Monday, December 20, 2010

Visions of Sugarplums

After a short cat nap in the early evening, I made the decision to use my night at home to get ahead of the game by mixing up a double batch of my mother's best ever sweet roll bread recipe. In the spirit of gift giving and family traditions, I embarked on this aggressive endeavor a bit late in the evening for common sense to be involved! (And a double batch, what was I thinking?!)

My mother's recipe is a tried and true favorite, but while studying some new menu options for my Christmas dinner and the days afterward, I came across an adaptation that I decided to try for this year.

A double batch of sweet roll dough is no small amount! 14 cups of flour and a pound of butter later...

A half a pound of butter goes into the yeast dough and the other half pound is waiting for the rolling out process. I soften this portion to the point of spreading with my pastry brush on the soft rolled out dough.

The new addition I mentioned is brown sugar and cinnamon for the filling...

and confectioner's sugar blended with heavy cream lines the bottom of the pan. Yum!

After separating my large dough into six equal parts, I began the rolling out process. The first pan began the final rise while I hurried to get the remaining portions rolled out.

The misfits (small end cuts) get their own special pan for "poison control" as my sister calls them! We always taste these to make sure all is well!

One of the finished pans just out of the oven (many hours later, I might add! I like the new adaptation alright, but am not sure it trumps my mother's old standard!! The recipe calls for baking 20-25 minutes. I baked my first pans for 20 minutes, as they looked browned and not overdone, but when I turned them out, the topping wasn't caramelized. The second pans I baked for the 23 minutes, and this was the result. Better.

...the poison control rolls were put to the test...

Too bad Sneelock already went to bed...I've got quite a project ahead of me to clean up!

Here is the basic sweet roll recipe:

Disolve 2 TBL yeast in 1/2 cup warm water w/2tsp sugar
Melt 1 cube butter; ad 2 cups water and 2/3 cups powdered milk

Put milk, 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 tsp salt in Bosch (or Kitchen Aid) dough mixer
Add 3 cups flour and beat well

Add yeast mixture and beat well again.
Add 2 eggs, beat well, very well (till bubbly).

Add another 4 cups flour. Dough will be soft. Transfer to a large mixing bowl that has been brushed with oil, or Pam spray. Cover with a tea towel and set in warm place to rise.

let rise 2 times about 45minutes to 1 hour each (depending on altitude).

Divide dough and roll out into desired shapes (sweet rolls, or cinnamon bread).

Bake in 375 degree oven 20-25 minutes.

*note to self* Start bread making project before 9:00 p.m.

I feel happy that this part of my celebration is ready and waiting.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sad, Sad, Sad, so Sad.....SAD!

Every year, this time of the retail holiday season starts to look sad. I mean sad. To quote my cute friend, Jan, "sad, sad, sad, so sad, very sad...SAD"! As I peruse the sales floor, trying to fill in the bare spots, my heart aches and I couldn't agree more! I know it's a good thing, but it still makes me sad to see my once filled to the brim, screaming stylish holiday, cutest ever selections...well, you know, empty. Sad.

...bookcases, once chock full of santas, snowmen, and bottle brush trees-now, a lonely few mini cloches and paper pulp house ornament stand alone...

...bare spaces, everywhere! Oh, this makes my heart hurt. a santa, there a santa...

...once a fully packed tree, full of vintage inspired red and platinum ornaments...

...empty vessels with odd assortments...

...a definite surprise left unpurchased...

...sad mantle, once flanked with boxwood-filled urns and plentiful sugarcones...

p.s. this is a fresh fully bloomed amaryllis! (now 40% off...)

...a few orphaned angles stand on this mirrored platform where a bevy of skaters recently had a gathering...

...this mirrored tray which only a few hours before had a great design of candlesticks, assorted ornaments and snow, now piled with close-at-hand fill-ins...

...a second ever-so-sad mantle; minus a wreath hanging inside the frame, large weathered candlesticks, vintage photo frames, bottlebrush trees and santas, not to mention a lush garland...

...unrelated, empty tabletops everywhere!

Before leaving for the day, I did my best to fill in the empty spots and create some kind of interest. It's just sad! Where once an entire store filled with holiday magic and lush inventory in every corner stood, now an obvious end of the season.

There are a few favorites still to be found, so come in for some great deals!

Good thing in less than one month, my market for holiday 2011 begins...
Wait, did I say "good thing"....oh, dear. I'm not sure I'm ready for that again.

Thanks for a wonderfully supportive holiday 2010 season. Our first Christmas in my new location was definitely a success! (I'm not sure that my friend, Ben, was prepared for the glitter kingdom to prevail throughout our shared 10,000 square feet!) Rest assured, by next September,just a month before the whole thing starts again, the last of the glitter will finally be gone...

Have a wonderful, happy and tender Christmas. Goodbye retail holiday magic 2010.

Monday, December 13, 2010

My True Love Gave to Me...

It's getting more and more difficult to keep the retail showroom looking spectacular! Low inventory...I mean lower and lower and lower. I guess I shouldn't complain, but just say' know how I feel about "my stuff"!

The end of the fall/holiday event menu is nearing. We had a successful "On a Silver Tray" event last Thursday. Lots of cool ideas and demonstrations. Between sales from that night and our busy Saturday, things are dwindling.

Check out this example from my class...champagne ornaments, tinsel trees, and an assortment of candlesticks. I had a great assortment of vintage mirrors an silver trays that I transformed into my platform. Some were colorful, some neutral, and all had a bit of glitter!

This week, and for the next 12 Days of Christmas, I will be offering special discounts that will be enticing for fans of Black-eyed Susan! Watch your email for a different offer in a certain category each day! While inventory levels are waning, some of my personal favorites are still for the taking! I'll be on hand to help create the vision and be your personal shopper.

I'm looking forward to seeing you!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Set-ups, Day 8: Halleluiah!

  • Gear up for one last day of set-ups with a breakfast of fresh bran muffins and cottage cheese
  • Plan outfits with layered clothing to combat freezing temperatures
  • Arrive at set-up, tools in tow, and--on auto-pilot--begin tackling banister, mantles, and kugels
  • Enjoy Diet Coke (served in lead crystal goblets) and lunch courtesy of another gracious client
  • Clean up, bid goodbye and thank client, sink gratefully into heated seats and decide, spontaneously, to get pedicures!
  • Go into partial trance while feet are pampered
  • Laugh at Susan's midget foot in salon-provided flip-flop
  • Cringe at having to walk to the car in frigid weather wearing said flip-flops
  • Decide on one more brief shopping expedition, followed by late dinner at Baja Fresh
  • Thank server for taking our order despite apparent imminent close
  • Enjoy fine array of salsas and warm tortilla chips
  • Attempt one last SP, hoping that blurry outcome disguises signs of aging and fatigue
  • Drive home to pack Denise's purchases, sad that--though the week has been exhausting with a combined total of 135 man-hours--our sister time is over

Set-ups, Day 7: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen (and women)

  • Rejoice in not setting alarm the night previously; sleep until we wake up on our own
  • Blog, relax, get ready for church
  • Attempt self-portrait prior to departure for church; lament unavoidable presence of dark under-eye circles despite extra sleep
  • Enjoy a quick nap after church, before making dinner
  • Agree to take a quick trip to the store to tidy up after busy sale weekend
  • Finally get around to front window re-vamp
  • Sneak rare photo of Susan wearing athletic shoes

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Set-ups, Day 6: Merry and Bright

  • Enjoy quick breakfast of instant oatmeal with blueberries; hope there really is something to product's promises of staying power and heart health
  • Layer clothing to fight biting wind-chill factor
  • Remember to take daily self-portrait while lipstick is still fresh; lament what humidity does to hairdos
  • Arrive at new client's home to begin set-up, grateful that she invested in beautiful, soft artificial cedar garlands which need little if any primping
  • Wish that travel-sized hand cream in purse still had something left in it to soothe scratched hands (from primping countless scratchy garland throughout the week)
  • Hang assorted kugels from dining room chandelier
  • Call to reschedule afternoon set-up to allow for time to work in the store on one of the busiest days of the year
  • Eat a quick lunch in the car on the way to the store
  • Work in store until closing
  • Head out to patiently-waiting client's house; hang kugels, decorate mantle, and generally work Christmas magic
  • Express gratitude for array of tasty snacks provided by said client
  • Load supplies into car, take deep breaths, and head to Kohl's for another round of Christmas shopping
  • Wish for tub of hot water in which to soak aching feet

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Set-ups, Day 5: Comfort and Joy

  • Savor sleeping in until 7 a.m.!
  • Head for only scheduled setup for the day, lamenting that we're only a team of two
  • Call store to see if anyone is available to help; access denied, as store is WAY busy
  • Unpack box after box of favorite things from Susan's store, purchased by client in years past
  • Exclaim over beauty of tree!
  • Break for lunch--a lovely catered affair on holiday china hosted by our gracious client, Lani
  • Swoon over arugula salad with Craisins, walnuts, and blue cheese; salivate over dessert tray sporting a tempting array of lemon bars, pecan tassies, chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies, brownies, and cannolis
  • Hope that climbing ladders multiple times daily counts as workout
  • Love Lani for allowing us to take creative license in our work
  • Comment on how inviting her house looks from the street
  • Finish later than we thought; crack open a Coke Zero to prepare for evening of Christmas shopping
  • Drag ourselves home around 11:15 p.m., shopping bounty in tow

Friday, December 3, 2010

Set-ups, Day 4: Over the River and Through the Woods

  • Pick up newly-delivered greens at store to complete outdoor urns; head back to Princeton
  • Arrive at set-up greeted by dozens of XL Rubbermaid tote bins with contents waiting to be unpacked, spruced, primped, hung, tied, embellished, and displayed
  • Attempt to stifle mild panic at amount of work to be finished in allotted time
  • Feel immense gratitude and relief for having highly competent team of six workers--especially JJ, who cheerfully fulfilled all assignments requiring climbing ladders to dizzying heights and all jobs involving hefting of live trees to second-story balconies
  • Breathe a sigh of relief when client's 12' tree full of collector Radko and McKenzie Childs ornaments is up with only one minor casualty
  • Express exasperation upon realization that hectic pace of the day preempted extensive photo documentation
  • Feel happy that Shannon took time to snap a few photos of the outdoor urns

  • Leave client's house (Susan) just in time to breeze into Light the Lights! store event (leaving remaining team members behind to finish the job)
  • Finish set-up with remaining team; stop on way back to store for a gourmet meal at Wawa deli
  • Chuckle at missing Person alert posted at deli counter