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Mary

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photo courtesy of Along Came Mary

I love how much people go all out for Christmas, and this year is no exception. I prefer to decorate after Thanksgiving, usually around the second week of December.

My beautiful bannister is the first thing people see when they walk into my house. We deck out the bannister with additional garland, pin lights and bows to set the tone for what is to come.
 
If you have been reading my blog, you know tradition is important to me. My biggest Christmas tradition, and what really gets me in the holiday spirit, is going tree shopping. I go to the Christmas tree lot and sometimes spend over two hours picking out the perfect noble Christmas tree. ALWAYS a noble tree. I talk and make friends with the guys on the lot and have them show me every single 9ft noble they have until I find the perfect one. I like noble trees, because they are perfect for decorating. The space between the branches is just right for hanging ornaments.  
 
Once the tree is set up in the living room, I put strands and strands of tiny pin lights all around the tree, and then we start with the real deal ornaments. 

My sister and brother would send me Swarovski crystal snowflakes and Christopher Radko ornaments every year. I have a lovely collection of both. I like how the crystals sparkle on the tree. You can find one for yourself here and the Christopher Radko ornaments here. Of course I have Christmas ball ornaments in different colors, shapes and sizes, but the Swarovski crystal snowflake ornaments and Christopher Radko ornaments are the ones that are the most special to me. I know that most people get excited about the Christmas tree topper, and it becomes a tradition, but I change toppers every year.

The tree in the living room is meant to be more formal, but still beautiful and fun. In my indoor sunroom I place another noble tree that is more whimsical. I decorate it with gingerbread ornaments, candy canes, and garlands of dried cranberries & popcorn, along with other festive treats.

Another one of my favorite traditions are the animated Merry Go Rounds, Ferris Wheels and moving Santa’s that I collect and put amongst the decorations throughout my home. They have become my four year old granddaughter Clover’s favorite and I can hear her running from room to room with excitement as she looks for the new ones I have added every year. I love how they add movement to the Christmas decorations around the house. It is like being in my own North Pole and makes the holiday feel that much more alive. Clover and I watched Santa walk up and down the ladder over a hundred times this weekend. I’m exhausted, but so very happy to bring this joy into Clover’s life.

What are some of your favorite Christmas decorations that you have collected over the years?

Wishing you a happy and festive holiday season,
Mary

photo courtesy of Along Came Mary

I couldn’t be happier with how my mantel decorations turned out this year. We placed a mixture of beautifully scented holiday greenery, stockings for my family, pine cones, bows, and candles of all shapes and sizes along the mantel. I particularly love the animated miniature Ferris Wheel and Merry Go Round we placed on top of the mantel. Isn’t it all so sweet?

Wishing you a happy and festive holiday season,
Mary

photo courtesy of Half Baked Harvest

Every year we do gourmet gift baskets for our clients. These aren’t your usual gift baskets. I pride myself on the attention to detail and making sure each basket is personalized for the recipient. No two baskets are alike. It takes a lot of time, but it is important to me that our clients know how much they and their business means to us, especially during times like these. 

Here are some tips on putting together the perfect gift basket:
 
The Container- The amount of time I spend on the container alone can seem daunting, but the container is just as important as what you put in it. The basket must be beautiful, not just an ordinary basket. We’ve done everything from hand woven wooden baskets to using Radio Flyer wagons, beautiful platters, charcuterie boards, trays, cake stands, and many more creative ideas! Don’t be afraid to try something non conventional that they can repurpose.

Homemade- Who doesn’t love homemade, and when you can’t be with your loved ones this year, getting something made from the heart is extra special. We usually include top secret recipe cookies like molasses cookies or dark chocolate peppermint cookies. I posted about the recipe last week here (you’re welcome). I also like to include ACM’s signature dessert of small tins of our infamous chocolate brownie pudding. Festive donuts are nice as well. If sweets aren’t your thing, you can also do tomato sauce (I am Italian), fresh made loafs of zucchini bread, or something similar to our house blend of roasted salted spicy nuts. 

Cheers- Wine, champagne, you can get truly decadent with whatever you want to include, but don’t break the bank just because. If they like red wine, you can include a nice table wine and it will mean just as much. If they don’t drink you can include a lovely bottle of French sparkling apple cider.
 
Frames- My home is adorned with hundreds of frames of family and friends. I think it’s a perfect gift for the holidays. I always put frames in or on top of the gift container. If you want to go the extra mile I sometimes will include my favorite image from the recipients most recent event or party. People rarely have time to print images anymore and they really appreciate the extra step. 
 
Candles & Potpourri – Another perfect holiday gift. Who doesn’t like the scent of orange bitter sweet or a balsam scented candle. Potpourri is inexpensive, and a lovely filler, but remember to keep within the scent of the season. Flowery is not holiday, but pine, balsam, currant, or orange bittersweet are all great choices. Fill up the room with splendor!
 
Holiday dish towels, soaps, and lotions- Always a lovely addition.
 
Make sure to wrap the container with cellophane, add a holiday bow, and it will sure to be a gift that will be cherished forever. 
 
Wishing you a happy and festive holiday season,
Mary

photo courtesy of Along Came Mary

My Beloved pastry chef, Eddie Cooper, came up with this recipe 25 years ago. This was our most famous and delicious holiday cookie for decades upon decades at ACM. They were requested at every movie premier and holiday party in the month of December.
 
Eddie made these two ways, either chewy (I loved those) or crispy (also loved those). People could not get enough of these cookies. It is not an overstatement when I say these cookies were THE Los Angeles dessert of the holiday season. We would have people place orders months in advance just for these cookies. This recipe is top secret, but I wanted to spread some extra holiday cheer, so here is the recipe. Yes, THE recipe. You can thank me by sending a few cookies to my house 🙂
 
Wishing you a happy and festive holiday season,
Mary

CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT COOKIES

Yields: 150 cookies

7 1/2 # Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips *Melted Cool Off and Set Aside

2 1/2 # Unsalted Butter

1 # 2oz Dark Brown Sugar

*Cream Well

10 Each Egg Yolks

10 Each Eggs Whole

*Combine Together and Set Aside

2 # 12oz All Purpose Flour

1 1/2oz Salt

2oz Baking Soda

*Sift All Dry Ingredients and Add to the Solution

1 # Chopped Walnuts

1 # Almond Flour

1 1/2# Dark Corn Syrup

*Add to the Above

Vanilla to Taste

1 1/2 # Peppermint Candy, coarsely chopped *Add to the Above

1/2 Cup Creme The Menthe Liquor *Add to the Above

5# Peppermint candies, chopped coarsely

BAKE at 350F

  1. Place dough into large plastic buckets. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Temper dough and place mounds on parchment lined sheet pans–3×5. Press dough slightly in the center and place in over. Bake 10 minutes just until mounds spread and rise. Pull tray from oven and sprinkle with candy. Put back in oven. Bake until firm on edges.

photo courtesy of Along Came Mary

A picture from happier times last year with my team at one of our larger events during the year.

Along with our beloved restaurants that have been so greatly affected by COVID, so too has the catering and event production industry throughout the United States. 

This pandemic has had a horrible trickle-down effect almost decimating a billion dollar a year industry. My catering company, as well as thousands of other catering companies, have almost come to a full stop. Yes, we have had to get creative with planning virtual or smaller scale events, coordinating takeout and boxed lunches and dinners along with a bottle of wine, as well as whatever else we can do to stay COVID compliant, but that in no way brings back the revenue that helps supports hundreds of different vendors.
 
You have to understand, it isn’t just the caterers affected. What I do involves so many other companies to make the magical events we’ve become known for over the years. I could never do it alone.

Chefs, Sous Chefs, and Cooks, along with waiters, servers, and bartenders count on events for their income.

Rental companies are trying to survive through small events and capitalizing on their tenting divisions, but they too have had to furlough so many employees.

Florists, Design and Lighting Companies, all instrumental parts in creating the mood for any significant event, have come to a standstill while they try to reinvent themselves for the times.

The food vendors, the companies that supply the breads, meats, fish, produce, anything you can image. You go through the whole food chain and think about how they have been hit by the loss of orders from catering companies and restaurants. It has to have been a great revenue and product loss for these vendors. 

There are many more companies included in the event production industry list and the scale of what this virus has done feels so daunting. This isn’t meant to be a sob story. I treasure all the companies I have worked with, and after having been in this industry for so long, I can say whole heartedly that I know we will be back in the new year. I have the utmost faith that we will be back together soon. Events will look different, but we as people need to honor the special moments and find a reason to celebrate. Celebrations bring happiness and joy to peoples lives and there will always be a niche for that. We’ll be here and ready for you when you are ready to celebrate and we can’t wait.


Blessing to you, your family, and friends,
Mary

photo courtesy of @home.on.a.hilltop

Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving this year with four people, or if you have the luxury of a backyard and can invite over a few more people at a social distance, it is important now more than ever to celebrate. Of course you should do so safely and follow your local restrictions, but celebrations bring happiness and joy to people’s lives and we could all use a little extra of that, especially right now.

My usual table of 18 will be a small group of four this year, but as the “Queen of Theme” I will still be bringing out all the stops when it comes to decorations. 

While you may not have years of decor ready at your disposal, you still have time to do some online shopping and spruce up your Thanksgiving tablescape.

Here are four things you can easily find online to bring a little magic back to your holiday celebration:

1. Table Runner- The laziest thing you can do for decor that still gets a great reaction. I buy a few online and rotate them from year to year. Crate and Barrel has some nice options. Here are two that I like (here and here). If you can do nothing else for decor, get a runner. You’ll thank me later.

2. Candles- You can go classic with votive candles or mix in some taller candles and play with dimensions and height. I like to buy a few candle holders that I can use for a number of holidays. World Market has some great ones (like these and these)! They keep my tablecloth clean and look great around the house the rest of the year. 

3. Place cards-  My granddaughter Clover has recently taken over this tradition. It’s also a nice thing for her to work on while I finish things up in the kitchen. Solid distraction. Usually I place people at the table for optimal party conversation, but this year we will be seating by household. Isn’t Covid fun? You can do simple place cards and write on little slips of paper, or use themed ones like these, which I prefer. Every little detail counts.

4. Poppers- Decades ago I started adding poppers to the dinner table. If you don’t know what poppers are, go online. I personally love the ones at William Sonoma. After welcoming the guests to the table, we go around and everyone says what they are grateful for. We toast, bring out the poppers, put on the party hats, and have a wonderful moment before breaking into the buffet. It is a nice transition into dinner and a fun party favor for guests of all ages.

Blessing to you, your family, and friends,

Mary

Guess these skeletons picked the right party! This halloween we set up a decorative candy bar with jars filled to the rim. Also decorating the table were caramel apples rolled in nuts and miniature seasonal desserts: pumpkin cheesecake, apple tartar tin, banana cream pie, cappuccino pot de creme.

Whether you’re planning a small dinner party, a lavish anniversary party, or a Hollywood premiere, the tables are central to the look and feel of the event. They can be dressed up in really unique ways and give the event an amazing “wow” factor.

Be creative. Think about distinctive centerpieces, fun linens, seasonal florals, and styled place cards. You can go simple and modern or way over-the-top – but if it works, it works! A great tablescape is sure to be an instant conversation starter. And watch… guests will be taking photos to remember your decor ideas for their next party.

A beautiful rustic summer evening. On first glance, it looks like a pretty table, but notice the unusual variations of flowers and purples! We mixed bluebells, plum colored lilies, white roses, violet linens, and aubergine place cards. For an elevated twist, we accented the settings with gold ribbon, which also complimented the chairs.
All 1940s Hollywood Glamour! This event for the Hallmark Channel was all about style and elegance, and bringing this “golden” era of Hollywood to life in a modern way. When thinking about table decor, sometimes flowers are not the only way to go. These centerpieces filled with pearls and feathers, along with the golden candle holders, glassware, and gold halo linens really set the stage for an epic celebration.
At this amazing gala, the hanging chandeliers, crystal candelabras and serpentine lacquered tables made this gorgeous tented pavilion dance with light.
Love is in the air with these exquisite centerpieces of roses, glowing candles, and romantic linens at this Valentine’s Day party.
An ACM open house to celebrate spring. We decided on a color theme and just went for it! There were dazzling centerpieces, linens and floral shaped votive candles.The mix of little succulents and big white hydrangeas just make you smile. BTW… always spring for the nice stemware and flatware. Even if the event is casual. it gives the table class.
An enchanting winter dinner party with a magnificent centerpiece filled with Chilean grapes, double dark purple tulips, black magic and lavender roses.

Decorating for Halloween!

Ever since I was little girl, I’ve loved Halloween. It really is the start of the holiday season – my favorite time of the year. I go all out with my decorations and I can’t wait to share them with you for the first time. 

When I was young, my mother and sister were passionate about the holidays, and those traditions have stayed with me my whole life. I really love the sense of excitement and anticipation that only this special night can bring. I still get a kick out of finding the perfect costume, planning a party and, of course, the treats. When we all went trick or treating as kids, I always got the most candy. I guess, you could say I was as driven then as I am now.

My decorating theme is always classic Halloween. It reminds me of being on the East Coast when I was young – where you can smell the change of the seasons. This time of year would ignite my senses as I watched my town transition from warm summer days to crisp fall nights. Creating my decoration display each year brings that same excitement from my childhood and allows me to share with my friends, my family and my neighborhood.

And here it is!

My Frankie comes back every year!