Friday, December 31, 2010

Bonne Nouvelle Annee

I am sending you a virtual one of these, as I do dishes and clean up after the Hoovers (as R calls my sibs' families) rolled through tonight~

The day started early as I surprised my Mom on her 75th Birthday with a breakfast with her best girlfriends; these are all sterling girls~
I set the table in pink lustreware in the wee hours; while I adore the French, I love English 19C porcelain and these were perfect today~
tonight we started with Gruyere cheese puffs~
I split the dough and made sweet puffs; filled with chocolate creme; the girls helped me finish these and they were all soon gone....
There was salmon en croute, fried oysters, New England Clam Chowder and many other goodies; a big spread; in the mean-time Grampy gifted wool shirts from his summers in Alaska in 1955 and carefully preserved in mothballs to his grandson Corino who is at university in Idaho; gratefully accepted and fit perfectly~
There were molten lava cakes~

And happy eaters, my goal is achieved!

Resolutions are for tomorrow. Tonight, we are having more of this and enjoying the company!

I am falling into bed soon after the dinner;wishing you a lovely New Year!!!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pre-Party Cheer

Friday is my Mom's 75th Birthday in addition to New Year's Eve. No Party per her instructions, just family. Oh well, I have arranged a surprise brunch with her girlfriends in the living room around the tree. I have swapped out the red for Pink. Every room is filled with peonies (her fav, I can't believe I found them in December!) and pink and white roses and super fragrant greens....
What did she request? Lots of Pink, Lots of Champagne. Coconut cake. I love my Mom and I will have the best cake and champagne for her and her best girlfriends with breakfast Friday.

I love this pic, it's the mood of the room now, lots of crystal and light and the red is gone, replaced with pink. We entertain here nightly. Oh so many more pics to show, soon.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all, in whatever corner of the world you find yourself. Today I replenished my supply of coffee table books, including Vicki Archer's French Essence, Kathryn Ireland's Creating a Home (big thanks to Kelly at Giannetti Home for a signed, beautifully-wrapped presentation), and David Easton's Timeless Elegance; there are several others which have not arrived yet, Pamela & Deb's recommendations~

It's nice to have dinner on Christmas eve because that means Christmas Day is more leisurely. I spent this morning with my Mom, looking through the new books after a breakfast of French toast +++. Mom liked David Easton's book best, especially the center tables, and she also noted his sweet Norfolk Terrier Lizzie having breakfast at Balthazar. Vicki's book has wonderful text & photos, and it struck me that while many of us would love to replicate a Provencal or Snowy Christmas, we are where we are, and that is generally not in the snowy mountains or in Provence.
While many of us pine to be in another possibly exotic location for Christmas, it's great to love where you are; while I would kill to spend Christmas in Beaune, it would be impossible for all of my family to be there, and I can't dream of Christmas without a huge gang of family. It feels right to use the materials, flowers and decorations that are available to us, wherever we are. We "make do" so to speak with a California Christmas, which this year included the vodka-infusion bar, which was wildly popular, especially the sleeper, the vanilla-pear infusion, amazing after two weeks~
Don't think of those decanters just for any wine; the buffet was very inviting and inspired some creative drinks; servez vous-meme~
I took my nieces out on the final shopping rounds, to Santa Monica Seafood for oysters, and to the Chinese market for steamed lobsters and Dungeness crabs. We had a great time with a little dim sum lunch and it was fun afternoon together. The girls helped me all afternoon with prep work, this pic before the food was set out~
The girls like to learn how to cook and what to do; setting the food out, lighting the candles, a little last minute polishing of some silver;
For Christmas and New Year we have shellfish, prime rib, and home-made gravlaax. We had a large fruits de mer plateau with the lobster heads and crabs, shrimp & lobster meat on an XL platter from Hotel Splendid off the Etoile; I had barely set the platter out before someone had an accident at the other end of the table and the white tablecloth had to be removed.
I never got the pics I wanted of the large tray as I had to clean up the spilled pomegranate juice, but the entire fruits de mer tray was delish!
Everyone grazed around the table, finger food and small plates, except my Dad, who sat down with his best friend~
make that two two of his best friends; Honey will beg all day for graavlax.
I know some families don't all get along; we are lucky that there are no "issues" and there is lots of laughter and conversation and happiness in the house when we get together~
I used baby's breath in a few French jam jars, and the champagne had just a splash of pomegranate juice. I had to go to the grocery store for 6 more bottles of bubbly before 7pm; the manager said "tell that family to slow down!" They didn't heed that advice very well; it was all gone!

We moved on to dessert later; rum cakes, many cookies & biscotti and buche de Noel, chocolates and toffees; I did not take pics before they were eaten.
R and I stayed up til late late, in the calm and the glow of the tree, the dogs rested their heads on our laps after all the activity of the day.
David & Hector basically gave me the flowers at the Saturday market; they were pretty yet simple for Christmas;
This morning we looked at the pics of last night and made our notes for next time, after breakfast in front of the tree, and looked at the new books all morning.
This afternoon I am making cookies for my nephews and loving a day off. Wising you all a lovely Christmas~

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Roving Lobsters

After a lashing of rain during the night, we woke this morning to relative calm, closed roads and lobsters in the street. I admit, this is a new one for me~ Downtown Laguna is closed for flooding and mud & debris, and we got a wakeup call from the police department to tell us to keep out of the area. I resorted to the live cam on Hotel Laguna to watch the progress early today. By now the mud is mostly cleaned up, while the red lifeguard flag and eroded beach remain. I hope someone assisted the lobsters safely back to the sea where they belong.

The flooding presents a small problem for me as my office is on Broadway, right in the middle of the flooded area. Today's shipments will be sent from the UPS store instead, and I will continue to make my rounds to deliver the last gift baskets, which I had thankfully stored in the Prius~
Lobster pic courtesy LATimes, Santa pic from my Blackberry as I left the camera at home today. Stay warm & dry everyone, wherever you are in the country!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Prep

I wait all year for Christmas, and I am not sure why I hesitated an extra few weeks this year, but today we got going, big time. Miss Biscuit wishes you a Merry Christmas~
This is her first Christmas, but she's settling in fine; she did her thing, "catch me catch me" with the ribbons; snooping around the tree. Mostly she likes to be right with her people and mostly right next to me~

Honey is having her second Christmas, the Grande Dame at 1.5 years old. Last year she ate through all of the light cords, but this year she is more mellow~
I got out in the garden today to gather the greens. We are lucky to be in a climate where winter is so bountiful; I had no troubles finding juniper, toyon and pine~
Everything is gathered into my vintage Moroccan basket which opens flat, like a disc; I adore this basket, despite its sisal handles; sisal handles have their place, and this is one of them; LOVE it and will have it copied~
Everything is fresh and plump after the rains~
We got the tree up today, and started the decorations, my favorites are egg shapes, bought on sale at Rogers~
Perhaps it's the organic shape, oh there is much to say about the egg form, but I love them on the tree~
and also the XL acorns~
lots of organic and natural~
The pups at our feet, the tree up, there is happiness in the house~
Honey was watching the rain all day; "no worries," she told us, "it frequently rains in Norfolk."
I got the tree up with a little help from Mom, the mantel was all me and from the garden;
In front of the fire, I put the giant clam, with kugels that were on the chandelier last year~
I had wanted to enter TartanScot's contest, but I didn't get it done til today. I was very happy with the results~

Last year I had greens as usual, but with a running ribbon, I think. This year it was shaggy and fresh; I debated a bow, but thought this was enough~

Our mantel is Georgian style and about 5.5ft tall. I have long debated if it is original or not; no matter if it is or not, it's fantastic in the large living room.
The painting is of the Loire. It's funny to see the house this year take shape for Christmas, after last year being so worried about every detail for Romantic Homes; this year there is less stress. It was a total thrill to see our home in the magazine; this year we feel a little more leisurely though it will be just as fun & interesting~

Friday, December 17, 2010

What Goes Around

The Christmas season is like a second Thanksgiving, except that we can show & give our thanks & appreciation during several weeks rather than just one. Love it! My tree is not up, I have few decorations up, but all of my Thank You's have been prepared. Tomorrow I will start to gift the infused vodka bottles, and mmm-mmmh are they good~

I will give one to our market managers Rick (Saturday) and Raquel (Sunday). One for Wendy who is bringing me two of her double crust apple pies on Sunday, one for Chris who has given me organic tomatoes for free all year. One for Hector who supplies me with fab flowers at deep discount, one for Kelly & Hector my Saturday pasta neighbors, and oh goodness, other lovely people.

I will gift them to some of my regular clients too, and bags of Foxy Treats for my canine-loving friends, all in these sturdy raffia wine bags, which you will see in new shapes next spring; can't wait~
Like a champagne maker who turns each bottle one-quarter turn each day, I have gently turned the bottles, and every few days, uncorked them to smell the maturation; they don't smell like vodka, they smell like the fruit now though they still pack a punch~

There are straight flavors, and then there are some combinations like raspberry&pomegranate; topped with burlap, ribbon, moss, roses, cedar and stuff....
I told my market friend Cindy that I was making infused vodkas with the pomegranates, and she gave me a ton of perfect, deeply colored fruits, which I have used and will gift around this week. She also gave me a bag of exotic fruits, which I gave to the Vietnamese couple who do my upholstery and did a perfect sofa for me this week at 1/4 the retail price. Tomorrow I will have a large and very pretty jar of pomegranate-infused vodka for Cindy; I'm sure she will love it. There are so many generous people who work at these markets.
Today I finished the bulk of my East Coast orders, though there will undoubtedly be a few more. I can not tell you how many callers I have had in the last few weeks who have seen my products featured on someone's fabulous blog over the course of this year. I am so grateful to the gracious bloggers who have given me a mention or hosted giveaways with me this year. I take good care of anyone who saw me on someone's blog; "B" in New Jersey, you made my day today, that we were finally able to connect. I will be sending each of the bloggers who helped me this year a note at year end.
And to everyone who has purchased a basket this year; heartfelt thanks. Thank you for supporting Fair Trade merchandise; thank you for supporting the women of Madagascar. Thank you for understanding that I am a small business and wearing many hats. There are changes in store for 2011 and I expect to improve the fulfillment side and also have a new website.
I like hanging around with people who are generous, who don't just give when Bono asks them to. You can call it "paying it forward" or Karma; you can call it whatever you want, I see good things come back to me often though I don't expect "payback." I believe that sooner or later, what comes around goes around, and that a spontaneous and generous response to your fellow man is the right one. Is there really any other way?
One more week, and we will be enjoying our Christmas eve meal; wishing everyone a low-stress week; I don't have my tree yet; I will go get it tomorrow in the middle of the "Pineapple Express." That's as close as we get to a Nor'Easter here in SoCal.