Merry Princemas!

Prince is an example of how far you can get with confidence. Homeboy was a 5′ 3″ Jehovah’s Witness who insisted on staying in Minnesota. He wore guyliner, ruffled shirts and heels, and STILL pulled off being a sex symbol to women everywhere. He just owned it.

The loss of his talent hurt more than when Michael Jackson died. It was without the infamy of sex abuse allegations, and as an artist, he wrote his own music and played his own instruments. So I expressed my grief in a creative way. In the winter of 2017 we placed a Princemas tree in our front yard! It was…everything.

I spray-painted a white tree purple, with purple lights, purple ornaments, and nestled his head on top – ringed by an angelic halo of silver tinsel.

This cheeky homage cheered up my neighbors, then strangers. I’d pass by my living room window and see revelers taking photos outside. So I added a chair with a purple pillow, and a chalkboard sign urging visitors to take photos. Then  #MerryPrincemas popped up online, with our tree. Unlike most dreaded comment sections, it was pure cheer.

Then letters started arriving in the mail – holiday cards from strangers thanking us. Soon after, we came home to see people had added purple icicle lights, with a cool dripping effect. Someone had even fixed the stand so the tree would not blow over in high winds.

The tree made a return for the 2018 holiday season. And with an upgrade – white doves.

Merry Princemas, everyone!

Pumpkin Spice and All Things Nice

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Its been a couple of weeks since my last post, but not for a lack of writing! As the lifestyle blogger for Ladles and Linens, I’m knee-deep in test recipes and kitchen gadgets, and thought I’d share some tidbits here. I’ll serve up the posts menu-style, so you can click on what you’d like. Happy reading, and as always, thanks for being here.

Pizza personality chart! What do your toppings say about you? Read here and find out.

Can turmeric cure the blues? Here are five everyday spices, and their surprising health benefits!

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The Great Pumpkin Spice Debate: Pumpkin spice has gone beyond the latte; they’re even making pumpkin-spiced Spam!  Is this a well-deserved craze, or is the whole PSL thing overrated?

Oh. My. Gourd. Many decorate with gourds this time of year, but few savor the flavor. Turns out butternut and spaghetti squash are the most commonly eaten gourds, while most others remain unenjoyed. Here are some recipes and tips for making the most of this season’s harvest!

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Smokey Mountain High

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Nothing can disrupt the serenity of a misty mountaintop like a big, loud Arab family. We likely scared the deer and complicated hunting season in the Smokey Mountains.

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If a mansion and a cabin had a baby, it would be our grand lodge, which housed multiple generations of our family, and comfortably. There was an indoor pool, hot tubs overlooking the Smokey Mountains, a game room and movie theatre.

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If those walls could talk, our names would come up often. We had gambling marathons that went into the wee hours of the morning. There were pancake and mimosa-laden brunches. There was a rather intense Newlywed Game (none of the couples were newly-wed) that ended with an uncle who literally took a pie to the face.

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Best of all, we had long talks and belly-aching laughter on those wrap-around porches. We had three stories of porches to choose from. Sometimes on the top level, the boomers shared childhood memories of Ramallah, while on the ground floor, tween cousins told ghost stories.  Whether sipping morning coffee and reminiscing, or sloshing bourbon at midnight while running away from an errant raccoon, the mountaintop views kept us on those rocking chairs outside.

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I walked away thinking about how every generation improves from the last one. When my father’s side of the family emigrated from Palestine to Chicago, they had nothing. Like most of the immigrant stories you’ve heard, they worked hard so that their kids could get a formal education and a better life. We delivered on that; it’s the least we could do. To think they went from washing dishes in Cicero dives because they couldn’t speak English, to comfortable grandparents, watching multiple generations luxuriate in such accommodations.  They felt proud, we felt lucky, and the youngest generation? We’ll see about them.

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extravagant mother’s day brunch takes the crepe

Mother’s Day is a holiday that touches everyone. Whether you have a mother or lost one, you are a mother or admire one, it’s thoughtful to set aside time to nurture a nurturer.

That’s what stylist Kristy Kostyniuk did when she and her friends Jennifer Miller and Rose Steed hosted a Mother’s Day Brunch that included not just their mothers, but a curated catch-all. Friends who were far from their mothers, lost a mother, and friends who happen to be moms happily accepted invitations.

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The ladies spent hours pouring batches of buttery, paper thin crepes. The elaborate spread featured sweet and savory options. There were small-batch jams from local farms, sliced fruit, Nutella, dark chocolate and homemade whipped cream.

Before brunch began, there was a very European spread of croissants, rugalas and scones, all displayed on vintage trays and eye-catching textiles.  Baby pink peonies and fuchsia daisies were everywhere.

On the savory side there were eggs, cheeses, bacon, cured meats, potatoes and more. We lounged and sipped mimosas, swapped stories and repeatedly excused ourselves with a, “Just one more crepe.”

When we couldn’t fit in another bite, the overlapping conversations made their way to the backyard. We sunned ourselves and watched the children dart around  chasing butterflies. Their faces were stained and hands sticky from popsicles. It was an afternoon of leisure and guilty pleasures. As if being a mom weren’t a gift enough.

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The gracious host, Kristy Kostyniuk and her mother
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sweet as pie

I’m Dreaming of a Vintage Christmas

One of the best things about Christmas is how old-fashioned it is. We indulge in pastimes that we’d never do outside the holiday season. We listen to Bing Crosby, make gingerbread houses, trim a tree and drink eggnog.

The Vintage Home Market celebrates all the things you can do to warm up your home when it’s cold outside. From glittering garland to vintage sleighs, this place will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

BBQ tacos – heaven

Owners Heidi and Jason McNamara threw an amazing VIP opening night, where shoppers could get first dibs. There was live music, kickin’ BBQ, cold beer and a photo booth so decked out, it makes the step and repeat obsolete.

Owners Jason and Heidi McNamara – pros at making magic

Some standout vendors include:

The Naked Goat Soap Company – soaps, lotions, candles and more. The best part? It’s made locally by Heather, who lives on a Hanover farm with her goats and happy family. The Gather-scented candle smells of balsam pine, and is everything.

Burlap, Booths and Southern Roots

The name alone, am I right? It’s a one year-old store run by a feisty blonde and filled with the kind of boots that become heirlooms. They also sell jewelry, farm tables and boho-chic threads.

Then there’s Chocolate Moonshine Company.  Their assortment of chocolates stirs the imagination, with cherry bourbon, dark chocolate pistachio and rum. Free samples and some of the best chocolates I’ve ever had.

There’s still one day left.  Catch the event this Saturday, November 11th from 9a-5p at Richmond Raceway.  Happy Holidays!

Seven Ways to Beat the Post-Holiday Blues

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Some spend New Year’s Day packing up ornaments. I’d rather sleep in and go to brunch. I’m in the league of defiant revelers that leave their holiday lights up through the first week of January. Why? Because we’re trying to stave off the impending doom of a long, cold winter. In fact, many believe that all the hoopla surrounding Christmas is just a way to distract us from the misery gaining steam outdoors.

Here’s how to keep your spirits up after the holidays:

A Little Twinkle

We’re all a little taken aback at how stark a room looks when stripped of holiday accoutrements. Hold on to a strand of white lights, and wrap them around an indoor tree, or gather them into an oversized glass vase, to keep a bit of sparkle in your home.

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Getting Fresh

Don’t toss those candy canes! Swirl them as swizzle sticks in your hot cocoa or mocha. Smash them to pieces and lay them in an empty Altoids tin to use as mints on the go. And if it really feels like you’re going cold turkey after the holidays, here’s a little-known fact: You can get peppermint mochas at Starbucks year-round, though they don’t advertise it.

Get Moving

It’s no secret that working out is good for your heart, but the endorphins improve your mood and the exertion results in a great night’s sleep. Besides, when you peel off your sweater this Spring, how nice would it be to find a strong, lean body beneath it?

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Busted court aside, my favorite ways to blow off steam are tennis, yoga and dancing

Get the Party Started

Plan a small party! It’s so much easier to corral your loved ones in January than it is at the height of the holiday season. Plus, everyone needs something to look forward to. My go-to this year will be an Oscar party! Since it’s a weeknight and the show runs late, it will be a pajama party. People will be cozy, well-fed and filled with Prosecco. Go LaLa Land!

Green is Golden

If you can’t spend ample time outdoors, bring the outdoors in. Buy a palm and place it by a sunny window.

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Add whimsy to plants you bring indoors, with funny planters and conversation pieces

Doors to Enlightenment

So your holiday wreath is down. It doesn’t mean your home should go unadorned. Have something beautiful waiting for you every day when you return. There are plenty of gorgeous wreaths you can use year-round. You can even create one.

Think Spring

Spring may be a few months away, but now is a perfect time to imagine how you’d like to use the green space outdoors. Whether planning a vegetable patch or a fire pit, enjoy researching the best place to plant, the best deals on materials and read reviews if thinking of buying plants or seed online. My son is obsessed with blueberries, and I’m a fan of raspberries. When Spring arrives, I won’t be making a mad dash to plant these bushes before the heat of summer sets in.

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We added this pergola to our home to accommodate our Concord grapes – Max not included

…and then before you know it, the holidays will be back.

Happy 2017!

 

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

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If you’re throwing a holiday party, rest assured yours will be one of many during the season. What can you do to make your party stand out? Everyone will have cocktails and a nice spread, but I’m all for an activity that keeps people engaged, whether they’re laughing or crafting. A cookie decorating area with to-go bags add more to do and an instant party favor.

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The Spiked Peppermint Cocoa was adorned with a candy cane in each cup.

This year, I put together a photo booth at my Christmas party. Holiday-themed props are easy to come by; Santa hats, reindeer andlers, red nose etc. I threw in a couple of converation pieces, such as a plastic butcher knife from Halloween. It guarantees funnier photos.

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And along with my friend Jules, we hosted a Yankee Swap (or, a White Elephant Exchange). All guests were encouraged to bring a wrapped present, unmarked. All presents were piled under the tree, and people drew numbers. Guests took turns picking out a gift, and the following players had the opportunity to steal a gift they coveted.

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Grinch santa hats

From stacks of lottery tickets to a box full of DVDs, guests laughed, lamented and stole items from one another – multiple times. From the next room, it almost sounded as if I had a movie theater in-house, as all the reactions were loud and silumtaneous. As the exchange got more heated, I passed out slices of pumpkin pie and refilled drinks, such as Jules’ spiced mulled wine and my spiked peppermint hot cocoa.

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Happy holidays to all!

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Hamilton helping with the set-up
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Part of the fun is destroying him
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Canapes: Mexican polenta bars and artichoke parmesan spread over toasted baguette slices
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Yes, someone brought a case of beer to the Yankee Swap
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The Yankee Swap gets heated!

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