Wednesday, December 23, 2009

May your holidays glitter...

(A clandestine photo I took of the ceiling of the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, in 2008. Photos are not allowed, so I shot this with my camera sitting on my lap. Shh...)

... and your New Year be filled with high notes!

See you in 2010 and thank you so much for all your kind notes, comments and support. 
It's appreciated more than I can say!

Please enjoy a performance of "3 Carols for Christmas" that I performed at a recital in my town.
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The Joseph Story House in Salem, MA

The Joseph Story House is located in the heart of downtown Salem, Massachusetts near the Common. It was built in 1811 for Joseph Story, an accomplished lawyer, who that same year was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court at the age of 32.  He is most remembered for his opinions in Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee and The Amistad.  

image via Wikipedia

The house contains what may be among the last of the Samuel McIntyre carvings. Over the years it has been a dwelling where law, medicine, and exploration reached great heights.  In 1860, the house was sold to Dr. Amos Johnson who practiced medicine there until 1900.  Dr. Johnson is the great-grandfather of Ned Johnson of Fidelity acclaim. Dr. Johnson was one of the first doctor’s to practice preventative medicine and founded the Massachusetts Medico Legal Society.  In 1901 the house was sold to the Vaughn family – Norman Vaughn invented the white “nurse’s shoe sole.”  In the 1920’s the house was an attractive rooming house and among its occupants was Pulitzer Prize winning-author Katherine Ann Porter.

sketch by architect John Kelsey

The current homeowners purchased the home in 2006 and it underwent renovations involving several appearances before the Salem Historic Commission.  The new homeowners also under took the project of installing a complete geothermal energy system and attained Silver LEED Certification.  It is one of the first residences on the National Register to receive this coveted designation.

As the oldest and most historic home on the 2009 Salem Christmas Walk, The Joseph Story House received a great deal of attention.   

The Salem design firm of Wilson Kelsey Design, Inc. was commissioned to decorate the house for this festive event.  Sally Wilson took great care to design simple, but truly elegant decorations that complemented the home’s architecture.  Of particular interest is that Sally made all of the floral and decorative arrangements herself and added extra panache by installing a beautiful drapery in the main hall to create a focal point for guests entering the home. 

The home is alive with the presence of an active family who are honored to be the next stewards of this remarkable historic home. 



Photography except where noted is by Louise Michaud

My thanks to John Kelsey and Sally Wilson for sharing their project with us. You can visit their blog here.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Decking the cookies - my annual Martha moment

One of my annual holiday traditions is to bake up several batches of decorated sugar cookies. And not just any old cookie - Martha Stewart's sugar cookies. Several years ago, I purchased a cookie baking kit from the website. It included a recipe book, sanding sugars, icing bags and perhaps also some coloring.  I also purchased four large tree shaped copper cookie cutters from her site as well. Since then, I've amassed quite a large collection of cookie cutters - tiny 1" guys to 4" wide houses and reindeer. I've found that the large sizes get the oohs and ahhs, but the smaller one's actually get eaten. Since these cookies take so long to make - from dough to royal icing decorated cookie - I usually give most of them away as gifts.  The recipe is very easy to make (as long as you have a stand mixer) and the cookies are tasty! Here's a link to the cookie recipe. The recipe I follow, which came with the cookie kit, is double the measurements of the online recipe. And mine doesn't call for milk or brandy.

My well worn and stained recipe booklet. I tried the chocolate recipe once,but it was not as good as the sugar cookies.

One of the most popular shapes I make are these little hearts, which are maybe 1-1/2" wide.

These house ornaments are about 4" wide and I usually give them to business contacts as a ta-da moment - few people at parties ever want to tackle a cookie this big.  Wondering if it's bad to shove my camera in the oven...?

Angels, hearts and bells...

This year I added gingerbread reindeers to the mix. I'll confess it, this was a package mix. Trader Joe's has a gingerbread spice cake and baking mix and they have directions for cookie dough. It worked really well, rolled out nicely and is quite tasty, although very peppery.

Rudolph - this isn't the North Pole...

The trick to these sugar cookies is the use of royal icing. Here's a link to Martha's recipe. Royal icing is basically confectioners sugar and egg whites. I use meringue powder instead of fresh egg whites and usually do 1 cup sugar to 1 tablespoon meringue powder. Plus add water as needed to achieve the right runny but not too runny consistency. I like it when the icing runs easily off the beater and pools, then flattens out.

Ah, three double batches later..

I am no Martha Stewart when it comes to really fanciful artwork on my cookies. But I do like to come up with a variety of looks every year.

My favorite new thing this season is this silvered sugar. Sparkly! 

I'm loving the purple! I've been using Wilton gel colorants to tint the icing.

These are double hearts which I bake together. Note the slightly marbled effect that I was going for with the pink and purple icing.

And my favorite silver sparkle stars. Just ignore the single yellow non-pareil that decided to play hitchhiker.

As I said, I often give big and small bags of cookies as gifts. These are the gift packages I made up for my flute students. Each gets one medium or two small cookies, some Hershey's kisses and a small candy cane. Just a little thing. Other bags are much larger and hold 8-10 cookies.

Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer!

Happy Holidays!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Deck the Houses in Duxbury, MA

It was a beautiful - although very cold - day out yesterday and I did a little drive-by shooting in my town of pretty holiday house decorating. Enjoy!





I'm thinking ice rink?  Seems a tad cold for a dance floor.

Decking the docks as well.

The historic King Caesar House with it's "lifesaver" wreath


Snow is coming this weekend. Will it be a White Christmas? Happy weekend everyone. I'm filling out the rest of my Christmas cards and decorating my sugar cookies.

Is all your shopping done?

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