Elegant Entertaining for the Holidays & Beyond! ~ Gougere

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Gougere's are sexy hot little puffs of Pate' Choux , filled with gouda cheese and incredible flavor. The best part, is that they're really easy to make and are a perfect quick appetizer to be served with an impromptu glass of champagne! They're also my favorite comfort food, to be served piping hot with a bowl of tomato bisque that's been liberally laced with a tablespoon or two of fine Madeira! 

This is Mirielle Guilliano's recipe from the "French Women don't get Fat" website and it's really a good one. Sometimes I change the cheeses, using a traditional gruyere and smoked gouda mixture. Mostly, I just leave the recipe as is! Try these the next time you get caught with surprise guests or make them for your next cocktail party. Once you get the hang of making the dough it's simple!

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced shallots
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons flour
5 eggs
2 ounces Gouda (or half
Gouda, half Comté), diced
1⁄2 teaspoon cumin seeds

Yield: 8 servings

RECIPE

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Warm the oil in a frying pan. Add the shallots, and cook over low heat until golden. Let cool.

Warm 2⁄3 cup water in a saucepan, and add the butter and salt. At the boiling point, add the flour all at once, and whisk it with the liquid until a compact, homogenous ball forms. Remove from the heat, and beat in the eggs, one at a time, until the dough is sticky and supple.

Add the cooled shallots to dough. Gently incorporate the cheese and cumin seeds.

Make small balls of dough with a heaping teaspoon, and place them 1 inch apart on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 30 minutes, until the puffs are well puffed and golden. Serve lukewarm.

Gougere Photograph courtesy of New York/ Serious Eats


Are you Ready to Fall Madly in Love with your Life?~ Festive Swags & Wreathes

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Such a beautiful seasonal wreath. You could easily make it yourself though with just a bit of training, inspiration and magic! I’m going to be sharing some of my seasonal tips and tricks in some online courses very soon! Are you ready to fall madly in love with your life? Stay tuned! #herbanlovespells #wintercheer #swags #wreathes🎄


Magical Environments & Seasonal Celebrations ~ Blessed Solstice 2017

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The longest night of the year is upon us. What a year...Will it be the end of the world? Will there be more snow? Will I have enough food for all of the friends we're expecting? Enough Champagne to toast the New Year? Enough of Caron's Nuit de Noel to carry me through to the end of the year? I’m truly not sure about the whole “End of the World “ thing ,  but I’m definitely hoping that it’s the end of an era and the beginning of a new age of peace and love. You’d have to be tucked somewhere in the deep dark wilderness to have not been affected by all of the news these last 12 months.  It seems that America is experiencing her own longest night and I must admit that it’s difficult to not give in to the sadness but I propose this!  Lets spend the next year carrying out simple RANDOM acts of kindness and gratitude! These could be as simple as opening the door for an elderly person, or buying lunch for the homeless or a cup of coffee.....anything. Just remember more acts of kindness will only promote other people to want to do the same! The violence and strife in this country must  to come to an end and the only way we can put a stop to that is by simply being kind to one another!

So, lets each have fun promoting RANDOM acts of Kindness in honor of us all. 

 It's such a simple thing to do.  You don’t have to have a lot of money to perform a random act of kindness, just the desire to make a difference. Random acts of kindness can be well thought out or they can be spontaneous! They are precious in that they are gifts of yourself, something that this world seems to need now more than ever. So on this Solstice eve I propose that we think of things that we can do at least once or twice a week that doesn’t necessarily cost a dime yet would make all of the difference to the receiver. Half the fun of doing this is to perform these acts towards someone who has no clue who you are or if you’re going to do something for someone you know don’t let them see you. I love the idea of writing out holiday and putting them on anonymous car windshields.... who knows what you'll be inspired to do? The possibilities for kindness are endless and usually right in front of you! Please remember the difference that only you can  make everyday in this world. What you can do to be powerful is unique to you.

Wake up every morning and before your feet hit the floor why don't you think of three things that you're grateful for everyday. Yes, I know somedays it will be a stretch, but even if you're only grateful for a hot cup of tea or a warm shower that's ok. Gratitude expands. Trust me. I promise that you’ll be very glad you did.

So my dear readers,  once again we have reached that spoke of the wheel of the year where I get to tell you just how much I appreciate you all. This funny little world that we inhabit together, this place where gorgeous scents, magical adventures and yummy foods blend to make the most sublimely passionate prose is one of my happiest places. I always wish that you could be in my home on Solstice eve, where I would feed you cups of luxuriously boozy , spicy eggnog and platefuls of the most glorious desserts that you’ve ever seen, some fruit, some chocolate… all splendid.

Mostly I wish that I could just once wrap my arms around each of you and give back to you personally what you have given to me. As I light the fragrant Noel candles and the Yule fire this year I will be thinking of you all and making a wish for the most wonderful 2018 to come. As corny as it sounds, in the eternally sappy words of Jerry Maguire,  ”You complete me”. The comments you leave and the emails I receive let me know that from my little desk in my little corner of the world that I’ve made a difference to you and that’s not a little thing for a wordsmith like me.

And now a lullaby for all of you from the ever lovely Mary Chapin Carpenter.....It's 9:00 pm here on the Northcoast. I'm wrapped in wind, the house smells like onions and sage and the snow is thinking about falling, but it looks like I'm still here and I'm glad that you are too.

Wishing all of you a Happy, Magical, Wonderful, Love filled, Peace filled Abundant and Extraordinary New Year....

  

 I’ll see you all on the other side of 2017!   

With love from Me (and my little cat Zoe..In the spirit world, yet always by my side)

 

 

The picture of the house belongs to Beth Schreibman Gehring

Mary Chapin Carpenter video created by John Norvell

 


Dear Brides to be and all of our other Friends!™ ~ Old Fashioned Candle Etiquette

 

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Photo Courtesy of Claire Burke Home Fragrance

 

I simply love the soft beauty of lit candles, (is there anyone who doesn't?)  Brass candlesticks, sterling and pewter..I love them all and have a fairly large collection of them scattered around my home and on my dinner table ! We always ate by candlelight when I was growing up, indeed as far as my mother was concerned there was no other way. Dining by candlelight softens the mood, makes everything look even lovelier,  slows down the world and smooths over the ragged edges of the day. 

Several years ago, I got into a conversation with a friend who was asking about the etiquette of candle wicks, specifically whether they should be blackened before the guests arrive or not. She was surprised to learn that my mother was very strict about this. It was also the same rule that I learned at "finishing school" (Can you believe they called it that?) ;  that you never were supposed to have your home decorated with unburnt candles or your table set with candles that hadn't been already blackened. My mother used to go around putting out new candles, lighting them for a few minutes and then snuffing out the wick. I remembered that when we'd give etiquette and entertaining talks people would ask her why this was so and that her answer had everything to do with being gracious and making others feel comfortable in her home. She had been raised by a very patrician mother who believed that a display of unlit candles was an ostentatious show of wealth. Mom also felt that unlit candles were very cold and just a bit too casual. After all, what else would you expect from a woman whose mantra was "make everyday a day for candles and wine!"

It's an old fashioned rule perhaps, and one that could be construed perhaps as silly, but I think that it's a good one just the same. Etiquette really has everything to do with making your guests feel comfortable, nothing else.  I tend to feel that the world's become a little too uncivilized these days and we could all benefit quite a bit from applying these lessons from the past .  I was very happy to find this article from The Charleston South Carolina School of Protocol and Etiquette that detailed my mothers rule of thumb. These days, anything that can make us all feel comfortable sitting down and breaking bread together in a civilized way is just fine with me.  

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Courtesy of Simon Pearce.com

 

From The Charleston School of Protocol and Etiquette:

"Have you ever heard people say, “you should burn the wicks on new candles when you put them on display”…do you know why?

As we all know, there was a time when people did not have electricity and everyone used candles to light their homes. Then with the invention of the light bulb, the people that had money and could afford electric power to light their homes, no longer used candles.

It has been said however, in order not to embarrass those who could not afford electricity; it was considered a polite gesture to burn the wicks of the candles on display so it was not known who had electricity…..and who did not. 

Candle etiquette sheds a little light on the subject, by teaching us once again, the most important rule of etiquette…letting people save face and not embarrassing anyone."

 

My mother would definitely approve! 


Dear Brides to Be (And all of our other friends!)™ ~ Why you want your Grandmothers Silver!

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One of the most alarming trends that I've seen over the last few years is a move to discard gorgeous old pieces of silver and silverware sets in favor of stainless steel and treated silverplate. I'm told over and over again that it's because silver is such a pain to clean and for today's brides totally impractical. I've got to say that I don't agree and I think that it's quite sad, because sterling silver flatware can be passed down from generation to generation  lending a gorgeous richness and history to your table that contemporary stainless just can't match.

Old silver comes with gorgeous monogramming and so many of the patterns aren't produced anymore that if your set is over 40 years old it's probably gorgeous and far heavier than anything produced today. I've rescued many a gorgeous set of silver from the clutches of a bride who wanted me to remove all of the monograms. The young lady would arrive thinking that she wanted all of those beautiful initials and flourishes gone, but once I was able to show her the richness of what they brought to her table she became smitten with all of the beautiful possibilities!

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I happily inherited my mothers sterling which is a set of antique Hepplewhite, resplendent with all of the monogramming from her mother and her grandmother.  I mix this very simple pattern with the sterling that I received when I was married, a lovely pattern by Reed and Barton called 18th Century that is a bit more ornate. I mix all of this sterling with several sets of dishes, my mothers lovely white and gold set of antique Haviland  and a stunning set of Coalport Indian Tree Rust. I set the whole thing on top of gorgeous gold service plates and hand cut Baccarat wine and water glasses and I use a simple crystal champagne flute if the meal calls for one. You'd never look at my table and think to yourself , "Wow..doesn't she know that none of that is matched?" The effect is absolutely stunning, sophisticated and easy to accomplish as long as you're willing to think a bit outside of the box! 

Keeping sterling silver and fine silverplate lovely just requires a bit of thought and not as much effort as you'd think. Gone are the days where the only option that you had for polishing was a caustic silver polish, there are silver foams to use and my absolute favorite thing for polishing silver are polishing gloves. If you've never used silver polishing gloves you're in for a treat, because they make cleaning your fine silver a breeze and there's no nasty smell. All you do is put them on and rub...no water necessary. You'll want to wash each piece if you're going to use it to serve food, but until then it's not necessary.

We had walls of antique silver , Hotel silver and sterling at Schreibman's and this was how we kept it sparkling and it took a fraction of the time. The best silver polishing gloves come from the silversmiths at Christofle as do the finest polishing products. Christofle products are indeed more expensive, but in the area of fine silver care you do get what you pay for. Silver is an organic material and can be easily burned and destroyed. It pays to use the best products that you can find and please, unless you buy it from a reputable company such as this one or  Cape Cod Silver Polish,  don't ever use any of the products that claim to be fine silver dips. I have seen more precious silver destroyed by these products, at first use it seems like a miracle but then over time the silver turns yellow and there's nothing to be done about it. 

If you're environmentally sensitive you can try fine olive oil and a cloth to clean your silver if it's not too  tarnished and /or Toms of Maine toothpaste. I polish my silver about every third time with one of these products because I don't like my silver to be too shiny and I WANT to accentuate it's age. Over a period of time fine silver will take on what's known as a patina, which is actually a very fine web of scratches. You want this, as it's what gives fine silver it's soft glow over time and why old American silver always looks so pretty and inviting.

If you need to store your fine silver for any length of time consider investing in what is known as treated silver cloth by the yard. At about 16 to 22 dollars per yard, this is one of the best investments that you'll ever make to care for your silver. You can use this product to line a hutch as a dear friend of mine is doing right now or you can simply buy it and cut it to fit each piece and wrap it loosely around.

Don't ever make the mistake of wrapping your silver in plastic baggies or Saran  because you will run the chance of destroying it beyond repair. The two materials simply don't like each other and can produce an alchemical response similar to corrosion. Avoid securing any thing around your silver with a rubber band...same thing! It's okay to use newsprint for a short period of time but optimally you want to store silver in a almost air tight space with this treated cloth. I have sterling that I haven't polished in over 15 years that is kept this way. I take it out and wash it when I use it and when I'm done it goes back into my silver chest.  You can find a wide assortment of this cloth at The Sterling Buffet and my old friends at Reed and Barton tell me that this IS the place to go for fine silver care options!

Write me and let me know what you're doing with any of the old silver that you own! Are you using it? Are you missing pieces to it but don't know what it is? I'm happy to help you rediscover the treasures that may be lurking in boxes in your attic! Fine old silver should be treasured for it's past and the beauty that it can bring into our lives and as things do come around again with time I've noticed that many of my sons friends are rediscovering with an appreciative eye the silver that I love to use.

 Remember that although they don't know it now, there may come a time when your children crave this piece of their past. I've seen this happen frequently and sadly once it's gone its gone.  It's so easy to store silver properly so it will be there for your grandchildren when they discover that they actually want it and imagine the joy that you will feel upon delivering such a precious gift , a treasure steeped in the rich and shared history of family.