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Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

Photo: Susan Reimer

Photo: Susan Reimer

I’d love to meet you next month, during a special class I’m hosting for the University of Denver’s Enrichment Program in conjunction with the Central City Opera Guild.

Every year the Guild’s L’Esprit de Noël Holiday Home Tour kicks off the yuletide season with a tour of historic Denver homes decorated by some of the city’s leading table and floral designers. Have you ever toured those elegantly appointed homes and wondered, “How do they do that?”

Home for the Holidays: Secrets to a Memorable Celebration
will be held on two consecutive Saturdays. The first session is Saturday, November 16 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. at my home. During this workshop,  you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at how those designers take simple objects and transform them into elaborate yet tasteful decorations.

First, we’ll cover the planning process, starting with tips for creating a noteworthy invitation and steps to conceiving the perfect mood for your event. You’ll enjoy a cooking demonstration and get expert advice on creating a delicious yet easy to accomplish menu, compliments of cookbook author Eliza Cross. We’ll talk about décor and how to create a beautiful holiday table, and floral designer BJ Dyer of Bouquets will lead you through a variety of ideas for stunning floral arrangements and holiday decorations.

The following Saturday, November 23rd at 10:30, you’ll enjoy a docent-led tour of the 2013 L’Esprit de Noël Holiday Home Tour in the old Crestmoor Park neighborhood. You’ll see firsthand how these impressive techniques are used in some of Denver’s finest homes. Discover the designer secrets for your own memorable and beautifully decorated holiday celebration.

The cost for the two-week class is $95, and Central City Opera Guild members receive a 10 percent discount. To register, visit http://www.universitycollege.du.edu/enrichment or call 303-871-2291.

I hope to meet many of you in person during this fun, festive event!

Hugs,

~Maury

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Father's Day at Celebrated Gatherings

Dad – The Unsung Hero. Photo by princedd.

If we remember our mothers for their loving, quiet influence, then our fathers must stand as unsung heroes. Too often relegated to practical, financial, logistical and practical roles, we could easily lose sight of their contributions, sacrifices and influences. It’s our mothers who often bask in the recognition of a successfully brought up child, but somewhere—steadfast, proud, courageous, but out of the limelight—stand our fathers. On Father’s Day, we honor their sacrifices and commitment.

Have you ever wondered how Father’s Day originated? History.com provides some fascinating facts and details. The holiday’s first celebration took place in West Virginia in 1908, and was a one-time event to commemorate fathers who had been lost in a mine explosion.

Sonora Smart Dodd at Celebrated Gatherings

Sonora Smart Dodd

In 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd, raised by a widower, actively campaigned for a Father’s Day in her hometown of Spokane, Washington. Her campaign produced results any father would admire: In 1910, Washington State held its first state Father’s Day. But the holiday only spread slowly through the following decades—a delay often caused by fathers themselves. Men scoffed at the sentimentality and attempts to commercialize fatherhood, leading to gifts ironically often paid for by the fathers. Meantime, Mrs. Dodd had established a tradition of wearing a white rose to honor a deceased father and a red rose for a father still living.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson “honored the day by using telegraph signals to unfurl a flag in Spokane when he pressed a button in Washington, D.C.” Eight years later, President Calvin Coolidge encouraged states to observe Father’s Day, purportedly calling it “the occasion to establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and also press upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.” June 19th slowly became a recognized and celebrated holiday, and in 1972, President Richard Nixon established the third Sunday in June as a national Father’s Day—trailing the creation of Mother’s Day by 58 years.

If you need a little inspiration, you might enjoy these tips from the article, “Give Him a Father’s Day He’ll Never Forget.” You could also make Dad a batch of homemade BBQ sauce or take him on a perfect picnic.

How will you be celebrating with the fathers in your life? I always love hearing your thoughts and ideas.

Happy Father’s Day,

~Maury

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Jack-o'-lanterns

Photo: William Warby

     An Irish folk tale is said to have inspired the modern day Jack-O-Lantern. According to legend, a man named Jack — who was something of a cheapskate, a drunkard and a practical joker — convinced the Devil to climb up a tree. Once the Devil was in the tree, Jack surrounded it with crosses, trapping him there. In exchange for removing the crosses so he could get down, Jack made the Devil promise not to take his soul when he died.
     However, when Jack died he was denied entrance to heaven because of his stinginess, pranks and drinking. When he tried to get into Hell, the Devil reminded him of their deal and told Jack he was doomed to forever wander through the cold darkness. When Jack complained that he couldn’t see, the Devil tossed him a burning ember from Hell to light his way, which was then placed in a hollowed-out turnip to last longer. Thus, Jack’s Lanterns were born. Because pumpkins grew more bountifully than turnips in America, the tradition eventually evolved into pumpkin lanterns – often carved with spooky or silly faces.
Happy Halloween!
~ Maury

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The Occasional Affair | Father's Day BBQ sauce

© Andrea Berger - Fotolia.com

I’m constantly racking my brain for creative, cost-effective gifts to give. With Father’s Day quickly approaching, I wanted to come up with something different and useful that my girls could help me create. We have enough artwork to cover a few miles of the great wall; we have enough painted mugs, bowls and plates to keep Tavern on the Green up and running and enough painted pots, patio pavers and bird feeders to remain to eyesore of the neighborhood.  Not that I don’t adore and cherish each an every one of these handmade projects, but one can only have so many…

While making a list of my husband’s favorite pastimes, I kept coming back to how much we enjoy spending our evenings outside. Grilling is a big part of that. So this year, we are going to make him three different types of homemade barbeque sauce. It’s a fun activity that the kids can help with, and the gift is practical because we know he’ll use and enjoy it. Plus, it won’t clutter the front porch or the front of the refrigerator!

I’ve listed a few of my favorite BBQ sauce recipes below, each with its own distinctive flavor and style. You might enjoy trying one style you’re familiar with, and one that’s new to you. You can find a variety of bottle styles and sizes at many different retailers such as The Container Store.

Have the kids decorate a different label (a simple piece of paper that can be glued onto the bottle).  Finally, secure the bottles in a nice box among some hickory wood chips (found at most grocery stores).  The wood chips are a great packing material as well as grill starter.  If you don’t have the time or desire to make your own BBQ sauce, purchase a favorite store brand, soak off the label and affix your own for the same effect.

Here are some of my preferred BBQ sauce recipes, all from the wonderful site AllRecipes.com:

Big Al’s K.C. Bar-B-Q Sauce

By: Alan Arthur

“This is a Kansas City-style sauce that I make in my restaurant. It is sweet and smoky with a little bite.”

Prep Time: 
15 minutes

Cook Time: 
20 minutes

Ready In: 
35 minutes

Servings: 48

Yield: 6 cups

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups ketchup
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 4 teaspoons hickory-flavored liquid smoke
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan over medium heat, mix together the ketchup, tomato sauce, brown sugar, wine vinegar, molasses, liquid smoke and butter. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, paprika, celery seed, cinnamon, cayenne, salt and pepper.
  2. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for up to 20 minutes. For thicker sauce, simmer longer, and for thinner, less time is needed. Sauce can also be thinned using a bit of water if necessary. Brush sauce onto any kind of meat during the last 10 minutes of cooking.

North Carolina BBQ Sauce

by: WEIRDMUSIC657

“This sauce is vinegar-based with no ketchup. It’s very tangy, very thin, and wonderful on pork, chicken, and even tofu!”

Prep Time: 
5 minutes

Cook Time: 
30 minutes

Ready In: 
35 minutes

Servings: 64

Yield:  1 gallon

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon white vinegar
  • 1 1/3 cups cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/8 cups ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup mustard powder
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 3 lemons
  • 2 (10 fluid ounce) bottles Worcestershire sauce

Directions

  1. Combine the vinegar, cayenne pepper, black pepper, mustard powder, salt, lemons, and Worcestershire sauce in a large pot; bring to a simmer. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Applesauce Barbeque Sauce

By: YULANDA_US

“Applesauce gives this sauce a nice thick texture that coats well on meat. It has a sweet spicy flavor that is excellent on chicken or pork.

Prep Time: 
10 minutes

Cook Time: 
20 minutes

Ready In: 
30 minutes

Servings: 28

Yield: 3 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 cups unpacked brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, mix applesauce, ketchup, brown sugar, lemon juice, salt, pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and cinnamon. Bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat, and cool completely. Use to baste the meat of your choice.

Mustard Based BBQ Sauce

By: JFREE44

“This is a great version of the traditional mustard-based BBQ sauce. Most sauces are ketchup based, but in the South we prefer the mustard variation. You ought to try it at least once.”

Prep Time: 
2 minutes

Cook Time: 
5 minutes

Ready In: 
7 minutes

Servings: 12

Yield:  1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup prepared yellow mustard
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • Ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the mustard, honey, brown sugar and vinegar. Season with black pepper. Bring to a boil, and let simmer for 5 minutes. Pour over cooked pulled pork or beef. If you want more flavor, let the meat simmer in the sauce for about 30 minutes.

Happy Father’s Day!

~ Maury

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Maury Ankrum shares best Mothers Day inscription ideas

With Mother’s Day fast approaching, many of us will sit down with pen in hand to write a heartfelt inscription on a card for Mom. Trying to sum up a lifetime of gratitude and emotions on a greeting card can be a daunting task, though, which is why I’ve compiled a list of ideas to fuel your card-writing inspiration:

1. Make a list of all the reasons you love her (her great advice, the way she cooks the perfect omelet, the TLC she gave you when you were sick, etc.).

2. Share a special memory or two. (“I’ll never forget when we went camping in Estes Park and it snowed in June, and how happy I was when you got up and made coffee…”)

3. Borrow a quote, a song lyric, a verse or a line from a poem that expresses how you feel.

4. Tell her about things in your life that make you think of her. (“The kids and I picked lilacs today, which reminded us all of your perfume…”).

5. If you have children, tell her why the grandkids love her. Better yet, if they’re old enough to write let  them pen a line or two on the card. (Your pets can also write sentiments to your mom.)

6. Write about something you learned from her. (“Along with teaching me the secret to your chocolate chip cookies, you taught me how to choose my battles, open a bottle of champagne and ask for a raise…”)

7. Compile the reasons you are most thankful for your mom. (“I am grateful for your patience, wisdom, support and faith in me these many years…”)

Do you have any suggestions to add to the list? I always love to hear your ideas. Happy Mother’s Day to all the hard-working moms out there!

~Maury

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Quiche for Easter Morning Celebrated Gatherings

Easter is one of my favorite holidays, but if you have children it can be challenging to manage the hunt for Easter eggs and also serve breakfast all in the same morning. The following quiche recipe is perfect for a mid-morning brunch; it’s kid friendly, and easy to prepare. The hash browns form a crispy crust which is topped with a ham and egg mixture. Feel free to add or subtract filling ingredients depending on what your family likes. Sometimes I arrange asparagus spears or chopped artichoke hearts on top before adding the eggs, and I’ve also substituted cooked, crumbled bacon for the ham.

  • 1 24-ounce package frozen hash browns, thawed
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Emmenthaler or Swiss cheese
  • 1 cup diced cooked ham
  • ½ cup half and half
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Press thawed hash browns between paper towels to remove moisture. Arrange hash browns into a greased 9-inch pie plate, forming a solid crust. Brush the crust with melted butter, including top edges. Bake for 25 minutes; remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Sprinkle cheeses and ham evenly over bottom of crust. Beat half and half with eggs and salt and pepper. Pour over cheeses and ham. Bake uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until eggs are set and a knife inserted in center comes out clean. 6 servings.

If you have any favorite recipes or Easter traditions, I’d love to hear about them!

~Maury

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As the saying goes “Everyone’s a little Irish on St. Patrick’s Day,” and who wouldn’t want to be part of one of the world most fun-loving and spirited holidays of the year?

This year, I recommend skipping the bars and opting for a beer tasting bash at home. Similar to a wine tasting party, serve up some of Ireland’s finest stouts, ales, and porters and let your friends taste the nuances in flavor and style. Pair the brews with a St. Patty’s Day meal rich in tradition- corned beef and cabbage, potatoes and Irish soda bread.

Epicurious created this comprehensive list of beers made in or inspired by Ireland. Here are a few favorite beers I pulled from the list, and any of these would be perfect for the party:

  • Beamish Irish Stout
  • Boulevard Irish Ale
  • Diamond Bear Irish Red
  • Finnegans Irish Amber
  • Georg Killian’s Irish Red
  • Great Divid Saint Bridget’s Porter
  • Guinness Pub Draught
  • Harpoon’s Celtic Ale
  • O’Hara’s Irish Red Ale
  • Murphy’s Irish Stout
  • O’Hara’s Irish Stout

Finally, here are some tips on “How To Taste Beer” with advice on pouring, appearance, aroma, first sip, mouthful, finish and styles.

Have a happy, healthy holiday!

Slán leat (goodbye),

~Maury

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Appalachian goat - Photo courtesy Heifer International / Darcy Kiefel

If some of those on your holiday list are fortunate enough to have everything they need, consider donating to a charity in their name. It’s a selfless gesture that truly gets to the heart of the Christmas spirit. I believe a philanthropic gift is one of the most touching, personal presents one can give.

The fundamental logic behind most charities is to better the world for a particular cause or group of people.  However, despite good intentions, not all (more…)

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Halloween is so much more than an occasion; in our household, it’s an event!

I love anything in the name of Halloween that diverts some of the attention away from the candy and back towards the innocent shrieks and spooks of the holiday. In the spirit of playing on your kids’ imagination and curiosity, create your own friendly ghost invasion. Here are just a few simple, not-so-scary little tricks to play on your small people this Halloween: (more…)

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A party is a great opportunity to expand your social network by getting to know new people and reconnecting with those near and dear to us. It is also a chance to cultivate new friendships among your friends and family by allowing them to get to know each other better.

No other factor may be as important to the successful outcome of a party as the people you invite.  No amount of decorations, enticing entertainment or appetizing food can or will save an event if your guests don’t mesh, mingle or play nice with one another. So here are a few tips to ensure you gather a diverse and intriguing grouping of friends and family for your next affair.

The occasion for the party largely stipulates the majority of the guests. Reunions, baby showers, and birthdays are just a few events in which you may have limited control over the attendees. However, you’re not totally out of luck. My husband’s birthday party is a great example; my in-laws have a hard time relating to most of our friends, so we have a dinner party with the just the family, and later have a themed party with friends. This is also true of parties in which colleges or co-workers need to make up to majority of the guest list. Knowing that shoptalk is inevitable, I would spare certain friends the discomfort of attending.

With that said, the remaining tips are for the events in which you have control over who does or does not come.

Select the size of function you are comfortable with. Over-extending yourself is a near guarantee of undue stress and probable disappointment. The original rule of thumb is that one-fourth of your guests will not be able to make it, so send out extra invitations in anticipation of this. In all my years of planning parties, I have never seen that rule play out. Who you invite, the type of parties you host, and the time of year the party is planned for — these are the largest determinators of attendance. My Halloween parties over the years have taken on a life of their own. Regardless of how many invitations I send out, it is rare to get even one decline. This is largely because there are very few adult Halloween events, and with school back in session, fewer people are traveling. The opposite is true of Christmas parties, where you are competing for a three-week window jammed with festivities and travel plans. My advice is to look at every event individually, taking these factors into consideration. Never invite more people than you could possibly handle.

The type of people you include is the second most important consideration and often what causes the most stress.

First, do not invite people who all share the same career, background or set of beliefs. Bankers rarely want to talk to other bankers in their leisure time. Invite people who are lively and engaging, and who will contribute to conversations. However, avoid inviting those who are so dominating or adversarial that they could intimidate other guests. Likewise, steer clear of those who become obnoxious when they have had too much to drink. Realize that most of us want to hear or be heard by those with different interests and perspective.

If possible, try to include a lawyer or a doctor. Everyone loves a little piece of free advice! Other interesting guests include:

  • Someone involved in restaurants or entertainment, as everyone loves gossip or ideas on dining out.
  • A realtor as they are often well versed in trends of different neighborhoods and changes to schools and government policies.
  • Someone in investments, as these individuals usually know a lot about the economy and a variety of industries.
  • Entrepreneurs, as they are risk-takers and usually have grand ideas and ambitions.
  • A stay-at home mom, as they are often more knowledgeable in a variety of subjects than people expect and usually have a couple great stories or anecdotes up their sleeves.

Second, don’t invite those who clearly will be uncomfortable, such as your ninety-year old grandmother to your Indy 500 party, your only Democratic friends to your Republican candidate’s victory party, or anyone you feel would be so out of place that they are likely to have a miserable night and you are likely to continually try saving.

Third, don’t waste much time worrying about the male to female ratio. You’re not hosting a dating party, and therefore don’t need to match people up together.

Fourth, don’t worry about excluding people (this may not be the case for family get together or smaller venues). I do not try to hide or excuse the fact that I do host functions that not all the same people are invited to. People don’t expect to be included to a dinner party for your new neighbors, your boss’s retirement party, and your 8-year old’s pool party.

Finally, have faith that your friends will enjoy each other and get along. If you find redeeming qualities in them, trust that they will find those qualities in each other. (If they don’t, make a mental note to reconsider them for the next time!)

~Maury

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