Countdown to Halloween~ Must be the Season of the Witch


Lana Del Rey absolutely slays this Donovan Classic...Enjoy and while you're at it, sing along!

"When I look out my window
Many sights to see
And when I look in my window
So many different people to be
That is strange
So strange
You've got to pick up every stitch
You've got to pick up every stitch
You've got to pick up every stitch
Mmm-hmm, must be the season of the witch
Must be the season of the witch, yeah
Must be the season of the witch
When I look over my shoulder
What do you think I see?
Some other cat lookin' over
His shoulder at me
And he's strange
Sure is strange
You've got to pick up every stitch
You've got to pick up every stitch, yeah
Beatnicks are out to make it rich
Oh no, must be the season of the witch
Must be the season of the witch, yeah
Must be the season of the witch
You've got to pick up every stitch
The rabbits runnin' in the ditch
Beatnicks out to make it rich
Oh no, must be the season of the witch
Must be the season of the witch
Must be the season of the witch
Where'd I go
When I look out my window
What do you think I see
And when I look in my window
So many different people to be
It's strange
Sure is strange
You've got to pick up every stitch
You've got to pick up every stitch
The rabbits runnin' in the ditch
Oh no, must be the season of the witch
Must be the season of the witch, yeah
Must be the season of the witch
Where'd I go
Where'd I go"

Creating a Sanctuary called Home ~ A Recipe for a lovely pot of Tea and a fragrant Herbal Bath...



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“ I am inclined to think bathing one of the necessaries of life.”

Henry David Thoreau

I come from a family that thinks every problem in life can be solved in a warm bath. That may be a little broad perhaps, but I do know that for myself almost anything is a little less daunting after I’ve had a good soak. My mother swore by a hot bath with her Shalimar bath oil first thing in the morning before she went off to work. I loved her Shalimar, I've written about it so many times. My father swore that it smelled like chocolate mousse, and of course he loved that, but to me it was simply warm, sweet, rich and elegant. She'd start with the bath oil and would then layer it with lotion and perfume. All I need is one breath of that scent to cross my path and it I begin to smile.  Mom never showered, because she came from the generation that got their hair done at the beauty parlor every week, so god forbid any warm water ever touched it between visits! 

I inherited my love for a steamy hot bath from her and in the depths of midwinter almost nothing is as soothing to me as a long soak in the tub. I love to light candles and relax in the scented water with a steaming cup of cinnamon, rose petal and cream tea that I make myself by simply tossing handfuls of organic rose petals, Tulsi and cracked cinnamon chips into my teapot and adding boiled water, a pat of butter, several tablespoons of honey, a ½ a cup of madeira and some light cream. This delicious tea will quickly turn a warm bath a simple and easy luxury!

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Although I do still love the scent of Shalimar, these days I opt for an herbal bath that I make myself, that may surprise you because it starts as a herbal tincture. This is a wonderful alternative to bath salts which I cannot use because they dry out my skin.  This can be added to your bath in any proportion and the scent is just lovely. To a quart of spring water, add generous handfuls of dried rose petals, lavender, chamomile, calendula, mint and bay. You can even add a vanilla bean or some organic vanilla extract. Let it simmer over a low heat for about 15 minutes and then let the whole thing cool. Strain it and add about 15 drops of essential oil of rose, 15 drops of essential oil of Ylang Ylang and a cup of regular or blackberry brandy which will help preserve the scent. You can add a bit of food grade coloring for fun if you like, just to make it pretty.  Put it into a glass bottle and store it in a cool dark  place.  The scent will hold for close to a year although you’ll use it up long before that! To use, simply draw your bath and then add a cup or two of the tincture along with a tablespoon of sweet almond oil. Climb into the bath with a cup of tea, the soundtrack of your choice, and just relax.

30 days of Christmas Cheer ~ Do they know it's Christmas time at all?

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I am trying like hell to channel my rage into action. It isn't easy when I have dear friends who are losing three out of four parents as I type this. 

This isn't about not trusting your friends and  family members...this is about an enemy we cannot see. If your family members think that you don't love them because you insist upon wearing a mask in their presence? Ask them what their definition of love is? Does it include dying for them?

Remember please. Stay Home. Stay physically distant. Wash your hands. Wear a mask and a face shield when you have to be inside, in a car together and in public. 

I remember the first time I heard this song. There was no snow in Africa...the country was in deep famine. People were starving. This year, listening to it again took on new meaning. If you are reading this, you’re probably not starving, homeless or in a food line. You may be jobless but you have a safety net to hold you until you can work again or a family that is helping you until this is over.

Covid and the senseless way it was handled has destroyed much for all of us. 

All over this country, children are starving. 

All over this country, people are sick.

All along our borders, children are locked in cages separated sometimes forever from their parents. 

All over this country people are losing their homes.

All over this country people are dying. 

All over this country, our fellow Americans are waking up to the realization that there are empty chairs at their tables, vacated forever and completely senselessly because of a virus that has been mishandled at the very top of our Government and dismissed by our President.  

Damn it. If you're reading this you can do something. Just do it. 


You can start here. Feeding America.  



30 days of Christmas Cheer ~ Lovely , Luscious and Easy Eggnog!

“The house was bright that night, with candles lit in the windows, and bunches of holly and ivy fixed to the staircase and the doorposts. There were not so many pipers in the Highlands as there had been before Culloden, but one had been found, and a fiddler as well, and music floated up the stairwell, mixed with the heady scent of rum punch, plum cake, almond squirts, and Savoy biscuits.
Jamie had come down late and hesitant. Many people here he had not seen in nearly ten years, and he was not eager to see them now, feeling changed and distant as he did. But Jenny had made him a new shirt, brushed and mended his coat, and combed his hair smooth and plaited it for him before going downstairs to see to the cooking. He had no excuse to linger, and at last had come down, into the noise and swirl of the gathering.

Excerpt From: Diana Gabaldon. “Voyager.”  
Fast forward into this century , my brother in law Peter is a quiet, very laid back research scientist. 362 days of the year he is a semi strict vegetarian, who hardly ever touches alcohol, let alone massive amounts of eggs and cream! However on Solstice Eve,  Christmas day and New Years eve, he has been known to ask me for this eggnog and being the terrific guy that he is, I never refuse to make it for him! It's simply known in our family as Peter's eggnog and it's delicious! It's so easy to make and it's even better when served in a punchbowl surrounded by spicy yuletide greenery! 
 This recipe is no less magical and absolutely decadent! It's so easy to make and it's even better when served in a punchbowl surrounded by spicy yuletide greenery! You can make the recipe from scratch if you desire and if I have the time,  I will using whole organic eggs, milk, sugar and cream, but frankly when the good organic eggnogs are so plentiful why bother and you have the added bonus of not having to worry about raw eggs! Also, if you have anyone in your family who is allergic to milk or eggs, don't forget about so many of the luscious dairy free eggnogs. This year we've become addicted to Trader Joes Almond Nog and Whole Foods Almond Nog is excellent as well! 
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Actually all of the dairy free milk companies are creating wonderful "eggnogs" that you can use as the base for this recipe. They're absolutely delicious  and you will be able to serve a delicious and festive holiday beverage that leaves no one feeling left out! 
The good news for those going dairy free this year is that you don't even have to omit the whipped cream because there's plenty of fabulous dairy free whipped cream available in cans and ready to use like just like Redi Whip. You should be able to find any of them easily at your local grocers.
At any rate every year, people beg me for this recipe and I'm always so embarrassed to tell them just how easy it is...with this one it's all in the presentation (and the rum!) At last years Winter Solstice party I think that we went through about 3 punch bowls of it and lots of the RSVP's for every Solstice party start with "Ill see you around the eggnog bowl!" 
All you will need is :
3 quarts of organic eggnog or dairy free nog ( Please splurge on the organic if you're serving eggnog, you won't be sorry!)
About 2 cups of really good rum! I personally love the Captain Morgan's special reserve spiced rum for this recipe. It's already infused with so many spices and vanilla, that it's practically perfume! ( And I have been known to use it as such!)
About 6 cups of dried raisins that you've soaked for about 6 hours in a lovely single malt scotch ,reserving the scotch for the eggnog as well! 
Lots of whipped cream that has been infused with vanilla extract, brown sugar and some rum flavoring. For this I like to beat my whipped cream by hand in a copper bowl with a whisk. It takes a little longer but the cream is a wonderful silken consistency. Don't worry if you don't have a copper bowl and just do it the traditional way. It will be just as yummy!
Then add a liberal sprinkling of:
Nutmeg for joy and good luck, Cinnamon for love and prosperity and Allspice for continuous good health throughout the year!
The recipe itself is quite easy, simply put the eggnog into a punch bowl and whisk in the rum and brandy. Make sure that everyone in the kitchen gets to stir the eggnog once or twice and make a wish! Ladle the whipped cream onto the eggnog so that it looks like fluffy clouds of cream, sprinkle with the spices listed above and serve. Put some of the raisins into each serving. 
You will need to add more whipped cream on top as the evening unfolds because the cream continuously  gets folded into the eggnog, making it AMAZING! Serve in a lovely punch glass or a pretty tea cup with a kiss and a wish for a marvelous New Year! 
I'm leaving you with a merry and  magical Solstice round to put you in the mood for the holidays...

30 Days of Christmas Cheer ~ The Grande Dessert Table, a sweet twist on a Holiday Cocktail Party!



A cocktail party can easily be transformed into the best holiday gathering (in my mind) of all, a grand dessert buffet that usually starts at around 10:00 pm. I love to meet my guests at the door with a champagne cocktail and I always serve just a few canapés, like a cheese puff or mushroom toast just in case that my guests haven’t had much dinner.

The fun of a party like this is in the dramatic way that you present it! Have all of the candles lit in the room, but keep your guests as far away from the table as possible so that they can see the flickering flames of the candles but not the food. I'd pick a fabulous piece of music to be playing (Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy or something wonderful like that!) and at about 11:00 I'd throw open the doors and invite everyone to gather at the dessert table.



There are very few things as delightful to the child in all of us, as a heavily laden table just groaning under the weight of an abundance of gorgeous desserts! What follows here is just a
partial list of things that I love, because I am sure that all of you have several specialties that would be just perfect for such an evening!
Make sure that you have a bowl of fresh fruit and lots of whipped cream or zabaglione to go with it!

I always like to have one yummy jam trifle, or maybe two! Trifles are the dessert versions of a layered salad! They look simply beautiful in a cut glass bowl, or better yet, if you’re lucky enough to own a trifle bowl, use it. There’s nothing prettier than layers of ladyfingers and glistening jams, and a trifle in spite of its fancy name is among the easiest of all desserts to create.

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For a wonderful gathering such as this, a Bouche de' Noel is a very traditional, delicious chocolate and chestnut and praline dessert. It is a fantastic creation, shaped like a Yule log and fancifully decorated with mushrooms and greens made from marzipan and meringue!

Displayed on your grandmother’s tea service tray and surrounded by holly and fresh greens, this is one of the most beautiful desserts of the season! There are lots of easy recipes for a Bouche de’ Noel, and I think that they are so much fun to make, but if time is short, you can usually purchase a very good one from a specialty baker!

Next, pile those wonderful little cream puffs that you can buy frozen onto any gorgeous platter and have them drizzled with chocolate syrup, raspberry or caramel, and garnished with some sugared mint leaves. You can also simply serve them dusted with
confectioners’ sugar for a snowy effect and serve the sauces on the side in a gravy boat!


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You’ll need a rich chocolate mousse, which is guaranteed to disappear immediately as well as the platter of chocolate covered strawberries served alongside of it and if you can find them, the jewel tones of glaceed fruit are so pretty on a holiday table.
The exquisitely buttery French apple tart known as the Tarte Tatin is a fine addition to your buffet and of course, you’ll need one really grand chafing dish dessert like a Bananas Foster served with a simple vanilla bean ice cream!


I would also mound some chocolate truffles into lovely compote, a piece which is traditionally used to serve a spiced fruit or chutney. I might even consider filling those champagne glasses that I spoke of before with a creamy rice pudding, fragrantly dusted with cinnamon, and placed for effect on my silver pedestal cake plate! In fact, make use of all of the things that you own that have pedestals or feet. Along with a liberal use of candlesticks in all materials, shapes and sizes, as well as sparkling pieces of cut and smooth crystal, these pieces will provide height and interest to your table!
The last thing that you’ll need to round out the dessert offering is a cheese platter, with wedges of Brie, Camembert, and some really good cheddar! A Stilton cheese is very traditional cheese to serve right now, and comes directly from England, cloaked in wonderful drama and ritual. I always feature my cheeses on the sideboard with several different bottles of port and Madeira wine.

I have many cordial and small wine glasses that were my grandmothers, and this is what I use them for. Just some assorted good bread, crackers, cheese and fruit and you're all set to shine!

For beverages, a coffee bar provides a very festive end to the evening, with an assortment of liqueurs, as well as the traditional offerings of cream and sugar. You could even provide more champagne but with several wonderful choices of liqueur. Don’t forget a nice assortment of non-alcoholic sparklers, or you might want to serve a special non-alcoholic cocktail! My absolute favorite is called “A Partridge in a Pear Tree” and it’s made from sparkling water, pear nectar, a splash of lime juice and then poured into a martini glass filled with crushed ice, then garnished with a piece of candied ginger and a sprinkling of edible gold leaf if you can find it!



The last thing that I would create for the table is a wassail bowl, a gorgeous arrangement all by itself! For this I usually use my silver punch bowl, although a old cast iron cauldron or copper kettle is so pleasing to look at and historically appropriate. If you use copper, please make sure that it has a tin or steel lining so that the flavours don’t react with the metal to cause a bitter taste. I own a large copper soup kettle, and when my punch bowl is filled with eggnog, I use it for the wassail.

My wassail recipe is pretty simple, blending cinnamon stick, clove, allspice, cranberry juice, apple cider, sugar syrup, Calvados and brandy, mixed together and heated through, then served with a slice of sugared apple!

A bowl of steaming wassail is a wonderful aromatic welcome into your home, and if you’ve got a wonderful foyer, put the bowl there surrounded by masses of fresh greenery and berries “to drive the cold winter away” as the front door opens!
You may be wondering what to serve all of this on, and I’ll bet that we can find some holiday china right now in your cupboards!

You're wondering how?



Many of us have inherited stacks of Royal Copenhagen or Bing and Grondahl collectible Christmas plates. However, because traditionally they are hanging on the wall, no one ever knows what else to do with them, so they sit year after year gathering dust, when really they are the best holiday appetizer/ salad/dessert plates ever made! They are just the right size, and they can go into the dishwasher without any problem at all. I see stacks of them all of the time at my neighborhood Goodwill stores if you don't have any and they're always really affordable. 

Handcrafted in such lovely wintry shades of cobalt blue and soft white, they are just begging to be given the honour that they deserve! I know of no better way to make them happy then to heap them full of delicious food.
Just an aside here, one of the most commonly asked questions about fine china is “Can I put my formal dishes in the dishwasher?” The answer is a resounding yes, and as a matter of fact, almost any plate made within the last 25 years is dishwasher safe.

It’s not the dishwasher that ruins your good dishes; believe it or not it’s the soap! Use about half of the amount of soap
recommended, and make sure that you let everything, especially the gold trim cool down, before you remove your dishes. That’s all that’s needed, and what this means is that there’s no excuse to not use the lovely things that you own. Beautiful food presentation is a feast for your eyes and uplifting to your spirit, and it’s so easy to make anything look wonderful when you put it on a silver tray or a beautiful service plate.

I’ve always gotten such pleasure from bringing out lovely old things, and inventing new uses for them. Old silver with monograms, glasses with initials, linens with fancy embroidery... all of these things make up your shared personal history. Old silver that has a beautiful hand engraved monogram is a treasure. I practically cried every time someone would bring a set of it into the store to have the engraving removed. You can’t get monograms like that anymore; very rarely do you find an engraver with that skill.

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Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good, and bringing this bit of history into the party atmosphere connects the past with the yet unknown future, and lets your guests feel like they’ve been welcomed into a home that’s emotionally rich and very special!
Having said all of this, I realize that I’ve left out the three most magical ingredients that I know of to create a wonderful holiday party.
First, make sure that you have a gingerbread house, lots of undecorated cookies and bowls of frosting, candy and plenty of children around to decorate and eat them!

 A gift for each woman and child is a lovely reminder of your friendship and a continuation of such a special evening, how about several narcissus bulbs for fragrant midwinter blooms or a votive candle to light the New Year?

And last but not least, my personal favorite, LOTS OF MISTLETOE FOR KISSING UNDER!"

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