Holiday Table

This table is so simple, but it still SCREAMS holiday, and wintertime, and celebration! I love it.


Even if you don’t have all the red accent plates and placemats – I mean, seriously, you know I’d just throw down some nice matte red wrapping paper and call it a day – the napkin treatment is easy and really makes the holiday statement for you. You can get these little bells at any place with Christmas tree gear, and then all you need is some kitchen twine and a sprig off the Christmas tree or from outside.

So easy, and so festive.


If you don’t have kitchen twine, just use some ribbon instead. It’ll be even more colorful.


Throw some votives around the table, stick a few more sprigs of greenery in vases, and you’re all set!

I might use this design idea for a dinner party I’m giving my family between Christmas and New Year’s…


All photos from Restored Style, via The Sweetest Occasion. Restored Style bought most of the tableware at Pier One, so if you’re into this look exactly, check it out.

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Rose-Colored Inspiration

Someone lovely sent me two dozen roses today.  They’re assorted dark pink, light pink, peach and yellow, and I adore these colors together more than I expected.

I usually choose the classic monocolor bouquet when I buy roses at the market – peach roses are my favorite, with just enough pink and just enough yellow, they are frothy pieces of heaven – so this multicolor bouquet is a wonderful new bit of eye candy.  Wouldn’t they be gorgeous placed in equally colorful vases?

I would pump up the volume by placing tins like these or multicolored bud vases over a turquoise-blue tablecloth and sky-blue napkins, simply folded so they don’t compete with the eye being drawn to the centerpieces.  It would be a table joyously about color.

On a table this colorful, we have to make sure the food doesn’t clash.  I’m thinking of using yellows of polenta and yellow peppers, greens of vegetables or salad, pinks and blues of berries and maybe some purple eggplant.  This is a slightly unconventional menu, featuring an egg at dinner, but I feel like it goes strangely well with the burst of color on the table.

Menu for a Rose-Colored Table

Raspberry-Lime Skinny Margaritas


I’ve been trying to invent a margarita that doesn’t have any real sugar and actually tastes good. It’s been so tough, guys: I’ve been working on it and working on it . . . and working, and working some more because you really never know when a little tweak will make a drink far better and the only way to know is to taste every single test cocktail multiple times. Quality control is serious here at BB&B. Don’t let anyone ever tell you throwing parties isn’t terribly hard work.

Lime juice is stultifyingly sour, and there’s no way around needing a sweetener if this drink is going to taste good. I used Splenda as the sweetener, but please use Stevia or Equal or whatever your sugar substitute of choice is – or if you want a little real stuff, go for the honey or agave syrup. Whatever you like best.


Furthermore, if you’re a regular follower you know that I like cocktails stiff and tart. I used 2 teaspoons of Splenda in mine, and it made for a tart drink but still very quaffable. If you prefer sweeter cocktails, start with 3 teaspoons and keep adding until it tastes ridiculously yummy to you.

Raspberry-Lime Skinny Margaritas

  • 4 raspberries
  • 2-5 teaspoons Splenda
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 2 ounces (1 shot glass) good silver tequila
  • 4 ounces (2 shot glasses) sparkling water

Place raspberries in a sturdy-bottomed glass and add the Splenda. Muddle together with a muddler or the back of a spoon.


Add lime juice, tequila and sparkling water and mix thoroughly. Pour into a pretty glass, if you like that sort of thing, and enjoy.

Gingerbread Mouse

Living in the Woods and Making Stuff

Living in the Woods and Making Stuff

If this doesn’t put you in the spirit of holiday cheer and whimsy, well, good luck with life. My oldest friend, Torrey, knows everything about cooking and knitting and anything home-related – and as a twist on a classic gingerbread house she made this absolutely incredible marzipan mouse in a gingerbread matchbox! I couldn’t love it more. It is so creative and lovely, just like everything else she cooks up. You absolutely must look at the process she went through to create every tiny detail. Look at how the peppermints are lined up alternating vertically and horizontally to make the blanket, or how the mouse’s ears are pink on the inside, or how with just a tiny hint of a suggestion of red pajamas your mind fills the rest in. Scrumptious in every way.

It makes me want to, you know, at least decorate some Christmas cookies, or eat an entire batch of gingerbread as an homage to her creativity . . . could I stick some chocolate chips in the shape of a smiley face on a spoonful of peanut butter and call it good?!

The Girl in the Garden

You haven’t heard of Kamala Nair, but you will.


She just sold her debut novel for six figures to Grand Central Publishing. The folks there are either incredibly lucky or insanely smart – or both – because The Girl in the Garden is going to be huge.  I was lucky to read it for the first time several months ago because (full disclaimer!) the author is my best friend.  I started it just before bed, planning to do some nice sleepy reading for a few chapters, then go to sleep and finish it later.  I had to be up in the morning fairly early, and I was tired.  Well: two hours later I looked at the clock and realized it was really late and I’d better go to bed ASAP to have any chance at a functional tomorrow – and I still could NOT put it down!  I read until it was done because I absolutely could not go to sleep without knowing what happened.  It was completely worth it.  It’s a beautifully written family drama that will thrill and delight you, worry you, surprise you and keep you turning the pages until there aren’t any left.  So, buy it!  Though this is rather early – it will probably come out in summer 2011 – but never fear, I will remind you then quite incessantly.

beach read

Ahhhh....summertime reading....

Here is the official synopsis from Publisher’s Marketplace: “Kamala Nair’s THE GIRL IN THE GARDEN, the redemptive journey of a young woman unsure of her engagement, who revisits in memory the events of one scorching childhood summer when her beautiful yet troubled mother spirits her away from her home to an Indian village untouched by time, where she discovers in the jungle behind her ancestral house a spellbinding garden that harbors a terrifying secret.”

The Girl in the Garden will be a fantastic book club selection because there are so many controversial characters that can’t be pigeonholed into good/bad – people will have a lot of different opinions, I think.  Which, naturally, would make for a great dinner party or cocktail party.  I love themed parties like this, but hate for them to be too obviously connected to their inspiration.  For example, the novel is primarily set in India, but serving only Indian food would just be so expected.  And we don’t ever want to be predictable, do we!?  I won’t give much away, but there are other elements of the novel that gave me inspiration with a twist – two primary themes are inner beauty and childhood.  My menu is below, and flexibly works for either hors d’oeuvres or a casual dinner party (everyone will have to feel comfortable about eating with their hands).  You’ll have to read the book to truly understand why I chose these dishes ;)

  • Samosas
  • Hot Peel and Eat Shrimp with Saffron Parsley Butter
  • Arugula with Pineapple and Pine Nuts, served in the pineapple
  • Wedding Cake

I started with samosas, because although they are obviously Indian food, I love them and I refuse to leave them out.  We also needed a little something Indian in the menu.  The shrimp reminds me of the tropical climate of Kerala and in their skins, they are ugly on the outside but wonderful on the inside; a major theme of the book.  Also, you have to eat the samosas and shrimp with your hands, tearing off the unattractive outer covering to get to the tastiness inside, which takes us back to childhood and obviously follows our theme of inner beauty.  The plating of the pineapple salad follows it as well and is evocative of the garden wall, and since the fruit itself has a prickly skin but is sweet inside, it too adds to our theme.  Pineapple is also a tropical fruit, and – an aside – I thought I didn’t like pineapple until I went to Kerala and someone convinced me to try one.  Oh my goodness, I can still remember how sweet that pineapple was.  I’ve been completely converted to pineapple ever since, and love using it in non-fruit salad ways.  Finally, wedding cake (which is really any cake you feel like making as long as you decorate it nicely) for the ending the main character hopes to have – plus, back to our childhood theme: everyone likes cake.

Martha Stewart Weddings

Martha Stewart Weddings

I would serve this on a table designed with a combination of whimsy and practicality.  It’s going to be a messy meal, and one napkin is not going to hold up to that shrimp.  So, two strategically placed paper towel dispensers placed on the table where the candles would usually go will be amusing and purposeful!  Then, with the white paper towels keeping it from getting too crazy, dress up the rest of the table with color: bright pinks, yellows, blues, reds, oranges.  This would be a great time to use the idea of aluminum cans (labels removed) or old jars as vases, again bringing us back to childhood and a casual feeling, and the colors are evocative of India without going overboard with the connection.


Images on left from Martha Stewart Weddings and on right from Snippet and Ink

This is neither a table nor menu that would make sense served without a connection to The Girl in the Garden, and it’s so fun to have inspiration come from extraordinary stories like this one.  I can’t wait for it to be published so everyone can read it!

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