Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas, The Year's End and All That...

Hi lovely friends. Sorry I haven't posted for a bit, but Christmas was nuts and I'm only now getting to sit for a bit and share. I hope you are all having good holidays.  This year we chose not to go away right after Christmas, but wait a week and it's been so calming having the quiet and the downtime to regroup after the chaos.

We had a lovely Christmas with my dad and also celebrated with dear friends two days before that. I miss my mom still so much and the holiday season really brings forward all those feelings that I push out of my mind most of the year to cope. Opening our beloved and ancient Betty Crocker Cooky Book with mom's writing all over was tough.

I have many ornaments my mom bought me over the years and cherish. This year I bought one I found at Anthropologie that she would have loved. It was a knit pair of bunny slippers. As a little girl I had bunny slippers and whenever I was cold, even as an adult, my mom would say, 'Where's your bunnies?' which meant slippers so I had to get that ornament in her honor.

This year we got a Victorian Fraser Fir tree which is a little sparser and more English looking. It was from Summerwinds Nursery and I have loved it. You can see our ornaments even better than a Noble Fir which I usually get. It's also less cumbersome and let's more light in the house, which I savor at this dark time of year. I'll be a bit sad to take it down. It's been my most favorite tree yet and has hardly dropped any needles!

We did the requisite baking - sugar cookies, biscotti and cornflake wreaths. This year I tried a new sugar cookie recipe that I clipped last year from The Mercury News Home Plates column. It is called Holm-Made Sugar Cookies after the family that submitted it and are famous enough for it they give the recipe along with cookie cutters as wedding favors! It has a mix of vanilla and almond which gives it a marzipan flavor I think. Recipe can be found here.

We had fun making more tags with an old rubber stamp we had and more vintage ribbon of my grandmothers like I mentioned in the last biscotti post.

I found some holiday cards with the Golden Gate bridge a while back and turned them into tags which looked nice on plain bags. I bought a load of these brown bags in different sizes this year and colored tissue. I just got creative with tags to make them more festive. They seem a lot greener and reusable than paper...though we did still use some wrap.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Biscotti for Christmas and Gift Tags

Like the rest of you I am sure, my days have been pretty hectic the past weeks and as soon as I'm up I hit the ground running trying to shop, decorate, make it to a few seasonal gatherings and all the little things that make up this crazy month!

Despite how busy the season gets some people always seem to find time to make a particular treat that they share. My neighbors make cranberry Christmas bread.  My dad and his mom always make something called yummy nuts which are amazing (some sort of holiday crack) and my aunt makes fudge. Biscotti has become a tradition in our house along with sugar cookies, meringues and cornflake wreaths. I like the biscotti for gifting as it lasts a long time and looks pretty packaged too.

The biscotti recipe from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook has been my go to and everyone seems to love the traditional anise/almond version.  This baking book is the holy grail and has everything in it, including chocolate versions and great baking tips. Might be a good gift for someone who likes to bake.

Biscotti isn't hard at all, you just need to have time to bake them twice. Once you give it a go, you can throw a batch together in a jiffy and they make a terrific holiday gift. Recipe can be found online here.

One of my favorite parts is the wrapping, and tag making. This year we are having fun making our own tags from pretty cards and calendars we collected all year tied up with vintage bric a brac ribbon that my grandma had. Love recycling and also using something vintage.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Holiday Gift Ideas for The Whole Family

With many of us going in every direction at holiday gatherings, writing cards and doing the tree, it always nice to have a little help with the gift shopping. I always try to shop early and it often goes in fits and starts... I begin strong, feel good about what I've got, relax a bit and before I know it, I'm behind and everything is picked over. I've noticed particularly this year, people are shopping even earlier. So many things I wanted to suggest here are already sold out already! Not to induce anxiety, but people get out there -or better yet grab a latte at your local coffee spot and do it online asap! You can get what you need online and then save yourself the hassle of the mall.

Otherwise, I often default to Nordstrom. They seem to have something for everyone and I know without a doubt, everyone can return their gifts or exchange with no hassle. That and their customer service are why it will always be my go-to store. In fact, most of these things on this list are from Nordys and since regular shipping is free and arrives quickly, I felt good recommending them here. They always deliver on time and as you like it.  

Here' a few of the best gift ideas this year..

For the traveler, I love this mini brush set and chic evening clutch it comes in from Charlotte Tilbury at Nordstrom.  It's wonderful to have a brush set small enough to travel and the clutch is pretty enough to be your evening bag for the night! Less to pack and a dual purpose bag is always a win-win.

Another discovery I recently made is these darling Mantra bands. These are not only pretty, but share an inspiring message to the recipient. Great for a friend, teacher, favorite neighbor, or anyone who might need a little boost during this season. 

They come in silver, gold and I particularly like this rose gold and the message. Other good ones are, 'Be Fearless,' and 'Enjoy the Journey.' Many others as well.

I can't help coveting this new edition of the original Adidas satin track jacket. How darling is this for a college kid and also for the gal who still pines for the days of roller disco? I would wear this skirts as well as jeans.

This YSL Lip and Nail Collection at Nordstrom features the prettiest shades. What a great girlfriend gift for your favorite fashionista. 
For the skincare lover this Fresh  kit is a great bargain with their wonderful cleanser and 3 masks.

I also love this little kit for the traveler or friend going on a vacation. It's got everything you need and how cute to just throw in your travel bag?

And for just $22.50 this Kate Spade business card holder is a sweet gift for a glam pal and it comes in silver and a pink version too.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Kicking off the Festive Feeling at Filoli and Joules Coats

 Each year I love visiting the gorgeous Woodside's Filoli Mansion and their annual Christmas shopping days. The 1915 estate and 654 acre grounds are a California Landmark and on the National Registry of Historic Places. The Bourns who built it were prominent San Franciscans that owned a gold mine in Grass Valley and the Crystal Springs Water Company and Crystal Springs Lake.

 In the 1930's the property was purchased by the Roth family who made the formal gardens famous. Mrs Roth lived there until 1975 when she donated it to The National Trust for Historic Preservation.  There are events happening at Filoli all year long as well as classes and tours of this beautifully preserved home and property. It's an easy jaunt off freeway 280, but enter the gates and you are in a magical place surrounded by green rolling hill, moss-covered oaks and little deer!

The holiday shopping days are usually sold out a few months ahead. So you need to plan by October to go to this. All of the rooms are transformed into seasonal boutiques which are really well done, beautifully decorated and filled with unique finds from cooking items, to holiday gifts and home decor and even some furniture.