Oh, I have treats to show you, blazing fire too! Here’s treat #1: Musica
Something delicious is cooking!
Where do we start . . . let’s see, how about here. . .
This is Titcombs Bookshop in Sandwich on Cape Cod where I went to sign books last week. But look what they did — with brown plastic tablecloths, they made the front of their shop into a gingerbread house! They cut heavy white paper plates in half and glued them around the doors and windows, and used some as edges to the “house” . . . they made candies out of them too, and lollypops in the window boxes. Isn’t that brilliant!?! I thought so too. I’d love to try this on our house next year.
I’m almost all unpacked from the trip now . . . I thought I’d show you some of the things I got at antique stores as we crossed the country. First off, lambs! You know how much I love lambs! I had a few before we went away, but on this trip whenever I saw one I thought would fit with my little group, I would get it. It was so fun to unwrap them, slowly, after forgetting what I’d gotten. I have a flock!
And look, treasure! I found a Beatrix Potter figurine of Samuel Whiskers! There was no possible way for me to leave him in that dusty old store, alone and unloved. I’d never seen this figurine before . . . did not even know what I was missing. Adorable thing, I saw it from across the room and honed in on it like a submarine sonar system. (Like I know what a submarine sonar system is, I think I made that up, but you know what I mean! Like Jack and his rubber band!) And now Samuel has friends. Never to be alone again.
And later, in another store, I found Mrs. Tittlemouse! Another BP person from 1948 I did not know existed. In her jaunty striped coat with the
bow on the back! She’s now lined up with the others on my kitchen shelf . . .
And look at this gorgeous vintage tea set I found! It was displayed on a starched white lace tablecloth in an antique store in Oklahoma City and practically glowed in the dark it was so pretty. I walked round and round it like a tiger in a cage. It was such a good deal, I couldn’t leave it there, so we wrapped it all in newspaper and brought it home, and now I’ve given it a nice soapy bath.
It’s all hand-painted, gold-edged, and made in England, it even came with an old silver sugar spoon!
The set serves six, it’s only missing one cup. But I mixed-and-matched it with both old and new china cups and mugs, to see what it looks like, and I think it’s even better. I love mismatched! You know what a dish person I am.
Here’s what it says on the bottom. I don’t think it has a pattern name; I’m thinking Tuscan is the name of the China company. Has anyone ever heard of it?
I love nesting . . . I’ve been making up for lost time . . .
We’re taking it slow . . . we haven’t even trimmed the tree yet. That’s OK, it’s in a bucket of water in the dining room, so we’re close. There’s a wreath on the front door, we’re getting there. We have Christmas in our hearts! I’m determined to enjoy this season and in order to do that, I want to go slow and not feel hurried. If something doesn’t get done, it won’t matter. A little poinsettia in the window is just fine for me . . .
I’m just happy to be . . .
I’m spending lots of time in the kitchen with my little buddy . . .
Jack is interested in everything I do, and everything that goes on outside our window ~
It’s been really cold, but beautiful . . . decorative cardinals have been flocking around the feeders. Note, you California/Florida Girlfriends, that there is no color out there in the garden, it is a sepia/white world here in the winter, which is why we were blessed with the Cardinal. What a gift!
And it’s not cold inside, it’s crackling and cozy and smells just wonderful . . .
One thing I’ve been doing is making a few little food-gift items for friends. This morning I made one of my favorite candies for this time of year, chocolate-covered Almond Brittle from page 132 of Vineyard Seasons. SO easy, and perfectly irresistible ~ and very mailable . . I thought I’d show you how, in case you have a last minute someone you’d like to please . . . . But first, more MUSICA for the kitchen dance . . .
So all you do is (don’t blink because this recipe is really fast!) put one pound of butter and two cups of sugar in a large heavy pot on top of your stove.
then pour in one-quarter cup of water . . . hook a candy thermometer to the side of the pan . . . don’t let the tip touch the bottom.
Melt the butter together with the sugar and the water over medium-high heat . . . boil mixture briskly until your candy thermometer reads 300°.
Stir and stir, boil and boil, and while you do you can count your blessings and . . .
watch the birds and stir a little more . . .
The mixture will cook and darken like brittle should. When it reaches the “crack” hard candy stage on your candy thermometer, 300°, remove the pan from the heat and quickly stir in two cups of sliced almonds.
Then spread the mixture thinly on an ungreased (plenty of butter already in the recipe) cookie sheet (or two) and allow it to cool.
When the brittle is almost cool, melt eight ounces unsweetened chocolate over low heat in a heavy pan, stirring constantly.
Then brush the warm chocolate over the top of the candy. Let it cool completely before you
break it up into pieces (I hit the bottom of the pan with a hammer to put hairline cracks in it all over, then I do the rest with a knife).
. . . and then I fill the tins and boxes I’ve collected to use for Christmas gifts . . . old ones and new ones from the pantry . . .
I had this darling box that I lined in a lace doily, and I knew the perfect person to give it to. . .
It’s the same person I’m giving the dishes to . . . the perfect little gift for . . .
Y O U !
Surprise! Yes, it’s YOU ♥ YOU ♥ YOU, (like bread and fishes, I wish it could be all of you, but for a few days, it will be only YOU, and then, one of you really will walk away with this elegant little English tea set, just in time for Downton Abbey! It’s my present to you. It’s been so long, I wanted it to be something nice. The minute I saw these dishes, I thought, my girls will love these. But then, I couldn’t send them out without a little homemade something! That wouldn’t be right. So I made you some Chocolate-Covered Almond Brittle to remember me by. Now all you have to do is leave me a
comment at the bottom of this post and you’ll automatically be entered for the drawing for the Tea Set and box of homemade candy.
(BTW, If this blog comes to your email box, in order to enter you will have to click on www.susanbranch.com and come here to the online version, then scroll to the bottom of this post, look for the tiny word “comments,” click on it and leave a word or two and you’ll be entered!)
Then our girl Vanna (Vanna is the same as a “random number generator” only our Vanna has a lot more verve and style) will be pressed back into service. She’s done NOTHING for months, it’s about time she earned her keep. In a few days she will choose one of your names from her giant Santa hat and I’ll announce the winner. Tell your friends too Girlfriends, your sisters and your mom, because even if you don’t win, you could get invited to Tea (possibly even Twine) at their house and have candy to boot. You can leave as many comments as you want, Vanna knows to only count each name once. She is a contest-engineering genius.
So while I’m cleaning up, I’ll tell you about another surprise. Because if any of you bought a signed copy of our new book A FINE ROMANCE from our studio for your friends and family during this month of December, you don’t know it, but you’ve already given a gift to some very special people. Oh yes! Seven dollars from each purchase through our studio for the entire month of December will be going to Casa Pacifica, an organization in California that “Builds Foundations of Hope” for abused and neglected children. ♥
So I got lambs and new BP People and I got to go out and meet so many of you, and you got dishes and candy, and lots more I hope, and we all made a little bit of a difference for children and families, because without you there would be no FINE ROMANCE. ♥ High five, Girlfriends. Thank you also for the wonderful reviews on Amazon, I know it’s you. We are still number one in England Travel Guides! Thank you so much! We make a little difference in our own little kindred spirit world. What goes around comes around.♥
And now it’s time . . . I can smell it from here . . .
I put a little something in the oven for lunch . . . and it’s ready!
A big delicious, salted buttered sweet potato all caramelized and ready to go. Oh yes. Perfect for this cold day. Off I go now. Don’t forget to leave your comment Girls. Good luck, I hope you are having just the very best time! ♥