Happy New Year!

Hi there friends. Yes, it has been months since I have blogged. A few tech difficulties (don’t use Bluehost if you are planning a blog!) and just busy. So, given that it has been so long, today’s post is a look back on 2023, in particular the holiday season and a few notes about 2024. So here goes!

2023 Highlights

Well like every year, there was a mix of good and not so good. The good:

  • This year we were back to traveling. College girl 1 (CG1) was in Florence so CG2 and I visited for a fantastic trip to Italy (read my full post here).
  • Mr SB and I celebrated our 25th anniversary with a trip to Bermuda.
  • CG2 really flourished second semester which was so fun to see – lots of new friends (and a few visits back home to CT with them)
  • Summer at our shore club was as amazing as always – lots of entertaining, sailing, clamming and beach.
  • Fall brought tailgates at my alma mater (and where CG2 attends) as well as a fun visit to VT to see CG1.

On a the list of not so great – we lost our wonderful cat Harry. Not a day goes by without thinking of him. He had such a personality and was with us since 2011 and brought us so much joy. He was also a Christmas cat as I adopted him as an adult cat from our local shelter just in time for Christmas. I miss you Harry. RIP my little guy.

Holidays 2023

The holidays were very full – exhausting but fun. Through the years I have figured out a system – I call it the holiday waves – waves of organizing and planning to stay sane and enjoy the Christmas season.

  • Wave 1 – this starts in October or possibly sooner when I start thinking about the holiday card. Some years I order our card before Halloween! I also do some organizing in October/early November. Clean out the pantry, take stock of clothing etc. to prepare for thoughtful gift giving and entertaining.
  • Wave 2 – Thanksgiving weekend. We cut down our own tree the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend. You can read all about our tailgate party where the sliders and caper mayo take center stage. This is literally my favorite day of the year. We gather with friends for a low stress tailgate party. Getting the tree up early makes the house smell great and get’s the holiday decorating underway. I also order as many gifts as I can online for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
  • Wave 3 – now that tree is up and gifts start to come in I love wrapping presents, watching Hallmark Christmas movies and getting into the holiday spirit! This year these afternoons were some of my favorite holiday memories – sometimes you need to slow down and a sappy movie while wrapping gifts for loved ones is perfect!
  • Wave 4 – food. I usually bake starting a couple of weeks before Christmas. Cookies freeze really well and this year was no exception. I made the following: Gingerbread Latte Cookies, Monster M&M Cookies and Hot Cocoa Cookies all from Half Baked Harvest. They all came out great and I was able to send some in care packages to the girls.
  • Wave 5 – getting ready for Christmas guests and dinner. This year we hosted 18 for dinner! I set the table a few days before. I get out platters, silverware, holiday linens about a week or so earlier to see if I need to polish, replace or buy extras. This year I did not buy anything except some new papergoods.
  • Wave 6 – Buy food. With guests at home I have learned to go to Costco early. This year I went Thursday for a Monday Christmas. This was good timing and I escaped the worst of the crowds. Here was our menu:

Saturday Lunch – sausage on the grill (if weather permits this is a great way to avoid dishes – no pans!), Costco Mac N Cheese, Salad, Christmas Cookies for dessert.

Saturday Dinner – I made this broccoli casserole which was quite good although next time I think I would lighten up on the cheese (great idea to have a casserole that is both vegetable and starch for a crowd). Mr SB had smoked some pulled pork. We had salad, cheese and birthday cake. Appetizers included my famous buffalo dip with a charcuterie board.

Sunday Breakfast – Costco croissants, bread, coffee, yogurts, fresh fruit

Sunday Lunch – leftover pork, salad, casserole, cookies.

Christmas Eve we head to my sister’s for a wonderful dinner. Christmas Eve during the day I cook everything for Christmas. This year our menu included:

Christmas Day – Breakfast casserole (a favorite!). I make the ham and cheese hashbrown casserole – everyone loves it. Could not be easier! For lunch I buy sliced ham, cheese and bread – everyone makes their own sandwich as Christmas dinner is underway!

This year’s Christmas dinner menu:

Appetizers: Smoked Whitefish Pate and Crackers, Duck Pate with Truffles, Charcuterie board with assorted cheese and meat. Baked Brie. Note to self – put more appetizers in the living room near the bar.

Christmas salad – greens with citrus champagne vinaigrette, oranges, pomegranate seeds and goat cheese.

Main: Smoked Brisket (Mr. SB’s special recipe) and Glazed Ham.

Mashed Potatoes (Costco – loaded and regular Yukon Gold)

Smoky Sweet Carrots with Yogurt Sauce.

Crispy Brussel Sprouts in the air fryer

Green Beans – steamed lightly and then roasted.

Assorted desserts – cake, cookies.

Everything was delicious and we had such a wonderful holiday.

So here’s to 2024!

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Nutella Frosting

Hi all. I could not wait to share this special recipe with you. Chocolate. Toasted hazelnuts. Nutella. Need I say more? Yes, today I am sharing the most spectacular chocolate hazelnut cake with Nutella frosting. I was looking for a decadent cake for our Christmas Eve celebration. This recipe fit the bill perfectly. Both girls sighed after the first bite and then mumbled through mouthfuls…”really, really yummy mom.” Coming from two teens that is about as good as it gets! Trust me this recipe will be on rotation for all of your special events.

Tips for making chocolate hazelnut cake with Nutella frosting

This cake is not hard to make but it does have a few steps.

  1. I bought roasted, unsalted hazelnuts at Trader Joes (you can buy these anywhere of course). I took a cup and about an 1/8 of a cup and spread them out on a cookie sheet with a non-stick pad. Roast the nuts at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Watch the nuts carefully as they cook fast and can burn. I also turn them over by shaking the cookie sheet gently about halfway through.
  2. Do not add hot chocolate to your cake batter or it will melt the butter and not come out properly. I let the chocolate cool (I used my microwave to melt the chocolate) and then added the Nutella (I took a little sample to make sure it was the right temperature:).
  3. If you would like even cake layers you can slice off the top with a serrated knife. For this version I made the cake in tiny pans but I have made it as both a bundt cake and a layer cake. The layer recipe is below.

Recipe for chocolate hazelnut cake with Nutella frosting

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Nutella Frosting

A spectacular cake full of toasty hazelnut flavor topped with a Nutella chocolate frosting. A perfect cake for any occasion. Enjoy the accolades!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American, French
Keyword Birthday, Cake, Chcocolate, Dessert, Hazelnuts, Holiday, Nutella
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Servings 18 servings
Cost $8


  • Cookie sheet
  • Cake pans or cupcake pan
  • Electric or stand mixer


  • For the hazelnut cake:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups ground toasted hazelnuts see notes above
  • For the frosting:
  • 6 ounces about half a bag of semisweet chips or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup Nutella
  • 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar sifted
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 3 Tbsp heavy cream the cream should not be cold
  • For decorating:
  • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
  • White chocolate optional for decorating
  • 1/4 cup ground toasted hazelnuts


  • For the hazelnut cake
  • Preheat oven to 350F. Butter two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottom of the pans with a circle of parchment paper. Note: make sure your cake pans have full 2 inch sides to accomodate this cake batter. You can also use a springform pan or even make cupcakes. Make sure you thoroughly grease pans. Non stick pans also work well.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer or with electric beaters, cream the butter and sugar together until very light and fluffy (4-5 minutes).
  • Add the eggs and vanilla extract, and beat for another minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl to get everything incorporated.
  • Add the baking soda, baking powder, and salt, and mix briefly to combine.
  • Next, add the flour in a few stages, alternating with the milk, mixing until all of the ingredients are combined. Then mix in the ground hazelnuts. I like to finish mixing by hand with a silicone spatula to make sure everything on the bottom and the sides of the bowl is well mixed.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans and bake for about 35-40 minutes, until risen, golden on top, and the cake springs back when pressed lightly.
  • Allow the cakes to cool for 10 minutes or so in the pan, then remove the layers and place on a baking rack to cool completely before frosting. (Cake layers can also be made a day ahead, and wrapped and kept in the fridge until ready to frost.)
  • For the frosting
  • Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave using short bursts. Stir until smooth and allow to cool to room temperature before adding to the frosting. Note: this is important because you don’t want warm chocolate to melt the butter. Once warm. Add in the Nutella and mix.
  • Cream the butter and confectioner’s sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or mix with an electric mixer.
  • Add the salt, the cooled melted chocolate mixed with the Nutella, and beat together until the mixture is smooth and uniform. Add the cream and mix until smooth. Make sure the cream is room temperature.
  • Frost between the cake layers, and then frost the sides and top of the cake. Decorate with curls of white chocolate, a dusting of confectionary sugar and the hazelnut crumbs.

It’s A Wrap: 5 Creative Ways for Wrapping Holiday Gifts

Hi there.  It is countdown to Christmas around here, and I can’t wait to share with you a few creative ways for  wrapping holiday gifts.  Wrapping gifts is one of my favorite things to do.  Growing up my mom used to have me wrap all of the presents. I gladly took on the task!  Every step is fun from picking out the look + color scheme, wrapping paper, ribbon, trimmings – not to mention watching my family and friends open the gifts.  I hope you enjoy these ideas, and that they spark some creativity while you wrap your own gifts.

Please note, this post contains affiliate links (but I only recommend what I love and would use!).

The steps to creative ways of wrapping holiday gifts

Creative holiday gift wrapping steps:

  1. Establish the look and feel.  Rustic?  Cozy?  Formal?  Vintage?  Farmhouse?  Just as you would pick a look for decorating your home, the same can be done for wrapping gifts. 
  2. Choose the container.  I often re-use boxes year to year (eco friendly).  I keep a selection of different sizes.  Further, the assortment of box sizes also adds some visual interest when you group the packages together.
  3. Select wrapping paper.  Wrapping paper really sets the tone with the color palette, texture, pattern.  I also prefer to buy some wrapping paper that is not only for Christmas.  The colors can evoke holidays without an obvious holiday theme.  Bonus:  You can use that paper year round. 
  4. Choose ribbon or trim.  Trim also can add that special detail and again give a look and feel.  Of course, velvet has a very different feeling than straw raffia.  Both can be lovely if paired with the right paper and embellishments.
  5. Embellishments.  This is where I have some fun.  I love using ornaments, natural items like pine cones or fun details such as greenery.  Additionally, ornaments are also a second gift.  I include gift tags here too.  I use everything from cut out holiday card images to photos for my gift tags.

How I wrapped my gifts this year

This year I had several themes:

  • La Belle France:   I used a deep red cranberry and cream toile wrapping paper with coordinated velvet and gold ribbon.  If you have read my blog, you know I am a Francophile.   So it is no surprise that French toile would be one of my favorite ways to wrap gifts.  The touch of gold adds some sparkle too. It says holiday without being obvious.
  • Shimmery gold and white:  For this theme, I selected cream and gold wrapping paper patterned with holiday messaging.  I tied the packages with heavy, dark green velvet ribbon or gold satin.  I embellished one gift with a beaded, gold star ornament for some additional holiday cheer.
Cream and gold gift wrap decorated with a holiday star ornament
A sparkly star adds a nice touch
  • Candy cane land:  With a few younger children to wrap for, I opted for a cheery bright red wrapping paper embellished with candy cane inspired trimmings of red ribbon, white string and ornaments or bells.
  • Brown paper packages tied up with string (could not resist the Sound of Music tie in!):  Here I chose rustic patterned craft paper trimmed with holiday ribbon and pinecones from the yard.
  • Nautical “Take me to the sea” (or seafood as the case may be): I used plain craft paper with a natural straw, raffia ribbon embellished with sea ornaments and real sea shells.

Details on wrapping ideas

La Belle France

Deep cranberry red and cream toile wrapping paper is the base.  This toile is not necessarily a Christmas print but the deep cranberry paired with the cream works so well for holiday wrapping.  I picked up the ribbon at Costco ages ago but this here.

Cranberry red and white toile gift wrap for holiday gift wrapping
Cranberry toile evokes the holidays without an obvious theme

The small tree you see has fairy lights on it with miniature vintage inspired cranberry heart ornaments.  I put the tree in our formal living room (our real, fresh tree is in our more casual family room).

Tiny Christmas tree with white lights and toile wrapped gifts
Fell in love with the vintage heart ornaments
Toile Gift Wrapped Holiday Packages
Cranberry and cream toile wrapping paper with gold and velvet ribbon wraps presents under a fresh evergreen tree

Shimmery Gold and White

Cream and gold paper with holiday script makes a great canvas.  The “Merry Christmas” pattern came from Home Goods.  Home Goods has a lovely assortment of papers and the quality is excellent.  If you can find what you are looking for, I would think you will be happy with the weight and handling of this paper. 

That said, I also picked up the other pattern at Walmart for 97 cents a roll!  Once you decide on your look and feel you can often find papers even the drugstore.  This one was a perfect example.  Since I had chosen the gold and cream color palette as an overall theme, it was easy to find gift wrap at Walmart that fit the bill.  I also found another pattern at Caspari which has gorgeous papers. This dark green velvet ribbon drapes beautifully and was easy to tie.

Gold and white wrapping paper is tied with green velvet and gold satin ribbon
Gold and white wrapping paper is tied with green velvet and gold satin ribbon

Candy Cane Land

Candy cane inspired.  The cheerful bright red paper was actually from my local drugstore and was reversible with a peppermint stripe. 

Red and white gift wrap decorated with ribbon and bells
Red and white gift wrap decorated with ribbon and bells

I added ribbon and embellishments of a candy cane ornament, some bells from Michaels and a glittery red ribbon I had on hand.  If you use double sided tape to secure the ribbon to the back of the package it is seamless. I can’t wait to drop these specially wrapped gifts with the little girls who will be receiving them!

Red and white striped wrapping paper tied with red ribbon and decorated with ornaments
Candy cane inspired presents for little girls

Brown paper packages tied up with string  

I had the patterned craft paper on hand but added the cute truck/Christmas tree ribbon and tied some pine cones (from the yard) on top with raffia string.  I love the rustic feel. Additionally, candy canes (and other candy) are also an easy and inexpensive way to decorate a gift.

Craft paper with natural embellishments make perfect wrapped holiday gifts
Craft paper with natural embellishments make perfect wrapped holiday gifts

Take me to the sea  

Last summer we spent so much time sailing, kayaking and enjoying the beach on northern Long Island Sound, I was excited to purchase nautical gifts and wrap them up accordingly.  My husband is a huge seafood fan so I could not resist the lobster and crab ornaments. These ornaments are from Christmas Tree Shops but you can find a similar lobster here – I also used real seashells that I had on hand for additional embellishments. 

Nautical gift wrap ideas
Craft paper gift wrap decorated with sea ornaments and real seashells
Nautical gift wrap ideas
A lobster holiday ornament makes a great gift embellishment
Nautical gift wrap ideas
A blue crab adorns this gift

Next step I put wrapped gifts around the house and in the places where the gift wrap really accents the surroundings.

How about you? Do you like to wrap gifts? Any special creative ways for wrapping holiday gifts that you would recommend?

My Favorite Gingerbread Cookies Recipe

Hi there! Today I am sharing my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe.  The cookies have the perfect mix of warming spices and are soft in the center, but crispy on the outside.   We love to use our favorite cookie cutters and then decorate with sprinkles or icing or possibly some raisins or currants.  You can make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate for up to a couple of days or even freeze for later use. This year I made them twice. Once for our Christmas Tree Cutting Tailgate Menu and another batch for gift giving and eating at home!

Making gingerbread cookies is a holiday tradition

I have been making this recipe ever since I was in elementary school!  I would make them for eating of course but also for decorating our Christmas tree or putting into pretty containers for a holiday gift.  My mother loved these cookies and I used to make her a plate just for her!  She liked them with tea and called them “spice” cookies and always said the cookies were not overly sweet and perfect with a cup of tea.

Tips for making my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe

A few tips for making what will become your favorite gingerbread cookies:

  •  Be sure to use plenty of flour on your cutting board or counter where you roll out the dough.  The flour melts into the cookie during baking so you do not have to worry about it detracting from the look of the cookie.
  • I recommend a non-stick rolling pin.  I have had this Kitchen Aid version for years, and it rolls the dough out evenly and without letting it stick.
  • When you cut out the dough, place your cookie cutter at the edge as far as it will go.  This will allow you to maximize the number of cookies you can cut out at once so the process will be more efficient.
  • Like all cookies, you need to watch the baking time carefully.  The tops of the cookies should not be too shiny.  I usually bake one batch and then try a cookie to determine the best time to bake.
  • If you like a soft cookie, make the dough thicker.  If you prefer something crispy, roll it out more thinly and cook slightly longer.  When I am using dough to decorate I tend to make the cookies crisper so they easily hold their shape.  For eating, I prefer a chewy cookie so I adjust the thickness and baking time accordingly.
Favorite Easy Gingerbread Cookie Recipe

Favorite Gingerbread Cookies

These gingerbread cookies have the perfect mix of warming spices and are soft in the center, but crispy on the outside. Use your favorite cookie cutters and decorate with sprinkles or icing. Perfect holiday treats that are as delicious to eat as they are to look at!
Print Pin
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Baking, Christmas, Christmas Cookies, Cookies, Holiday
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 24
Cost: $3


  • Nonstick rolling pin
  • Parchment paper
  • Cookie cutters


  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Sprinkles and raisins or currants if you like for decorating


  • Mix flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in large bowl. Put to the side.
  • Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add molasses, egg and vanilla and mix well. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until well mixed. Press dough into two thick flat disks. Wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight or up to a couple of days. You can also freeze dough and then thaw it out when you are ready to use it.
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness on lightly floured work surface. Cut into gingerbread men and women or desired shapes with a cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. If you are using sprinkles or raisins/currants then decorate before baking (raisins and currants won’t stick to baked cookies).
  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges of cookies are set and just begin to brown (See tips on how to avoid overcooking). Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to wire racks and cool completely. Decorate cooled cookies as desired. Store cookies in airtight container up to 5 days.

Pillowy Soft Sugar Cookies

We love to decorate cookies for Christmas, Valentines and pretty much any holiday or celebration. Sugar cookies are a natural go-to recipe but through the years I have found most recipes result in crispy or even hard cookies. This recipe tweaks the standard sugar cookie recipe with the addition of cream cheese. The other secret is using cake flour instead of regular flour. The result? Pillowy soft sugar cookies that melt in your mouth! With snow coming later today I am planning on making a second batch!

Tips for Making Pillowy Soft Sugar Cookies

The first tip, which actually applies to all cookies, is to soften both the cream cheese and butter. I usually leave it out on the counter or use the soften function in my microwave. Softening allows the cream cheese and butter to mix in with your dry ingredients and gives an even texture to the cookie.

Second, as I noted above, cake flour is super fine flour. You can find this in the baking aisle at your local supermarket. I find King Arthur makes excellent flours for baking, and they have a cake flour version. My local supermarket also carries Swan’s Down and Soft As Silk. Either brand would work well too.

Lastly, you need to watch the baking time carefully. In order to get that soft, pillowy texture you will not want to over cook. I usually bake two trays at once and then switch the cookies from top to bottom racks midway through baking. You will need to work with your oven. The second the edges become the slightest brown, take the cookies out to cool.

Decorating soft sugar cookies

These cookies are perfect for dipping into sprinkles or some powdered sugar. As Christmas is next week I used a mix of red, green and multi colored sprinkles for an assortment. I have also used red and pink at Valentines day. My girls love to decorate cookies too so we have also frosted these cookies. Would love to hear if you have tried the recipe and how it came out. Please comment below!

Soft Sugar Cookies Recipe

Pillowy Soft Sugar Cookies

Pillowy soft sugar cookies melt in your mouth. Decorate with powdered sugar or sprinkles and you have the perfect sweet treat for holiday or anytime baking.
Print Pin
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Baking, Christmas, Christmas Cookies, Cookies, Holiday
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 36 cookies
Cost: $4


  • Cookie sheets


  • 1/2 cup butter softened (1 stick)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3/4 cup cake flour see note on suggested brands
  • Sprinkles optional


  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon mat (I like Silpat)
  • Combine flour with baking powder in a bowl.
  • Cream together butter and cream in a separate bowl with electric or stand mixer.
  • Add sugar to butter/cream mixture and beat for 1 minute. Add egg and beat to combine. Add extracts and beat until combined. Add in baking powder and cake flour (in three sections), mixing to combine.
  • Once incorporated, refrigerate dough for at least an hour.
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Dough will be sticky so use flour on your hands or wear gloves to roll out 1-2 inch balls.
  • If using sprinkles, dip into sprinkle mixture gently.
  • If you would like a dome shape, you can use the bottom of a cup to gently flatten the top of the balls but don’t flatten too much or the cookies won’t puff up or be pillowy soft.
  • Bake for 9-11 minutes. Remove cookies when you see the underside edges turning golden. You will have to watch carefully after about 8 minutes as it happens quickly. The time may also might vary for your oven and altitude.
  • Let cool on a baking rack. If frosting, let cool completely.
  • Enjoy!

Weekend Wrap Up: Holiday Decorating and Buffalo Check Style Finds

Happy Monday all, and welcome to the holiday weekend wrap up.  It was a busy one!  This weekend I finished decorating, baked my favorite gingerbread as well as soft sugar cookies (that taste as good as they look) and wrapped gifts.  I am focusing today’s post on holiday decorating and Buffalo check style finds but promise to share my recipes and gift wrap ideas in the coming days.

It’s a Buffalo Check Christmas

Buffalo check wired ribbon
Buffalo check wired ribbon trims my pine garland on the deck

As I shared before in my wreath tutorial (making your supermarket wreath look good:) I love this year’s trend of buffalo check.  I am craving a homey, warm Christmas atmosphere inside and out.  The cheerful red combined with the black check fits the bill.  Never one to be reticent I will admit right now that I may have gone overboard.  Is it bad to buy a matching buffalo check scarf for your dog?  GG and I had some fun (and there were plenty of treats for her patience!).  I found both the dress and scarf at Old Navy which is always a good source of affordable fashion and usually right on trend.  I bought a sweater too.

Buffalo Check Ribbon

I love using ribbon to decorate, and I used the buffalo check ribbon to trim my garland on the deck and found an adorable basket with…you guessed it buffalo check.  I picked up some bright red pillows too.  This little scene is what I see from our kitchen sink so I try to always have something cute to look at for every season.  As I mentioned in my how to make your supermarket wreath beautiful – I also used the buffalo check ribbon and trimmed the wreath with berries and pine cones.

Me and GG sporting our buffalo check style

Deep Red Berries in a White Pitcher

It is the small things in life right?  And, sometimes the best decorating is simple and inexpensive.  I found these artificial stems at Michaels and put them in this white pitcher. The pitcher was a wedding gift and from the Museum of Modern Art in New York (I like this one from Target too)  I love the deep red of the berries next to the white pitcher. I keep moving it around the house as it adds such a nice pop of color.  I could see these berries in vintage jars as well.

Faux red berries for holiday decorating
Faux red berries in a white pitcher add a nice touch for holiday decorating

Holiday Tablescape

We had a nice family dinner Saturday night.  I adore the white village theme that Pottery Barn showcased this year.  I found these mini ornaments with a similar look at Christmas Tree Shop (see below).  Paired with a pine cone, some red candles and with my jacquard Santa and his sleigh Williams Sonoma tablecloth, it made such a cozy and festive table. 

Ornaments are a fun way to add some festive touches to your holiday table and are often inexpensive and easier to store than an entire village.

Pottery Barn Christmas village theme
Christmas village theme tablescape

Holiday Mantle Decorating Tutorial

Lastly, I love using natural products to decorate.  First, I like to support our local farms and nurseries.  Second, I do not have to store anything – I just add to our compost when the holiday is over.  If you are in the Fairfield County area, Town and Country nursery has a lovely Christmas shop.  I purchased fresh magnolia and boxwood bunches.  I prefer these greens as they do not leak sap!  One year it took me forever to remove the sap from the mantle after using pine branches.  Here is how I decorated our mantle (see below for pictures):

  1. Lay down the magnolia branches.  Step back to see what it looks like and adjust the leaves accordingly.  Also, trim any errant stems.
  2. Layer on the boxwood using the same technique of stepping back.
  3. I love candles and use our existing candles to flank either end.  chasing some faux lighted candles.
  4. Add touches.  You can be creative here.  I used some vintage looking ornaments from Magnolia home mixed in with some pinecones and silver ornaments sprinkled throughout.
  5. You could add some lights too with a strand of white battery operated lights.
Decorating your mantle with fresh greens for the holidays
Decorating your mantle with fresh greens for the holidays
Decorating your mantle with fresh greens for the holidays

Well I hope you enjoyed this post on holiday decorating and Buffalo check style finds. Please check back in for some recipes and more and I would love to hear about your holiday decorating and planning.

Christmas Tree Cutting Tailgate Menu

It is really starting to look like Christmas in Connecticut. That means it is time for my favorite holiday tradition, a Christmas tree hunting adventure! For years the Sunday’s Bread family has been donning warm winter clothes and sturdy boots to take a hayride into the fields of the Connecticut countryside to cut down a fresh tree.

On our first trip to the farm we noticed families from around CT and NY enjoying delicious tailgate spreads. Given that we are all-in foodies around here we just had to do the same. Read on for our favorite Christmas Tree Cutting tailgate menu, some tips and more about this wonderful tradition. As you can see, GG, was all-in with her favorite tartan scarf.

Christmas tree cutting tailgate menu
GG sporting a tartan scarf before the Christmas tree cutting

Christmas tree cutting tips

We started cutting down a fresh tree twelve years ago. The girls were so young. While now the hayride is optional back then we had to take it as they could not walk that far. So first tip – check the weather and it is likely you will need to wear warm clothes and boots. If the day is going to be cold, you may even want some hand and toe warmers.

The atmosphere is very festive. Where we go they even have oxen (see picture). They also have a cute Christmas market where you can buy ornaments, wreaths and of course trees. We prefer the adventure of walking through the fields to find one. Your own cut tree is as fresh as you can get so they last easily through the holidays. I guess you can tell that I am a fresh tree gal. There has never been a question of fresh versus artificial at the SB house. I love the smell of fresh pine, and the way the white lights glow against the needles.

Oxen at Christmas tree cutting tailgate
Each of the oxen weighs 600 pounds!

As much as I love a fresh tree, there are a few items you may want to bring with you (even if you buy one from the market or local home store). While our tree farm does provide some cord to tie the tree to the roof, we always install our ski rack and bring our own set of cords for tying it securely. As I love the Christmas market and often buy a wreath or other items, I usually bring a plastic bag for the trunk so that the needles do not get everywhere.

Once you find your tree, perhaps the most important tip is to stay next to it. Our girls usually disagree about which tree is coming home with us so that means one of us has to stay with the trees under consideration. Mr SB then uses one of the farm’s saws (they give you those), and we all help securely get it down. At our farm, you are given a tag and part of the tag stays with the tree. You move the tree to the side and then they will pick it up and put it on their wagon to bring it to the parking area.

Christmas tree cutting tailgate menu

A note on Christmas tree decorating

Growing up in Rhode Island, we always had a beautiful tree. As I adore Christmas and all of the preparations I often decorated it. I was the most enthusiastic one especially after my sisters had left for college. You could say I am bit of an expert at this point. Now, I love taking out the antique ornaments. Some ornaments are from my grandparents – at least 100 years old at this point. We have also collected ornaments from around the world. We have brought back ornaments from our tours of the National Parks, Mexico, France, South America and pretty much everywhere we have traveled.

What do I do with the girls’ home made ornaments?

As for the home made ornaments from Sunday School or school – well, it all goes on the tree. I love the memories. I know in the blogging world, the trend is a super coordinated, perfect tree – that is just not me. It does not bring me joy. So, up goes the cardboard cutout with a little photo of my college girl when she was five. I add some beautiful gold ribbon as a garland along with candy canes and gingerbread cookies. At least in our eyes the tree is very beautiful and full of Christmas spirit, memories and meaning.

Christmas tree cutting tailgate tips

Back to the tree cutting, we usually go with other families. As the farms can be crowded, we caravan so we can park next to each other. We all bring our favorite menu items. So here is the menu – it may be a bit eclectic but delicious all of the same and travels easily. Oh, and Mr. SB loves to bring his portable grill.

I am including his recipe too. The caper mayonnaise is to die for, and that leftover Thanksgiving turkey is delectable when dipped in it (shh don’t tell). I also love the mayo slathered on some sourdough bread piled high with turkey for the best sandwich ever. It would even make a delicious dip for crudite or some plain ol potato chips.

Christmas tree cutting tailgate menu

OK our tailgate philosophy is pretty simple. Delicious, easy food that can be consumed ideally with your fingers (finger food:). I love to make it cute with a tartan tablecloth, festive ice bucket decorated with candy canes (a galvanized steel bucket that I picked up at Michaels a few years ago) and matching tartan plates/cups. All easy and no fuss.

Christmas tree cutting tailgate menu
An easy Christmas tree cutting tailgate…plenty of yummy food and drink!

The best ever sliders with caper mayonnaise

Mimi’s buffalo chicken dip with tortilla chips

Vegetarian wraps

Red cabbage and carrot slaw with an apple cider vinaigrette

Bagels and cream cheese

Chocolate cookies with peppermint kisses

Assorted Christmas cookies including gingerbread men/women and Christmas trees


Bloody Marys

Hot chocolate

Soft drinks

We brought the buffalo dip in an insulated cooler and then reheated it on the grill. Mr. SB prepared the meat at home so it was ready to go on site. We used a folding table versus our tailgate as it was just easier to lay out the spread.

Mr. SB grilling the best-ever sliders on his portable grill

After a hearty tailgate we ventured out into the farm. We found our tree and even decorated it that evening (GG was tired!). We had some leftover turkey from Thanksgiving so I made my Turkey Tetrazzini and we chilled out while watching the Christmas Chronicles. Is there a better day than that? Would love to hear your Christmas and holiday traditions. Check back as I will be sharing how to decorate your mantle with natural greens and more!

Christmas tree cutting tailgate menu and tips
GG sleeping after a long day of tree hunting…our tree decorated

Holiday Wreath Tutorial

Hi all! So the holiday decorating bug has hit me. With the pandemic, this year is likely to be a smaller gathering. Normally we host Christmas dinner for twenty! It may just be us or if the weather continues to be warm, a few friends on our deck – nonetheless I want to make it special. With all of this time at home it seems ever more important to make our surroundings as warm and beautiful as possible. Normally I can find a lovely wreath at Costco. This year I am not shopping as much so found myself with fewer options at the supermarket. The pre-made bow that was rather sad looking and crumpled left me realizing that I needed to do some work to make the wreath worthy of our front door. So today, I am happy to share my holiday wreath tutorial.

What do you need for this holiday wreath tutorial?

To make your supermarket wreath beautiful you need the following items that are available at your local Michaels or Hobby Lobby or even dollar store.

  1. Wired ribbon in a pattern of your choice. This year buffalo check has been drawing me in – maybe it is the cozy feel it evokes. I want warm, cozy and luckily I found a spool at TJ Maxx. I also found it on Amazon. I used a 10 yard spool with ribbon left over.
  2. A basic supermarket wreath. If you can find one without the bow then that is better as you won’t need it – you will save money too. They charge quite a bit for those premade ones!
  3. Pinecones and other decorative items. I had some wired cranberry stems from previous holidays. Feel free to be creative. Michaels has a large selection of wired floral that would work well. Pine cones found in nature are lovely too. You will need wire and wire cutters if you go that route. Oh, and all of the ribbon and trimmings can be used again and again. Store them in a dry place and you can use for future wreaths.

Steps to make a beautiful holiday wreath

  1. I took my wreath outside as the needles tend to get everywhere… I laid it down flat to see if any of the greens were sticking out too far (these supermarket wreaths take a beating during transit!). Then I trimmed any errant stems.
  2. I took the spool of ribbon and wrapped it around the wreath. You will want some at the end to tie. Tie the ends in a loose knot. You may want to adjust it so do not tie it too tight in case you need to untie it.
  3. Then you will prepare your bow. Take a separate bit of ribbon and loop the ribbon and place it against the tied off ribbon. Eye ball it to see if you think the bow looks full enough. Once it is to your liking tie it.
Holiday wreath tutorial
Hold your ribbon until tied and guestimate to see that it is the right length

4. Then “fluff” the bows. You will want nice rounded bows and with wired ribbon you can shape the ribbon into the desired look. This usually takes some fussing to get the look I want. I also always trim the ends into a nice double “V” shape.

5. Add your embellishments. If you have wired floral items, it is easy to tuck them in between the rounds of ribbon. If you are using pinecones from nature, you will need to cut some wire and then add your pinecones.

Enjoy your gorgeous supermarket wreath (at a fraction of the price to pay to have it decorated for you!).

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Hi all. How was your Thanksgiving weekend? The weather was beautiful in CT. While it was just the four of us we went all out on the food. Mr. SB ended up roasting the turkey in our rotisserie oven. It was delicious. I think I also perfected my home made stuffing. The girls and Mr. SB commented on the crisp aspect. While I love Thanksgiving dinner, there is often a lack of diversity in texture so a bit of crunch is unexpected and welcome. I feel the same way about fresh cranberry sauce.

Homemade cranberry sauce balances the meal

With so many rich sauces and flavors, the acidity in the cranberries really balances the rest of the meal. Fresh holiday cranberry sauce is also perfect for Christmas. The deep red of the cranberries complements any festive meal.

Are cranberries good for you?

I adore cranberries so I was thrilled to learn that they are full of antioxidants. In fact, they are one of the top ten antioxidant foods! Interesting fact too – cranberries have been harvested in North America for over 500 years.

Good for you and delicious? All the more reason to make fresh homemade holiday cranberry sauce. Here is my very quick and delicious recipe.

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

Fresh Homemade Holiday Cranberry Sauce

Homemade cranberry sauce is so easy to make that you will never even think of buying a can of cranberry again! Cranberry sauce adds a delicious tartness to any meal and the crimson color is perfect for holiday entertaining. Orange juice adds some zest and depth of flavor.
Print Pin
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Christmas, Cranberry, Holiday, Thanksgiving
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4 1/2 cup servings
Calories: 51kcal
Cost: $3


  • Heavy bottom sauce pan


  • 1 12 oz Fresh cranberries Rinsed. Remove any damaged berries.
  • 1/2 cup sugar I use organic cane sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water


  • Combine sugar, orange juice and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring every once in awhile. Cool at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.


Serving: 1g | Calories: 51kcal