December 2013 archive

Fuchsia and Hummingbird in Watercolor

Fucshia and hummingbird in watercolor

Winter has definitely arrived. It’s dark and rainy and cold today. Even the dogs don’t want to venture outside. It’s been pouring here for hours so lately I’ve been dreaming of spring–as you can see from my latest painting.

I’m a big fan of color so this brightly colored hummingbird tickled my fancy. This painting is based on a tutorial in the book, “Painting Garden Birds” by Sherry C. Nelson. The book is geared towards oil painters, but it translated easily into watercolor. This book has been sitting on my shelves for years. I’m glad I finally pulled it off the shelf and put it to good use.

Holiday Porch Makeover–All That Glitters is Not Gold…

purple Christmas wreath close up

Sometimes it’s silver…

and purple.

Purple and silver holiday porch

It’s December and I’m still rocking my purple front door and porch furniture. This delicious shade of purple has transitioned easily from summer to fall to winter. And I’m having so much fun with it that I plan on featuring purple once again on my spring porch. Who knew that purple could be so dog-gone versatile?

purple and silver holiday porch decor

For my holiday porch, I kept the same rugs that I used on my fall porch makeover–the rich burgundy and purple colors are perfect for Christmas. I began my holiday makeover by hanging a sparkling purple and silver flower arrangement on my front door.

sparkly silver pillows for my front porch

Then I added lots of pillows in a variety of shapes and sizes in muted tones of silver and white. I couldn’t resist these pillows embellished with sequins, crystals, and beads. I used indoor pillows but they typically hold up well on my covered porch.

holiday pillows with sequins, beads, and crystals for my front porch

This crystal owl pillow was just too cute to pass up.

holiday pillow with big silver bow

This white velvet pillow with a big silver bow and crystal button was the inspiration for my holiday porch makeover. Once I found this pillow, I carried it around the store and chose a variety of pillows to coordinate with it.

mini Christmas trees with burlap wrapped pots

I added some mini Christmas trees in pots wrapped with burlap. I like the way the simple evergreen trees and rough burlap contrast with the elegant pillow fabrics. The green, brown, and beige tones add interest and warmth to this otherwise cool decorating scheme.

purple and silver winter porch makeover

On the coffee table, I arranged a silver bowl filled with sparkly silver accessories, a burgundy silk flower arrangement, and a rusty iron lantern on a simple wooden tray–another combination of glittery and rustic finishes. From start to finish, this winter porch makeover took me less than 30 minutes to pull together (minus the shopping, of course).

purple and silver winter porch makeover

The carpets are bath mats with rubber backing so they stay in place on windy days and I can simply throw them in the washing machine when they get dirty. And the color is holding up beautifully. These rugs have been on my porch for weeks with no signs of fading from the sun.

purple and silver holiday wreath

And once again I’d like to thank Tonya from TwoInspireYou for this gorgeous purple and silver holiday wreath that she custom made for my purple winter porch makeover. Love, love, love it!

Hot Chocolate with Peppermint Whipped Cream

hot chocolate with peppermint whipped cream

Earlier this month, Ashley Pahl of She Makes a Home posted a recipe on her blog for homemade hot coco topped with peppermint whipped cream. It sounded so soothing and delicious that I bookmarked the recipe. So last week when I was housebound during a two-day ice storm, I decided to give it a try.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand to make Ashley’s hot chocolate recipe–and there was no way I was braving the ice storm–so I used my recipe for hot chocolate and topped it with Ashley’s recipe for peppermint whipped cream, which she has graciously allowed me to share with all of you.

Give this recipe a try during the next bout of inclement weather in your area. It will delight your tastebuds and warm your bones.

Basic Hot Chocolate

  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 T. sugar
  • 3 ounces (3 full squares) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • Dash of salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the milk, cream, and sugar just until a skin forms on the top of the surface, about 8 minutes (don’t let the mixture reach a simmer). Remove the pan from the heat; add the chocolate and set aside until the chocolate has melted, about 1 minute. Whisk the mixture until the chocolate is incorporated. (The mixture will be mottled with small pieces of chocolate.) Return the pan to medium heat and cook until the chocolate shards melt, whisking often, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract. Pour into mugs, top with peppermint whipped cream, and serve immediately.

Peppermint Whipped Cream

  • 8 ounces heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoons powered (confectioner’s) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon peppermint extract (it sounds like a lot but it’s not overwhelming)

Mix the whipping cream with a beater until it forms soft peaks. Add the powered sugar and peppermint extract. Beat again to incorporate fully.

Enjoy.

Homemade French Apple Pie

homemade apple pie recipe

What’s a holiday celebration without a great dessert? Whenever we have family gatherings someone inevitably asks me to bring a homemade apple pie. I have to admit I do make a mean apple pie–it’s my most requested dessert recipe. So with Christmas only two weeks away (can you believe it?), I thought I’d share my apple pie recipe for folks who are looking for a really special holiday dessert.

There are Three Secrets to Making a Great Apple Pie:

  • To make a balanced pie filling–one that’s not too sweet, too sour, too mushy, or too firm–use a variety of apples.
  • To make a flaky pie crust avoid over-handling the dough.
  • To make a super easy top crust, use crumb a topping.

Pie Pastry:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons ice water (avoid adding additional water)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter until the shortening pieces resemble small peas. Add ice water and stir to combine (use your hands if you prefer). Do not over mix, over work, or over stretch the dough when fitting it into the pan or it will shrink during baking and become tough. Form the dough into a ball and roll it between two sheets of waxed paper (this keeps your counters and roller clean and no additional flour is necessary). Fold the dough into quarters. Place on top of the baking dish; unfold. Turn raw edges under. Crimp edges between your thumb and fore fingers or use a fork. Bake the crust, unfilled, at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes until it is lightly browned. (This pre-baking step keeps the bottom crust from becoming soggy.) Cool slightly before filling.

Apple Filling:

  • 8 apples peeled, cored, and sliced (2 Granny Smith, 2 Golden Delicious, 2 Braeburn, 2 Jonagold)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine apples, sugar, and cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate several hours (or overnight). Using a slotted spoon (you only need a small amount of juice), spoon into prepared pie crust.

French Apple Pie Crumb Topping:

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour

Mix all ingredients into pea-sized crumbs. Sprinkle over top of pie. Make at 350 degrees for 40 minutes (or until the apples are soft and the crust and pie crumbs are golden brown.