Saturday, December 31, 2011

ladybug, ladybug, best wishes for the New Year....

Prior to our final hike along the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains on 11/11, we were told that we would pass a ladybug lair.


Being the frustrated entomologist that I am, I was highly curious about this trail side attraction. 


Just after someone announced on the walkie-talkies that it was 11:11am, on the 11th day of the 11th month on 2011 we hit the spot.



In a small grove of trees we found piles of these lucky beetles crawling all over the ground, trees and branches, apparently they were gathering for a winter diapause.

What a spectacular sight.


I am wishing you  SWARMS of good luck for the New Year!
For even more luck, try this delicious and simple Texas Caviar recipe, featuring black~eyed peas.

I spent the day on Crystal Mountain, hiking Silver King Peak with Mr. Splendid and having a glass of vino at the Summit House {highest restaurant in the state} before our final descent. We have about a foot of new snow and the view was fabulous.


We served raclette for dinner and I loved watching the fireworks, beneath the half moon over the snow.

Fireworks! Crystal Mountain
Luck, be a ladybug this year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Santa came early to Splendid Market...

I am so appreciative for the some gifts that came to Splendid Market, even before Christmas....

First of all, thank you to Barbara of Haus Design for awarding me the Versatile Blogger award, what an honor. Barbara is an example of one of my favorite things about blogging, the wonderful community of bloggers I have met, and keep in touch with, from all over the world. Barbara and I live in different part of the world but have a number of things in common {she currently lives in Germany}. Barbara has a wonderful passion for design and I love reading her blog and seeing her perspective several times a week. I especially enjoy the images she shares that combine natural elements with contemporary design.


Along with award, comes a few fun tasks... more details below.

I also would like to say thank you to Socialmoms.com for choosing Splendid Market as their Blog of the Week, what an an incredible honor, thank you very much, SOMOM's!!!

The rules of accepting The Versatile Blogger Award are that I share 7 things that you may not know about me, and that pass the award on to other bloggers.


A few {very random} things you probably don’t know about me…..

1. My favorite candies: Lemonheads and Snickers bars.

2. A night I wish I had recorded and tucked away in my library: my rehearsal dinner at the Rex Hill Vineyard, in the Willamette Valley, Oregon.

3. Pet peeves: dishonesty and phoniness.

4. I had a rare assignment to work with Ken Kesey to try to borrow the "magic bus" for a promotional event for Starbucks.  I saw the original bus, Further, where it was deteriorating in the woods behind Ken's farmhouse. The adventures he had his Merry Pranksters had on this bus were retold by Tom Wolfe in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test". It was a thrill to take a ride with Ken and the Merry Pranksters on the reproduction bus they created to drive across the country for the Smithsonian {a prank that went a little sideways}. I'll never forget Ken serving me slices of tillamook cheese and saltine crackers on a wooden cutting board, along with a glass of red wine, very gracious.

5. When Amazon.com was first getting started, they used a creative and inexpensive form of advertising, wishing famous authors happy birthday in the little mini ads in the front page of the New York Times. I share{d} the same birthday as Ken Kesey, and, although they had moved on to bigger ad campaigns by then, Amazon kindly ran one last birthday ad, for Ken Kesey in the NYT, a year or two before he died.....he could have cared less, but I thought it was a very nice gesture.

6. I love paper stationary and I'm a believer in the importance of hand written thank you notes.

7. Best part of the day: the moment I take off my ski boots.

I am passing this award onto a few of my favorite fabulously versatile bloggers:

Slim Paley

Acanthus and Acorn

Red Ticking




Saturday, December 24, 2011

A splendid Seattle snowstorm and happy holidays...

It's always a treat to visit The Ruins in Seattle, a supper club ...beyond all supper clubs. Aside from the extraordinary antiques which are always present, the seasonal decor almost always takes my breath away. Before dinner, we had drinks in the blue room where there was a storm in full flurry.


This beautiful navy room, with panels depicting nature was under a raging snowy siege.


 A grid of wires above had been draped with silver balls and flakes, cutout paper snowflakes and orbs and a scattering of silvery branches.


Quite a festive scene.


The twiggy trees positioned throughout the room emphasized the winter wonderland theme.


Psssst…. would you like to venture into  dining room with me? 
Come on, let’s take a look….



The deep red flowers and furnishings in the dining room were stunning against the pale colored walls and trim. The hand dipped red candles were simply beautiful, sadly, this image doesn't show their impact very well.


 I am not usually a big fan of poinsettias, or Christmas ball wreaths, but I'd never pass up an opportunity to live and breath in this space with this decor.


Thank you Splendid Readers for your interest, visits, loyalty and comments. I hope you have a wonderful day today. Please take a few moments out to take care of yourself. 

xo,


Friday, December 23, 2011

a dramatic side for Christmas dinner...

I felt a sudden time crunch as I was preparing dinner for a delightful crew heading out to join the parade of Christmas ships on the lake the other night {can anyone relate??}. 



Thankfully, I happened to have had some ingredients on hand that allowed me to throw together a splendid little side dish, which, I must say, tasted great, looked very festive, and is completely holiday table worthy. It is always nice to discover dishes that can be held and served at room temperature. I helps lower the stress of serving a multi-course meal.


To make it, I prepared 16 ounces of Black Japonica Rice [I love the deep burgundy/black color}.....wild rice would work wonderfully as well.

After cooking the rice {1:2} in chicken broth, I let it cool a bit before tossing it with some Splendid Vinaigrette....about 4 tablespoons. When it had cooled to room temperature I mixed it up with the jewels from 2 pomegranates, and about 4 tablespoons of chopped parsley and 2 tablespoons of chopped chives, plus a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper. It sat for about 2 hours before it was served. It was truly toothsome.


It was a great accompaniment for a fillet of beef sandwich bar, featuring thin slices of the rare beef, prepared along the guidelines of my friend Linda who offers wonderful recipes at A Year at the Table. It turned out beautifully. Aside the perfectly rare, thin slices of beef and warmed rolls, I set up a buffet with mayo, Dijon mustard, horseradish, and cornichons.



Thursday, December 22, 2011

Amaryllis, peppermints and papyrus...

 I hope this quickie little post serves as a bit of inspiration for some of those last minute situations we all find ourselves in this time of year...where you just come up a little short. No matter how much I prepare, or think I have it all pulled together, those moments of last minute panic always seem to strike about now...

Do you need some yummy, festive cookies fast?? Forget the flour and butter, run to Trader Joe's and buy these hunks of peppermint love. Seriously, they are incredible.... TJ's version of oreos, with a thick coating of dreamy dark chocolate sprinkled with bits of peppermint. These confections were astounding, even before I put them in the freezer to make them especially cool and crunchy!


If you don't have a Trader Joe's near, you could whip these together pretty quickly on your own. Temper the chocolate, {click on chocolate for a little "how to"} dip in some oreos {it might look cool to just half~dip them} and then sprinkle them with coarse chunks of broken candy canes as they cool on a sheet of waxed paper... they'll be fabulous, truly. 

After they have cooled, pile them into a little cello bag, tie them up with a string and call it a hostess gift! Even if you buy the cookies from Trader Joe's, you could slip them into the cello bag, they look homemade, {I won't tell} and your hostess will be too busy enjoying them to ask any probing questions about their creation.


Are you going out and about today? This is my day to do a final retail sweep, checking off every last item on my list. I'm okay on the gift front, but I do need a few items to stuff in the stockings.

Here is something I do have on hand: the thank you notes. I always try to buy some fun printed notes for the stockings, in hopes of encouraging enthusiasm for writing engaging notes of gratitude in the near future. I found this perfect pile of papyrus at Paper Source this year. I was especially thrilled to find a salty selection for Captain Splendid and his first mate.


I shall be composing my words of appreciation on these beautiful notes, which remind me of the amaryllis which have positively exploded at the market this year. They are made in the Himalayas of bark from the Lokta plant. The paper is textured and thick, yet slightly transparent. Really lovely.


Onto the Amaryllis... because it was the only thing handy, and they had already started to capsize and were near the breaking point, I supported these top heavy beauties with a fir branch, I really like the look, don't you?  

BTW, back to Captain Splendid, the sea is truly in his blood. The framed chart behind the flower is one from his great grandfather's sea chest, complete with added details he had written on it during his journeys.


What is left on your list? Do you have any last minute solutions to share?


Any good thing to make us all merry.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

raclette

One of the reason why I felt so compelled to get those gingerbread homes finished all alone the other night, was so they could be put in place in time for one of my favorite winter gatherings, the après ski {skiing optional}. The first layer of setting up a raclette bar in my kitchen is a little alpine scene.

Raclette is both a cheese and a party. It's a fun way to entertain in the winter, for large groups or small. Once things are set up, everyone has the best time making up their own perfect little snacks, all you have to do is keep the Chablis flowing. 


Raclette cheese is mild~nutty, it's commonly produced in regions of Switzerland and France. Many better grocery stores carry it in cut portions, or you can order a full wheel from the Valais region of Switzerland here. To join me on a visit to a cheese factory in that region, click on Simplon.

In the most simplistic version of the finished product, the melted cheese is poured {or scraped} over boiled potatoes. To make it more complex, you can add cured meats, pate, sausages and tomatoes {to be grilled}, cornichons, sour cherries and dijon mustard to the spread.


To make the raclette, I use machines like this, with a coated metal or granite top. Sausages and tomatoes can be cooked on the top.


Small trays {see them in the basket to the left of the cheese in the second photo above}, topped with cheese, slide under the grill. When the cheese is melted it's poured over the potatoes and other chosen savories.

Once devoured, guests can start all over again.


Any snow in your area?


We only have coconut so far.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gingerbread homes...a colorful, lonely job...


I decided to try a new strategy for the gingerbread homes this year. I was hoping it would be more efficient, even before I realized I would be building all three homes alone this year. My little elves had "other things to do", so, sadly, I made my confectionery embellished huts for my kitchen forest {more on that coming up} all by myself. When we {I} make gingerbread houses, I like to layer on plenty of colors and textures. Usually, I build the houses {from a kit, I especially like the old world looking houses from Trader Joe's, made in Germany}.


Usually, I build the houses, let the powdered~sugar glue dry overnight and then decorate them with my little elves the next day.
Gingerbread house roofs covered with frosted~mini wheats
That method, requires a great deal of time spent gluing on candies and then holding each one in place as the "glue" dries, to ensure the candies don't slide down the edge of the house.
Nonpareil covered chocolate cookies and Classic Holiday Candy Mix from Trader Joe's
This year, I thought, "why not decorate all of the pieces as they are lying down, let the candies attach overnight, lying horizontally, and then glue the walls and roof pieces together the next day??" No one was there to argue with my logic {my attempt to look on the bright side, in regards to the changes in life}.


So, I tried it, and I actually do think it saves some time and stress. As I was holding the decorated pieces in place the next day some of the candies did break off, but it was easy to reattach them. 

The after~eight mints used to tile a roof were especially delicate. But, in the end, I think it was a much more efficient way to build homes with the layers of candies that make them look so very fun and festive.

peppermint candies are dotted with spice mix gumdrops
Do you think Santa would be terribly upset if I skipped that whole powered sugar glue~stuff next year and just whipped out my glue gun instead??


Saturday, December 17, 2011

a day when procrastination paid off....

I had the grandest plans for planting the beds in my courtyard with bulbs that would produce an expanse of gigantic, fluffy, cloud-like white tulips and daffodils next spring. I ambitiously ordered up plenty of healthy bulbs, just as soon as they were available, including a few dark ones, {just to mix things up}. 

The bulbs came, and the photos on the packages looked SO impressive, I could just imagine how wonderful those beauties would look as living blooms next spring.... I thought that every time I saw those packages, as they sat and sat on a ledge in the courtyard for days, which turned into weeks

A couple of times I had to pack them up and move them to my office, so visitors wouldn't see them just lying there.....still {flower shame}. 

Over the weeks, which were turning into months, it became very clear that I hadn't ordered the self-burrowing variety of bulbs {wouldn't that be a wonderful invention??}.

One day, I tried to plant some..... but the ground was SO hard, I decided to wait until after it rained. 

Then it did rain, and rain and rain.... 

and I just couldn't get myself out there to dig in the mud.


Before I knew it, it was the beginning of December, an oddly warm, beautiful, clear day. Mr. Splendid was off to get the Christmas tree....and the bulbs were still in their packs.



While I was looking out the window that morning, a gust of wind came up and the bright yellow leaves on the trees began falling down into the courtyard like gigantic snowflakes.... I took that as a sign.

Shovel in hand, I began to dig, placing the big bulbs about three inches deep and layering in a scattering of grape hyacinth bulbs above them, about one inch deep.

The trees above continued to shower down mini blizzards of leaves.



Then I heard a strange chirping sound, on high, when I looked up I saw this angelic little hummingbird, at the very top of the trees, looking over me. 


 After this, I no longer felt badly about all of the days that I chose not to plant to bulbs.  I felt like I had gained closure on the rituals I love about the fall; had experienced the first signs of the wonders of the winter holidays, and fulfilled a promise for a beautiful spring....all in one day.

If you have been procrastinating, but are hoping for some spring bulbs in the garden, it may not be too  late. I received an email for the tulip growers in Mt. Vernon, WA yesterday, saying that bulbs can still be planted successfully in most parts of the country. And, guess what? The bulbs they have in stock are on sale, click on tulips for more information. This is also a great source for shipping fresh cut tulips all over the world.

btw, the tree is a beauty, click here to see it in its glory!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Pinecones, more seasonal scents and presents under the tree...


How are your decorations coming along?  I've gone deep into my woodsy~wonderland theme, and I must say, my little hut is feeling quite cozy. Here are a few more ideas {and links} you might enjoy if you want to bring the 'look~of ~lodge" to your abode. Also, I'm announcing the winner of the Fraser Fir wreath giveaway today!

Pinecones and twigs blend in beautifully with greens {foraged or purchased} and fortify the feeling of the forest fantastically. Strands of pinecones drape the carved wood mirrors flanking our entry {with some jazzy, sparkly chartreuse cones trimming the ends}.


Mr. Splendid found these pinecone orbs at Target, I've found they look great wherever they land.


I wrapped some in mini lights and hung them outside.


to make a little pinecone constellation at night.


Guess what? The are now on sale on line, click on pinecone for the link.


You'll also find this twiggy star 


and these balls, which are perfect for weighting down the ends of garlands.


Don't they look pretty nestled and all snugged up with the persimmons and kumquats?


To layer in a woodsy~scent with all of those greens, nothing tops the Feu de Bois {fire wood} candle from Diptyque. It smells like a walk in the wintery woods, when there is a fire burning in a warm and wonderful little cottage nearby. Click on Gorsuch to find it {do take the time to wander around Gorsuch while you are there, they have the most exquisite Alpine offerings}.

These sweet little snowflakes made of twigs are also from Target, sadly, I didn't see them on line.



The small size flakes look perfect floating around in the winter white forest in the dining room.


And the larger size {about 10 inches across} was the perfect accent for garlands on the windows in the family room.


Now, for the presents under the tree.....


I wish I could say that everyone who entered will be receiving a fresh Fraser Fir wreath from Green Valley Christmas Trees {and one for me!}. But I can't. However, because it is the season for giving, I'm adding some extra prizes to the drawing. In addition to the wreath winner, I am sending five more winners some Splendid SWAG.

Did you know that branded simple tote bags are in and Birkins are O-U-T? It's true, click on totes to read an article by Miranda Purves from The NYT Style Section last Sunday. So, to make sure some Splendid Readers are even more stylishly adorned this holiday season, I will be sending 5 of you Splendid Market tote bags, post-it notes and a chic little box of matches for lighting your holiday candles.


The winner of the Fraser Fir wreath is:

Tina from Enchanted Home

The winners of the stylish, splendid swag~kits are:

Tova from Future Memory
Linda from Design in My View
Stacy from Quintessence <<<-for more <<- woodsy inspiration, click on <-that link, to see winter in Conneticut.
Jermaine from French Kissed
&
Teresa from Splendid Sass

Please email me with your mailing addresses at ebh@splendidmarket.com, asap, so that we can get your gifts to you!


For even more pinecone inspiration, hop over to I dream of, where Jeanne has some beautiful images of pinecones artfully displayed.

Thank you to all who entered the giveaway!