ImageWhen our Mother was diagnosed with cancer many years ago, once we regained our balance, my sister and I plotted and planned how we would make that Christmas, her last, be the best Christmas of her life. That being such a bold plan where else could we spend that bittersweet holiday but in the countryside of France and where else but in the festive Champagne region? This was our present to our Mother and we wanted it to be grand. The night before we were to leave Maine we opened up a bottle of her favorite Champagne and handed her a glass with an envelope. Tears poured down her cheeks as she viewed the tickets to Paris, her favorite destination in the whole world with her two daughters. We promised her that she would drink Champagne everyday, but that is all we revealed of our surprise dream Christmas together.

The next day we headed to Boston in a thick snow storm leaving behind our hopelessness and entering into a happy, magical fantasy for the next 10 days. No doctors, no treatments, no stress or sadness gnawing at our bones – just great food, champagne, and love in copious amounts. Having made the reservations so close to our departure the four of us were forced to sit in pairs. My mother and sister were seated ten rows ahead of me and my boyfriend. The noise level on the plane grew louder with laughter in the rows ahead of us. I mentioned to the flight attendant that she sure had a wild crowd to tend to that night. She laughed briefly and rolled her eyes. After an hour I headed up the aisle to check on my mother and sister, to my delight and horror they were the source of all the loud laughter fueled by too many glasses of Champagne. The plan for her to relax and enjoy herself again was working already.

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From the Huffington Post

xmastamaleWhen you think of Christmas dinner, what's on the table? Maybe a standing rib roast? A turkey with all the trimmings? Maybe a ham? For us, and for lots of excitable eaters across the Southwest, we also think of tamales. This traditional Mexican comfort food, eaten for breakfast or dinner (or anything in between really), is a cornmeal dumpling, stuffed with other goodies and steamed in a corn husk.

The most traditional tamales are stuffed with pork simmered for hours in a red chile sauce, green chiles and cheese or chicken with salsa verde. But we've also enjoyed sweet dessert tamales filled with raisins and pineapple on occasion. We want to warn you: you'd be hard-pressed to find a tamales recipe that isn't a bit of a project. Simmering pork requires time.

Blending the masa harina with the -- ahem -- lard (or whichever fat you decide to use) takes patience. Filling the corn husks with the right amount of filling takes practice and a willingness to mess up a few times.

But the result is completely worth it. Tamales are some of the heartiest, most comforting winter fare we can think of. Whether they're brand new to your family and friends, or a long-lost tradition, we really think 2012 is the tamale's year. Happy holidays and don't overfill your corn husks!


steinxmasOne of my best memories, one that is worth much more to me than money in the bank, is of Christmas at my Grandfather’s when I was a young girl. My grandfather was a larger than life personage. At least to me. In actuality, he only stood about 5 feet 8 inches, if that. But he had girth. He was first generation American Irish, born of immigrant parents and raised in the Bronx. The term self-made was created for him. After winning a scholarship to Fordham University and then Fordham Law, he went on to become a successful lawyer and New York State senator. He made a fortune, and even without the height, carried himself like a man to the manner born.

He considered the 11 children his wife bore him, part of his fortune as well, and loved each one dearly. Though, my mother, being his first born, in my opinion, was his favorite. I idolized my grandfather. I have little memory of his wife, my grandmother, who died when I was three. I didn’t miss knowing her at all because for me, he filled the bill. He was everything. Grandfather, Grandmother, Hero and Chief. He stands before me today as clearly as he did all those years ago, in his navy, pinstriped suit, hand on his gold pocket watch, blue eyes twinkling behind rimless eye glasses, a smile inching across his face.

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I went to storage and found my mother's recipe for Holiday Fruit Cake. A lot of people think of fruitcake as something to use for a doorstop, but this is not your average fruitcake. It's really delicious.

My mother would make it for the holidays for a handful of people, including Leonard, who loved it and looked forward to it every year.

Here's a scan of it written out in her handwriting as a 2-page pdf (which you can download here). She used a check mark instead of a quotation mark for "same as above", and medium dry cherry should be 'sherry'.)

She usually baked it in round bundt cake type pans with a hole in the middle.  Leftover mix would be baked in a normal loaf pan.

Happy Holidays!



Sharon Robinson is a singer, music producer and Grammy winning songwriter, as well as author of "On Tour with Leonard Cohen, photographs by Sharon Robinson" (powerHouse).  Sharon’s mother, Mildred Robinson, was a well-known caterer and restauranteur in Beverly Hills during the ‘60s and ‘70s.  Sharon's new Album, Caffeine, will be released in early 2015.

thinkgreenplainwreath.jpgMost always, I find nature as my inspiration for arrangements and décor, thus green becomes my “MO” for all things fresh, natural, and beautiful. Green is nature’s neutral – found in different hues and shades in every wood, vale, forest and dale! Here are a few tips on “thinking green” for the Holidays and year round decorating as well!

I always like to have a green base to build from when making an arrangement, tablescapes, or even holiday décor. Choose your greenery wisely – it will be your support and skeleton, your contrasting tone, and your “roux” that brings the arrangement together.

Use what is in seasonfor the Holidays, I like the traditional greens like holly, boxwood, cypress, cedar, and magnolia. Add some pizzazz by contrasting shades of green like the dark of the holly and magnolia (use those velvety brown backs as well), lighter green from cypress and blue greens from cedar or junipers.

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