Recipe: Herb Roasted Turkey

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There isn't a dinner or protein that is more intimidating than roasting a turkey. First, it's expensive, and so easy to either under cook it (rendering it dangerous to serve guests) or overcooked (rendering it too dry to serve guests) meaning it could be money thrown away. In reality, turkey is easy to roast. The oven does most of the work. You need to just know some basic math, making sure you get that turkey in the oven in time to serve it when you want. You also need to get a nice basting sauce, and you need to not be afraid of getting your hands dirty. If you are a cook that is afraid to get your hands dirty, turkey making is not for you. You have to get your hands under the skin and in the cavities. This is important. If you are squeamish - buy some turkey breasts and make those instead.

My biggest secret in this recipe is cooking the turkey upside down. The breast meat roasts slowly and naturally bastes from being on the bottom. I cook it this way for half the time. Then I get an extra set of hands to carefully flip it midway and finish roasting breast side up.

My turkey is sort of famous in my family. So I give you my secrets, and enjoy some great family meals with this recipe at the center of the table.


Herb Roasted Turkey

Ingredients:

Turkey:
1  20 lb. turkey
salt and pepper
2 Granny Smith apples
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1-2 oranges, quartered
twine, skewers, toothpicks

Basting Sauce:
1 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 Tbsp. fresh chopped thyme (or mix up your herbs like chopped parsley, rosemary, thyme and basil)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup white wine

Directions:

First thing, count how many pounds you've got there. Figure 20 minutes per lb. stuffed, and count backward from when you want to serve dinner. That is when you have to get the turkey in the oven, at 375º. Now count a half hour to 45 minutes to prep the turkey, and count that in your schedule as well. One more thing I want you to add. One hour to soak the turkey in a water bath before you prep it. That's right. This gets all the blood out, and draws out some of the gamey flavor, It also finishes defrosting it in areas. Just get a big vat of cold water (I use a Rubbermaid storage bin) and in goes the turkey, out of it's plastic and all the stuff out of it's cavity. As it is soaking, turn on your oven and begin prepping your turkey.

SIDE NOTE*
If you wish to brine your turkey, you can skip the soaking hour. Brining does what the soaking hour does, while pushing moisture and flavor into the turkey. We have moved into brining our turkey overnight. We like the brining solution from Williams Sonoma, and get the brining bags to immerse the turkey, breast side down, in the bag. In the morning, we rinse it out well and continue with our prep.


Quarter your apples and sprinkle the spices over them. Set aside. Quarter your orange and set aside. Make your basting sauce by whisking all your liquids together into the melted butter, and add your spices and mix again. Set aside with a basting brush. 

Take all the gizzards, and neck, rinse, and put them in the bottom of your roasting pan. These things are the basis for a great gravy, not to mention- my mother LOVES the neck bone (go figure). I drizzle a little olive oil over the organs at the bottom of the pan, a 1/2 cup of water to get things going and place the rack in the middle of the pan. Now you are ready to go.


Take the turkey, pat it dry and sprinkle the outside and cavity with salt and pepper. Put 1/2 of apple mixture inside turkey under the white meat. Then take your other orange and apples and stuff them in in the back inside of the turkey. This fruit creates moisture from the inside and keeps things very juicy. Truss the turkey legs together with twine, use the skewers to cinch in the wings, and the neck flap fold over and hinge with toothpicks. (If you need help with trussing, www.butterball.com is great.) 

With your hands, loosen the skin from the meat everywhere you can. With a knife. prick the leg skin and other taught areas where the skin is hard to get under. With that knife, make a big enough hole in the leg skin to get a basting brush under the skin. Then, use your basting sauce and basting brush and baste a healthy layer of sauce under the skin everywhere. Brush the top of the outside (breast side) first. With help, place the turkey, breast side down, on the roasting rack. I roast it this way for half of the time. It allows the breast to cook slowly and get the basting juices roll down to it naturally during cooking. Trust me, this works. At this point, with the turkey upside down, baste the backside of the turkey (that is facing you) under the skin and outside, too.

Cook it for half the cooking time, using the basting sauce every half hour. Now after half the time, take the turkey out. WITH HELP, use some long, strong utensils and carefully flip the turkey so it is now breast side up. Add a thermometer in the section where the thigh meets the breast (the thickest part of the turkey). Cook it this way for the remaining time, using the basting sauce until done. Then use a baster as well to baste as well. 

If the turkey is browning too fast, cover it with tin foil.

Watch your thermometer when you baste. You want it to hit 175º. If you are at 170º and your guests aren't due for a couple of hours, you can hold it at that temp by lowering your oven temp to about 250º. You must baste if you do this, or else your turkey will dry out. Take it out at 175º. Your turkey needs to sit for 10-15 minutes before carving, and it continues cooking, so don't be alarmed if it creeps up to 180˚ (that is the temp it should be technically, but if you get it just under, it will be perfect when carved). While waiting, I drain the pan into a fat skimmer and make gravy out of the pan drippings with chicken stock, cornstarch mixed with chicken stock, and a little Amaretto. Cook until thickened, and serve with turkey.


COOKING: Canned Tomato, Apple-Pear and Rhubarb Chutney (with how-to videos)

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Usually canning is for the summer months, but we don't stop canning at our house. Nope. In fact we just put up some jams to give away as holiday gifts and keep during the winter months. In fact, we just bought a pressure cooker to really get canning crazy! SO be ready for some new posts around pressure cooker canning (squeeeeeel!).

Today I am sharing a recipe and how-to video around a great concoction hubby and I made with tomatoes, rhubarb with fall fruits and a kiss of tart rhubarb. There is a ton of spice in here that makes this chutney sing. We use it on roast pork tenderloin and it is delicious! It also can be a great holiday gift.



Canned Tomato, Apple, Pear and Rhubarb Chutney

Ingredients:

2 lbs. onions, diced
6 large coves of garlic, minced
2 lbs. tart apples (Granny Smith or Macintosh), diced
2 lbs. pears, diced
1 1/2 lbs. rhubarb, diced
2 Tbsp. ginger, minced
3 c dried cranberries
3 c apple cider vinegar
4 c brown sugar
2 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
4 tsp. sea salt

3 lbs. tomatoes, quartered

Directions:


Heat a large 8 quart sauce pan over medium high heat. Add onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook for about 7 minutes. Add apples, pears and rhubarb. Cook for another 7 minutes. Add cranberries, vinegar, brown sugar, spices and salt. Cook 20 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook 40-50 minutes more. As tomatoes cook, pick out skin from tomatoes as they release skins. (you could remove skins previous to adding and eliminate the need to pick them out). Remove chutney from heat and fill pint jars 1/2” from top, cap and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Here are some how-to videos to help with the canning process.



Final Holiday To-Do's: This is a Job for Starbucks

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Christmas Eve is tomorrow and boy have I been swamped. I am sure you have, too. And I bet you still have one or two things to get done before all the festivities begin.

This marathon of sparkles, ribbon, stamps and errands can only be done with the help of coffee. I'm completely serious. The past two weeks I've been up until 1:30 a.m. wrapping teacher gifts, coworkers' gifts, labeling greeting cards...the list goes on.  And every morning I've had to get up and go to work. I can't do it without coffee, and to try and stay in the spirit of the holiday without losing my mind, I drink Starbucks. Heck. The holiday package sitting next to my coffee maker as I stare, bleary eyed, waiting for my jolt of courage to brew cheers me up and gets me humming jingle bells.

I mean, look at it.
It's all shiny and happy.


And it has a rich, spicy yet smooth flavor, just what mamma needs to get my family to the finishing line of Christmas.

What does that entail?

Greeting cards:

So I have over-achiever issues. And every year, I custom design our greeting card, preferably with infographics about what we did as a family over the past year. I'm an art director by trade, so I get a sick fun doing these. I even do a bit of math to make sure the graphs and data are as accurate as possible. Sometimes this attention to detail makes these cards late. Well, I just got my babies in the mail this past weekend, thanks to my helper-hubby-elf, but this is later than usual.

Some of my greeting card tips:
  • If making custom printed cards, use one of the many online printers. They have templates you can download and the pricing is awesome! We use overnight prints and they have never let us down.


  • Use Avery labels for addressing, and keep a file on your computer with all the names in one of their templates that you can download from their website. Every year, save a new file and date it, with updates and address changes. This saves a ton of time.

  • Use a paper towel and a little bit of water to seal envelopes. It beats licking them (remember that Seinfeld episode where George's fiance died from licking all the wedding envelopes? That always stayed with me. *shudder)
  • For your assembly line helpers, make some hot cocoa (like Starbucks Salted Caramel) -or a cup of java-to get the cards done and in the mailbox with a spring in your step and a smile on your face!
Wrapping presents


  • First, get organized. I had wrapping supplies in three different places in the house, as well as scraps of various sizes of wrapping paper flying all over the place. It was very bad wrapping Feng Shui. I took all the bags and bins filled with wrapping flotsam, brought it all in front of the TV, grabbed the recycling bin and trash bin, and just went through everything. Labels I put in a plastic bag, ribbons in a another, threw out anything that wasn't usable and consolidated everything in a one big holiday bin to use every year and store with all the other holiday decorations. I wanted it out of the way the rest of the year, and not to be mixed up with my more generic wrapping stuff for birthdays and such.
  • Clear an area as your wrapping station, and have supplies near by.
  • Brew your favorite holiday beverage-maybe even with a shot of peppermint schnapps because wrapping endless presents sucks. Don't get me wrong, I love the holidays and I love giving, but after the third present I want to wish a holiday genie into being to wrap the rest. Ugh. I'm getting tired even talking about it. Starbuck's Via, peppermint liquor and a splash of Bailey's. Mmmmm. Makes wrapping bearable.
Last Minute Gifts and Hostess Gifts
There are always some people you still need to cover off on a couple days before Christmas. Here is a list of ideas for you so you don't need to stress on small gifts for hostesses, stylists, mailmen, Girl Scout leaders, interns and the like.

  • Gift cards. Every store, online and off, has gift cards. Etsy gift cards, Target gift cards, Starbucks gift cards, even Subway gift cards. I got a $10 Subway gift card from one of my scouting families and it came in very handy when I forgot my lunch one day and wanted a sandwich! They basically treated me to lunch! Small yet practical gestures are usually the best gifts. Wrap the gift card in a small box to make it feel more special.
  • Bag of goodies. Grab a gift bag and buy some miscellaneous things within your budget and stick with a theme. Fill it with golf balls and tees, or supplies for a manicure, or make it coffee themed by visiting Starbucks. They have great small edibles, bags of coffee and great mugs and cups to make a really nice hostess gift.

  • An ornament: If you know your recipient celebrates Christmas, give them a cool ornament. It seems they have a holiday ornament for just about any interest now. This is a gift they can enjoy yearly. They will think of you every time they decorate the tree. I have ornaments from many past coworker friends who I don't see much anymore. Every time I pull out one of their ornaments to decorate the tree, I think of them and smile.
  • Kitchen presents & handmades: Put up some jam this summer? Or tomatoes? Bake some holiday cookies? Have a special hot cocoa mix you always make? The dollar store has great jars, tins, plates and boxes and you can fill them all with your special kitchen prowess. Tag it cutely and there you go! Something special from your heart and hands is always well received. And if you're really crafty, you can make some hand made gifts quite quickly. My favorite is the upcycled handmade scarf I make for my female pals. You can make a scarf in about 2 hours. How about some wine charms? Or fingerless gloves?
I hope you found my tips on getting to the finish line of the holidays helpful! My daughter and I are off to shop for my hubby. She needs to get him a gift-hopefully it's fast! We have a lot more wrapping to do today (Sigh. Cue the schnapps).

Happy Holidays!

Please note: Starbucks Holiday blend and the fabulous Peppermint Mocha Via and hot cocoas were provided by Starbucks. All thoughts, opinions and obsessions about Starbucks coffee are completely my own. Thanks! #starbucks #starbucksholidayblend @starbucks #peppermintmocha #via




RECIPE: Cranberry Shortbread Bars

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Maybe you are making a spiced cranberry sauce for your holiday table? Are you like me and wonder what to do with all the cranberry sauce left over afterward?


I never like wasting food-let alone throw it out. So I thought about the spiced cranberries and my usual berry bar cookie recipes, and wondered if I could use the cranberry sauce in the same manner-and have a fresh holiday treat for my family while using up some left overs.

It worked out great! Whatever your cranberry recipe is, use it on a basic shortbread bar cookie and bake it up! The more complex and spicy the sauce, the more interesting the bar cookie. Play with the spices in the flour to match whatever profile your cranberry sauce had. This one below has some subtle cinnamon and nutmeg to go with the spiced sauce we made. If your sauce is too tart, adjust the sweetness by adding some sugar before using in the cookies.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Cranberry Shortbread Bars

Ingredients:


1 1/2 cups or so of left over cranberry sauce 
(we like this recipe from Williams Sonoma)

1/2 cup of chilled butter cut into cubes 
1 cup sugar 
1/4 tsp. Kosher salt 
1 cup flour 
1/8 tsp. nutmeg 
1/8 tsp. ground cloves 

Directions:


Line a 8" x 8" x 2" pan with parchment paper



Mix flour with spices, sugar and salt with a fork. Cut in chopped butter and mash with a fork until crumbly texture forms. You might need to use your fingers to also combine the butter well with the flour. Combine until the flour will hold together when pressed. Pour 3/4 of the mixture into the bottom of the pan, reserving roughly 1/4 cup for the top. 


Press evenly into the pan and prick with a fork. Gently bake for about 15 minutes then take out to cool slightly.


Pour leftover cranberry sauce on the top of the shortbread and spread evenly. Crumble up the reserved shortbread dough with your fingers and crumble over the cranberries. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the bottom crust is lightly golden and the top is bubbly. Let set for 15 minutes before cutting and serving.



RECIPE: Pine Nut and Anise Biscotti

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Holiday entertaining is here, and sometimes you want something light and sweet for dessert that goes great with coffee instead of the heavy, decadent desserts typical of the season. These biscotti are a great ending to a heavy dinner, and hold up great with coffee.

I grew up with biscotti, being first generation Italian. Biscotti are great to have around for quick neighbor drop ins or big dinners. They also last a while-up to 2 weeks actually. They tend to be hard and crunchy, which makes them forgiving when storing them. So keep them around and your ready for when a sweet tooth hits you or your Aunt Edna stops by. They hold up to freezing and defrost quickly, too.

These have been a fast favorite at our home. The orange zest is aromatic and subtle, and works nicely with the anise flavor. The pine nuts give them a rich flavor with an extra crunch.

Most people skip making biscotti. They are baked twice, making them labor intensive. But the dough comes together easily, so I think that makes up for the extra time baking. Add these babies to your holiday baking repertoire and you won't be disappointed. Promise!


Pine Nut and Anise Biscotti
adapted from Williams Sonoma's Special Occasions Cookbook
makes about 4 dozen

Ingredients:
1 cup pine nuts, toasted in a small pan over medium heat, jostling constantly then cooled
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 Tbsp. grated orange zest
2 tsp. anise seeds, crushed in a mortar and pestle
1 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350˚. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the salt and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the sugar, oil, orange zest, anise seeds and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the pine nuts, give it a final mix in and turn the dough onto a floured work surface.

Using a dough scraper, give the dough about 10 turns to make the dough firm enough to handle.

Working directly on the baking sheets, divide the dough in half and form each into a log, about 2" in width and 13-15" inches long. I used one sheet per log. I used my hands as well as my spatula to evenly distribute the dough.

Bake until firm to the touch, about 30 minutes. The logs will puff up and spread. Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheets for 10 minutes, but leave the oven on because you aren't done!

Transfer the first log to a cutting board carefully. Slice the log using a serrated knife crosswise into 1/4"-1/2" thick slices. Arrange the slice, cut side down, back onto the baking sheets. Repeat with the other log.

Place the filled baking sheets back into the oven and bake until lightly golden and dried out, about 20 minutes longer. I flipped them over carefully halfway through so they could evenly dry out on both sides.

Transfer them to cooling racks when finished. They can be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

HOLIDAY BAKING: This is a job for Starbucks

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 3 days.

648+ dozen cookies.

2 jams.

Kitchen gifting is grueling work. I take two days off and bake a slew of Italian cookies with my mom and sister. Then a third day I bake off 11 batches more. This is dough and batter I've had stored in the freezer for a few months. I start at the end of October and make 2 batches a weekend. I shape, pre-form and wrap tightly these cookies as I go, labeling each one. Then they get all baked off and finished in a flurry of exhausting activity this week. Honestly, slice and bake cookies are best a tad frozen, so this is great tip.




But this amount of work is not easy to keep up. I started at 8 a.m. Tuesday and did not finish until 1:30 am. Half way through day 3 I stop, rub my lower back, look up at the sky and ask the good Lord why I do this every year? Then somehow I get amnesia because I do it all over again every holiday. Every year I falter near the end of the marathon, almost give up and go lay down with a glass of wine.

What do you need to not only keep your holiday spirits up, but your energy too when you are baking away for friends and family?

Enter Starbucks, the one coffee purveyor that really knows how to assist the Christmas crazy. You get the aromatic holiday flavors, and you get the caffeine you need to keep going. I brew up Starbucks holiday blend in the morning to get my engine roaring while my oven preheats and some of my batter defrosts. Their holiday blend has the right balance of smooth and spicy, and smells great with butter and sugar baking in the oven.



Then late afternoon, once I get through 2/3rds of the cookies, my lower back is screaming, I've got at least two major burns on my hands or arms and my fingers are raw from washing baking sheets all day, I heat up some hot water, put my feet up and mix myself a hot peppermint mocha Via. The aromatic peppermint lifts my spirits, the warmth of the cup soothes me. It gets me back into the giving, holiday spirit and kicks me out of my chair and refocused to finish out the last 2/3rds.

Make sure you have plenty of Starbucks holiday beverages to sip on while you are doing your baking! It will keep things moving in your kitchen and keep the holiday smile on your face!

The plate above is what my plates consist of this year. Below are links to the recipes should you wish to make any! Plates and tins go to neighbors, family and friends, clients, coworkers, teachers and special service industry people. 

It's my way to share the love. Happy holiday baking peeps!



Urban Domestic Diva Cookie Plate 2015

Double chocolate hazelnut biscotti


Cornmeal lemon blackberry sage



Eggnog bites



Peppermint candy twirl



Nutella two bites



Lemon lavender shortbread



Chocolate coffe ribbons



Pistachio chocolate chips



Spiced bizochitos



Lime cremes



Coffee sugar


Please note: Starbucks Holiday blend and the fabulous Peppermint Mocha Via and hot cocoas were provided by Starbucks. All thoughts, opinions and obsessions about Starbucks coffee are completely my own. Thanks! #starbucks #starbucksholidayblend @starbucks #peppermintmocha #via


RECIPE: French Onion Turkey & Green Bean Casserole

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This past Thanksgiving gave us a ton of left overs. We hosted it and had a lot of fun making a huge meal for our family. But the next day we were knee deep in turkey, green beans and bread (oh, and pie, and sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes, and cookies...).

What to do with all this food?
Make a turkey casserole with green beans (and whatever other vegetables you have left over)!

This was adapted from CampbellsSoup.com, and I upped the turkey amounts, used green beans, and cut the dairy by adding chicken broth (I'm trying really hard to cut dairy out of my diet). It has more of a bread pudding or strata kind of vibe versus a pasta or rice casserole. It's a nice change to the casserole rotation we usually have going.

The Swiss cheese gave it a slightly earthy, bitter tang that went nicely with the french onion flavors. I think a White Cheddar or Gruyere would work nicely, too. If you have a handful of other cooked vegetables left over, you can throw those in as well. You can have some left over fun with this recipe for sure.

The best part, it was so easy after a long day of entertaining, I was so exhausted! This baked in the oven while I got the Christmas decor up. Easy, peasy and yummy. Score!


French Onion Turkey & Green Bean Casserole 
adapted from CampbellSoup.com 

Ingredients:

6 eggs 
1 can of condensed French onion soup 
1 cup of whole milk 
1 cup of shredded Swiss cheese 
1 cup of chicken broth 
2 tablespoons of fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons of dry thyme 
1/4 teaspoon of salt 
7 to 8 slices of thick cut bread 
3 cups of leftover cooked turkey, chopped 
1/2-3/4 cups of chopped cooked green beans 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°.
Spray a 9" x 9" or 11" x 7" casserole pan.

In a very large bowl mix the eggs with the soup, the milk and the chicken broth. Then mix the thyme, salt and fresh ground pepper, and the bread cubes. Then mix the turkey and 3/4 cup of cheese and mix well. Reserve 1/4 cup of cheese for the top.

Pour into the casserole dish, then sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese on top as well. Bake for about 1 hour until hot and bubbly and the center as well as sides are puffy and set. Let it set for 15 minutes before serving. 

RECIPE: Caramel Apple Rosettes in Puff Pastry

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I like having small bite-sized treats for fall and winter dinners. The left overs store better in smaller sizes, and bite sized treats are oftentimes a more welcome dessert rather than giant pieces of cake or pie.

Apple rosettes fit the bill and are super easy. They are also all over Pinterest. I recommend having some fun with what you fill the puff pastry strips with. You can use nut butters, pumpkin and apple butters, different jams, or even sweetened vanilla cream cheese.

For these I used caramel sundae topping. It's key to slice these apples very thin, and to not skip the poaching in hot water in the microwave. The apples get softened and pre-cooked, able to be rolled up easily in the puff pastry.

Caramel Apple Rosettes in Puff Pastry

Ingredients:

water 
juice of half a lemon 
three baking apples cored, peeled and sliced very thinly 
puff pastry, defrosted and rolled out slightly to 1/4" thick
half a cup of caramel sauce sundae topping, slightly warmed 
cinnamon (about 1/8 cup for sprinkling)
sugar (about 1/8 cup for sprinkling)


Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Spray large muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

In a large microwave-safe bowl filled with water to cover the apple slices, add the lemon juice and microwave in the oven 3 minutes at a time until the apples are soft and pliable. This will depend on how thick the apple slices are. I had to continue microwaving for a good eight minutes. The thinner the slices the quicker they soften and the easier you can roll them into the rosettes.

Meanwhile roll out the puff pastry with a little bit of flour so it doesn't stick to the work surface or the rolling pin. Using a pastry cutter, cut six rectangular strips lengthwise. Brush the strips evenly with a thin layer of slightly heated caramel sauce. Arrange the apple slices along the length of the puff pastry, right along the top half of the strip. You're going to overlap the slices slightly on top of one another so that you have a scalloped top edge of apples peeing out above the length of the puff pastry. You're laying those apples right on top of the puff pastry that has a thin layer of caramel sauce. 

Next, sprinkle the apples generously with cinnamon and sugar. Fold the lower half of the puff pastry on top of the apples, folding the puff pastry in half lengthwise so that the bottom of the apples are nestled into the puff pastry. Starting at one end gently roll the whole puff pastry with the apples loosely until it's all rolled up in your hand looking like a flower.

Gently place the rosettes, puff pastry side down, into the muffin tins. Continue with all the rest of the strips. You should have about six rosettes. Bake the rosettes for about 40 minutes, until puff pastry is golden brown, apples are cooked and the sauce is bubbly. Let cool for five minutes and then invert the rosettes onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Served warm with vanilla ice cream.





DECKING THE HALLS: This is a job for Starbucks

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The holidays are here, and boy have I been busy. First I hosted Thanksgiving, then I had to de-Thanksgiving-ise my house (goodness, were there dishes to clean!). By Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend I was plum exhausted, and had to muster the energy to decorate for the holidays. It's a tradition to do it that weekend. My daughter enjoys it with me and we usually put on music or a Christmas movie while we sip hot cocoa and put up all the family's ornaments.

To add to my exhaustion, all my holiday bins are in the third-floor attic. That's a lot of stairs to climb and large bins to drag up and down. There was only one way to get in the mood-and muster the energy-to get this giant job done.

Starbucks.

I love coffee. It's the only way this urban domestic diva stays a diva and not a car wreck every day. But when it comes to the holidays, only one coffee purveyor knows how to do it up right, and that's Starbucks. From the cozy experience in their stores to their Peppermint Mocha Vias at home, to their always new hot cocoa flavors for your little elves they know how to get into the holiday spirit as much as we do. I ask for no other partner for my holiday crazy than Starbucks.

So I brewed myself a Peppermint Mocha Via and got to work.

ROCKING AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE...

My tree has a long history of family ornaments. My mom gives one to my daughter every year, and with every trip we take I try to get a souvenir ornament. We try to keep things all the right color but as ornaments are gifted to us, they sometimes deviate from the color scheme. I am a creative director by day, so I like things to be matchy-matchy (it's in my blood). I do it by including a healthy amount of filler glass balls in the right colors, and use fabric ribbon and bows to also tie the tree together color-wise. It becomes the base of the tree, so all the special ornaments can be everywhere and the off-color ones don't clash as much.

Peppermint mocha was key here. It's wafting, soothing peppermint calmed my nerves as I tried to figure out why my pre-lit tree's lights were not working. I used that fancy gadget to fix broken string lights too, and figure out which lights were causing the problems. Not so much. In the end, I just strung lights on the tree the old fashioned way. Annoying. I thank that VIA for not throwing the whole tree out the window. We just bought it a couple of years ago!
Prelit tree?
Whatever.




Olive green, antique gold and brick red are the main colors of the tree. The gold and green are in the ribbon I lay and twirled around the lit tree. Then I have brick red fabric bows I put on here and there, followed by some brick red and gold filler balls.

 

The last step are all our heirloom ornaments.


Then I sit on my chair, sip the rest of my peppermint mocha and enjoy my tree before going to...


 DECKING THE HALLS, AND FOYER, AND STAIRS...


The stairs and foyer of our home was one of the reasons we bought our house. It has a lovely presence about it, and I love welcoming guests with decor on the banister (garland, lights, and ribbon in the same color as the tree). We don't have a fire place, so I use the stairs as a way to hang our stockings. At this point I was fading a little but mustered enough energy to quickly decorate my favorite little room in the house.

EVEN BOOKS NEED A LITTLE CHRISTMAS...


My house has a little awkward room off the dining room which my husband told me after we bought our house, "I always saw that room as a little library for you, to hold all your immense amount of books you never get rid of." 

Cha ching! 

This has quickly become my favorite room in the house, small as it is. I even made a small little holiday tree for it, complete with upcycled book ornaments (for a how-to on these ornaments, here is a previous post and videos)  with a book holding Santa watching over it. Once this room was done, I sat in my reading chair and finished my coffee, content in our hard work for the night. But I wasn't done.

THE NEXT MORNING,
FINISHED DECORATING WITH A GREAT CUP OF STARBUCKS HOLIDAY BLEND...

Like I said, Starbucks loves the holidays. You can see it in their product lines, their stores and their social engagement. Every year, they release a holiday blend that is smooth yet spicy and rich. This year's bag did not disappoint. I brewed a pot while I unloaded my Christmas town which takes over my dining room buffet. I bought these on sale at JoAnne fabrics for 70% off, on the urging from my then 8 year old. Now she's 13 and where was she this early morning to help with this? 

In bed.

The wafting aroma coming from the coffee pot kept me going as I put the houses in their spots, pieced together my home-made brick paths I drew and cut out of grey construction paper and laid the pillowy pretend snow around everything. This part is tricky, the snow needs to be tugged and thinned out, then pushed and set into places so it looks real.




Sipping my Holiday blend, I placed my little people where they made sense, and even made a skating pond behind the house on the end, mounding the fiber-fill around a small mirror, then placing some ice skaters right on top.


The final step of decorating is finding a spot for our nutcracker collection, which ended up being on my piano. Holiday decorating is tricky. I love putting it all up, but it is a lot of clutter. By the time we ring in the new year, I am ready to take it all down!

When decorating, I urge you to take things down and store it away for the month to not only make room for some of the decorations, but keep the clutter down. My piano and buffet is a perfect example, usually filled with family pictures. I put it all in the holiday bins for the month, then when it's time to put the holiday stuff back in the bins, the stuff that belongs out normally is right there waiting for you.



Holiday decorating at our house is a big job. To make it as enjoyable as it should be and less grueling, get in the holiday spirit with some holiday flavors from Starbucks. Their warm cozy deliciousness turns tasks into spirit-lifting traditions.

Happy decorating!

And next holiday installments, Holiday Gifting Ideas and Greeting Card Sending Tips!



Please note: Starbucks Holiday blend and the fabulous Peppermint Mocha Via and hot cocoas were provided by Starbucks. All thoughts, opinions and obsessions about Starbucks coffee are completely my own. Thanks! #starbucks #starbucksholidayblend @starbucks #peppermintmocha #via










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