The Taste Project – A Delicious Way to Fight Hunger

My graduate school class this summer is focused on Food Insecurity.  I wish everyone could take this class to have a better appreciation for how much food we waste both in our homes and in the retail food industry, and the number of people right here in Texas who don’t have enough to eat.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.  It is essential to know that though hunger and food insecurity are closely related, they are distinct concepts. Hunger refers to a personal, physical sensation of discomfort. In contrast, food insecurity refers to a lack of available financial resources for food at the household level.

One of every six Americans, equating to over fifty-four million people including eighteen million children- faces the reality that they may not be able to provide for their next meal.  Food insecurity affects eight-hundred million people globally, including seventeen million households in every county in America.

In Texas, fourteen percent, or one in seven Texans, experience food insecurity. That is 1.4 million Texas households and over four million individuals. Texas is one of just fifteen states with higher food insecurity than the national average. Experts in many fields have called upon organizations to find new ways to address this serious, sometimes invisible issue. One World Everybody Eats (OWEE) is a response to this call.

OWEE is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt, non-profit organization dedicated to increasing food security and building community through its pay-what-you-can non-profit restaurant model.

OWEE cafes create spaces where people of all ages come together, eat a nutritious, chef-prepared meal in dignity, and form strong bonds to foster an interconnected community. OWEE community cafes serve four-thousand meals each day or over 1.4 million meals a year in both non-profit and for-profit restaurant settings. Currently, sixty community cafes operate in the United States, and over fifty others are in the planning stages in six countries. Texas has two cafes – one in Fort Worth, called the Taste Project, and the second in El Paso, called the Mustard Seed Cafe. In 2018, OWEE founder, Denis Cerreta, accepted the 2017 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year Award on behalf of the network of community cafes.

 

In Tarrant County, thirty-six percent of the food insecure population live above the poverty level and receive no government help.

Since I am studying the community cafe concept,  I wanted to experience first-hand the Taste Project’s atmosphere, food, and concept. Located at 1200 S. Main Street in the near Southwide district, the cafe is perfectly positioned near a bus stop and across the street from the JPS Health System offering a chance for hospital employees to eat something other than hospital-cafeteria food. Our first time to venture out to a restaurant since the pandemic shut down in March, we appreciated the cafe’s precautions for safety concerns by reducing the number of guests in the cafe through a reservation-only system. Additionally, many of the tables were removed allowing for a generous distance – definitely more than a six-feet separation.

We were immediately greeted by our server, who wore a mask and presented us with paper menus.  Their mission and purpose are printed on the back of the menu so I took the time to read it after I decided on my lunch.

Taste Project’s mission is to feed, educate, and serve our community so they may “…taste and see the Lord is good.”  Psalm 34:8.

We believe everyone should have access to healthy nutritional food.  Our vision is to see the Fort Worth community become the solution to the challenges the community faces as it relates to hunger.

The Taste Project, a non-profit restaurant, focuses on healthy, quality meals made from fresh ingredients. Our menu has no prices. This is a give and take concept. We ask guests to do one of the following:

1) pay what you can afford,

2) pay what you would typically pay, or

3) pay what you would typically pay, plus a little extra.

I took a minute to walk around the historic building, once a printing press,  taking in the loveliness of the space – stacks of crisp white china waiting for food to be lovingly served, friendly staff, and a clean, bright, and airy space to enjoy your meal.

Our meal did not disappoint. It was beautifully presented and tasted delicious. I ordered shrimp tacos, Mr. Bee ordered a cheeseburger, and Miss Bee chose the Elote Bowl. The menu is changed seasonally to keep the costs down in order to cook with readily available ingredients.

The restaurant was founded by Chef Jeff Williams.  Jeff has always had a burden for feeding people.  Jeff grew up in a family of four, and both his parents worked hard to put food on the table.  He remembers the times when food was scarce and his parents would skip meals to make sure he and his sister were full.

Jeff understands first-hand the stress his parents encountered to put food on the table in tough times.  And it’s a familiar story of many of our neighbors in need.  Soup kitchens are good, but not everyone feels good about going there.

That’s why, in 2012, Jeff and his wife Julie founded Taste Project, a sustainable solution to ensure none of our neighbors go hungry.  But Jeff also wanted a place that eliminated the stress and fear his parents faced.  A friendly place that feels like you’ve just come home.  And a place where you can get more than just a meal, but also hope. Here’s a video message from Jeff:

If you have a heart for volunteering and giving back check out their website, specifically their “How you can help” page here.  Most of the staff are volunteers so this is perfect for people who love to be around food!  My professor and her family volunteer often in the kitchen helping with food and meal preparation.

You can also purchase a Meal Token. When you purchase a Taste Project Meal Token, you can enjoy a meal of your choice at Taste while committing to support the only sustainable solution to end hunger in Fort Worth, or simply pass it on to someone as a gift.

Our check arrived. You’ll notice there are no prices or suggested payments. You simply pay what you can. Sixty percent of the guests who dine at the Taste Project are in need, with twenty-five percent paying a $1 or less.

Currently, the cafe is only serving during the lunch hour. They stopped their breakfast service during the pandemic, shut down for a brief time, and are currently operating their 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. lunch service.  So, next time you are wondering “where will I go for lunch today” think about Taste Project and be a part of the solution to fight hunger.

Quarantine Cocktails – the BUZZ on monthly cocktail subscription boxes

A few weeks ago, I shared a photo of our beverage center in our family room. I love built-in cabinets, probably because I am a kid of the 70s when built-in desks and bars were the rage.  During a renovation several years ago, I talked with our contractor about my idea for a beverage bar on an unused wall space in our family, and she thought it was a terrific idea. I sketched what I wanted, and off we went to make it happen. A nod to the retro cocktail parties is the smoky mirror backsplash. Mixing up a cocktail or an espresso on our bar makes me giddy.

Photo credit: Ralph Lauer and 817Magazine

Since we are still practicing social distancing, our parties are now for two. We like to curate new cocktails and have a library full of mixology books. But sometimes what you end up with isn’t quite what you hoped.  I thought it would be fun to try a monthly cocktail subscription box and make a “date night” of the experience. I just received my first box from Shaker and Spoon. The concept is simple – each month, Shaker and Spoon send you a kit full of ingredients to create a cocktail based on the month’s theme (check out my Instagram Stories to see me unbox the kit).

Shaker & Spoon was founded in 2015 in Brooklyn by two designers (Mike and Anna) with an overfilled liquor cabinet. Tired of buying apricot brandy and cream sherry and not using them again, of needing hard-to-find ingredients at 10 p.m., of trying that complicated cocktail recipe only to be disappointed once it didn’t turn out they embarked on their new business. Now, with their monthly cocktail club, you just pick up the bottle, and they take care of the rest.  With their help, you’ll mix that drink perfectly—and always be the tastemaker in your circle.

This month’s box is called the Girls Just Wanna Have Bourbon, which Mr. Bee will be super happy with because bourbon is his go-to.  Each box contains supplies to make three recipes – four drinks each, you provide the liquor. Shake, stir, muddle, and more: each box is built around one spirit, showcasing various styles of cocktail-making.  You can read more here about this month’s box – each with a unique story on the mixologists who create the recipes.

The recipe cards (and how-to videos) guide you through mixing and garnishing the cocktails, step by step, and the glossary explains any unfamiliar bartending terms. Just follow their instructions, and you’ll create bar-quality drinks for yourself and anyone you’d like to show off to! Here’s one of the recipes we will be mixing up this weekend “Baba, Let Me Tell You One Thing . . .” starts with an intensely flavored base of bourbon, lemon, tea, cardamom, and bitters and tops it off with the sharp and subtle spice of ginger beer. This is bourbon at its bubbliest, making for a perfect bridge over Dark and Stormy–reminiscent waters into brighter days ahead!

photo credit: Shaker and Spoon

Monthly subscriptions vary in price depending on your plan. I chose the $50 a month (you can cancel anytime), which if you divide it by twelve cocktails that run about $4 a cocktail, making it a happy hour worth celebrating, especially if you already have the liquor on-hand.  Here’s the link to subscribe and stir up some fun times!  Cheers!

Saturday Chat and Check-in: Coming from my Vanity!

Good Saturday to you!  I’m looking forward to keeping up these Saturday chats to check-in on what I’m up to and spend time with you. This week on Home with a Twist YouTube we are sitting at my bathroom vanity so I can share my favorite skincare and beauty products with you.

Having more time to indulge in the bottles, creams, and potions I have tucked away in my cabinets, I decided to start getting them out and giving myself spa treatments with stuff I already have on-hand. Are you finding you have more time to use a facial mask or soak in the tub since we have not had as many demands placed on us?

Here are the products I talked about in my video…

Texas Collection Lavender Salt Scrub. It’s an HEB product which makes me think it came from my Austin besties. Sadly, it’s no longer available.

Naked Bee – Here’s the foot balm I talked about that I like to rub on my feet before I go to bed.

Philosophy Pure Grace Body Lotion – smells just like soap and water. I use this right after I bathe. I smell so clean and fresh.

Dove Deodorant Invisible Dry Spray  – keeps me from sweating!

Flower Beauty Supernova Celestial Skin Elixir. A wonder in a bottle – this revolutionary skin elixir hydrates, primes and smooths for a soft ethereal glow.  Packed with a blend of antioxidants and multi-dimensional pearlescent pigments this ultra-lightweight fast-absorbing oil is the key to the most smooth, radiant makeup application. It has a blend of six antioxidant-rich oils work together to nourish, protect & soothe skin. Includes restoring Jojoba seed oil, antioxidant-rich Camellia seed oil, and soothing Kukui Nut Oil.

Thrive Causemetics Lash Extension Mascara.   Perfect for short lashes. For every product purchased the company makes a donation to help women thrive. To date they have donated nearly $30,000,000 to over 50 charities supporting women in need. I forgot to mention in the video you should replace your mascara on a monthly basis to keep your lashes free from bacteria growth.

Face setting sprays – I like Elemis Pro-Collagen Rose Hydromist. It helps to set your makeup, gives me a fresh feeling against my skin, has firming properties, and reduces the visibility of pores, lines, and wrinkles. I can use that!

Cocoa Woods Fragrance by Nest.   I couldn’t recall the fragrance notes – so I looked them up – essence of bittersweet cocoa wrapped in sequoia wood and white sandalwood with exotic hints of tiare blossom and Thai ginger. Let’s just say, Mr. Bee likes how it smells. I like to spritz it on right before bed so my jammies smell pretty.

Olly Restful Sleep Gummies all-natural gummies I chew two about an hour before I want to go to bed. They just help me feel relaxed and they’re supposed to help support a healthy sleep cycle. I spray my sheets with lavender spray and fill my essential oil diffuser with lavender. My room smells good!

So that’s it for this week. Let me know in the comments if there are topics you’d like for me to cover. I love our time together. And, I appreciate you following my journey to #celebrateeveryday.  Stay well!

Home with a Twist YouTube – Opening Happy Mail

Two fun pieces of mail arrived this week and I wanted to share them. So, I sat down on my patio a few days ago and made a video!  It’s kind of like “Show and Tell” which was my favorite thing to do in elementary school. So, go pop some popcorn or make a cup of cafe au lait and enjoy the next 14 minutes or so with me!

Here’s what I talked about — Just Knock Knock

Knock! Knock!

You go to their website and take a quick quiz on the style of your home, the amount of sun vs shade your flowers will receive based on where you plan to display the flowers, the type of pots you will use, and where you live. They put together two big pans of flowers, ship them, and you plant them!  The flowers are $65 and delivered four times a year for each season.  Like I said in the video, I could easily spend this or more and come home with more flowers than I need.  They take the guess-work out of it by selecting three varieties of plants that look terrific together.

The company sends you an email when the flowers are shipped so you can be watching for them. The plants arrived perfectly packaged with instructions printed on the box on how to safely unpack the plants inside. They were perfect!  Check out my Instagram to see my flowers.

Mod Sprout is the maker of the adorable seed pops!  Oh, my goodness they are so cute.  From their webpage – Help save our pollinators! Seed Pops are designed to be planted into the ground or a container. Just unwrap, plant and grow! Each Bumble Bee, Butterfly and Hummingbird Seed Pop includes a curated selection of perennial wildflower seeds, compost, clay, coconut husk and planting instructions. Once planted, the wooden stick serves as a plant marker.

Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds play an integral role in our food supply. These creatures are facing extinction, due to variables including modern agriculture practices and increased use of pesticides. The need to save our pollinators cannot be overstated. Be a part of the solution and plant a garden today!  This set of 3 pops is $14.99.  Such a cute gift idea.  Remember those galvanized gardens we put in last year, well these seed pops will be perfect!  You can find all our gardening videos at my Home with a Twist YouTube channel here.  While you are there, please subscribe. I only need 75 more subscribers to have my own custom channel!

Last in my box are the Field and Fleur candles. They don’t seem to have their own website, rather are sold wholesale to pretty much any store that carries candles. Jabo’s Ace is a dealer and they sent me two beautiful scents. Botanical Garden is an essential oil-based blend of delicate florals including subtly rosy Geranium and lush Ylang-Ylang. These soft floral notes rest on a base of earthy Vetiver and warm Patchouli made more grounding and soothing when combined with nature’s ultimate relaxation tonics: -Chamomile and Lavender. Burn time 85+ hours. And Cut Grass – just look at how gorgeous the green color is! With top notes of clover and green grass, this fragrance finishes with fresh-cut wisteria and jasmine. The perfect home fragrance for the woman who wears citrus-based perfumes and colognes.  Burn time 85+ hours. All candles are made in the USA and come nestled in a pretty wicker basket. If you live close to a Jabo’s Ace Hardware (locations in Fort Worth, Keller, and Coppell), be sure to stop in and see The Cove gift selection. They have something for everyone. Jabo’s have been long-time supporters of my blog and I really appreciate them.

Stay tuned for more fun. #Staywell.

My Favorite Coffee Table Books

I love to collect pretty books that Mother used to call “Coffee Table” books.  I’m sharing a few of my favorites…

Martha Stewart Flowers  “Accompanied by beautiful photographs of displays in Martha’s home, bursting with ideas, and covering every step from seed to vase, Martha’s Flowers is a must-have handbook for flower gardeners and enthusiasts of all skill levels.”  One of the kind people I worked with recently gifted me an autographed copy of this gorgeous book.  It was such a thoughtful gift and one I will treasure always.

Modern Mix by Eddie Ross.  “With more than 350 full-color photographs, time-saving tips and real-life shortcuts to decorating and entertaining beautifully on a budget, Modern Mix will open your eyes to the extraordinary possibilities within your reach and inspire you to live every day colorfully and creatively.”  Bestie gifted me this one.  I adore it.  Eddie’s style and love of beautiful finds came from his grandparents.  The book is full of sweet stories of their relationship.   I would love a tour of his dish collection…

The Art of the Scarf by Libby VanderPloeg is such a cute book!  Holley from What Would Holley Wear fame treated me with this fun read — one of Miss Bee’s favorites.  “From belts to turbans, tops to bags, as well as all the classic knots and drapes, The Art of the Scarf is a must-have book for women who love to add that little something extra to every outfit.”

The Art of the Party by David Stark.  I had the terrific opportunity to hear David speak at an event planning conference in Las Vegas a few years ago and he autographed my copy during a book signing.  “Renowned event planner David Stark reveals whimsical, artistic, unexpected designs often created from sustainable, industrial, or low-cost materials to inspire readers—whether planning a wedding, dinner party, or holiday gathering—looking for ideas for their own events.”

So Much to Celebrate by Katie Jacobs.  This is my newest acquisition.  Katie has a beautiful blog Styling my Everyday. She is a stylist, photographer, graphic designer, and foodie.  A fourth-generation Nashvillian, she’s been featured in Martha Stewart LivingSouthern Living WeddingsNashville Lifestyles as well as on Inspired By This, Fashionable Hostess, and The Scout Guide.   She’s also a content contributer to one of my favorite retailers — Draper James!  Her book takes you through an entire year of seasonal celebrations and holidays.  It’s truly a how-to guide on entertaining.

It’s so hard to pick a favorite.  You really can tell a book by its cover!

Get Noticed – Wear Red Lipstick

I read an article from the New York Post “Will Red Lipstick Kill or Kick-Start Your Career?” Then, I read another one from Allure Magazine. While neither of these are scientific, it was fun, and reaffirming, reading the interesting opinions on red lipstick.

Aliza Licht, author of Leave Your Mark, a career guide, is consistently asked by women if she thinks a red lip sends the right message.  So, Aliza took to social media asking nearly 15,000 online followers to get answers.  Her findings are in the New York Post article, but I thought I would sum up her results:

Q.  Do you think that red lipstick is appropriate to wear in the workplace?

A.  91.2% of women said “Yes, people should look and dress as they see fit.”

Q.  What does red lipstick say about the wearer?

A.  78.8% said  “She’s confident!”

Q.  Do you think red lipstick is appropriate to wear to an interview?

A.  46.6% said yes (so, I’m guessing 54% say no?).

Q.  Do you think people are judged for wearing red lipstick?

A.  14.7% said negatively

The other article I read was from Allure magazine which listed “Four Scientifically Proven Reasons You Should Wear Red Lipstick All the Time.”

1.  People will think you’re younger.  This is the #1 reason I like to wear red lipstick!  As you age, facial features, like eyebrows and lips, get noticeably paler as you age because your skin gets darker. When I was younger I didn’t like to wear lipstick because I didn’t need to.  But, seriously, ladies in their 50’s need color on their face. However, you also have to not go wild all over your face with makeup. My favorite way to wear red lips is with a paler eye color. That creates balance.

2.  One study showed if you are a waitress, you’ll get more tips if you wear red lips.

3.  A 2011 Proctor and Gamble study with Harvard found that red lips could make you look more competent at work.  Men and women were asked to look at 25 photos of women of all races and ages with different degrees of makeup on.  The photos of women with dark eyes and lip makeup were viewed as more competent than one who were bare faced.

4.  You’ll take more selfies.  Studies have shown if you wear red lipstick you are likely to post twice as many selfies in a week as those who go with natural lip color.

Here is my favorite lipstick to wear…Bobbi Brown Harlow Red Art Stick.  It’s a cherry red.

Mother, a gentile southern lady, was a firecracker in the lipstick department.  She embraced colorful, bright lips so it’s no wonder I have inherited her love of kissable lips!

So, pucker up, look smart and be bold. Life is not a dress rehearsal.

Best Planners for 2020

If you want to start the year with a fresh, new planner, I’ve researched for you!  I’ve got a few to share with you based on different themes.  Here goes:

Savor Life Planner – This is a 90-day concept planner with a self-care meets soul-care for successful living. The mission of founder, Angela Jia Kim, is to help you nourish to flourish, create daily rituals, and organize your “gorgeous chaos,” so you can make time to savor the sweet parts of life.  Use the planner for 90 days, then purchase a new one to re-set for the next 90 days and so on. Since my Word for 2020 is Nourish – this is the planner, I chose to help me track my goals.  I like the prompts on each page as you plan your day, week, and month. Cost: $29.95

Hope Planner – This 6-month planner is a combination of a daily planner and prayer journal. Their concept is “put it on your list and lay it at the cross.”  This is perfect for people who want to connect more with their spirituality in the new year.  Take back your day from “all-the-things” and cultivate the relationship with Christ you’ve always wanted by making time
for Christ on your schedule like you do everything else. If your priority is to put your faith first every day, this planner is for you. Cost: $34.95

Mama Love – This planner helps mamas and mamas-to-be tackle their busy lives while carving out time for daily and monthly self-care. It also helps mamas put the spiritual aspects of their life first by drawing attention to spiritual goals, affirmations for their lives, and incorporating a gratitude practice.  Most mamas spend so much time and love on others that there isn’t enough time, energy, and love left for themselves. This planner is a practical tool to change this pattern. I think this would make a perfect gift for a new mother. Cost: $39.97

Commit 30 – Fitness Journal:  If you’re committed to making this your year to get in shape, this planner is for you! The Commit30 Fitness Journal helps you focus on movement, nutrition, mindfulness & motivation one day at a time. Set up similarly to their popular Commit30 planner, there are monthly calendars, weekly layouts, 30-day challenges, meal planning sections, exercise tracking, and more. With customizable rows to track anything from steps to miles to carbs to weight, this is the tool to help you reach your fitness and wellness goals.  If you love stickers, they have an add-on kit. Tuck this in your gym bag and go! Cost: $29.99 (it’s on sale right now).

Daily Greatness Journal – The Dailygreatness concept will move you from wishing to achieving and from dreaming about it to doing something about it, and that’s the “magical” shift. That’s what you’ve been looking for.

The intuitive flow of the Dailygreatness concept gives you a foundation and a structure to your days that support you in achieving your goals. It’s a simple process that’s fun, creative, and engaging. We know we learn best when we play. They offer journals for all areas you want to plan – yoga, wellness, parenting, personal training, business, and the traditional yearly planner. Cost: $29.99 and up.
There are so many other great planners out there, in addition to the few I have shared.  I hope this helps to give you ideas and inspire you to consider adding a planner to your success toolbox for 2020. What’s a planner you’ve been using with success? Share it with us in the comments.

The White House – History of Christmas

Photo courtesy of The White House Historical Association

I listened to a charming podcast recently – The Millennial Homemakers where they interviewed Linda Dutile, a volunteer who helped decorate The White House this year. Linda answered all their questions about the application and selection process, what a typical day of decorating the nation’s home was like and other fun details.  Wouldn’t that be the best job ever!  I think I may try to apply!

It got me to thinking about the traditions in year’s past, so I did some research on The White House Historical Association website to share fun facts and photos.

First, the adorable photo above is of First Lady Betty Ford and her daughter, Susan, decorating holiday cookies in the White House solarium in December 1975.  My childhood memories are permanently planted in the 60s and 70s when Christmas, for me, was magical and kitchy.

President Coolidge turning on the switch for the “National Tree Lighting” in President’s Park. December 24, 1923.

The White House observance of Christmas before the twentieth century was not an official event. First families decorated the house modestly with greens and privately celebrated the Yuletide with family and friends. President Calvin Coolidge was the first chief executive to preside over a public celebration during the holidays with the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in 1923. Since then, the White House has expanded its celebrations of the holidays and sharing the joy of the season with Americans through themed holiday decorations, traditions, and public events.

President Grover Cleveland’s Christmas tree

The first White House Christmas tree, decorated with candles and toys, was placed in the second-floor oval room, then used as a library and family parlor, in 1889 for President Benjamin Harrison and his family. In 1894, three years after electricity was introduced in the White House, the first electric lights on a family tree delighted the young daughters of President Grover Cleveland. In 1909, President William H. Taft’s children helped decorate the first tree on the state floor in the Blue Room.

The White House at Christmas traditionally has been a magical place for children. From the earliest times memorable parties have been held for the president’s children or grandchildren. One of the most elaborate was President Andrew Jackson’s “frolic” for the children of his household in 1834. This party included games, dancing, a grand dinner, and ended with an indoor “snowball fight” with specially made cotton balls.

President and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt hosted a “carnival” during the 1903 Christmas season for 500 children including dinner, dancing, musical entertainment, souvenirs, and a special treat of ice cream formed in the shape of Santa and other Christmas novelties. President Roosevelt, an avowed conservationist, did not approve of cutting trees for Christmas decorations. However, his son Archie defied the ban and smuggled in a small tree that was decorated and hidden in a closet in the upstairs sewing room.

In 1961, First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy began the tradition of selecting a theme for the official White House Christmas tree. She decorated a tree placed in the oval Blue Room with ornamental toys, birds, and angels modeled after Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker” ballet.

Here’s a fun fact sheet of Christmas traditions at The White House.  Just a few highlights…

The first White House Christmas party was held in December 1800. President John Adams and First Lady Abigail Adams gave it for their four-year-old granddaughter Susanna Boylston Adams, who was living with them. They invited government officials and their children to the party.

Maitre d’ and butler Alonzo Fields recalled President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s cherished Christmas family tradition in his memoir, My 21 Years in the White House (1960): “They always braved the hazards of fire by having a Christmas tree lighted with candles in the East Hall. The family tradition included a reading of Charles Dickens’s Christmas Carol by the President. The gathering of the family with the President and Mrs. Roosevelt, the President’s mother, the children, and grandchildren made a comely family group of four generations.”

The holiday season at the White House is celebrated with an abundance of glittering décor, decadent desserts, and fresh pine. One of the sweetest traditions at the Executive Mansion is the unveiling of the official holiday gingerbread house. Since the early 1970s, pastry chefs have created this intricately detailed, candy-adorned house for the enjoyment of the First Family and White House visitors alike. The tradition of displaying a gingerbread house in the White House at Christmas began with First Lady Patricia Nixon in 1972. Displayed in the State Dining Room, this delightful treat has a rich history that embodies the holiday spirit.  First Lady Patricia Nixon and daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower examine the intricate candy decorations. P.S. Julie, I’d love to have your dress…

The Eisenhower family steps from the North Entrance of the White House bearing holiday gifts. December 1957.

The record for the number of trees in the White House was held for many years by the Eisenhower administration when 26 trees filled every floor of the house. That mark has been eclipsed on several occasions, including the Clinton administration’s 36 trees in the 1997 theme of “Santa’s Workshop,” and the 2008 White House Christmas decorations of the Bush administration that included 27 trees as part of a theme of “A Red, White and Blue Christmas.” Most recently in 2018, the Trump administration had 41 Christmas trees and more than 40 topiary trees in the East Colonnade.

The National Christmas Tree Association has held a national competition since 1966 for the official White House Blue Room tree. To qualify, growers must first win their state or regional competitions. Being named National Grand Champion is a major achievement.  Here are helpful tips on how to care for your farm-grown Christmas tree.

Be sure to visit the White House Historical Association for even more content. I hope you enjoyed this fun history lesson. It makes me want to decorate more trees!

Note: All the content in this post is directly from the White House Historical Association and not my own.

How to be a Wrap Star with Wirrwarr Wraps!

My friend Karen posted a beautiful photo of a gift she wrapped and shared that she learned how to do it at a Wirrwarr Wraps class led by Cassie Kruemcke. It immediately conjured up sweet memories of my early days learning to wrap gifts with my mother.

When I was in elementary school Mother set up a gift wrapping station in our guest bedroom, during the month of December, to prepare the presents for under the tree.  Rolls of beautiful wrapping paper, tissue paper, boxes, bolts of ribbon, gift tags, and other supplies filled the top of the guest bed and she set up several card tables around the room.  My job was very clear: Wrap each gift, no two alike, and I would earn 25 cents per package.  Back then, we didn’t have the “bow and go” method.  Gift bags were not a thing, every gift was wrapped in tissue paper, placed in a box, wrapped with paper, tied with a bow and labeled with a gift tag.

I gladly accepted my assignment and went to work setting up a pretend department store gift wrap boutique and I was its chief wrapper. I placed a check-in desk at the door of the guest room, had make-believe conversations with “customers” taking great care to ask them who the gift was intended for and their preferred style of wrapping.  I’m sure the conversation went something like, “Oh, what a lovely gift for your daughter. How old is she? What’s her favorite color?  Shall we do pink and green toile?”  I wrote invoices for each gift and placed them around the room ready to get to work. Since I was the only child at home (my siblings were grown) pretend play was a big deal.  I learned to be extremely entertaining!

Looking back, I am sure the packages weren’t perfect, but I love the fact that Mother didn’t care.  She was okay to release that part of Christmas, affording me the chance to be creative and boost my self-confidence while giving herself a break. An important lesson for all of us mothers who think we have to do it all so it will be perfect.

When I saw my chance to relive those days of wrapping presents, I quickly signed up for Cassie’s class.  Our workshop was set up with supplies and each attendee received a kit including a cute tote bag for us to keep as our party favor. Fixe provided sips and deviled eggs to nosh while we worked on our packages.  I want you to experience her class first-hand, so I won’t reveal all her secrets, but I will hit the highpoints.

#1 Tissue Paper — Cassie led us through the proper way to place tissue paper in the gift box using a pinch pleat – happily, I already do this so I was feeling good about my skillset. She made a great suggestion that I will try and that is sticking bright-colored labels to close the tissues halves together.

#2 Shirt Boxes — it’s amazing how nice your gift will look when it’s wrapped in a proper box – like a shirt box. Do department stores offer shirt boxes anymore?   Here’s a resource for shirt boxes.  Cassie taught us the proper way to measure your paper so you don’t waste it trying to make it fit your box.

#3 Must have beautiful paper – This convinced me to stock up on a variety of wrapping papers.  I chose a bold animal print, but she also had lovely prints, stripes, polka dots, and solid colors.  The point is mix it up!  Maybe come up with a color scheme that is your signature color and print.  Mine for sure would be animal print with aqua and hot pink.

#4 Go Big with your Bow or Go Home – This is the secret sauce to making your packages rival those of Martha Stewart. I finally know the secret on how to make those bows with all the ribbons.  Cassie set out several bins of ribbon – all sizes and colors, some even faux fur –  and a silver tub full of glass ornaments and walked us through how to first tie the regular bow, then add all the strips we cut of mismatched ribbon. The last step was the jingle bells and I chose a signature ornament – a bucket of bubbly!

#5 The Final Touch – She pulled out packages of scrapbook alphabet stickers for the finishing touch. These were placed at the corner of the box and the initial can represent the recipient.  Since I was wrapping this for myself (of course), I put a big scripted “M” on mine – a nod to my favorite TV character, Mary Tyler Moore.

I left with a beautifully wrapped present, a tote bag of supplies, and a new friend in Cassie.  She is a delight and was as bubbly as the sips we enjoyed during the class.  Follow her on Instagram so you don’t miss her upcoming classes. And, we might just cook something up for Home with a Twist followers!

Happy wrapping, y’all!

Three Things: Baked Chicken, Sweet Potatoes and a Funny Podcast

I have three unrelated buzzworthy things to share today.  Let’s start first with baked chicken.  I have never roasted a whole chicken. Ever. Yes, it’s true. It always seemed so intimidating, so I’ve asked Mr. Bee to roast it on the grill or smoker. I follow Katherine Sasser’s blog – she is also the owner of Hurley House.  She issued a six-week challenge recently to try baking a chicken right alongside her.  I won’t share all the directions, because she perfectly outlines it here and here.  To make it easy, click here to download a copy of the recipe.  I texted her Sunday night with the photo and thanked her for inspiring me! Isn’t it funny how something small like roasting a chicken for the first time can boost your self-esteem!

My takeaways:   Recently we started making time to prepare Sunday dinner since that seems to be the only day of the week the three of us are caught up on schoolwork, working and sleeping.  Mr. Bee and I had fun bonding, cooking, sipping wine and chopping herbs. We decided to roast sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes and added sliced carrots. We also tossed in a big handful of fresh rosemary and thyme I had leftover from another recipe.  I followed the recipe exactly even down to the cooking time. It turned out golden, juicy and perfect. The house smelled amazing while it cooked. We served the chicken with a new recipe for a dressing I am trying out for Thanksgiving which you can find here (I am going to modify the recipe to combine both toasted bread cubes and cornbread).

Second, it’s that time of year when I share Mother’s recipe for Sweet Potato Delight.  Go here for the recipe – it’s included in my Mrs. Twist’s Guide to Thanksgiving you can find here, here, and here.  Miss Bee will not celebrate the holiday without serving this recipe from her beloved Grandmother’s recipe box. Make a double batch – it’s that good.

Finally, I found this very funny podcast called “Sweaty and Pissed.” It features co-hosts comedian Leanne Morgan and her nurse-practitioner Karen.  They discuss all kinds of funny — the realities of menopause and female midlife.  Leanne adds comedic relief to bothersome symptoms we face, and Karen brings it all home with sound medical explanations and suggestions for promoting relief.  I have learned and laughed a lot. Here’s their facebook page and the link to their podcast where you listen to your favorite tunes.  It will be the perfect thing to listen to in the kitchen as you prepare for Thanksgiving or the long car ride to your in-laws (headphones will be appreciated, I am sure since only you will find sweaty boobs funny.).

Have a fabulous week!