As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Well, my little Meyer Lemon tree gave me a big bunch of beautiful lemons and I decided I’d rather make Christmas Eve lemon drop martinis. We all agreed they were the freshest lemon drops we’d ever had; made just minutes after picking. It seems crazy to me that citrus season is in the middle of winter but what a nice treat when the weather outside is frightful. They would be lovely for New Years Eve too.
Since I raised the lemons from blossoms, I felt they deserved a really good Vodka so I used Grey Goose Citron. I found this recipe on the Grey Goose website, so it’s aptly called Grey Goose Perfect Lemon Drop Martini and it’s delicious. The recipe below is for 4 servings, one drink each, but they're so yummy you might just need a little bit more.
Grey Goose Perfect Lemon Drop Martini
Mix the vodka, triple sec, sugar and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice cubes. Shake well to make sure sugar is blended. Pour strained liquor into a sugar-rimmed martini glass and garnish with a twisted peel of lemon.
To create a sugar-rimmed glass, rub a lemon wedge round the drinking surface of the glass so it is barely moist. The stickiness of the lemon is the perfect medium to glaze the sugar to the rim. Dip the edge of the glass into sugar. I used a wine coaster to hold the sugar, but any shallow plate or bowl will do nicely.
It must be good with a name like that. Butter, sugar, chocolate, and peppermint candy. I was thinking about peppermint bark but felt like adding the toffee would be a good idea. It’s a great combination of flavors. Not too many ingredients, in fact you might very well have everything you need without making one more trip to the store.
I used last years recipe for Toffee Roca as my base and improvised (scroll over the red words to find that recipe). I started with the toffee; simply melting 2 cubes of butter and 1 cup of sugar and cooking until it turns golden brown, which took about 15 minutes. My candy thermometer registered 275 degrees.
I spread the hot caramel onto a warm baking sheet . Smooth out to the edges. Cool in the fridge for a few minutes then spread a thin (or thick) layer of melted chocolate over the top. Use about half of what you’ve melted and save the other half for the other side. Working quickly, sprinkle 1/2 of your broken peppermint pieces on top of chocolate while the chocolate is still warm. Place back in the fridge for another few minutes until everything has hardened.
When it is cooled, flip over the entire block. You’ll have to work the edge of a sharp spatula under a corner to loosen it, but the butter will not let it stick. It will probably break into pieces but that’s ok, as you’d be doing that eventually. Use a pastry brush to apply the remainder of the melted chocolate, then sprinkle with the rest of the peppermint pieces. Return to the fridge to cool.
Once it’s fully cooled, break up any remaining large pieces and start enjoying. It’s different than peppermint bark because of the toffee, but the flavors blend in the most delicious way. Great for gift giving or to enjoy with coffee or cocoa. Check my notes below for suggestions for success.
This year more than ever before, I’m aware of our family’s Christmas traditions. Both kids are grown and living away, but will happily be home for Christmas. Each time I talk with either one of them I am reminded of the little details that are important to them. The decorations, the Christmas music, the coffee cake served after opening presents; all the things we’ve done over the years that have become important parts of their memories. As a parent I’m reminded of the responsibility I have to make sure our kids enjoy, participate and look forward to the wonderful family moments. More often than not it’s the little things that are turned into the sweetest memories.
Glass globe ornaments collected and received as gifts over the years always find a place in my biggest bowl. The red, white and blue starred one is a particular favorite as it was given to me Christmas 2001, the first Christmas after 9/11.
My fellow blogger at Ciao Dominica wrote of traditions the other day and then referred to a blogger friend of hers, at From the House of Edward, who also shared a story of the importance of family traditions. Click on their links to enjoy their stories. It’s fun to read about what other families do for the holidays and it sometimes gives us an idea of traditions that might become one of our own.
Our family traditions seem quite simple but are obviously a big part of our holiday memories. Around here I’m pretty sure Christmas music begins sometime right after our Thanksgiving meal. Everybody has their favorites and they often trade CD’s to add to each others collections. The radios in the cars are set to the 24/7 Christmas music stations.
Somebody always has to dress up a dog or two, who are never too happy about it but put up with our silly behavior.
The kids plan which Christmas movies will be required watching. A Christmas Story, Elf, Home Alone, The Santa Clause, The Holiday and Love Actually are always at the top of their lists. I love that they have this fun little tradition they've created and that they look forward to spending time with one another.
Presents are talked about and hoped for, of course, favorite foods are expected, but most of all we just like being together; laughing, looking at our favorite ornaments and treasures. Our snow village is put out with the puffy pretend snow and we remember where each house sits, where Santa will be and where each of the little skiers should be placed.
The tree is decorated with ornaments collected for many years. My mother gave me one each year and I have continued that tradition with my own children. Too many to count; it’s almost time for them to take them into their own homes. Maybe next year.
My very favorite ornament is this one that my mother and father got somewhere early in their marriage. It’s at least 65 years old and every year when I carefully unwrap it I think of them and how young they were with their lives, dreams and hopes ahead of them. I’d love to hear of your family’s traditions. Leave me a comment.
I’ve been going through old photo albums lately and rescuing pictures. Since I’m getting old, of course the photographs are too. Before the colors fade too much more and the quality further deteriorates I’m scanning them to my computer for safe keeping. I’ll eventually transfer them to a thumb drive so they won’t be lost due to the death of a computer.
Pictures of us in our traditional ‘sister dresses’ was always a great photo opportunity.
I’ve also come across pictures of other families; kids we grew up with, neighbor kids and old pals. I’m scanning some of my favorites and then sending them in a quick email. Reconnecting with old friends on Facebook gives me better odds of finding my long lost buddies. Not everybody's mother kept every picture ever taken and back in the old days it was cumbersome and somewhat expensive to get extra prints made to make sure everybody got the picture.
It’s fun to share a memory from our youth, back in the good old days. Sometimes the best gifts are simple and easy, especially when they come from the heart. Who knows, it might just make their day.
I am loving Etsy. I haven’t sold many pillows but I’m learning more and more about marketing and in the meantime am having fun finding beautiful treasures from all over the world. Here's a quick look at some of my favorites.
I spotted this plaque from France and I had to have it. The color is beautiful, I love the wear and tear and the nice woman I purchased it from lives in France and has the most wonderful collection of French goods. We were in Paris a few years ago and had such fun photographing signs like this. The number 28 is perfect because it’s the day we got married 20 years ago. It arrived wrapped carefully in a French newspaper, which of course I am saving for some future project.
Here’s the link to her shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/sissidavril?ref=seller_info
This little shop in Italy is filled with beautifully hand crafted pieces like these felted bowls
These great looking soaps are made in Pennsylvania. I can tell they probably smell as wonderful as they look. http://www.etsy.com/shop/SweetSallysSoaps?ref=seller_info
I love that I can type in the words “woolen mittens” and suddenly I have choices of hand knit mittens from all over the world. It’s fun to read about the sellers of my favorites and see the enthusiasm they bring to their work.
Give Etsy a try. There’s still time before Christmas if you don’t go too far across the world for your shopping. The sellers will let you know if they can get it to you by the 25th. It’s definitely a great place to hang out and shop. Best of all, you get to purchase directly from the talented people who love making their art and are so excited when you buy from them.
I’m in the mood for a give-away and have been trying to think of some fun, entertaining way to make it happen. I would like to get The Janet Brown Studio Facebook page up to 100 “likes.” If you can help me do that by December 15th you will be eligible to win my 2012 Christmas pillow (the one in the middle down there). It’s screen printed from my original design listing all the wonderful things that we all love during the Christmas holidays.
If you’ve already “liked” the page you are already in the running, but in order to reach the goal of 100 you’ll have to help me by encouraging your friends to like it too by sharing the post (no 100=no winner). The more the merrier. I will put all the names into the random generator and announce the winner by the 16th and mail your pillow to you in time to toss it on your sofa for Christmas. Follow this link for the Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/janetshouseandgarden.
For those of you not on Facebook, stay tuned. There’s something else coming your way. Thanks everyone and good luck!
Happy December, Happy Holidays and Happy Monday!!
This year instead of my traditional Christmas wreath of greens, holly, pinecones and a big red bow, I decided to get crafty.
Like many things I do, I get inspiration and ideas from somewhere else. I saw this beautiful wreath on the Terrain website. That’s a real Amaryllis bulb attached to the twig wreath and the nice folks there were offering a how-to. I love a good how-to and was instantly inspired. I just thought it was a bit too plain for Christmas and if the Amaryllis didn’t bloom at the right time I would be very disappointed. I decided to see what I could do using my own ideas.
I crawled up in the attic because I was pretty sure I had an old twig wreath from several autumns ago. I found it and took it outside where I snipped off the sorry looking dried leaves and seed pods. Then I hosed off the dust and let it dry while I assembled everything I thought I might need.
I love using live things but I also love having my wreath last throughout the season. I went to Michael’s and found this beautiful life-like Amaryllis silk flower and a nice little mix of faux greens. I think it’s kind of like cooking. I don’t do everything from scratch; sometimes I start with a ready-made product and add a little of this and a little of that to make it even better.
So that’s what I did with my old twig wreath. A little of this and a little of that. Some cut greens from the garden, including some interesting herbs that had gone to seed, bright green florist moss and a few false greens from the store. Most of them tucked in among the twigs and if they wouldn’t stay, I used green florist wire and a dab of hot glue. Pretty darn easy and I think if I didn’t tell you, you might even think I’d gotten an Amaryllis to bloom perfectly in season.
I'll be showing my work on these blogs: