Every year my mom hosts a little brunch/ coffee hour for her friends at Christmas. For years I rolled my eyes every time she tried to get my friends to come to the party too. I mean really? My cool friends - or worst, people I wasn’t 100% sure were friends - to come rub shoulders with some of her weird old birds?
But then last year my friends were there - my actual friends - and they liked some of her weird old birds. We had coffee and cookies and chatted and it was actually fun. So I decided you should all host one too. Brew some coffee. Invite every weird friend you know and celebrate the season together. It’s totally worth it.
Here’s how to pull it off:
Send your friends an email or write a note at least one week ahead of when you think you’re planning the party.
Aim for a weekday at 10am if most of your friends are at home during the day. A Sunday at noon is usually best if they are at work during the day.
Buy or make at least three kinds of cookies. A small variety in large quantity makes the biggest impact.
Brew a pot of coffee, a big one. And bring out the good china mugs to serve it in.
Prep everything the night before - like platters for the cookies, mugs, napkins - then just set out the cookies in the morning!
Yes, these take a bit of time but it is so worth it. Homemade marshmallows are nothing like store bought. These are so much better. And nothing is better in hot cocoa than a peppermint marshmallow. Unless of course that’s peppermint schnapps. And the marshmallow on top.
4 packets unflavored gelatin
3 cups sugar
1 ½ cups water
1 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
½ cup crushed candy canes or other peppermint candies
Butter the bottom of an 11x17 sheet pan and top with parchment paper. Butter parchment paper and dust with powdered sugar.
In a stand mixer, combine gelatin and ¾ cup water. Let stand.
In a medium sauce pan with a heavy bottom combine sugar, remaining water, corn syrup, and salt. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat. Continue to cook until mixture reaches the soft ball stage on a candy thermometer (about 240 degrees).
Turn on stand mixer and pour in sugar mixture in a slow steady stream. Leave mixer running on high speed for 15 minutes until mixture is light and fluffy.
Blend extract into marshmallow mixture and pour marshmallow onto prepared pan and smooth out to the corners. Evenly coat the top with crushed candy canes and dust with powdered sugar. Let sit uncovered for 12 hours.
Turn out onto a cutting board dusted with powdered sugar. Butter and dust a knife with powdered sugar. Cut marshmallows into 2” squares and dip each cut edge into powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
Do you know what’s a real trick? Letting your eight year old girl “help” design her room while making sure it’s something she’ll like in the long run - and - more importantly - fits with my aesthetics as a super anal retentive person.
Here’s where the disagreements are:
She has a really unattractive hanging “pod” that’s hot pink. If it was a rattan hanging chair I’d be all over it but she wanted a cozy & snuggly one. There’s a chance you’ll never see it in photos.
Pink. I have no problem with pink but not on all of the walls. It’s a little too much.
Unicorn everything. Again, there may be things that no one sees in photos that she gets away with. Think sheets.
My goal is to create a room that she will grow into. I feel like some of the things she wants now she won’t want in a few years and I don’t want to re-do large things like repaint. We’re working on some compromises that will make both of us happy.
Here’s how I think we’re solving the issues.
We’re painting the ceiling pink. A very pale pink from Sherwin Williams called Charming Pink. It’s not the walls, you won’t see it from the hallway, but it will create a warm glow in the room. She’s happy, I’m happy.
I’ll add a pink lamp and she already has a pink poodle rug, so that will tie in all of the pink. It’s also easy things that can be removed later or updated to seem more “grown up.”
Inexpensive art on Etsy. She can choose what she wants and we can swap it out without guilt when she’s bored of it.
What do you think? Will it work? Will I end up giving in?
I get questions almost every day about the house. I am happy to talk about the house because I also can’t wait to see progress but the usual update is “not much.”
The reason it’s “not much” is because we are playing a waiting game on our windows. While we wait things are happening at the house - really exciting things like drainage. But not enough that you’d walk by and say “wow, look at that!”
Our windows were by-in-large the biggest investment of the house. A significant amount of the house is covered in windows and glass doors so we knew that they had to be good. Like really food, amazing good, outstanding good. And we wanted them to last for ever.
Our architect specified windows and doors based on pieces they’ve used before and what they like for the “reveal” around the edges. I cannot even remember how many window estimates we went after. Almost a dozen.
The price tag on installing walls and walls of windows is no small number either. So when we were looking at all of the estimates, there was a lot of sticker shock. And sticker shock makes you take a minute to consider which one you are choosing. We took more than a minute. We took weeks.
I’m sure if we would have pulled the trigger immediately we would have windows going in right now but we don’t.
I’m sure you’re wondering what we chose. And maybe why? Here’s what was important to us
Going with one company for windows and doors so everything matches. You would not believe how different “glass colors” can be if they are made by different companies. Most people would probably not notice, but I’m picky like that.
Going with one company also meant one delivery date, one delivery coordination, and one installation team.
I wanted really clean lines inside. And white walls. Which meant the window frames should really be white or very very light to make the lines clean. But the architect specified black on the outside. There is only one company that will create a window & door system like we need that’s black on the outside and white on the inside.
In the event you are going through the process of choosing windows - or really something large - here’s the process we went through:
We requested bids from six different window companies who could all provide the window sizes we have in the plans.
We immediately eliminated one company who was a pain in the ass to deal with and I felt like the sales person was really condescending to me. Not ok. Not dealing with that.
We also immediately eliminated a company that was really expensive
We also immediately eliminated a company that had wood interior and metal clad exterior. While I know that’s a selling point for ‘traditional’ homes, it wasn’t the look we wanted in our house.
We discovered that two of the companies offered the same product from the same distributor at different prices. One is the guy in point #2.
Once we were narrowed down to two companies we made a list of pros & cons to determine what was important to us. Each company had offerings, so we needed to figure out what we were willing to compromise on. I’m not good at compromise.
The windows will be delivered in January. We are on hold until they come in since the house isn’t weather tight until they get installed. Seattle in the winter isn’t exactly a dry scenario and we don’t want our insulation or anything else to get wet. Once the windows get installed, the progress will seem super fast (fingers crossed).
The company we ended up choosing is called Minimal Glass. They are a newer company with an excellent reputation - plus a sales guy who could literally sell anything. Minimal can create the doors and windows at the same shop with the same glass and the same sill. We know that everything will match. Minimal was also the only company who could provide a different color inside than outside. So I get white on the inside to match the walls (literally it’s Pure White by Sherwin Williams) and black on the outside to match the rest of the metal work on the exterior.
When spending the day with relatives, I highly recommend a few of these. Cheers to a day filled with too much food and too much family.
The turkey may be the main event but that's no reason why the sides can't be fun too. What's your favorite side dish?
POMEGRANATE RUBBED TURKEY
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
Unwrap and rinse the turkey (be sure to remove the insides). Pat the turkey dry and place in a roasting pan. Rub 1/2 of one of the pomegranates all over the turkey coating the skin entirely. Be sure to squeeze as you go so you really get the juice out.
Slice the second pomegranate into 4 pieces and stuff inside the bird alternating with the sliced onion. Give the pomegranates a gentle squeeze so some of the juice comes out - but not all of it.
Season the top of the bird with salt, pepper, and the crumbled sage. Pop it into the preheated oven.
Check the turkey every 20 minutes and baste when the skin appears dry. When the temperature inside the turkey reads 100 degrees, rub the remaining 1/2 of pomegranate over the turkey and top the skin with the butter.
Reduce the heat to 400 degrees and continue to cook. Use a thermometer to check for doneness. The temperature should read 180 degrees when inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.
Remove from the oven, cover with foil, and let rest on a cutting board for 20 minutes.
Gage the time it will take by assuming each pound will cook in 15 minutes. For a 16 pound turkey, that’s 240 minutes or 4 hours.
1 - 20 lb turkey
2 large pomegranates
2 large onions, sliced into quarters
1/4 cup dried sage, crumbled
4 tablespoons butter, cut into 4 pieces
Years ago I hosted a pumpkin patch party at my in-law’s farm house. Everyone had tiny babies and they rolled around in the pumpkin patch and ate cookies. It was so darling. When I was looking back on some old photos I decided these were too darling not to share. Especially that little face of Lars?! Are you kidding me?
This party is also timeless. These babies can be tiny and eating sugar cookies or ten years old and let them carve pumpkins on their own. You can host this anytime and all of the kids will love it. Serve some spiked punch and the adults will love it too.
5 tips for a dessert bar
Create a backdrop. It makes everything look more professional & like you planned it. I used an old Pendelton blanket (I have a collection) but you can use almost anything.
Make your favorite desserts that you have tried a million times and you know they work.
Fill in with store bought favorites. I adore Trophy Cupcakes and can’t think of a reason why I’d make my own when Trophy is done and delicious.
Napkins! Plenty of napkins.
Have something that’s “non-dessert” like a bowl of apples or cheese sticks or something that can take down the sugar high.
Want to know a secret? I think Pumpkin Spice is the worst thing to ever happen to pumpkin. I know that’s highly controversial. But here’s the truth. Pumpkin Spice doesn’t have one thing to do with an actual pumpkin. It’s clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon. THAT’S IT! Poor pumpkin has taken a bad wrap for this awful flavor combo that’s literally everywhere this month.
Real pumpkin, actual pumpkin, the squash that grows in the ground is delicious. It’s sweet, packed with vitamins, and really really good for you. The dreadful people who brought you the pumpkin pie have made it even easier (we’ll give them a pass) to integrate pumpkin into every day by pureeing it for you. Just don’t buy “Pumpkin Pie Filling” - they’ve already added the ‘Pumpkin Spice’ to that and you DO NOT want that on your pasta. Trust.
Pumpkin is such a perfect seasonal choice for dinner. It’s readily available, healthy, and gets you in a fall spirit like crunching through leaves on a sunny day. Only at dinner. Preferably with a cocktail in your hand. Here are my three favorite pumpkin dinners (one is squash, but you can sub in pumpkin, so close enough) PLUS a few bonus recipes at the bottom. The Crinkle Cookies are dreamy so don’t skip those!
All of these recipes are available on the Weeknight Society app so don’t forget to download! When you get the app you also get step-by-step instructions, a grocery shopping list, AND menu planning tools. You seriously can’t live without it.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring a pot of water to a boil.
Whisk together butter, honey and cayenne. Toss pecans in melted butter mixture and lay out on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Pop in the oven and bake 15 minutes until toasted.
Whisk together pumpkin, yogurt, ½ cup parmesan cheese, salt and pepper.
Cook pasta in boiling water. Reserve one cup of cooking water when straining cooked noodles.
Stir together pasta and pumpkin sauce. Slowly add pasta water as needed to thin out the pasta sauce. Sprinkle pecans and extra parmesan cheese over the top.
1 lb pasta
½ cup pumpkin puree
½ cup plain greek yogurt
¾ cup parmesan cheese
1 cup pecans
4 tbs butter, melted
1 tbs honey
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss pumpkin with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast on a baking sheet 15-20 minutes until fork tender.
In a soup pot, melt 2 tbs butter. Add onion, garlic and sage and cook until onion is tender. Remove sage from the pan.
Pour in broth and bring to a boil. Drop roasted pumpkin into the soup and blend with an immersion blender.
In a small bowl whisk together cream and egg yolks. Slowly pour in ½ cup of the hot soup to the bowl whisking constantly. Pour cream mixture into the soup pot and whisk in. Cook 10 minutes until thickened.
3 ½ lbs sugar pumpkin, cut into cubes
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
2 sprigs sage
8 cups vegetable stock
1 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks
salt & pepper
ROASTED SQUASH PASTA
Preheat oven to 450 and bring a pot of water to a boil. Toss squash in oil with thyme and roast in the oven until tender. (20 mins)
Cook pasta and drain reserving ½ cup pasta water.
Whisk together ricotta, vinegar, S&P
Toss pasta with ricotta and add pasta water 1 tbs at a time until pasta does not seem dry. You will probably not need the whole ½ cup. Serve with roasted squash and extra thyme on top.
1 lb pasta
2 cups butternut squash, chopped
2 tbs olive oil
1 cup fresh ricotta
1 tbs cider vinegar
4 sprigs fresh thyme
salt & pepper
More pumpkin for your kitchen!