Never Say Never. We’ve all heard that adage a million times and why is that? Because so often when one says 'I will never ….' somewhere down the road those words come back to haunt us. Things change and it’s so easy to do that thing we said we would never do. If I said it once, I’ve said it one hundred times …. 'I will never have an artificial Christmas tree. It goes against my grain. I love the smell of a freshly cut evergreen in the house. blah, blah, blah'  Alas, my own words have come back to haunt me.

For my entire life, some of my best memories are the annual trek to the Christmas tree lot strung with holiday lights to choose the perfect tree. We never went to a tree farm with hack saw to cut down a fresh tree. Although, there was that one Christmas back in 1965 when my mother thought it was a great idea to trim the top of the blue spruce pine situated at the corner of our house for our tree that year. So on a cold December day (ya see, December was always a bitterly cold and snowy month on the calendar before global warming), the four of us kids and my Mom watched Dad as he sawed and sawed and sawed to slice through the trunk of the tree. We were all so excited as Dad dragged the tree to the back door of the house. And that’s as far as he got with that tree as there was no way it would fit through the door. We all had a good laugh except Dad who never thought cutting that tree was a good idea in the first place. Dad was right! That was the day we all learned that in the expanse of the outdoors, things look a lot smaller. But I digress.

Every December my husband and I do the trek to the nursery to spend a small fortune for a tree, throw it in the back of the truck, lug it up the stairs and through the house to the perfect spot in front of the french doors. Every year as I look at the trail of pine needles, I say ‘I can see why people buy an artificial tree; no needles, no mess, no cleanup, no watering, no lugging up the stairs.’  Well, this year is different because the day after we purchased our tree last year, we went online to purchase an artificial tree. I cannot believe I’m even saying artificial tree!   By the way, it’s the best time to buy as all trees were 50% off at Balsam Hill. So, this is the first year with our new tree. We are so happy we went this route and even up close, the tree looks real and best of all … no needles, no mess, no cleanup, no watering. Never Say Never!

This is a simple holiday cocktail. After all the decorating, shopping, wrapping, cooking and baking, kick your feet up and sip on a no-fuss, delightful libation. Sit back and admire your Christmas tree.

Holly Berry Cocktail
Cranberry Juice
Whole Cranberries (optional)

Pour Cranberry Juice into a flute glass, filling halfway. Fill remainder of glass with Champagne.
Garnish with Cranberries.


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Every year I plan to start my holiday baking in October so there is plenty of time before December arrives to upload Christmas cookies to the blog. Well, maybe next year!  It’s mid-December and no holiday cookies. I’ve rolled out a couple of designs but haven’t had time to decorate them. It’s been a busy season with birthday parties and travel. So lookie here at all my holiday cookies going back five years ago to my first blog Christmas. I’m also including some very easy drop cookies and more which can be baked any time of the year and whipped up in an afternoon. New subscribers may enjoy reading the accompanying anecdotes while  long-time subscribers may enjoy a re-read. How is your holiday baking coming along?


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My first trip to Florida was a road trip with 5 of us girls on spring break in my junior year of college. We departed from Washington DC in the evening and drove through the night for the 20-hour trip to Ft. Lauderdale. I cringe to think of how much second-hand smoke was inhaled by me as the only non-smoker, as there was at least one gal lit up during the 40-hour round trip. As we headed due south in Jill’s orange, Chevy Malibu with Georgia tags, the drive seemed endless. I could name the ’77 radio tunes and artists we heard repeatedly throughout the drive but I will spare you. OK… your curiosity must be getting to you, so I’ll name just one that must have played at least twice an hour …You’re a Rich Girl by Hall & Oates. Needless to say, none of us could relate to that song as no one at my college was rich. Rather, the lyrics are about the newspaper heiress, Patty Hearst.

Shortly after midday we arrived at our destination, a tiny motel room one block from the beach. We were not extreme partiers so we stayed out of trouble and hung out with other classmates who made the trip that spring. Although, we did overdose on the southern sun. We all took to bed one day with the chills from our awful sunburns. Sunblock ... no one used it back then. On the way home we stopped at DisneyWorld for a day before completing the drive back to campus. The collegial rite of passage spending spring break in Lauderdale was a standout memory for us all.

My College Buddies and Me (on the right)

These housewarming cookies were made for my brother who now lives in the sunshine state. Ah … no snow, no cold, just sun, heat and plenty of golf. Although I swoon over the beautiful palm trees, I don’t know if I could live in Florida but it sure is a nice place to visit. Since I was flying with these cookies on a recent trip to see my bro’s new digs, I kept the design very simple. These house cookies airbrushed and stenciled in brightly colored palm leaves represent the simple beauty of our most southern state. I made a few in the United States cookie cutter with the intention of marking Central Florida on the cookie, but the designer of this cutter doesn’t know his geography. The State of Texas is larger and situated further south than Florida and skimps on the Floridian peninsula. 

Housewarming Cookies
House Shortbread Cookies
Royal Icing for outlining and flooding tinted Rose with AmeriColor Deep Pink and Wilton Brown
Disposable piping bags & couplers
Squeeze bottles
Wilton Decorating Tip #2
Air Brush Kit or Wilton Color Mist
AmeriColor Airbrush Colors (Deep Pink, Avocado, Violet, Sky Blue)
Palm Leaves Stencil

Outline and flood cookie with #2 tip in rose icing.

Let dry overnight.

Place stencil on the cookie. Spray with various airbrush colors. 

Gently lift stencil. Let dry 30 minutes.



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As Veterans Day approaches this year, I would like to tip my hat, express my gratitude and remember my family members who served our country. My Dad and uncles, all but one who are no longer with us, most were teenagers when they signed up to serve in WWII. Two of my cousins served during the Vietnam era.

Dad – enlisted in the United States Navy after high school graduation in 1942 at age 18. As mentioned in an earlier post, he served as a Radio Operator aboard a patrol craft ship. During WWII, he was stationed in Miami, Florida trolling daily for German submarines along our southeastern shores, sinking one.

Dad (Miami, 1942)

Uncle Tom (married to my maternal aunt) enlisted in the United States Army in 1942 at age 18. He was stationed in England, France, Germany, Belgium and Holland during WWII. At some point he and a couple of buddies were taken prisoner but managed to escape after just a few days, a fact unbeknownst to me until after his passing sixty-plus years later.

Uncle Tom (France, 1945)

Uncle Len (married to my paternal aunt) – As the only son of a widow, he was eligible for a deferment but he enlisted anyway in 1942 at age 20. He was blind in one eye after a traumatic injury yet managed to pass the eye exam and physical to serve in the United States Army. He was stationed in Europe and at some point during WWII he was captured. Two times he and fellow POWs were lined up to be executed. Unknown are the details but they did not shoot the men during that first episode. They were lined up a second time toward the end of the war because the Germans were running out of food and didn't want to share food with the prisoners. Just as their execution was to take place, word came that the war was over. What luck!
Uncle Len (Europe, circa 1943)

Uncle Bub (married to my paternal aunt) – His real name is Charles and he enlisted in the United States Army in 1942 at age 32. He was assigned duty as a Medic serving in Europe during WWII. No doubt his ultra-calm demeanor served as a comfort while he tended to his wounded comrades.

Uncle Bub (with his son, circa 1945)

Uncle Jim (married to my maternal aunt) – When he reached the enlistment age of 18 in 1945, he joined the United States Navy. He was stationed at a POW camp in Guam during the waning months of the war in the Pacific. He told his children that occasionally he would give a Japanese prisoner a handkerchief who would return it a few days later beautifully embroidered. My uncle would return the gesture with a pack of cigarettes.

Uncle Jim (1945)

Uncle Paul – He is the older brother of my Uncle Jim and enlisted in the Coast Guard at age 24 in 1941. He participated in 5 invasions in North Africa, Sicily, Salerno, Southern France and Omaha Beach, where he piloted a Higgins boat on D-Day in the Normandy Invasion. 

Uncle Paul (aboard ship, circa 1944)

Uncle Roy (my maternal uncle) – WWII was over and things were winding down by the fall of 1946 when he enlisted at age 17 in the United States Army. He was assigned to the Panama Canal Department where he served for three months.

Thomas & Mark – My maternal first cousins (sons of Uncle Tom), are the only family members from my generation to serve in the military. Tom was in the Navy (see earlier blog post)  and served a tour of duty in Vietnam after college abt 1970-1971. Mark was in the Army, post-college as well and served overseas in Berlin in the early-1970’s.

This Coconut Bundt Cake has plenty of tropical flavor without being too sweet. The glaze topping is optional but is the 'cherry on top' of the cake!

Coconut Bundt Cake
1-3/4 cups Flour
1½ cups Coconut, flaked
1½ cups Butter, three sticks, softened
2 cups Sugar
4 Eggs
1 cup Ricotta Cheese
1/4 tsp Salt

½ tsp Baking Powder 
½ tsp Almond Extract
1 tsp Coconut Extract 
Sour Cream can be substituted for Ricotta Cheese

Grease and flour bundt pan.

Mix Flour and Coconut. Set aside.
Cream Butter & Sugar. Add Eggs and mix until light and fluffy.
Mix in Ricotta Cheese. Add Baking Powder, Salt, Almond and Coconut Extracts.
Add half of the flour mixture. Mix well. Add the remaining flour mixture. 

Pour into bundt pan. Bake at 325 for 55-65 minutes until cake tester comes out clean.

Coconut Glaze (optional)
1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar
1/4 cup Heavy Cream
1 tsp Coconut Extract (optional)
1/2 cup Coconut, toasted (optional)

Mix all ingredients together using a whisk. Drizzle over top of the cake. Sprinkle with coconut.




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