Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas at Our House!

Welcome to my home!  We have been busy decorating for Christmas, both outside .....

....and inside! This is our eight foot Noble Fir Christmas tree. It was so heavy we decided to place it by our staircase this year, instead of in front of our living room windows. I like how it looks here, and it is easy to walk around and see all our ornaments. I'll also have room to place all our family's presents underneath, on Christmas Eve! The first rule I taught my 22 month old granddaughter about the tree was: "Look, but do not touch!" Smile.  She has been very good, so far!

Another view of the tree during the daytime, and from a different angle.  We placed the cotton fluff on our staircase railing to protect it from being scratched by the lighted garland we hung there.  When my granddaughter first saw it she said:  "Look!  Clouds!" 

I love to decorate my tree every year, as almost every ornament on it holds a special meaning for me. Some have been handmade by my children when they were young, and some by my grandsons. I'm sure my granddaughter will add her own creativity to our tree one year in the future.

Many ornaments were purchased on our vacations.  I'm showing just a few.  They are a Santa starfish from the Outer Banks in North Carolina, a cable car from San Francisco, a Brown bear from Yellowstone National Park, another bear from Quebec, Canada, the opera house in Sydney, Australia, a Big Apple from New York, City, a Saint Nicholas from the German Christkindl Market in Denver, a beaded Texas flag from San Antonio, Texas, Santa crushing the grapes from Napa Valley, California, an America Eagle from Washington DC, a Belleek Saint Patrick from Dublin, Ireland, a wild sunflower that we saw all over Wyoming, and this year's 100th anniversary Columbine flower ornament of Colorado's Rocky Mountain National Park!

I have a weakness for both Santa Claus and Snowmen, so my tree is also filled with both ornaments,
as well as ornaments that friends and family have given to me over the years.  There are really too many to show in one blog post, but each and every one is so special to me!

I have a small artificial tree on my kitchen island, as well as my two ornament baker "helpers" that stand underneath. The beautiful Waterford Santa Claus cookie jar was a gift from my husband many years ago.  The stuffies around my fireplace are there for my grandchildren to enjoy.

Our Nativity set was purchased the first year we were married, forty years ago! It also holds many memories for me.  The angels turn as "Silent Night" plays from the music box underneath.

Of course, in an Italian home food is also an important part of the Christmas holiday, and I adopted many of my husband's Calabrian food traditions, as well as my American holiday food traditions,  into my menu. Last year's feast is shown above. From appetizers to homemade Christmas cookies for dessert, we enjoy a holiday "abbondanza," which means an abundance in Italian.

We are so thankful for all our blessings and our ability to make Christmas a holy and happy holiday for our family! Thank you for sharing a glimpse into our holiday--I look forward to seeing your traditions!

I'm linking this post to the following blog events:

Thanks to all the blog hosts!

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Classic Cookbooks and a Classic Apple Tart with Frangipane

My husband and I were invited to a casual "Joyeux Noel" party that friends were having at their home the first weekend of the Christmas season.  The hosts have a cookbook that they enjoy using entitled in English, "I Know How To Cook," or "Je Sais Cuisiner," in French, by author Genette Mathiot. They used a favorite recipes  form this cookbook as their inspiration for their party menu. This cookbook has sold over six million copies in France, since it was published in 1932, and is one of the most popular cookbooks in French households.  In Italy, "Il Cucchiaio d' Argento" or in English, "The Silver Spoon" cookbook is that nation's most popular cookbook.  What both cookbooks have in common, is that the thousand plus recipes that are within, are basic home cooking and written in simple succinct terms without illustrations. There are very few "step by step instructions" in both cookbooks, as cooking techniques are understood, and not described. They are probably not cookbooks for a true novice, but the recipes work and are delicious! I'm not sure we have a cookbook equivalent in the US of these two cookbooks?  What would you nominate for the honor of a cookbook every American household probably has on their shelves?   In my early marriage I relied on "Better Homes and Gardens" cookbook, but perhaps the bride of today likes Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything" cookbook?   I have many favorite cookbooks, in fact I blogged about some of them quite a while ago in 2008, that helped me to learn how to cook southern Italian food that my husband grew up eating.  Unfortunately, the blog that inspired me to write the post no longer exists, but many many more food blogs exist today that are a wealth of inspiration and most likely the recipes most of us turn to when we are searching online about how to make something pleasing.  I have so many favorite food blogs that I would not know where to begin to list them, but one of my favorite websites to turn to is the Williams Sonoma Recipes web site, as I have never been disappointed by one of their recipes!

I wanted to bring a French style dessert to our friends party and a tart came to mind.  A quick search lead me to a selection of wonderful looking apple tarts, and the one I chose to make was the Classic Apple Tart with Frangipane.  I knew there would be quite a few people at the Joyeux Noel party, so instead of using a regular size 9 inch tart pan I used a larger 12 inch pan and increased the recipe ingredients by one third.

If you are looking for a light and delicious apple tart for a holiday dessert I think you'll be pleased with this recipeor a similar Williams Sonoma Apple Frangipane Tart recipe using a purchased puff pastry crust in a rectangular shaped tart pan. I may make that next time!

We had a wonderful time at the party and enjoyed the French theme! The hosts might do a German themed Christmas party next year, on the suggestion of another friend, and perhaps the year after I can collaborate with them to have an Italian themed Christmas party? There is no doubt that no matter what the party theme will be it is fun to celebrate the holidays with friends!

My Christmas tree is decorated (come back to see it in my next post!), my Christmas shopping is completed, and my Christmas cards are mailed.  Now to begin baking some of my favorite Christmas cookies for the holidays!  I look forward to searching your blog for a few new cookies to try!

Linking this post to  the following blog events:

Foodie Friday at Rattlebridge Farm.
Freedom Fridays at Love Bakes Good Cakes
Home Sweet Home at the Charm of Home
Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound

Thank you to the blog hosts!

* In full disclosure I was NOT compensated in any way for this post by any of the cookbooks mentioned or web links. provided. 

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