Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas dishes...

Eat Drink Be Merry Dessert Plates, Set of 4
Some friends gave us a set of Christmas mugs and dessert plates and I love them!  Aren't they fun?  I'm not a huge fan of santas and trees on dishes, but I think these are just christmas-y enough.  We've been drinking tea out of the mugs every night.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Leftover candy cane idea...

I had a bunch of candy canes from something, so I decided to make mini candy cane cupcakes.  This is a really easy, cute dessert.  Just make mini vanilla cupcakes, frost them, then roll them in crushed candy canes.  You don't even have to worry about the frosting looking good because the candy canes cover it.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holiday candy...

If you are in Denver this season, I highly recommend a tour of Hammond's Candies. I am only a little embarrassed to admit that I am a big fan of factory tours, and I think this is one of the best. They make classic candy canes and ribbon candy and lots of other things... 

Ribbon Candy

Take the behind the scenes tour... they let you make candy and it is really fun.

This will end up as a candy cane!
Yes, you have to wear a hairnet but it is worth it (and as far as hairnet pictures go, I actually think these are kind of cute... the hat really adds something!).  You also leave with a giant bag of candy that you can't possibly eat but it is definitely worth it.

Their website is fun too.  I just found these candy stirrer sticks that look like so much fun for a party... I have some baby showers and bridal showers coming up and I am definitely putting this on my idea list.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Holiday hostess gift...

We have had a lot of holiday parties this year.  I have sort of mixed feelings about homemade hostess gifts, but I have the best recipe for sweet-hot spiced nuts that is worth sharing.  It is really good and really easy.

I also had a bunch of little metal cannisters that I had been saving for something that turned out to be just the right thing for nuts.  So I printed out the recipe on a little card, calligraphed the recipe and our names, taped the card on the cannister and tied it all up with a nice bow... an easy, cute holiday hostess gift.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Working on Christmas decorations and cards...

More posts to come soon!  In the meantime, here is Chica the Christmas dog to get the celebration started:

Isn't she cute?!  (Reindeer headband from the Target $1 bins for anyone else who enjoys dressing up their pets...)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving recap #2...

In case you didn't notice from my earlier posts about Thanksgiving dinner and our family Turkey Trot, we had a turkey theme this year.  My sister didn't know this before she came, but brought me turkey taper candles!  Aren't they fun?
The other turkey-themed activity this year was part of a family tradition that we call "the Program."  My aunt and uncle started the Program, which is basically some activity (usually chosen by the hosts) that we do in between courses.  For example, past programs have included:
*Each person showing pictures of their favorite trips
*Telling our favorite stories about each person
*Showing each person's favorite you-tube or funny internet video
This year I wanted to make it something easy for everyone.  I had a leftover cinderella pumpkin from Halloween, and I came up with the idea of turning it into a turkey. I made a turkey head out of construction paper and then I made a bunch of cut out sugar cookies on sticks (upside down christmas ornament cookie cutter for the shape, if you are wondering) and frosted them in thanksgiving colors.  Each person had to take a cookie, write something they were thankful for on the cookie (with food markers), and then stick it in the turkey.
Then we all guessed whose cookie each one was and everyone had to explain what they had written.  We did three rounds, during appetizers, after soup, and after dinner.  It was a fun way to get conversation going and remember the things we are thankful for.... and then eat turkey feather cookies!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving recap...

We spent today cleaning up and recovering from Thanksgiving... It went really well this year.  Things got started on Wednesday afternoon when our families arrived.  I'd sent out a schedule the week before using Paperless Post so everybody knew the plan for the weekend.
My plan to make everything ahead worked out great this year.  I'd made the Wednesday lasagna and Thursday breakfast pumpkin rolls (a big hit) ahead and put them in the freezer, and did the same for just about everything on the Thanksgiving menu too.  This was our Turkey Day menu:
Nick was in charge of the turkey and the wine.  We have cooked the Turkey on our gas grill for the last two years.  The turkey is good and it also gives me oven space to heat everything up, so the make ahead plan is workable. I made the soup and the cheese puffs two weekends before (put in ziplocs in the freezer).  The pesto dip is just pesto cubes I made over the summer (and put in the freezer) mixed with a block of cream cheese.  I made the sweet potatoes the weekend before and put them in the freezer, and the mashed potatoes the day before.  On Wednesday morning, I made the pies and the stuffing.  By the time everyone arrived on Wednesday afternoon, everything was about done.  The green bean recipe is so easy that all I had to do on Thursday was throw it in a pan and make sure everything else was in the oven.  Definitely the easiest Thanksgiving ever!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I love donuts...

It's true... they are so good!  Maple bars especially.  We even gave donuts as favors at our wedding.  I have found two fun doughnut-related things lately.  The first is the Smartplanet Mini Donut Maker:

Smart Planet MDM-1 Mini Donut Maker
Now, I really don't need this and I don't want another kitchen appliance, and donuts are so cheap I'm not sure why you would go to all the work to make them, but this is only $25, gets four stars on Amazon, and seems like it would be fun once or twice.

One of the other reasons I do not want Item #1 is because I found this shop called Dough a Deer that makes the cutest mini doughnuts in all flavors and colors and ships them to you.  I am crazy about it-- just look at this orange doughnut from them.  I want an excuse to order donuts!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Turkey butter...

One of my favorite things from our thanksgiving last year:

Isn't it great?  I wish I could say it was my idea or that I made it, but it was really just from the dairy section of our local Safeway!  It was also the inaugural run for my china (Kate Spade Union Street) and I thought the turkey looked particularly cute on the new plates...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I love these vases...

I saw this vase in Cooking Light last month and finally got around to visiting the company's website.  Isn't it great? The company is called Chive and they have all sorts of great vases.  I really like them because I grow flowers in the garden but either never have enough for a big arrangement or the stems are too short to make it workable in the vases I have.  All of the little openings in these would be perfect for my garden blooms.  Plus I think they would look great in my house, which is mid-century modern with sort of basic furnishings. I also like these three-- "Flute," "Double Bubble," and "Caterpillar:"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thanksgiving craft project...

Every year, my husband tries to find a turkey trot run on Thanksgiving morning.  We have done a few and it's always fun.  This year, we decided to put together our own for the family, which will consist of walking or running a little route through our neighborhood.  But what turkey trot is complete without the obligatory t-shirt? (Also, we thought an incentive to participate might be good...)  So I put together my own little turkey logo from some layered circles and ovals, and "STTT" ("Steiner-Tronquet Turkey Trot") was born!

I found some $2 t-shirts and iron-on printer paper at Michaels, and created an assembly station on my ironing board.  Disclaimer:  If you are looking for high-quality t-shirts this is not the project for you, but if you are looking for a novelty (and probably one-time-wear) t-shirt I definitely recommend this approach.  My printer had a "t-shirt transfer" setting under properties which automatically printed a mirror image that would iron on properly.

All you have to do is place the printout face down on the t-shirt, iron (I found that 2 or 3 passes with the iron for 10-15 seconds worked best, with a little extra focus on the corners and edges), then peel off the backing (an exacto knife helps here).  Here is my final project:

And of course, the project wouldn't be complete without some cute packaging, so I rolled them up (with the STTT logo prominently displayed) and tied it with some cute ribbon.

Who wouldn't want to run in this?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Writing thank you notes...

quip thank you cards
Kate Spade Quip Thank You Cards

I thought since I sort of ranted and raved in my earlier post on wedding gift thank you notes that it might be good to offer some more constructive advice.  I have developed a little formula that has proven pretty successful.  (My mom is always so proud when someone tells her they received a nice note from me!).  It is two simple paragraphs, can be used for any type of thank you, and goes something like this:

Dear ____:
Thank you so much for the ____.  It was so thoughtful of you and [add something personal about the item here, such as what you plan to do with it and/or what it means to you... even if you feel a little cheesy writing it, that is ok-- better to seem heartfelt than disinterested].
We had a wonderful time... [In this paragraph, add something about your relationship with the person who gave you the gift- why you were happy to see them at the wedding, see them at the holidays, etc.]  Hope to see you again soon... in the meantime, we will think of you whenever we use the ___!

Sure, a basic "thanks for the gift" is better than nothing, but I think this approach makes it a little more personal.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Make ahead mashed potatoes?

Luxurious Mashed Potatoes

In my pursuit of easy thanksgiving recipes, I came across Martha's recipe for Luxurious Mashed Potatoes.
Apparently, you can make them a day ahead of time and just heat them up in the oven. Sounds good to me!  It was a big hassle last year to have to mash them right before dinner, so I think I will make a test batch this weekend...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wedding etiquette... sending thank you notes

I received a thank you note last week for a wedding present I sent this summer... at the end of June.  Still haven't received notes for two other gifts I sent at the same time.

I suppose receiving a note four months later is better than nothing, but only marginally better in my opinion.  I really think that if the people who sent you the gifts have cause to wonder whether you received it, you have waited too long to send a thank you.  It really doesn't take more than five minutes to write, so within a month is reasonable.   Also, if they send the gift before the wedding, consider it a favor-- you can send the note now and not have to worry about it after the wedding!

There are lots of options for thank you note stationary.  Minted  has so many cute ones...  I love this for wedding thank yous-- sweet and simple:
Sweet and Simple Thank You Cards 

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thinking turkey...

Now that November is here, it's time to start thinking about Thanksgiving.  We are hosting this year.
Last year we grilled the turkey and it turned out great:
Pretty nice, right?  My husband gets all the credit for this one... it was really good.  All of my sides were good too, but I think I was a little too ambitious with the menu:
It turned out as good as it sounds (yes, carrot souffle is amazing!), but I'm looking for simpler recipes this year and less time in the kitchen... more Thanksgiving planning coming soon!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween costumes...

Yes, I dressed up my pet for Halloween.  Meet Chica, the fire dog!

Cute, huh?  Unfortunately, she's not as crazy about her Halloween costume as I am... both she and my husband are thoroughly embarrassed.

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I have strong opinions about flowers (being the Flower Lady's daughter and everything....)  I have probably seen hundreds of wedding bouquets, and I think this is gorgeous and I'll bet it smelled amazing:

Image #101796

Sweet peas and peonies... my favorite flowers.  I planted both when we moved into our house two years ago but I haven't had much luck with the peonies yet.  The sweet peas do really well.  I need to try planting some sweet pea seeds now because I hear they like the mild California winters, and I definitely need to work on the peonies... I would so love to grow a bouquet like this next summer!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Business cards!

It rained here all weekend... not good.  It gives me headaches and my dog gets moody (seriously- she really hates rain).  But it was kind of cozy and it gave me a chance to start a few projects I had been meaning to get around to.  I had been thinking it would be nice to have some business cards.  Since I don't really have a need for them yet, I decided to keep it simple and try printing my own.  Paper Source, my favorite paper store, carries paper in every size and color, including business card size, so I bought a pack in blue.
Then I got out my calligraphy supplies and played around with different logo ideas.  I played around with incorporating little flowers into it, but my taste is pretty basic and flowers seemed a little busy.
So I settled on one of the logos I had written, scanned it in to the computer, played around and figured out how to turn it brown (I liked the combination of blue and dark brown), and typed in the rest of the information.  I decided to go simple- logo on one side, name and contact information on the other.  I have a great Canon printer that seems to print any size paper I put in, so it was really easy and now I have 25 business cards.  I'm not sure yet when I will use them, but it's not a bad start!  

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The cutest fall salad...

I saw this on The Kitchn today:
It is a vertical pear salad from The Novice Chef (which I'd never heard of, but looks like a really great food blog).  Isn't it the cutest salad you have ever seen?  So creative, and I love fruit in green salads.  It would be SO great at a fall wedding dinner.  I was thinking of doing soup instead of salad for the first course at Thanksgiving this year, but I love this so much I may have to reconsider...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wedding etiquette... lesson one

I sent my best friend Heather the link to this site and she e-mailed me and said, "I think you need to do some posts on etiquette – maybe even a whole section – people need to know a reception where you ask for your guests to pay is not ok!"

Yes, it's true... I actually know someone who received a wedding invitation this summer with an RSVP card that asked guests to select the meal... as well as the prices and acceptable forms of payment!  We thought this was an obvious NO, but apparently it's not.  So lesson one is don't charge people to attend your wedding.  Really.  It is not appropriate and just makes people uncomfortable.   I know weddings are expensive but charging people is not the answer.  They want to share in your joy-- not pay for it!  You don't have to do dinner.  If cost is a very serious issue, I think a punch and cake reception after the ceremony would be a great low cost alternative.  You could do cupcakes, cute napkins, and maybe some cute bags with confetti for a fun send off.  Get creative-- just don't charge your guests!

Let them eat cake... for free!

Sunday, October 17, 2010


We just got back from a road trip to the Eastern Sierra. Fall is a pretty quiet time of year there but it is beautiful, don't you think?

The dog is not a huge fan of camping but liked certain parts of the trip:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Martha's Oreo Tower

This was in the September issue of Martha Stewart magazine:

The show-stopping Oreo cake from my Home at Last fĂȘte (Martha Stewart Living, September 2010)

I love it!  I really wish I had an occasion to make one, but the how-to says it takes 20 packs of Oreos.  Unfortunately I don't really have an occasion for it because our dinner parties are rarely more than 6 people.  What about a cookie bar at a wedding though?  This would be the cutest centerpiece ever!
(Image credit: Paul Costello for Martha Stewart Living, September 2010)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Easy Mailbox Update

Our old brass mailbox has annoyed me since we moved in.  It is in bad shape and doesn't match the door handles, knobs, or anything else, which are all stainless steel.  I found some nice ones online but they were expensive and I wasn't sure I would want one that stuck out from the wall.  Then I was browsing the spray paint aisle and found this:

It seemed like it would be worth a try, so I taped off around the mailbox,, sanded it a little bit, and sprayed.


   Now looks like this:

For a $6 can of spray paint I am pretty pleased with the results, and after a few months it is still holding up well!