Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bargain Vintage Plates and Contemporary Mercury Glass Votives {Winter Tablescape}


Naked trees, thin layer of white snow on the grounds and golden harvested corn fields : that's precisely what the view from the picture window in our dinning room for the last couple of weeks. Since I'm seeing it on a daily basis, it became my inspiration for this tablescape .....

The vintage Churchill plate set bearing the naked tree design was a real bargain! My hubby pointed them out to me during a recent trip to Value Village {30 pieces/6 place settings, all in excellent condition for $9.99!!!}. They were covered in thick dust that nobody paid attention to the entire set. As soon as we got home, I soaked my "treasures" in warm water and mild liquid soap and voila!




The mercury vase, votives and candle holders which by the way I also got on sale {buying tip: mercury glasses are almost always 50% to 75%  off the original price after the Christmas holidays, or better yet, make your own : I will post a DIY  mercury glasses soon} are perfect embellishments to the vintage plates.


A bunch of simple and budget-friendly white carnation adds elegance to this winter tablescape.



No need to break the bank on your your next dinner party. Vintage dinnerwares are within reach in thrift shops. And remember inspiration are everywhere. Sometimes, you just have to look outside your window!



Linking with : Treasure Hunt Thursday
                        Tablescape Thursday



Friday, January 9, 2015

Candy Cane Choco-mallows


I have left-over candy canes and marshmallows from our holiday hot drinks serving tray. We also received a lot of chocolates from friends so I put them together for another easy peasy candy cane choco-mallows treat.


All you need are some left-over candy canes, marshmallows (large is preferable), chocolate.


Easy as one two three:

Melt chocolate in microwave (just a few seconds will do the job)
Crush 2-3 candy canes in a plastic bag until you get tiny pieces.
Stick whole candy cane in marshmallow.
Dip marshmallow in melted chocolate.
Sprinkle with crushed candy canes.
Place on wax paper (flat side down) until set.

Enjoy them as is or as a topper for your hot chocolate while warming yourselves by the fireplace!



Linking with Better Hens and Gardens




Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Our First Christmas at Birdsong {Home for Christmas}


Happy New Year everyone!

The "pixie dust" of the Christmas season is slowly dissipating as everyone tries to get back to the daily grind. I'm sure there are people out there like me who clings on to the Christmas spirit as long as I could. This year is no exception, in fact even more! Hubby and I spent our first Christmas in our new old house. This house, as some of you know was originally called The Rooster's Inn (a former vegan B&B and farm animals sanctuary). Now that this house is simply a home to hubby and I + Muning {A.K.A. Miming, the princess cat} + 15 hens + 2 Muscovy ducks + 1 chukar + 3 nosy chipmunks + 2 bullfrogs and their entire family and last but not the least ... countless birds of different kinds, we decided to rename our home THE BIRDSONG!

The snow came a week or two earlier so it was not a white Christmas this year yet the air smelled like Christmas nonetheless with all the pines on the grounds.


Keeping the spirit of Birdsong, we decorated the trees inside the house with things that are near and dear to our hearts - the creatures who complete our growing "family". Yes, even the nosy chipmunks are represented!


Its been our tradition to wrap gifts together while enjoying  a cup of hot chocolate.


This year at Birdsong was no exception. With Christmas carols playing, we wrapped and tied ribbons on simple gifts but this time Muning joined the fun {well, she tore papers and chased ribbon spools!}


On Christmas eve, we went to our new Parish to celebrate the most important part of  Christmas - "Today is born our Saviour, Christ our Lord. Come Let us adore Him"!


Its no secret that I love to cook. What day is more special to prepare food than Christmas? I also put out some of my "plato-platuhan" to go with the feast ....


It was a holly jolly Christmas morning when we opened our gifts in our jammies! Muning has more gifts than the two of us combined. BUT she ignored them all and still preferred her "tansan" {bottle cap}.


Meanwhile in the La Maison de Poulet, our beloved hens are treated with medley of  fresh cabbage, carrots, apples, celery, corn and barley. 


As a write this post, fresh snow covered the grounds and the temperature dropped to -15. It is cold and windy but my heart is still full of joy and warmth brought by Christmas .... wherever we are, new or old home, big or small, far or near, Christmas is where our family is!


"May the spirit of Christmas be always in our hearts!"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

My Love Affair with Afternoon Tea {Tips on Hosting an Afternoon Tea}


Afternoon tea is one of my favorites get-together theme during the holidays. Whether I am expecting a couple of guests or a dozen, I go all out in preparing the table, the food and of course the teas. To me, sipping warm delicious teas among friends is always an affair to remember.

Just because the tradition of afternoon tea is associated with elegance and royalty, some are intimidated to host afternoon tea at home. Let me put out a disclaimer : I am not a tea connoisseur. But thanks to my love of teas, visits to traditional tea houses, and reading tea books and magazines, I developed a love affair with this beautiful tradition. Allow me to share some helpful tips when hosting an afternoon tea.


Timing

I prefer to serve an afternoon tea from 3:30 - 6:00 PM. That will give me and my friends enough time to enjoy the feast and catch up on the "stories of our lives".

Venue


When flowers are in bloom during spring and summer, the garden would be perfect for an afternoon tea party. During the colder months and depending on the number of your guests, the set up can be done indoors : the dinning room, family room or receiving area {parlour}.


Table Set-Up


My rule is keep it simple and elegant. As much as possible use what you already have in your stash or get your creative juices working and make your own center piece arrangement, napkin holder, etc.


Must Haves:



  • Tea cups and saucers - do not worry about not having a matching tea service. Mixing and matching what you already have and maybe some purchase from your local thrift store, flea market and garage sale can create a beautiful shabby chic design.
  • Small Tea pots - I always have at least three on hand. This way, I can serve at least three different kinds of teas with ease. Again, it doesn't have to be matching with your tea cups.
  • Loose-leaf tea steepers
  •  Serving trays with one or two tiers. These are not only practical to serve your savory and sweet treats but the height also add elegance to your table setting.
The Spread


There is no really hard and fast rule when it comes to food. However, a traditional afternoon tea comprises a layer of savoury finger sandwiches {cucumber and cream cheese, egg salad, ham, and salmon}, a layer of cakes and/or sweet pastries or petit fours and a layer of scones.

I also love to included out of the box treats like pulled pork in mini puff pastry shell and chicken Waldorf in mini crispy wanton {recipes to follow}.

The key is being creative without spending too much time in  preparing the spread. Remember, you want to spend your time with your friends on the table instead of  the kitchen.

The Teas


More than the food, the kinds of teas I will serve my guests is my priority. As much as possible I serve only loose-leaf teas that can be brewed individually via tea steepers or in a pot. Remember, the water must come to a complete boil to really extract the real tastes from the tea. Also, steeping  is important and for each tea there is a proper steep time. 

Generally, black teas take longer to steep that green teas {4 minutes for black teas and 3 minutes for green teas}.

For my afternoon teas, I normally served three kinds to accompany the scones. the savoury sandwiches and the sweet treat. Like a tea pairing if I may call it. In this day and age, quality loose-leaf teas are sold in reputable stores - from the simple English breakfast tea to the more exotic tea blends. Personally, my usual tea parings would be :

Scone Course
Vanilla bean scones {find related recipe here}
Honeyed Mascarpone cream
Jams
Tea pairing : African rooibos tea

Savoury Course
Cucumber with lemony cream cheese sandwich
Egg salad sandwich
Chicken and walnut salad on mini crispy wanton
Tea pairing : Green tea with jasmin and lavender flowers

Sweet Course
Tarts
Pastries
Petit Fours
Tea pairing : Ice wine tea

Don't forget to put cream, sugar, lemon and honey on the table for those who prefer them.

This & That


Add more personal touch to your afternoon tea gathering by making a simple place card with a little note for your friends. It makes a nice conversation piece that your guests truly appreciate.

Alcoholic beverage like Bellini or Champagne also makes your afternoon tea an affair to remember.

Enjoy! That what tea afternoon is all about!



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