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Holidays

Decorating for July 4

Hi, friends. July 4 is almost here and we’ve had lots of rain in Ohio. I haven’t felt much like decorating outside, but I have this vintage flag I found last year and love. It’s pre-1960’s (before Alaska and Hawaii were added to the union) so it only has 48 stars. It is woven linen and hand-stitched – I love its character, patina and history. I feel like it needs to be displayed for the holidays for sure.

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Romantic Fireside Dinner For Two

I wanted to go out. And I really wanted to specifically go to the Cleveland Orchestra concert where they project the movie, Vertigo, and then play the soundtrack live! But alas, we waited too long to buy tickets and they were sold out. Hubs had a great idea – “why not watch the movie at home”, and I added “and we’ll make a delicious stay-in meal”! Done and done.

Nothing says romance like a fireplace, so I pulled a little bistro table set we have in our basement up to the living room for a special fireside dining meal. I really didn’t want to buy any new tablecloth or accessories, so I repurposed a plaid blanket into a cozy tablecloth. The heart-shaped ramekins added the right touch/color to our table.
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The Menu

We have been on a Paleo kick recently so I knew I didn’t want excessive carbs for our special meal. I decided on filet mignon with roasted asparagus for the main, champagne to start, a special bottle of wine, and chocolate for dessert! Yes, chocolate and wine were required and not Paleo. 🙂 I only buy meat from our local Heinen’s and found two perfect grass-fed steaks. It’s okay to splurge when you’re dining at home – it will still always cost less than a restaurant! Heinen’s had delicious chocolate cake by the slice, but I also made a pit stop at Malley’s (oh yeah) and bought chocolate covered strawberries for a particularly decadent treat.

The Drinks

The champagne was really a bottle of brut rosé sparkling wine from Two Sisters Vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario called “Lush” that came in this beautifully gold and pink labeled bottle with gorgeous packaging – perfect for romance! And the wine with dinner was a delicious bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon that Hubs got me for Christmas – taking us back to our time in Napa Valley last year, yum.
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The Dinner (or “how to cook filet mignon at home”)

Hubs was tempted to grill outside, in the cold, in the snow. But I said “no, they will be delicious made on the stove”. Here’s the key…butter and a hot grill pan. Take the steaks out of the oven 30 minutes before cooking, lightly dry with a paper towel and season with salt & pepper (or Montreal steak seasoning, as we like it). Preheat oven to 400F (this will be for the asparagus and to finish the steaks). Pop the asparagus in the oven about 10 minutes before you start the steaks. Heat an oven-safe grill/sauté pan on the stove until very hot (I used a Le Creuset cast iron grill pan). Add a tablespoon of butter for each steak and let it melt. Btw, I’m convinced that the butter I used – grass-fed pasteurized organic butter – also made a difference. Place the steaks on the butter to sear for 2-4 minutes on each side (these were 4 oz filets, so 2 min/each was enough). As the steaks are searing, tilt the pan and baste them with the melted butter several times, oh yeah. Once the sear is done, put the pan in the oven for another 2-4 minutes to desired doneness (we like medium-rare, so again we only did 3 min). Remove the steaks from pan to a plate and cover with foil to rest 5 minutes. Remove the asparagus from the oven and plate with the steaks. Oh my, bon appétit!
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The Dessert

Did I mention Malley’s? Um yeah, the box of chocolate covered strawberries is only available this time of year. Yes, I could have made them myself, but honestly this convenience along with the Heinen’s slice of chocolate cake made the meal so much less stressful and enjoyable. And how does romance not include some variation of chocolate.
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The Movie

I love curling up on the couch to watch old movies, especially with the Hubs. Vertigo had actually been on for us to DVR it, so we pretended the Cleveland Orchestra was playing and watched it with our remaining wine and chocolate and the fireplace keeping us warm. It would have been nice to go out but honestly it was perfect to just stay in.
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Valentine Linzer Cookies

Heart Shaped Linzer Cookies

I have always wanted to make Linzer Cookies. The idea of these delicate confections with a candy-like view of the raspberry jam peeking through the cutout opening and dusted with a light sprinkle of powdered sugar just oozes romance, love and sweetness! What a perfect cookie choice then for Valentine’s Day, especially with some heart shaped Linzer cutters I found at the craft store.
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The Linzer cookie origin stems from the Linzertorte – an Austrian dessert from the city of Linz made with a crust including ground nuts of some variety (mostly almonds), filled with black currant preserves, and then topped with an intricate lattice crust. It is most often served at Christmastime. The Linzer cookie is just a smaller version of the torte with two cookies sandwiched together by jam or preserves. If you cut the hole in the cookie round, they are known as Linzer Eyes (Linzer Augen). And you can really use any cutters you have on hand – you just need a larger one for the base and a small one to cut out the jam peekaboo part. At Christmas time, stars can be particularly pretty, but oftentimes simple fluted round cutters are used. I also prefer to use raspberry jam over black currant but you could experiment, just make sure it’s good quality. And the powdered sugar dusting makes them almost too pretty to eat! …nah 🙂
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Let’s get started!

INGREDIENTS
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup finely ground almonds (I used Bob’s Red Mill almond flour)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
confectioner’s sugar

DIRECTIONS
In a small bowl, mix the flour, almonds, cinnamon, and salt; set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, mix well. Add flour mixture only until incorporated.
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Divide dough into 2 pieces, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate 2 hours or until firm.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove one piece of dough from refrigerator and roll out to 1/8inch thickness. Cut half cookies with the insert in the cutter and the other half without. Transfer to cookie sheet. Scraps can be refrigerated and re-rolled.
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Bake 10-12 minutes or until light brown. Cool in pan for 2 minutes and then transfer to racks to cool completely.

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Invert bottom cookies, spread with a tsp of raspberry jam. Dust the top cookies with confectioner’s sugar; gently sandwich the cookies together. Makes about 30 cookies.
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And now it’s time to share with friends or family and enjoy a beautiful treat for Valentine’s Day!
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5 Easy DIY Decor Ideas for Valentine’s Day

Valentine's Decor Collage

I guess you could say I’m not much of an “every day’s a holiday” decorator. I love Thanksgiving and fall – it’s pretty much my decorating season of choice with pumpkins, leaves, ambers and golds and reds and just a whole season dedicated to gratitude – how is that not perfection? And who doesn’t love a little Christmas, too – although the season is a little shorter I still want to decorate with trees, garland, etc. But once January rolls around and the new year starts, I really do not need to celebrate every Hallmark holiday by changing up my decor. However… I just wanted a little sumpin’ sumpin’ for this Valentine’s Day, I guess. After all, the language of love speaks to all of us, doesn’t it? And it’s getting to be a “stay inside kind of winter” in Ohio at least. So what better way to hunker down than to have some fun with design and crafting projects. And the sentiment of Valentine’s Day is a perfect theme to get your DIY on. But I didn’t want to go all red and pink as that just doesn’t fit with my year round color scheme. So I thought I would stick to some neutrals and see what I could create.

1. Kraft paper heart garland – Hey, nobody said these had to be difficult. Seriously, folks. Just cut out some hearts from Kraft or any paper you desire, string them together, hang them up already! I liked the brown of Kraft paper and I ended up printing out my heart outlines and cutting out with scissors. I was able to get 24 out of an 8.5×11 piece of paper. I’m sure there’s a more efficient way to do it, but I found this somehow very therapeutic, ha! I punched holes in the hearts, and I had some red and white baker’s twine so I thought using that to string through them added a subtle red and white touch. I just love a sweet little garland, don’t you?
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2. Cupcake liner heart wreath – I’m sure you’ve seen all the coffee filter wreaths floating around Pinterest and the interwebs. But I realized I had some of the white cupcake liners that go between the foil ones. I never know – are you supposed to use these for cupcakes? Sometimes I do, but it’s definitely harder to peel off the cupcake from these than the foil wrappers so maybe they’re just separators for the foil? At any rate, I thought they might make nice “mini-coffee filters” and I could create a mini heart-shaped wreath or something. I cut out a piece of cardboard in the shape of a heart and scrunched up about 30 white cupcake liners and hot-glued them onto the cardboard. I still have a fresh evergreen wreath on my door, which I love for its simplicity. So I just inserted this heart right in the middle and nestled it in. Et voilà – a little transition wreath from Christmas to Valentine’s. 🙂

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3. X&O letters – Ok, have you noticed how almost every HGTV show uses letters as a design element? If not, then at least you know Joanna Gaines from Fixer Uppers does (love her show, btw!). So I thought a hugs and kisses (aka X&O) might be fun to get on my mantel! But not in the cardboard state of purchase from the craft store – I painted with a little bronze and black spray paint. Did I mention it’s cold in Ohio right now? I painted these in my basement on a bunch of newspaper I laid out. Honestly, I really only like to spray paint in summer but there it is – I did it in winter. And I love them! The ampersand (&) made a nice touch between them and says “Valentine’s Day” without being in your face obvious.
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4. LOVE letter sculpture – Are you familiar with the LOVE art sculpture created by Robert Indiana? He also did a HOPE sculpture in Chicago, that I think is a little better, but I may be partial. 🙂 Anyways, whether you know it or not I’m guessing you’ve seen this iconic work if even on a postage stamp. I love it (wah wah) and wanted to try to recreate it myself with something I could hang in my kitchen. I do like a little turquoise, mint, or duck egg blue so I decided to paint the canvas first with Catalina Mist Krylon paint. And then I used my bronze spray paint on MDF letters this time, that I also got at the craft store. I figured I would hot glue them to the canvas and be all set. However… this is where things went horribly wrong… the letters were too heavy for the canvas. Maybe I could have used different glue, but alas, I peeled them off and decided they might work just fine on their own and I got an extra project – “LOVE letter sculpture”!
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5. LOVE on canvas – So I went back to the drawing board (aka hobby store), and found some much more lightweight wood letters. I decided I wanted a little more pop than the bronze, so I spray painted the letters white. I also broke down and had to add a splash of red to my Valentine decor with a piece of red felt I cutout in the shape of some hearts. I first used E-6000 glue this time to hold the letters on – fail! So I super-glued those suckers and that seemed to stick…literally. And then I just used spray adhesive for the felt hearts. It became the perfect Valentine addition to my kitchen.
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Thanks for joining me on these fun projects. I hope you are inspired to add a little Valentine decor of your own. If you do, let me know what you create!

Deck the Halls – Front Entry and Parlor

The living room always gets the most of my focus as that and the kitchen are the places we mostly congregate at our house. But I’ve always loved the open and spacious front entry in our house and the little parlor room where we put the piano – so now it’s the music room, of course. Join me on this Christmas Eve as I enjoy the fruits of my decorating labor and settle in for Christmas with family and friends.

The bay window is the perfect place to put our big tree with all of our collected ornaments over the years. One can never have too many skate ornaments…
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I love this René Magritte ornament we got in Belgium last year to hang out with Hermey from Rudolph…
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But that means the cute sofa I got for the bay window has to move to the hallway for the season. But that’s okay. It’s a cushy place to take off boots or just sit and listen to music being played or sung in the music room. I love my Canadian Banff ski poster with a pair of vintage skis.
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And did I mention I can’t get enough skates?! Black, white, brown – they all remind me of many winters in Canada skating in our back yard or elsewhere. Yes, I said backyard – we had a water drainage ditch running behind our house that always froze in winter. My dad would clear the ice with hot water, prop up a big industrial light, and create our very own skating rink where we would skate and skate well into the cold winter nights!
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I love this old sheet music I got from a friend hung on a ladder from Rust & Found – it creates a nice border around the bay window and link to the tree.
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Snowmen and Santas always seem to pop up in unusual spots and add a little whimsy to the house…

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And I have a collection of felted “ornaments” to hang on every door possible!
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Thanks for joining me on this tour. I hope your holidays are not too crazy and you’re getting to enjoy some silent nights and tidings of joy! Check out some other holiday decorating ideas from my Living Room or this vintage holiday bar cart!

Blessings to you and yours. 🙂