Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category


Just a small, simple, sweet treat — for the 4th of July — with only 3 items from Trader Joes.   Start with the Chantilly Cream Vanilla Bean mini sheet cake … and decorate with your favorite red and blue fruit.   Strawberries and blueberries in the picture above.  It’s best to use the same size strawberries so when you slice them, they are uniform for making the stripes.


Happy 4th of July!


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Happy 4th of July!

I found this cute red stripe burlap star at Pottery Barn (on sale!)  I ended up making a few more made burlap stars for decorations … directions coming soon!

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Don’t you love using fresh greenery when decorating your home for Christmas?  I sure do!  Cedar and Douglas Fir pine, holly and boxwood are my favorites …


My “go to” place for fresh greenery has been Trader Joe’s.  But, you must get them early in the season, as they go fast!  Especially the cedar swags and wreathes.

This year, our TJs even had fresh boxwood wreathes.  I bought several to hang from mirrors.


I often buy the $4.95 boughs and break them apart.  I tuck the individual pieces of greenery in the artificial garland on my mantels.  It makes it look more natural … and I love the smell!


And of course, I save small pieces to use in my floral arrangements.


And I combine fresh greenery with fruit (apples, pears & persimmons) to decorate our outdoor patio.


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Christmas Displays

Anthro Display

It’s been a busy few weeks with trips to Los Angeles and San Francisco.  Here are a few snapshots of Christmas “on display” at various retail stores.  (Above:  Anthro)


Santa with an interesting clock display at Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach.


We visited the Christmas shop at Roger’s over Thanksgiving weekend.


Beautiful displays from Rolling Greens, a nursery and home store in Los Angeles.



I’d love to recreate a hanging snowflake vignette in our outdoor patio area.


The Christmas tree in the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel.


The entrance to the Mark Hopkins Hotel in San Francisco, across from the Fairmont.


A great display of wreathes in the Union Square Banana Republic.

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With St. Patick’s Day only 2 weeks away, have you added some touches of green in your home?

As far as home decor, I generally don’t do much for St. Patty’s Day.   I usually add a couple of green items to my entry table or a fireplace mantel, and that’s it.  I did pick up a shamrock wreath a few years ago at HomeGoods.  I usually hang it from our entry mirror.

Last year, I picked up a few green shamrock necklaces in the Target $1 bins.  I hang them from shell bottles and/or add them to silver trays … along with a few other items.

Here are a few other easy ideas to add a touch of St. Patty’s for your home…

You could make a St. Patrick’s Day banner – like the one seen here from Crafty Scrappy Happy.

Or, you could make a rag wreath from green fabrics – like this adorable wreath shown on Home Seasons.

And there are all kinds of cute printables that you can frame – for a very quick & inexpensive home decor item.  Check out Etsy for all kinds of printable art.

Have fun getting ready for St. Patty’s Day!

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I made sugar cookies for our Valentine Card-Making party.  I used my mom’s recipe, which is my all-time favorite sugar cookie recipe.  I haven’t posted it on my blog before, because the dough is a little tricky to work with, as it’s a bit sticky.  But after trying four different sugar cookie recipes, my family and I think this makes the best tasting sugar cookies.

Usually I have my great helper and baker, Natalie, to help make sugar cookies for our card-making party.  But, she spent the night at a friends’ house so I had to frost them all myself!   (If you’re like me, you probably enjoy decorating the first 8 cookies or so … then you’re ready for them all to be frosted!)

I made hearts, lips and cupcakes … perfect for a party of 12-13 year olds and their moms, right?

Back to the recipe.  The dough needs to be refrigerated before rolling and cutting the cookies.  And, the dough tends to be sticky, so you have to use a well-flowered board.  You end up working in a bit of extra flour into the dough as you’re getting it ready to roll out.  But again, the cookies taste oh so good!

I think sugar cookies taste best when frosted with butter cream frosting  (instead of royal icing or fondant).   You don’t get the smooth surface, but the cookies taste so much better.  I use the Butter Cream Frosting recipe on the back of the Powdered Sugar box.  Sometimes I use royal icing to outline the cookies and add decorative lines and squiggles.  I just ran out of time to pipe/outline the cookies this time.

Sugar Cookies


3 cups Flour

1  cup Sugar

1  tsp. Baking Soda

2 tsp.  Cream of Tartar

1  cup Salted Butter, softened

2 Eggs, slightly beaten

3 Tbs. Milk

1  tsp. Vanilla


1.  Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda and cream of tartar.  (If I don’t feel like getting out the sifter, I just whisk the dry ingredients in a large bowl).

2.  Add the butter and cut it in as you would for a pie crust (using a pastry blender).

3.  Add the eggs, milk and vanilla to the flour mixture.  Mix with a wooden spoon.  Dough will be sticky.

4.  Wrap dough in wax paper and refrigerate for at least 1  1/2 hours.

5.  Flour pastry board and rolling pin.  Roll out dough, sprinkling with flour as you go.  Roll dough out to desired thickness.  Cut into shapes, dipping cookie cutters in flour before cutting.

6.  Bake cookies at 400 for 8 to 10 minutes (depending on dough thickness and your oven temp).

I use Silpat Baking liners, which makes it easy to remove sugar cookies from cookie sheet.

Butter Cream Frosting

1 lb. Powdered Sugar

1/2 cup Salted Butter, softened

1/4 cup Milk

1 tsp. Vanilla

In a medium to large-sized bowl, add powdered sugar, butter, milk and vanilla.  Use a hand mixer to beat the frosting until completely mixed.  Separate portions of the frosting and add food coloring for desired colors.

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For our Christmas party, I made two new desserts — both from Bon Appetit.  And, both were a hit — with our party guests and our family.

This chocolate almond bark with sea salt is very rich — a little goes a long way!  It’s easy to make and can be stored in the fridge for up to a week!  That’s great when you’re planning a big party or, you’re looking for an interesting dessert to give to friends & neighbors.

Chocolate Almond Bark with Sea Salt


1/2 cup Sugar

1 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter

1 1/2 cups roasted Marcona Almonds (not in oil)

1 lb. good-quality dark chocolate (62% – 70% cacao), finely chopped

Coarse Sea Salt (for sprinkling)


1.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or foil.

2.  Combine sugar with 2 Tbsp. water in a small saucepan.  Stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil and cook, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with a wet pastry brush, until caramel is dark amber, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Immediately add butter, whisk until melted.  Add almonds; stir until well coated.  Quickly transfer almonds to baking sheet, spreading out to separate nuts.  Let cool.  Break up any large clumps of nuts.  Set aside 1/4 of nuts.

3.  Stir chocolate in a medium bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water until melted.  Remove from heat, add nuts from baking sheet and stir quickly to combine.

4.  Spread chocolate-nut mixture on same baking sheet, keeping nuts in a single layer.  Top with reserved nuts.  Sprinkle with salt.  Chill until chocolate is set, about 3 hours.

5.  Break bark into pieces and store between layers of parchment or waxed paper.

Do Ahead:  Can be made 1 week ahead.  Keep chilled.


  • I used Trader Joe’s Salted Skin-On Marcona Almonds.  I wasn’t sure they’d work, as they have the skin on, but they were great.  You need 1 and 1/2 bags (6 oz. bags).  I also used Valrhona Le Noir Amer 71% Cacao bars (from Trader Joes).
  • In preparation for making caramel, I fill a 1-cup measuring glass half-full with water and place the pastry brush in glass – next to the stove – ready to brush down the sides of the pan.
  • While the recipe calls to cool the chocolate-nut mixture for 3 hours, I found it easier to cut into pieces after 1 1/2 to 2 hours of cooling.
  • Make sure you use very coarse sea salt.   The chocolate looks better with small, coarse chunks of salt.

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