Silver Bells :: Slow, Simple, Magical

via Etsy

Silver bells
Melodious
Beautiful
Simple
Festive
Ringing
sweetly,
gently.
Harmonious

When we think of silver bells we think of the sounds and the songs of the season, horse-drawn carriages, and one particular song that evokes the very essence of the Christmas season.


City sidewalks busy sidewalks .
Dressed in holiday style
In the air
There's a feeling
of Christmas
Children laughing
People passing
Meeting smile after smile
And on every street corner you'll hear

Silver bells silver bells
It's Christmas time in the city
Ring a ling, hear them ring
Soon it will be Christmas day

Strings of street lights
Even stop lights
Blink a bright red and green
As the shoppers rush
home with their treasures

Hear the snow crunch
See the kids bunch
This is Santa's big scene
And above all this bustle
You'll hear
Silver bells, silver bells
It's Christmas time in the city
Ring-a-ling, hear them ring
Soon it will be Christmas day

As with the evergreen, the candy cane, the silver bell is a simple way to add a touch of sparkle and song to your holiday decor... whether to your home, tree, holiday table, or gift wrap, the silver bell adds beauty and the magic to your home in the most simple yet spectacular of ways!


via Lily Pad Cottage

via Lily Pad Cottage

via Nordic House

via Pinterest

via The Idea Room

via Williams Sonoma

Jessica

Welcome December!


I love this month. I think it may be my favorite month of the year. It's merry and bright. It's joyous and happy and filled with magic and wonder, for children of all ages!
Be sure to pop in often as we share tips on decor, fashion and share fabulous recipes!

Let the season inspire you...
Let yourself be inspired by the season!
Lose yourself in all the wonder, merriment, sights and smells!

To me December is about baking and singing and decorating,
Cuddling up with the children and loved ones, sipping warm cups of cocoa by the fire and watching our favorite holiday movies...
It's about picking out the perfect tree, decking the halls,
and wrapping gifts... 
It's about cheer...

I love the smells of ginger and peppermint and pine and warm holiday baking...
I love to hear the carols and sing along
I love to see all the world lit up and dressed up in her glory
I love the spirit on the season and the smiles on the faces
I love the pretty trees,
The pretty packages tied up with strings,
The sparkle of it all,
The magic
And the merriment!








Happy Holidays!
Jessica

Stylish Notes on Holiday Decor :: All That Glitters is Gold

via Buzzfeed

There's something about a can of spray paint. It's like magic. There's something about a can of gold spray paint. It IS magic. It's amazing how the simplest of items can be so magically transformed. A little paint adds elegance and glamor without any effort at all. I find gold to be dramatic and luxurious and very festive. Gold complements any holiday decor. There's no better or easier way to dress up your home or your holiday table, whether it's Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter or any holiday for that matter, than with the addition of a few simple gold things. If your style is more relaxed look no farther than out your window...

via The Entertaining House

via The Entertaining House

I spray painted these pine cones with an antique gold last year. Some were arranged in a large glass bowl, with gold balls of varying sizes, and some were placed on a platter with acorns, also spray painted, and a large pillar candle to dress up a coffee table. I've painted all sorts of shells and twigs and river rocks. The possibilities are endless! And what I love most about spray paint, it's fool proof, mistake proof. Really, try for yourself!

Below are some lovely images to help inspire you.


via Buzzfeed

via Naptime Designs

via Colin Cowie

Now while these taxis may not be the appropriate vehicle for Thanksgiving - I believe these were for a wedding - why not find some small plastic sail boats and paint those gold. What fun for a children's table!

Wonderful Palmetto Life

via Pinterest (original source unknown)

via Design Sponge

The salt and pepper dishes made from oyster shells and some gold paint are absolutely stunning.

With Thanksgiving just a week away, have you started your planning?

Jessica

Holiday Eye Candy :: Wreaths

Today's post is a visual one...
Christmas Wreaths aren't what they used to be. They're more than a piece of green evergreen twisted into a circle and fitted with a red bow... They've become so much more. They're not all red and green anymore... They're not all made of pine anymore... I have chosen images simple, rustic and some which are more elegant in nature... I hope you enjoy the images below and are inspired to create one of your own... 


Wreath
via Designmom


Use a pack of dollar store snowflakes for this...
visit Better Homes and Gardens to make this simple wreath!



...with lemons
via Foodista


Love the idea of hanging a fun colored glass ornament wreath to a display case.
Better Homes and Gardens


Wreath & Chalkboard
via Say Yes to Hoboken


via Tumblr

Little finds for Christmas
via Tumblr


Let it snow!
via Dream Weaver


love this!
via Vita Ranukler


.
via Better Homes and Gardens


chair wreath- great for guest of honor at a shower or party
via Tumblr


Decorating: Holiday Wreaths - Traditional Home®
via Traditional Home


Christmas. beautiful decor.
via Design Chic


Ice and holly berry wreath.
via Tumblr


Here's a toast to a lovely, warm and festive weekend!
Cheers!

XOXO

Jessica




Wishing you all a Magnificent Monday! (Hoping you all had a fun and holiday-filled Weekend!)



It's Monday
I thought we could all use a little extra help!

My children and I had a delightful, fun-filled weekend. We attended a wonderful Christmas performance by The Boston Pops on Saturday night followed by a trip to the New York Botanical Gardens yesterday where we saw the magnificent train show. This isn't your ordinary train show. Here replicas are made of all the major New York Ciy landmarks. We saw Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, John F Kennedy International Airport and the old TWA building. We saw replicas of Rockefeller Center, The Chrysler Building, The Empire State Building, The Original Pennsylvania Station which no longer exists. We saw St. Patrick's Cathedral, The George Washington Bridge and many, many other wonderful buildings - too numerous to mention! What's special and unique about this particular show is that each building and landmark is constructed entirely from nature - flowers, trees, branches... it's really wonderful and quite unique.
The New York Botanical Gardens is a quick drive from Westchester and Fairfield Counties and an easy subway ride from Manhattan and surrounding burroughs.
For more information visit their website here.


Lady Liberty


Ellis Island


The Lycee Francais de New York
I took particular delight in the above building which is where I attended elementary school!



The Frick Collection


The New York Public Library


The Metropolitan Museum of Art


St. Patrick's Cathedral


Rockefeller Center, The Empire State Building and The Chsysler Building

I hope your weekend was fabulous and that you were able to deck some halls and do some shopping. (I've made a really good dent!) I hope your kitchens looked like little bombs of flour and sugar went off all over the place and that the Christmas tunes were playing and that you were all singing along... I hope your homes smelled of pine and ginger and crackling fireplaces... and that little (and not so little) ones were laughing all the way! I hope the holiday spirit is among you all.


Make your Monday a Magnificent one!

XOXO

Jessica

Holiday Baking :: The long and shortbread of it!

Some people adore shortbread, others not so much. Rich, sweet and buttery, this decadent treat simply melts in your mouth. There are many variations and but the core recipe is basic - butter, sugar, flour... there are no eggs in shortbread which makes it an ideal gift for those with egg alergies. It's one of the easiest kinds of cookies, in my opinion, to bake and when baked in a pie tin, and sliced in thin slices, makes for an elegant and simple treat, no matter how you fancy it up.

A couple of years go I made Peppermint Shortbread Stars

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House

I used a classic shortbread recipe.
  • 3/4 pound butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 - 2 tbs vanilla
  • 2 cups of vanilla *frosting, canned or home made
  • Food coloring, your choice
  • Mini candy canes in individually wrapped (about 6)

DIRECTIONS



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.


In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and 1 cup of sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla. Add flour to the to the butter-and-sugar mixture. . Mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. You can either wrap the dough and refrigerate for later use or roll dough and start cutting into desired shapes with the cookie cutter of your choice. Be sure to liberally apply flour to your work surface as well as your rolling pin.


As cookies are cut place them onto your cutting board. When ready bake for about 15 minutes until golden brown. (May require up to 20 minutes)

As the cookies are baking use a rolling pin and carefully smash the miniature candy canes. (Or you can buy pre-crushed peppermint.)

When cookies have cooled you can start to decorate. You can use store bought frosting or make your own icing. If you use store bought, color it with food coloring to get the desired shade. Then add about 2 Tbs of water to the container and mix well.

Using a pastry knife or butter knife carefully spread the frosting on to the cookie. Once the cookies have been covered (I usually do this in batches) shake some of the peppermint candy cane crumbs on to the cookie. A little goes a long way for a perfectly and not overwhelmingly pepperminty cookie! Cookies frosted with a canned frosting will need a longer time for the icing to harden, at least overnight.

Recipe for Royal Icing:


3 egg whites
1 lb. confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 tsp. almond extract or white vanilla extract


Place all ingredients in bowl and beat on medium high for a full 10 minutes. Icing will become thick and glossy but will not increase in volume. Keep covered with damp cloth while using, removing small portions to bowl as needed. Tint if desired. To thin, add a few drops of water. Royal icing hardens with a nice sheen.

Orange et Chocolat
I adore the combination of orange and chocolate and a few years ago I created these decadent treats for a good friend of mine and she thought they were simply to die for, every year since, at Christmastime, I make these for her.

img_0822
Property of jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House
I used to make these as cookies, but I found it much too labor-intensive so I make, and present it as a tarte and the dessert can be served in bars (as pictured above)or in lean slices. I also found that it is easier to make this in a tarte pan as you can pull the sides apart and then slide the pastry right off the base on to a pretty plate. The shape of the tarte makes a perfect presentation at the dinner table, dessert table or as a gift.
Ingredients:
1 stick plus 2 Tbs. butter
3/4 Cup of confectioners sugar
2 cups of flour
3/4 Cups of ground almond meal
2 tsp. of vanilla
2 tbs. of orange zest (optional)
1 Jar of good quality marmalade
1 Cup of semi sweet chocolate chips
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a mixer beat together butter and sugar until well blended, add vanila, orange zest, almonds and flour. Blend well.
Place dough in a tarte pan making sure to push dough into all corners and that surface is as evenly covered as possible.
Place in oven for 15 minutes.
In a small saucepan heat jam so that it gets soft enough to be able to spread with a spoon.
When the 15 mimnutes is done, open the oven and pull out tarte. Using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula carefully spread melted jam evenly over the dough — leave at least 1/4 inch around the edge so the crust will not stick to the sides.
Place back in oven for 15 more minutes.
In another saucepan create a double boiler if you don’t have one, and melt chocolate.
When chocolate has melted pour into a pastry bag with small tip attached and pipe chocolate on to the marmalade mixture on the tart.
Place in freezer to cool and set.
Remove sides from tarte pan and slide onto a pretty serving dish when ready to serve!

Cherry Almond Linzer Tart
A slight twist on the old favorite. I love raspberry jam but it is quite sweet. A really good cherry jam (Hero, Bonne Mamman) with a slightly sweet-tart flavor is the perfect topping for the basic shortbread crust. If you wanted to dress it up you could melt some white chocolate (about 1 cup) and pour it into a pastry bag and using a fairly small pastry tip pipe a pretty pattern over the top. As with my Tarte au Chocolat et Marmalade below this can be cut up into bars for easy handling at a party, or cut into thin slices for a more elegant look.

img_0830
Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House
Ingredients:
1 stick, plus 2 tbs of butter
2 cups of flour
1 cup of confectioners sugar
3/4 cups of almond meal (can be done by pulsing almonds in food processor)
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
1 jar of high quality cherry jam
1 cup white chocolate chips for melting, optional.
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In a mixer blend together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add vanilla, flour and almond meal. Mix well
Pour dough into tart pan and spread evenly.
Place in oven for 15 minutes,
Meanwhile in a small saucepan heat jam until it becomes soft and spreadable
When the 15 minutes is up remove the tart pan from the oven and spread the jam over the top as evenly as possible, leaving about a half an inch at the edge
Place back in the oven for another 15 minutes.
Remove and let cool.
(Pipe with white chocolate if desired, which I usually do with a pretty design and I'm not sure why I didn't! Then set in fridge of freezer to set)

Chocolate Shortbread with Peppermint Bark

It all started a week ago with an image on Pinterest. It was a chocolate shortbread recipe. I, of course, unable to leave anything alone, must tinker and adjust and create. It's the holidays and time for baking rediculous extravantly, decadent recipes that our wasitlines loathe... so this is chocolate shortbread taken to a new level!

Property of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House
The chocolate shortbread is baked in the oven, then topped with melted semi-sweet chocolate and then topped with crushed Peppermint Bark that the geniuses over at Trader Joe's have come up with!
Ingredients:
8 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup of butter, (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups of flour

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325
Melt 8 oz unsweetened chocolate (Bakers, 4 squares) with 2 sticks of butter
When melted pour into an electric mixer fitted with paddle attachment and add 2 cups of flour 1 1/2 cups of sugar, and the vanilla, which I never measure and always eyeball.
When all blended, can be rough in texture, divide batter into 2 equal parts and line 2 pie tins with mixture.
Bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes.
Remove from oven and add enough chocolate chips over the top to cover evenly.
Turn oven off and leave in for a couple of minutes until the chocolate softens.
Using a rubber or silicone sptatula, spread the chocolate evenly over the top. Sprinkle generously with crushed peppermint bark.
Place in fridge or freezer for a quick harden or leave out overnight.
If your gift list is anything at all like mine, it helps to have a few simple and yet pretty treats to package up and give away!

Wishing you all Sweet Saturdays!
XOXO
Jessica



A Stylish Guide to Teacher's Gift This Holiday Season


Not all teachers drink, and I wouldn't necessarily gift wine to all my children's teachers,
but I think this would be such a fun gift for a teacher!


Salt & Pepper

I love serial thriller's salt and pepper grinders! How fun, unique and different!

scrub
Homemade gifts like this lemon salt scrub are always appreciated,
and can be gifted alone or paired with a gift certificate
to a salon near their home (as opposed to near the school)
for a day at the spa or a manicure and pedicure
if class parents want to give a group gift.
The lemon scrub recipe above is simple and can be found on the Martha Stewart website.


a rainbow of notebooks

My Shaeffer Snorkel Fountain Pen.
via Tumblr
Pretty notebooks, stationery, note cards and pens are always a lovely treat!




Gardening without a Garden: 10 ideas for your patio or balcony

A pretty potted plant to last throughout the years...


Organic Gardening (2-year) « Delay Gifts

Does your teacher have a hobby or anyhting she's passionate about? How about a gift for the gardener, 
or a magazine subscription for the gardener, or any hobby or passion?

Does she like to cook, or bake?


I adore this autobiographical, recipe-filled book that's all about the family dinner. It would make a great book for any food-loving teacher. A few months ago I went to hear Jenny Rosenstrach read an excerpt at the Darien Library. Her stories resonated with me immediately. Not only is this book fantastic,
but her blog of the same name is as well!


and homebaked goods are always appreciated!

beautiful packaging!
via dustjacket attic

White Chocolate Rocky Road..with dried cranberries and macadamia nuts
via G-free foodie

vanilla bean caramel sauce . . . might be a great homemade gift • annie's eats
Something like a homemade vanilla bean caramel sauce doesn't have to be enjoyed immediately. (As your teacher may indeed get lots of edible treats!) It can be made in large batches and gifted to several teachers, or friends and neighbors.
This recipe can be found at Annie's Eats.


LV charm
via Tumblr

Perhaps a charm for her charm bracelet? There are plenty of reasonably priced charms available.

Please refrain from tote bags and ornaments, as teachers have more than they can count!

Candles are tricky as they can have offensive smells...So if you choose to gift a candle you must be very careful to select one that is mild, more floral than sweet...


Diptyque - Baies Candle - Saks.com

DIY Wedding: How To Create Wedding Candle Centerpieces. wedding ideas #koyal @Koyal Wholesaleesale

Plain white candles in pretty little votives decorated with wasabi tape would make a lovely gift... Does your teacher have certain colors that she adores?

Most teachers love to read... find out what's on her wish list....

The Paris Wife

or perhaps a gift card to a bookstore where she could purchase a book or a Kindle or Nook edition...

Gorgeous tea cups
Via Bella Cupcakes

A pretty tea cup along with a box of nice tea always makes for a lovely gift.
You could do the same thing with coffee, if your teacher prefers such.

Please, I've been asked to tell you all, hold off on the tchotchkes and cutesy-cutesy gifts. A seasoned teacher will have too many of these already.

Teachers need to be organized...


I need a calendar for the new year!
via Kate Spade
A calendar or other organization tool would make for a lovely gift!


I hope I've given you all some inspiration and ideas... if you have any that I have not mentioned, please feel free to leave a comment and share them! I have 3 kids and am always looking for ideas!

Have a wonderful weekend!

XOOX,

Jessica



Business & Social Holiday Party Etiquette


Baron Christopher Hanson and his better half, Emilie Dulles are Twitter friends of mine. He recently  tweeted me the link to a business article he wrote. With spot-on accuracy, he guided and advised his readers on how to be "Rock Stars" at holiday parties this holiday season. As I read, I thought that these helpful tips and reminders shouldn't be confined to the boardroom, but should be followed by everyone attending a holiday event this season, whether it be an office party or a cozy, intimate gathering with close friends.
Hanson gives his definition of a Rock Star. These people are "the mindful, sharp, leadership-oriented people that everyone in the room would like to meet — or potentially work with." We've all seen them. No matter where the setting, whether it be an office party, private club, a gala or a family dinner, the Rock Stars truly stand out from the crowd. 
Here are six tips  that Hanson gives us for creating stellar holiday experiences everywhere you go:
Champagne
via Tumblr
Bring a bottle of something spectacular. If you don’t know your host’s personal favorite, work your magic to acquire the intel. Fine bottles of wine, champagne, or spirits are a memorable gift that set the tone for you as a guest attending any gathering. Exclusive bottles may cost a little more than everyday purchases, yet the sincerity and gesture, if you can afford such, are worth the splurge. 


love
via Kate Spade
Dress well for each occasion. Not only does dressing well honor your company, your host and yourself, but you will likely end up on Facebook one way or another. Rock stars always dress sharply, make society page editors proud and look impressive on social media.



Marry your best friend
via Tumblr
Speak positively at all times. Politics, religion, and taxes are topics that rarely lead to smiles. Keep your conversations positive, maintain a healthy subject matter, and steer conversations to focus on others. Mutual goals, new commitments, exciting travel and activity plans, a new business, or how well friends and family are doing are ideas usually lead to smiles. Everyone loves to smile!



mini appetizers
via Exquisite Wedding Magazine
Eat. Nothing hurts a host’s feelings more than having their guests not eat what they’ve served. Don’t be shy. Encourage everyone to enjoy. Low blood sugar is anti-rock star.




via Ritzybee.typepad
Be “that guy or gal” who works a last-minute miracle for the host. One secret every host keeps in reserve is a rock star backup — someone poised and ready to handle the inevitable last-minute contingency. Low on ice, two guests are vegan, Christmas lights burn out — you get the idea. Rock stars acquire and install solutions quickly and quietly.




Thank you notes are always the proper thing to do.
via Pinterest
Send thank-you notes. Everyone entertains, attends dinner parties and socializes via “old school” engraved or letterpress invitations. Old-school manners and etiquette are worth more to relationships than any gold, especially if coworker and associate families are involved. If you send a hand-written thank-you using fine stationery, you will be remembered as an elegant and mindful rock star this holiday season, and someone to connect with in 2013.


Baron Christopher Hanson is the principal of Goal Line PR, a boutique marketing, direct mail, and prepress management firm based in Charleston, S.C., and Washington, D.C. A former rugby player and a Harvard graduate, he can be reached via e-mail or at (843) 641-0331.

Emilie Dulles is the founder of Dulles Designs, an exquisite stationery company, located in Charleston, South Carolina. Her company caters to brides, hostesses and corporations in the US and abroad. 

The weekend will be here before we know... Are you ready to work your Rock Star?

XOXO,


Jessica


Delicious Decadence :: Eggnog Pound Cake


Photo propterty of Jessica Gordon Ryan and The Entertaining House

Your mouth will thank me... your lips will sing... your tastebuds will do the tango
This is THE best pound cake I have ever had. HANDS DOWN.
I wasn't going to post two recipes back to back but I've several requests for this recipe and it really is too good not to share.


This is a crowd pleasure.
Want a raise? Make this for your boss.
Want to get married? Make this for your boyfriend.
This makes a lovely hostess gift, teacher gift, and it absolutely, unequivocally, without a shadow of a doubt must be served on your holiday dessert table. 
There is nothing like it.
Nothing.

IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD.

I promise you...
REALLY.
Leave this for Santa... You'll be sure to get some extra presents!
It's like magic... pure magic...
And, if you don't believe, this will make a believer out of you!

***

Equipment
Stand mixer with paddle attachment (or hand mixer and large bowl)
12-cup Bundt pan or tube pan or two large loaf pans, 6 small loaf pans greased and floured

Ingredients
2 sticks unsalted butter
3 cups (525 g) granulated sugar
6 eggs
3 cups (339 g) cake flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup (240 ml) eggnog (I always use light eggnog)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoon golden rum or rum extract (But you could add more!!)



Preparation
1. Preheat oven to 325° F/165° C.
2. Cut butter into chunks and cream. Gradually add sugar. Add eggs one at a time.
3. Stir together flour and nutmeg. Alternate flour and eggnog: one cup flour, 1/2 cup eggnog, one cup flour, the rest of the eggnog, and then the rest of the flour. Keep the mixer going slowly, scraping down the edges as necessary.
4. Stir in the vanilla and the rum, 
5. Pour into prepared pan(s) and place on the cookie sheet in the preheated oven. Bake for 90 minutes (in bundt pan, 50-60 minutes, loaf pan, 30 minutes cake pan.)
6. Allow to cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
7. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve. Also good with a scoop of ice cream on the side.

If using mini loaf pans check for doneness after 30 minutes, and then every 5 minutes or so, depending on how high you have filled them and whether you have used them (as I did) in conjunction with a regular sized loaf pan.

You can thank me for this later!


XOXO,

Jessica

It's Official!

Beautiful!
via  Desda my Venta


The Holiday Season is now here! I just love this season... I love everything about it!

I have boxes and bags of ornaments and decor sprawled out over my entire kitchen... I'm ready! Are you?

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving... that your bellies are full and you all had a lovely day with friends and loved ones. It's time to switch gears again and get our bells on!

I have a fairly busy day tomorrow. My children are with their father and I was hoping to magically transform this place overnight but alas, it will take a little longer... I hope to have a good bit done before the children get back on Saturday morning.

Maybe the images below will inspire me! I love decorating with nature and combining it with what I already have. We lost a lot of branches from our pines when Sandy hit our town. I pulled all the boughs and branches together, and all the pine cones that had fallen as well, and piled them over by the side of the house. I bought some spray paint for the pine cones... We shall see what I will come up with!

I also prefer simple and non-fussy ... it should reflect my lifestyle.


rosemary
via Confessions of a Plate Addict


via Ett Rott Monogram



tie gingham ribbon bows and jingle bells on white lights - so pretty!
via Living Home



Christmas Entry
via My Home Ideas




in the kitchen....
via Roomzar/HGTV



Red berries
via Pinterest



Ribbon Garland BHG
via Better Homes and Gardens




Simple Bay Leaf Garland via bhg
via Keeping the Christmas Spirit Alive




peppermint & antique silver
via Good Housekeeping



love the leaves and the ornaments
via Traditional Home



simple & sweet
via Pinterest


Are you inspired?
Are you ready?

XOXO


Jessica









it's a wrap!

I love the look of many packages together tied up with strings... especially when all the packages are uniform in color, style or theme. In the days before I had children I took such care to wrap each gift meticulously, with love and attention. The packages beneath my tree were less statements that there were gifts within, but seemed instead to be an extension of the tree and my holiday decor. Admittedly now, with never enough time to wrap, and three little ones who always get too much, wrapping has become more of a chore than a pleasant activity. These days it's more of a race against the clock in attempt to get everything done and hidden, and remove all evidence, before the children return. One day, I would like my tree to look as though it did before I had to rush... when I had the time to sit and wrap and relax at the end of the day with a glass or wine or warm cup of tea... when wrapping was fun and not a chore! Until then, I can still borrow from some of the clever ideas below!





Source: google.com via Jessica on Pinterest



Source: google.com via Jessica on Pinterest




















Have you finished your wrapping yet? Have you even started?

XOXO


This garland idea is for the birds!


I snapped this picture at my children's school this afternoon. My children attend a progressive and environmentally friendly school. I loved the idea and the look of this simple yet beautiful garland. How fun for  the children to decorate for the holidays while helping out our local wildlife! Made by stringing together some oat cereal (like Cheerios) on a long string together with cranberries and other dried fruit this lovely garland will help feed all the wonderful birds on the school's campus. I think this would be fun to try at home too!

Since sewing needles are required to get the cranberries on to the string, mothers or caretakers will need to help our littlest crafters.

XOXO

Ornaments: They're not just for trees anymore!

I'm wild on decorating with glass, metal, even plastic ornaments. They're so simple and so lovely and pack such a wow factor. I have been collecting them over the years. Except for a few remaining antique ornaments that have managed to survive the years without breaking, most of them are fairly new and all of them were inexpensive. I tend to shop for ornaments and things of that nature when Christmas is over when you can claim a bargain extraordinaire! I happened across some beautiful glass balls from Pottery Barn about 15 years ago, miraculously all 12 are still in tact. (I knock on wood as I type this!) I have boxes from the Christmas Tree Shops, buckets from Target and tubs from TJs. I hang the ornaments from chandeliers, place them in pitchers and arrange them in platters. There is no easier way to add an elegant yet relaxed Christmas touch to your home.














Source: bhg.com via Jessica on Pinterest






image courtesy The Entertaining House



image courtesy The Entertaining House



image courtesy The Entertaining House



image courtesy The Entertaining House



image courtesy The Entertaining House



image courtesy The Entertaining House



image courtesy The Entertaining House

The chandelier is still unfinished and awaiting some ornaments... or maybe some elegant bows instead? I'll play around tomorrow and keep you posted!

XOXO

 Jessica

finding Joy...


                                                                              Source: bhg.com via Jessica on Pinterest



It's a busy and hectic time of year. The pressure to create a perfect holiday season, perfect holiday memories, and perfect holiday decor can see overwhelming and often the joy and merriment of what the holidays should be get lost in the process. Sometimes we lose ourselves and sense of what's truly important this time of year. It's not about perfection. It's not about creating the greatest anything, it's about taking time to enjoy all of what the holiday season has to offer... it's about listening to the music... it's about getting your home ready for the season, but not about trying to strive for perfection because that will take the joy out of the very thing that should cause joy. I've recently let my kids help me and while it may not be to my style or to my taste, it's theirs and it makes them happy and proud. In turn that brings me much happiness. We'll bake our gingerbread and our sugar cookies. And some may be lopsided or perhaps even a little browner than they should be, but we'll fix our mistakes with frosting. The frosting will make it all better, and with frosting I say the more the merrier! I've learned something important over the years. It's ok to strive for perfection with some things, but sometimes we just have to let it go. The best memories are made when things don't necessarily go according to plan. Sometimes mistakes end up being our best gifts.

It's a season of giving. I've had a very hard time this year trying to get into the Holiday Spirit and there are days I have been more Grinch-like than jolly. I am the first to admit this. But I have three children and this holiday means so very much to them. I cannot let them down. I cannot disappoint. This season means the world to them and it's what's at the back of their minds all year long. I simply cannot let them down.

Our home is now almost all dressed in her holiday best. I keep the Christmas music on the radio at all times. The advent calendars come out tonight. The eggnog has been bought.

Tomorrow my children have no school. We'll bake and decorate ornaments and no matter how perfect or imperfect they are, we'll create memories... we'll have fun... we'll experience the joy that is meant to be experienced this time of year!

And I want to thank Wenderly's post on Joy... It was exactly what I needed this morning!

I'm headed out now to buy the rest of the ingredients for my fabulous Eggnog Pound Cake, candy canes, hot cocoa, glass ornaments that we will decorate, and whatever else I find that will bring Joy to everyone tomorrow!

XOXO

Jessica



Homemade Advent Calendars


My kids love and look forward to their advent calendars every year. I want to do something a little different this year and am toying with the idea of making my own. I love the idea of filling little boxes with inexpensive little goodies - chocolate coins, chapstick tubes, silly little nothings really,  but I also like the idea of creating an advent calender with fun Christmas related things to do - go on a Christmas lights drive, put on Christmas carols,  write letters to Santa, bake cookies... things of that nature, or maybe even create a little scavenger hunt. As usual I am looking for ideas that are simple and easy to create.










Source: google.com via Jessica on Pinterest















Source: ohhhmhhh.de via Jessica on Pinterest


Simple and lovely... simply lovely!

I think I like this idea!

XOXO

Jessica

A Thanksgiving message inspired by the river...

I love river rocks... I love the way they look and I love the way they feel in my open hand, against my skin... smooth and cool to the touch. Perhaps it is because they come from the river, and water has calming powers, that I find them so soothing. Their natural, organic beauty compliments any interior. I have seen many river rocks used as name cards, place holders, conduits of thoughts or well wishes and short inspirational messages. I love the way these rocks look nestled together in a large glass bowl in varying shades of the color gray, in their various shapes and sizes. And so I had a thought, wouldn't they make a lovely home for a simple Thanksgiving message? Perhaps each year guests and family members add something new allowing the collection to grow in both size and meaning.








Source: google.com via Jessica on Pinterest














Health
Family
Friendship
Love
Opportunity
Laughter
Sunshine
Strength
Hope
Grace...

What are some of the things you are thankful for?

XOXO

Jessica

Advent Calendars...


My kids love their advent calendars almost as much as they love Christmas.. They bring on the excitement of the season.


But why should the children have all the fun?


I've found one for myself this year. Yes, for me. But I'll be more than happy to share with you.

So what do you think?

Genius, isn't it?!







image via Style me Pretty who originally used them as table markers. 
I love the advent calendar idea better.Idea via Ali LaFleur


Jessica

Make your house a home for the (Thanksgiving) holidays...


Now that Halloween is over I switch into holiday mode. I simply love the holidays. I love the festivities and the spirit of happiness that the holidays bring. As we gather family and friends near and dear to us and hunker down in front of the fire place with glasses of warmed mulled wine, or mulled cider for the children, we take moments here and there to slow down... the air outside is crisp and energizing. Inside, we gather together for warmth and company. Once again we open our homes and hearts to those who mean the world to us. We prepare our homes, kitchens and bellies for the delicious treats the cooler weather brings us... Stove tops simmer with the aroma of apple pie, pumpkin breads, turkeys...  fireplaces crackle and the sounds of laughter can be heard round the house.

We start to think about our homes again as we prepare to entertain. We strive to make them inviting, comfortable, adding warm holiday touches here and there. This is the time of year I start to adorn my home, perhaps because I spend more time inside... perhaps because I bring friends and family inside... perhaps simply because I enjoy it so... perhaps because the children enjoy it so.

I'm always looking for new and fresh ideas that make a statement but are simple to create. I don't have much spare time these days for long-winded projects. I like to decorate my home in a way that is sophisticated, warm and simple. Below are some wonderful, unique and creative ideas that will not take up much of your time to get it holiday ready.


Source: goodhousekeeping.com via Jessica on Pinterest



I simply love the idea of collecting several old cheese graters and grouping them together with some dried flowers or pine cones and turning them into lovely luminaries. How simple and yet how elegant!




One cannot get much more simple than finding some branches fruited with lovely red berries, placing them in a vase filling it with water and adding a simple white candle!







Dress up your outdoor hurricanes with candles, pumpkins, gourds and anything else that nature can bring you -- twigs, acorns, pine cones... Instant holiday curb appeal!








A bit more labor-intensive, but simple none the less... dip some acorns in metalic paint and glitter to dress up  simple white candles.






Pine cones and ribbon ... hang these on your front door, from a simple wrought-iron chandelier, or perhaps on the back of a chair. This is a simple, non-fussy way to bring in the holiday.







I simply love glass ornaments. I think they should stay out all year. In fact, I have bright pastel colored ornaments in a trifle bowl in my daughter's bedroom and they stay out year round! They evoke a feeling of festivity. I absolutely love this ornamental wreath and I think this idea is genius! The elegance of simple ornaments in non traditional colors is a perfect way prepare your home for Thanksgiving.





And finally, some fall leaves glued onto a large letter make a perfect, simple, welcome!


I know it's still a bit early, but I am just about ready to put on the holiday music!
Are you excited for the holidays?

Jessica


Are you in a present pinch?

J.mcLaughlin has the best items for you last minute or idea-less shoppers. The following items are all under $150.



We have a great selection of holiday and cashmere socks. A perfect little stocking stuffer.



These adorable gloves have detachable fingers for those of us whom are addicted to our iPhones and Blackberries... $120





These bomber hats are all the rage. We have a huge selection of fabrics and colors. These hats are available in women and men's sizes. $125



These dopp kits are simply too good to pass up. At $45 a piece you can fill them for your mate!




I just picked up this Aiken bag in blue for myself. It's a gorgeous and practical bag that is available for just $98 in the patterns below. We also carry it in a solid, mustard, tan and brown.





We have a huge selection of gloves. These horsebit lambswool ones are my favorites and very reasonable at $80 a pair. One customer said yesterday, they were very Hermes-like in design. They are also available in purple and chocolate brown.





Our silk sashes make lovely scarves and belts. They are available in the same designs as the Aiken bag as well as some that I have highlighted below. A fabulous gift at just $55.









Our silk scarves are exceptional. Each one is a piece of art. Each is silk screened with up to 40 different patterns per scarf. The edges are hand rolled. We have the Hermes quality without the exorbitant price tag. These scarves are truly gifts to be treasured and an incredible quality at just $115 a piece.





Men need their whimsical Christmas socks too. These are $48 a pair.



We also have a fabulous assortment of men's tartan and solid Christmas belts for just $38... perhaps a red belt for his Jolly Rogers?






I don't know about yours, but my father is hard to shop for. I actually think he would love the bomber hat, but I could also see him in one of these wool fedoras for just $98.





My husband would love this wool and cashmere baseball cap which is available for $78. I'm contemplating getting him the matching cashmere and woo scarf for $125.




I'm still completely bamboozled over this darling clutch. A great present for your mother or grandmother... yourself or me! Clutch is available for $150.




I have a friend who gives her father a new Christmas tie every year. The wool ones are $55 and the silk ones below are just $65.




We have a great selection of cuff links for $145.



You can't leave out Man's Best Friend! Find Fido a lovely collar and leash, each for $25.



This peppermint hot fudge sauce from The Naptime Chef is sinfully delicious and at just $10 a jar makes a wonderful hostess gift or just keep a few of them in your pantry for future entertaining purposes!




These cashmere scarves will brighten anyone's day, especially at $80.



I have my eye on these faux fur collars. They look fantastic when worn with sweaters or as a collar to a winter coat. They make a lovely gift and are just $95.




These Jacquard glasses holders are fun and different and just $32



These rabbit fur scarves are a fun way to dress up any holiday wardrobe. The black scarf is $75 and the smaller white scarf is $60.


A true Preppy gentleman just loves his bow-ties. Our gorgeous selection will just set you back $45!





Our cotton pocket squares are just $25 and come in a wide range of colors and patterns.



And we have some pretty nice boxers as well! $38




I hope that I have been able to help you with some ideas. If you are interested in purchasing any of these items please call our JmcLaughlin store at 203-557-9275. We will be glad to help you. Or if you live near one of our other locations, you may call your local JmcLaughlin store for your holiday needs!


Holiday Sweetness!


It's that crazy time of year again! The Entertaining Kitchen has been hustling and bustling over the past few weeks preparing gifts of goodies for friends and teachers. To say that it has been crazy around here is putting it mildly. There is a fine coating of flour all over the kitchen. We haven't even started to bake for Santa and his reindeer! But if you keep popping over to The Entertaining Kitchen you'll see some posts and recipes that might inspire your last minute baking needs. Some are wonderful simple and delicious!
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