Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Windowbox Decorations

I have been a busy bee decorating for Christmas! This is the earliest I have started decorating that I can remember. I am definitely on a roll!

Today, I will share my window boxes all decked out for the season.

Since I had bought everything I needed for my urns AND window boxes, I got right to it so I could check that off my list too!

I love it when I get on a roll!

Enjoy the weekend!

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Garden Urns

My car is in the shop today, so I have nowhere to go but I do have plenty to do! With my Christmas garland hung on the front porch, next up are the urns! Normally the urns are on either side of my front door, but I decided to move them to either side of the steps leading up to the porch. Once they are decorated with fresh greenery, I thought how nice they will look dusted with snow later in the season. I can enjoy that all winter!

My biggest inspiration came from the blog, 5th and State. The owner, Debra, is a professional garden designer who also owns several shops in the Chicago area. Her blog showcases some of her gorgeous garden creations.

Lucky me when she recently posted a tutorial on how she goes about creating these pin worthy works of container garden art!

After reading her tutorial, I went straight to my local garden shop and gathered the supplies needed to put some Fa-la-la in my own garden urns!

In progress:

And the finished product!

Thanks Debra!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How To Customize Christmas Garland

Here's a quick and easy way to get a custom look for your Christmas garland. I already had the garland but I wanted to make it a little more special by adding some shiny ornaments.

When I was in Homegoods last week, inspiration hit when I saw a simple garland of red, green and silver ornaments.  The ornaments were of varying sizes and I liked the colors so I thought what if I added THAT garland to my garland at home? It sure beats tying or hot gluing each ornament individually! So I rounded up enough of the shiny ornament garland which required going to several different Homegoods stores in my area. The things we do!

Here's how I did it:

 Lay the garland on your work surface. I used my kitchen island and placed a sheet underneath to protect it and catch all the glitter and loose strands from the garland.

 Before doing anything, plug in your garland to make sure all the lights work. Nothing worse than doing all the work and finding out only half your garland lights up!

The garland on the left in this picture is what I found at Homegoods. I'm sure you have seen them. They come in a variety of different combinations. All silver, red and gold, blue and silver etc. It is a garland of plastic ornaments. Perfect for using outdoors!

Using regular old garbage bag ties, I attached the two garlands together every 8 inches or so. No need to measure or be precise. Just attach so they are secure.

TIP: If you don't have any ties, you can use the wire garland itself. Just use a single piece of the green garland to attach with. Since it is wire, it can be twisted to attach ornaments, bows or anything else.
I realized this when I ran out of bag ties. With this method, no ugly blue or white or whatever color ties will show.

Continue until all are attached and you will have something that looks like this.  Looking good!

See all the glitter on the sheet?

Now get that bad boy hung and have the neighbors admire and marvel at all the time and work that it must have taken to get all those ornaments looking just right!

Don't'll be our little secret!

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Turkey Talk: A Basting Recipe

We all know we need to baste a turkey while it cooks so it won't dry out, but I wanted something a little more than just water or broth or pan juices. I did a simple internet search for turkey basting and found a recipe from Martha that I use every year. The ingredients are simple and flavorful...butter and white wine!

Start by melting 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter (3 sticks) in a large pot. Add 1 bottle dry white wine and stir.  Martha's recipe says to immerse a large 17-inch 4-layer piece of cheesecloth in the butter wine mixture. The point of this is to place over the turkey to prevent it from browning too quickly. I did this the first time I followed this recipe. Maybe I didn't baste often enough, but I found that the cheesecloth browned and dried and started to stick to the turkey. It didn't look too pretty, but I was able to pull it all off and avoid disaster!
I'm just warning you.

You can try it.

YOU might have better luck.

I didn't want my family picking threads out of their turkey. Kinda ruins the dinner! It's like eating a scrumptious fish dish (a rythme!) and getting a tiny bone. That's it for me. I won't go back. It's over. I want to avoid that for my family.

Tip: If the turkey starts to brown too fast, make a tent with foil and place over turkey. Wrapping the ends of the legs in foil before cooking will keep the legs from getting too brown also.

Back to the turkey. After you have removed the turkey from the brine and patted it dry with paper towels inside and out, prepare your turkey as usual. Place turkey breast side up on a rack in roasting pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper and Bell's Poultry Seasoning.


This is the seasoning that my grandmother and my mother used. Nothing else would do. It HAD to be Bell's.
I only do what my mother tells me. Just seeing this box makes me think of them. 

Once PROPERLY seasoned, use the butter/white wine combo to baste the turkey every 30 minutes. Oh and once the turkey juices mix in with the basting mixture in the pan, use that. It will be full of flavor...and butter...and wine.  It's easy and delicious. You will have a perfectly brown and moist Thanksgiving turkey. With no built-in floss!

One week! Do you have everything in your pantry?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Brining a Turkey

Thanksgiving is full of tradition but sometimes I go off the beaten path and try something new. A few years ago, I became intrigued with brining a turkey. At first I wasn't really sure what "brining" meant. I knew enough that it was some sort of liquid concoction usually reserved for pickles or watermelon rind, but a turkey? I did a little research by asking my sister who brines her Thanksgiving turkey every year and received some positive feedback. If you want a moist, flavorful turkey then brining is the way to go. There are many brining kits in the stores but it is also very easy to make your own.


Essentially brine is a salty solution the turkey sits in for approximately 24 hours before cooking. A good ratio for brine is one cup of kosher salt and one cup of sugar to one gallon of water. Depending on the size of turkey you are cooking, more brine may be needed. The flavor comes from herbs and spices that are added to the brine and this is where you can get creative. Substituting apple cider or white wine for some of the water adds additional flavor.

An important note is to always use a fresh not frozen turkey for brining. This will yield better results since most frozen turkey's are injected with a sodium solution prior to freezing.

I place my thawed turkey in a brining bag which is a large, leak-proof zipper top bag. Since space in the refrigerator is at a premium during Thanksgiving, I brine my turkey in a large cooler with ice. This ensures two things. First, that the turkey will stay cold and second that the solution will be contained if my zipper top bag has an epic fail in the refrigerator! Just imagine discovering  five gallons of THAT in your refrigerator Thanksgiving morning!

After placing my bag of turkey in the cooler I get to work creating the brine. In a stock pot combine the following:

Printable Recipe

Basic Brine

2 cups kosher salt
2 cups sugar (brown sugar may be substituted)
2 Gallons water (cider or orange juice can be substituted for half the water)

To this brine mixture add a half cup mixture of your favorite herbs and spices such as rosemary, bay leaf,  peppercorn, garlic, and orange rind. This is where you get creative. The combinations are endless. Candied ginger and cinnamon are other options.

Turkey Brine Prep

Heat the mixture on the stove until salt and sugar is dissolved. Turn of heat and allow mixture to cool to room  temperature.

Once brining solution has cooled, place turkey breast side down, innards removed, inside bag in cooler and pour over turkey.  Zip bag closed removing as much air as possible. Pack ice around turkey bag in cooler and leave for 12 - 24 hours. A good rule of thumb is one hour per pound.  Remember to flip the turkey half way for even brining.

Brining the Turkey

That's all there is to it!

Next I will share my Martha inspired recipe for roast turkey.

Hint: It involves a bottle of white wine!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fall Mantel Decor

Did you ever have one of those days when out of nowhere inspiration hits and you scurry around like a squirrel collecting bits and pieces for what you think will be a decorating masterpiece?

Today was one of those days.

You see, for over a week my fireplace mantel has been under construction... decoratively speaking.

It is November after all. Call it indecision, decorating paralysis or just plain laziness, I haven't been able to find the right look.

What look you ask? I'm not sure, but I know after playing with dough bowls and candles and mercury glass acorns, I couldn't find it.

So it has been in a sad state of affairs. My family wondering what I was up to with a half empty mantel. One that clearly had no direction.

But just as I was ready to move on and leave it how it was, I was inspired by the pretty blue, white and orange tones I have seen.

Mary B Spires

white baby blue and orange bedroom seating area modern
Tobi Fairley

Nell Hill's

So, just like that, a moment of clarity and vision seeped into my brain and I knew exactly the look I was after.

So simple. So elegant.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Thanksgiving Decorations on the Porch

Thanksgiving will be upon us before we know it and that means changing things throughout the house ever so slightly. Halloween gives me a good color base to work with and I don't need to get rid of the pumpkins yet! They are perfect for Thanksgiving too.

After removing the cobwebs from my Halloween decor ,and the "Condemned" house sign, a quick change of wreath's on the front door is all that is in order to make the switch. I will leave the fall garland, grapevine pumpkin's and mums that have been there through October.

This small tweak changes the theme of the porch and will last at least until I put my Thanksgiving dishes away!

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