Some Girl, Somewhere, Will Turn 16 This Year

From the day a girl is born, she begins a lifelong love affair with shoes. If you’re planning a Sweet 16 party – either a small one at home or on a grand scale — here’s unique table decorations for buffet or individual tables.

Get your creative buzz by watching my e-How video on clever Sweet 16 table decorations!

Happy birthday to all my favorite girls turning 16 this year!
Kelley Hospitality

For more of Barbara’s e-How videos on parties, click here.

Make a Commitment to the Queen of Hearts

Simple jam tarts are an old-fashioned treat and I’m bringing them back this St. Valentine’s Day with a new twist using preserves and fresh fruit. The easy crust is spread into a springform pan like sugar cookie dough. The heart-shaped tart just makes it more lovable.

Making a tart is a commitment and they’ll love your for it. So make one this year for those you love.


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, not melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup blueberry preserves for tart filling
  • 1/2 cup blueberry preserves for glaze
  • 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur
  • 2 cups (approximately) fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried


Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla with a mixer. Blend in flour until combined. Spread the soft dough in a 9-inch springform pan (one with a removable bottom). The dough will resemble cookie dough, will spread thinly, but it will cover the pan. Use fingers to make sure dough is evenly spread on bottom and up sides, about 1/4 inch from the top. Bake in preheated 375⁰ oven on middle rack for 5 minutes and remove from oven.


Spread 3/4 cup of blueberry preserves on the partially-baked crust. Return it to the oven and bake for about 15 more minutes or until crust is brown. Let cool completely and top with the fresh blueberries.

Glaze: Heat 3/4 cup blueberry jam in microwave and press through a strainer to retain the juice (discard any remaining berries). Stir in 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier into the glaze. Use a pastry brush to brush on the glaze on top of the blueberries. Store at room temperature.

The crust with baked preserves can be made a day ahead and top with berries and glazed when ready to serve.

Serves about 8.

Blueberry tart photo by Cindy Dyer.



Winter White

The scene along Route 193 is one of brown bare branches against a white background (a cloudy sky or snow, depending on the day) accented with evergreens (holly and pine).These are the stark shades of winter.

Take inspiration from Mother Nature to decorate your table. Use white flowers, white candles, white dishes, all on a palette of browns and greens. Use fresh magnolia leaves, burlap runners, branches, pine cones, and fabrics in greens and browns.

Here I used a simple rectangular-shaped glass vessel and filled it with crystal rocks to hold white flowers in place (both found at Michaels). A brown runner and mossy green tablecloth made the white pop. White candles added a warm glow.

What’s the occasion? Maybe it’s a winter birthday or just a get together for northern folks who need to get out. Here are some ideas for food:

  • Dessert, coffee and a dessert wine or port
  • Soup or stew and crusty bread washed down with a hearty beer
  • Appetizers and drinks
  • A potluck supper
  • A full-course meal

Stay warm!




It’s Not Only Stamps that Are Forever

Morgan our mailman made his last run here in the neighborhood last Thursday. For more than 20 years he faithfully and cheerfully brought us our bills, Christmas gifts and cards, sympathy cards, sad news in handwritten letters, birth, graduation and wedding announcements, final notes with shaky handwriting from our aging parents, and more of what life delivers – all to a box on the street. In typical Morgan style, if it didn’t fit in the box, he came to the door to say hello and hand it to you personally.

It was a perfect relationship – the friendly, yet professional and unobtrusive Morgan and a unique neighborhood where people care about each other. We know when to pitch in and watch out for each others’ children. We shared the joy when Morgan ran the Marine Corps Marathon, when his daughter graduated from college, and when his grandchild was born.

Morgan and some neighborhood brothers congratulate him on his last day.

Morgan and neighborhood brothers congratulate him on his last delivery before he retires from the United States Postal Service.

Morgan was part of our village. He was there when our babies were born, when they went to college, and when some got married. He knew their names and patiently handed little ones the mail as their parents looked on. He knew when Bill was deployed to Afghanistan and asked about him when he delivered his letters.

We had something special here folks, something you don’t seem to get anymore. When the children in this neighborhood move away and have their own families, Morgan the Mailman will be in the conversation.

Congratulations Morgan!

Photos by Eileen Lee Willard (top), Melanie Poirier (middle) and Marion Devlin (bottom).

Taking a Sick Day

My son and I are both home from school and work today with the common viruses running around this time of year. He’s been to the doctor and has received appropriate treatment, but that cough is still alive and kicking.

My friend Linda just knocked on the door. Her father is our son’s pediatrician yet she didn’t come by with a written prescription from the good doctor. She came by with a home remedy from her mother-in-law – freshly-brewed lemongrass tea and stalks of fresh lemongrass.

She said lemongrass tea is a natural antibiotic and cough suppressant and gave me more stalks so I could brew more as needed. “It’s best to drink it throughout the day,” she said.

We would try anything at this point. I poured Patrick a cup; he drank it and reported, “Mom! I stopped coughing.” I then treated myself to a cup of the delicious brew.

I had never seen lemongrass before and Linda brought me a fresh stalks from the Grand Mart which is known for carrying items you can’t get elsewhere. I’m brewing some now and the lemony smell is wafting through the house. Linda said to simply boil water, clean the stalks, discard the green upper part, slice like celery and add to the boiling water for about 15 minutes. Guess what?…she’s bringing by homemade chicken soup later. Now that’s hospitality on the move.

The Spice Cake

Never underestimate the power of home remedies, there are many out there and they work. When I was little I often had bronchitis, sometimes it lasted all winter. My mom would rub my little bony back and chest with camphorated oil. I have no idea if it worked but the smell cleared my sinuses and the massage from mom was comforting.

One day I was so sick and she said she was baking me a “spice cake.” Oh! My little mouth watered in anticipation of the sweet confection. I had never eaten a spice cake before! What would it taste like? I stayed in my bed waiting for it to be done baking.

My mother came to my room with something in a pan that looked nothing like a cake. It was two pieces of flannel filled with vaporous smells. It was a spice poultice! She made me a spice poultice, warmed it in the oven and pinned it to the inside of my jammies next to my t-shirt. Those are really fond memories of her typical nurturing and care. How many of you still want your mothers when you’re sick? I’ve since made the poultice for my own son.

How to Make a Spice Poultice

Take two pieces of soft cloth, maybe flannel from a worn-out nightie, and cut into a 12” x 12” square. Spread one piece of flannel with Vicks VapoRub®. On top of the rub, sprinkle generous helpings of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and dry mustard. Take a needle and thread and rudely stitch the two pieces of cloth together. Heat in a low oven until warm. Do not place the warm poultice next to the skin but rather on top of a tee shirt with another shirt (preferably jammies) over that.


Don’t Eat That Cookie Dough…Yet!

I know it’s not popular advice to tell the kids not to eat raw cookie dough due to uncooked eggs, so why not make a cookie filled with something that mimics the taste and texture of uncooked chocolate chip cookie dough?

These cookies were a hit with all of us. Who doesn’t enjoy a finger full of dough every now and then? This recipe is from Chef in Training. Check it out – Nikki has a long list of imaginative cookies.

Homemade Cookie Dough Oreo Cookie Recipe

If you like cookie dough, these are for you!


  • 1 box devil’s food cake mix, dry, not prepared
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup oil


  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 envelope Dream Whip® whipped topping mix, not prepared
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2/3 cup mini chocolate chips

To make the cookies, mix the cake mix, eggs and oil until combined. Roll into small balls and gently flatten on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Do not over bake, cookies should be soft. Cool completely.

For the frosting, cream butter in a large bowl. Add brown sugar, vanilla and Dream Whip and cream together. Add milk, flour and powdered sugar, bet until smooth. Frosting should be somewhat thick, add as much milk as you want to reach desired consistency. stir in mini chocolate chips. Can chill frosting if you want to work with it thicker.

Frost bottom half of cookie then top it with another cookie. You can freeze the cookies and thaw and frost when ready to serve. Make about two dozen.





The Sights, Smells and Memories of 2014

As we enter into 2015, here’s a look at 2014 and some of our favorite recipes and stories. Click on the links to enjoy them. (Above: Winter 2014, If You Build it They Will Come)

Thanks for being part of the Kelley Hospitality blogging family. I wish you all the best for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year.