Monday, January 21, 2013

Celebrating: 2013's First Entertaining Op!

I can't believe it is half way into January!  And it seems every year in January, I vow to entertain more during the year. There are so many groups of friends from my past (and present) that I don't get to visit very often and I love to present an opportunity for us to meet.. It is so rewarding when we do finally arrange a convenient time for all of us to get together. But when the end of the year rolls around, I find myself wondering how I let another year pass without making  a better effort .  I did have two different groups of long time dear  friends for brunch and it was so much fun.  It is just good for the soul when a group of girlfriends from your past come together to remember stories, talk about "loves past", laugh and remember how silly (&crazy) we were way back when!

My first entertaining of this year, I'm having some new friend's for a luncheon.  I refer to them as "The Tuesday Morning Starbuck's Girls."  Every other Tuesday morning at 6:00 am - yes I said AM,   we meet at Starbucks for Bible Study.  March will mark a year!  Never would I have thought I would voluntarily get up at 5:20 to make it to Starbuck's for a Bible Study.  It is soooo worth losing sleep over!  It is such an amazing way to prepare for the day ahead.  I have really come to enjoy these four women and to share this time with them. It has been a wonderful experience to learn and just continue this journey of knowing more
about Our God. We are currently studying "The Bad Girls of the Bible" and learning more about characters from the Bible that they didn't teach us in Sunday School!
And, for me, the most exciting part of entertaining is the planning. I pour over cookbooks, watch cooking shows and of course consult the trusty Contessa members for ideas and feedback.  This time I went with a "tried and true" recipe of Ina's, Penne with 5 Cheeses.  I have not make this in a couple of years and it is a favorite of mine.  I always like to make a little "take home" treat.  I found a bag of Toll House mint chocolate chips on clearance at Kroger for less than a dollar and I had leftover Andes Candy from Christmas, so I made a double chocolate mint bark.

Here's the final menu...

                                                      Ricotta Olive and Pine Nut Spread
                                                                with Toasted Baguette
                                                                      Green Salad
                                                              tossed in a Vinaigrette

                                                               Penne with 5 cheeses
                                                          Marinated Chilled Asparagus

                                                        Sliced fruit with cannoli Cream

Sorry no pictures!  My computer was just not cooperating with Blogspot!

Ya'll come back!

May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them celebrate!  Psalm 64:10

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Celebrating: Christmas!

Its hard to believe Christmas is just about here!  I have one of those electronic billboards outside my office window and one of the advertisements has had the countdown to Christmas and this morning when I glanced up it said 5 days to Christmas. Wow - that happened overnight!  As a child, it seemed to take foreveeeeeer to reach Christmas day. Now the time just flies once Thanksgiving passes.

No problems for me, this 5 days before Christmas for I had all my presents purchased and wrapped 2 weeks ago, so I have been able to enjoy the season.  I still have some baking to do, but I think that will be done this weekend!

Decorating was started the day after Thanksgiving with the Tree the last thing to complete.  It was being held hostage in the attic and I had to wait for someone to rescue it for me!  It was the first time in 3 years I have put up the tree since I have a VERY curious little four legged daughter.  I have decorated everything except for a tree each year, but this year I decided to press my luck, so I put up the tree. I did let it sit empty for a couple of days in hopes she would lose interest.  No such luck!  For the 2st 2 days after it was decorated,  the ribbon was askew, the tree skirt bunched and ornaments scattered across the house.  Eventually she did lose interest and the ornaments (most of the time) remain on the tree. I will admit to a little help with a spray bottle.

Below is my "kitty tree." The ornaments are "kitties ornaments" that have been collected for many years.  It was so much fun seeing these ornaments after 3 years and remembering where they all came from.  As you know, when someone knows you collect a certain item, that is the present you get for Birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions, so I have lots to display. I have quite a collection and had many that did not make it to the tree since I was avoiding any dangling objects at the bottom and just a swat away from being thrown from the tree.

The Kitty Tree

Can I just say, I loved my mantle this year. I was going for a vintage look and think it turned out quite nice.

I used my built in bookcase to display my Christmas collections of Santas, Nativity Sets and Angels. I always hate to put up all my Santa's for they make me happy seeing them all on the shelves.

So, this is  bit of my Christmas!  Hope you enjoyed my tour of decorations!

I wish each of you the very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013!

Ya'll come back!

May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them Celebrate! Psalm 64:10 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Celebrating: A Very Crafty Christmas!

After having found Pinterest a little over a year ago, I will have to say my "crafting" skills have definitely been exercised!  As much of a foodie as I am, I have to say I'm on the Craft and Holiday categories more than the Food sites!  Over the course of a year I have seen so many adorable things to make for the holidays.  And as I have stated before, the original idea may not be mine, but I can generally recreate what I see and have learned to adapt to the things I have on hand in my craft stash!  Those useless items I pick up on the Clearance rack at Hobby Lobby, can come in handy some times!

If you recall, last Spring I made a double Topiary out of Spring Flowers.  When making it last Spring, I thought it would fun making one for Christmas using magnolia flowers.  I knew exactly who I wanted to make this friend Cindy.  Cindy's house at Christmas time could rival The Biltmore Estate. Seriously - it is spectacular and really should be on a Christmas tour of Homes.
Her kitchen and Dining Room are burgandy, so I decided to do burgandy magnolias. (she almost didn't get this, I wanted to keep it myself)

I saw Snowmen candle holders made from various sizes of Wine Glasses.  I took the concept and made it my own.  You can also display these a couple of different ways. This was a fun project!
Glasses and battery candles came from the Dollar Store and with just a little "elbow grease" you have a cute inexpensive gift.  I gave these to my "Bible study girls" along with a bag of Chocolate Bark.

I added  "footie" and set the battery candle in the dome for another look!

I saw some cute Jingle Bell Candle Sticks ON SALE for $44.50.  I loved them, but at that price, Amazon could keep them!  While in the (you guessed it) Dollar Store I saw a package of 8 large bells for $1.00 and my brain started spinning - how could I recreate those candlesticks .  The ones I had seen were red,  they didn't have red, but silver would work!  This project had a bit of a challenge.  The base and actual candle holder looked like cymbals from a tambourine and I just could not find anything similar.  So I started trying to adapt.  I found some wooden stars to use as the base and I do confess that I destroyed a toy tambourine we had to get the 4 cymbals. My jingle bell candlesticks just cost $1.00 for the Jingle Bells and $1.00 for the wooden stars, but when my niece finds out later that she no longer has a toy tambourine, I may just have to do a little damage control for that item.

I love being able to make adaptations - whether in the Craft Room or the kitchen.  The recipe (and I use the term lightly) below falls under the category of 'adaptable."   You just use a base of White Chocolate discs and the possibilities are endless.  I make Barks all the time.  They are quick and easy.  Sometimes I mix everything together, sometimes I pour out my chocolate on a parchment covered cookie sheet and top the melted chocolate.  There are also several difference colors available so you can adapt it to different functions!  Break up your bark, put it in Christmas treat bags and tie with a festive ribbon and you have a great Hostess gift! 


Melt chocolate, pour onto parchment covered cookie sheet.


Cranberries and Pistachios make a great Christmas offering

Toasted coconut and toasted almonds

Peanuts or Raisins

Just open your pantry and let your imagination run! 

My favorite - I had several different kinds of mini candybars after Christmas one year.  I chopped up the candy bars, added peanuts and sprinkled over the melted chocolate.  Candy Bar Bark!  What a great way to use up that leftover holiday candy!

Ya'll come back!


May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them CELEBRATE!  Psalm 64:10

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Celebrating: A Gray Family Thanksgiving!

What a difference a year makes!  Last Thanksgiving Mom was still in Rehab with her knee, so Charlene, Mom and I celebrated a very quiet Thanksgiving meal. And while it was a very enjoyable meal prepared by Charlene and me, it was just not Thanksgiving. Although we did not have a large crowd, the family was together and to me, that is what Thanksgiving is about – not so much the food, but the family.

We started talking Thanksgiving dinner menus in early November. .Charlene and I try to take some of the cooking duties, but as usual we got nowhere.  Then we tried to persuade her to “limit” the amount of food and when we tried to do that, we just ended up with a longer list for some reason...  “We have to have this” turned into a very common phrase as we were trying to create our menu.  She did let us contibute a couple of things, but that's it! So, I shall try to attempt to list the items we had…

Fried Turkey (courtesy of Eric), Pork Roast with Carrots, Honey Baked Ham, Dressing, Gravy, Stewed Corn, Peas, Fried Okra, Sweet potato bundles, Tomato pie,  Green beans, Rice, Cole Slaw, Marinated Vegetable salad, Deviled Eggs, Chicken Salad. Whew – I am full just typing all that!  To top it off, we had Pecan Pie, Gluten Free Killer Pumpkin Bars, Chocolate Pudding, Cookies and Cream, Apple turnovers and Fruit Salad. Sorry – no pics as I forgot my camera!

It was a wonderful meal, spent with the ones I love most!

The following recipe is a family favorite and makes an appearance often at the Gray residence!

Tomato Pie

1 pastry shell, baked                            3 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1 med onion, chopped                         1 cup Sour Cream
1 med green pepper, chopped              1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 Tbs butter

Preheat oven to 350.  Saute onions and peppers in butter. Place in baked pastry shell.  Place sliced tomatoes
on top of onions and peppers.  Mix SC and Cheese.  Spread over tomato slices.  Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. 


May The Lord Bless his people with peace and happiness and let them Celebrate!

Ya’ll come back!


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Celebrating: Ava's Cinderella Pumpkin Carriage!

Well, Pintrest strikes again!  I saw this Cinderella Pumpkin Carriage several months ago,  pinned it and have been anxiously a waiting Halloween’s arrival so I could make it.
The best part – this adorable piece cost less than $8.00 to make because everything (excluding the pumpkin) came from the Dollar Store.   Not only that, but I have lots of jewels and glitter stickers left for another project.   It was not only cost friendly, but simple to make!

I made it for my 5 year old niece Ava. I think it got her approval!

Ava's Cinderella Pumpkin Carriage


And instead of tossing the seeds like I generally do, I opted to toast them for a snack.  I really wanted a sweet/salty combo, so I went on the internet to find a recipe.  I found exactly what I was looking for!


From Realsimple Magazine…

Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups Pumpkin Seeds
2 TBS unsalted butter (melted)
2 TBS granulated sugar
1.2 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp cinnamon

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Spread send on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until thoroughly dry – about 50-60 minutes.
Increase oven temp to 350.  In a large bowl, toss seeds with butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon.
Return seeds to baking sheet and toast –tossing occasionally until golden brown.  About 10-15 minutes. 

Ya’ll com back!

May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them CELEBRATE!  Psalm 64:10

Friday, October 19, 2012

Celebrating: Being Crafty!

So many projects…so little time!  I have so many “”crafty” projects pinned on Pintrest, it would take me years to complete.  There are so many clever ideas that I see and think, now why could I not look at that and imagine making something from nothing! I am lucky in that if I see something I can generally reproduce – I just didn’t come up with the original concept. 

So far this year I’ve made a Fall Leaf Wreath for my Mom, a picture frame Halloween sign and witches legs.

The wreath is made from Dollar Store items. (Leaf cutouts and a piece of core foam) I used one piece of core foam ($1.00) and 4 packets of leaves (I did not use all –just wanted the different colors).  All I needed was a hot glue gun and I was set.  I wish I had made it a bit smaller, but it did look nice against my mom’s green door.  Total cost - $5.00.


The Picture frame sign – also Dollar Store purchases.  I got 3 assorted sizes of frames, orange ribbon and ribbon to hang.  I used paint pens and drew Halloween pictures and sayings.  Total cost - $5.00


I saw these “witch legs” and just had to re-create.  Thought it was a hoot!
Used 2 swim noodles $2.00. a pair of tights from Joann’s (50% off all Halloween- $4.00), a pair of red pumps from Goodwill ($4.94) that I covered with red glitter glue.  Total - $10.94   


While looking around the Dollar Store (or should be the $20 Dollar Store in my case)  I found some foam mini pumpkins and gourds in fall colors. I know I have some Harvest colored candles and clear vases to make a candle display for someplace special.  It will serve as double duty – Halloween/Thanksgiving.  Wish I could put it on my mantle, but I don’t dare put anything breakable on Krissy’s favorite place to jump!


One of the things I really look forward to when the temps start dropping is….making soups.  I love soup and like to have a variety in the freezer. There is nothing better on a long, cold day than knowing you can have a nice hot bowl of soup in minutes. Most recipes make 4-6 servings.  I generally eat 2 meals and freeze the rest.   The recipe below is one of my favorites.  I got this one from Hilary on the BC Board. 

Red Lentil Soup
3 TBS Olive oil
1 lg onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
Pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne to taste
1 quart chicken broth
1cup red lentils
1 lg carrot, peeled and diced
Juice of ½ lemon, more to taste
2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro

In a  large pot, heat 3 TBS EVOO over high heat until hot.  Add onion and garlic, saute until golden (about 4 minutes)
Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper and chili powder and saute for 2 minutes longer.
Add broth, 2 cups of water, lentil and carrot.  Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat top medium low simmering until lentils are soft – about 30 minutes.  Taste and add salt if necessary. (At this point, I will also add extra cumin or tomato sauce, just to adjust to my taste)
Using an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor, puree half the soup, then add back to pot.  Soup should be somewhat chunky. (I skip this step all together)
Reheat soup if necessary, then sir in lemon juice and cilantro.  Serve soup drizzled with a good olive oil and dist lightly with chili powder if desired.

Ya’ll come back!

May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them CELEBRATE!  Psalm 64:10

Friday, October 5, 2012

Celebrating: Tea for ...40!

It’s that time again! The Women of the Church Fall luncheon, that is.  Fall…it sure has gotten here fast!  We decided to do something a little different than the usual luncheon, so we decided on an afternoon Tea.
We had 5 people decorate their table for tea and we provided the Tea and Tea Treats.  I tried to channel my friend Martha and remember her tricks of the trade for setting a proper tea. 

We had a small intimate group of 40  ladies with some even decked out in hats!  The tables were just beautiful, as usual.  We have some very talented
“table artists” (as I call them) at our Church.

Our Menu

Cucumber Sandwiches
Pimento Cheese Sandwiches
Banana Bread with Cream Cheese
Pumpkin Bread
Tea Cakes
Cream Puffs
Mini Eclairs

5 tea offerings



We had 8 per table and an item for each, plus we had trays with extras that we could replenish.  It was a fun afternoon and I really think everyone enjoyed their afternoon in England!  

Tea Cakes

3 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.  Sift together flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt,  set aside. Combine sugar and butter.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Transfer to a plastic wrap.  Shape the dough in a dish.  Refrigerate and chill 30 minutes. divide dough into 4 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll out dough  on a lightly floured board to 1/8 inch thickness.  keep remaining dough in fridge.  Cut with cookie cutter.  Place on a cookie sheet.  Bake 8 minutes.

Ya’ll come back!

May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let the CELEBRATE! Psalm 64:10