Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Top Posts of 2022

It's time for my year-end wrap-up featuring the 10 most popular posts of 2022. It's an interesting assortment I think. A third of the favorites were breads. Last year my number one post was Streusel-Topped Pumpkin Loaf that won by a landslide; this year Pumpkin Spice Zucchini Bread did the same. Last year only one of my tablescapes made it into the top 10, this year tablescapes and home made up 50%. This has been doing a lot of thinking as to what to post next year (and how I am going to top the last two pumpkin loaves!).

Thanks to all of you who visit my blog, I really appreciate having you here. To see the blog post and recipe associated with each of these pictures (shown in descending order of popularity), click on the title below the photo and it will take you directly to the post.

 Happy viewing, and have a wonderful New Year!

 Pumpkin Spice Zucchini Bread

Winter White Tablescape

Blueberry Butter Dip Biscuits

Mayfair Salad Dressing

Zippy Horseradish Cheese Spread

Butter Dip Cheddar Bay Biscuits

Laundry Room Makeover

Welcome to the Conservatory

St. Patrick’s Day Lunch

Gathering in the Garden Tablescape

 To view previous Top Ten Lists click one or more of the follow links:

Top Posts of 2021

Top Posts of 2020

Top Posts of 2019

Top Posts of 2018

Top Posts of 2017

Top Posts of 2016

Top Posts of 2015

Top Posts of 2014

 Top Posts of 2013 

 Top Posts of 2012



Sunday, December 25, 2022

When things go terribly wrong.

This post is for all of you who had a thing or two go wrong with your holiday meal. As I write this it is Christmas Day, and I still can’t wrap my head around the disaster that was yesterday’s meal. This meal had been planned weeks in advance. The house looked beautiful and glowed with the soft warmth of fairy lights twinkling in five trees of various sizes. Christmas music was playing in the background, a fire crackled in the fireplace; everything was picture perfect…or so it seemed.

Quite early the day went to hell in a hand-basket. I had brined my turkey breast (I won’t even go into the difficulty of that considering the pipe to my pot filler had frozen because our high temperature was 5°F) the day before. When I got up Christmas Eve morning (at the butt crack of dawn) I removed the turkey breast from the brine, rinsed it and patted it dry, rubbed it with herbs, lined my 6-quart slow cooker with celery, onion, and baby carrots, and slowly lowered the turkey breast in. I filled the cavity with aromatics and turned it on High setting, setting a kitchen timer for an hour, at which point I would lower the setting to Low, and let it simmer, filling the house with the scent of turkey goodness for the next six hours. At this point, quite pleased with myself, I pressed on with my frantic day.

When the timer went off an hour later, I set it to Low, and continued on. An hour hence, when my nostrils weren’t being tickled by luscious turkey aroma, I peeked through the glass lid of the slow cooker. Huh. Nothing looked different. I took the lid off and my turkey was still cold. My expensive slow cooker, purchased a mere 13 months prior, had given up the ghost.

I got in touch with number two son, Andrew (the child who once, on the morning of Thanksgiving, pummeled a turkey breast that had not thawed after three days in the refrigerator – apparently when I shoved the behemoth into the refrigerator, I moved the temperature up to the “North Pole” setting, and it remained frozen all the while I thought it was thawing nicely, but that’s another story), and we jointly decided that it was far too dodgy to cook that turkey via another method after it had been, essentially, sitting at room temperature for two hours. So out went the crockpot, turkey and all (with a mighty crash into the trashcan), out came the old back up crockpot that I’ve had for decades into which I shoved a roast beef.

While my old reliable (read: cheap) slow cooker chugged along, I decided to serve a house cocktail that I had prepped that morning and sampled perhaps a bit too much. When asked about it (it, at least, was a success), I replied that it was called Rudolph’s Gay Spritzer…errr, Rudolph’s Spritzy Titzer. I mean, Rudolph’s Tipsy Spritzer! Yeah.

As we opened gifts and chatted, hoping beyond hope that the beef would be juicy and tender, it wasn’t. Because of all of the goings-on earlier that day, there just wasn’t enough time to thoroughly cook the beef to succulent goodness and we ended up with beef-tasting shoe leather that my son and daughter-in-law (God love them) ate, commenting on its “good flavor” (and doesn’t that just say everything — similar to when you describe someone as having “a good personality”), as well as the accompanying sides that were all designed to be served with turkey — mashed potatoes, dressing, corn pudding, green beans, cranberry salad, and rolls. Because I’d kept giving the beef more time, the side dishes over cooked. The bread in the dressing had turned to sawdust; the corn pudding was mistaken for cornbread. The Rhodes rolls that I had taken out of the freezer and put onto the counter at 6:30 AM had still not risen by 3 PM, but out of pure orneriness, I baked them anyway. We needed an electric knife to cut them open. Fortunately, the pie was a success. I had bought it.

So, if you’re ever having difficulty preparing a meal, I want you to remember this post. It happens to the best of us. The meal may not have been enjoyable, but I guarantee you this is one Christmas Eve dinner we will never forget!

Friday, December 23, 2022

Cheesy Ham Sauce over Eggs

Christmas morning is not the time that you want to be laboring over the stove, and yet you want to serve your family and/or friends a lovely, special breakfast suitable to the occasion. Here’s the way to do most of the work the day before. This wonderful, flavorful Cheesy Ham Sauce is quite the crowd pleaser. The beauty of it is that it can be made one to two days ahead of time and simply reheated. Use it as a topping for toasted English muffins, toast points, or as I like to use it, on top of an omelet or scrambled eggs. You can even ladle some over a poached egg. It makes a lovely presentation, a hearty meal, and something very special without a lot of work in the morning that you plan to serve it.

Cheesy Ham Sauce over Eggs

½ c. butter
¼ c. flour
1½ c. whole milk
½ c. water
1 t.
chicken soup base
¾ c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 t.
prepared mustard
1 t. Worcestershire sauce
2 c. cooked ham, cubed
½ c. sliced mushrooms
¼ c. ripe olives, halved
¼ c. chopped
Melissa’s roasted red peppers
¼ c. scallions, diced

In a medium sauce pan melt butter. Blend in flour. Cook and stir for 2 to 3 minutes until the flour becomes amber in color. Slowly pour in milk, water, and soup base. Cook and stir until thickened. Add cheese, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce, stirring until cheese melts. Add ham, mushrooms, olives, red peppers, and scallions. Stir to combine and heat through. At this point it can be poured over the top of omelets, a baked egg casserole, or scrambled eggs.

This can be made ahead and stored in a covered dish in the refrigerator for up to two days.

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Thursday, December 22, 2022

Winter Solstice Garlic Planting

Yesterday was the winter solstice, and what does that mean for gardeners? It means it was the day to plant garlic. The garlic mantra is: plant on the shortest, harvest on the longest. That means, should everything go as planned, that I will be harvesting garlic on June 21.

You have to love gardening to go out in the bitter cold with an ice pick to make holes in the soil in order to plant. That’s devoted. I waited until the warmest part of the day (34° F), and I planted about 20 cloves in a 24-inch diameter pot approximately 2 inches deep. The root end is planted down with the pointed end sticking up. Garlic likes loose soil, so I made sure the soil I was hacking into had a nice mixture of perlite. We’re expecting rain and wintry weather tomorrow, so it should get a decent watering.

There are a lot of reasons for growing garlic, not just because it is so delicious, but also because there are so many health benefits:

1. It boost the immune system
2. Regulates blood sugar
3. Fresh garlic can kill E. coli and salmonella
4. Contains mood boosting vitamin B6

 If you’ve never had fresh garlic, let me tell you that it is heavenly! When you cut into it, juices run. That should give you an idea of how old that garlic you're buying at the supermarket is.

As prices at the grocery stores continue to climb, it’s more important now than ever to learn how to grow your own food. You don’t need a lot of space, just a couple of plant pots, some sacks of soil, and you can get started.

Who plants a seed beneath the sod, and waits to see, believes in God.


Wednesday, December 21, 2022


  Prior to this week I had never had fajitas. Never! Honestly, I didn’t get what the big deal was. Now I know, and since that time I’ve made them twice. They are so easy to put together, super delicious, hearty and filling, wonderfully tasty, not to mention versatile, so much so that they are going to become a regular part of my meal rotation.

The first time I tried them I used a commercial seasoning packet. It was way too hot for me. In looking at the list of ingredients on the package I saw that chili pepper was the first ingredient. That said everything to me. After a bit of experimentation with a variety of recipes, I came up with what I think is the absolute best.



1 T. cornstarch
2 t. chili powder
1 t.
sea salt
1 t. smoked paprika
1 t.
ground cumin
1 t. granulated sugar
1/2 t.
onion powder
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/8 t. Mexican oregano
1/8 t. cayenne pepper

Mix together all ingredients and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

To make fajitas:

Fajitas are easy to put together. Choose a protein (I used a pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts), one pepper (I used 1/2 red pepper and 1/2 yellow pepper) thinly sliced, and 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced. Put a tablespoon of olive oil into a 9 to 10 inch sauté pan and get it hot. Add chicken and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Allow it to sear on each side, so let it cook for a good two minutes before turning it over to sear the reverse. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken to a heated plate. Add thinly sliced peppers and onions add more olive oil, if necessary, to the pan. Sauté until vegetables are soft. Return chicken to the pan along with 1/2 cup of water (or Bloody Mary mix, as I did), and two heaping tablespoons seasoning. Give it a good stir. Cover and cook until heated through and sauce is reduced to your liking. Serve on warm tortillas with salsa, cheese, sliced scallions, slices of avocado, and sour cream.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2022

My 2022 Christmas Card

  It has become a bit of a tradition here on the blog to share my annual Christmas card. I have been making my own for the past five years now. If you’d like to take a look at what I’ve done in the past, here are cards from 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. I always try to use a picture on the front that is personal. I like to share a little bit of personal information on the inside whether it’s about my home and lifestyle, or a recipe. The back always has a picture of something memorable from the current year, or those past.

 This year’s card features a picture from the blog of one of my favorite tablescapes. At the time I was taking the pictures I had it in the back of my mind that one of them would make an excellent Christmas card, and I believe I was right. This is not the first time that I have used a blog post photo on a greeting card. You can find my Chinese New Year card from 2019 here where I did it for the first time and really liked the results.

 A popular side dish that I serve at Thanksgiving and Christmas is my Sugarplum Fairy Salad, so I decided to share the recipe in this year's card. As a consequence, I thought “Eat drink and be merry” would be the perfect inside sentiment.

  Stanley takes part this year in advising us to rest and not get stressed out over the holidays.

 Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 19, 2022

Stuffed Pickles

Some time ago I found a recipe for stuffed pickles online and kept it in the back of my mind. Part of me thought they would be really good, the other part of me thought they might be downright appalling. This week, armed with a huge jar of pickles (That, in my attempt to open, I flung across the room, watched it carom off one of the cabinets, hit the floor, and roll right back, landing at my feet, unbroken. Whew!) I decided to give it a try. They were really good! I like pickles, but I’m not an over-the-top lover of pickles, and I really enjoyed these. If you have friends who are pickle fanatics, they will be forever in your debt. The filling can be made ahead, as well as the slicing and hollowing out of the pickles. Store them covered, in the refrigerator, cut side down on a paper towel until ready to stuff.

Stuffed Pickles

4 large
whole dill pickles
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
½ c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
½ t.
dry ranch dressing mix
2 thick slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Freshly ground black pepper

Slice pickles in half lengthwise and, using a
grapefruit spoon or something similar, hollow out the insides.

Place cream cheese, cheddar cheese, ranch dressing mix, bacon, and lots of pepper into a medium mixing bowl. With a hand mixer, beat until creamy. Generously stuff each hollowed out pickle and place into the basket of an air fryer. Air fry for eight minutes at 400°F. Serve warm with ranch dressing on the side, or drizzle a bit over the tops.

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Friday, December 16, 2022

Date Rocks

When I was a little girl I used to enjoy going through my mother’s recipe box. I loved seeing all of the different styles of handwriting, looking at all of the different recipes, and particularly enjoyed the various types of stationery on which they were written. In one of my more creative moments, much to my mother’s dismay, I organized them by stationery category (matching the various types of recipe cards to each other, fold-a-notes, note cards, etc.) rather than by recipe type. It took her quite a while to get things back in order.

One of the recipes that I found, during that particular flight of fancy, was one that had been given to her by her sister. It was for a cookie called Date Rocks. I couldn’t imagine what those cookies tasted like, and wondered if they were as hard as the name indicated. It wasn’t until recently that I came across it again and decided to give it a try. As I often do, I changed things up a bit using Blood Orange Dark Chocolate-Covered Jooliettes Dates in place of plain ones. Wow! These are really delicious.

Date Rocks

 1½ c. brown sugar

1 c. butter, softened

3 eggs, room temperature

1 t. vanilla extract

3 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

½ t. baking soda

1 t. kosher salt

1 t. ground cinnamon

1/8 t. cloves

1 c. raisins

¾ c. Blood Orange Dark Chocolate-Covered Jooliettes Date Nibbles

1 c. walnuts

 Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat; set aside.

 In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter and brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla; beat to combine. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves and beat to incorporate. Fold in raisins, dates, and walnuts.

Drop the batter onto prepared sheet (I used a cookie scoop), and bake for 15-17 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Together at the Table: Entertaining at Home with the Creators of Juliska, Reviewed

 I have been a fan of Juliska for years. I treasure the pieces that I own designed by them, so I was thrilled when I learned that the creators of that brand, husband and wife founders, David and Capucine [DeWulf] Gooding, were coming out with a book, Together at the Table: Entertaining at Home with the Creators of Juliska.

Trust me when I tell you that it does not disappoint, quite the contrary, it is GLORIOUS!

Anyone who is a fan of fine dining, beautiful tablescapes, or simply reveres getting together with friends and family in a pleasant setting, is going to fall in love with this book.

 While initially it may appear to be a bit highbrow in the various offerings (not all of us have expensive China and cut glass stemware), that’s not the point; the point is to take those treasured items that you’ve been saving for “good,” and bring them out to enjoy every single day. There are hundreds of eye-catching and inspirational ideas here on how to use what you have, mix-and-match various styles and patterns, and indulge yourself in a wide range of colors… or not.

Their eye for design and color is impeccable. With each turn of the page I felt as if I were being transported into places of beauty. I also made mental note of various ideas, color combinations, layouts, etc., in order to incorporate these into what I do.

This book is a real treasure, and would be a thoughtful gift for people who enjoy setting lovely tables or simply dreaming of lovely tables. You can’t page through this book without coming away with the feeling that life is truly magical, and that you can help make it so.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

 Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Together at the Table: Entertaining at Home with the Creators of Juliska from Abrams Books as a participant in their Abrams Dinner Party Program for 2022-2023.


Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Ho! Ho! Holiday Luncheon!

Back in my youth, I would host multiple holiday gatherings, enjoying each one of them. As I got older, the number dropped but at least, in my opinion anyway, the quality soared. This year I decided to host a holiday luncheon. I spared no expense. There were four of us, including me, and we were all looking forward to it. I worked for weeks in preparation, cleaning, decorating, planning the food, making the food, ordering fresh flowers and greenery…you get the idea. It was originally scheduled for Saturday, December 10, and then due to illness of one of the guests, I was lucky enough to be able to change it to Sunday, December 11. All systems were go until 9 o’clock that morning when I learned that one of the ladies had fallen, and the other had taken her to the ER. What was it that Robert Burns said about the best laid plans? Yeah.

On the plus side, the house is clean, it looks lovely, and I have a lot of delicious food. Truth be told, as many of the dishes that can freeze, will be frozen, I have plenty for some future event. But just because it can’t be enjoyed in the way in which it was originally intended, does not mean that I can’t share it with you.

This table went through numerous changes before I decided upon this final one. On top of the checkered tablecloth are black and cream placemats that you can’t see in the picture, but would be able to see during dinner because the leafy green placemats (that look like greenery surrounding the plates), are surreptitiously removed when the diners grab their plates to hit the buffet. There’s no way I’m going to insist that my guests hack their way through greenery to get to their food.

Originally I had tin chargers under the greenery and pine cone plates (that I got at Pottery Barn years ago), my intention being to match the tin to the reindeer vessel that made up the centerpiece. Later I discovered that the red charger plate with embedded rhinestones looked much brighter.


The Santa plate on top I inherited from my mother. It is from Fitz & Floyd 1989. It would be removed and later used to serve dessert. The flatware is from Cabela’s, and has a pine cone design to match the pine cones in the plates.

 I tried a number of different cups, saucers, and mug combinations, deciding that the white mug was the best as it picked up the white in Santa’s beard making things brighter. The emerald green water glasses I inherited from my mother. They have made many Christmas appearances. The wine glasses are from Mikasa and in the “Park Lane” pattern.

 The darling wooden Santa napkins rings were, again, my mother's; the napkins are from Pottery Barn.

 The candle holders that look like trees I inherited from my mother as well. I always admired them on her table, and am now thrilled to have them on mine.

 The little ceramic baskets with holly leaves at each place setting, holding a Lindor milk chocolate truffle, I inherited from my mother as well. They are bone china from the Philippines, 1986. I always like to have a little goodie at the table. In addition to this little treat, each diner was going to go home with a can of hot chocolate mix from local chocolatier, Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate.

 The centerpiece I have mixed feelings about. I had ordered this requesting the “Premium” (read: the absolute BEST and most expensive) size, and paid the premium price. This looked a little puny compared to what I was expecting. On the plus side, the vessel is darling, and I intend to make my own arrangement for future years that I guarantee will look much showier than this one.

 I had covered the serving area with fresh greenery, and used place card holders to display the names of the dishes. I find that people really enjoy knowing exactly what they’re digging into.

  The champagne flutes were a new edition this year, intended to be used for serving the house “Poinsettia” cocktail, a tasty mixture of cranberry juice, Cointreau, topped off with champagne.


Whatever you do for the holiday season, and however you do it, I wish you great success!

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 This post is linked to: Tablescape Thursday