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Trimming the table – Florida Times

Make styling the seasonal table fun, not stressful, especially with a little tweaking of what has worked in the past. Whether you go homespun, boho, bold and bright, glittery or mix it up with an eclectic look, there’s a lot of latitude for table dressing in the context of your home’s decor.

Even if you opt for the tried-and-true, traditional table settings that might include heirloom china — pieces held dear by grandmothers, moms or favorite aunts — there’s always room for a fresh ingredient, just as there is for a new recipe.

Retailers (both brick-and-mortar and online) have streamlined the shopping process by expanding all categories of entertaining, with thematic options for Hanukkah and Christmas, as well as glamorous offerings that can serve New Year’s Day and other more formal events year round. As you navigate, you’re likely to see recurring themes. Choosing some key pieces — salad plates, serving bowls and serveware, place mats, napkin rings — can add just the spark you need to freshen up the table.

Take cues from popular blogs and retailer websites, such as Crate and Barrel, which advises creating “a curated, collected look instead of going matchy-matchy.” Also, “celebrate contrasts like shiny and matte, metallic with rough hewn.” These also are trends in home decor, and they span a wide range of decorating styles. Table decorations really spring to life with an artful presentation of fruit and produce of the season.

Celebrate the season. It’s always exciting to see what’s new in seasonal motifs, just as it is to check out the latest ornaments and lights for the holidays. Some of the obvious symbols of winter and the holidays — Hanukkah menorahs, stars of David, reindeer, trees, angels, nutcrackers and snowflakes — have become signature looks for some china companies. Each year, new painterly or graphic imagery lends an artisanal element, which always is appealing because of the handcrafted look. Some images are more like sketches, often whimsical and sometimes childlike. The trend of scripted messages hasn’t faded, either, with simple directives.

Add a pop of color. It’s so easy to layer in your fave hue or those of the season — aubergine, gold and berry tones, red and green, or blue and silver — especially on neutral tables, which really can add life. Stretching the boundaries of the traditional can be exciting, too (like hot pink and a more citrus-y green, or coral and olive, or different shades of blue, such as teal and turquoise.

Colors can explode in a centerpiece of fresh flowers or fruit — or on a tablecloth or the napkins (also the perfect spot for layering in patterns). Introduce modern patterns or unexpected colors. Plaids in different scales are again gaining traction, and you’ll find them on linens, serveware and plates, with borders or allover patterns. Consider the colors of the foods you serve and imagine how those hues, along with the tabletop pieces, will be integrated.

Adorn with a touch of bling. Just like baubles you’d wear, beaded accessories are the perfect dress-up touch. They can be subtle — like “gold dust,” a simple thread woven into the fabric of place mats, tablecloths, runners or napkins. Or a little beading on place mats — borders or allover — that catches the candlelight. The glow from mercury glass candles, crystal or a mirrored place mat can add a dazzling element. Another idea to consider: strands of LED lights. Tiny bulbs or stars snaking down the center of the table bring their own magic and sparkle.

Turn to classic white. A universal favorite for dinnerware and serving pieces, white is pristine and so versatile. Just as in decor, white on white, especially defined by shape and texture, can be very elegant, particularly when teamed with metallic accents. Embossing and scalloped edges add a bit of a flourish, but simple, streamlined round or square shapes have a modern appeal. Many themed salad plates and serveware have a white ground, so they lend themselves well to mixing.

Complement with gold, copper, silver. Weaving metallics into the tabletop lends warmth and shine. It’s a natural adjunct to home furnishings trends, where the metals especially stand out as accent pieces. Mottling, relief and hammering lend texture. Flatware, serving dishes, charger plates and candlesticks also are prime candidates. Don’t forget glassware. There’s a wide range of metallic embellishment, from swirls to polka dots, stripes to geometrics on glass. The lush add-on can be dressed up or down, with formal or casual dinnerware.

Decorate with natural elements. Riffing off the outdoor landscape or some of the imagery on plates, go for evergreens, berry branches or well-crafted facsimiles in wood, resin or glass. Wood and wood grains are especially popular elements of home decor, and they’re showing up in chunky charger plates (at Ballard Designs, where the mango wood pieces stand 1 3/4 inches tall and have bark edges), and faux bois patterns in fabric.

Make it your own. Create a personal connection — salt and pepper shakers or a gravy boat that once graced your grandmother’s table; pieces handcrafted by your children; a small collection of pottery gathered from travels; personalized place cards; family photos from previous holidays in decorative frames that are part of the centerpiece or on a dining room sideboard.

The inviting table, as well as the aromas of good food, will seduce family and friends to gather around, with a visual feast that will long be remembered.

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10 Life-Changing Decor Tips From Mariah Carey’s Infamous Episode of Cribs

Photo: Courtesy of Mariah Carey / @mariahcarey

Tonight, Mariah Carey’s new docuseries, Mariah’s World, debuts on E!. But before we cross this threshold—a point of no return, certainly—let’s pause for a moment to savor this final moment of relative mystery. Come Monday, we may all be discussing canopy beds adorned with woven butterflies and gold-platted dinnerware (who knows!). But for now, our main source of information on Carey’s sense of interiors style is her epic episode of MTV Cribs.

The year was 2002, and Carey gamely led a camera crew around her three-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bath, 11,000-square-foot Tribeca penthouse—her “first apartment ever.” Below, we break down her best—and most wild—advice from the now iconic episode. Here’s hoping Mariah’s World brings more such sage wisdom!

If your apartment search at first does not succeed, try, try again.
On getting her very first home, Carey says, “[It] took quite a while because all the co-op boards kept telling me, ‘Nooooo.’ ” Yes, we are extremely curious for more details.

Photo: Courtesy of MTV Cribs

Make your walls look like candy.
Carey greets the camera crew in a dress that’s more club-ready than made for hanging around at home. (But then again, did we expect Mariah Carey to be in sweatpants?) The hallway’s orange walls, “are a process called glazing . . . and I like them because they look like candy,” Carey explains. (Naturally.)

Focus on neutral, “non-jarring” colors.
“I chose to do the colors neutral so they’re not jarring because I have enough jarring things that happen to me on a daily basis.” Same.


Photo: Courtesy of MTV Cribs

Make some aspects of your home off-limits.
Carey then leads us into another beige/pale gold-ish room that looks pretty much the same, other than perhaps the extremely large couch cushions. She explains, “This is the relaxing, more serious part of the house that most of my friends and I don’t even bother coming into this area.” Hmm. I guess if you have a penthouse, why not? Some objects, too, are off-limits at Carey’s abode. “I have Marilyn Monroe’s piano and I’m very protective over it,” she adds. “I would show it to you guys, but I can’t.” Note: No further explanation is given as to why she cannot show viewers the piano.

Casually place impressive things around your house that guests may run into.
“Oh look, here is the apartment in Architectural Digest.”

Create unique spaces.
Carey’s apartment includes a “ladies’ lounge” and lingerie closet.

Don’t feel limited in terms of your favorite room.
Carey’s favorite room seems to be her bathroom. “I have to change before we go into the bathroom because it’s a very, very serene place for me,” she says. Then a very odd scene takes place in which she potentially changes into a towel and actually gets into her bathtub.

Photo: Courtesy of MTV Cribs

Every kitchen needs a good place to lounge.
Carey reclines on a pink flowery chaise lounge in her kitchen and announces, “I have a rule against sitting up straight.” Other highlights of the kitchen? It has a country theme, and a bell to ring, in case anyone needs to be cut off from prattling on.

Only have one guestroom.
This helps avoid too many people trying to stay with you. Carey’s guestroom is the butterfly room. Then it is quickly renamed the butterfly fan room, since she keeps all her fan books in there. “We dedicate the butterfly room to them.” No comment as to whether this is her use of the royal we or the poetic plural, but we are betting on the former.

Make your bedroom a private place.
“I feel like if I show my bedroom, then what’s left for me?” Mic drop.



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Recipe: Skillet Peppermint Holiday Brownie

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Looking for the perfect holiday treat? Try this Skillet Peppermint Holiday Brownie from Connie Cahill at Velvet Ice Cream.


1 18.3 ounce package boxed brownie mix

1/2 cup chopped chocolate semi-sweet squares (4)

1/2 cup chopped pecans, peanuts, cashews, walnuts or pistachios

1 56 ounce container Velvet Peppermint Stick Ice Cream

1 cup hot fudge sauce, warmed

1/4 cup crushed peppermint candies


Bake brownies according to package directions, adding ½ cup chopped semi-sweet chocolate pieces to the batter.  With a brush or paper towel, take vegetable oil and spread over surfaces to coat 4 small 6-inch cast iron skillets.  Bake brownies in skillets for 18-20 minutes.

Bring warm brownies to table and top with Peppermint Stick Ice Cream.  Drizzle with hot fudge sauce and sprinkle crushed candies on top.  Scoop dessert onto plates to serve or eat right from the skillet.

If desired, drizzle one tablespoon of bourbon over each small skillet brownie after removing from the oven.  Drizzle with hot fudge and top with Peppermint Stick Ice Cream.

Note:  Use your favorite homemade brownie recipe as a substitute for the mix.

Related Posts


In this Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, photo, Starbucks holiday cups appear on display at a store in New York. Snowflakes, reindeer and candy canes are back on Starbucks holiday coffee cups, after last year’s plain red cups caused uproar from critics who said the chain was part of a so-called war on Christmas. (AP Photo/Joseph Pisani)

Photo credit: Starbucks

(Becky Stern/Flickr Commons/CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Finding best deals of holiday season finale

The capstone of the holiday shopping season – Black Friday – may be behind us, but great buys abound in December, a month peppered with plenty of compelling sales and events.

Monday, Dec. 12, is dubbed Green Monday. Expect great e-commerce deals during this online sale day, similar to Cyber Monday. Free Shipping Day falls on Friday, Dec. 16. A majority of online retailers will offer complimentary shipping with a low – or no – minimum threshold. Super Saturday (aka Panic Saturday) just so happens to coincide with Christmas Eve this year. Merchants hoping for a Merry Christmas will further slash prices to bolster their bottom lines during this final, hectic holiday shopping showdown.

To help you home in on the best buys without wasting time or money, the frugal deal-finders at offer these tips:

Cookware and kitchen gadgets: Many Black Friday deals for cookware sets and small kitchen appliances were very affordable this year, but traditionally, this type of inventory doesn’t sell out and many items and sets hold their price, if not come down to a better price during December sales. Hold out for the bimonthly, coveted 30 percent off Kohl’s discount that stacks with Kohl’s Cash, or shop Macy’s exclusive weekend special Sunday sales.

Ditto on home items such as dinnerware and glassware. Look for continuing price drops on these items. Also look for good sales on home decor items like picture frames sets, candles, bookshelves and dining room table accents.

Toy deals: Retailers were fairly aggressive with toy deals in late November this year, but selection was somewhat limited. Although prices on the “gotta-have-it” toys has passed, overall toy prices should get better. Patience can save you a few bucks over Black Friday pricing, but with spending up over Thanksgiving weekend, waiting too long may cost you the chance to buy the toy you really want. This is especially true for 2016 video game deals, as these make great stocking stuffers.

Free Shipping Day (or week): The best way to monetize Free Shipping Day is to study the sales that coincide with the (over) hyped event. If you manage to score the lowest price on the item you want and the best shipping cost, you win. Shoppers should hold caution for any offer that looks too good to be true and read the fine print. Some third-party sites will lure you in to free shipping from 1,000-plus retailers with the caveat that you pay a monthly fee. We already have Amazon for this.

Gift cards: Late December is the best time to buy gift cards. Dozens of stores offer discounts (like $80-$90 for $100 gift card), especially for restaurants, movies and local entertainment. eBay is a great resource to scout for discounts on gift cards from retailers and gas stations. It is especially a good month to find discounts on iTunes gift cards. Expect to see $100 in iTunes credit going for $80. Visit the FatWallet Hot Deals forum for great gift card deals

Televisions: While Black Friday is generally the best day to purchase discount TVs, there will be plenty of 4K TV and HDTV deals this December. Although prices for these TV sizes were exceptional during the Thanksgiving Day weekend, many prices were even better on Cyber Monday, signaling TVs were undersold. Keep an eye out for better overall pricing of these TV sizes from Ebay, Sears, Walmart and perhaps a limited selection from Amazon.

December clearance: The best clearance deals will be available immediately after the holiday on Dec. 26 (if not on Christmas day online). Offers will include huge 50-90 percent discounts on holiday decorations, wrapping paper, holiday dinnerware and holiday candy. This will also be a great time to score spectacular prices on off-brand and out-of-season clothing, shoes, toys, small electronics and small appliances. This sale will stretch right through the end of the month and turn into New Years sales, but the early birds get the big haul.

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Residual heat keeps things cooking even when the oven’s off

Holding a hot cup of tea on a cold December morning is a lesson in the power of residual heat. Understanding how to harness that energy in your kitchen for more than just warming your hands will make you a greener cook.

Residual cooking – also called carry- over cooking – is when food continues to cook after it has been removed from a heat source. The heat held within the food itself raises its overall temperature before it starts to cool down. It’s a gentler, radiating heat that equalizes the temperature throughout the food.


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Bok Cheet Gai is Cantonese comfort food. To succeed, you must start with a high-quality chicken, which is cooked gently using residual heat to keep the meat very tender. In this dish – which is served at both Chinese wedding and New Year celebrations – the white meat symbolizes purity and serving the entire bird represents unity. Serve this version, an adaptation of about a half dozen I found on Chinese food sites, with soy-ginger dipping sauce and plenty of steamed white rice.

Serves 6 to 8


1 (4-pound) local whole chicken, neck and giblets reserved for another use

2 teaspoons kosher salt

6-8 scallion tops, each tied in a knot

6 garlic cloves

6 (1/4-inch-thick) round slices peeled gingerroot

2 tablespoons mirin

1/4 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns (optional)

1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

1/2 cup cilantro leaves


6-8 scallions (white and pale green parts only, minced

4-6 cilantro stems, minced

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

To make the chicken, rub the chicken inside and out with salt. Stuff scallions, garlic and ginger into the cavity of the chicken.

Bring 14 cups of water, the mirin and peppercorns (if using) to a boil in a deep 7- to 8-quart pot. Add the chicken, breast side down, and reduce the heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it stand, covered, for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken over and let stand, covered, for 15 minutes more.

Check the temperature of the chicken using a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of its thigh. It should read 165 degrees. If it does not, bring the water back to a simmer. Cover. Turn off the heat and let the chicken stand in the hot, seasoned water for 15 minutes more.

While the chicken cooks, fill a large bowl three-fourths full with ice and cold water. Carefully remove the chicken from the pot with a large slotted spoon and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Let stand, gently turning over once (be careful not to tear skin), until cool, about 10 minutes total.

Place the chicken on a cutting board, remove the aromatics from the cavity. Pat dry and rub the skin with sesame oil. Strain and save the stock for soup.

To make the dipping sauce, stir together the scallions, cilantro stems, soy sauce and 3-4 tablespoons of the stock from cooking the chicken in a small heatproof bowl. Heat a skillet over high heat. Pour in the oil and tilt pan to swirl the oil. When the oil begins to smoke turn off the heat and carefully add ginger and stir-fry 30 seconds, another example, incidentally, of residual cooking. Pour the flavored oil over the scallion mixture, stirring to combine.

Carve the chicken as you would a whole roasted one and arrange it on a platter. Drizzle 2 tablespoons dipping sauce over chicken and sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Serve warm or at room temperature, with a large bowl of steamed rice and the remaining dipping sauce on the side.


In culinary school, I was taught to make accommodations for residual heat so that grilled steaks would end up cooked as ordered and green vegetables were not reduced to gray mush. The temperature of a resting steak or chop will rise 5 to 10 degrees and a large roast will cook another 15 degrees because of residual heat. Many green vegetables – green beans, snow peas, broccoli and kale, to name a few – need a few minutes to cook to crisp tender perfection. So chucking them into the pot once you’ve brought the salted water in it to a boil and have turned off the heat will provide plenty of heat to cook them.

More recently, I’ve learned to seek out and take advantage of residual heat sources throughout my kitchen in order to decrease my fossil fuel consumption as I poach fish or chicken (see recipe), bake cookies, scramble eggs, steam rice or warm sauces. My primary sources are my heavy-bottomed pans, ceramic baking dishes, cooling oven, stove-top grates, make-shift pan lids and the top of my refrigerator, the coziest place for dough to rise given that the motor is always running.

If there is a cook on your holiday shopping list, I suggest buying him or her cast-iron skillets or their enameled Dutch oven counterparts. They make great green gifts as both hold onto heat better than thinner aluminum-based cookware and therefore help promote carry-over cooking. That said, cast iron is not the best initial conductor of heat so it’s best to warm such pans either in an already hot oven or over a burner equal in size to the pan. Ceramic and glass baking dishes (another solidly green gift) conduct and retain heat better than metal so you can reduce oven temperatures by 25 degrees and count on residual cooking when you pull them out of the oven.

When I bake – mostly in or on aluminum-based cake pans or cookie sheets – I turn my well-insulated oven off with about 20 percent of the cooking time remaining and let my cookies, bars and cakes coast to the finish line – without opening the oven door, of course. I’ve also learned to keep the timer running so that I don’t forget altogether that the baked good is still in the oven so they don’t burn.

I use my cast-iron skillets (which live on my stovetop for easy access) as a makeshift pan covers when cooking either potatoes or pasta because it serves as an ideal spot to warm milk and butter for mashed potatoes or a tomato sauce for pasta. The residual heat held in the stovetop burner grate used to boil water for green vegetables provides the perfect temperature for making a brown butter and caper sauce in which to dress them.

Finding (and subsequently using) new sources of residual heat in my kitchen has become a personal adventure for me. So far, my exploration has relied on my sense of touch, as in, “Ouch, that’s still hot!” Perhaps, should my very own Santa be reading this, I can suggest that an infrared thermometer would be just the right stocking stuffer this year?

CHRISTINE BURNS RUDALEVIGE is a food writer, a recipe developer and tester, and a cooking teacher in Brunswick. Contact her at: [email protected]





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