December 2012 archive

Hearty Winter Meals–Beef Stew

Beef Stew1

On cold winter days like yesterday nothing hits the spot more than a steamy bowl of soup or stew, and this hearty beef stew really hit the spot. This recipe is easy to prepare but requires a long cooking time to tenderize the meat and vegetables, so you’ll need to plan ahead. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make beef stew:

Beef Stew Ingredients


3-4 pounds of stew meat (or a 4-lb. boneless chuck roast, defatted and cut into cubes)
1 tablespoon oil
1 can (14 oz.) beef broth
2 cans (14 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup red wine (or cooking sherry)
1 envelope Lipton onion soup mix
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 package fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces
6-8 fingerling potatoes, cubed
Seasoning salt and pepper to taste

Brown the beef in hot oil in a large pot over medium heat, stirring to ensure the meat browns on all sides. Add the beef broth, diced tomatoes, wine, soup mix, and onions. Cover and cook until the meat is tender (about 1.5 – 2 hours). Add additional beef broth or water if too much liquid evaporates during cooking. Add the mushrooms, carrots, and potatoes and cook until the vegetables are tender (about 1/2 hour). Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into bowls and serve with cornbread, butter, and honey.

Holiday Decor Ideas–Winter Owl Theme at Anthropologie

Winter Owl Theme3

Winter owls nestled in branches.

Winter Owl Theme1

Winter Owl Perched High on a Wall Made of Wood1

Perched high on a wall made of wood.

Winter Owl Perched High on a Wall of Wood2

Winter Owl on a Swing

Swinging from swings. I like the birch trees and snowflakes painted on the rustic window panes.

Mason Jar Chandelier2

A mason jar chandelier flecked with snow and filled with candles and bits of nature.

Mason Jar Chandelier1

Tied with simple twine and hung from the ceiling. How lovely.

Old Books Covered in Snow and Cranberries

Old books covered with snow and cranberries.

Pretty Perfume Bottles

Pretty perfume bottles.

Pretty Ceramic Vases1

Lovely ceramics.

Ceramic Owl1

And even more owls. Lots of fabulous holiday decorating ideas I can recreate in my own home. If you don’t have an Anthropologie store in your area, visit them online at

Tea at the Ritz

Tea at the Ritz

Each Christmas the women in my family meet for tea at the Ritz Carlton. We’ve been enjoying this tradition for over twenty years. Some of the ladies pictured here were toddlers when I first began the tradition; now they’re young women who will one day introduce their own daughters to the pleasures of taking tea.














One Lump or Two

One lump, or two?

Teapot Warmer

Teapot warmer.

Dessert Tray1

The dessert tray.

Holiday Bling1

Holiday bling.

Tea at the Ritz

Such a lovely holiday tradition.

My Niece’s Yellow Trumpet Flowers

Karen's Yellow Trumpet Flowers

My niece Karen chose to paint these yellow trumpet flowers. This is her second watercolor painting and her painting skills have improved a great deal already. I love the shading in the center of the flowers–it gives them such depth–and the sunny color scheme she chose. This painting is based on a tutorial in Janet Whittle’s book, “How to Draw Exotic Flowers in Simple Steps.”

Here’s a close up of Karen’s painting, isn’t it pretty?

Karen's Yellow Trumpet Flowers Close Up

My Niece’s Leaf Fairy

Jenny's Leaf Fairy

My niece Jenny chose to paint the same leaf fairy that I painted several weeks ago. Her painting style is so similar to mine that it’s nearly a ringer for my painting. Can you believe that this is Jenny’s first attempt at painting? This painting is based on a tutorial in Linda Ravenscroft’s book, “How to Draw and Paint Fairies.”

Here’s a close up of Jenny’s painting:

Jenny's Leaf Fairy Closeup

Quick Holiday Meals–Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Noodle Soup1

When I was young my mother always prepared big pots of soup during winter storms. I could always count on a steaming bowl of soup to warm me when I came in from the cold on rainy, icy, or snowy days. So when the cold wind is blowing and sleet is falling like it did several times this week, I whip of a batch of chicken noodle soup for my family. I want to pass on the goodness that my mother shared with me onto my daughter. Here are the ingredients you’ll need to make quick chicken noodle soup:

Chicken Noodle Soup Ingredients


1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed, trimmed of fat, and cut into thirds
1 box (12 oz.) bow tie pasta
4 cans (14.5 oz.) chicken broth
4 chicken bouillon cubes
1 can (15 oz.) whole kernel corn, drained
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
3-4 carrots, peeled and sliced into bite-size pieces
6-8 honey gold fingerling potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan cook the bow tie pasta in rapidly boiling water until its al dente (12-14 minutes). Drain and set aside. Meanwhile combine the chicken, chicken broth, bouillon cubes, corn, diced onion, carrots, and potatoes in a large soup pot over medium heat. Watch the chicken carefully and remove it to a platter when it’s no longer pink in the center; set aside, cool slightly, then cut into bite-sized pieces. Cook the vegetables until fork tender (about 30 minutes). Add the pasta and cubed chicken. Season with salt and pepper. I like to serve this soup with biscuits topped with butter and honey.

Chicken Noodle Soup2

Canine Shred Fest

This is Dexter watching us paint yesterday. Look at that face–so innocent, sweet, and cute.

Dexter Watching Winter Family Watercolor Fest

But don’t let all this adorableness fool you, behind that face lies a little monster. Dexter and Steve, my Yorkie, apparently didn’t enjoy our family paint fest as much as we humans did because they quickly became bored and started to pester us for attention.

Dexter Enjoying Some Reading Material During Winter Family Watercolor Fest

So I gave Dexter a little reading material to keep him occupied while we painted.

Aftermath of Dexter's Play Winter Family Watercolor Fest

This is the aftermath of his little play session.

Steve Looking Innocent Winter Family Watercolor Fest

Here’s Steve, my Yorkie, perched on the back of the couch so he can watch us paint. Note the innocent look on his face as well.

Look on Steve's Face When Asked About Involvement in Paper Shredding

But check out how his expression changed when I asked him about his involvement in making the mess. Think he’s guilty?

Winter Family Watercolor Fest

I love our family watercolor sessions. We have a great time painting, listening to music, chatting, and sharing good food. My niece, Jenny, is the latest addition to our painting circle. This was her first introduction to painting and watercolors, and I was blown away by her talent. Wait until you see her completed painting.

Winter Family Watercolor Fest2

Jenny chose to paint the same leaf fairy that I painted a few weeks ago. Here’s a sneak preview of her work.

Winter Family Watercolor Fest1

She’s a meticulous painter with an eye for detail and a delicate hand–a winning combination.

Winter Family Watercolor Fest3

She really enjoyed working on the shading.

Winter Family Watercolor Fest4

My sister Cindy also joined the painting session. Here she’s taking a break from painting to snack on some homemade chicken noodle soup. I’ll be posting the recipe next.

Winter Family Watercolor Fest5

My sister chose to paint a fairy artist. Here’s a sneak preview of her painting. This is her third painting–she really rocked it. Wait until you see her finished work.

Winter Family Watercolor Fest6

My niece, Karen, also joined us. She painted sunny yellow trumpet flowers surrounded by a lovely blue sky.

Winter Family Watercolor Fest7

Here’s a close up of Karen’s work in progress. The colors are bright; the feeling is fresh and sunny. I just love this painting–which is only her second attempt at watercolor painting. How amazing is she? I’ll be posting the completed paintings next.

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