Monday, December 17, 2012

My Simplified Holiday UPDATE!

Ok, I wanted to give you a quick update on how my simplified holiday is working out.  The photo above is in my kitchen of my mountain home.  Shawn and I bought this sign probably ten years ago, I thought it was sold with our first mountain cabin, somehow I just came across it last week in one of my storage buildings how serendipitous?!  So glad I found it I love it!

Saturday afternoon I left the store early and went to a wonderful holiday open house.  I have to tell you it was so nice, these are new friends who recently purchased a second home here in the mountains and they have done an amazing job on their new north Georgia getaway...So many clever things!  One of them is quite the cook and the food was outstanding.  Imagine this thick homemade sugar type cookie with sea salt, sprinkled on top...this cookie literally melted in your mouth!!! Or a chocolate chip whoopie pie!! I've been trying to be good but I could have gone crazy!...Sorry…I digress.  Just look at the next three photos!! 
Sugar Cookies (left) Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies! 
Red Velvet Peppermint Brownies & Coconut Cupcakes Love The Display!
Fun Way To Present Crudite
While at the open house I was visiting with some other friends and decided since I was "so prepared" I'd invite some of them over for a drink that evening.  I then realized it would be close to dinner time and they'd need more than a cocktail and some little nibbley things. 

Now you have to understand I am fortunately blessed with some of the most amazingly, smart and talented friends.  They can cook, decorate and more so, the pressure could be there.  But in staying with my whole "keeping it simple" mantra I decided to do just that…I now needed dinner for at least six and had about an hour to do it.

So I called a local restaurant and ordered two large pizzas, some pasta, salad and buttery, garlic rolls.  I came home transferred it into my own casserole dishes popped it into a warm oven.  I lit my candles, turned on the holiday music, set up a buffet style line, opened the bar, (poured myself a nice glass of red wine) and made a quick platter of olives, cheese, crackers, salami, and almonds.  Just in time for their arrival. 

It was so easy and my very gracious guests seemed to have a nice time. (None of them made fun of my "take out" food.  At least not to my face anyway!)

For dessert I served a platter of "bakery bought" cookies and egg nog (it was store bought but we "kicked it up" a bit) and then added nutmeg and cinnamon.  We sat in front of the fire, visited and relaxed.
Serve Egg Nog in a Martini Glass!
I believe that my friends and I realized that the food was not the primary component of our evening but it was the wonderful fellowship instead and that is what we enjoyed the most!  I'm loving my simplified holidays!  Hope you are making the most of yours! 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Simplified Holiday Season

I am determined to enjoy the holidays without all of the typical stress.  Last year I was still recovering from my first Achilles repair and I just wanted to get through the holidays.  This year has been full of interesting change and I'm so excited about the holidays and the new year...I feel it is important to celebrate.  So I am trying something different, as I was discussing my thoughts with a customer she suggested that I post it and then let everyone know how it goes!

Instead of trying to have a big holiday party I'm opting to have more casual impromptu gatherings with just a few folks at a time.  I think this will be better because I'll really get to visit with and enjoy my friends. 

Here's my plan and how I'm going to do it: 

This past week I finished my holiday decorating (definitely scaled back from previous years!) But I felt this was as important for me as it is for guests.  I did a very small vintage looking, gold tinsel tree in my in my bedroom.  It’s all new and a little over the top but I’m enjoying it.  In my living room I put up a small pencil tree, I wasn’t going to do it but I have some very special “Chloe” ornaments that I really wanted to display. Outside I went all natural, I used live garland and wreaths, and stuffed the window boxes with various evergreens from my property.

My Bedroom Tinsel Tree

Pencil Tree and Mantle
I ran errands one night after work so that I could stock my bar and wine cooler including a couple bottles of Champagne.   I also purchased some other treats including great cheeses, cured meats, Marcona almonds, delicious olives, a few kinds of crackers, as well as some sweets like a new favorite Panettone raisin cake, French truffles, peppermint bark, and some of my special “Holiday Snack Mix” (my recipe is below). I feel like these items along with some great Gatewood Hall provisions (Yes, this a shameless plug) like our Sansaba Peach Pecan Amaretto preserves to pour over cream cheese or pound cake, blood orange curd by Bella Cucina to put in their tiny butter crusts or even some GH black bean salsa will give me plenty of options for some quick and tasty snacks or appetizers.  These items have a long shelf life and besides, who wouldn't love a nice Chartecurie board and a glass of wine?

Wonderful Provisions
I have my iPod loaded with a special holiday mix.  I neatly put all of my holiday magazines, catalogs and Christmas cards in a nice basket complete with pens and stamps, I keep it beside my bed so if I want some holiday inspiration or feel like writing out a few cards I can do it easily.
My Magazine and Holiday Card Basket
I’m burning holiday candles (Available at GH J) and I am even listening to holiday music in my car. 

I’m having a few small, casual and intimate dinners, a few friends for a traditional afternoon high tea, and possibly a nice brunch.  I am also taking advantage of our great restaurants in Blue Ridge.  For our GH team celebration we are going to Cucina Rustica. Or what could be better than meeting a few friends for sliders, Pat’s great brews and some wonderful soup by Polina at Blue Ridge Brewery?  

So here’s how my plan is going so far…The other night I had friends over. We sat in front of the fire (I confess I had the AC on because Mother Nature didn’t cooperate and it was really too warm for a fire!) drank wine, ate Spanish cheese, olives, almonds, pate and French bread.  Then we had a very simple salad, along with a shrimp and pasta dish (more wine!) and then a sampling of fantastic cupcakes and truffles from my girls at the Sweet Shoppe of Blue Ridge.  I have to tell you it was a wonderful and stress-free evening with lots of conversation and laughs.  Exactly what I was hoping for that evening!
Tablescape for Small Dinner Party
I’ll keep you posted on how the rest of the season goes. Wish me luck and most importantly I hope you and your loved ones have a very special holiday season with many, many wonderful memories.

Corky's Holiday Snack Mix

1-  Can (1 LB 2.75 OZ)  Planters Winter Spiced Mixed Nuts
1-  Bag (12 OZ) White Chocolate Chips
2-  Bag (8 OZ or more if you like) Dried Cranberries
1-  Bag (5 OZ) Emerald Brand Glazed Pecan Pie Pecans (Optional but delicious!)

Mix together and store in an air-tight tin or jar!  Enjoy!!