Boston Cream Pie

19 Mar

Saturday was Pi Day (3.14) and from the looks of it on social media, very few were celebrating. (We are in the middle of an international pandemic, so I understand) Pi Day is one of my favorite holidays; it was the only day that we were allowed to have a party in math class in school.  Colleen came up to celebrate this year so I pulled out all the stops.  For dinner I made my chicken pot pie.  It has been about two years since I have made one and forgot how much I love it.  If you can grab all the ingredients it is a great chilly weather dish and makes great leftovers.  I literally grabbed that last two packages of chicken breasts at Stop and Shop.  They were Purdue diced chicken breasts, which was perfect as I didn’t have to dice the chicken! And the crust came out perfectly!

No Pi Day is complete without a dessert pie.  My favorite pie is the Boston Cream Pie, even though it is more cake like.  Either way it is delicious. Considering it is the official dessert of Massachusetts and I have never made before, this seemed like the perfect occasion.  I searched online at various recipes before finding one that was not a million steps or a bunch of weird ingredients. (And obviously I tweaked it) There are a lot of steps involved but you can make ahead of time and space out over two days.  But the end result was amazing!  So much so that I polished it off for lunch this week when I was working from home. I sent some home with Colleen and her Dad called it a gift from heaven.

Ingredients

Cream Filling

  • 2 cups of half and half
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, cut into 4-6 pieces
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla
  • Pinch of salt

Cake

  • 1 ½ cups of flour
  • 1 ½ tsp of baking powder
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup of whole milk
  • 6 tbsp of unsalted butter
  • 1 ½ tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups of sugar

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp of light corn syrup
  • 4 oz of bittersweet chocolate, chopped

 

Cream Filling

*You can make this a day or two ahead of time and keep in the fridge until ready to use.

Whisk egg yolks, salt and sugar in a bowl.  Whisk in flour and set aside.  Heat half and half in a saucepan until simmering.  Pour about a ½ cup of the half and half into the yolk mixture.  Then whisk the entire yolk mixture into the saucepan with the half and half. Bring to a slow boil as it will thicken.  Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.  Pour into a medium bowl and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Cake

*If you have two 9 inch spring-form pans I recommend you use them.  I realize that most people do not have two (or even one) If you only have one, use it and a standard 9 inch round pan.  If you do not have any spring-form pans, then use two 9 inch round pans.  Whichever pans you use, grease generously!

Stir flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside. Melt butter with milk and add vanilla.  Using a stand or hand mixer, mix eggs and sugar for several minutes.  Add the butter mixture slowly and mix on low.

Add the dry ingredients until blended well.

Split mixture between your two pans and bake at 325 for 20 minutes.

Once the cakes are completely cool, you will need to assemble them.  If you used one springform pan, use it for your bottom layer and leave in the pan.  If you used round pans, remove and place one layer on the plate of your choosing.  Remove cream mixture from the fridge and spread over the bottom layer.  Add the other cake layer on top.

Glaze

Place chocolate in a small glass bowl and set aside. (A 2 cup measuring glass is perfect) In a small saucepan bring cream and corn syrup saucepan to a simmer over medium heat.  Pour cream mixture over the chocolate and whisk for 2 minutes. (The mixture should melt the chocolate)

Pour glaze over the top of cake and spread out.  If using a spring-form pan, spread to the edges.

Cover cake and refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. You can make a day ahead of time as long as it stays in the fridge. If using a spring-form pan, remove spring sides and serve.

 

How is everyone holding during social distancing?  Going crazy or staying busy with craft projects? Baking up a storm? Just me?

 

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Inspiration

11 Mar

One of the questions that I get asked a lot is where do I get the ideas for my designs? The answer is everywhere.  To make it a little easier I broke it down in my top four areas of inspiration.

Fabric- One of my favorite things to do is wonder around the fabric store and see what speaks to me. Sometimes my cart is completely filled and I need to edit and other times there is not much in it. Sometimes I forgot how long I have been in the store and realized that an hour (or two) has passed. There can be many things about a fabric that jump out; color, texture, fabric content. From the fabric sometimes it is clear what the design should be, and other times not so much. When I bought this magenta jacquard years ago, I knew that it would be a sweetheart fitted dress with straps for a summer wedding.  This past summer I finally made the dress and wore it to Diane and Joe’s wedding.

Pattern- I have so many dress patterns, and yet I can remember all of them.  (It doesn’t stop me from buying new ones, though)  When I look at a pattern I can visualize how I want it to come out.  I pick and choose pieces from various patterns and will combine to get the look I want.  I knew that my flutter sleeve pattern would be perfect to wear for my Christmas party.  It is good for winter but I wouldn’t get too hot from cooking.  It make it a bit more festive, I added beading to the sleeve hems.  It was the perfect touch.

Copy- Without sounded too much like a creeper, I notice the clothes that those around me wear.  Sometimes I will see an article of clothing and say, I can make that.  Or I see something and think, I can make that better. Or if I made that, I would do this instead. I may be in a store and see a dress that I love and realized that I can make it at a quarter of the price.  Some might call them knock off’s but I prefer custom designs.  I love the Sail to Sable tunic dresses, but finding the color combination that I wanted was tough. So I made my own with chambray and pink linen.

My head- this is the hardest type of designs to execute, the ones that I dream up in my head. The issue is they always look perfect in my head, but do not always come out that way. Sometimes the ideas just come to me.  Sometimes I can’t quite find the perfect fabric for it. (If anyone knows where I can find seersucker eyelet, let me know) Back in the fall, I was on the T one morning, when it hit me that I just needed to make a pink faux wrap dress with tortoiseshell buckle.  I have no idea why I thought this, there was no one around me wearing anything similar.  But once I had the idea, I couldn’t let it go.

I bought pink ponte fabric from Joann’s for the dress.  I found the perfect buckle at Mood, but it was sold out 😦 They had a rectangle buckle, but I really liked the oval one better.  One of the great things about Mood, is you can sign up for email alerts when products you want are back in stock.  So I signed up. After a couple of weeks it became apparent that the buckle would not be in stock anytime soon.  So the dress got pushed aside for holiday dresses.  About two weeks ago, I finally received an email that the buckle was back in stock. I quickly ordered it.  The buckle is beautiful and I am so happy that I waited for it.

Now that I finally had all the materials I needed, I started on construction.  I wanted a faux wrap style, to look like a wrap dress, but have the sides stitched together. (This would eliminate any embarrassing moments should it get windy outside) This ponte is a dream to work with.  It is thick, holds it shape and has some stretch to it.  I made a typical wrap dress only on the left side, stitched together the back and both sides.  This also gives the dress a more fitted look. This dress can be wore casual or dressed up, it all depends on the accessories.  Since I had meetings all day at work yesterday, I went with Mary Jane’s and my tortoiseshell necklace from J Crew.

 

 

Inspiration is all around us.  I have so many ideas and will never have the time to get them all out of my head. Just today the idea for a color block sweatshirt popped into my head.  So that project will be coming soon. Where do you get your inspiration from?

 

 

Reading Roundup: January and February

6 Mar

I am stilling trying to figure out times to do some reading now that I am no longer taking the T to work.  I have been getting some reading in at lunchtime and the occasional evenings.  I need the warm weather to come so I hit up the beach.

January

 

American Royals by Katherine McGee- 5 stars

When George Washington defeated the British at Yorktown in 1781, he was given the chance to become king.  This is a true.  Only George turned down the offer.  This book explores the other option, if George was the first king of the United States.  Flash forward to present time, where Princess Beatrice is the heir to the throne and will become the first Queen of the USA thanks to a proclamation made by her grandfather where the oldest will be heir, instead of oldest male.  First of all, I loved the premise of this book.  (The history nerd in me was jumping for joy) If you think this is going to be a boring history book think again.  Technically it is considered YA, but I think it’s a bit of a hybrid. 23-year-old Beatrice is preparing for the throne while her younger siblings, twins Jefferson and Samantha, are taking a gap year to travel. (AKA party in every country and ditch their security) Beatrice is under pressure to find a husband, Samantha is tired of being the spare, and those close to the royals still feel like outsiders.  Told thru alternating points of view from Beatrice, Samantha, Beatrice’s best friend, Nina, and Jefferson’s ex-girlfriend, Daphne, this book was a delight.  Like any royal family there is lots of drama, love triangles, and the need to put the crown before themselves.   The book does leave many issues unresolved at the end, but luckily a sequel is coming out in the fall.  I can’t wait.

Passion on Park Avenue by Lauren Layne- 3 stars

Yes, I know that the title is cheesy.  When Naomi’s boyfriend of six months dies in a sailing accident, she it shocked to find out that he was married and he had another girlfriend.  Leaving the funeral, she ends up in Central Park running into his wife, Claire, and other girlfriend, Audrey.  The three women develop a friendship over the next couple of months.  Coming from humble beginnings, Naomi has made a name for herself starting her own accessory company that is quite successful.  When she receives a call about an interview from one of Park Avenue’s most exclusive Co-Op buildings, she is shocked.  Her mother submitted the application before she died, unknown to Naomi. Naomi and her mother used to live in the building as Naomi’s mother was the housekeeper. Her mother was abruptly fired and they were forced to move out with no place to go. Surprisingly Naomi gets the apartment only to find out that her neighbor is Oliver, the grown son of the family her mother used to work for.  Oliver does not remember Naomi, but she remembers him.  Naomi wants no part of Oliver but they keep running into each other and sparks fly. It took me awhile to get into this book.  I liked the banter between Naomi and Oliver but there was just something missing from the book.  There are two other books in the series, one on Claire and one on Audrey and I can’t decide if I should read them or not.

Normal People by Sally Rooney- 3 stars

This book follows Connell and Marianne from high school thru college and adulthood.  In their small Irish town, Connell is the popular boy at school.  He is smart, captain of the football team, and good looking.  Marianne is a bit of a loner.  Connell’s mother works for Marianne’s family and the two develop a friendship that turns into friends with benefits.  They both decide to go to Trinity college in Dublin together.  At college, Marianne is now the popular one and Connell struggles to find his place.  Never officially dating Marianne and Connell’s lives are intertwined.  Acknowledging that they love it each other, they never quite seem to make it work.  I would have liked a little more about Marianne’s background as it is hinted about but not really brought up.  Perhaps that was intentionally which led me to my own speculations. The ending does not wrap up the story, it seems more like it just stops.  Again, perhaps intentional but not for me.

February

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins- 3 stars

Disclaimer:  I started this book a few days before the controversy around this book became widespread.  For those unfamiliar with controversy, the argument is that a white woman should not be writing about Latinx migrants when she isn’t one herself.  She tends to stereotype the migrants and some of her Spanish phrases used are incorrect.  I tried to keep an open mind while I read the book and be objective in my review.

Lydia lives a comfortable life in Acapulco with her husband, Sebastian, and son, Luca.  Her husband is a reporter who specializes in articles about the Mexican cartels.  He publishes a big article on the leader of Los Jardinos.  Lydia’s extended family are at her niece’s quinceanera when the cartel comes and kills all 16 members of her family, including her husband.  Lydia and Luca hid and the shower and are able to escape with their lives.  This is not a spoiler as it all happens in the first 10 pages of the book.  Lydia knows the cartel is looking for her, so she makes the decision that her and Luca will go north to the United States. The majority of the book describes the 1600-mile journey north to the United States. They climb on top of the trains riding north for most of the way, which is quite dangerous.  Lydia and Luca meet several other migrants on their journey.  For someone running from the most influential cartel in Mexico, Lydia is very trusting of people that she meets.  The book seemed a bit repetitive in the middle, waiting for the trains to come, jumping on and then off at the night.  The book started out strong but lost it’s steam.

The Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory- 3 stars

Princess Theodora of Drieden was left at the altar four months ago by her fiancé, Christian, and has not heard from him since. After coming out of hiding at the Queen’s request, Theodora meets a Scottish man named Nick in a bar.  After some investigating, Thea discovers that Nick is Christian’s brother that supposedly died six years ago. Now a British spy, Nick wants to know what happened to Christian.  Thea wants to know the same, so she sneaks off with Christian to seek some answers.  Hiding from the media and public prove to be a challenge for Thea.  As Nick and Thea investigate more and more is uncovered about Christian’s past.  Who can Thea trust?  Can she even trust Nick? As you all know by now, I read pretty much every book on a fictional royal.  I liked the premise but it just didn’t quite deliver.  After reading so many good royal fiction books, this one is a skip.

Aside from American Royals, I didn’t love any of the books.  I need some captivating books to get me out of this rut. Suggestions?  What is everyone else reading?  I just requested a few books from the library so hopefully, they will be in soon.

Current Projects: February

28 Feb

The beginning of the year was a bit crazy with starting a new job, renovating my closet, and my washing machine dying. (RIP) I am settling into my new job; the closet is completed and the new washer has been delivered. (And I am no longer coming home to puddles of water on the floor) I finally feel like I am back in my sewing groove and here is what I have been working on.

Leopard Dress

My first dress of 2020!  I am not a huge fan of leopard print in the traditional colors, but I love it in grey and black.  When I saw this print, I had to get it because it is thick, soft and stretchy. (Win, win, win) Plus I had a gift card. (Thanks Missy) I had a new sweater dress pattern this would be perfect for.  This dress was so easy to make and fast, it only took about 2 hours.  My favorite part is the sleeves; they slightly billow into a band at the wrist. My new office is freezing so I added a mock turtleneck. (Debating if this will help, but in my head it will) And it is always nice to wear a new dress on Monday, makes Mondays not quite so bad.

Bows

I made some headbands for the babes in my life.  Here is Anastasia modeling hers.  I love making the headbands because they are a great way to use up all the scrap fabric that I have and are oh so cute.

 

Tee Shirt Quilts

My friend, Natalie, reached out about finishing a tree shirt quilt that her Mom had started about a year ago.  The top was already made but Natalie wanted to add another row of shirts.  So, she mailed everything to me to finish.

Natalie is a graphic designer and designed my logo.  I have been pondering the idea of getting note cards and stickers so this seemed like the perfect opportunity.  Aren’t they amazing?  I am obsessed with how they came out.

I am also working on another tee shirt quilt only this one is much bigger. (42 squares!) The hardest part of a quilt this size does not involve any sewing; it is the design.  I must have counted the shirts at least 5 times to come up with a design that would include everything and be a symmetrical size.  I am waiting for the fabric for the backing to arrive and will post a pic once finished.

Coming Soon

I just ordered the fabric for my Easter Dress and I can’t wait to see it when it arrives.  And Mood finally has the tortoiseshell belt buckle back in stock which is also on the way.  I can finally finish the pink faux wrap dress that I started in the fall! I also picked up this gorgeous hydrangea fabric for a one sleeved color block dress. I just need an event to wear it to, any suggestions?

What are you working on for projects?  Anyone else getting started on spring designs?

Just Get Me A Really Big Closet

25 Feb

Over MLK Day, I gave my closet a makeover.  I have been wanting to do this ever since I redid my other closet last year.  (Yes, I have two walk in closets in my bedroom and it is absolutely necessary) My formal wear closet as I call it; houses my dresses, sweaters and skirts.  It was during December when Santa Claus was storing his gifts in this closet that I realized it just wasn’t working as is. (There were so many gifts I could barely open the door let alone find what I needed.)

The closet is an odd shape, it’s a square then with bump out.  I started by taking everything out of the closet.  After filling two bags for donations and one bag of trash, huge progress was made. The design was the hard part. I knew I wanted lots of hanging space for my dresses as well as shelves for my sweaters. I started with the Closetmaid narrow tower from Home Depot.  What I like about the Closetmaid system it is that you can mix and match pieces to get the design that you want. In addition to the tower, I got 3 shelves and 4 of the narrow drawers.  I went with a shelf and hanging rod on the inlet and then a tower with two shelves and a hanging rod across the back. I knew this would be a long project, which is why the three-day weekend worked so well.

Day 1- I took the old shelving off the walls and patched all of the holes.  There were quite a few holes (The shelf had fallen off the wall previously) While the joint compound was drying, I put together the drawers for the tower. I also stopped by my parent’s house so Dad could cut the shelves for me. (Dad is great at helping with all my crazy projects)

Day 2- The walls were cream, but they had so many marks them they just looked dirty. After scrubbing the walls, I painted the closet with Chic Grey by Behr.  It is a lighter grey than my bedroom, which I wanted since the closet is so small and has no windows.

While the paint was drying, I put together the tower.  I put all the drawers and the tower together with a screwdriver.  (My hands were killing me after.)

Day 3- Reinforcements called Dad and Brandi came over for the installation. (Isn’t Brandi adorbs?)

We installed all the shelves, hanging rods and the tower.  One of the shelves was slightly off, which means either my walls are off, I measured incorrectly, or Dad cut incorrectly. (Or a combination of all 3!)  But we were able to make it work.

After the installation came the fun part, putting everything away!  I like to color code my closet, because it just makes sense.  (Do people have non color coded closets?  The horror!)  In the tower, I put all my neutral sweaters; creams, browns, greys, and blacks.  On the shelf going across the top, I put my colored sweaters.  I have three stacks; red and pinks, green and teals, and blues.  Next was the skirts and dresses.  In my opinion the most underrated part of a closet are the hangers.  I like the felt hangers because nothing falls off them and they are thin so you can fit more in your closet. Plus having all the same hangers gives a nice uniform look. I use grey felt, although in retrospect I should have gone teal.

Since I have two hanging rods, I divided my dresses into two categories; sundresses and everything else.  The sundress category is the largest so that went on the longer rod in the corner.  Skirts and the other dresses went on the front rod.  For the drawers, I put tights in one and clutches/wristets/small bags in the other. I still have two empty drawers that are TBD. The rest of my bags were hung on these two mirrored coatracks.  I had them up before but the spacing wasn’t right.  I fixed that and now have a place to hang all my bags.

Day 4- I know I said this was a three-day project but that was really for the construction.  I stopped at Homegoods on my way home from work in search of baskets to put on the top shelf and a large basket to go under the sundresses for off season clothes.  I found both!  Three teal baskets that fit perfectly across the top and a large grey chest for off season. (It was quite challenging getting the chest in the space and I have acknowledged that I if I move, it will be staying in the closet)

I love, love, love the way the closet came out.  Everything has a space now and it does not feel so cramped.  Now I need a new project to work on. Suggestions?

 

 

Reading Roundup: December

12 Feb

My goal for the past few years has been 50 books, but this year I was really hoping to hit 60 books. I was just short with 58 books.  Since I started a new job in January, I am no longer be taking the T which is where I do the majority of my reading, so I knew that my 2020 totals would be no where close to the last few years. I had a few unexpected events in December that took up my time. (My Mom broke her arm so I decorated her house, my Grandmother’s apartment, and then I hosted Christmas day.)  Could I have read 60 books? Probably, am I making excuses? (Yes , maybe) I still read 58 books which is a lot, but more importantly I learned a lot too.

My December Books

25 Days ‘Til Christmas by Poppy Alexander -2 stars

This book was all over social media as THE Christmas book to read and it disappointed a lot. Kate is a military widow living in Bristol, England with her young son, Jake.  Living paycheck to paycheck, Kate decides that she will make this Christmas special and create an advent calendar to her son with a different Christmas activity each day.  But the focus of the book isn’t really on the activities.  Kate’s job is selling Christmas trees for a large department store but it also doesn’t say what she does the rest of the year.  Kate also doesn’t realize that she is a temporary employee. (How does she not know this?) Daniel is mourning the loss of this sister.  He always sees Kate at the tree stand and finally says hello.  They develop a friendship and both want it to be more, which doesn’t happen.  And then about half way through the book, we find out that Kate’s son has a learning disability and is going to have to change schools.  This came out of nowhere, with no hints that he was struggling.  It just seemed like the author was trying to make Kate’s life a miserable as possible.  This was not a cute feel good Christmas book like the cover suggests, it was slow, boring, and depressing.  I kept thinking it would get better only that never happened.

Let it Snow by Nancy Thayer- 3 stars

I don’t love Nancy Thayer’s books, but I still keep reading them anyway, go figure. Christina runs a small toy shop along Nantucket Wharf.  When she catches a 12-year-old girl, Wink, stealing from her, she gives her a job. (Not what I would) Turns out that Wink’s grandfather, Oscar, is one of the richest men on Nantucket and also the landlord of Christina’s shop.  Christina becomes entangled with Wink’s family, joining them for dinner and even dating Wink’s uncle.  But when Oscar sends notice that he is raising the rent, Christina will not be able to afford to keep her shop.  This book was like a Hallmark movie, predictable and not that captivating.  Throwing in decorating Christmas Cookies and an ugly sweater party, it seemed more like the author was trying to check items off what makes a good Christmas book.

All American Muslim Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney -3 stars

Allie is a teenager living in Georgia. With red hair and green eyes, Allie gets mistaken for being Christian all the time.  (Her family is Circassian) Only no one knows that she is Muslim.  Allie’s mother converted to marry her father who immigrated to the USA as a child. Neither of Allie’s parents are practicing Muslims, but her aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents are.  Allie feels torn as she is not a practicing Muslim but also hides it from her friends. She decides to explore her religion and joins a prayer group with other girls her age.  The more Allie learns about the religion, the more she enjoys it. She starts up a relationship with Wells, a boy at her school, whose father has a conservative political (i.e. Islamophobic) radio show where he blames Muslims for everything wrong in America.  Allie does tell Wells about her religion and he is nothing but supportive even if his father is not.  The part of the book that I didn’t like was that Allie had to hide from her father that she was practicing Islam.  And when her father found out, he was mad at her.  I get the he did not want Allie to be subjected to the struggles that he faced/faces as a Muslim, but I thought that he would be more supportive about letting Allie make her own decision regarding religion.

 

This article was circulating around the end of 2019.  Several friends sent it to me and I immediately hated the it.  Yes, it is good to set a goal for yourself but it should not take over your entire life.  I love Goodreads (I would never remember the books that I read without it.)  But Goodreads is not meant to judge you if you fall behind on your challenge. I like that it notifies me when authors I have read have new books and I can see what my friends are reading.  They have polls and book giveaways. I get tons of book suggestions and can read reviews from fellow readers on books I am interested in.  The reading challenge is only one part of the Goodreads app, and it’s completely optional!  I usually don’t check my yearly progress until September or until someone asks (i.e. Uncle Ted/Beth)  Reading is an escapism, it should be enjoyed. (Trust me I needed an escapism after all that time on the Orange Line) It is an opportunity to learn about new places, cultures, ways of thinking, ect.  I feel this author set herself up for failure because the challenge took the joy out of reading and changed it into a chore. (End rant)

Since I only started reviewing books mid way through the year, here is my list of books with the my rankings if you are looking for some new books to read.  And as always keep sending book recommendations to me.

  1. Ghosted by Rose Walsh – 2 stars
  2. One Day in December by Josie Silver- 5 stars
  3. The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff- 5 stars
  4. The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang- 4 stars
  5. Another Womean’s Husband by Gill Paul- 4 stars
  6. The Diplomat’s Wife by Pam Jenoff- 5 stars
  7. Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro- 4 stars
  8. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah- 3 stars
  9. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris- 4 stars
  10. The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware- 3 stars
  11. More than Words by Jill Santopolo- 5 stars
  12. Becoming by Michelle Obama- 5 stars
  13. Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave- 1 star
  14. Positive: A Memoir by Paige Rawls- 4 stars
  15. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin- 3 stars
  16. Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou- 4 stars
  17. Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter- 2 stars
  18. The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn- 3 stars
  19. How to Walk Away by Katherine Center- 4 stars
  20. Where the Light Enters: Building a Family, Discovering Myself by Jill Biden- 5 stars
  21. The Bride Test by Helen Hoang- 4 stars
  22. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid- 5 stars
  23. I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella- 4 stars
  24. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman- 3 stars
  25. The Cactus by Sarah Haywood- 2 stars
  26. My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing- 5 stars
  27. Slightly South of Simple (Peachtree Bluff #1) by Kristy Harvey Woodson- 4 stars
  28. Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson- 5 stars
  29. Her Royal Highness by Rachel Hawkins – 4 stars
  30. Summer People by Elin Hilderbrand- 5 stars
  31. Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston- 5 stars
  32. The Secret to Southern Charm (Peachtree Bluff #2) by Kristy Harvey Woodson- 4 stars
  33. The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary- 4 stars
  34. Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey- 4 stars
  35. Whisper Network by Chandler Baker- 3 stars
  36. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens – 2 stars
  37. Summer of 69 by Elin Hilderbrand -5 stars
  38. The Wedding Party (Wedding Date #4) by Jasmine Guillory- 4 stars
  39. You’ve Been Volunteered: A Class Mom Novel by Laurie Gelman- 3 stars
  40. Surfside Sisters by Nancy Thayer – 2 stars
  41. Park Avenue Summer by Renee Rosen- 4 stars
  42. The Paris Seamstress by Natasha Lester- 4 stars
  43. The Southern Side of Paradise (Peachtree Bluff #3) by Kristy Harvey Woodson- 4 stars
  44. Tell Me Everything by Cambria Brockman- 5 stars
  45. Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson- 2 stars
  46. The Friends We Keep by Jane Green- 3 stars
  47. The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth- 4 stars
  48. Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks- 4 stars
  49. Beautiful on the Outside by Adam Rippon- 5 stars
  50. I’m Fine and Neither are You by Camille Pagan- 3 stars
  51. The Friend Zone by Anny Jimenez- 5 stars
  52. What Happens in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand- 5 stars
  53. Royal Holiday (Wedding Date #4) by Jasmine Guillory- 3 stars
  54. The Bromance Bookclub by Lyssa Kay Adams- 5 stars
  55. Christmas Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella- 4 stars
  56. All-America Muslin Girl by Nadine Jolie Courtney- 3 stars
  57. Let it Snow by Nancy Thayer- 3 stars
  58. 25 Days ‘Till Christimas by Poppy Alexander- 2 stars

 

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20th Christmas Party

23 Dec

It is hard to believe that Saturday was the 20th(!) time I have hosted a Christmas Party for my friends. Who knew what started in 2000 would become a cherished annual event?  I knew that I had make this party so much better than past parties.  But the main question was how to do that? I always make a ton of food and have lots of drinks.  Our Yankee Swap with the ever returning Homer Simpson Chia pet is always the highlight. (I think this is Homer’s 13th year at the party)

This year I added three new things to the party, to make it so extra.  First, I put together a slideshow with pictures from all the Christmas Parties past (Somehow 2007 is missing) It took a long time to gather all of the pictures and figure out what year it was.  There was a lot of comparing people’s outfits to figure out if they were the same year.  I asked my friends to send any pictures they had as well.  Only Athena responded, which is to be expected. I am not very computer savvy so it took awhile to format the slide show while including all the necessities and preventing it from being to long.  It was great to see the old pictures of everyone and the crazy times that we have add.  The only blip was when my laptop ran out of battery half way thru, Opps!  I was nervous about being able to project the slideshow onto the TV but that was much easier than expected. I think that the slideshow was a big hit!

 

The next new addition was a photo booth.  I ordered a backdrop and selfie ring (Since we had some issues with the selfie stick last year) I found lots of fun hats and accessories at Christmas Tree Shop during their Friends and Family event.  When Colleen was visiting she dragged me into The Dollar Store and they actually had some cute glasses and garland so I got those too.  It took the group a little while before they warmed up to the photo booth. (AKA the liquor kicked in)  So many good shots were taken. (I also put an required encouraged dress code for everyone to wear red. Most complied.)

Lastly, I really wanted to have ornament favors to commemorate this occasion.  I had been searching since the summer to find something that would work.  Every customized website I found had a minimum order of 100 pieces, which wouldn’t work.  I wanted a red flat disc ornament with white writing.  After giving up on ordering them, I decided I would have to make them.  Since I could not find flat red ornaments, I ordered clear and filled with red glitter myself.  They came out amazing.

Ordered stickers from Etsy, but when I put them on the ornaments they came out wrinkled. I tried two more and the same result.  So back to the drawing board.

I ordered the flat wood ornaments.  It wasn’t exactly the look I was going for but it would have to do.  I added red glitter to the bark to make it just a bit more festive.  I am quite pleased with how they came out.

I wrapped them using these cute glitter bags and tags from Christmas Tree Shop.  (The bags were only 39 cents!) I put them on the end table by the door for everyone to grab on their way out. I was certain that someone would sneak a peek at the party but I don’t think anyone did.

Good times were had by all and the only scuffle was then the Bruins game turned off because I was recording two Hallmark Christmas movies at the same time. I lost that battle and had to cancel one of my recordings after a semi heated debate. I feel very fortunate to have such a great group of friends for the past 20 years. (And for putting up with my craziness)

Here are a few more pics from the party.

Reading Roundup: October and November

18 Dec

Since I am behind on my book reviews, I am combining my October and November reads. October reads were OK, but November was when a bunch of books came out that I was waiting to read, and they did not disappoint.

October

Beautiful on the Outside by Adam Rippon- 5 Stars

Olympic figure skater, Adam Rippon’s memoir is the book that I did not know that I needed in my life. It’s refreshing and funny while demonstrating the ups and downs of being an elite athlete. As the first openly gay athlete at the PyeongChang Olympics, the book chronicles his path from a figure skater in rural Pennsylvania to the Olympics. There were parts of this book where I was laughing out loud (when his Russian coach was driving him to a competition while drinking a beer) and others where I was cringing. (The drug testing scene) Adam’s honesty in this book is a breath of fresh air and will keep you entertained.

I’m fine and Neither are You by Camille Pagan- 2 stars

I was very frustrated at this book. Penelope is the breadwinner of her the family. She works full time, runs carpool for her two kids, and does all the cooking and cleaning in the house. Her husband, Sanjay, is a med school dropout who hasn’t worked in eight years. He has been trying to write a book for but has not made any substantial progress. Penelope is exhausted, stressed and tired of carrying the financial burden. Then her best friend dies suddenly. It makes Penelope and Sanjay reevaluates their lives to be happier. I just couldn’t get past the fact that her husband is a piece of $hit. No job, he doesn’t help around the house, and is in a garage band. He is basically a 40-year-old living like a punk high schooler. When Penelope suggests he gets an actual job, my first thought was what took you so long? Nor does Sanjay see how miserable his wife is. While it is good they are recognizing their issues and working to fix them, it seems to me this should have been done five years ago. And the book does not tie everything up at the end. I would have passed, had I known.

Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks- 4 stars

When Charlotte takes her best friend Harriet’s daughter, Alice, to the school fair with her children she thinks nothing of it. When Alice disappears from the fair, Charlotte goes into panic. How could she have lost her best friend’s kid? And what will she tell Harriet? Harriet and her husband are hysterical, and as the days pass there is still no sign of Alice. But once you start digging into everyone’s secrets even darker ones come to the surface. This book has a wild ending you don’t see coming. This book takes place in England and I found it odd that the child advocate from the police station comes and pretty much lives with Harriett and her husband while Alice is missing. Perhaps that is a common thing in England? This book reminded me of Gone, Baby Gone by Dennis Lehane.

The Mother in Law by Sally Hepworth -4 stars

This was my book clubs pick for November. We have some lively discussion about the book and the general consensus is that Diana is the worst. Lucy’s mother in law is difficult. She is cold, tough, distance and extremely wealth. When she turns up dead, everyone is a suspect. Told in alternating points of view between Lucy and Diana, their relationship is revealed as well as Diana’s past and why she is the way she is. Out of everyone in book club I sympathized with Diana the most and is worth the read.

November

The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez- 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It is the classic boy and girl are friends and each have feelings for each other but don’t say anything for fear of ruining their friendship. Josh recently moved to LA after breaking up with his long-term girlfriend because she does not want kids. Kristen is smart, says what she is thinking, and while she wants kids, she can not have them. She delays telling Josh because she knows that she will never see him again. But when a mutual friend is in a bad accident, the two lean on each other more than before and makes them face the truth. This book keeps the reader engaged so you will fly threw it.

The Bromance Book Club – 5 stars

The best night of Gavin’s professional career is also the worse night of this personal life. After hitting a walk off grand slam in game 6 of the ALCS, he has a huge fight with his wife and she kicks him out of the house. Gavin’s ego is bruised when he finds out that his wife has been faking it in bed of their entire marriage. Gavin is initiated into the Bromance Book Club; an underground group of whose who among Nashville’s males. The group reads romance books to better understand the women in their lives. Gavin takes tips from the books as he tries to woo his wife back, but the first rule about the Bromance Book Club is you don’t talk about the Bromance Book Club. The book was cute and liked how it was from the male’s perspective plus conversations of book club are hilarious.

What Happens in Paradise (Paradise #2) by Elin Hilderbrand -5 stars

The middle book in Paradise Trilogy finds Irene, Cash and Baker all moving to St. John. There are still so many questions surrounding the mysterious death of their husband/father and his mistress, Rosie. Rosie’s diary is also discovered which gave the history of her love affair with Russell. (A lot of people did not like the addition of the diary, but I think it was much needed.) Irene gets a job working on Huck’s boat as Cash gets a job working with Ayers, further complicating the relationships.  A large stash of cash is found in Rosie’s draw which causes even more questions. With the FBI investigating, you know they are going to uncover something huge. The book ends as a cliffhanger, so we have to wait until next fall to see how everything wraps up.

Royal Holiday (Wedding Date # 4) by Jasmine Guillory- 3 stars

I loved the other books in the Wedding Date series and was excited to read this book as it jumps across the pond for Christmas. Maddie gets a call to fill on for her mentor as a stylist to the Duchess (AKA Meghan Markle) for Christmas and she invites her mother, Vivian, along. While in England Vivian meets Malcolm, the private secretary to the Queen. Vivian and Malcolm develop a relationship, but how will it last since they live on opposite sides of the world? I appreciated how the book focuses on an older couple, but the spark from her previous books was missing. I loved the castle setting especially at Christmas time. Typically, new characters are introduced and the next book is about them. So either this is the end of the series or Malcolm’s nephew will get a book?

Christmas Shopaholic (Shopaholic #9) by Sophie Kinsella- 4 stars

Disclaimer: This is the only book series that I own in its entirety. Back in 2000 when Confessions of a Shopaholic came out, it introduced to me to the genre chic lit and also go me back into reading. The first three books of the series are fabulous, but the last two were not great.

I have been waiting years for a Shopaholic Christmas book and it is finally here! Becky Brandon (nee Bloomwood) is back and for the first time ever she is hosting Christmas. (Just like me!) Everyone has an opinion about what to do and what food to serve which is driving Becky crazy. And she still needs to find Christmas presents for her husband, Luke, and daughter, Minnie, not to mention get her hands on the must have ornament of the year, a silver llama. Becky stops at nothing to get her family the presents they deserve which are no easy tasks. When Becky’s ex-boyfriend comes to town, he threatens everything that Becky as worked so hard for. I love her references to Hallmark Christmas movies and that Christmas in England is very different from New England. The book is cute and festive and also leaves the door open for another book in the Shopaholic series, so we will have to wait and see. Ten books in a series seems so much better than nine.

 

What books have you read this fall?  I need some recommendations for 2020!

Party Etiquette

16 Dec

Whether you are hosting or attending, there is no shortage on holiday parties this season. I am hosting my friends for our 20th(!) Christmas Party and then I am hosting the family on Christmas Day. To say that I am excited is an understatement, however most people do not feel the same way. Many get stressed about the festivities so here are a few tips to make sure that all fiestas go smoothly.

If you are hosting:

  • Consider who will be attending and try to make sure there is something that everyone can eat (food allergies, vegetarians, ect.)
  • If guests do not know each other, to make introductions.
  • Offer to take guests coats when they arrive so they are not awkwardly holding on to them.
  • Have a variety of drinks; beer, wine, cocktails, water, nonalcoholic.  You never know what someone will be in the mood for and you want to have something that those who are driving can enjoy.
  • Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean that you guests feel the same way.  I don’t love red wine but I know that my friends do, so I always make sure to have a few bottles on hand.
  • Find time to relax and mingle with all of your guests.  Try to do as much prep work before the party so you do not spend the entire time in the kitchen.
  • Thank your guests for coming, especially those who traveled a long way.
  • Stock the bathrooms with plenty of soap, toilet paper, and hand towels.  I prefer the disposable hand towels because who wants to dry their hands on a wet towel that everyone else has been using? (Eww)
  • Make sure the essentials are where everyone can find them.  You do not want your guest wondering around looking for glasses, silverware or napkins.
  • I can not stress this one enough- It is always better to have too much to eat and drink than not enough. (I have been to parties where there is not enough to eat and/or drink, trust me its no fun) If there are a lot of leftovers, send some home with your guests or freeze for later.

If you are a guest:

  • If you say you are attending, make sure you go.  Your host has spent a lot of time and money on the party, and they anticipate you coming.
  • If you are bringing a guest to the party, double-check with the host first.  This way the host has an accurate headcount.
  • Do not show up empty handed.
  • Instead of asking what you can bring, offer to bring something specific; like your famous brownies or spinach dip.  This way there are no duplicates and it helps the host better plan the menu.
  • Try to avoid stirring the pot with other guests. The last thing the host wants is a heated argument between guests.
  • If you break something or spill, don’t try to hide it.  Let the host know so it can be cleaned up right away.  (I am notorious for breaking wine glasses)
  • Be sure to thank the host as you leave.

Whether you are the host or the guest, make sure that you have fun; it is a party after all.

Creating a Tablescape

26 Nov

Over the last few years, tablescapes have become very popular. (just search on Pinterest)  I love turning the table into a work of art for the holidays.  I choose a theme within the holiday; sometimes a color or symbol of the season.  My past Thanksgiving themes have been; fall leaves, pumpkins, gold, and turkeys.

It can be overwhelming seeing pictures of beautiful tablescapes and not knowing where to start.  I have included a step by step guide to help you create a beautiful tablescape within budget.

Theme– Decide on the theme of your table.  A color?  A symbol of the season/holiday? Pattern ? (plaid, stripes, tartan)  Do you prefer a formal table, rustic, country, casual?  (I prefer formal because I’m me, but there are some beautiful rustic tablescapes out there)

Table Linens– Table linens are the basics of any table and a great place to start when decorating your table. Choose a tablecloth or runner that incorporates the vibe you are going for.  Napkins are another great way to add a pop of color with either the napkin and/or napkin rings.  You can use contrasting colors for the napkin and rings or have both the same for a monochromatic look.  Homegoods and Amazon have great napkin rings that are reasonably priced.

place settingtday 2

Centerpiece– The focal point of any table should be the centerpiece, and beautiful flowers is the best way to do that.  If you have a fun vase, that is great, but you can also dress up any clear vase that you may have. (Does anyone else have tons of vases they don’t know where they came from?)  Adding a ribbon around it or colored glass beads can give your old vase new life.  I got this pumpkin vase from Pier 1  and it really is a show stopper.  It is hard to tell in this picture but it is very tall. If you are not great at arranging flowers, go to your local florist and tell them what you want.  Don’t be afraid to be specific with what you want; you are a paying customer and should get what you want.   If you feel confident in arranging the flowers yourself and are on a budget, Wegmans and Trader Joe’s have a great selection of flowers.  Get a few different types of flowers to make it stand out.

Candles– Tapered candles are another great and inexpensive way to add color to a table.  Candlesticks can be expensive, but the candles themselves are not.  There are so fun designs out there too.  Check out these corn candles I used a few years ago. (Just  keep the candles far enough from the centerpiece to avoid any incidents.  We had an incident at Easter a couple of years ago and it was not pretty)

Glasses– Remember when all glasses were clear?  These days they come in every color and material.  Mixing up the wine and/or water classes can be quite stunning.  Same goes for having copper or metal drinkware.  I purchased these wine glasses from Pfaltzgraft five years ago and love them. They are reasonably priced and have gone with every theme I have done.  (I am counting on them to really tie the burgundy and gold together this year)  Sadly, it appears they are discontinued 😦

leaf wine glasses.PNG

Extra’s– Keep in mind that sometimes less is more.  I have a set of orange chargers but decided not to use them last year because it made the table look too crowded.  You want your table to beautiful but also conducive to eating. If this is your first year creating a tablescape, keep it simple.  Buy one or two new pieces each year. This is my sixth year hosting Thanksgiving (and a few Friendsgivings before that) so I decent inventory to play with. Below are a few suggestions on ways to take get your vision across to your guests.

  • Salt and Pepper Shakers
  • Leaves
  • Placecards
  • Crackers (Does anyone else’s family have these besides mine?)
  • Chargers
  • Figurines- I know it sounds date but a mini turkey figurine or bunny (for Easter) is cute
  • Serving Platter
  • Dessert Plates
  • Trivets

My theme this Thanksgiving is burgundy and gold.  I wanted to get a new tablecloth but the options were slim and horrendous.  I looked everywhere, and I mean every where. (Homegoods, Amazon, Bed Bath and Beyond, Wayfair, Kohl’s, Macys, Birch Lane, Christmas Tree shop, ect)  They were all so blah and none had burgundy. (My original color)  After my failed tablecloth search, I decided to use my white and gold one and incorporate burgundy in other areas. I love the two colors together and it also matches my dress.  (Not intentional, but not accidental either) Be sure to check my Instagram on Thanksgiving to see this years tablescape and dress.

Here are a few of my tablescapes from past Thanksgivings for inspiration.

 

 

I have only done one Christmas tablescape back when I hosted Murphy Christmas a few years ago.  I am really hoping that Mom will let me help with her tablescape this Christmas. (Or give me free reign)

 

tables 2centerpiece xmas

 

Have you ever created a tablescape before?  What are your tips?