Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tooloose the Chocolate Moose...and a RECIPE

One of my sons' favorite childhood books was Tooloose, the Chocolate Moose, by Stewart Moskowitz. It's the story of a baby moose who was made of solid chocolate... "to the tips of his hooves". Poor Tooloose could not figure out what he could be when he grew up...
Not a baseball player... he'd get the ball sticky!

Not an astronaut... he'd slip out of the spaceship!

Not a steel mill worker...he'd melt!!!

As the story goes, Tooloose was walking through the woods when he slipped in his own chocolate (must have been a really warm day!) and fell through the window of Auntie Moose's kitchen, knocking over her "bowl of stuff". He felt so bad about this that he offered to make a new batch. As he cooked, he dripped lots of chocolate into "the stuff". Auntie Moose tasted it and proclaimed it to be "formidably edible". Tooloose had an ah-ha moment...he could be a dessert maker!!!!! And his signature dish became..... are you ready for this?.... CHOCOLATE MOUSSE, of course.

Quick and Easy Chocolate Mousse

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghiradelli brand)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
6 egg yolks (add one at a time)
dash of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 egg whites, whipped (I often use 3-4 whites to make a lighter mousse)

In a food processor (or a blender), place the chocolate chips. Process a few pulses to break them into smaller pieces. Set aside. Heat the cream in a heavy sauce pan. Bring it to the point of boiling (do not scald!!!), then pour it over the chocolate and process until smooth. Add one egg yolk at a time, processing between each addition. Add salt and vanilla. Pour the mixture into a bowl, cover and refrigerate until set and cooled.

When the base is set, whip egg whites until peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the chocolate base. Spoon into a large serving bowl or individual dishes and refrigerate until firm.
To serve, add a dollop of whipped cream and grate some chocolate on top.

***Variation: Use amaretto in place of the vanilla. Sprinkle the top of the mousse with toasted, sliced almonds.
(I often whip additional egg whites and fold them into the mousse for a lighter version.)

Serves 8.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gonna Take a Sentimental Journey...Open House

Welcome to my OPEN HOUSE.
Hannah is waiting to greet you.... (she's grown so much!)

Do you get misty eyed as you unwrap Christmas ornaments? Do you spend hours remembering when and where you found them? Do you think back to the days when the kids were little...before your childhood? I do...Maybe that's why it takes me DAYS to deck my halls.

Then again...I am one of those creative types that never uses decorations the same way twice. In fact, I am not sure I could replicate anything that I have done in the past...even using old photos. Part of the fun of decorating is using what I have in different ways...and painting new artwork to "deck my halls". And I love when someone comes over and ooos and ahs over the "new" decorations!

I hope you will bear with me while I share memories (in red) from all around my home...

My first memory: The Flexible Flyer sled is a remnant from our "days of exile" in PA... Our first northern Christmas was a white one. Santa gave this sled to my husband...what excitement! He couldn't wait to try it out. Up the hill he the top, by the chief of police's home...Following all the kids, he headed down the steep hill, into our yard. Unfortunately, he did not know how to stop the sled and went flying over the 8 foot drop, SPLAT, into the neighbor's yard. The momentum kept him continuing down the hill and into the snow-covered street. He finally rolled off the sled...and trudged back toward our house...a half mile away!!! Needless to say, he was a bit leery of sledding again...and sore...and tired...and laughing all the way!!! The sled makes an unusual conversation piece here in FL!!!

The nativity was made by a dear friend several years ago. For many years, Marty and I have hosted a "Craft Party"...everyone must make a craft, giftwrap it, and bring it for a lively exchange. We have had so much fun with this party...first learned of it in Orlando...our first year of marriage. We have since hosted this party in 5 different states!!! The crafts from this party are treasured items in our home.

The dining room is set with desserts from our neighborhood progressive dinner last weekend. The centerpiece is my "famous" cheese box (a gift from a dear friend in TX) with a wonderful lantern (Home Goods) on top. The ornaments are long ago purchases from Home Goods and Crate and Barrel. The candlesticks are the "green candlesticks" I used in my fall tablescape...they are newly painted with black enamel paint. I found them at Steinmart on a clearance table. The runner is just a length of folded fabric. Easy table...quite elegant. Small tea light candles finish the look...and of course, the desserts look fabulous (and taste good, too!!!)

(without the desserts)

Here's Marty, trying to decide which dessert he wants to eat...FIRST. There were so many choices! Above him you can see the's filled with lights, wrapped presents, and handpainted reindeer. I made these reindeer when we lived in TX (16 years ago!). There is greenery tucked into crevices. Occasionally, I use tulle draped over, under and around the reindeer. It's a festive site!!!!!!!!!!!

Sideboard... lanterns, greens, and a nativity set, surrounded by a grapevine wreath.

The piano is the perfect place for the "Santa" photos of my "little boys". These photos were taken the year my husband's company had a Christmas party for the families...including a Santa who had over-indulged. (He reeked of alcohol!) The frames for these photos were picked up at a junk store in Dallas, about 18 years ago...bare metal, cheap. They had been painted to look like a tuxedo shirt! I sanded them, coated the frames with an acrylic sealer, and hand painted them...cost: about $1 each!!!

The living room and foyer are open into the dining room (I flipped the DR and the LR. This helps when entertaining large groups. Plus, I have a delightfully cozy sitting area (the new LR) and actually use this room! There is a wall of shelves and mirrors in here...divided into three sections. One contains my angel collection, the center contains the nutcrackers, and the third is filled with hand painted glassware (which did not photograph...too dark with a mirror reflecting the flash...) Small tea lights are lit at night all over the shelves. The reflected candlelight bathes the room is warmth.
(Just be sure you do not burn a taper or tall candle under a glass matter how far apart the glass is from the flame. The glass shelf can SHATTER....happened at our annual
Christmas party... about 5 years ago. What a mess!!! All my
handpainted plates and wine glasses were smashed to smithereens!!! Glass dust and shards were everywhere!) The recessed area above the kitchen door is ideal for a floral display. The little chair is from our old church...all the kids, from my oldest brother to my boys have probably used these little chairs over the decades. The artwork is original Jane.

Even our little piggies are dressed for the holidays...the paintings are original.

The recessed area above the kitchen door is ideal for a floral display. The little chair is from our old church...all the kids, from my oldest brother to my boys have probably used these little chairs over the decades.

The stocking painting (an original Jane) is propped in a flat basket.

As you walk into our home, you are greeted with "JOY"...made from a 3-sectioned metal object. We covered the three sections with heavy aluminum foil and glued the painted letters onto each section.

The family room, breakfast room, and kitchen open into each other... Here is where we keep our tree. Rowdy, the retriever, is posing in his usual spot...under the tree. Amazingly, he and the other dogs have not touched the tree or the ornaments. (to get Rowdy's photo, I missed the top of the tree. It's 11 ft tall...and has a large woven star on top.

Snowman collection. It's evolved over the years, thanks to our annual gift exchange.

There is a Santa collection, too. It just would not
photograph well in its location.

This side table was partially set up for our party last weekend. I had pitchers of chilled water with fruit on this table...punch and soft drinks on the breakfast table, and a coffee bar and tea set on the counter in the kitchen. That was a huge success!!! For the coffee bar, I had bowls of chocolate and mint chocolate chunks, whipped cream, cinnamon and peppermint sticks, flavorings, and all the other coffee needs.

The flying Santas are oldies from JoAnn's. The mirror was a $2 find at a garage sale...
a little touch-up paint and voila!

This little tray with a Santa pitcher was unfinished...from Michael's. The mosaic is done with shards from a broken mirror.

Mr. Snowman is an example of a new technique I am trying.
He still needs a bit of work, but he filled a corner for our parties last weekend.

Florida-style stocking...

These 3 candlesticks were a gift...they have been painted so many colors over the, turquoise, red, green, black...

The mantle...old window with greens...wood spools, reindeer, greens, and large jingle bell garland. So simple and beautiful.
I began purchasing the wooden spools on our trip home from our honeymoon.

This mask ornament was purchased in New Orleans during Marty's special 50th birthday weekend. Not only did we explore NOLA, we met with dear friends who were in town for the AU/LSU game in Baton Rouge. (We opted not to go to the game...and spent the whole weekend exploring!!!) What a fun treat! Whenever I look at this ornament, I remember that wonderful weekend with my dear husband.

This was my firstborn's first ornament...which he thoughtfully allowed me to keep until he has his own firstborn child. The ornament is "Adam" from the Joan Walsh Anglund books, Emily and Adam. My firstborn was named "Adam" and he had blonde hair...and reminded me of this ornament.

Every self-respecting AUBURN fan has an "Aubie" on their tree, don't they? In case you cannot figure it out...Aubie is the Auburn mascot.

And last, but not least, is Tooloose the Chocolate Moose. My daughter-in-law painted this for me a couple of years ago... This particular year, I had found moose ornaments for the whole family. Some had candy canes, some had tree lights caught in their antlers...just like Cat had painted them. These ornaments were purchased in honor of my sons favorite childhood story called "Tooloose the Chocolate Moose", written by Stewart Moscowitz. (out of print)
(One of these days, I will share this story with you...and a fabulous mousse recipe.)

Thanks for taking this sentimental journey with me...
Wishing you and your families the happiest holiday season...and a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

It's Tablescape Thursday! Be sure to visit with Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for some beautiful ideas!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I'll be back...soon

To all my blog friends,
It's been a crazy few weeks and blogging has been on the back burner. With all the company, cooking, and decorating, I have fallen behind on so many things. Plus...I began painting again. I have been in a dry spell...not feeling very creative...until this week. Decorating for the holidays always gets me moving...and I have been painting canvases to use as part of my decor.

I promise that I will be back soon... In the meantime, I will try to keep up with your posts. You are always an inspiration to me.


ps Here's a photo of my whole crew... only Rowdy (the golden retriever) is missing. He decided to lay down at the last minute. Oh least all three of my boys, and their ladies (2) were all together. (As you can tell, we were all stuffed and sleepy after our Thanksgiving meal.)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shoppe Around the Corner

Have you ever walked into a retail establishment and felt you were at home? Well that's what happened to me the first time I walked into Shoppe Around the Corner, a delightful gift shop in Historic downtown Palm Harbor. Now, I am not talking about that Norman Rockwell kind of hominess, I am talking about finding a store where almost everything item is something you would personally choose, if money was no object...HOME!

Right now, this wonderful shop(pe) is dressed up for the holidays...a true feast for the eyes...and believe it or not, it's already been raided by those earlybirds who know that they will find unique gifts and Christmas decor within the walls of this little store. According to Deborah, the shop's manager and decorator, this little white tree was completely filled a with Christmas treasures from the sea just a week ago. Those ornaments which are still hanging are uniquely decorated sea-life. We, who have discovered The Shoppe Around the Corner return time and again, not only for the beautiful items in the store, but for the warmth and care extended by all who work there.

Now...if these photos and the commentary aren't enough enticement for you to visit, perhaps you will be intrigued by this link... The Shoppe Around the Corner is a not-for-profit establishment, with all the proceeds going to the Neighborly Care Network, a health and wellness program for seniors and their families. These services include Meals on Wheels and a pharmacy for seniors and their families in our community. When you purchase a gift for a loved one or a treat for yourself, you are giving TWICE!

IF you are one of our "locals"...or if you are visiting the Tampa Bay area of Florida, please stop by The Shoppe Around the Corner, in the charming downtown area of Palm Harbor, and be sure to tell Deborah that you read about the shoppe here...on the blog. I guarantee you will not walk out empty-handed...or without a mind filled with decorating ideas.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thanks, once again, Susan at A Southern Daydreamer, for hosting Outdoor Wednesday. Be sure to take the time to visit all those who have posted outdoor photos and stories. There is so much to see!

Driving home from Mt. Dora, FL, my sister and I pulled over on the side of Lake Dora to watch this spectacular sky. There was a cold front coming in and storm clouds were beginning to make their presence known...
Notice the thunderhead building? By evening, we had our first rain from the incoming front.Interestingly, this front took its own sweet time to come through... And the threatening skies blew out without flooding us (the weather reports were incorrect...again!). The cooler breezes did come in and we pulled out our sweaters... Yippee!

Mt. Dora is the picturesque town on the shores of Lake Dora (part of the chain of lakes about which I have written previously written.) There are wonderful shops, B&Bs, and restaurants all over this little town. If you are a reader of my blog, you will remember this is where Julianne's Coastal Cottage is sister's shop. Throughout the year, Mt. Dora hosts craft fairs, art fairs, and the Renninger's Antique Extravaganza. When these events take place, this sleepy little town swells with 250,000-300,000 visitors. It's worth the trip!!! Mt. Dora is only about 45 minutes from Orlando, and a wonderful stop when visiting Central Florida.

For those who are in the area, this is the weekend of Renninger's Antique Extravaganza.
If you go, please be sure to stop in town and visit Julianne's Coastal Cottage. (And for a great grilled cheese and bacon sandwich, stop by Chew Chew Express Sandwich Depot... the bread is incredible!)

Thursday, November 12, 2009 the Sea

I just returned from a quick retreat (for me!) in Hollywood, FL. Mac Daddy had a conference to attend last I went along for the ride. And boy am I glad I did!!!

We stayed at the Westin of our favorite properties along the south Florida coast...just north of Miami Beach and just south of Ft. Lauderdale. This impressive property has changed since our last visit...there's a BEACH again. (The beach had been totally washed away by a hurricane on our last visit. )

What did I do for 3 days? Absolutely nothing!!! .........unless you count reading, napping (on the wonderful "Heavenly Bed"), sketching, and photographing the property as activities. I was a "lotus eater". And it felt good! (Poor Mac Daddy was "on" from 7am until midnight each day...I hardly saw him.)

Here are a few images of the hotel property...and some of the images I sketched.

This is one of the floral displays in the's a cypress branch, about 12 feet long, with bromeliads and orchids wired onto the trunk. Spanish moss filled in the gaps. These trunks were "planted" into very large urns. They were spectacular! (I want to copy this planting for my lanai.)

Thanks to a reclaimed beach project, there was now a beach at the resort. Although narrow, there was room for the kids' club activities, a lifeguard hut, a couple of rows of chaises, and room for a long stroll up and down the coast. I especially loved the giant checkerboard! Alongside the checkerboard were children digging deep holes (heading to China?) and building castles in the sand...all under the watchful eyes of chaperons provided by the hotel.

My favorite spot was in the shade of the beach-side restaurant. (I am very careful with my fair skin...year round!) Early November is a quiet time of year for Florida tourism, so there were few people to crowd the tables....and the wait-staff was kind enough to allow me to sit and sketch...and read under the shade of the umbrellas. I did, however, have an interesting companion for lunch. He did not talk much, but carried on a lovely tune throughout my meal. Do you think he was trying to sing for his supper?

This is the view from my (our) table...AHHHHHH......
Maybe one day you will see a painting of this view.
It certainly was calming..........

The Diplomat features 2 levels of pools...the upper pool has a gradual entry, perfect for children, and those who do not handle steps well...even wheelchairs are allowed. In the center of this pool is a large round circle...a window to the pool below on the lower level. So cool!

(the above photo is from the Westin Diplomat website. Note the crescent of a pool at the top left...that is the corner of the lower pool...a large, freeform structure.)

This property is a wonderful destination...especially in the fall or the spring...before and after the tourist season.

On our journey home to the west coast, we stopped at our favorite restaurant on the beach in Lauderdale By The Sea (Fort Lauderdale)...Sea Watch. (You might enjoy the photos on the website...beautiful!). This restaurant is nestled between tall sea grapes, sand dunes, palms and the crashing waves of the Atlantic. On our last visit, we had a bright green iguana sitting on the palm beside our open window....and we have watched the skies change as a hurricane made its way to the coast. Incredible! (We always ask to sit on the enclosed porch, where the sea breeze and ocean sounds glide through open windows.)

As we meandered up the coast, we were in awe of the gorgeous ocean views and the incredible mansions along the way to Palm Beach. It was quite sad, though, to see all the FOR SALE signs.

(This photo was taken through the window of our moving car. The house is probably around 10,000 sq. ft. and it backs up to the Atlantic. Just one of many compounds along the coast to Palm Beach.)

It was a lovely respite to our busy lives...just wish my husband could have had some time to relax a bit. At least we had the drive to and from Hollywood to chat and enjoy being together...

Just a quick note.... Maya is having a Tabletop Giveaway...featuring Outer Banks Trading of my favorite businesses. Be sure to stop in and sign up. (or at least look at the OBX website. There are so many wonderful items on these pages!)