Monday, December 29, 2008

Pop Champagne, Not Your Eardrums!

One of my least favorite things concerning New Year's Eve is the hype that is associated with the evening.  Going to Times Square with millions of people in the crowd, attending parties where there is no room to walk or talk... these are all too crazy for my idea of the perfect New Year's Eve celebration. 

My recommendation for an amazing evening to celebrate the coming of 2009 is to have a small dinner party with your closest friends early in the evening.  Enjoy the company and celebrate the end of an amazing year and the coming of another one.  Send your guests home around 10:30 PM, as they walk out the door present them each with a gift basket full of New Year essentials:

- comfy slippers
- soft blanket
- champagne
- champagne glasses
- a great movie

Sending friends home to cuddle up with a great movie before the strike of midnight is the perfect gift. Is there any place you would rather be than your sofa, with a warm blanket and a loved one ringing in the New Year?

What is your idea of the perfect New Years Eve?  Please leave a comment!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

New Year for You!

The idea of dedicating yourself to the "perfect" New Year's Resolution always seems quite impossible, because as the New Year begins real life seems to sweep away your dedication to your resolution.  One thing I've realized when entering a New Year, is that you cannot affect your life or anyone else's, for that matter, unless you help yourself first!

So, as we approach the New Year, and begin to ponder over the resolution of this season, please remember to first... do something for yourself!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Visions of Sugar Plums

One of my favorite things about the holidays are the abundance of sweets that are around! A great activity to do with your children on this Christmas Eve is make sweets for Santa. Below you will find two of my favorite recipes for Sugar Plums and Fresh Ginger Cookies, two very seasonal and delicious treats that the man in the red suit will be sure to enjoy!

Sugar plums

Making sugar plums is a perfect holiday project for kids: It takes a bit of time, the work’s a trifle sticky, and it requires neither cooking nor sharp utensils. Sugar plums can be stored in an airtight container with wax paper between the layers, or they can be wrapped in aluminum foil, then brightly colored tissue paper.

1 (24-ounce) container pitted prunes
4 ounces whole blanched almonds
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut (4 ounces)
1/4 cup of sugar

Stuff each prune with an almond, molding fruit around nut into a nice plum shape. In a small bowl, toss coconut and sugar. Roll stuffed prunes in mixture. Store in an airtight container or wrap some or all individually.

Fresh Ginger Cookies

Prep: 5 minutes

Chill: 1 hour

Bake: 8 to 10 minutes

Makes: about 60

1.5 sticks (6 ounces) butter, softened
1 cup sugar1 cup unsulphured molasses
2 eggs
4.5 cups flour
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons baking soda
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon1 teaspoon salt

1. In a large bowl, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in molasses. Add eggs on at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon and salt, stirring until well combined. Cover and refrigerate one hour.

2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease cookie sheets. Roll dough into 1.5 inch balls and place 1 inch apart on cookie sheets. Flatten balls slightly with bottom of glass or palm of your hand.

3. Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove racks and let cool.

What is your favorite Christmas Cookie recipe? Please leave a comment!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Jingle All the Way

One of the great things about our high-speed lifestyle that we are quickly becoming accustomed to is the fact that one can do just about everything with the help of the internet. During the holidays, this may seem like a negative characteristic of our culture, however, we can also use it to increase the holiday spirit with friends and family.

The fun of caroling is slowly losing its touch as we become busier and a little less traditional. This year, I challenge everyone to use your computer savvy skills to download carols! Searching for carols on the internet is not only easy, but it is a way to bring back the tradition of caroling to our homes. Whether you simply invite friends over to sing or go door to door in your neighborhood, sharing the songs that you learn is a great way to get you ready for Christmas.

Another great holiday search is for the original versions of The Night Before Christmas and A Christmas Carol. Don’t lose the traditions of song and stories this holiday.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

David Monn on Good Morning America Friday, December 19

This morning I was on Good Morning America giving last-minute affordable tips for holiday decorating. Below is a re-cap of some major points from the segment.

I want to give the basic tools I use for every event so you can create an special experience for your guests this holiday season. It is not about how much money you have, it is about how resourceful you are with it. To set the stage you need to engage the senses. The most important is your sense of smell. Always have a fragrance in your hall to greet your guests. Music is the second most important thing. Choose appropriate songs to create the mood. Now, here are my secrets to a great buffet table.

Wintergreen Dinner Buffet

Utilize the power that comes with one element and multiply, and use one accent color. Scale is also very important.
I've layered a white burlap lattice work pattern over this green felt table cloth. By simply pulling the threads from all corners you can create a cut work design. We also made 12 burlap napkins that are 24x24. We first fringed the napkin edges about 1 3/4". To create the inside border we used a ruler and measured 1 1/2" from the edge and pulled one inch worth of threads.
Creating levels for a buffet creates interest. As a simple guideline, there should be no dish higher than your elbow when you are standing. To created these buffet stands use floral foam and boxwood. We used about three bricks for the largest stand for food.

Winter Wonderland Dessert Buffet

I love desserts, in fact, I learned to ski to get to a piece of cake. This is my fantasy all white dessert table. Its the easiest table to create especially if you are short on time!

It's very simple; using the power of one main color-white- create a winter wonderland. The table cloth is quilt batting with two white strand of Christmas lights under it. This is an old cut up birch log we used as the food levels. If you don't have a log you can also cover cardboard boxes. White boas from the dollar store and fake snow from Kmart complete the look.

We sprayed paper snowflakes with glitter to add scale and balance for the dessert table.

Send guests home with leftovers in over-sized mason jars tied with ribbon.

My favorite cookie recipe

Horn Symphony (a/k/a Lady Locks)
From the kitchen of Marcia Shertzer

(Makes about 70 cookies)

2 – 8 oz. pkgs. cream cheese
½ lb. margarine
½ lb. butter
4 c. flour

Mix all together, cover and refrigerate overnight. Work with small batches in cool place. Roll dough on powdered sugar. Cut into strips about 10” long by ¾” wide. Wrap around lady lock form (or round wooden clothes pin) making sure to overlap dough. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Pull off form while still warm. Cool cookies before filling.


4 c. powdered sugar 1 c. Crisco
4 Tbsp. butter 4 Tbsp. flour
6 Tbsp. half and half 2 egg whites
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix all together until smooth. You can substitute almond or orange extract for vanilla for a different taste.
Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Paper Perfection

My favorite holiday centerpiece is my home-baked ham. Having a delicious, moist ham fills not only your stomach, but also your house with the aroma of warmth and the feeling of celebration.

The rule that I always live by in cooking the perfect ham is to place it tightly in a paper bag. This keeps in the delicious juices necessary for a soft ham. And considering ham is a dish that is also enjoyed for the days following the holidays, using a paper bag allows the meat to excite your taste buds even after it has cooled!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Saying Thank You In Your Own Way

After attending so many events and worrying about sending a thank you note or gift I’ve finally found a way to thank my friends for their hospitality without the stress of sending something different each time. Creating a signature gift to use for showing thanks is the perfect solution.

What I have chosen to create that has been perfect for every form of thanks I need is a clear plastic box of mint malted milk balls! Tied with brown ribbon and topped with a personalized note, this delicious treat is chic, fun, and universal.

Think of something that you can send over and over again that says something about your personality. Showing your thanks while leaving your personalized mark of creativity is a gift that keeps on giving.

Mint Malted Milk Balls

The Container Store

Friday, December 12, 2008

Molding Futures Out of Clay

The goal of my ArtFund is to bring general art classes and knowledge back into public schools because I feel that every child is an artist in some shape or form. Underprivileged youth in New York City are given this opportunity through a non-profit organization called Bodanna.

Located on Broome Street, Bodanna has internships, apprenticeships, and classes that aim in assisting youth in starting successful lives throughout NYC. While participating in the apprenticeships, the students learn to design and create amazing pottery which is then sold in their studio.

By visiting the studio or shopping online you can buy presents for the holidays while supporting this great foundation. Since the holidays are a time to celebrate with your family and friends at home, your new handcrafted servingware will be the talk of your party! This December, give the gift of Bodanna pottery and help out a great organization as well.

Bodanna Studio & Gallery
376 Broome Street
(Between Mulberry and Mott)
New York, NY 10013

What is your favorite gift that gives back? Please leave a comment.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Holiday Drop-Ins

The holiday season is famous for unexpected drop-ins by friends and family. It is always a horrible feeling to know that you are not prepared to host friends. In order to avoid panic attacks and make you look like you’re always expectant of the unexpected I have included some quick last minute recipes perfect for these friendly visits!

20 Minute Artichoke Dip
1 C. Mayonnaise
1 C. Parmesan Cheese
1 can Artichoke Hearts, diced
Pinch of Garlic Powder to taste
Mix all ingredients and place in casserole dish.
Cook at 350° for 20 minutes (until golden brown).
Serve hot with a freshly sliced baguette or crackers.

Getting fancy with Bacon
Cut slab of bacon into ½ inch chunks. Cook on skillet or broiler until crispy. Skewer with grape tomato.
Cut just ripe pears in ½ inch cubes. Sprinkle with salt, sugar and cayenne. Spear with bacon.


Boil fresh or frozen edamame in pods for approx. 3-5 minutes.
Sprinkle with coarse salt.

And if you are really out of time buy pre-made finger foods and just brush them with truffle oil to dress them up!

Have more quick appetizers? Let us know!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Holiday Hints for the Perfect Tree

It is always difficult weeding out the good tips from the bad tips when picking, transporting, and decorating your Christmas tree. Below are some of the best “what you should know” helpful hints that I have followed over the years that have brought me long lasting, beautiful Christmas trees!

1. Shake the tree before purchasing to make sure it is not brittle. If green needles fall off, place the tree back on the rack and pick another!

2. Make sure the tree you choose isn’t too large for your room. It will save you from cutting the tree at home and money.

3. Shake off old needles from the tree before taking it home. Don’t bring the mess home with you.

4. If you have a long drive home, wrap the tree before driving away, and remember to have the stump facing forward on the car to protect the branches.

5. If you can’t bring the tree into the house right away, make sure to store it out of the sun and put it in a bucket of water to prevent it from drying.

6. To allow for optimal water uptake, cut a disk of about .5-1 inch off of the trunk. If the tree is left without water for an extended period, making a fresh cut would improve the health of the tree.

7. Cold water is best for the tree, and do not add any chemicals to the water. The purer the water, the better!

8. Keep the tree away from heat sources like a fireplace or heating vent.
9. Be aware of who is living near the tree. If you have children, make sure there are no fragile ornaments near the bottom (this also applies for pets!).

10. And please, always remember to turn off the lights before leaving the house. The only fire you need during the holidays is enjoyed best within the fireplace!
What are your Christmas tree hints?? Please leave a comment.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Don't Let the Cold Give You a Cold!

The coming of snow may be beautiful, our houses may look warm and spectacular, and we may cook wonderful holiday dishes that can only be enjoyed during the winter months. However, the coming of winter and the change of seasons also means the welcoming of the seasonal cold and flu.

The Vermont Cure can be all of our saving graces this winter as we aim to avoid being sick during this busy time. Made from all household staples, you can create for your friends and family the perfect remedy for the common cold. Do not succumb to the sniffles and coughs while you can be decorating, cooking, and mingling!

Vermont Cure
7 table spoons of white cider vinegar
3 table spoons of honey
1 lemon

Steeping hot water

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Cookie Artisan

Everyday I am always on the look out for meeting new people, and coming across people that love doing what they do is thrilling! One woman who I have worked with for a number of events who has a passion for her talents is Maryann Rollins, The Cookie Artisan.

Creating her desirable desserts from her own kitchen, Maryann started her career making Jack-o-lantern cookies for her daughter’s Halloween party. After sharing her beautiful treats with her guests, her friends began asking her to create cookies for their parties and events. Maryann states, “I love nothing more than helping make someone's party extra special by creating a custom platter of cookies that represents their theme and color palate as well as showcasing the personality of the host or guest of honor.”

Maryann states that she finds inspiration in everything around her, from a color scheme on wrapping paper or a design in a magazine. She states that the two criteria for creating the best party cookies are to have a delicious recipe and use great cookie cutters. Her recommended places to find cookie cutters are listed below.

Artists like Maryann are inspiring because they take an ordinary talent, like baking cookies, and make it extraordinary and new. Whether you are baking, decorating, or working, don’t forget to create your own twist with your talents. Nothing needs to be ordinary when there are so many opportunities to make something amazing!

Maryann Rollins
The Cookie Artisan
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Find the Best Cookie Cutters at:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Entertaining on a budget with Martha Stewart Radio today!

I will be on Martha Stewart Radio this afternoon giving tips on how to inspire and entertain this holiday season on a budget.

My holiday gift this year will be a cheese selection from Artisanal. Cheese makes a great hostess gift and is a fun way to revisit fondue parties. I suggest serving a full cheese course instead of your traditional salad or soup. You can log on to Artisanal Cheese Company to see their Cheese Clock, a guide to serving cheese. I partner them with macerated fruits, which are easy to cook and smell amazing. Macerated desserts are simply fruit steeped in a flavored sugar syrup, wine, liquor, vinegar or citrus juice, usually for a couple of hours or overnight. During the process, the fruit becomes slightly softer, its flavor infused with spices, juices or wine.

Here are the recipes:

Curry’d Quince:

2 Quince
2 Cups White Wine (ny Dry White)
2 Tsp. Madras Curry Powder
2 Tsp. Honey
5-6 Pods Cardamom
3-4 Whole Clove
1/4 Tsp. Ginger
1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
A Pinch of Salt
Lime Zest

- Peel and core the quince (Cut in half if you wish).
- Mix all the ingredients, except the quince, in a deep pot and bring to a boil.
- Add the quince to the mixture and bring the stove to a low flame.
- Cover the pot with Parchment Paper with a small hole in the middle.
- Cook the quince until soft and impressionble to the touch.
- Remove the quince and reduce the mixture further.

To Serve:
Slice the quince and drizzle with the reduced mixture.

Cheese Pairing:

Spicy Delicious:

2 Delicious Golden Apples
2 Cups Apple Juice
2 Cups Calvados
1/2 Tsp. Cayenne Peppers
2 Tsp. Pink Peppercorn
2 Tbsp. Honey
1/4 Tsp. Tabasco
1/4 Tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
3-4 Sprigs of Mint Leaf
A Pinch of Salt

- Peel and core the apples (Cut in half if you wish).
- Mix all the ingredients, except the apples, in a deep pot and bring to a boil.
- Add the apples to the mixture and bring the stove to a low flame.
- Cover the pot with Parchment Paper with a small hole in the middle.
- Cook the apples until soft and impressionble to the touch.
- Remove the apples and reduce the mixture further.

To Serve:
Slice the apples and drizzle with the reduced mixture.

Cheese Pairing:
Hoch y Brig

Chocolate Comice Pear:

2 Comice Pears
2 Cups Port Wine
2 Cups Red Wine
1/2 Cup Goji Juice
1/2 Tsp. Chinese 5 Spice Powder
1/4 Cup Sugar
2 Tsp. Coriander Seeds
1 Tsp. Chocolate Powder

- Peel and core the pears (Cut in half if you wish).
- Mix all the ingredients, except the pears, in a deep pot and bring to a boil.
- Add the pears to the mixture and bring the stove to a low flame.
- Cover the pot with Parchment Paper with a small hole in the middle.
- Cook the pears until soft and impressionable to the touch.
- Remove the pears and reduce the mixture further.

To Serve:
Slice the pears and drizzle with the reduced mixture.

Cheese Pairing:
Barley Buzzed

Balsamic Red Plum:

4 Red Plums
2 Cups Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Red Onion
1/2 Cup Whiskey

- Cut each plum in two and remove pit.
- Mix all the ingredients, except the plums, in a deep pot and bring to a boil.
- Add the plums to the mixture and bring the stove to a low flame.
- Cover the pot with Parchment Paper with a small hole in the middle.
- Cook the plums until soft and impressionable to the touch.
- Remove the plums and reduce the mixture further.

To Serve:
Slice the plums and drizzle with the reduced mixture.

Cheese Pairing:
Rouge River Bleu Cheese

The smell of these fruits creates an enticing aroma in your home, but you can also achieve a holiday smell with a candle such as Pine and Germanium from Kmart, Christian Tortu's Forest Candle, or Bath and Body Works' Winter Candle. I believe the key to a great party is to properly engage the senses, starting with your sense of smell.

Music for the holidays is key. I have a variety of favorites that make any party great. Some of my favorites are Andrea Bocelli and Jim Brickman.

Here are my suggestions for a holiday play list:

Carol of the Bells - George Winston
Shades of White - Jim Brickman
Linus & Lucy - Vince Guaraldi Trio
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow - Beegie Adair
Christmas - Sarajevo 12/24 (Instrumental)
Christmas Waltz - Oscar Peterson
The Nutcracker, Op. 71 Overture - Orchestra of the Kirov Opera
The Nutcracker, Op. 71 No. 2 March - Orchestra of the Kirov Opera
Joy - George Winston
White Christmas - John Tesh
Winter's Twilight - Michael Gettel
And Winter Came - Enya
Peace - Norah Jones
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas - Kenny G
Winter Song - Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson
Thankful - Josh Groban
Happy Xmas (War Is Over) - Sarah McLachlan
The Prayer - Andrea Bocelli & Celine Dion
River - Sarah McLachlan
Silent Night - Il Divo
Christmas in the City - Marvin Gaye
White Christmas (1947 Single) - Bing Crosby
Winter Wonderland - Tony Bennett
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow - Michael Buble
What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? - Diana Krall
A Joyous Song - Boyz II Men
This Time of Year - Ray Charles
Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney
Sleigh Ride - Ella Fitzgerald
Baby It's Cold Outside - Dean Martin
My Favorite Things - Outkast

Listen in and let me know what you think!