Thursday, December 31, 2015

This 'n That Thursdays: HGTV Dream Home 2016 Sweepstakes

From PPG Industries

It's that time of year again -- time to start entering to win the 2016 HGTV Dream Home!  This year's Dream Home is located on Merritt Island in Florida.  Instead of building a new structure, as was always done in the past, the 2016 home is a remodel.  You can check out the before and after images here.  While I am not a lover of coastal homes, this house is very well done.  It even has a boat dock!  In addition to the fully furnished home, $250,000 in cash, and a GMC vehicle, there is a boat as part of the prize package as well, which I think is a first for this giveaway.  Take a look at a few photos of some of my favorite spaces (and take a virtual tour of the entire home and property here):

The inviting front courtyard
(from HGTV)

The relaxing living room with spectacular views
(from HGTV)

A stylish kitchen for entertaining
(from HGTV)

A tranquil guest bedroom
(from HGTV)

Impressive art in the guest bathroom
(from HGTV)

A pool and patio in the backyard
(from HGTV)

For anyone who has ever wanted to live on the coast, this house would be a dream come true!  Click here to begin your entries (be sure to enter twice, once on and then once on  You even get a special one-time bonus entry from here!  The entry period starts now and ends on February 18th (see the official rules here).  Good luck, and may all of your dreams come true in the new year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wish List Wednesdays: Zodax Celebration Champagne Flutes

You can toast the New Year in six different languages with these Zodax Celebration Champagne Flutes (set of 6 for $74.99 from Amazon).  The simple contemporary style with etched design would work well for any celebratory occasion, and would also make a great gift for anyone who loves champagne.  No matter what language you choose to speak, raise any one of these glasses and welcome 2016 in style!

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Weekend Wonders: Christmas Camellias!

We have a camellia bush that is supposed to bloom around Christmas, but this is the first year it actually bloomed on Christmas day!  We had two days of torrential rain, and then yesterday the temperature got very warm and we even got to see the sun off and on all day, so perhaps the sudden heat wave and sunshine encouraged the buds to open.  Our forsythias have been flowering for a couple of weeks, as has our Carolina jessamine, and one poor deluded azalea has opened a few blossoms.  The super warm weather is totally confusing our plants, so it will be interesting to see what happens in the spring!


Friday, December 25, 2015

On the Homefront: Park Avenue Puppies Christmas Table

A sweet little Dalmatian Christmas ornament presides over each
place setting at this canine-themed holiday table.

My inspiration for our Christmas table was obviously the Park Avenue Puppies dishware I got from Pier 1 this year.  I also wanted to do a table that paid tribute to our beloved Dalmatian Gia, who we lost to cancer in January of this year, as well as all of the other sweet pups we have had the privilege of welcoming into our lives.  I kept the color scheme fairly low-key, as the dishes are rather subtly colored, but made sure to include some standout red here and there (Dalmatians look good in red!).

Twig stick table runner and place mat (from Crate and Barrel ages ago); square white dinner plate (from HomeGoods); green salad plate (from Target eons ago); Park Avenue Puppies Mug for soup; Park Avenue Puppies Treat Platter for desserts; red-handled flatware; White Pine Paisley Holiday Napkin (from Amazon); very pale green goblet; Home Essentials Tuscana red stemless wine glass (from Marshall's this year).

The Park Avenue Puppies serving platter sits on a display stand until
needed, fronted by a cute pair of kissing Dalmatians salt and
pepper shakers (from Amazon).

A ceramic Santa Dalmatian shares plate space with a red votive
 candle holder.

The simple centerpiece consists of a large white candle on a red glass
plate surrounded by tiny pinecones.

A closer look at the Park Avenue Puppies mug.

A closer look at the Park Avenue Puppies treat platters.

I managed to add a bit of paisley (my latest design obsession) to the table
with napkins in Christmas colors.

I had a seafood craving this year for our Christmas dinner.  My Seafood Boil is based on Ina Garten's recipe for a Kitchen Clambake, but since I do not like clams I leave them out and substitute oysters if I can find them.  I did not add any lobsters since we were having lobster bisque, but feel free to add them and any other seafood you prefer.  I like to throw in some corn on the cob, fresh if available or frozen if not.  The simple salad consists of greens, pistachios, and dried cranberries, topped with a store-bought balsamic vinaigrette, but a homemade version of the dressing is easy to make.  I used a Williams-Sonoma mix for the peppermint brownies, but any basic brownie recipe with a little peppermint extract added would work.

Park Avenue Puppies Christmas Table Menu:

Easy Lobster Bisque
French or Italian Bread
Seafood Boil*
Red and Green Salad/Balsamic Vinaigrette
Peppermint Brownies/Assorted Chocolates
Hot Chocolate or Tea

*Seafood Boil

1/4 C. olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 lb. small new potatoes (red, white, or yellow)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 ears of corn, broken into thirds
1 lb. kielbasa, cut into 1-inch slices
12 fresh oysters
2 lbs. fresh mussels
1 lb. large shrimp in shells
2 C. dry white wine

In a large stock pot, sauté the onions in the olive oil over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes.  Layer the ingredients on top of the onions in this order: potatoes, salt, corn, kielbasa, oysters, mussels, and shrimp.  Pour in the wine.  Cover the pot tightly and cook over medium-high heat until steam just begins to escape from the lid, about 15 minutes.  Lower the heat to medium and cook for another 15 minutes.  Poke the potatoes with a fork to be sure they are tender.  Discard any oysters or mussels that did not open.  Remove the sausage, seafood, and vegetables to a large bowl.  Season the broth in the pot to taste and ladle over the seafood, being careful to avoid any sand on the bottom.  Serve immediately with lemon wedges.  Serves 6.

Note: Always discard any uncooked shellfish that remain open, and any cooked shellfish that remain closed.


A mix of peppermint white chocolate, peppermint dark chocolate,
and milk chocolate Lindt Lindor truffles.

The dessert for this Christmas feast is a tasting plate of brownies and various chocolates, mostly Williams-Sonoma Peppermint Bark chocolates because of the Dalmatians on the tins, but also some Lindt Lindor Truffles.  It is served with a peppermint-flavored hot chocolate from Williams-Sonoma, again mostly because of the adorable Dalmatian-themed tin, as well as White Christmas Tea from Harney & Sons for those who might not want hot chocolate.  I don't know why I always end up serving chocolate desserts on dog-themed tables when everyone knows chocolate is toxic for dogs.  Maybe because that way I have a legitimate excuse not to let our dogs have any!

The Dalmatian on the dinnerware sports a warm winter scarf, so I chose
two similarly attired Dalmatian pups to adorn the credenza (I've named
 the pair Isadora and Duncan -- I know, I am just a terrible person).
A candy cane glass plate with recumbent porcelain Dalmatian completes
the doggy décor here.

Dalmatian Hermès wears his holiday scarf with appropriately
insouciant flare!

Our Christmas has gone to the dogs this year, and we wouldn't have it any other way!  I hope you (and your pets) have a wonderful holiday!


Holiday Hits: Merry (Meowy) Christmas!

I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas this year!  For some reason cats seem to be especially noticeable this holiday season, so I thought I would share a couple of fun Christmas cat links for your enjoyment should you find yourself with a few spare moments.  First up is a compilation of Simon's Cat Christmas cartoons (if you are unfamiliar with Simon's Cat, take a look at the other hilarious videos on YouTube):

If you enjoy free online games, play "Christmas Cat" by Bart Bonte.  Just click on the link provided at the bottom of the image (if you get stuck, check out the walkthroughs on YouTube):

"Christmas Cat"

Have a fun-filled Christmas!

Foodie Fridays: Easy Lobster Bisque

From Websurfer's Cookbook

I wanted to serve a simple seafood meal for Christmas, and this recipe for Easy Lobster Bisque was just the sort of dish I was looking for.  We happened to have a couple of lobster tails in the freezer that really had to be cooked as soon as possible, and all of the other ingredients were readily obtainable, so it was quite easy to prepare this soup quickly.  The rich and decadent soup tastes like it took hours to prepare, and it is a great start to a special winter holiday dinner.

Easy Lobster Bisque

3 T. butter
2 large mushrooms, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 medium carrot, chopped
2 C. vegetable or chicken stock
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 C. low fat milk
1 C. heavy cream
1/2 C. dry white wine
2 cooked lobster tails, meat removed and diced

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the vegetables and cook for about 10 minutes.  Add the stock, salt, and cayenne pepper.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove the pot from the heat and add the lobster meat.  Using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth.  Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook until thickened, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes.  Serves 4.

Note: If desired, top each serving with a spoonful of sherry.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Seasonal Style: Winter Neutrals

From StyleHoster

Winter has arrived (even though the weather feels more like spring!), so it is time for a new Seasonal Style post.  I am focusing on a stylishly neutral palette for the season, with a touch of plum purple added for interest.  The look is cozy and casual but sophisticated, perfect for a relaxing day alone as well as a gathering with a group of friends.  This is a look that will get you through even the bleakest of winter months!

From New England Home

This 'n That Thursdays: Decorating for Christmas

From Houzz

I think it's time to indulge in a quick peek at some interiors beautifully decorated for Christmas, don't you?  Step right in and look around:

From Homeditorial

From Graphic Measures

From Tinned Tomatoes

From DigsDigs

From Family Holiday

From Pinterest

From Decorating Zen

From Faburous

From Zero Decor

From DigsDigs

From Homedit

From DigsDigs

From Birch Lane

From Birch Lane

Sometimes pictures really do speak a thousand words, don't they?  My Christmas décor may not be as gorgeous as the examples shown here, but it does fill my home with holiday spirit, and that is all that really matters.  Season's greetings from my home for the holidays to yours!