Sunday, December 10, 2017

On the Homefront: Holiday Travel

From Pinterest

I'm off today to visit my brother for a week up in the frozen North(east), although I will be on a plane, not in a one horse open sleigh, and hopefully we will not be traveling through snow!  I am not sure if I will be able to post to my blog while I am gone, but I will certainly start up again as soon as I return.  Have a wonderful holiday season!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Weekend Wardrobe: Accessories for Basic Black and White Winter 4x4 Wardrobe

Today I am adding accessories to last week's black and white 4x4 wardrobe for winter.  I already have five pieces described in a previous post:

I am using these pieces as my starting point and expanding upon them.  Let's look at some jewelry first:

Clockwise from top left: Taxco Rodriguez Mexican Sterling Silver Bird Bracelet; Dark Black Freshwater Pearl Necklace; Dark Black Freshwater Pearl Stud Earrings; Rendezvous White Freshwater Pearl and Black Onyx Long Necklace; Center: Remi Silver-Tone Link Necklace.

Next up is some footwear:

Clockwise from top left: Aerosoles Double Trouble 2 Booties in Black Leather; Naturalizer Brittany Ballet Flats in Black Leather; L.L. Bean Women's Bethel Waterproof Boots in Black; Privo Slope Low Boots in Ice; Center: Madewell Leather Elinor Loafer in True Black.

Some outerwear for cold weather would be very appropriate additions to the collection:

Clockwise from top left: Women's Winter V-Neck Quilted Jacket in Black; L.L. Bean Women's Boiled Wool Coat in Black; The North Face Women's Mossbud Swirl Reversible Vest in White; Orvis Women's Nimbus Travel Parka in Black.

More handbags and other accessories will increase the versatility of this wardrobe:

Clockwise from top left: Sharo Deleite White Leather Tote Bag; Orvis Women's Vintage-Inspired Sheepskin Hat in Black; Orvis Women's Deerskin Gloves with Faux Fur Cuffs in Black; H&M Leather Belt in Black/Silver; Nine West Table Treasures Wristlet in Black; Cuyana Classic Pebbled Leather Tote in Black; Center top: Tory Burch Block T Leather Crossbody Bag in Black; Center bottom: Women's White Dress Belt.

And finally, an array of attractive scarves will add interesting options for any outfit:

Clockwise from top left: Parekh Bugbee Kala Women's Hand Printed Crepe Silk Block Scarf; Me and Kashmiere Lino Gauze Cashmere Silk Blend Scarf in Black; Orvis Women's Buffalo Plaid Cashmink Muffler in Black/White; Chanel Pleated Silk Scarf in Cream; Center: Stella McCartney Women's Printed Silk Scarf in Black.


This basic black and white 4x4 wardrobe for winter is really shaping up to be more than adequate to get one through the season - until the holidays arrive, that is!  Next week I will add dressier apparel to the collection for those festive gatherings that many of us will be attending, and you will start to see some color slowly make its way into this wardrobe!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Foodie Fridays: Chewy Low-Carb Gingerbread Cookies

My husband loves ginger cookies of all sorts.  We always have gingersnaps in the house, and at this time of the year he is always buying gingerbread men whenever he can find them.  I decided to try baking a healthier version of ginger cookies and found a recipe that seemed perfect.  I had all of the ingredients on hand so I baked up a batch, and we both really enjoyed them.  Next time I make these I will add more spices as we both like a spicier cookie, but we loved the moist, chewy, and tender texture, and these cookies taste even better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to meld.  I also appreciate the fact that the cookies are large but the recipe only makes about a dozen, which is the perfect amount for the two of us.  I had never baked anything with just coconut flour before, and was amazed that despite having three coconut-based ingredients these cookies did not taste like coconut at all.  I think that these cookies are destined to become a holiday tradition for us!

Chewy Low-Carb Gingerbread Cookies

2 eggs (see Note)
2/3 C. almond butter, well stirred
2 T. coconut oil, softened (not liquefied)
1/4 C. molasses
1/4 C. coconut sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 C. coconut flour
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. allspice
coconut sugar for sprinkling

In a large bowl, beat together the first three ingredients with a hand mixer until smooth.  Add the next three ingredients and continue mixing until completely blended.

Sift the remaining ingredients except for the sprinkling sugar into a medium bowl and stir until combined.  Add to the wet ingredients and beat with the mixer until fully mixed (the dough will be sticky).  Chill the dough in the freezer for 5-10 minutes until it thickens and can be easily scooped.

Use a cookie scoop or rounded spoon to mound the dough in 12-14 heaping tablespoonfuls on a large parchment-lined baking sheet.  Flatten the mounds and sprinkle the tops with coconut sugar if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes until the tops crack (do not overbake).  Cool completely on a wire rack (cookies will become firmer and chewier as they cool).  Makes 12-14 cookies.

Note: The original recipe calls for one whole egg and one egg yolk, but I hate having leftover egg whites so I just used two whole eggs, which worked just fine.  You could replace the coconut oil with butter and the coconut sugar with another sweetener if you do not have these two ingredients.  Spray your measuring cups and spoons as well as your cookie scoop with a bit of cooking spray before using them for sticky substances so that the ingredients will release more easily.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

This 'n That Thursdays: A Few Easy, Relaxing, and Inexpensive Holiday Activities

From The Coca-Cola Company

The holiday season is always a rather frantic time of the year, not to mention expensive, so it is important to schedule some fun activities that are relaxing and will not further deplete the bank account.  Below is my list of preferences, based upon a blog post I read recently entitled "24 Free (or Super Cheap) Christmas Activities!".  Some of the options listed in this post are not my idea of relaxation (I find wrapping gifts and writing Christmas cards, for example, to be the very opposite!), but some of the others are my favorite ways to take a break from the stress of the season:

From Fun Inventors

1) Watch Christmas Movies - this time of the year our satellite TV service adds the Hallmark channels to our viewing options, and I just can't resist those sugary sweet holiday romance movies that run nonstop.  I also look forward to any of the old classics that happen to come on.  "White Christmas" (1954) is my all-time favorite, but I also enjoy "A Christmas Story" (1983) which runs all day long on Christmas day.  I have a collection of holiday DVDs as well just in case there are no good choices available when I am ready to watch a movie.

From Two Cottages and Tea

2) Christmas Music, Christmas Magazines, and a Hot Beverage - whenever I have a few free moments I like to either pop a few classic Christmas CDs into the player (Bing Crosby is my voice choice!) or set the TV to the Traditional Holidays music channel while flipping through holiday magazines and sipping a mug of hot spiced tea - my idea of seasonal relaxation!

From Laurel Home

3) View the Neighborhood Christmas Decorations - this is something I do extremely early in the morning (before 6 AM) when I am out walking the dogs.  Not everyone has their lights on then, but those who do have some very attractive decorations up for the season.  Every year our town has a contest to decide which homes have the best dΓ©cor and prizes are handed out, so many of the homeowners make an extra effort to put up impressive and tasteful displays.  There are a number of historic homes in our small Georgia town and the residents take great pride in their history, so homes tend to be adorned with more traditional southern dΓ©cor - there is not a single tacky blowup Santa or snowman to be found!

From Happy Holidays!

4) Bake Christmas Goodies - my annual tradition is the baking of fruitcakes for my siblings (see recipe here), which is not necessarily my favorite holiday treat, but at least it keeps me from overindulging in my own baked goods!  For our own consumption, I will probably be making Low Carb Almond Cookies, which are quite good and still allow me to stick to my low-carb diet.

From Shutterstock

5) Read a Christmas-Themed Book - to me the absolute best way to relax during the holiday season is to read a book with a holiday theme.  Some years I reread an old favorite (if you like mysteries you must read Charlotte MacLeod's Rest You Merry).  This year I recently purchased two Christmas books, a collection of short mystery stories called The Usual Santas and a Charles Dickens-themed book entitled A Christmas Dinner.  I can't wait to get started on them!


These five activities are great and relatively inexpensive ways to take it easy during the holidays.  I hope you have a few of your own, and/or that you will be inspired by these suggestions!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wish List Wednesdays: Crate and Barrel Days of Christmas Plates with Stand

Are you still looking for a last-minute Christmas gift, or perhaps even a little present for yourself?  I think the Days of Christmas Plates with Stand ($59.95) from Crate and Barrel is the perfect gift for anyone who hosts a holiday party.  "The Twelve Days of Christmas" is one of my favorite seasonal songs, so I may be a bit biased, but you can't deny that these twelve porcelain plates with their red steel stand would work well for serving appetizers or desserts buffet-style to a good-sized gathering of friends and/or family.  And just look at the unique designs:

Surely these delightful plates alone would put all but the most Scrooge-like of guests in a festive holiday mood!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Weekend Wardrobe: Basic Black and White Winter 4x4 Wardrobe

Using last week's five-piece wardrobe shown above as the starting point, I put together a 4x4 basic wardrobe for winter that would get anyone through the entire season (barring any special holiday events, which I will address in future posts).  The first set of four is comprised of three of the five pieces shown above:

Clockwise from top left: Coldwater Creek Leaf Print Anytime Easy Care Tunic in  Black/White; J. Crew Everyday Cashmere Cardigan in Black; H&M Women's Long-Sleeved Shirt in White/Striped; L.L. Bean Women's Favorite Fit Wrinkle-Free Bayside Pants in Black.

The second set contains four new pieces:

Clockwise from top left: L.L. Bean Women's Long-Sleeved Relaxed Fit Wrinkle-Free Pinpoint Oxford Shirt in White; L.L. Bean Women's Long-Sleeve Pima Cotton Turtleneck in Black; L.L. Bean Women's Marled Cotton Ragg Sweater in Classic Black; Coldwater Creek Pinwale Stretch Corduroy Pants in Black.

The third set of four includes the other two pieces from the original five-piece wardrobe:

Clockwise from top left: L.L. Bean Women's Long-Sleeve V-Neck Super-Soft Shrink-Free Tee in White;  L.L. Bean Women's Long-Sleeve Stripe Tunic in Cream/Classic Black; L.L. Bean Women's Double L Mixed Cable Zip-Front Cardigan in Classic Black; Land's End Women's Mid Rise Pull On Skinny Jeans in Black.

Four more new items make up the last set of four:

Clockwise from top left: L.L. Bean Women's Cotton/Cashmere Turtleneck Sweater in Classic Black; H&M Women's Viscose Shirt in White/Birds; Banana Republic Women's Italian Superloft Vee Neck Sweater in Black; Coldwater Creek Essential Supima Leggings in Black.

And here is the complete basic black and white winter 4x4 wardrobe:


I could easily make do with just this basic wardrobe for most situations during the cold season since I almost never need to wear dressy outfits, but anyone who needed less casual clothing could swap in some skirts for pants and/or blazers for sweaters.  Of course, this wardrobe could go even more casual with fewer blouses and more tee-shirts, so I think these sixteen pieces of apparel can cover all but the most formal of occasions.  Next week I get to have fun adding more accessories to these five items I described in my earlier post:

Looking for accessories can be even more fun than looking for clothing!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Foodie Fridays: Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

A couple of overripe bananas in our fruit bowl inspired me to search for a banana bread recipe that I had never tried before.  When I found the recipe for Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips I could not resist, because I love peanut butter and I had some leftover chocolate chips to use up (my chips were milk chocolate, but I think semisweet is actually the better choice here).  The other reason I had to make this bread was to appease my husband after my annual fruitcake baking.  He enjoys the aroma of the fruitcakes as they bake, but, like me, does not like the taste (I bake them every year for my siblings, who all love fruitcake).  My husband wanted me to make a bread with nuts but no candied fruit, and I figured he would be happy with nuts in the form of chunky peanut butter, so I made this bread for him.  He loved it, so it is a winner in our house!

Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

2 C. flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 medium bananas, mashed
1/2 C. peanut butter (I used extra chunky)
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 C. light brown or coconut sugar
1/3 C. buttermilk or plain kefir
1/4 C. vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 C. semisweet chocolate chips

Grease a loaf pan and line with parchment paper so that it hangs over the two long sides.

In a large bowl, stir together the first three ingredients.  In a separate large bowl, whisk together all of the remaining ingredients except the chocolate chips until smooth.  Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and fold together with a spatula until completely combined.  Gently stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top as evenly as possible.  Bake at 350 degrees for 60-75 minutes, until a skewer or knife inserted into the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs.  If the bread is browning too quickly, tent a piece of foil over the top.

Cool the loaf in the pan for 10-15 minutes.  Using the overhanging parchment paper, lift the bread from the pan onto a wire rack and cool completely.  The cooled bread can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to five days.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

This 'n That Thursdays: Are You Ready for Winter?

From Silver Lake Institute

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I am ready to start thinking about all things winter.  Our weather is a lot cooler now, but still not very wintry.  This may be one of those years when we do not get any snow, so I thought I would seek out some images sure to get me in the winter holiday mood:

From Bored Panda

From Memolition

From Get Leashed Magazine

From Canadian Choice Windows

From Wallpapers-Web

From Like Success

From The Tiny Traveller's Top Ten

From Amazing Creatures

From The Photo Argus

From Gardenoholic

From Photobucket

From Pxhere


By now you are either eagerly anticipating the joy of getting outside on a brisk and invigorating winter day or convinced that it is time to hunker down under a pile of warm blankets in front of a blazing fire.  Whatever your preference, it is time to start preparing for winter.  Let the season begin!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Wish List Wednesdays: Talbots Dalmatians Cardigan Sweater

Dalmatians seem to be making a fashion comeback this holiday season.  First Coldwater Creek offered the Darling Dalmatian Sweater that sold out very quickly, and now Talbots has the Dalmatians Cardigan Sweater (on sale for $59.40-$65.40) in a festive green color printed with 56 Dalmatian images, 16 of which sport hand-stitched red ribbon bows!  The cotton blend crewneck cardigan has long sleeves and a button front.  I've already placed my order and plan to wear this festive cardigan on Christmas day.  There are even coordinating Spotted Dog Trouser Socks (on sale for $5.70) and a Dalmatian & Plaid Print Scarf (on sale for $35.70) if you decide you want to up your Dalmatian quotient for the holidays!


Sunday, November 26, 2017

On the Homefront: Autumnal Colors Thanksgiving Table

Pilgrim the Dalmatian is always ready and willing to express gratitude
for the Thanksgiving feast!

My table setting for Thanksgiving this year was inspired by a salad plate from Pier 1 with a pretty autumnal fox print.  I used ivory, muted orange, and brown hues from the plate as my table colors.  The table is simple and seasonal, just like the menu I prepared this year.

Pumpkin-colored place mat; BHG Amity Ivory Dinner Plate (no longer available); Daisy the Fox Salad/Dessert Plate (from Pier 1 recently); Raymond Waites Ivory Marrakech Napkin (from HomeGoods recently); Il Mulino New York copper-colored flatware (from HomeGoods this year); clear water and wine glasses.

A dark brown ceramic vase filled with red-orange mums, two coppery
brown glass leaf-shaped candle plates with leaf-shaped candles, and
a set of cute hedgehog salt and pepper shakers from Pier 1 adorn the
head of the table.
A shallow brown ceramic bowl with a birch stump votive candleholder
 surounded by Preserved Pumpino Vase Filler from Pier 1 creates a
seasonal centerpiece. 
Ivory-colored serveware on the table will hold (clockwise from top)
mashed sweet potatoes, turkey gravy, roast turkey and stuffing,
and cranberry sauce.

We went with a very traditional, rather retro Thanksgiving menu this year.  I stuffed and roasted a turkey just the way my mother used to make hers.  I don't care what the so-called "experts" say - all my life I have eaten turkey roasted with stuffing inside and never once has anyone gotten sick, nor have we ever had a dry turkey.  We also ate jellied cranberry sauce from a can, which is what we both had when we were kids (does anyone else remember, like I do, those serving dish and slicer sets made and sold specifically for the can-shaped cranberry sauce logs?).

My husband convinced me to make green bean casserole again (his family's tradition but not mine).  And we had pumpkin pie, which we both love, although I did make mine with an almond crust instead of using wheat flour crust.  The mashed sweet potatoes are a compromise.  My husband is a fan of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving while I am not (so much starchy food in one meal!), but I am willing to serve sweet potatoes as long as I can make them like mashed white potatoes, i.e., with butter and milk but no added sugars or spices (I abhor candied sweet potatoes).  And while I am the world's worst gravy maker, this year my gravy was adequate (a bit too oily, but at least it was not overly salty!).

Autumn Colors Thanksgiving Menu:

Roast Turkey/Turkey Gravy
Jellied Cranberry Sauce
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole


I hope everyone had a glorious Thanksgiving - enjoy what's left of the holiday weekend!

Beautiful mums for Thanksgiving!