Month: December 2016


Just  before Christmas, I passed on one of my all time favorite cookie recipe, and the easiest recipe in the cooking world, and yet I messed up on the ingredient list. Maybe I already had too much sugar in my system.  I know how frustrating it is to get a recipe that is wrong and I do sincerely apologize.  It is one thing to pass it on to a friend on one hand written recipe card, but sending it out over the “net” is another.  This is why cookbook authors have test kitchens and editors.

The Cookie Brittle recipe should be….

1 cup room temperature butter

1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup white granulated sugar

2 cups white, all purposed flour

1, 6 ounce package chocolate chips

Cream the butter, vanilla, salt and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy.  It is best to use a regular stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Mix in the flour gradually.  Add chocolate chips.

Press into a 15-1/2 x 10-1/2 inch pan.  The original recipe indicates a 15 x 13  pan, but that is an odd size and not very common.  I also like the thickness when it is in the 15-1/2 x 10-1/2 inch pan. When it is put in the larger pan, it is harder to spread out and bakes faster and end product is very  thin and crisp.   The key is to watch it closely while baking so it bakes to a nice golden brown, just like a good chocolate chip cookie.  I do not recommend baking it in a       9 x 13″ pan, however.  It gets too thick and looses the brittle consistency and not soft enough to be a good cookie or bar.  You can tell, I have quite a history with this recipe.

On a brighter note, the holiday weekend was busy and fun with family close by.  When the dust settles, it is nice to sit back and just enjoy being at home before starting the process of putting all the decorations away.   This is also my favorite time to have friends over for a more casual supper or perhaps lunch.   Everyones’s schedule is more open  and It extends the season in a very joyful, relax manner.

My winter garden…I am always amazed at the beauty of how snow and frost collect on trees and branches highlighting the structures of the plants without leaves or flowers.  It is another whole kind of beauty…everything at rest.  Winter has settled in for a bit.

img_0566 img_0567 img_1616 img_0604 img_0611


I took this picture through the window (and screen) the other morning after an evening of steady, slow snow with no wind. This is my view outside my kitchen window over my sink.   I love how the snow piled up on the ends of the birch limbs I have in a large urn out in my side garden.  Even without leaves or colorful flowers, the landscape is often very beautiful.



This is the last week before the big holiday weekend so the last gifts need to be wrapped and delivered and good things must come out of the kitchen soon.  I no longer bake a huge assortment of cookies, but rather make a few all time favorites.  Among them are Cookie Brittle, Scandinavian Almond Bars, Sugar Cookies and at least one batch of homemade chewy Caramels. Click on the photos below for the recipe. Recipes are from my Christmas Cottage book by Landauer Publishing.

Cookie Brittle
Cookie Brittle
Almond bars
Scandinavian Almond Bars
Sugar Cookies


Caramels are now the only candy I make for the holidays.  All others seem to be pale in comparison. I think you can now buy decorative candy wrappers either on line or in specialty kitchen shops. I happen to love the waxed paper approach…so authentically homemade.



There always seems to be one more person that pops up on your radar that you would like to gift with a little something or perhaps you need a hostess gift.

If you have extra tree ornaments, and who doesn’t, arrange them in a shadow box frame.  It is a quick DIY and so festive and so easy to use.  It can fit anywhere and add a bit of cheer to any space.img_0603

Placemats made from festive fabrics don’t even need piecing,  Just quilt with an over all design and roll up, add a candle and ribbon for a very quick gift that everyone can use.  I painted a simple snowman on black construction paper for the gift tag.

img_0588Make a simple potholder and combine with a tea towel and recipe cards.  I can’t think of anyone who cooks that can’t use all of these items.  The potholder is an extra project included in the WinterScape Project of the Month Program offered by Fons & Porter this month.

img_0535Hope these few recipes and suggestions spark some creative creativity at your house this busy season.

Here are a few more pictures from around my “decked halls”.

img_0597 img_0527 img_0523 img_0520 img_0517 img_0515 img_0508 img_0502 img_0530Happy Holidays to all of you,

My Best,







A long standing tradition at my house is to “dress” the beds for the holidays.  The day after Thanksgiving, holiday quilts and pillows are the first things to be unpacked.  Each year the combination changes and layering is definitely the approach.  On two of the beds, I decided to combine some antique quilts with some Thimbleberries quilts.  After all, my love of antique quilts ignited my whole career.  And, I love to show how this wonderful heritage craft has spanned so many generations.  Putting holiday quilts on the beds starts the holiday decorating season off with a bang and then things get added day by day.  There is nothing more inviting than a well dressed bed.

On one of the beds, I coordinated a few of my favorite red and blue antique quilts and rolled up a wonderful antique “brick” quilt into a bedroll and displayed with the pillows.  Simple directions are in Thimbleberries Christmas Cottage, published by Landauer Publishing and available from  This book is chocked full of great holiday decorating ideas.

img_0582 img_0583In our main guest suite, I have layered my classic (and first published pattern) Prairie Pines with an antique treasure.  The pillows are from Pottery Barn a few years back.  All are layered on the Heirloom Winter White quilt.  The pattern for the Prairie Pines quilt is included in the book, In Celebration of Quilting available from Landauer Publishing.  img_0550

On our bed, I have a personal favorite, One Way Triangles made with just two colors,  red and cream.  It was a project in Basic Beauties, a Thimbleberries publication from 2009.  It is topped off with the Holiday Table Mat from a Thimbleberries publication, A Creative Christmas, to pull all the colors together in the room. The pillow sham is from a block in the Hometown Christmas quilt from the Hometown Christmas Series, Volumes I-IVimg_0555



I think every nook and cranny is now decked out for the holidays and ready for entertaining or just a night of TV, a fire and popcorn.  Perhaps you might recognize some vintage Thimbleberries runners and quilts here and there.  Because I have so many, I don’t always have a chance to use them all every year but it is fun to pull out different ones and use them in different or atypical ways.  This is the view as you enter our front door.  The quilt on the back of the couch was featured in Love of Quilting by Fons & Porter a few yeas ago.  The black accents blend nicely with other black items in the room, as the pillows I made from a Moda holly print a few years back and balances the black granite surround on the fireplace.

img_0525I have also been using table runners on tables or sideboards hanging vertically over the side edge as I did here on the sideboard in the front entrance….a whole new way of viewing a table runner.  My chalkware Santa collection is at home on this unusual antique tool box.  Half the lid flips open to the interior space for (tools) or greenery in this case.  It also creates a flat surface for the Santa display.  The Merry Christmas sign was a find last year at Pottery Barn. This sign ties the entrance into the living space with the simple use of the color black. img_0544

The island runner is the Cottage Runner from the Thimbleberries Pine and Rose Cottage project book.  It is a nice big runner for my large island.  When I need the runner for serving a large buffet, I turn it vertically on the island and use it and the arrangement as a centerpiece with the addition of a few candles.img_0547

My china storage piece in the dining room fills one whole wall and is 5-1/2′ tall which creates a great space for decorating because it is too high to use for serving.   My approach is always to layer, layer and then layer some more, creating groupings  rather that using items individually.  And, as you can see behind the glass doors of the cupboard, I group items by color for a more massive visual impact.img_0511

img_0539The following are other spots around the house that have been decked out.  It is a fun time of the year to over-do.


Here, wax tree candles  and a celluloid reindeer are  nestled in an apothecary jar.  I used Epson salts at the base in the jar for a “snow”vignette on my kitchen counter.img_0512 img_0513

More antique celluloid reindeer displayed with reindeer plates and vintage bottle brush trees.


Sitting room fireplace mantle with carved wooded folk art Santas.


Living room fireplace mantle with mercury glass accessories.  The small picture resting against the larger picture is a framed antique German die cut ornament.  It is a nice way to preserve the paper ornament and a good way to display it.


Glitter houses made with cardboard house forms, Mod Podge and glitter.  I like Martha Stewart’s assortment of glitter.  This silver and brass combo blends nicely with my antique Christmas collectables.  When I run out of Mod Podge, I use a mixture of 1/2 white glue (like Elmer’s) and half water.


Winter Scape wall quilt mounted with double stick carpet tape on a large square of framed  ceiling tin. It is a kit that is now available from the Thimbleberries Project of the Month collection for Fons and Porter.  This is a small project that you really could still get made either for your own decorating and gifts.


Here the Mitten, Mitten Table Runner is used on the back of a couch that is visible from my dining room.  Truly a long time favorite of mine.  The pattern for the project is in You’re  Invited which is available from Landauer Publishing.  It is another way to use a runner other than on a table.


All of my red mittens, vintage and new, have found their way into “big blue”…the wonderful hand turned large wooden bowl on the floor in front of our fireplace in the sitting room.

Watch for more decorating and gift ideas next week.  Enjoy “fussing up” your house  with all of your treasures. It is time for me to stop….the house is full.