Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I made this fun meal for myself. I rarely make food with rainbows since I find it difficult but I am happy with this very simple rainbow. Click here to see my St. Patrick’s Day food collection.
Contents: Rainbow – Red, Yellow, Green bell pepper, cottage cheese, Shamrocks – Tortilla chips cut with a cookie cutter, brushed with olive oil, bake in 375 over for about 10 minutes. Pot of Gold – Peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and non-fat milk powder, dried pineapple
Dining Room: This is the first March that I decorated my Dining Room. I bought the shamrock wreath from Walmart online but I can’t find the same one to link. I made the simple Shamrock garland with paper, hole punch, and string. The trophies are from my youth Irish Step Dancing days. I received the Belleek Irish Cottage tea light holder in 2004.
Hallway Floating Shelves: St. Patrick themed honeycomb decorations, plastic shamrocks (from Dollar Tree years ago), cards from my 20 year old niece and Mom.
Left Side: Elephants – Bell pepper and cucumber cut with a cookie cutter, romaine, Tortilla chips – cut flour tortilla with cookie cutter, brush with olive oil, sprinkled with salt – bake in 375 over for about 10 minutes,
Happy Valentine’s Day! This is my first year decorating my fireplace and mantle for February. Last year I did not yet have the mantle. Also I was too busy working on my house to decorate. I am very pleased with the results! It makes me happy to view it and know that I made it myself.
Felt Rose Wreath – I used this template but cut by hand. I used three different shades of pink, cut leaves out of green felt, the heart wreath form was from Hobby Lobby. I used a lot of hot glue for this project and of course burned myself a little as is common when I use my hot glue gun.
Valentine Garland – I bought the wooden bead garland with tassel ends at Hobby Lobby. I also bought the wooden hearts. I glued paper on the hearts, made a hole with an awl, threaded thin ribbon and tied to garland.
XO Sign and Background – I bought the sign at Hobby Lobby. Since it was not clearly visible against the white fireplace, I covered a piece of carboard with decorative paper.
Green Vase with Fabric Roses – I have had the green vase for a long time. The satin roses were used with birdseed at my wedding since we were told to have guests throw birdseed after exiting the church. A coworker and my Aunt helped me prepare the roses. I think they are beautiful and match this theme.
Pink Taper Candles in Glass Holders
Heart Waffles with Ricotta, Strawberries and Maple Syrup – I made this meal for myself to celebrate myself and have a cute Valentine themed meal in my beautiful dining room. The paper Valentine was an art therapy assignment to make a Valentine for myself.
These are my hallway floating shelves for seasonal decor.
Top Shelf: Valentine card from my parents. Stuffed animal Kangaroo with heart (had this a long time).
Bottom Shelf:Wooden elephants cut with my Cricut machine. My 20 year old niece styled the elephants. I added some hearts for the season.
I made this meal for my Mom. I don’t have a lot of success depicting cupid out of food. I don’t consider this a success but I think it is okay for a cupid. They are odd looking. Here is my collection of Valentine themed meals with my past cupids.
Here is my kitchen. Last November, I hired contractors to build an island with beverage refrigerator and create a tile backsplash. I also purchased quartz counters. I love my renovated kitchen! Below you can see before and after photos. The nook, counters, sink, faucet, backsplash, floor, and island are new.
Paint: Sherwin Williams Biscuit (I did the painting myself.)
Floor: Sheet vinyl (I tried to get slightly better flooring but the install person said he couldn’t do it because of slope.) I know it does not make sense but I didn’t want to spend a lot on the kitchen floor anyway. I really did not have a choice of color. The floor was done last winter.
NookCeiling Light: I hired an electrician to move and change the light over the nook. (He did this the same time he put electricity and light in dining room.)
Tile Backsplash: Pickets since I wanted something more whimsical than rectangles
Nook: From Wayfair. I don’t like the look of knotty pine so eventually I will probably paint it and add cushions for my guests comfort. This is a wonderful nook and my kitchen has the perfect spot for it.
Island: Built by contractors with space for beverage refrigerator. I don’t know why the kitchen did not previously have an island. It is perfect for the space.
Tuesday was Carol’s birthday so I had her over for a birthday meal. The wellington is a favorite and I have made it for many Thanksgivings and Carol’s birthdays. This year I served it with spiralized carrots to add something different. Since it was a worknight I kept the meal easy and bought dessert and flowers at Wegmans. The centerpiece also served as a gift for Carol.
My friend Deborah’s birthday is this week. I had her over for dinner. I asked for food requests and she said, “Mexican flavors / spices”. I find it so much fun to get menu inspiration from friends. We both enjoyed!
Note: You can see a glimpse of my new Valentine’s Day decorations. Last year I was busy working on the house and did not have a mantle yet. This is my first year decorating for this season. I added some customization to a purchased garland, created the felt roses wreath, and papered cardboard to go behind the sign.
I don’t think that these look like cats but that is what they were supposed to be. I made this for my friend Carol. When I asked for her food or theme requests, she requested the quinoa cakes I shared here. I always enjoy requests and presenting food in different ways and these are delicious quinoa cakes.
On New Years Day, my niece made homemade ramen. She did most of the work. I only helped with the broth, some toppings and prepared the dessert. Five of us enjoyed the delicious ramen with toppings (my friend Carol joined us). We reused some table decorations from the night before. It was an extraordinary start to the new year!
Ramen – she used this for the broth, this for the noodles
Mushrooms sautéed in butter
Spinach sautéed with a little sesame oil and soy sauce
I am a true morning person. I am normally awake and active by 5 am. Staying up until midnight is rare for me even on New Years Eve. This year when my 20 year old niece made plans to be with me and my parents for New Years Eve we planned a little party for the 4 of us. We decided to celebrate midnight in London and live streamed their countdown and fireworks (7pm Eastern). We had appetizers just after 5 pm and dessert and toast at 7 pm. My parents drank champagne, my niece and I drank white grape juice with plain seltzer. A memorable and fun time was had by all!
Balloons from Wegmans
2023 sign my niece and I made from paper (she did most of it)
23 Hershey Kisses with festive stickers – we cut with the right sized round punch I already had
Left Side: 2023 – Cheddar cheese cut with a cookie cutter, celery, tortilla chips cut with cookie cutters, brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt – bake in 375 over for about 10 minutes, strawberries
I helped my niece make a gingerbread house this year that was inspired by one of my mom’s fairy houses. At my mom’s lake house my niece sets up the fairy houses, and each year she puts all of the sheep figurines near and on top of the pub because the sheep sometimes like to go overboard.
Royal Icing Recipe: I love using this recipe which uses Meringue Powder. It hardens fast and in works very well.
Front of the Pub: We used a Milano cookie for the door with a black candy ball for the door handle and blue sugar pieces in royal icing as the door window. Then additional windows were piped on using more royal icing and purple sugar sprinkles. On the top window there are two birds in love at the pub.
Back of the Pub: The chimney was made by sticking muli-colored jelly beans into royal icing.
Side of the Pub: The window was made by hot gluing gold quality gelatin sheets from the back of the pre cut window hole. Then a banner was made using muli-colored candy stars stuck into royal icing and candy birds were added.
Roof: A thatched roof was made using whole grain spaghetti stuck into royal icing. Then gummy bears were put into royal icing for the top of the roof. Sheep were stuck onto the roofs with more royal icing with their beer mugs since the sheep went a little crazy at the pub.
Ground/Grass: The ground was covered with green royal icing using the Wilton 4B decorating tip to make the icing look like grass.
Sheep: Gingerbread sheep were cut out using my many sheep cookie cutters, and un-dyed royal icing was used as the sheep’s coat. For the eyes black candy balls were used and the mouth was made out of candy cane sprinkles (and one mouth was made using a pink jimmy). The sheep were then glued to the top of the roof or stuck into ground.
Beer Sign: The base of the sign is gingerbread cut into two squares. For the front of the sign tweezers were used to write out “BEER” with candy balls in the royal icing and two candy carrots were put in the corners. The back of the sign was made using purple sugar sprinkles in royal icing and two star anise. Once both pieces were dry they were glued together with royal icing so they would stand up when placed in the front of the pub.
Tables and Beer Mugs: The tables were made by microwaving caramel squares in the microwave for 5 seconds then stretching. Then tootsie rolls were cut in half and glued to the bottom with royal icing. The beer mugs were also made using cut in half tootsie rolls with two small pieces of whole grain spaghetti stuck into the tootsie rolls for the handles. For the beer mugs on the tables white candy balls were placed onto the tootsie roll with tweezers to make foam.
Front Path: A path was made using candy stars and gummy bears to line the path.
New techniques tried this year:
Using spaghetti to make a thatched roof and gummy bears for the top of the roof
Delicate tweezer work for writing letters and adding details
Beer mug handle
Piped green grass
My Gingerbread Collection: Go here to see most of my gingerbread creations.
My first Christmas in my home was special. My 20 year old niece joined my parents and me on December 27. We celebrated Christmas Eve on the 27 and Christmas day with her on the 28. We waited for stockings and most presents until my niece joined us. The photo above shows my new Balsam Hill Christmas tree. I decorated it with vintage glass ornaments that were my Grandparents, glass owls I bought after my divorce, pink ribbon I bought at Michael’s this year and a vintage looking star I bought this year on Amazon.
I made pink and white felt poinsettias with jingle bell centers. I cut some with my Cricut and some by hand and in general kept it more simple than the inspiration. I hot glued them to metal clips and attached to garland with lights on my railing.
This is my hallway floating shelves decorated for Christmas. The adorable snowman was made years ago by my niece from marriage. The tree is decorated with some of my Hallmark miniature ornament collection.
This year for my fancy Christmas meal my theme was “White Christmas”. During the planning stage, whenever I told people my theme, they looked at me strangely. It was a little unusual to plan an entire meal with all the food mostly white but it was a fun challenge. 5 of us feasted on this meal: Carol, her son Mike, Dad, Mom, and me. My Mom made the beautiful white tree arrangement. I printed menus and made snowflake place cards. We used my maternal Grandmother’s dishes. I only recently acquired them (when I moved into this house).
White Lasagna – We mostly followed this – especially for the spinach filling. My Mom made her béchamel and added shredded Mozzarella.
Coconut Cupcakes – Dolly Parton Coconut Cake Mix, Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting – We made it coconut frosting by sprinkling unsweetened coconut on top.
White Chocolate Mousse – We did not serve with popcorn. It was supposed to be peppermint mousse but we forgot the peppermint.
Snowball Cookies – This were inspired by my Aunt Lorraine’s recipe but this recipe uses butter and no egg.
My critique of the meal:
We always enjoy my Dad’s onion rings. I was nostalgic to to make and eat my Aunt Dorothy’s clover rolls. They were a staple of big meals at my Grandparents when I was a kid but I rarely make them now. I started making them for the family when I was 12. All of the recipes for the Main Course were new to me. I would make everything again except for the cauliflower. It was not special enough. I loved the spinach lasagna filling and would like to try that method with a red sauce lasagna. The white lasagna was delicious but as part of my normal meals, red sauce lasagna fits better into my meal plan. We enjoyed the onion tarts but I especially enjoyed them as leftovers with some feta cheese. Dessert Course – I would not make the mousse again but it seemed to be enjoyed by all. The coconut cupcakes were a surprise hit. Dolly’s cake mix was fantastic and light. The cream cheese frosting with coconut on top was wonderful!
As is my tradition, here are my Top 10 Lunches from 2022! It was a busy and often stressful year renovating and decorating my new house. I did not put as much effort into planning and making cute meals as other years but I still created and shared with loved ones.
For my first Christmas in my house, I enjoyed planning and making decorations for my dining room and fireplace. I decided to make felt stockings to match the room. I bought 2 sets of these stocking holders. They even have a remote to turn on the lights!
Method: I searched online for the shapes I wanted and resized to fit my stocking. Then, I cut the pieces from coordinating felt since I wanted a cohesive set. I hand-stitched the felt pieces to the top stocking piece. Then I put back sides together and sewed with my machine. After right side outing, I hand-stitched on the hangers. I went back and forth about putting removable felt initials on the stockings but in the end, I decided to keep them plain. Santa knows which stocking each of us will use this year. I only put out 4 holders since 4 will be here for Christmas this year (Mom, Dad, Niece, and me) but I made stockings for all 6 of the holders.
Stocking Pattern: I used this pattern to cut the front and backs for 6 stockings.
Cuff: I cut 1 piece of white felt for the cuff and stitched the top by hand.
Hanger: I cut a long narrow piece of white felt, folded in half and handstitched to the stocking after sewing each stocking with my sewing machine.
My friend Caroline Korn came over for dinner. When I asked her for theme/food requests she texted, “USA and salad/soup.” I was not sure what to do with the USA part since there are not many American vegetarian soups. I could have done a patriotic theme but then I would not want to post for awhile and I enjoy highlighting my Christmas dining room with stockings. I decided to focus on the salad/soup suggestion. I think this is my first time doing salad and soup. Usually I do soup and bread dinners. Caroline made the dessert. Afterwards I found out that the USA was autocorrected and it was supposed to be “Pizza”. I am looking forward to make pizza another time to add to my collection. Regardless, I enjoy receiving requests from my dinner guests, it inspires me to try new things.
Lentil Soup – I made this mostly according to the recipe but I added additional broth instead of the water. We added Asiago cheese on top.
Everything was delicious. I like eating lentil soup since it makes me feel like I am taking good care of myself with a nutritious soup. This one was especially good with the sundried tomatoes and my addition of Asiago cheese. The spinach salad was simple but made special with the crunchy almonds and sesame seed vinaigrette. The apple dessert was tasty and had an amazing sauce! My dining room this time of year with my Christmas tree and other lights makes it very cozy to dine in the evening.
This is the bathroom attached to my bedroom. It took time to share here since I had to hire contractors to remove the walk in tub that came with the house and build a walk in shower. The walk in tub was dangerous for me to get out. I love my new shower, bench, and niche. Falcon Renovations did a wonderful job! The only other changes I made to this room are functional / decorative pieces.
Shower Head & Separate Handheld Spray: It was very difficult to find what I was looking for. I am happy with this. I was concerned that the rain head was too large. My Mom reassured me by saying that I like walking in the rain. I do and I also love taking a shower with my huge shower head.
Bottles: My Mom suggested special bottles since I did not like the idea of clear glass doors. Glass doors are the norm and difficult / expensive to do something else. I ordered these and am happy with them so far. Visitors to my home often comment on my Feminine Wash bottle. I like using lavender baby shampoo for those special areas.
Hair Towel: I bought this years ago after seeing that my friend’s daughter had one. I love it!
Bathmat: My Mom came through again with this one. I struggled finding the right mat and she found this which I ordered.
Drinking Glass: Currently I am using an Anchor Hocking glass from my kitchen. Eventually I may find something cute for this space. I don’t want metal since I had one in the past and did not like cleaning it.
Tissue Box Cover: This is unusual since it has a magnetic bottom.
Hummingbird Nightlight: I bought this for my apartment and am still enjoying it here.
Towels: I can’t find the same ones online anymore.
Light / Outlet Plates: In my never ending quest to put special covers throughout the house, I bought these.
Potential Future Improvements: Renovate a vanity chair from my Grandma’s house, add a smart mirror.
In the above photo you can see a glimpse of my new hallway tile floor.
This year, during the weeks I normally would make and bring gingerbread to the museum, I had contractors here all day. It was disruptive to my normal life and I did not complete a piece for the show and auction. I didn’t want to have a year without gingerbread so bought the Trader Joe’s Gingerbread kit. This was my first time working with a kit. I was delighted that it came with people and an animal! I made my own Royal Icing. I didn’t use all of the kit candy. Instead I used candy from my stash. For the roof, I bought Roses Brand Cloud Mints and Pepperidge Farm Pirouette cookies. It looks festive sitting on the buffet in my dining room.
Look here to see all of my past Gingerbread creations.
Note: In one photo, my new Christmas Around the World paper Advent calendar is visible.
My friend Deborah and I celebrated our 4 year friendiversary with a dinner at my home. (I was in the middle of decorating my dining room for Christmas.) I don’t know the date I became friends with the other people in my life. I know the date with Deborah because we met at a Vegetarian meetup dinner in 2018. I only went to that dinner because I was curious to meet a man who was the leader of the group. My relationship with the man lasted a about a year. Deborah and I happened to sit next to each other at the dinner and immediately found we had a lot in common. She is one of favorite friends to walk with since she will walk in nearly any weather. I am grateful for our friendship.
Berry and Fruit Crisp – Deborah made this delicious dessert
My critique of the meal:
We loved the Crispy Quinoa Cakes. I would make them again. I also liked that they are make ahead and then sauté before serving. The Chickpea Shakshuka was delicious but I want to also experiment with different accompaniments the next time I make the Quinoa Cakes. As usual, Deborah makes a delicious fruit crisp.
My friend Renae, her husband Jeff and daughter Elizabeth came over to visit, help me with some tasks, and have dinner. Renae requested my zucchini ravioli. We know I rarely make the same thing twice but I love these zucchini ricotta bundles and am always happy to honor a request. The meal happened to be during the second week of Advent so I used my special Advent wreath as the centerpiece.
Zucchini Ravioli – I followed this recipe for how to prepare the zucchini but I added the two layers on top of each other since they were very thin. Filling – BelGioioso Ricotta con Latte, garlic powder, pepper, and Asiago cheese. Use a mini ice cream scoop to put a ball of Ricotta mixture in the middle of the zucchini, fold, put seam down in baking pan with some homemade tomato sauce. Add some tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese on top. Bake until heated and cheese lightly brown.
French Bread – I baked them in my favorite French bread pans.
Strawberry Cheesecake Cookie – sugar cookie, mix softened cream cheese, vanilla, and powdered sugar, spread on cookie, add sliced strawberries
My Mom and I prepared a Vegetarian Thanksgiving this year in Delmar, NY. My friend Carol and I drove the 3.5 hours to the Albany, NY area on the morning of Thanksgiving we mostly had the roads to ourselves! There were 5 of us for Thanksgiving since a neighbor Chris joined us.
My parents did a wonderful job with all the preparations. My Mom made the Cornucopia flower arrangement. Also her turkey cork place cards were a hit! She painted the corks, printed the names, and added tree hydrangeas from her garden. They used a white pen to draw on the features. They glued the corks to little pieces of cardstock to make the turkey’s stand up.
Appetizers: Vegetable and olive turkey with celery, broccoli, carrot, cherry tomato, black olives, green olives, radish, cucumber and ranch dip
A little while ago, my friend Dennis came for dinner. I made something I have wanted to make since 2011! Individual corn lasagna recipe that Giada De Laurentiis made for Prince William and Kate during a visit to California.
Centerpiece – Anchor Hocking Glass Pumpkin filled with artificial mini pumpkins I already had and new Martha Stewart artificial acorns I found at TJ Maxx. The glass pumpkin was sold by Dunkin Donuts in the 1980’s.
I loved the corn lasagna, it had a lot of flavor. Next time I would consider serving in the ramekin’s instead of waiting for them to cool then unmold. I also highly recommend the apple crisp. Delicious and a fun presentation!
I am not sure if this looks like a red panda but I was inspired by a recent visit to the Seneca Park Zoo. The Red Panda posed for me! The dill pickles were from a neighbor friend. They were crunchy and tangy. In the photo I put a spring of dill that was in the jar along with beautiful peppercorns.
This was my first Halloween in my new home. It was also my first time to have trick-or-treaters since I last had a house in 2016. I don’t have a prominent porch as I did before. Maybe in future years I will be creative and festively lead kids to my porch which is on the side of my house. This year since I have a large dumpster in my driveway (doing some renovations), I decided to hand out candy from my garage.
I did not know how many kids to expect. I asked neighbors, one said 40, one said 100. It was a rainy Monday and I had about 30 kids.
I followed the advice of my 20 year old niece and bought full-sized candy. I had a selection of chocolate or fruit flavored candy choices. The kids preferred the fruit candy. They were very excited to receive the full-sized. One family came and said they were told they had to go to the house with the dumpster!
This year was my first time to receive Halloween treats from a neighbor! I was delighted to receive treats and homemade tomato sauce. The sauce had onion, carrots, and celery and was delicious! In turn, I made pumpkin muffins and gave them to neighbors and friends.
My parents sent a Halloween card and my niece made and sent a delightful ghost card.
It was a memorable first Halloween in my new home!