Adoring traditions,old and new!

Enjoying a holiday tea at the St. Regis Photo by Victoria Lynn WestonDarlings, I adore tradition, especially during the holidays. I love Christmas music, even when it blasts through malls and office buildings. I enjoy traditional old songs and new classics, such as Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You. And, the season would not be complete without Dean Martin’s classic and corny, Baby It’s Cold Outside and Eartha Kitt’s sultry and playful Santa Baby.                   

Magical full-sized gingerbread house Atlanta St. Regis Hotel. Photo by Victoria Lynn WestonMoving around as I have, I learned to appreciate the joy of “minting” new traditions. I cherish all my memories of growing up with traditional New England Christmases. In Montréal, I grew to appreciate the many traditions of that wonderful old city as we celebrated with family and friends. It may be cold, but there a few sights more beautiful than Montreal glittering with holiday lights and fresh snow. I still long for the cozy warmth of afternoon tea at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on beautiful, bedecked Sherbrooke Street, after an afternoon of shopping with a friend.
Elegant tea nibbles at the St. Regis. Photo: Victoria Lynn WestonThis year, I shared an elegant Holiday Tea with a friend at St. Regis Hotel in Atlanta. We sipped icy champagne as we nibbled on tasty tea sandwiches of chopped egg and smoked salmon. We loved the elegant presentation in the hushed and sparkling white and icy blue room. We felt festive and a bit decadent as we finished off tiny truffles and dainty scones. Even though we had no children, we lingered at the life-sized sugar and gingerbread house. As we were leaving, a mother arrived with two small children. They were as enraptured as we were with the cinnamon-scented dwelling.
Afternoon tea has always been one of my favourite indulgences. If you have never tried it, slip away and sink into the atmosphere of the English ritual, and sip a cup of fragrant brew or a cold glass of bubbly – or both! Or, perhaps take a child to a holiday tea with Santa, and start a new tradition.
My husband and I adored hosting our big holiday parties in Moscow and Toronto.
At times people marveled at the work. But, entertaining a party of any size is easier if you are organized.
I recently went to the beautiful Aria Restaurant in Atlanta. The special tasting dinner was part of the Muir Glen Tomato Vine Dining Tour, featuring special organic reserve tomatoes grown exclusively for Muir Glen under certified organic practices.Aria’s owner, Chef Gerry Klaskala is one of five award-winning chefs from around the country who participated. The tomatoes we tasted are hand-harvested at the peak of ripeness to guarantee exceptional quality and taste, and they are delicious. They are among my favourite ingredients; I adore their rich, sweet taste.
The theme of the dinner was holiday entertaining. “At the holidays, you want to offer your guests the best,” one of the Muir Glen marketing people said. She was right. Often that kind of simple wisdom can make entertaining so easy.
Elegance doesn’t have to be daunting. Chef Klaskala’s party-hosting tips are simple, and will ensure a lovely relaxed evening. He emphasized the importance of cooking and preparing in advance, so you won’t have to worry about the food too much, once your guests arrive. He recommends keeping cocktail and buffet food bite-sized and easy to eat. The main course, “Spicy Braised Angus Beef with Fire Roasted Tomatoes, Tomatillos, Gold Potatoes and Cilantro” would be perfect for buffets, and easy to make in advance.
Another of Chef Klaskala’s ideas that I loved was sending guests home with a prettily-packaged treat. Holiday cookies can be baked or bought, and wrapped in advance.
I also loved the pretty ornaments used as place cards. A name card was attached to a glittering ball at each place setting. The individual printed menus added a nice touch. All these ideas are easy to duplicate.
As a pro, the chef knows that real elegance demands quality, detail, and ease!
Darlings, the holidays are what you make of them. It may sound crazy, but some of my most romantic Christmases have been spent in Bangkok, in the tropical heat. We would spend the evening at the Oriental Hotel at their poolside party. The evening would end with a dancing and a fabulous fireworks display. My husband and I remember fondly two years ago, when we spent the evening at a wonderful Thai restaurant in Atlanta. We had planned an entirely different evening – but ended up at Nan. It was fabulous.  
You can take a friend to elegant tea, plan a skating party followed by a buffet lunch of hot homemade soup and salad, or throw a glittering gathering. But celebrate and create light and warmth in this cold winter month! Make the most of the holiday season, and share with those less fortunate. Let your heart sing!
Happy holidays my darlings, and sparkle plenty! 
Chef Gary Kalaska’s Spicy Braised Angus Beef
with Fire Roasted Tomatoes, Tomatillos, Gold Potatoes and Cilantro
Prep time: 30 minutes
Start to finish: Two hours
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, cut into 1-inch cubes
5 tomatillos, paper skin removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (2 teaspoons)
2 lb boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes, fat trimmed
1 teaspoon kosher (coarse) salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cans (14.5 oz ea) Muir Glen® Harvest Sunset™ organic fire-roasted diced red and yellow tomatoes, undrained
1 carton (32 oz) beef stock
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes (about 3), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1. Heat oven to 275°F. In 5-quart ovenproof Dutch oven, cook olive oil and onion over medium heat 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned.
2. Add tomatillos, jalapeño chile and garlic; cook 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add beef, salt and pepper; cook 4 minutes or until beef is browned. Add tomatoes; cook 3 minutes. Add stock and potatoes; heat to simmering.
3. Cover; bake about 1 hour or until no longer pink. Remove from oven; let stand 20 minutes before serving. Stir in cilantro, and serve in warmed bowls.
8 servings (1½ cups each)
Order Reserve tomatoes:
DolceDolce will return with a new issue on January13th, 2012
Happy Holidays!

When Irish Eyes are sparkling

Theia CollectionRecently, DolceDolce’s Terry Milk spent an evening among the stars of Irish couture. She came away delighted and inspired. Here are Terry’s impressions of an evening of Emerald Isle couture: 

… And all eyes were sparkling on Park Avenue in New York recently. Ireland’s Consul General, Noel Kilkenny and Mrs. Hanora ’Dea Kilkenny hosted a Celebration of Irish Fashion and Art. The lights of New York City were completely upstaged by the dazzling creations of two of Ireland‘s bright young talents, Don O’Neill, Creative Director of Theia, and Roisin Fitzpatrick, a contemporary artist, creator of the Artist of the Light collection.
Roisin’s interesting patterns swirl across the white silk backgrounds inlaid with Swarowski crystals. The effect is mesmerizing and inspires contemplation. That is exactly her intention. Roisin explained she created these images in response to her own near-death experience. Light seemed to radiate from her as she passionately described how an aneurysm changed, and nearly ended, her life.
For this exhibition most were in a square format, and were inspired by such images as galaxies, snowflakes, nautilus shells, and Celtic themes among others. You can see them at
Terry MilkAlthough they are from opposite coasts in Ireland — Roisin from Dublin and Don O’Neill from CountyKerry — the artist and designer have so much more in common than just being Irish. Both employ light as a design element, they absolutely embrace their heritage, and Celtic symbols are used extensively throughout their work.
Theia CollectionThe art on the walls reflected the sparkling evening gowns designed by Don O’Neill. Models twirled smoothly across the floor, showing the most flattering aspects of his designs. Most of the garments were covered in jewels, but the generous use of luxurious fabric allowed them flow gracefully.
Don’s great Irish sense of humor charmed the audience as he described his background and his design motivations. His goal is to make every woman feel like a goddess, hence the name Theia – Goddess of Light. The gowns are stunning, extraordinarily easy to wear, and make you look beautiful. That may explain why Oprah featured one of his gowns on the cover of O Magazine. The actress Angela Bassett, who is also a fan, took time from her extended run on Broadway in the play The Mountaintop to attend the reception, naturally wearing one of Don’s designs.
Available at Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s, the luxurious designer clothes are surprisingly rsih Consul Noel Kilkenny Roisin Fitzpatrick Don O'Neill.affordable. And they fit every woman — model thin or not.





A cute stocking stuffer

Brighten smiles with this cute little stocking stuffer. Violight’s new Slim Sonic Portable Sonic Toothbrush comes with a vented mascara-style cap. This keeps it clean and dry, making it perfect for the purse, briefcase, or tote – and for all the fashionistas on your list. This is also a great little extra for the guy – or guys – on your list. After all, men love gifts than combine form and function!

The toothbrush comes in cute trendy prints and colours with two brush heads and a AAA battery. It’s only $14.95, so your can gift all the bright smiles on your list.

Roll your skin younger

Get "needled" for younger firmer skinIf you are looking for an anti-aging skin care line that will really change your skin, try Environ skin care. It was created by the lauded South African plastic surgeon, Dr. Desmond Fernandes. Environ skin care’s Ionzyme range is a blend of potent retinols, antioxidants, vitamins, botanicals, and light-but-rich moisturizers. It comes in graduated strengths that allow your skin to become adjusted to a high dose of retinal without irritation. 

The latest addition to the line is the Environ Cosmetic Roller CIT. It is a roller full of “micro-needles.” They puncture the top layers of the epidermis or skin only, there is no bleeding. According to Dr. Fernandes, this allows active ingredients in skin care, such as Vitamin A and Vitamin C, to penetrate into the lower layers of the epidermis or skin in significantly higher amounts, so more collagen can be made. 
Dr. Fernandes has impressive scientific evidence that Cosmetic Roll CIT helps to restore skin tightness, smooth fine lines, reduce pigmentation, thicken thin skin, soften scars, and reduce dilated blood vessels.
Environ is sold by doctors and at med spas –ask your doctor about it!

A holiday love story

The First Love Cookie Club by Lori Wilde is a sweet holiday romance about small towns, true love, and fate. 

Sarah Collier is a gawky romantic young teen who falls for the dashing boy next door who is older and has troubles of his own.
Years later Sarah has become a successful children’s author, and her first love is now a single dad still living in her old home town. The couple is reunited by a Christmas myth and a club of romantic, meddling older women. 
This tale is as sweet a Christmas cookie. It’s the perfect book to curl up with on a cold afternoon, if you want a sweet treat that won’t end up on your hips.

A passionate Chinese saga

All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson captures the romance, intrigue, and passions of Shanghai in the 1930s. Partially inspired by Jepson’s mother, this novel depicts the wealthy Chinese women who existed as birds in gilded cages. The wives of prosperous merchants were pampered, but their lives included large families full of demands, intrigue, and even danger. 

All the Flowers in Shanghai tells the story of Feng, a young girl who is forced to take her dead sister’s place. She must marry a wealthy businessman she hardly knows. Feng is unprepared for the life she will face. Her older sister and her mother had carefully plotted this marriage to advance their status.
Feng has grown up largely under her grandfather’s guidance. He is a gardener and botanist who rambles with her in the Imperial gardens, and teaches Feng about plants and trees. Feng dreams of a handsome young peasant she met while walking with her grandfather. Even as she is forced to marry into the Sang family, she dreams of a simpler life and her peasant.
Slowly Feng learns to operate in the political Sang family. She comes to understand that her role in life, as well as her only source of power, lies in giving birth to a male heir. She hardens her heart and loses herself as she adjusts to life in her gilded cage as China heads toward revolution.
Jepson does masterful job of seamlessly weaving the story of a young woman’s life, transformed by a loveless marriage. Shanghai in the 1030s was elegant and fascinating, and Jepson does it justice. The story is full of unexpected twists and turns, as well as enlightening cultural details.
All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson is an intriguing page-turner. This exotic, but all-too-human tale of hard bargains and difficult choices will linger in your memory.

Survive holiday treats in style!

Cute cookies have only 63 calories!Dana Herbert is known as The Sugar Daddy because of his work with pulled and blown sugar. He is also known as Delaware’s King of Cakes.Chef Herbert also won The Cake Boss: The Next Great Baker, TLC’s hit show. 

As a dessert chef, Chef Herbert knows how tempting treats can be. He offers these tips for surviving the holidays without gaining weight, as well as a tasty low-cal cookie recipe:
Everything in moderation
Oftentimes during the holidays we tend to overindulge. Be prepared to show a little restraint. Stick to a normal-sized meal, and your body and blood sugar levels will thank you for it.

Eat more vegetables
A healthful diet allows for more vegetables versus starches and meats. (And the fiber will fill you up, too!)
Watch your portion sizes
One cup of starches equals four to six ounces of meat.
Sugar Daddy Dana HerbertDesserts are the easiest ways to get into trouble
Be mindful that if you are a sweets eater, cut back on the other starches during the meal.
63 Calorie Gingerbread Cookies
These tasty gingerbread cookies made from this recipe by Chef Dana Herbert have only 63 calories each. They are a snap to make. Whip up a batch for guests who want a low-cal holiday treat.
½ cup arc molasses
¼ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons  baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground ginger
3 ½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ tsp ground black pepper
½ tsp ground cardamom
Mix all of the ingredients together in a mixer.
Cover and refrigerate the gingerbread dough for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Roll out to ¼" thick on a lightly floured surface.
Use the gingerbread man cookie cutters to cut the dough.
Place the cookies on a greased pan, and bake for ten to twelve minutes
You should be able to touch the cookies without leaving an indentation on the surface of the cookie.
Makes 30 cookies 63 calories each.

Comfort and joy!

Darlings, get out and see the lights, bask in the glow. Meet a friend or lover (maybe you married him) and take a walk. Plan fun things to do; pick your favourite tradition and relish it. Decorate like a fiend, or bake up a storm. If you bake, share your bounty. Maybe throw an impromptu drinks party with a friend to keep the work light. Pamper yourself with home spa treatments every night between Christmas Eve and New Year’s! Celebrate, and be sure to include anyone left out of the warmth.  

These are tough times for many, so remember to share the sweetness of the season with those in need. Be inclusive! Celebrate! Smile, be patient, and sparkle plenty!
This our last issue for 2011. We will return January 13, 2012. Thank you all for your support, and Happy Holidays to you and yours. We wish you comfort and joy!
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Gracey Hitchcock
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