unexpected surprise. My best friend Erin gifted me four very vintage mason jars, from her grandmother's collection. I just love them.
They all have a little more bell-jar shape to the ones you more commonly find today. They're unique, they came from a wonderful person and I'll treasure them always. The large blue jar came with a vintage Miracle Whip screw-top. The woman clearly speaks my language b/c I am, and always will be, a Miracle Whip kind-of-gal.

My favorite: the Atlas Strong Shoulder Mason, pictured to the far right.

PS: If you missed it, Snipped & Ink captured mason jars at our wedding beautifully.


over the weekend.

We had a little - make that big - visitor this weekend that made our spirits bright, helped unfurl ribbons and plough through a closet full of gifts begging to be wrapped. In short, in between puppy walks, we got a few things done.

Lots of stamping, cutting, taping and knotting.
Party prep.
A little deck to the halls.
Bru (left): Thanks for for making our weekend so happy. We hope your cousin Jake and you can hang out again soon.


back in the swing of things. ish.

{image source}
I've been a little off the last few weeks, with the turkey hangovers, the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year, etc., etc. While my postings have slowed, I'm finally getting caught up on blog reading and have some Friday links to share with you:

+ Pretty (and yummy) homemade favor / hostess gift idea, from {frolic!}

+ Christmas in the bedroom? More fun with clear glass ornaments.

+ Seriously (and to quote Camille Styles): why didn't I think of that?

+ For brides, albeit a week-and-a-half late to the party: the launch of 100 Layer Cake's website!

+ Like Laken, my favorite pose: legs up the wall. Try it. I promise it will make any day better. Especially around this festive and fast-paced time of year.

Here's to getting the outdoor lights up (finally), brunch with my best gal pals and getting control of my paperwhites this weekend.

Have a delicious, December weekend!

PS: Have you tried these? We cannot stop eating them.


clear glass ornaments.

I was flipping through one of too many holiday catalogues last night, and came across this beautiful, simple canopy bed, adorned with greens and clear glass ornaments.
{Pottery Barn's log cabin patchwork quilt on their farmhouse canopy bed}
Saving this in the files for a simple, clean Christmas. Next year.


coming soon: french fete.

Happy Monday! I'm so excited to finally share with you ... a sneak peak of the invitations Bianca of Little Miss Press designed for me for a small cocktail party, in honor of my mom's 60th birthday this month.
Oh, I'm just in love with them. It all started with this Paper Source stamp, which you may remember seeing last month. With some Flourish, and inspiration from Bianca's Navy Damask design, we started with a few elements:

+ One color letterpress on Crane Lettra Flourescent White paper (size: 4.25" x 5.5").
+ In Bianca's words: a funkified version of Copperplate, her 'Sheila Calligraphy,' named after her cousin.
+ Deal breakers: black-and-white striped envelope liners (thanks to Bianca).
+ Some French flair.
You likey? I love. Thank you, Bianca!


early december to do's.

{image source}

Today, am thinking about making some purchases, in the gift wrapping dept.:

+ plain white tissue paper
+ striped red and plain red tissue paper
+ plain white boxes
+ white take-out boxes
+ two rolls of brown kraft wrapping paper
+ white tulle
+ baker's twine in cherry (and maybe green apple... and black licorice)

Also on the to do list:
+ tag punching: dark brown and red cardstock
+ take inventory: holiday stamps and stamp pads; gel pens; hostess gifts; last year's leftover ribbon.
+ sign, seal and deliver our christmas cards.
+ finalize the gift list and get shopping.

While I'm punching, I think I might love creating a little something like this. Major soft spot for advent calendars. But I better hurry. 23 days and counting.


get your advent calendars out.

Happy December 1. I love opening that first little window box - don't you? We broke out Christmas earlier than usual this year, with a quiet weekend after Thanksgiving, and I'm loving the early days of December.
{homegrown and handmade on The Farm}