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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Stimulating the Senses

You're thinking, "What in the world is she talking about?" Well, I took a look at my winter/February mantel from last year and thought it felt a little "cold". So I went back to what I like best when decorating: nature and feeling cozy.

This mantel from last year, was missing something - warmth. And goodness knows we can all use some warmth!

This is much better. Not a huge change, but definitely an improvement. All it took were some mason jars, filled with Epsom salts to mimic the look of snow, (those of you in the midwest and along the east coast may want to skip the salts) and a tea light nestled in the top. And no, you don't see any amaryllis blooms this year - all I got are big green wonky leaves that look like green antlers. Don't look.

On to the olfactory sense...and this is one of my favorite things to do on a chilly day. Fill a large pot with water, slice up an orange/tangerine, toss in a couple of bay leaves, a few cloves, sprinkle in these spices: cinnamon, nutmeg and ground allspice. Bring to a soft boil and then reduce to simmering. Now...DON'T forget about this on your stove!! I add more water when I notice it getting low. You can reheat with the same ingredients 2 or 3 times. This homemade simmering potpourri smells divine!

Last but not least, lets cover the ole' taste buds. Because who couldn't use a warm you to the bones stew after being out in the brutal cold? This is a delicious and very easy recipe to boot.

French Vegetable Beef Stew
2 lbs. beef stew meat and olive oil to brown meat
1 can condensed onion soup
1 - 6oz. can tomato paste

1 TBSP. basil
1 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. pepper
5-8 carrots, sliced

2 c. sliced celery
1 can or frozen wax beans - if canned, do not drain
1 can or frozen green beans - again, do not drain if canned
1 can kidney beans (don't drain)
optional: potatoes are fine if you don't plan on freezing the stew and Parmesan cheese if you want to top it off.

In a large pot over medium/high heat, brown meat well in olive oil. Reduce heat to medium, stir in undiluted onion soup, 5 soup cans water, tomato paste, basil, salt and pepper. Simmer covered, 1 and 1/2 hours.

Add all vegetables; reheat to boiling, then simmer covered 30 minutes or until meat and veggies are fork tender. Top with Parmesan cheese if you'd like.

The beauty of this recipe is that it has such a good base that you can vary or add vegetables to you liking. I try to healthy it up a bit, by skipping the canned veggies as much as possible and use fresh or frozen. Yum!

Thanks for visiting and come back for a Valentine's gift (for kiddos) that keeps giving through out the year!


  1. I am SO stimulated, in every sense! I'm running right over to decorate my mantel... 'cause you know I've got a banner!! :) Wonderful post, T, and I'm going to make that stew soon, too. XO, miss you~
    (PS on your blog it has the You Might Also Like - and today Phoenix's pic is there. :)) Like!

  2. What a great job you have done with your mantle, injecting that colour really brings it to life! Just love your simmering potpourri, wish the computer had odour sensors! Will have to try that one next winter!! Thanks for sharing the great ideas.

  3. Hello Traci,

    Just stopped in here.... don't know if I've been to this blog before. Beautiful mantle BTW. Just wanted to tell you that we have that some print of the dog on the bed hanging in our clinic. I gave it to my husband years ago.
    Hope you have a beautiful day!


Thanks for leavin' some love!