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December 31, 2013

Simple Potato Leek Soup with Parmesan & Bacon

After all of the holiday indulgence and richness, I'm in the mood for simple, clean and nourishing food.  Does anyone else feel the same?  While I love the festive bustling Christmas season, I always look forward to the calmness and quiet of January.  I love the idea of "hunkering down" and stocking up.  I've been stocking our pantry with all of my favorite essentials so I can make everything we love without leaving the house.

This Potato Leek Soup is the perfect warm, comforting soup for holiday recovery... especially with crumbled bacon and fresh parmesan on top. 
Potato Leek Soup
with Parmesan & Bacon

4 large Yukon Gold potatoes
2 large leeks
1/4 cup of olive oil
Sea Salt & Cracked Pepper
4 cups of chicken stock
1/2 cup of cream
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
crumbled bacon
olive oil
crusty bread


Peel and dice the potatoes, and chop the leeks.  Add them to a large pot with the olive oil, salt and pepper.  Cook on medium for 10-15 minutes until the soften.

Add chicken stock and continue to cook for 10 more minutes until potatoes are very soft.

 I got a new food processor for Christmas, so I was anxious to give it a whirl.

Puree mixture in batches until smooth.

Add puree back into the pot, add cream and parmesan.  Heat through.

Serve with crumbled bacon, a drizzle of olive oil, a generous sprinkling of parmesan cheese (that I also processed in the food processor - love the texture), and a big chunk of crusty bread.

December 30, 2013

Our Holiday Break in Pictures

I hope you all had a wonderful and festive Christmas.  December is an especially nutty month for us (and I'm sure all of you, too).  We have Mike's birthday on the 7th, Emma's on the 15th + all of the holiday events packed in + a last minute work trip to New York for me... not to mention all of the holiday orders for the store I worked on around the clock to do my best to get everything out on time.  It went by in a whirl, but we made a conscious effort to slow down this last week to really enjoy each other.

When I got back from New York at midnight on the 19th, I put myself on an official break from all but fun time with my family - it was fantastic.  I feel like I've been pulled 12 different directions for the last 4 months since the store has opened (I'm sure you all can relate!) and it has been such a treat to shut down that side of my brain for just a little while.  I hope you've all had the chance to do the same.

The first thing on the agenda for my "break" was to make teacher gifts for Emma's school.  So no less than 8 hours after arriving home, Emma and I were in the kitchen making a little holiday cheer in the form of white chocolate dipped pretzel rods. 

I love this project because they take 2 minutes to prep (literally, melting chocolate in the microwave for 2 minutes) and then you're ready to dip.  I gave Emma complete creative control, mixing sprinkles, dipping and re-dipping.  The more "creative" they are, the more festive they look. It was a fun, no-stress morning in the kitchen with holiday tunes playing and sprinkles every where.

We did a lot of giving this holiday season - and I'm so glad.  Some years, it seems that Christmas sneaks up on us and I feel like we haven't given our fair share.  But this year, we were extra generous with tips everywhere we went, I had a huge bundle of toys that Emma helped pick out for a local women's shelter and we did some volunteering.  It is never enough, but I'm glad that we made a real effort this year to share.

I always give our teachers some extra money, too.  They are such amazing, loving and caring people that give so generously to Emma all year long - and we've all been in a spot in our lives that sometimes, you just need a little extra money for a special present, or an unexpected bill.  Most of Emma's teachers are young moms themselves, and I know they appreciate having a little extra to splurge on their little ones... but we can't resist giving a homemade treat, too. 

The next day, we had our first snow day!  This is Emma discovering the snow that first morning.

She loved it much more than this photo attests.  I promise.

Here's a little glimpse of a cold smile as she's sliding sown the hill.

Our dinners have been quick, easy and comforting - like these seared steaks.  I have a new appreciation for quick and easy dinners and will be sharing a lot more this month... I'm thinking one pan, less dishes and less time.

I made a simple mushroom sauce (for me, Mike is not a mushroom fan... ugh) garlic, butter, thyme and red wine.

One of the most fun presents I gave this year was a loaf of Poilane bread - recommended by the Barefoot Contessa.  It is baked in Paris and then shipped over night. Isn't it gorgeous?

I had it sent to Mike's mom to arrive on Christmas Eve right before we all came over for dinner. 

Checking out her presents on Christmas Eve at Mimi's house.

This is Christmas morning at our house.  Santa's packages were wrapped just like they were on the Polar Express (movie & book) - Emma's official resource for Christmas this year.

Santa never forgets Mr. Darcy : )

Fast forward 20 minutes...  This princess dress was a gift from me, from the Eloise shop at the Plaza in New York.

Christmas isn't complete without a train set : )

Gramp Gramp's firetruck all lit up for Christmas Day!  He drove it in the town parade earlier this season.

The girls in their Christmas finery.

Of course, after we'd been dressed up each night in our fun, fancy festive clothes - the only family photo we remembered to take was our last family party in our jeans : )

I've been cooking up a storm for the last couple of days and have some new recipes to share later today and the rest of the week.  We're also planning a fancy schmancy dinner with some friends for New Years - you can follow along on instagram.

It feels good to be back to my cooking and blogging groove - which I'll be doing a lot more of this month.  I have some exciting news for the store (announced soon), that will help free up my hands and my mind to help me get back to writing and cooking more. 

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and enjoyed relaxing and loving on your family.  

December 18, 2013

Emma's 2nd Birthday | Cookie Decorating & Family Party

Two years ago, we were at Emerson Hospital in Concord, getting ready to bring Emma home - I can't believe it.  Time flies.  If I try really hard, I can still feel what it felt like the instant she was born.  So surreal.  

For her birthday, I wanted it to be a day (ok... weekend) that would be all about her favorite things.  It started with a whimsical morning of snowflake balloons, a doll house and glittered packages.  I invited her cousins and aunts to decorate Snow Day themed sugar cookies that morning, then we had the rest of the family for dinner that night for a casual night of pasta and cupcakes.  After dinner the girls took horse-drawn carriage ride to look at Christmas lights.  It was such a great weekend filled with thrills for Emma - and Mom and Dad.


I wanted her be surprised when she woke up and came downstairs, so I picked up some balloons to decorate - clear 16" balloons with silver glitter inside.  I had last minute inspiration to hang snowflakes (paper-source, $5) from the streamers, when I saw the chance of snow in the overnight forecast.   It took about 5 minutes and completely delighted her.  She had the sweetest little smile on her face when we carried her in the living room.

Mr. Darcy is more interested in the packages than Emma.

She skipped right past the doll house and packages to gather all of the snowflakes.  This has me rethinking my plans for Christmas gifts... maybe just a room full of balloons?

She did love the glittered packages - "Pixie Dust" wrapping paper.  (Paper-Source)

Back to gathering snowflakes!

Her new "dollies" got her attention!

Emma spies her....


Everyone was shocked to find out that Mike and Emma made the cupcakes.   They made the cake part the night before while I had fun picking up my party supplies.

I frosted them with a pale pink frosting, topped them with sanding sugar and an "Emma's Room Pink" (of course) Celebration Candle.

We made "homemade" cinnamon rolls the night before, let them rise overnight and baked them while we opened her packages.  Here is waits patiently in her gingham cookie decorating apron (Pottery Barn Kids) and party hat.

I put together a quick centerpiece for the table while Emma put her party dress on.  Magnolia leaves, cedar sprigs, white hydrangea...

And a really beautiful white Amaryllis.  I love using Amaryllis in a cut arrangement.  This stem of 4 blooms was $12 and worth every penny.  Last year, I did 3 pale pink Amaryllis for Emma's Birthday, also with magnolia and cedar.

A simple table with preserved topiaries, candles and my flowers.

My Birthday Girl and her dollies.

We invited Emma's cousins and aunts over to decorate Snow-y Christmas Cookies.  I wanted the girls to have fun with the cookies, but I wanted them to be "pretty" as well, so I opted for a couple of colors of icing, then three different types of white sprinkles.  The snowflake sprinkles were definitely the most popular.

I had boxes, ribbon and tags ready to go for packing up cookies for everyone to take home.

I used my Snow Day themed cards - I love them because they are holiday-ish, but not too Christmassy, since this is Emma Birthday.  I think they'll be fun in January, too, to take treats around to neighbors on a snowed-in day.

Patiently waiting to decorate...

She had to go back and check out all of the sprinkles one more time.

She decided she would practice and pretend while she waited.

Emma and her cousin Sam starting on their cookies.  I can tell this is the first one, because sprinkles and icing soon covered every surface in sight.

Emma had a signature one blob of blue, with a few sprinkles.

Sam had a signature giant pile of icing covering every morsel of cookie, then completely covered with snowflakes.

Kate is still working on her technique.  Mostly licking.

Here are some of their works of art, with a few of mine in "kid-style" to fill in the gaps.  Beautiful!

Gramp Gramp and the two youngest girls... both babies just last year.

Uncle Josh & Claire joining in on the fun.

We had our own concert with Emma's new set of instruments.   She's really going to town with her "trumpet."

Such a great weekend and filled to the brim with fun for Emma and great memories for us.  Happy Birthday to our sweet Emma.
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