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Archive for the ‘Seasonal Entertaining’ 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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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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Throw a great picnic with Celebrated Gatherings

I love dining outdoors, and with 300 days a year of sunshine in Colorado we try to take advantage of every opportunity to share a meal al fresco. The key to enjoying a great picnic is to give the occasion a little forethought and planning. Here are my favorite tips for hosting an unforgettable outdoor meal:

1. Pack or purchase a beautiful picnic basket. Organizing a dedicated bag or basket with unbreakable plates, cutlery and servers, cups and glasses, salt & pepper shakers, a corkscrew and napkins will make spontaneous picnics a breeze. Just add the food and drinks and you’re good to go!

2. Consider your location ahead of time, and arrive early to set up. An area with big trees will provide both shade and sun for changing weather. If children are coming, a picnic area in a park with a play structure gives kids something to do which may in turn make the picnic more relaxing for adults. An on-site picnic table is ideal, and I like to cover it with a colorful tablecloth and arrange soft, folded blankets on the benches. In a pinch, you can spread a waterproof tarp on the ground and top it with a blanket.

3. Choose food that keeps and transports well like salads, sandwiches and finger foods. (Here are some fresh picnic menu ideas from the Food Network.) Prepare everything ahead of time (cut up the ribs, slice the watermelon, etc.) so you can relax at the picnic site.

4. Chill out. Pack everything in an insulated cooler with plenty of ice packs, and set up the picnic in the shade. Or freeze water bottles the night before, and they can serve as ice packs, and later, drinks.

5. Games like Frisbee, croquet and badminton can easily accommodate varying ages and groups of people.

6. Don’t forget bug repellent. If it’s especially buggy outside, you may want to pack citronella votive candles to place on the table.

7. Bring trash bags, paper towels or cloth dishtowels and disposable wipes or damp washcloths packed in zip-lock baggies for cleaning up after the picnic.

Are you picnicking this summer? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

~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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If you’ve been married for as long as I have, you’ve come to realize that the most romantic of dates are not necessarily on February 14th at an overpriced restaurant with a prefixed menu.  Besides, how can one ever compete with the doe eyes, forced giggles, and hand feeding that often accompanies these evenings?

I prefer loud company, a hearty, well-priced meal and the genuine laughter that comes from a romantic dinner with the kids.

Romantic Valentine's Day dinner ideasTo create a fun and relaxing evening with the family, I change things up a bit by turning our living room into a five-star eatery. I hang curtains at the doorways, remove or push back most of the furniture, and bring in a card table and chairs. By covering the table with a nice cloth, lighting some candles, and adding a flower or two and some Chris Botti CDs – viola! – it’s the perfect dinner in, no reservations required.  I’ll prepare a nice Italian meal for my husband and me, and a box of my kids’ favorite mac and cheese (garnished with parsley for that little something extra). Our tradition has always included a new pair of PJ’s and chocolate-dipped strawberries for dessert; after they’re all sugared up, we send them to bed a smidge early.

After the kids are down, we grab a nice bottle of wine, a couple of the remaining chocolates, and a ton of warm blankets — and head outside. While watching our breath and a few small stars, I give my husband what I call the verbal Valentine’s card. I tell him all the reasons I love him and love our life. (The memory of this lasts longer than a card).

Happy Valentine’s Day,

~Maury

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On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…..

  • 12 Drummers Drumming
  • 11 Cousins-a-Bickering
  • 10 Lords-a-Leaping
  • 9 Kids-a-Shouting
  • 8 Maids-a-Milking
  • 7 Aunts-a-Meddling
  • 6 Brothers-a-Quarreling
  • 5 Golden Rings
  • 4 Sisters Prying
  • 3 French Hens
  • 2 In-Laws-a-Ranting
  • 1 Drunken Uncle

…and a Partridge in a Pear Tree!

Ahh, nothing says “holidays” like a good, old -fashioned family feud. The holidays can be tough, and not every gathering is grand –or even peaceful, for that matter. The added stress of stretched finances, packed schedules (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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