If I ever pursued a profession other then interior designer, I think it would be as a Christmas Elf. I am pretty sure I am one of those people that takes Christmas to another level but I can’t tell because I am too wrapped up in tinsel to notice. Traditions are big in my family and we have a calendar full of annual festivities for our Christmas season but, the Mother Daughter Cookie Swap that I host for my daughter and her friend is among my absolute favorite. I love hosting a houseful at Christmas-time. With halls decked and cider mulling, no one notices the chair I have been meaning to recover or the spot on the wall that is still calling out for something just right.
The easy part about this party is that the house is already decked! Switch my playlist to Harry Conick Jr. Christmas, have Rudolph playing on mute on the TV and it feel like Santa’s pad at the North Pole…I wonder if he has Scalamandre drapes?
The menu is usually what gets my bells jingling about any party but, for this party I get equally excited about the bar. For the older elves I have wine, hot cider and a cranberry champagne cocktail. For the little elves I have a no-holds-barred Hot Chocolate Bar: super rich hot chocolate (I melt Ben and Jerry’s chocolate ice cream into the hot milk with a few dashes of vanilla), homemade vanilla whipped cream, marshmallows, sprinkles and thick chocolate shavings. If the moms want to wander over here I also have peppermint schnapps. What elf could turn that down?

For lunch I shoot for comfort food, mom style. These lovely ladies don’t want fried chicken and mashed potatoes when they have serious mall shopping to do later in the day, but this will keep them warm on a winters afternoon.

The Menu:
-Cheese board with Spiced and Candied Nuts, Melted Brie with Cranberry Chutney and grilled Cibiata bread
-White Bean and Rosemary Soup
-Flat Bread with Caramelized Onions and Roasted Butternut Squash, topped with a salad of Arugula tossed in Mustard Vinaigrette

For the little girls:
-Chick-Fil-A Nugget Try — its Christmas, I don’t have time to make homemade nuggets, and lets be honest, they would rather have these…
-Tomato and Mozzarella Flat Bread
-Fruit Salad

Little girls and their moms arrive with arms full of trays laden with my favorite dessert in the world, any kind of cookie — Oprah once said that she didn’t trust anyone who could turn down a warm chocolate chip cookie, and I agree with her. Dinging room table brimming with delights, the girls race off to dance like sugar plums in the playroom or backyard and the moms chat, chat, chat. I get to sit in my living room, fire roaring, Christmas lights a blaze, laughing with good friends all while by daughter is giggling with hers. What a perfect Christmas gift for me!

This is Christmas perfection to me….my garland is already hung this year, but next year… -Mary McDonlad,

Here are the goods! We had lots of amazing bakers this year. Our famous family butterscotch balls are there on the silver tiered stand…you can’t eat just one!

Hot chocolate bar with my very merry hot chocolate (I melt Ben and Jerry’s ice cream with whole milk, yum!!), homemade vanilla whipped cream, peppermints and chocolate. I think Santa would be proud.

Things I want to try next year:

I vow to have my window boxes look like this next year…even my brown thumb could pull that off! -Prettypinktulips.com


I usually do vanilla whipped cream, but why not peppermint? Love the color! -makeandtake.com


Love this idea to label all the cookies! -Pottery Barn Kids


My daughter already decided we are making these next year! -princesspinkygirl.com



Inspiration for next year… -100layercake.com




White Bean and Rosemary Soup

What you need:

3 cans white beans

3 cup chicken broth

3 shallots

5 sprigs of rosemary, chopped

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Slice shallots and sauce them in large stock pan, like a La Creuset, with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Before the get any brown to them add drained beans, and stock. Bring that to a boil and let it roll for about 5 minutes. Add rosemary and the rest of the salt. With an emersion blender, puree until soup is smooth.


Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Flatbread

What you need:

1 ball pizza dough (I have a great pre-made one I love from the Harris Teeter Grocery, or your favorite pizza spot will likely sell you dough)

4 yellow onions

6 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons butter

2 cups chopped butternut squash

3 cups arugula

Mustard vinaigrette

Good Parmesan cheese, shaved

Caramelize onions: Thinly slice onions and add them to a skillet with 4 tablespoons of olive oil and butter. Turn the heat up to High until you get a little bit of brown on the onions, then turn down to Low, cover and cook for another 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Brown the Butternut Squash: Chop into small cubes, toss in olive oil and salt and put on a backing sheet. Cook at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes, until bottom has that caramelized look. Check on them after 10 minutes, the bottoms may start to borrow and you will want to toss them so they don’t burn.

I a bowl, toss arugula in vinaigrette

Pour 3 tablespoons on olive oil on a baking sheer. Toss the dough in flour and then over the oiled baking sheet stretch and pull the dough into a circular shape. Flour will fall into the oil, that gives it a nice crust. Place dough round on the baking sheet, spread caramelized onions over the dough and sprinkle baked butternut squash on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. When it is cooled top with dressed arugula and shaved parmesan.